BOB'S BITS

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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 19 Mar 2020, 13:20

A soprano makes herself heard: Margaret Foley of Boston, 1875-1957..

Americans came to support female suffrage for many reasons. My great grandfather, Daniel Kerr, married a college graduate in 1864 and then he and his wife saw to it their three daughters also graduated from college. He had always supported women’s “aspirations” (his word), but he had opposed granting women the vote. But (as an Iowa politician and a Republican) he came around in 1881, hoping that women would vote morality into Iowa politics—and in particular would support prohibition. Meanwhile, back in Boston, Margaret Foley thought that women would support trade union rights, indeed that the 1911 suffrage bill she supported would, if passed, be “the most important trade union measure of the year.” Horses for courses, as they say; much of Foley’s energy was directed at Democratic party politicians, men who depended on working-class votes and might be embarrassed by being identified as anti-union. And Margaret Foley was different from Daniel Kerr in other ways; the daughter of Irish Catholic immigrants, she was born in working-class Dorchester on March 19, 1875, and although she aspired to move upwards (she took training in classical voice, and made friends with women from Boston’s upper crust), politically she never forgot whence she came or shed her sympathies for laboring folk. Once she’d converted to ‘suffragism’ it was her voice that made her famous. Clear as a bell and rising up from her boots, that voice was often heard above the general noise of public meetings. On the stump, her voice (and her stage presence) took on anti-suffragists of both parties and made them wish that she had been elsewhere. Among those who cringed before her clarion calls were several men of Mayor James Curley’s Boston machine (Democratic anti-suffragists) and Louis Frothingham, the aristocratic (and anti-suffragist) Republican candidate for governor in 1911. Thereafter Margaret made her voice heard in all sorts of places, London for instance, in a hot air balloon over Lawrence, MA, and on one occasion 2,500 feet down a Nevada silver mine. After suffrage was won, Margaret Foley lent her life to civic good works and her heart to her friend Helen Goodnow, an upper-class Boston suffragist. She died aged 82, after a. long life of singing reform into American politics. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 20 Mar 2020, 12:52

"Basically, I'm a backroom girl." Pamela Harriman, in a newspaper interview, 1992.

When Pamela Harriman, US ambassador to France, died in early 1997, I can’t remember any of her obituarists calling her a ‘blast from the past,’ but in a sense she was. She compared herself to her ancestress, Jane Digby (1807-1881), who mistressed and married her way through several European nobilities (including Ludwig I of Bavaria) before fetching up (very happily) as the wife of Sheik Medjuel el Mezrab, living part of each year in desert tents and part in her very own palace in Damascus. Pamela Harriman was born (on March 20, 1920) Pamela Digby, the eldest child of the 11th Baron Digby, and grew up where Jane Digby did, at Minterne Magna in Dorset. Like Jane, Pamela was schooled in the arts of an aristocrat’s wife, and like Jane she was that through life, if for some stretches as an aristocrat’s mistress. First married to Randolph Churchill, she moved into Downing Street when Randolph’s dad became prime minister, and though she bore Randolph a son (named Winston) her war years included affairs or flings with visiting Americans, notably Ed Murrow of CBS and Averill Harriman who was heir to a railway fortune and also FDR’s choice to run Lend-Lease. Winston, Sr., the old fox, apparently knew and approved of her liaison with Harriman. Much later, after prolonged affairs with Prince Aly Khan, Gianni Agnelli (of Fiat), Stavros Niarchos, and the Baron Elie de Rothschild (and a very brief one with Frank Sinatra), Pamela married Averill in 1971. The marriage was happy, and she expertly partnered her husband in his role as elder statesman in the Democratic Party. During the dry spell represented by Reagan and the elder Bush, the Harriman mansion in Georgetown functioned as the unofficial HQ of the Democratic Party. When Averill died in 1986 Pamela found herself mistress of $115 million in stocks and bonds, some properties here and there, and an art collection, and it wasn’t too great a surprise (although it was commented upon) when Bill Clinton made her ambassador to France. Mistress of several languages (though not as many as Jane Digby’s eight) and always attentive to policy details, Pamela Harriman did a good job. She died in some style, at Neuilly, after suffering a stroke in the indoor pool of the Paris Ritz. She was widely and respectfully mourned. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 21 Mar 2020, 13:29

"The Imperial Government will not succeed in subduing the Mexicans, and its armies will not have a single day of peace." Benito Juárez.

