Sunday, 30 December 2012

Scrooge Award for Dominic Lawson

Scrooge Award of the Season:
In today’s Sunday Times Dominic Lawson rejoices that Going over the cliff can save the welfare hogs. He or his editor is not very strong on the finer points of the N.T. That the devils that oppress and possess the welfare system should perish with the hogs that feed at the trough of disability benefits would be a good result as far as he is concerned. There is no talk of the hogs that do rather better on inability benefits in Wall St. and the City of London.

Tuesday, 25 December 2012

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

I thought I’d read A Christmas Carol but I hadn’t as I recognised when I began it ‘again’. We all think we’ve read it because the story has so imprinted itself on our brains through the many versions that wander back and forth across the one true one. In a way it’s read itself into us so that when we hear laissez-faire economists begin their analysis we nod and mutter ‘Ebenezer’.

“At this festive season of the year, Mr. Scrooge,” said the gentleman, taking up a pen, “it is more than usually desirable that we should make some slight provision for the Poor and destitute, who suffer greatly at the present time. Many thousands are in want of common necessaries; hundreds of thousands are in want of common comforts, sir.”
“Are there no prisons?” asked Scrooge.
“Plenty of prisons,” said the gentleman, laying down the pen again.
“And the Union workhouses?” demanded Scrooge. “Are they still in operation?”
“They are. Still,” returned the gentleman, “I wish I could say they were not.”

“The Treadmill and the Poor Law are in full vigour, then?” said Scrooge.
“Both very busy, sir.”
“Oh! I was afraid, from what you said at first, that something had occurred to stop them in their useful course,” said Scrooge. “I’m very glad to hear it.”
“Under the impression that they scarcely furnish Christian cheer of mind or body to the multitude,” returned the gentleman, “a few of us are endeavouring to raise a fund to buy the Poor some meat and drink, and means of warmth. We choose this time, because it is a time, of all others, when Want is keenly felt, and Abundance rejoices. What shall I put you down for?”
“Nothing!” Scrooge replied.
“You wish to be anonymous?”
“I wish to be left alone,” said Scrooge. “Since you ask me what I wish, gentlemen, that is my answer. I don’t make merry myself at Christmas and I can’t afford to make idle people merry. I help to support the establishments I have mentioned—they cost enough; and those who are badly off must go there.”

Many can’t go there; and many would rather die.”
“If they would rather die,” said Scrooge, “they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population. Besides—excuse me—I don’t know that.”

The first edition of A Christmas Carol was published in 1843 just four years before the disastrous famine in Ireland which was was regarded by the powers that be as a providential thinning so the righteousness of Scrooge was not the maundering of a pathetic miser but economic orthodoxy. That’s Dickens slipping the truth like a shiv between the 3rd. and 4th. rib.

Sunday, 23 December 2012

Intrinsic Validity in the Vedanta Paribhasa of Adhvarindra and The indefectibility of Certitude in Newman

The Validity of Knowledge is Intrinsic and Self-Evident.

The validity of knowledge generated by the above-mentioned means of knowledge originates by itself and is self-evident. To explain: Valid knowledge is that knowledge regarding something possessing a particular attribute, which has that attribute as its feature, which is conducive to successful effort, and which includes recollection as well as fresh experience. That validity is due to the totality of causes producing knowledge in general, and does not depend on extra merit, for there is no merit that abides in all valid knowledge.
The invalidity of nowledge, however, is not due to the totality of causes of knowledge in general, for in that case even valid knowledge would be invalid, but it is due to some adventitious defect.

What V.P. is proffering here is a robust form of realism. We make mistakes but these mistakes do not plunge us into general scepticism. We take things as given unless our attempts to act upon this knowledge gives rise to frustration.

This sort of trust has a similar ring to it as the general conclusions of Newman on The Indefectibility of Certitude.

 On the contrary, any conviction, false as well as true, may last; and any conviction, true as well as false, may be lost. A conviction in favour of a proposition may be exchanged for a conviction of its contradictory; and each of them may be attended, while they last, by that sense of security and repose, which a true object alone can legitimately impart. No line can be drawn between such real certitudes as have truth for their object, and apparent certitudes. No distinct test can be named, sufficient to discriminate between what may be called the false prophet and the true. What looks like certitude always is exposed to the chance of turning out to be a mistake.

The same feeling is here of the soundness of knowledge in general, that it is not due to an inherent lack of foundation that it collapses from time to time but that error is an external or adventitious hazard.

Is not looking for certainty in either a rationalist foundation or a sensible vividness merely the face and obverse of the same counterfeit coin?

We step from stone to stone in our crossing and we are not in reality wading through the stream.

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Life in the Fast Lane by Garry Pettitt

De gustibus non est disputandum. If you prefer Lovecraft to Joyce we may simply agree to differ and if I never again discuss literature with you that is no more than snobbery. We do not wrangle over this because taste is the bedrock of fixed predilection yet we find our tastes changing; the enthusiasms of our youth are replaced as we grow older and the raucous passion of rock and roll finds a greater emotional range in opera.

What makes a good novel good has as its shadow the badness of the bad novel. We teach ourselves the distinction by an empirical acquaintance with fiction that remains shuffling in the halls of the banal. How often too the most gifted in experience will be unable to make very much of it. In a mysterious way they seem to be unable to tell a story. Compton Mackenzie is to me that sort of writer whose narrative capacity on a linear level is fine, there are even flourishes of good writing but what Aristotle called amplitude is lacking. They lack that beginning, middle and end which he says is what a whole consists of and who am I to contradict Magister Ari. Sometimes his utterances have the wisdom of simplicity like the coach’s dictum on the virtue of possession. ‘If we have the ball they can’t score with it’. Be that as it may, Mackenzie seems to be all middle and it’s all middle because it’s all linear. There’s no depth just progression. Modernist fiction brought in the idea of stream of consciousness which shows the simultaneous aspects of the totality of any state of mind. Natural storytellers do that effortlessly.

I’m looking at a little book, Life’s too Short(£1.99), edited by Val McDermid (Wire in the Blood) being true stories of life at work produced by people who left school without being able to read. This collection would be part of a literacy programme. One of the stories is written by a Garry Pettitt called Life in the Fast Lane. Garry who was a truck driver now retired aged 70 is remembering an incident in which his vehicle jack-knifed on an icy stretch of road. He was 33 at the time. Even though tragedy in our modern sense was averted ,tragedy, in the Aristotelian sense of a literary form is achieved.

In tragedy it is action that is imitated, and this action is brought about by agents who necessarily display certain distinctive qualities of character and of thought, according to which we also define the nature of the actions. Thought and character, are, then, the two natural causes of action, and it is on them that all men depend for success or failure. The representation of the action is the plot of the tragedy; for the ordered arrangement of the incidents is what I mean by plot. Character, on the other hand, is that which enables us to define the nature of the participants, and thought comes out in what they say when they are proving a point or expressing an opinion.
(Aristotle: On the Art of Poetry Chap.6)

Garry Pettitt hurtling towards a built up roundabout looking at the side of his trailer tells us:
Suddenly I was a very frightened young man. I realised that I was rapidly heading downhill towards a roundabout that I couldn’t possibly avoid. Hitting it at speed would very likely overturn the vehicle, crush my cab and kill me. I didn’t want to die. I was only thirty-three, with a gorgeous wife and a lovely little boy at home, and it was nearly Christmas. I wanted very much to see them again. I had yet to put up the tree and decorations for my precious little family, and I still had their presents to buy!

It’s a perfect story hardly more than 1,000 words long. Ari would like it.

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Lead Kindly Argument II

My argument is in outline as follows: that that absolute certitude which we were able to possess, whether as to the truths of natural theology, or as to the fact of a revelation, was the result of an assemblage of concurring and converging probabilities, and that, both according to the constitution of the human mind and the will of its Maker; that certitude was a habit of mind, that certainty was a quality of propositions; that probabilities which did not reach to logical certainty, might create a mental certitude; that the certitude thus created might equal in measure and strength the certitude which was created by the strictest scientific demonstration; and that to have such certitude might in given cases and to given individuals be a plain duty, though not to others in other circumstances:—
(From Apologia Pro Vita Sua

 Created in God's image and called to know and love him, the person who seeks God discovers certain ways of coming to know him. These are also called proofs for the existence of God, not in the sense of proofs in the natural sciences, but rather in the sense of "converging and convincing arguments", which allow us to attain certainty about the truth. These "ways" of approaching God from creation have a twofold point of departure: the physical world, and the human person.
(from Catholic Catechism)

The same Holy Mother Church holds and teaches that God, the source and end of all thing can be known with certainty from the consideration of created things by the natural power of human reason : ever since the creation of the world, his invisible nature has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made. [13]
(from the Decrees of the First Vatican Council)


‘But I’m not an apostate’ I always add to my admission of heresy. I have always respected the Catholic Church's philosophic acuity and I find interesting the subtle divergence from the straightforward certainty as represented by the edict of the First Vatican Council and the Newmanian modulation of the Catechism. The curious thing is that those American philosopher Catholics who blog on this question seem to support the earlier position in a quite robust way. Perhaps the vertiginous abyss of fideism or irrationalism is a fear and the middle path between strict demonstration and pure fideism that Newman tried to strike is too narrow for minds blunted by the occupational hazard of rationalism.
((related posts: conversion

Monday, 3 December 2012

The Depth of Singer's Pond

I’m looking at this post:
rescue rule
and wondering whether or not there is behind it some ironic intent some manner of ‘modest proposal’ but there doesn’t seem to be, no it’s just that rationalist sincerity in the following a principle to the brink of absurdity and then over the cliff treading air like the coyote in the cartoon. Neep-neep.

