Monday, 24 April 2017

Literary Oddity: Irene Iddesleigh by Amanda McKitrick Ros


Irene Iddesleigh by Amanda McKitrick Ros was read by the Inklings on quiet nights when none of the participants had any of their own work to read to the club and there was no particular pressing matter to discuss. The crack was: how much could be read before the audience laughed. Here is an example from Chap. IV:


WHEN on the eve of glory, whilst brooding over the prospects of a bright and happy future, whilst meditating upon the risky right of justice, there we remain, wanderers on the cloudy surface of mental woe, disappointment and danger, inhabitants of the grim sphere of anticipated imagery, partakers of the poisonous dregs of concocted injustice. Yet such is life.

Sir John’s visits began now to be numerous at Dilworth Castle, each visit serving further to strengthen the link of relationship, and bury, in the heaving breast of seeking solace, the dull delight of the weary past. As the weeks wore on, he reckoned them only as days, when comparing their loving length with those of the bleak years he tried to enjoy alone, before taking such steps—yes, serious steps—as those fancied by the would-be bachelor.

At first he was careless and indifferent to the flowery harangues of mothers who paid him periodical visits, with their daughters, of apology, and firmly retained the obstinate qualities of an autocratic ruler, until softened in the presence of one he found he was learning to steadily love. He believed now that the chief stripes, viz.—observation, inclination, advancement and accomplishment, in the well-spun web of matrimony, must harmonise with the groundwork of happiness, without which our lives are not worth an unstamped coin.

Is this purple? Nay, the grape crushed by the grateful feet of Umbrian peasants on a fine autumnal morning is merely the diaphanous transparency of a sky of bewildering clarity. I in my occluded state of consciousness adumbrate the ineluctable modality of the risible.

Wikipedia entry: Amanda McKitrick Ros

Sunday, 23 April 2017

A History of Tom's Cheating from Aylwin by Theodore Watts-Dunton


This exclamation, however, aroused my ire against Tom; and as I always looked upon him as my special paid henchman, who, in return for such services as supplying me with tiny boxing-gloves, and fishing-tackle, and bait, during my hale days, and tame rabbits now that I was a cripple, mostly contrived to possess himself of my pocket-money, I had no hesitation in exclaiming,

'Why, Tom, you know you're drunk, you silly old fool!'

At this Tom turned his mournful and reproachful gaze upon me, and began to weep anew. Then he turned and addressed the sea, uplifting his hand in oratorical fashion:—

'Here's a young gentleman as I've been more than a father to—yes, more than a father to—for when did his own father ever give him a ferret-eyed rabbit, a real ferret-eyed rabbit thoroughbred?'

'Why, I gave you one of my five-shilling pieces for it,' said I; 'and the rabbit was in a consumption and died in three weeks.'

But Tom still addressed the sea.

'When did his own father give him,' said he, 'the longest thigh-bone that the sea ever washed out of Raxton churchyard?'

'Why, I gave you two of my five-shilling pieces for that,' said I, 'and next day you went and borrowed the bone, and sold it over again to Dr. Munro for a quart of beer.'

'When did his own father give him a beautiful skull for a money-box, and make an oak lid to it, and keep it for him because his mother wouldn't have it in the house?'

'Ah, but where's the money that was in it, Tom? Where's the money?' said I, flourishing one of my crutches, for I was worked up to a state of high excitement when I recalled my own wrongs and Tom's frauds, and I forgot his relationship to the little girl. 'Where are the bright new half-crowns that were in the money-box when I left it with you—the half-crowns that got changed into pennies, Tom? Where are they? What's the use of having a skull for a money-box if it's got no money in it? That's what I want to know, Tom!'

Saturday, 22 April 2017

Fathers and Children by Ivan Turgenev


To see things clearly you must get yourself out the way. That was Matthew Arnold’s dictum but those great writers and artists who have affected us deeply and permeated our aesthetic sensibility are in the vedic phrase the eye of the eye. In Fathers and Children (Constance Garnett’s trans.) we see what we have been trained to see and that is something we have to admit before our natural guile or critical intelligence subverts the author’s leadingi. We notice then that Turgenev’s own soft hearted love of the rising generation and Bazarov his ‘favourite child’ can rebut materialist ideology by following with a lyrical passage. Nikolai the father of Arkady represents this aspect of Turgenev:

In vain, then, had he spent whole days sometimes in the winter at Petersburg over the newest books; in vain had he listened to the talk of the young men; in vain had he rejoiced when he succeeded in putting in his word too in their heated discussions. 'My brother says we are right,' he thought, 'and apart from all vanity, I do think myself that they are further from the truth than we are, though at the same time I feel there is something behind them we have not got, some superiority over us.... Is it youth? No; not only youth. Doesn't their superiority consist in there being fewer traces of the slave owner in them than in us?'