Throughout my childhood my father bought me biographies of famous people, mostly American heroes and mostly in the wonderful “Landmark” series. But not always. I particularly remember a “young readers’” biography of Benito Juárez, the reforming, indeed revolutionary, president of Mexico. Perhaps in an effort to appeal to a ‘gringo’ readership, the author characterized Juárez as Mexico’s Abraham Lincoln, and there’s truth to that. Certainly Juárez rose from obscure poverty to the pinnacle of power, a journey that began with his legal studies and qualifying as a professional lawyer. Benito Juárez was born in rural Oaxaca state on March 21, 1806, of native Mesoamerican parents. Orphaned at 3, he was passed around the family until at age 12 he moved to be with an elder sister in Oaxaca city. It was there that his education began, first in training for the priesthood but soon to study law and science at a college that now bears his name. His political career began in the same year he qualified as a lawyer, with election to the municipal council. As he rose in power (by election and by judicial appointment) he never forgot his roots and withstood the temptations of wealth. After his marriage (1841, to Margarita, also a Mesoamerican) he moved into national politics as a liberal capitalist. In Mexico, dominated economically and socially by a feudal aristocracy and a repressive monopoly church, this was revolutionary. In Mexico today, Juárez is venerated for his reforms (which aimed to break up the country’s landed estates), for his revolution, but above all for his long and successful war against the pseudo-monarchy imposed on Mexico by France’s Napoleon III. This Juárez won through knowing when to fight and when to retreat (all the way to the US border, making his HQ in a city now called Juárez), and when to employ guerilla tactics. So, Lincoln he was, but there was in Benito Juárez something, too, of George Washington, our own great retreater, and our guerilla fighters who (especially in New Jersey and the Carolinas, but also at Lexington and Concord) insured that the British were never able to occupy the territories they conquered. But, let’s face it, Benito Juárez was also who he was, a Mexican of native descent, a man of his own people, a hero in his nation. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 22 Mar 2020, 12:49

"Upon their heads be all the blood which may be shed!" From Emilio Aguinaldo's declaration of war against American military occupation, January 1, 1899.

In the election of 1902, my great-grandfather (in 1889-93 a Republican congressman) ran as an anti-imperialist Democrat, thus tacking his colors to the banner raised by Mark Twain, William Dean Howells, Samuel Gompers, and others. This was in response to the USA’s annexation of the Philippines and its double-cross of the islands’ nationalist leader, Emilio Aguinaldo. Aguinaldo, born of Tagalog parents on March 22, 1869, had risen to the leadership of the Katipunan, the “Sons of the People,” whose aim was to liberate the islands from Spanish domination. Aguinaldo’s campaign, some pitched battles but mostly guerilla warfare, had been quite successful, and in early 1897 he won substantial concessions from Spain (in return for his voluntary exile). But Spain reneged, and at about the onset of the Spanish-American War, Aguinaldo returned to the islands to lead a renewed Filipino revolution. In this he was successful, and in this he expected the Americans (his former allies) to honor the result and endorse his proclamation of a Republic. Alas, he was mistaken. Fueled by the desire to create an American presence in Asia, by a resurgent racism that (in the USA, especially in the South) had reduced people of color to sub-colonial status, and by a heady mix of greed and patriotism, the American forces turned their attention towards Aguinaldo’s ragtag army and defeated it in 1901 after a long, bloody, and nasty war, fought mainly in Luzon and marked by the use of “concentration camps” to pacify the population by force. A measure of hypocrisy on both sides was symbolized by the American offer, and Aguinaldo’s acceptance, of a bribe-pension if he would just retire to private life. He returned to public life in the 1930s and then, perhaps understandably and certainly with a motive, supported the Japanese in WWII. After the American liberation there were calls for his execution, which in the context of his life would have been the ultimate hypocrisy, but he was given an amnesty and, when the Philippines finally became an independent republic on July 4, 1946, Emilio Aguinaldo lived out most of the remainder of his long life as a member of the new Council of State and a Filipino hero. As for my great-grandfather, he lost that 1902 election, but that’s another story. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 23 Mar 2020, 13:05

"Went to Buckingham Palace to see the Queen. . . She asked about Caroline Neave's Refuge for which she had lately sent fifty pounds." Elizabeth Fry's diary, February 1, 1840.