So we are to say to the Chilean or Chinese miners trapped underground sorry about that, Massa Beancounter says that you must left there as the cost of drawing you from live entombment is too great and the money might be better spent on speed traps which would save vastly more lives. Sorry about that chums.

How deep is Singer’s pond, how heavy is the fat man that is to be cast upon the tracks? Hark the unutterable pathos of the violinist!

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Putting on the Newman, putting on the style

And if the voice of men in general is to weigh at all in a matter of this kind, it does but corroborate these instinctive feelings. A convert is undeniably in favor with no party; he is looked at with distrust, contempt, and aversion by all. His former friends think him a good riddance, and his new friends are cold and strange; and as to the impartial public, their very first impulse is to impute the change to some eccentricity of character, or fickleness of mind, or tender attachment, or private interest. Their utmost praise is the reluctant confession that "doubtless he is very sincere." Churchmen and Dissenters, men of Rome and men of the Kirk, are equally subject to this remark. Not on extraordinary occasions only, but as a matter of course, whenever the news of a conversion to Romanism, or to Irvingism, or to the Plymouth Sect, or to Unitarianism, is brought to us, we say, one and all of us: "No wonder, such a one has lived so long abroad"; or, "he is of such a very imaginative turn"; or, "he is so excitable and odd"; or, "what could he do? all his family turned"; or, "it was a reaction in consequence of an injudicious education"; or, "trade makes men cold," or "a little learning makes them shallow in their religion." If, then, the common voice of mankind goes for any thing, must we not consider it to be the rule that men change their religion, not on reason, but for some extra-rational feeling or motive? else, the world would not so speak.
(from Private Judgement by John Henry Newman.

If anyone can speak with authority on this issue it is surely Newman. There was the Anglican chagrin at losing a star and the Catholic unease at gaining a personality they hardly knew what to do with. ‘Let’s send him off to the barbarian Irish, that’ll soften his cough’.

In India conversion is viewed very much askance by the Hindus the idea being that conversion can only have been through some inducement or other, communal identity being so important. Leaving your caste seems as impossible as getting a new set of fingerprints. I wonder if some sort of thing like this was exercising Deepak Sarma when he wrote
Huff and Puff
Putting on the Newman, putting on the style, everyone does it to some extent. If you join a Benedictine monastery for the cool black robes, that will soon get old.

Lo! when the wall is fallen, shall it not be said unto you, where is the daubing wherewith ye have daubed it?

Lo out loud, really!

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Tractatus Theologico-Politicus by Spinoza

I’m reading Spinoza’s Tractatus Theologico-Politicus and I’m having to question the received assessment of Spinoza as a model of calm and rational resistance to perfervid sectarianism and religious obscurantism not of course that I blame him for his views because as he would himself say he is as subject to passive emotion as all men are. That characterisation of the gentle lens grinder is just an indication of how culture heroes are allowed an indulgence which they themselves would never seek and also perhaps a basic misunderstanding of his philosophy. It is human nature to be so swayed and Baruch Spinoza was a man, a brave and beset one who if he occasionally sounds like a boy atheist, has cause.
He allows himself some irony:

Now, seeing that we have the rare happiness of living in a republic, where everyone's judgement is free and unshackled, where each may worship God as his conscience dictates, and where freedom is esteemed before all things dear and precious, I have believed that I should be undertaking no ungrateful or unprofitable task, in demonstrating that not only can such freedom be granted without prejudice to the public peace, but also, that without such freedom, piety cannot flourish nor the public peace be secure.

He states that it is the respect that is accorded to ministers of the church that has made it a haven for blackguards:

The spread of this misconception inflamed every worthless fellow with an intense desire to enter holy orders, and thus the love of diffusing God's religion degenerated into sordid avarice and ambition.

It’s that rationalist tendency to generalise, to strive for thoroughgoing principle which brings all instances under its aegis that is at work here. It was then as it is now ahistorical if not anahistorical that is to say positively hostile to the idea of the power of historical conditions in the creation of rebarbative attitudes. Obviously this is the great weakness in Spinoza’s system namely the assimilation of nature to maths physics, a cosmic parallelogram of forces. This is less obvious in his metaphysics where we are accustomed to a single unifying unity but in politics it is naive.

The practical danger of his conclusions are evident:
I show that justice and charity can only acquire the force of right and law through the rights of rulers, I shall be able readily to arrive at the conclusion (seeing that the rights of rulers are in the possession of the sovereign), that religion can only acquire the force of right by means of those who have the right to command, and that God only rules among men through the instrumentality of earthly potentates.
(from Chap.XIX: On the outward forms of Religion)

Justice, therefore, and absolutely all the precepts of reason, including love towards one's neighbour, receive the force of laws and ordinances solely through the rights of dominion, that is (as we showed in the same chapter) solely on the decree of those who possess the right to rule. Inasmuch as the kingdom of God consists entirely in rights applied to justice and charity or to true religion, it follows that (as we asserted) the kingdom of God can only exist among men through the means of the sovereign powers; nor does it make any difference whether religion be apprehended by our natural faculties or by revelation: the argument is sound in both cases, inasmuch as religion is one and the same, and is equally revealed by God, whatever be the manner in which it becomes known to men.

Moral authority is situated in the power of the state. Struggle with it as they may, those who regard Spinoza as a sort of lay saint of the first church of Socrates must recognise that only in the good old U.S.S.R. was it thoroughly carried through.

Addendum 26/11:
My guess about the U.S.S.R. was a good one. It seems that Spinoza was a major figure for early Soviet philosophy who took his materialist atheism, as they saw it, in an age of religious control, to be wholly admirable. Here is a review by Isaiah Berlin of of book by George L. Kline on just that subject.Berlin I also note that there was a call for papers for a conference last May: papers

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

His Final Mother by Reynolds Price read by James Salter

Any of you dropping in here led by an interest in the titles of the posts will probably know of that excellent resource The New Yorker Short Fiction Podcast at PodcastsSometimes hearing a story read is an experience that is like floating in a sea of images. A current bears us along and certain of those images become significant both of themselves and emblems of a larger reality. Symbols join up to provide that secret structure that cannot be listened for. What I’m trying to say is that there are vertebrate and invertebrate stories. Reynolds Price’s story His Final Mother is one of the former. It is read by James Salter with a proper Southern Gothic accent.

Sunday, 18 November 2012

The Pursuit of Love by Nancy Mitford

It’s all about Nancy and her pursuit of love and romance (pub.1945). She is openly disguised as Linda one of the sisters that the narrator her cousin is reared alongside while her mother known as the Bolter gads about on her own amatory adventures. Uncle Matthew is a choleric eccentric who having read one book White Fang and being well pleased with it has decided to leave literature to one side. Why push one’s luck sort of thing.

Over the chimney-piece plainly visible in the photograph hangs an entrenching tool, with which, in 1915, Uncle Matthew had whacked to death eight Germans, one by one as they crawled out of a dug-out. It is still covered with blood and hairs, an object of fascination for us children.

The rest of you will only use the word luncheon in that conjunctive vileness known as luncheon-meat but be aware that u and non-u usage applies generally in this novel and is associated with Mitford whether facetiously or not is hard to discover. A nice little marketing device in any case for the English upper class restricted code. So it’s pudding, writing paper and is it lavatory, let me check.

The device of having an external narrator allows the author to describe what is clearly a version of her own family that probably gave some offense. For instance the Radlett family of Uncle Matthew and Aunt Sadie are described as uneducated except for a smattering of French from a governess and the highly
prized good seat in the saddle when hunting about which Linda is passionate. In season a pair of children are given a head start and hunted by their father, a somewhat literal version of hare and hounds. The Radletts being children of a Lord are Hons. So is Fanny the narrator whose father is also ennobled but a bounder and who remains in the Bermudas with an old Countess of some foreign sort to avoid being cut as Ford explained to Hemingway once.

The other eccentric is the man who marries the aunt who first had charge of Fanny, Captain Davey who is of course also an Hon. The novel pullulates with them. His oddness is dietary theory. Early morning tea replaces the evaporation of the night which is true. Actually he may be proleptic rather than truly eccentric. His time at Matthew’s house is fraught by the nursery comfort cuisine that obtains at Alconleigh. However as the Irish saying has it ‘one earwig recognizes another’ and they get on well.

Linda’s misadventure’s in love provides the core of the story and I’m demmed if I’m going to tell you it. It moves along effortlessly the fictional correlate of a lemon meringue pie, the tartness perfectly balanced by the fluffy lightness and the base crunchiness of narrative density. It ought to have that at least as there seems to be many parallels with Nancy Mitford’s own life. How to make the truth seem true requires wit and that deftness that is her forte. Excellent.

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Essays on the Principles of Method by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

If Coleridge were to Friend you it would mean no more than that you were to receive in the post a successor periodical to The Watchman. Rather that descrying the state of political life his intent was:

I do not write in this work for the Multitude; but for those , who by Rank, or Fortune, or official Situation, or Talents and Habits of Reflection, are to influence the Multitude. I write to found true Principles, to oppose false Principle, in Criticism, Legislation, Philosophy, Morals, and International Law.