This regret is balanced immediately by the evocation of a beautiful evening:

'But to renounce poetry?' he thought again; 'to have no feeling for art, for nature ...'
And he looked round, as though trying to understand how it was possible to have no feeling for nature. It was already evening; the sun was hidden behind a small copse of aspens which lay a quarter of a mile from the garden; its shadow stretched indefinitely across the still fields. A peasant on a white nag went at a trot along the dark, narrow path close beside the copse; his whole figure was clearly visible even to the patch on his shoulder, in spite of his being in the shade; the horse's hoofs flew along bravely. The sun's rays from the farther side fell full on the copse, and piercing through its thickets, threw such a warm light on the aspen trunks that they looked like pines, and their leaves were almost a dark blue, while above them rose a pale blue sky, faintly tinged by the glow of sunset. The swallows flew high; the wind had quite died away, belated bees hummed slowly and drowsily among the lilac blossom; a swarm of midges hung like a cloud over a solitary branch which stood out against the sky. 

He can also cast a cold eye on the progressive:

The town of X—— to which our friends set off was in the jurisdiction of a governor who was a young man, and at once a progressive and a despot, as often happens with Russians.
The woman question gets a mention:
Bazarov scowled. There was nothing repulsive in the little plain person of the emancipated woman; but the expression of her face produced a disagreeable effect on the spectator. One felt impelled to ask her, 'What's the matter; are you hungry? Or bored? Or shy? What are you in a fidget about?' Both she and Sitnikov had always the same uneasy air. She was extremely unconstrained, and at the same time awkward; she obviously regarded herself as a good-natured, simple creature, and all the while, whatever she did, it always struck one that it was not just what she wanted to do; everything with her seemed, as children say, done on purpose, that's to say, not simply, not naturally.

Arkady gets a glimpse of the cruelty that is not too far away from the behaviourism that Bazarov espouses. They are about to quarrel; enacting an anticipation of of class war:
Fighting?' put in Bazarov. 'Well? Here, on the hay, in these idyllic surroundings, far from the world and the eyes of men, it wouldn't matter. But you'd be no match for me. I'll have you by the throat in a minute.'

Bazarov spread out his long, cruel fingers.... Arkady turned round and prepared, as though in jest, to resist.... But his friend's face struck him as so vindictive—there was such menace in grim earnest in the smile that distorted his lips, and in his glittering eyes, that he felt instinctively afraid.

Madame Anna the aristocrat and Bazarov the Nihilist are hobbled by their cool rationalism and unable to move towards ordinary human happiness. Ideology and prudence are a non combustible mix. Some people are pursued by happiness but they manage to keep ahead of it.

At many points in this novel I was moved but did not feel that I was being cozened into emotion. Being a father you have to stay where you are and let your child come to you. Bazarov was coming back, doctoring in the district, helping his father out and then well ...









Friday, 21 April 2017

Figaro




Shaving with a genuine antique, a Wilkinson’s straight razor from 1893, is a very pleasant way to do experimental archaeology with an added smug factor of 9.5 because those plastic gadgets that are the usual tools for this task are not recyclable. They go straight to landfill and their minute but cumulatively significant energy is lost for ever and well, they are expensive. My razor in its original case cost me 6 Pounds sterling. Can you even buy a 4 blade refill for that? There was a couple of spots of surface rust on the blade and it needed bevel setting, honing and stropping. Warranted real German hollow grind is stamped on it. A real singing razor. A gruff 5 day crop is swished away without tiresome clogging and skidding with manly sound effects. A one pass shave taking 5 minutes is quite adequate but I generally take a second.

I read that in America 2 billion disposable razors per year end up in landfill. Do the world wide sums. I’m greener than Kermit.




Tuesday, 18 April 2017

William Law on Reason


God Almighty has entrusted us with the use of reason, and we use it to the disorder and corruption of our nature. We reason ourselves into all kinds of folly and misery, and make our lives the sport of foolish and extravagant passions; seeking after imaginary happiness in all kinds of shapes, creating to ourselves a thousand wants, amusing our hearts with false hopes and fears, using the world worse than irrational animals, envying, vexing, and tormenting one another with restless passions, and unreasonable contentions.
(from A Serious Call pub.1729)

Monday, 17 April 2017

New Loyalty Oath


Reading the usual blogs that someone such as myself with an interest in literature and philosophy would read I feel as though I had somehow got on the wrong bus and was delivered to a re-education camp. Like a travelling symptom the 'paranoid style' which afflicted conservatives has jumped to the other side of the American divide. Perfectly legal immigrants such as Amod Lele feel that they might be lifted and find themselves back in, OMG, in Canada.
disengaged Buddhism

Amod make it a nine-fold path. Add 'get real or 'get a grip'. Declaring yourself anti-Trump is becoming the liberal version of a loyalty oath.

Friday, 14 April 2017

A Song from John Ford's The Broken Heart


A SONG [WITHIN]
O, no more, no more, too late
Sighs are spent; the burning tapers
Of a life as chaste as fate,
Pure as are unwritten papers,
Are burnt out: no heat, no light
Now remains; ’t is ever night.
Love is dead; let lovers’ eyes,
Lock’d in endless dreams,
Th’ extremes of all extremes,
Ope no more, for now Love dies,
Now Love dies, — implying
Love’s martyrs must be ever, ever dying.