Richard Neave (1731-1814), originally of Ramsgate, Kent, was one of those 18th-century merchants who began life comfortably and ended it rich. At 30 he married well and continued his rise. He traded with the British colonies of the Americas, and was sympathetic to the rebels of the continental colonies. He became governor of the Hudson’s Bay Company and was, now and again, the president of the Society of West Indian merchants. Before the American Revolution he became a director of the Bank of England, and in his 48-year term was sometimes governor. In the 1770s Neave made himself into a country gentleman, bought an 850-acre estate in what is now suburban London, acquired a baronetcy (first baron Neave), and sat (with his wife) for a portrait by Gainsborough. He also married off his children. One daughter married into the Bank of England, another into the extensive and powerful Howard family (she wed Henry Howard of Corby Castle, the clan’s self-appointed historian). But Sir Richard’s third daughter, Caroline Hannah Neave, born March 23, 1781, would never marry. Instead, she became one of the pioneers of that 19th-century species, the lady philanthropist, and one who (unlike the apocryphal Lady Bountiful) worked behind the scenes, modestly enough that we know very little about her. By (likely before) the age of 40 she’d moved into her own house but did not always live there. Instead she lived and worked with her charitable charges, first in an asylum for “vicious female children” and latterly in the Manor Hall Asylum for female prisoners. Apparently, Caroline Neave wrought wonderfully. Among her alumnae there was almost no recidivism. She used no physical punishment; she taught self-discipline and useful things, skills and knowledge, that would help poor females establish themselves in respectable callings (generally in domestic service). Caroline became friends with the famous of her ilk, notably Elizabeth Fry, but was never a Quaker. As an elderly lady she moved into a comfortable house (it still stands) in Warwick Square, but continued to visit and work in prisons, convict-ships, and asylums up to a week before her death, aged 82, at home in Warwick Square. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 24 Mar 2020, 12:57

"[Harrison] wrested the world’s whereabouts from the stars, and locked the secret in a pocket watch." Sobel, 1995, in Longitude: The True Story of the Lone Genius who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of his Time.

When it comes to sports in particular, and life in general, I normally support the underdog. It may be a modern and democratic preference. Certainly it has not always been so. Take the case of John Harrison, born in Yorkshire on March 24, 1693, who gained fame as the inventor of the first successful chronometer and then spent decades making good his claim on the prize that parliament had set aside (in the 1714 Longitude Act) for anyone who figured out a way to plot—accurately—a ship’s longitude (latitude being a relatively simple matter of angles). The prize was £20,000 (roughly $3.5 million today). One difficulty Harrison faced was simply technical (his first attempts, though wondrous, weren’t accurate enough). Another was experimental (how to prove that his instrument would be good anywhere, any time, in any sea). And the final problem may have been social, for Harrison was an outsider, a man of humble origins, and not at first a clockmaker at all. He began life as a carpenter’s son and began work as a carpenter’s apprentice, but all the while (from the age of 6, apparently) he had shown an unusual aptitude, perhaps even a fellow feeling, for clocks: first their repair, and then from about 1710 with their manufacture. His early clocks, though made of wood, were well-wrought and several survive to this day. He turned to metal (for the workings) at about the same time he came to the attention of Edmund Halley, then Astronomer Royal, and at about the same time he began seriously to pursue the Longitude Prize. It’s a long story, and it’s been nicely told by Dava Sobel (Longitude, 1995), but its length owed in part to a contest between Harrison and a later Astronomer Royal (and brilliant mathematician) Nevil Maskelyne, who had an entirely different idea about longitude, and, it would seem, better connections and more patronage power. Harrison’s clocks finally won out, and he was rewarded for it, but not £20,000 and not “the Longitude Prize.” And by this time (1765) Harrison was an old man. What he did get made him rich, but he went to his grave (in 1776) still convinced that he was the underdog who had been done down by the ‘establishment.’ Instinctively, I favor his view. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by PanBiker » 24 Mar 2020, 16:43

There was a TV drama made in 2000 in two parts with Michael Gambon as John Harrison based on the book by Dava Sobel. Michael Gambon won an award for his portrayal of Harrison.
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 25 Mar 2020, 03:53

:good: You're right Ian, I remember it was excellent.
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 25 Mar 2020, 13:30

"The Scottish Highlanders were merely Irishmen who had crossed from one island to another." Hugh Trevor-Roper, in "The Highland Tradition of Scotland," 1983.