Much the same Aims and Objectives which I myself espouse though I doubt S.T.C. had to deal with the machinations of the Illuminati. It was through the remarks of Owen Barfield on Essays on the Principles of Method in his book What Coleridge Thought that it first came to my attention. My particular edition of The Friend is that published by Princeton University Press in 2 Vols. Edited by Barbara Rooke. The second volume is a variorum containing emendations, historical background, index etc. which is of course fascinating but the actual text with notes but without index is in the first volume. The more important chapters are to be read here in a pdf (link not working but google on post title to get it) unfortunately the scanned copy of The Collected Works of S.T. Coleridge is hard to decipher in parts.

Collected Works
What interested me is the seeking after the anfractuose way of abduction that runs between the purely logical straight lines of induction and deduction. In a remarkable passage from his Table Talk he muses:

I do not know whether I deceive myself, but it seems to me that the young men, who were my contemporaries, fixed certain principles in their minds, and followed them out to their legitimate consequences, in a way which I rarely witness now. No one seems to have any distinct convictions, right or wrong; the mind is completely at sea, rolling and pitching on the waves of facts and personal experiences. Mr. —— is, I suppose, one of the rising young men of the day; yet he went on talking, the other evening, and making remarks with great earnestness, some of which were palpably irreconcilable with each other. He told me that facts gave birth to, and were the absolute ground of, principles; to which I said, that unless he had a principle of selection, he would not have taken notice of those facts upon which he grounded his principle. You must have a lantern in your hand to give light, otherwise all the materials in the world are useless, for you cannot find them; and if you could, you could not arrange them. "But then," said Mr. ——, "that principle of selection came from facts!"—"To be sure!" I replied; "but there must have been again an antecedent light to see those antecedent facts. The relapse may be carried in imagination backwards for ever,—but go back as you may, you cannot come to a man without a previous aim or principle." He then asked me what I had to say to Bacon's induction: I told him I had a good deal to say, if need were; but that it was perhaps enough for the occasion to remark, that what he was evidently taking for the Baconian _in_duction was mere _de_duction—a very different thing.[1] [Footnote 1: As far as I can judge, the most complete and masterly thing ever done by Mr. Coleridge in prose, is the analysis and reconcilement of the Platonic and Baconian methods of philosophy, contained in the third volume of the Friend, from p. 176 to 216. No edition of the Novum Organum should ever be published without a transcript of it.—ED.]

He likens the natural philosopher to the sage who attempts to put himself into a receptive state of tension:

We have seen that a previous act and conception of the mind is indispensible even in the mere semblance of Method; that neither fashion, mode, nor orderly arrangement can be produced without a prior purpose, and “a pre-cogitation, ad intentionem eius quod queritur,” though this purpose may have been itself excited, and this “pre-cogitation” extracted from the perceived likeness and differences of the objects to be arranged. But it has likewise been shown, that fashion, mode, ordonnance, are not Method, inasmuch as all Method supposes A PRINCIPLE OF UNITY WITH PROGRESSION; in other words, progressive transition without breach of continuity. But such a principle, it has been proved, can never in the sciences of experiment or in those of observation be adequately supplied by a theory built on generalization. For what shall determine the mind to abstract and generalize one common point rather than another; and within what limits, from what number of individual objects, shall the generalization be made ? The theory must still require a prior theory for its own legitimate construction.

‘Intentio’ is ‘straining after’ (White’s Latin Dictionary) which sense is retained in the philosophical concept of intentionality. It is this very straining after, this tension, this aporia, the I don’t know how to go feeling that is creative. A new comprehension is required. The emergence of the creative solution involves finding a catalyst that crystallizes the new vision and it is inspririted by the stuckness.

This instinct, again, is itself but the form, in which the idea, the mental correlative of the law, first announces its incipient germination in his own mind : and hence proceeds the striving after unity of principle through all the diversity of forms, with a feeling resembling that which accompanies our endeavors to recollect a forgotten name, when we seem at once to have and not to have it; which the memory feels but can not find. 

The catalyst Coleridge calls a protophenomenon:

The naturalist, who can not or will not see, that one fact is often worth a thousand, as including them all in itself, and that it first makes all the other facts,—who has not the head to comprehend, the soul to reverence, a central experiment or observation (what the Greeks would perhaps have called a 'protophenomenon’), —will never receive an auspicious answer from the oracle of nature.
(from Essay VII)


My Latin dictionary and the tattered cere cloths of my schoolboy Latin tell me that ‘intentio’ has the meaning of straining after something that we feel in our water is out there. Now you may say that if you get knocked on the head or slipped a ‘mickey finn’ there will be nothing out there but that does not get over the fact that for consciousness cerebral events are out there too. Descartes was not stupid, cerebral events are extended and material, consciousness is unextended and immaterial and therefore the identity that we claim between them is an identity that is fundamental and yet mysterious. We cannot understand how the pulsation of neuronal traffic is at one and the same time memories, dreams, and reflections. How are we to understand identity which is not numerical identity? It is perfectly possible to know this and talk about it at length without feeling the force of it. Metaphysics is just the attempt to get off the reef that we are stuck on. Many philosophers regard this feeling of 'stuckness’ as a Continental affliction, a Sartrean-type freak, forgetting that Wittgenstein expressed just that sensation of familiar mystery in Philosophical Investigations:

The aspects of things that are most important for us are hidden because of their simplicity and familiarity. (One is unable to notice something - because it is always before one’s eyes.) The real foundations of his enquiry do not strike a man at all. Unless that fact has at some time struck him, - And this means: we fail to be struck by what, once seen, is most striking and most powerful.

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Process and Reality (Corrected Edition) by A.N. Whitehead

How is one to read Process and Reality? Very slowly is an acceptable response as is ‘with wrinkled brow’. Don’t look down when you climb Mount Whitehead or you will be overcome by vertigo. There I am with my pencil moving over the lines, anchoring my eye to the page lest the effort of comprehension may make my mind flee to the sunnier climes of reverie. I have read it a few times in the past and then my procedure was to not dwell on specific knotty points which might dull the mental plane blade but to push on trusting that all would be made clear. Faced with eight categories of existence, twenty-seven categories of explanation, nine categoreal obligations and more to come what else can you do. In many ways it’s like a large Russian novel which mixes patronymics, pet names, and titles so that you have to keep going back to the Cast of Characters to see who is in question.

Yet withal there is no sense of ad-hoc extensions, this is archetectonic with the occasional grand sentence thrown in. He tells us:

That the actual world is a process, and that the process is the becoming of actual entities. Thus actual entities are creatures; they are also termed 'actual occasions’. (First Category of Explanation pg.22)

On page 28 you have an explication:
It follows from the first category of explanation that 'becoming’ is a creative advance into novelty. It is for this reason that the meaning of the phrase 'the actual world’ is relative to the becoming of a definite actual entity, which is both novel and actual, relatively to that meaning and to no other meaning of that phrase. Thus conversely, each actual entity corresponds to a meaning of ‘the actual world’ peculiar to itself.

Coming back to the text with a different feeling for the concept of God I shall be interested to see whether God as the underwriter of novelty is merely a thin colourless wash or the tactful verger for the ‘tremendum et fascinans’.

Now I’m at Chapter III : Some Derivative Notions. That cliche of woodworking when dealing with difficult grain, ‘the plane blade should be sharp and closely set’, comes to mind. More anon.

Friday, 2 November 2012

Ellen Terhune by Edmund Wilson (from Memoirs of Hecate County)

I always felt, when I went to the Terhune house, that I was getting back into the past – or rather, perhaps, that an atmosphere which had first been established at the beginning of the eighties, when the house in which she lived had been built, had been preserved there as a vital medium down into the nineteen twenties.

Pay close attention to that opening sentence for in it is established the house as time machine or the projective vehicle of its chatelaine Ellen Terhune who is subject to strange absences. The story in its way is an exploration of that puzzle beloved of time travel theorists, the grandfather paradox. In this case the target is more the mother paradox. Go back to that stage to halt her marriage and thus the pregnancy which issued in Ellen. The time traveller is the narrator of the tale and as he goes back his modern clothes are noted much as he notes the retro styles of the 'persons' that he encounters. To cross into this imaginal domain he has to physically enter the Terhune place and be transported by Ellen who is one of her spells. (Hecate how are you) She tells us:

I've always been a little bit scared by these states that I was telling you about, and I thought it might be a good thing to take hold of them and deliberately exploit them – to try and put them outside myself.

Her intention is to alter her own past definitively so that she no longer exists in an unacceptable present in which she is creatively stuck. She is a composer and Wilson describes her impasse through the rendering of a sonata that is working on.

At the end, the ghost of a second theme limped off and dropped away in irremediable speciousness and impotence, and we were back with the same confounded phrase, which was never satisfactorily resolved, but simply repeated eight times at precisely the same loudness and tempo.

As I mentioned in a previous postgrail cup one can be in one of those imaginal realms and not know it so the narrator does not get spooked by the change in the appearance of the house. There is no immediate confrontation with another plane that is known to be such. To me the element of changing the future by altering the past is the predominant feature of the tale so I would put it into the category of time travel fiction.

To alter a phrase; yes I know, one that was never uttered, Beam me up Scot, there are little notes which put us in mind of the man for whom he was the conscience.

I turned away my mind, I confess, with a certain complacent relief to a big party I looked forward to that evening; one of those gathering where great quantities of tan-backed girls and scarlet-faced men, with highballs fizzing in their hands, lift laughing and strident voices among glass-topped cocktail tables and lamps that give indirect lighting.

There's that jaded lost generation note, the seed of Carraway so to speak:

I would feel suddenly after lunch or dinner that living in the country was hopeless, that I had no communication with other people, and that nothing I was doing meant anything; yet on the other hand I could not see any hope in living in the city or travelling: I knew what other human beings were – they might be more or less picturesque in their various environments and climates, and to the young this was a source of excitement; but to me, on the verge of thirty, it was desolatingly, incontrovertibly evident that people under any conditions, were the same wry pathetic freaks, and why should I go to the trouble of moving about among them in order to observe the shapes which their defects and distortions could take?

That's shown as one long sentence though there might be a misprint of a colon for a full stop after 'travelling'. Still he can't be faulted for his mastery of the archetectonic of narrative balance. He moves along very smoothly in a manner that is old-fashioned in the best way.

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

The Turn of the Screw by Henry James

I could only get on at all by taking "nature" into my confidence and my account, by treating my monstrous ordeal as a push in a direction unusual, of course, and unpleasant, but demanding, after all, for a fair front, only another turn of the screw of ordinary human virtue.

I’ve seen it denied that this is a ghost story. That makes nonsense of so much of the internal evidence that I can only interpret it as a rationalist attempt to shrink the data to fit a view that of course there are no such things as hauntings or possession. James himself as outlined in the opening quote above makes a conscious decision to contain the attempt at combating the evil force of Quint and Jessel within the personal power of the Governess. Why was an exorcist not used? The service of exorcism is available within the Anglican Liturgy and even in modern times people have recourse to it. James may have been personally sceptical but being early exposed to the teachings of Swedenborg through the medium of his father, as it were, was well aware of the arsenal of spiritual combat. Why the daughter of a Vicar would not call in the service of a priest of the church that is within walking distance is a mystery but it makes for a more dramatic tussle for the souls of Flora and Miles.

James is a master of voice and he can perfectly render the pluck of a girl who
unlike the other applicants for the job that declined the extra money and the onerous conditions, plunged on. She is never to bother her employer and she is to take the full responsibility for the children. She is on her own which is I suppose a psychological rationale for the curious containment of the struggle.
I proffered the idea that James may have created a slightly unrealistic scenario in which a vicar’s daughter does not seek the aid of an exorcist to combat the forces of evil but is not her isolation a part of the predator’s strategy: Like a pair of wolves Peter Quint and Miss Jessel cut out the Governess who is disabled by the conditions of her employment. Is this not a recurrent theme in the novels of James, a young woman cut out of the herd by a wolf couple for their prey? That these predators are, for the moment, discarnate makes her cornering apparently inevitable for how can you fight invisible evil? Somehow by her pure love of the children she can enter into their sensibility, see for herself, not be overcome, and retain her freedom to forestall. She has the care of their souls and it is never absolutely certain whether she will prevail.

But does she?

Addendum: 1/11/12
The connection between the Bensons and James is further established by the fact that The Turn of the Screw story had its genesis in an anecdote told by Benson Pere, the Archbishop of Canterbury to James in 1895. As related above in my post on Expiation E.F. Benson aka 'Fred’ took up the lease of Lamb House after the death of James.

Having purposely not read anything about the anti-apparitionist school of criticism in relation to the story I remedied that deficit by a perusal of the rather complete history of the critical reception of the story from the earliest times at
Edmund Wilson it was that famously Freudianized the interpretation ingeniously subverting in a determined manner the plot and James’s intentions. Others have followed him into that labyrinth and having lost the clew remain trapped. I wonder if it is possible for the noonday mind to enter into a true reading of stories which involve limens, portals and parallel realities. I trail my ectoplasmic coat.

‘So get thee gone Von Wilson but with a blessing on thy head’. I have a copy here by me of Memoirs of Hecate County which I read some years ago but as a public service I will read Ellen Terhune again and see whether it is worthy of the haunted house seal of approval or drops into a bucket of whimsy.

Saturday, 27 October 2012

Newman and the Gnu Atheists, Garraghan's Prose Types in Newman

I never knew until I read Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance that rhetoric was studied in American universities. It appears that there was a hiatus in its study for about 40 years until the explosion in college education in the 60‘s. Now you can even do a Phd. in it, doubtless swimming in turbid theory.

I’m looking at a book which I got for €1 called Prose Types in Newman by Gilbert J. Garraghan S.J. which draws on various extracts from Newman’s writings to illustrate the elements of Rhetoric. It was published in 1916 and the author is identified as a teacher at St.Louis University.

I bought the book because I am a great admirer of what James Joyce called Newman’s ‘supple periodic prose’ a balance for the crisp definitions of the Penny Catechism
Q: What is presumption?
A: A foolish expectation of salvation without making use of the means necessary to obtain it.

The selections by Fr. Garraghan cover the topics of Narration, Description, Exposition, Argumentation and Persuasion. In the back of the book he lays out Topical Analyses:
Narration he breaks down into its
(2) Place,
(3) Plot,
(4)Character (dialogue)

II :Structure
(1) Unity - relevance of details
(2) Coherence - arrangement for order
(3) Emphasis - arrangement for effect
(a) A beginning to interest
(b) Suspense
(c) Climax

III. Style: vividness (picturesqueness, animation, movement, force) the typical quality.

So he goes on breaking down the Topics of Description &c.

I find it all very interesting laying out the cogs, racks and pinions and springs but I am not convinced that such close analysis is safe. The patient may not survive the operation. An intuitive cultivation of style through a constant reading of good prose may in the end be more effective. I have the same reservation about the French passion for explication de texte.

In secondary school we had books of essays which were part of the curriculum. Johnson, Steele, Addison, Belloc, Chesterton, Hazlitt, Lamb etc., All the classic masters of good style were simply read without dissection. I can’t lay my hands on Senior Prose at the moment. I think that this extract from The Idea of a University was in it under the title The Definition of a Gentleman. It can be found at

Here is an extract that the gnu atheist hobbledehoys might take to heart:

If he be an unbeliever, he will be too profound and large-minded to ridicule religion or to act against it; he is too wise to be a dogmatist or fanatic in his infidelity. He respects piety and devotion; he even supports institutions as venerable, beautiful, or useful, to which he does not assent; he honours the ministers of religion, and it contents him to decline its mysteries without assailing or denouncing them. He is of religious toleration, and that, not only because his philosophy has taught him to look on all forms of faith with an impartial eye, but also from the gentleness and effeminacy of feeling, which is the attendant on civilization.

Saturday, 20 October 2012

The Jolly Corner by Henry James

Obviously the ghost story was a nice little earner. No one was too proud to pick up the spectral shilling. Henry James, Edith Wharton, George Eliot, The Benson Boys all condescended. My reading today was James’s The Jolly Corner which is very good on every level, metaphysical indeed in both the vulgar and the special sense.

In his marvellously controlled sidling manner of indirection by precision and elaboration James constructs the portrait of a man intent on grasping his alternate might have been self.

Spencer Brydon recognised it—it was in fact what he had absolutely professed.  Yet he importantly qualified.  “He isn’t myself.  He’s the just so totally other person.  But I do want to see him,” he added.  “And I can.  And I shall.”

There is danger in meeting that stayed behind who may be the dark other and less than other. It is called by the Tibetan yogis a tulpa and of course the adepts can control this manifestation and concretisation of their own power. The hero of James’s story calls up or tries to call up by a constant revisiting of the house and a wandering through its dark passages always leaving the doors that communicate between the rooms open. It is a mark of this symbolic and practical detail that it operates at a subliminal level.

As related by Alexandra David-Neel in her book With Mystics and Magicians in Tibet these tulpas have been known to elude the control of their creator and take an independent and rebellious life.

She writes:
However, the practice is considered as fraught with danger for every one who has not reached a high mental and spiritual degree of enlightenment and is not fully aware of the nature of the psychic forces at work in the process.

Once the tulpa is endowed with enough vitality to be capable of playing the part of a real being, it tends to free itself from its maker's control. This, say Tibetan occultists, happens nearly mechanically, just as the child, when his body is completed and able to live apart, leaves its mother's womb. Sometimes the phantom becomes a rebellious son and one heahears of uncanny struggles that have taken place between magicians and their creatures, the former being severely hurt or even killed by the latter.

That the form may exist in the subtle plane is shown by his friend Miss Staverton’s experience of him in two dreams.
“I’ve seen him in a dream
Oh a ‘dream’—!”  It let him down.
“But twice over,” she continued.  “I saw him as I see you now.”

This intrigues Bryden but before he can absorb the delicious effect of his being dreamed of they part and the next chapter opens in which he begins to stalk the resident of the old house. What is he trying to catch? No more and no less than the Ka that is locked up in the tomb of the past.

 His alter ego “walked”—that was the note of his image of him, while his image of his motive for his own odd pastime was the desire to waylay him and meet him.

The hunt or haunt is on and it is a success:
On his return that night—the night succeeding his last intermission—he stood in the hall and looked up the staircase with a certainty more intimate than any he had yet known.  “He’s there, at the top, and waiting—not, as in general, falling back for disappearance.  He’s holding his ground, and it’s the first time—which is a proof, isn’t it? that something has happened for him.”

James’s special gifts of circling allusiveness, of vague palping of reality are especially suitable to this sort of tale. It is amongst his best writing.

Friday, 19 October 2012

Looper the movie

This is going to be a negative review.
I normally love time travel films, the paradoxoi that they generate are meat and drink to me. Millenium (director Michael Anderson) from 1989 with Kris Kristofferson, Cheryl Lad and Daniel Travanti was an intelligent closely plotted examination of all the space/time perturbations and timequakes that can happen with unwonted interchange. It's worth having a look at

Millenium complete

12 Monkeys (director Terry Gilliam) starring Bruce Willis, Madelaine Stowe, Christopher Plummer and David Morse was an excellent film also with its own attention to paradox. How do you change the past to alter the future, the very future from which you operate? Millenium recognises this in all its complexity but 12 Monkeys has Bruce Willis contemporaneous with his younger self. Can that be a good thing? It's a great picture.

Loopers is a mess designed like most films from Hollywood at the moment for boys between 15 and 22. The women in it are either whores or a madonna with a potty mouth. That goes with the demographic. Noisy, stupid, confused. Bruce Willis is implicated alas and Gordon-Levitt with curious make-up and an incipient smirk like Bruce the Younger. Not possible without reconstructive surgery.

Not a timequake, more of s fart in a biscuit tin.

Wednesday, 17 October 2012


But what are ghost stories to Brother Data with his ‘rational beliefs, reasonably held’? Can he move away for a brief holiday from the ‘space of reasons’? I suggest, probably not, that would be too uncanny. Brother Data remains strictly tied to a natural world bounded by naturalist type explanations. The idea that there might be an anomalous residuum is one which bounces off his deflector shield and clearly for the transporter to beam wraiths and spooks it would have to be switched off momentarily. An overriding of the frequency as one moves too close to Umbriel the dark moon of Uranus might allow penetration. It’s a theoretical possibility that there might be haunted sectors of the Cosmos subject to advanced disorder. Here your bright certainties are gloomed.
Umbriel by NASA

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Expiation by E.F. Benson

What E.F. Benson does is to involve you with his story by drawing in other witnesses of whatever was uncanny so that it is not a matter of subjective vapouring on the part of a single consciousness. Theories are offered which bring events that are supernatural into the sphere of the natural properly understood.

"Don’t you think that great emotion like that of Mrs. Hearne’s may make some sort of record”, he asked, “so that if the needle of some sensitive temperament comes in contact with it, a reproduction takes place? And it is the same, perhaps, about that poor fellow who hanged himself. One can hardly believe that his spirit is bound to visit and revisit the scene of his follies and his crimes year by year.”
“Year by year?” I asked.
“Apparently. I saw him myself last year, Mrs. Criddle did also.”
He got up.
“How can one tell?” he said. “Expiation, perhaps. Who knows?”

Expiation is the title of his story and it is about the events that occur during the holiday in Cornwall of two friends who have rented a cottage there..
It is all very beautiful but with an atmosphere that unsettles. One man is a doctor who specialises in nervous diseases the other the writer who is telling the tale. Both of them have had the experience of strange glimpses of another plane where an event continues to happen, a sort of supernatural cliche.

The Doctor explains:
”Look at that moth,” he said, “and even while you look at it it has gone like a ghost, even as like a ghost it appeared. Light made it visible. And there are other sorts of light, interior psychical light which similarly makes visible the beings which people the darkness of our blindness.

I like a resident expert in these tales, the Van Helsing in the form of Dr. Stephen who though called away to authorise an operation, trepanning I’ll warrant, has this advice for the narrator.

Meantime, do observe very carefully, and whatever you do, don’t make a theory. Darwin says somewhere that you can’t observe without a theory; but to make a theory is a great danger to an observer. It can’t help influencing your imagination; you tend to see or hear what falls in with your hypothesis. So just observe; be as mechanical as a phonograph and a photographic lens.
I found this story in one of those compendiums that are a relic of sea voyages and ship’s libraries - A Century of Ghost Stories It’s from his collection Spook Stories. Gutenberg of Canada have a copy:
Spook Stories

I have a note here about the remarkable Bensons:meet the Bensons

Sunday, 14 October 2012

A Regal President

Looking at the American electoral system it’s easy to see it as a version of monarchy with the President as King George choosing his cabinet out of his backers and a handful of loyal Dukes, Kennedys and Clintons and the like. There are elements of benign despotism as well and the disputation of theologians holding that what the King does is right because him doing it makes it so. He, the President, is the Commander in Chief. That’s definitely regal.

Then there is the jousting of verbal combat between the King and his challenger. Let the tourney commence.

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Is there anybody there? Atomjack is that you?

If you try to get in the front door of your Java will be baffled. You’re better off going round the side entities
or trying a window. Where is Atomjack now? Has he been reduced to information and updated into a new vehicle? We shall never know but it doesn’t matter, the nodes remain endlessly fibrillating.

Saturday, 6 October 2012

A View of the Harbour by Elizabeth Taylor

This was her third novel (pub.1947) and one can see in it a willingness to expand her scope from the more restricted settings of the two previous. That would be one way of looking at it, imagining that more characters means more work, more narrative, more dialogue, more authorial business. On reflection though I now consider that it may have been easier to write because she is a natural fabulist and can conjure up stories in a trice like a modern scheherazade. More is less in this case.

In its way it is quite a narrative painting with visuals being provided by the hobby painter Bertram Hemingway a character of uncertain sexuality who is a retired naval officer on half pay. Out of this backdrop come all the characters that appear in the novel.

He drew in the buildings in squares and oblongs -the large stone house at one end of the row, the pub, the Mimosa Fish Cafe, the second-hand clothes shop, the Fun Fair, the Seamen’s Mission, the Waxworks, the lifeboat house.

Bertram notices things and has a way of insinuating himself into the lives of the rest of the cast of characters, Tara Foyle beautiful divorcee, Lily Wilson propritoress of the waxworks, lonely young war widow, fruity bed ridden scabrous Mrs. Brace of the clothes shop, Dr.Robert Cazabon and his wife Beth the published novelist who always has a book on the stocks, their two daughters Prudence and Stevie. Prudence by the way is described as having a Trilby fringe which goes to show how long that book stuck in the minds of the Great British Public. Tara and Beth are old school friends, their houses are next to each other and they drop in and out borrowing cups of sugar, mustard and sympathy. Tara and Dr.Robert have a spiky relationship but just now Jane Austen gave me a sharp elbow. Bertram befriends all the ladies in the cast, and is sympathetic, flattering and bracing but knows himself apt to vanish from people’s lives.

Bertram was worried about his shirts. He liked to rough it and to mingle, just as he did this evening, with men who wore coarse jerseys and smelt of fish and tobacco, as long as he could be sure of a drawerful of what is called dazzling white linen somewhere off-stage, something he could return to when he made his exit.

Tory is giving an omelette to Bertram:
When she cut the omelette in half grey mushrooms fell out. It was delicious he though, but not enough. Women never give one enough to eat, he decided, taking more bread. God know why men marry any of them.

When the energy that can be contained within a short book of 254 pages is spread over so many characters what is achieved is panoptic rather than focussed. It has its local intensities but like Mother said ‘divide small and serve all’. Some of the interchanges between Dr. Robert and Tara (Victoria) have the overwrought feeling of that film of the era Brief Encounter 1945. Even that prissy locution ‘I don’t know, I’m sure’ used in the film is used by Maisie the daughter of Mrs. Bracey. This latter offers the author many opportunities for low comedy. Bertram in his fretful search for dazzling white cuffs brings his shirts to the shop for the daughter to do. When he meets the bedridden Mrs. Bracey they recognise each other as forces:

His eyes went at once to Mrs Bracey and hers to him, as if each recognized in the other something above the stature of curates, charladies and young women. ‘Beauty in vile ugliness,’ he told himself, imagining he looked at her with the eyes of Rembrandt.

Bertram in his way is the ambulant form of Mrs Bracey and by way of acknowledging this he takes part in her death watch. He does this with great firmness but at the same time he does not go to the funeral as he feels that this would be imposing. This is the sort of observation that Taylor does so well.

There is fun and games with the donning of the female armour of the day, the corset.

’Persevere’ said Tory.
She sat on the fuschia-coloured sofa in her bedroom window and watched the sea.
‘I can’t,’ Beth gasped, trying to tuck great bunches of flesh into the corset.
‘If I can, you can,’ Tory said calmly.

Mrs Bracey watches as Mrs Flitcroft the Cazabon’s charlady tries on a corset only hoping that the curate Mr. Lidiard who is expected will arrive in the middle of it:
’Tighter, dear, I like to feel something in the small of my back.’

Such are the indignities that flesh is heir to. Mr. Lidiard does come in before Mrs Flitcroft is quite ready and what Mrs Bracey says to him you must read it to find out. Oh, all right so:
There’s Mrs Flitcroft’s cardigan. 'Take it out to her,’ said her mother. 'She’s putting on her drawers in the wash-house,’ she explained to Mr. Lidiard.
'Oh, yes,’ He seemed to take for granted that this should be, refusing to let her ruffle him or surprise him.

But what do you make of the last paragraph if you read it? Strange irony perhaps?

Thursday, 4 October 2012

How the East was Won

As he rolled into the estate which was still being built, on the fresh air of a fine day with the window down, the slagging of the builder’s men carried.
Run for gold sunshine (a woman passed), turnips.
Mangolds, the digger man shouted back.

It was Friday, no one would be working back, they were all in good humour. He had slipped away early form the Department of Social Welfare where he worked as a Junior Ex. There all the section heads were in a tizzy, a new minister and it seemed that all the lines of power and of influence the interlaced webs of sycophancy and animosity, would be swept away. They would be shifted around and like hermit crabs moved to a distant bay or tank have to discover a new moon’s pull on those tides of nuance.

God, it was good to get away from all that. He was driving slowly, the road was only a rough scrape with the digger, and stray blocks fallen off the dumper were a hazard. Their house was the last but one of the just finished section and it was still just that, a house, a month’s occupancy gave them no emotional title to home. This weekend I’m going to tackle the garden, Donal thought, put smacht on it.

Maggie, he called as he let himself in.

The name hopped tentatively off the bare walls and uncarpeted floor. A good shoulder and you could be in the next door’s living room. There was no one there as yet. Soon, soon the new settlers will arrive bringing civilisation to the wilderness. He savoured the pioneering spirit and muttered to himself in an ‘oldtimer’ voice, ‘Son, when the railroad comes to Maynooth everything gonna’ change round here real fast.’ Where’s my woman?

Maggie was putting out the clothes at the carousel line, trousers streaming in the breeze, legs on a chairaplane. Her hands dipped into the pooch of her apron after pegs. He leant over her bump, rising higher. The brown hair tied back into a tail he flicked.

- Hup, hup said Donal.
- How’s the great world out there?
- Hush puppies rule, is that all right! And the passenger, any sign of heshe getting off?
- Heshe fairly kicked this afternoon.

Her bag was packed and she was read though splashdown was three weeks away yet.

- It’s so long, I’m fed up waiting.
- Lucky, you’re not an elephant.

He thought to himself, when something is going on for so long it’s hard to keep up the tension. He saw the garden and his desk-bound back developed premonitory twinges. What was there in the little average space was half blocks, bricks, plaster bags (some quarter full and rock hard) lumps of concrete left over from path making, polythene sheeting, Styrofoam, broken planks and plywood flats. Clay subsoil of khaki daub.

- Listen, honey, this weekend I’m gonna turn this wilderness into civilisation and make it fit for white folks.
- O.K. pardner, the heck you will. You’re having beans for dinner tonight, John Wayne is on the box.
- Great! I’d watch him forever.

Like many another man he looked at his wife across the dinner table and wondered, who is she and what is this contract that we have wished ourselves into? It starts out on a disco floor in Galway. She is walnut-tanned, slim sly hips and tastes salty. A holiday thing maybe, this is an August weekend. You feel the sand in your underwear and hear the waves splash in the afterwards silence. There is an exchange of numbers and she calls up and unlikely love starts. Happy times rising now to surface over the table and the curtains blowing back.

What do you talk about when you’re happy? They who had a gift for it, who were not afraid of a light emotion talked about their carpet which was to come.

- Even now Ishpahan, a bearded Persian robed and hatted like a magus in the crib approaches the carpet dealer Kelliji Pasha with the work of art which had blinded half the women of his village. Into it a legend of downtown shopping is woven, imbued with the power of flittering all the €50 notes in your wallet.
- Step aboard, says Maggie, this will transport you to undreamt of bourgeois splendour. There is room for 1.7 children and a small pet.
- This is another fine mess we’ve gotten ourselves into, he said, rolling up his tie and letting it unroll again like Oliver Hardy.

This was a strong part of their courtship, the pictures. They loved popular films, and had a firm distaste for significance delivered with a hand-held camera. Maggie actually liked cowboys too. Donal remembered saying to her:
- You actually like cowboys, this isn’t just part of your strategy for entrapment.

They ate their dinner, quiche and salad. She said:
- After you wash up, come and give my back a rub.

She had magnificent shoulders and a nicely turned ankle. He liked what he saw.
- Yes, that’s good.

The neck arched and stretched out under his fingers that dug. He looked at his fingers objectively as they moved the humped muscles into an exaggeration of tension that produced its opposite.

- O.K., O.K., that’s good, she purred.
- Where is John Wayne tonight?
- At the Alamo.

Before that there was a minor skirmish with politico-economico pundits who were talking about unemployment. One rogue said that the recession was to be allowed to deepen , money would be cleared away into oil and speculation and factories closed to re-open with robots. Redundancy payments are cheaper than Trade Union aggro. The others, though they didn’t say so, thought this to be a paranoid scenario. The presented twinkled at the inherent drama of Irish life and the nice shades of confrontation that were warming up. Next week would be even better.

John Wayne’s task was simpler. Early in the picture he drove in the buckboard down to the river with his woman, lifting her out by the waist like she was a doll. Magnificent shoulders too. On the banks of the river, symbol of mutability, all things run, you never step into the same river twice; John gave his discourse on the code by which a man lives.

- I came down to Texas, didn’t know what to do. I stomped on a lot of men, been stomped on too. I knew that there were two things a man could do – the right thing and the wrong. Do the one and you’re livin’, do the other and you may be walkin’ round but you’re deader’n a beaver hat.

John died later in a welter of Mexicans.

- It’s easy to mock and gibe, in her no-but-seriously voice; at least in those days honour and valour weren’t notions, they were real..
- The knights of wild west and all that. Did any of them think that they would really die? Even myself, I expected that the 7th. Cavalry would turn up. John Wayne getting killed is not good for the motion picture industry. Let’s go to bed.

Up the stairs they went and as they passed by the door of the box room they looked in at the cot and the new wallpaper of teddy bears and dolls. They had discussed all in detail: no to a catenary of plastic bells, yes to a mobile of a shepherd with sheep dog, tussock, staff and rainbow. Heshe would be breastfed so the cot would be moved beside their own bed. The rainbow spun slowly in the draught of warm air up the stairs. The sheep moved under it and the shepherd by the wafted tussock.

Early in the morning someone called.

- Hello, I’m Jimmy O’Neill from the other side of the road.

Donal looked. He saw a 4-bedroom version of his own house with more elbow room round the sides. The man was about 50, an ambulant version of a well trimmed lawn, glassed in porch and herbaceous borders. A B.M.W. sat in the driveway, a bucket, hand mop and squeegee could be seen at the hubcaps which were gleaming. His accent was London – Dublin. Donal thought uncharitably – a returned empty.
- I hope you’re settling in all right Mr…..
- McDonagh.

They shook hands

- I’m just calling to see if would like to join the Community Association.
- No not at the moment thank you.

O’Neill was braked a bit hard at that but he recovered.

- Some of us have to band together to make sure that the estate gets finished, trees planted as in the plan and so forth, grass mowed and all that.

His eyes flicked towards the chaos of the front patch that was rutted deeply by an enthusiastic reversal. Good, good, thought Donal, by God Red Cloud, this means war.

- I’m just a bird of passage really, the new man next door might be interested, Opisa Fanguto is his name, ah but he mustn’t be in, his van isn’t there. He’s hardly ever there at the moment, he’s waiting for the rest of them to come over. Extended family and all that, you know the situation.

Easy, eassy, white man speak with forked tongue, O’Neill looked as if he might fall over the milk cartons. He said good morning and off he went to Hazeldeane or whatever it was.

Donal went for the paper. Reviews and coffee, racing on the box and oh, the garden. On his way back he saw the diggerman taking out a trench. He seemed to be on his own, probably ‘job and finish’ and get paid for a half day. Donal stopped, got out and walked over. He put up his index finger in a sign which was taken to mean ‘Can I speak to you for a minute?’

Switching off and removing his ear muffs the driver said:
- Howya
- All right. Can you do a wee job on your break, lift out a few stones and rubble out of the back garden and scrape it level - €40 ?
- Sound, I’ll tell you what, you probably need a bit of top soil. I can drop a few yards on it, 6” on top, give the grass a chance to get going, give the grass a chance to get going, €100 the lot.
- Grand job, second from the end.
- I’ll be down in twenty minutes as soon as I have this done.

Around the side of the house the digger man came and sitting up on his jacks, began to swing out the long claw. All the rubbish was scooped out and the subsoil levelled and raked deeply with the bucket’s teeth.

- That’s it, said Donal, loosen it up, this is better than double digging.

After 20 minutes there wasn’t a trace of rubbish left in Donal’s garden. ‘Fanguto’ had a nice mound of it. They had a cup of tea in the kitchen after that and a chat about origins. He was a Meath man who’d started out as an agricultural contractor.

- This crowd is not too bad, the foreman is a cute hoor, he has all the top soil cornered from the foundations and he’s going to sell it off by the load. He won’t miss the few shovels, it’s yours anyway.

Several full heaped shovels from the mountain at the end of the site hardly made a dent in it. The foreman had lime scattered over the top of the pile to betray any gouges but the diggerman mashed up a hard lump from ‘Fanguto’s’ and showered it over the smoothed earth to cover his tracks.

€100 later Donal was left with 6” of sweet soil that needed but the rub of a rake to have it ready for sowing. On a wave of enthusiasm he went to the garden centre and bought grass seed, a single children’s packet of flower seed, peas, carrots, beetroot, lettuce and scallion seed. With a few strokes of a spade he made wide beds with little paths around them like his grandfather did. ‘Don’t ever walk on them beds’, he could hear the voice in his head. He saw now the ancient Adam kneeling on a sack, weeding with his fingers in the closely planted beds. He used to broadcast the carrots. I’ll try that.

By six, Donal, like a walking bracket, sat to his tea, the garden sown. In his inner movie he had a flash forward. It is July, a sunny Saturday, the grass is showing well bar a bare patch where he missed but the vegetables are thriving. Maggie is inside feeding P.J. Their new neighbour is working with a pick levering at a solid lump of concrete. He’ll get it out if it kills him. His name is Jack Ryan, originally from Ballina. Donal himself is watching him to rest his eyes, the sun on his paper is dazzling. Jack is aware of his viewer:
- Your garden is in grand order there. How did you do it?
- Green fingers, I guess.

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Microcosmography or A Piece of the World Discovered in Essays & Characters by John Earle

I'm looking at a little book called Microcosmography or A Piece of the World Discovered in Essays & Characters by John Earle.
John Earle
I found it second hand years ago and I have to confess that I'd never heard of it. The splendid Gutenberg Project has a copy
To whet your appetite I offer this typical essay which might be subtitled A Caution to Bloggers and Moodlers-at-Large:

Is one that knows himself so well, that he does not know himself. Two excellent well-dones have undone him, and he is guilty of it that first commended him to madness. He is now become his own book, which he pores on continually, yet like a truant reader skips over the harsh places, and surveys only that which is pleasant. In the speculation of his own good parts, his eyes, like a drunkard's, see all double, and his fancy, like an old man's spectacles, make a great letter in a small print. He imagines every place where he comes his theater, and not a look stirring but his spectator; and conceives men's thoughts to be very idle, that is, [only] busy about him. His walk is still in the fashion of a march, and like his opinion unaccompanied, with his eyes most fixed upon his own person, or on others with reflection to himself. If he have done any thing that has past with applause, he is always re-acting it alone, and conceits the extasy his hearers were in at every period. His discourse is all positions and definitive decrees, with thus it must be and thus it is, and he will not humble his authority to prove it. His tenent is always singular and aloof from the vulgar as he can, from which you must not hope to wrest him. He has an excellent humour for an heretick, and in these days made the first Arminian. He prefers Ramus before Aristotle, and Paracelsus before Galen,[22] [and whosoever with most paradox is commended.] He much pities the world that has no more insight in his parts, when he is too well discovered even to this very thought. A flatterer is a dunce to him, for he can tell him nothing but what he knows before: and yet he loves him too, because he is like himself. Men are merciful to him, and let him alone, for if he be once driven from his humour, he is like two inward friends fallen out: his own bitter enemy and discontent presently makes a murder. In sum, he is a bladder blown up with wind, which the least flaw crushes to nothing.


[22] and Lipsius his hopping stile before either Tully or Quintilian. First edit.

Monday, 1 October 2012

My Inner Kant that oppresses me

Instead of thought experiments we should try thinking. Working my way back through the older posts of yeahokbutstill I find this observation:
One of the most banal and unsophisticated manoeuvres one can encounter in a modern philosophical discussion is the denial that a theory has to conform to "our intuitions".

"Yeah," someone says, "my theory has results that don't match common intuitions. So what? Who says that I have to cater to your intuitions?"

This move was born out of a certain frustration with mid-20th century "thought experiments" in philosophy, which purported to demonstrate the truth or falsity of some theory by reference to an outlandish thought experiment and to what "we" would "say" about it in light of the theory. To many, it became increasingly clear that this sort of strategy accomplished very little.
philosophical intuition
It used to be that philosophers' fables were rare and where offered were clearly of the nature of nose rings, the better to lead you, but now it seems that students are to be brow beaten for a response. The maieutic method is pressed to the delivery of intuitions. The idea is that if we are divorced from the pressure of the potentially actual we may begin to feel free to get in touch with our intuitions. My inner Kant that oppresses me may be exorcised.

I would be inclined to say that intuitions are direct and immediate responses to the varied situations that we find ourselves. I like to bring in here the notion usually associated with female intuition but not limiting it to that gender where the response is correct and wise without a laborious application of principle. It's as though out of a sufficient range of these responses we discover a principle. It is all rough ore and we extract the gold of principle from it rather than using the golden rule.

This is of course simple and naive. No doubt the gold standard of principle is used by philosophers who can find a good word to say about bestiality and infanticide. Shouldn’t that alert us to the wrongness of that sort of straight line thinking? It doesn’t seem to, at least amongst the majority of the philo-philisophico class.

Friday, 28 September 2012

The Jew in Literary Fiction

In most literary fiction prior to the Hitler war the stock characterisation of the Jew is the Jew as bounder. It’s ‘bizness’ as usual. I can think of only Rebecca West in her book The Fountain Overflows who portrays a Jew who helps the family that has lapsed into poverty due to a feckless Irish Father. A gross offender would be George Du Maurier in Trilby a frothy, sentimental, deft and witty book published around about the time of the Drefus case. Svengali. We are introduced to him in this manner:

First, a tall, bony individual of any age between thirty and forty-five, of Jewish aspect, well-featured but sinister. He was very shabby and dirty, and wore a red béret and a large velveteen cloak, with a big metal clasp at the collar. His thick, heavy, languid, lustreless black hair fell down behind his ears on to hisshoulders, in that musicianlike way that is so offensive to the normal Englishman. He had bold, brilliant black eyes, with long, heavy lids, a thin, sallow face, and a beard of burnt-up black which grew almost from his under eyelids; and over it his mustache, a shade lighter, fell in two long spiral twists. He went by the name of Svengali, and spoke fluent French with a German accent, and humorous German twists and idioms, and his voice was very thin and mean and harsh, and often broke into a disagreeable falsetto.

He is a marvelous pianist up to point of extreme facility but lacking the qualities of soul adequate to Beethoven. He has a poor singing voice but a great appreciation of the art and a desire to find a talented singer that he could train and accompany. He thinks he has found one:

Svengali had heard her sing at the Brasserie des Porcherons in the Rue du Crapaud-volant, and had volunteered to teach her; and she went to see him in his garret, and he played to her, and leered and ogled, and flashed his bold, black, beady Jew's eyes into hers, and she straightway mentally prostrated herself in reverence and adoration before this dazzling specimen of her race.
So that her sordid, mercenary little gutter-draggled soul was filled with the sight and the sound of him, as of a lordly, godlike, shawm-playing, cymbal-banging hero and prophet of the Lord God of Israel—David and Saul in one!

Svengali has entered the language as any mesmeric manipulator of his fascinated creature.

Graham Greene in his entertainment Stamboul Train (1932) draws on reserves of suburban prejudice in his portrayal of a Jewish currant merchant, Myatt on his way to a sharp and treacherous deal in the dried fruit trade. To quote would be to eviscerate the book. Greene’s entertainments mostly fail in my view, the usual doom and guilt that is his USP a faltering wistfulness and snobbery. I haven’t seen the film they made of it but I believe that Myatt is more sympathetically portrayed than in the book.

Now that the Jew is out of bounds the literary intelligentsia have only the Muslim to play with. It was ironic to see Netanyahu’s sinister clowning at the U.N. with a bomb that we last saw being held by a cartoon anarchist. Behind the anarchist, a simple goodhearted fellow, was a hook-nosed Svengali with a similarly shaped object, a bag of gold.

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Victory Roll and Folding Body Press

Philosophers are a troublesome lot who are very keen on principles that are to be followed through in a very thoroughgoing way. It does tend to turn difficult ethical issues into a form of algebra. For them, once a principle has been established then not following through on it is simply incoherent. Not for them the havering and dithering of the 'profanum vulgus' which they keep at a distance. The ignuus fatuus that they forever chase across the quaking empirical bog or indeed blog is the knockdown argument, the 'folding body press and victory roll' of freestyle intellectual wrestling. It is beloved of the young male of the species and if you wonder why more women aren't involved in academic philosophy this might be the reason. I see it as the equivalent of the 'good manly tackle' in Gaelic football that induces temporary concussion.

In a recent discussion on abortion that I participated in before I was silenced and following my sequestration in moderation a woman professional philosopher remarked that there was no room in this debate for someone who thought the fetus was central to the issue. Do you see the principle?

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

The Bostonians by Henry James

Ransom as a Southerner it may be said has a particular perspective on Northern righteousness. He has the experience of how retrospective justification of the war between the states/civil war was based on the emancipation of the slaves rather than a resistance to the constitutional break up of the union. Likewise we looking at The Bostonians may succumb to anachronism damming Ransom as a male chauvinist or seeing the busy lady burghers of Boston as same new same new to alter a phrase. It would be easy to do as the New Age elements are all there. We reach back and decorate the rooms with our own palette forgetting that there are shadows our thin beams will never dissapate. Take the theme of passionate friendships. Perhaps Henry James himself uncertain of where he stood brings a deliberate ambiguity into play and raises doubts where there would have been none. Verena Tarrant is certainly an innocent, in filly terms, inspiration out of claptrap and fraud. James is more circumspect than this but his continuous sly acerbities contra the American religion, prosperity gospel and flagrant boosterism gave rise to a cool reception of the novel from his compatriots. The target audience had an uncomfortable feeling that their aims were being mocked. There’s a sniffy review from The Atlantic of 1876 by Horace Elisha Scudder.
scudder review
The Horace Elisha seems a perfect combination of the classical and Hebraic in Arnoldian terms.

A. S. Byatt in a short essay published in the Guardian pencils in the background of high mindedness , New Thought and Old Money that obtained in the James family.
Byatt Essay

Verena is based on the woman Byatt calls Cora Tappen who was married for a while to the famous Samuel F. Tappen. Wikipedia has an article on her cora

A much fuller treatment and perceptive analysis of the milieu which bubbled like a cauldron in James’ day is detailed in Hatch wonder girl
(Cora was married 4 times and as Hatch was the first and most famous husband himself a mesmerist, she is generally known in the literature as Cora Hatch. He was also a Dr. like Dr. Tarrent.)

In mediumistic terms both Olive and Basil want to control Verena. Olive is a Chancellor of the Exchequer and Basil a would be the king. When one looks at the Cora Hatch phenomenon Ransome’s views are less antipathetic than we might from a modern day perspective suppose them to be. He sees a beautiful, clever young girl whose talent for impromptu speechifying is to be used in the service of dubious ideology.

The more Olive learnt of her visitor's life the more she wanted to enter into it, the more it took her out of herself. Such strange lives are led in America, she always knew that; but this was queerer than anything she had dreamed of, and the queerest part was that the girl herself didn't appear to think it queer. She had been nursed in darkened rooms, and suckled in the midst of manifestations; she had begun to "attend lectures," as she said, when she was quite an infant, because her mother had no one to leave her with at home. She had sat on the knees of somnambulists, and had been passed from hand to hand by trance-speakers; she was familiar with every kind of "cure," and had grown up among lady-editors of newspapers advocating new religions, and people who disapproved of the marriage-tie. Verena talked of the marriage-tie as she would have talked of the last novel—as if she had heard it as frequently discussed; and at certain times, listening to the answers she made to her questions, Olive Chancellor closed her eyes in the manner of a person waiting till giddiness passed. 

Monday, 17 September 2012

Identity and Upadhi

There’s an interesting contrast between the western metaphysicians who have considered the problem of identity and the Eastern sages for whom it was a lifetime quest. The who-am-I inquiry for Ramana Maharshi is made into the purpose of life whilst for Lewis or Parfitt it seems just another topic to be made interesting by the devising of science fiction scenarios to stress test their concepts. The level of seriousness or engagement seems trifling in comparison and it may be significant that when the Western metaphysician turns to the East for inspiration it is Buddhism of a nihilist cast that captures his attention.

The problem of personal identity is fraught by circularity because it cannot be isolated and therefore it creeps into our definition of it through insidious assumptions. Without ruling out the consideration of identity over time, its persistence and whether the understanding of that persistence is fraught by a facile analysis the sages preferred to remain in the present moment in which each state, if indeed a state, is saturated by I-ness or that experience of self-identity which is ‘kuthasta’- solid as an anvil. The feeling is, that if this experience is understood then the problem of its continuity over a series of point instants will be dissolved.

What that understanding means in the advaitic tradition is not a breaking down of a problem into its elements and seeing how they all fit together it is more a sinking down into, and a complete feeling of, the reality of the intuition of self-identity.

Mental Modifications:(from Upadesasahasri by Shankaracarya)
The teacher said to him,"your doubt is not justifiable, for you,
the Self, are proved to be free from change, and therefore perpetually
the same on the ground that all the modifications of the mind are
(simultaneously) known by you. You regard this knowledge of all the
modifications which is the reason for the above inference as that for
your doubt. If you were changeful like the mind or the senses (which
pervade their objects one after another), you would not simultaneously know all the mental modifications, the objects of your knowledge. Nor are you aware of a portion only of the objects of your knowledge (at a time). You are, therefore, absolutely changeless."

At the same time the sage Ramana is willing to have Lewisian fun with his devotees:

In Talks with Ramana Maharshi the paradox is clearly stated:
Devotee: There was the case of the boy who was seven years old. "He recalls his past births. Enquiries show that the previous body was given up 10 months ago. The question now arises how the matter stood for 6 years and 2 months previous to the death of the former body. Did the soul occupy two bodies at the same time?
Sri Bhagavan pointed out that the seven years is according to the boy; 10 months is according to the observer. The difference is due to these two different upadhis. The boy's experience extending to seven years has been calculated by the observer to cover only 10 months of his own time."

The upadhis are different. But what is an upadhi? Various analogies are given but for Ramana’s purposes we can generalise. Everything that exists as an individual does so as an upadhi/limiting adjunct/form of limitation. It is a manifestation of pure being as that individual thing. The individual mind for instance is an upadhi of pure consciousness. Spacetime is also an upadhi and of course the individuals within this continuum appear under its dispensation. When that dispensation is altered or abated, when physical bodies no longer have the same power or presence, then the particular upadhis of body and mind i.e. the Jiva/Person are also altered and the rules of the normal spacetime continuum and sequence change. Thus “the upadhis are different”.

Because there is serious involvement with the problem then the fun has the capacity to throw new facets into view. Paradoxoi and aporiai come when identity is stretched over a period of time. Is that significant?

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Suspicious Minds

I blame Wittgenstein with his Philosophical Investigations for bringing forensic language games into philosophy. The 'I suspect' trope has become global. None of those that use it should join the police force should the world of philosophical employment prove inhospitable. For them suspicion is guilt. Perhaps they mean a Theory of Interest (TOI).

In suspicionI discussed this.

Where does it come from? It is hard not to avoid the 'suspicion' that they are following like Tinbergen's ducklings the great bearded Prof., first sighted as they emerged from the philosophic egg.

POI (Western Australia Police)
Person of interest. A POI is a person who has come into the scope of an investigation in some way, or may have information relevant to assisting an investigation. A person of interest is NOT necessarily a suspect.

The unmarked pronoun 'he' in philosophical papers is now being replaced by 'she' which is a sort of role reversal. In fifty years time editors will have little footnotes saying 'I have replaced 'he' for 'she' when it is an unmarked pronoun as being less confusing to modern readers. cf.golden cobra

'Egregious' in the present American usage cuts itself adrift from its etymological moorings 'ex' 'grex' that is to say out from the flock. 'Egregious' on its own does not refer to what flock it stands out from. Egregiously foolish, an egregious error. On its own 'egregious' leaves us wondering what flock. Curious that in Latin 'egregius' means excellent or eminent and that it has in the American free standing form become pejorative as in the linked form generally also.

Monday, 10 September 2012

More on Parade's End the B.B.C. dramatisation

My wife and I have been watching Parade's End on the B.B.C. She hasn't read the books so her opinion of it is not deflected by the halo effect. She thinks it's a hopeless muddle and not likely to send many to read the book. I am coming to agree. A major cause of my dissatisfaction is the altering of the character of Sylvia to make her more sympathetic. That just isn't in the books and it wouldn't surprise me if HBO who are partners in the effort had a hand in it. Lest you think that a reading of her egregious misandry is my own projection, this blog on the tetralogy by a woman
parade's end
concurs in her estimation of Tietjens demon wife.

Two more episodes to go. The production values are top-notch. Quite!

Modal Wars

Being a snob I regard most s.f. as science porn. Why would one prefer gruel when there are proper vittles to be had unless of course you have no teeth. I am reading The Bostonians by Henry James at the moment. It's about Planet Boston in the 1870's which is under threat from an asteroid called New York. This is during the First Galactic Woman Question War. Trains run from Boston to New York so that makes it perhaps an example of the sub-genre knows as steam punk.

I see that in America Republicans are trying to humanise Mitt Romney. They feel that he is a changeling. I can now reveal that he has Smiths scrying stone and the white hat and what he sees when he achieves a trance state is buried treasure.
scryingseer stones in Mormonism
Perhaps that trance state is his natural condition? Who is the evil Blonde Woman that always accompanies him? I'm worried.

Really Obama is the Changeling and for him every Tuesday is a Super Tuesday with a real death panel. Slayer of Jihadis, O Great One. Why are they called drones when they are so busy? This is a modal war: a known and proven liar against a probable one.

Saturday, 8 September 2012

The Book of Authors by William Clark Russell

What you can find in Charlie Byrne’s. The Book of Authors by W. Clark Russell(1844 - 1911). In beautiful copperplate the original owner has written his name: J.B. Hudson March 15th. 1879. Many of the pages are uncut and my switchblade is the perfect cutter, its long narrow wedge shaped blade slicing without tearing.

The book consists entirely of the comments of authors on other authors and is a fund of acerbic deprecation, encomia, mockery and persiflage.

Some are drawn from a merciful obscurity to be given a verbal drubbing. Elkanah Settle (1648 - 1742) is thus described by Dryden.

He’s an animal of a most deplored understanding, without reading and conversation. His being is in a twilight of sense and some glimmering of thought which he never can fashion into wit or English. His style is boisterous and rough-hewn, his rhyme incorrigibly lewd, and his numbers perpetually harsh and ill sounding. The little talent which he has is fancy. He sometimes labours with a thought; but with the pudder he makes to bring it into the world, ‘tis comonly still-born; so that for want of learning and elocution he will never be able to express anything either naturally or justly.

They did not get on. He likewise took a dim view of Jeremy Collier (1650 - 1726):

I will not say, the zeal of God’s house has eaten him up; but I am sure it has devoured some part of his good manners and civility.

I openly admit that I never had heard of William Clark Russell till I came across this book but Wikipedia
William Clark Russelltells me that he was very popular in his lifetime and that his novel The Wreck of The Grosvenor was read right into the middle of the last century. It’s there on his Internet Archive
W.C.Russellcollection along with The Book of Authors.

The Wreck of the Grosvenor seems a nice tidy seafaring yarn, nothing to worry Conrad but workmanlike.
The interior of the cabin looked like some old Dutch painting, for the plain mahogany wood-work gave the place an antique air. The lamps were alight, for it was dusk here, though daylight was still abroad upon the sea; and the lamplight imparted a grave, old-fashioned coloring to the things it shone upon. The skipper sat near the mizzen-mast, stirring the sugar in a cup of tea. He looked better without than with his hat; his forehead was high, though rather peaked, and his iron-gray hair, parted amidships and brushed carelessly over his ears, gave him a look of dignityi The coarse little pilot was eating bread and butter voraciously, his great whiskers moving as he worked his jaws.

Mouldy ship’s biscuit, foul tea and stinking pork have started the men muttering. The chief mate is a bully. Now read on.