In the 1880s, my great-great-great uncle, William Galt, made two trips to Scotland, to visit old friends in his native Ayrshire and perhaps to show off, for he’d done well in Gold Rush California and then in land rush Iowa. He also had his picture taken, in Edinburgh, in full highland gear, kilt, tam-o-shanter, sporran and all, looking out over a wild (if painted) glen. None of his surviving letters tells us why this old lowlander got himself up as a highland horse thief, but probably it was because he could afford it and because that vision of “Scottishness” had acquired mythic status. Mythic indeed: as Hugh Trevor-Roper pointed out in The Invention of Tradition (1983, a collection ed. by T. Ranger and E. Hobsbawm), the whole tableau was ersatz, Galt’s tartans and cap invented out of whole cloth (pun intended). One could see it as an English-inspired apologia for the wholesale destruction that followed the brutal defeat, at Culloden, of the 1745 ‘highland rising’, but as Trevor-Roper points out more of it was a home-grown expression of Scottish hostility against Sassenach England. But the tradition was still being invented in the 20th century, by (inter alia) Marian McNeill, born in Orkney on March 26, 1885. She was educated at Glasgow University and taught (oddly enough) English and English lit in France, Germany and (after WWI) in Greece, all before she was smitten by what she (and others) called the Scottish Renaissance. As president and (in 1932) founder of the Clan McNeill, she became a leader of that revival and a formulator of its heady mixture of politics and culture. Politically, she rose to the vice-presidency of the Scottish National Party (also an outgrowth of her early activism in the suffrage movement), and culturally she contributed many works on the highland past, notably about clan cookery. Late in life she produced her magnum opus, The Silver Bough, a four-volume study of Scots folklore and festivals, e.g. the Highland Games. Whether all this was real or “invented” was an issue explored by reviewers, to which McNeill replied that it was “living lore acquired, or more correctly imbibed” in her Orkney childhood. That would not be a clincher for any academic historian, but (sadly, despite her significant contributions) Marian McNeill didn’t even get a mention in Trevor-Roper’s fine essay. ©

[The kilt was invented by an English iron master, a Quaker, who had taken a lease on a forest on the East side of Scotland as a source of charcoal for his Cumbrian works. This was before the use of coke was perfected. We know this from early letters of Abram Derby of Coalbrookdale to his Quaker cousin who declined the offer the secret of using coke because he had plenty of charcoal from his Scottish operations. This man noted that his Highland workers were hampered by the traditional plaid and had the kilts made for his workers who took to them and in no time at all they were a 'tradition'.]
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 26 Mar 2020, 13:30

"A woman is like a teabag. You can't tell how strong she is until you put her in hot water." Nancy Pelosi.

Among the printable things Nancy Pelosi’s critics say about her: she’s out of touch with the country and she’s too old to be House Speaker. Well, it’s true she’s out of step with many red-blooded American politicians. She’s been married to the same person for 57 years; she has birthed, raised, and cared for five kids (and, as grandmama, their offspring); as a family person, she didn’t really start her own career until she was in her 40s. Those are oddities even in blue states, possibly unheard-of in some quarters. Nancy Pelosi was born in Baltimore of Italian (D’Alesandro) parentage on March 26, 1940. She followed her dad (congressman from and then mayor of his city) in having political inclinations, took a political science major, interned in congress, married another Italian, and settled down as mother of those five kids (in six years) and as helpmeet to her commerce-minded husband. In San Francisco he was a source of Democratic Party funds, and that’s how she got started, good enough at it to chair a couple of important committees (one state, one national) and then get into congress in 1987 after the deaths of two friends, Phil and Sala Burton, who had in turn represented Pelosi’s constituency. She’s kept winning elections all the while, in congress, learning more of the ropes, first as whip (2002) and in the next year a minority leader, the first woman to lead a congressional party. As a national figure she proved effective and popular, despite attempts to portray her as a vicious left-winger of unparalleled and suspect ambition. Her “mother-of-five” persona, to say nothing of her mother-of-five voice, made those charges difficult to prove, and her honesty and crystal-clear prose (they often go together just as constant lying can play hell with one’s diction) won her the sometimes grudging loyalty of her party’s left wing. Because of her intelligence, her experience, and (I am absolutely sure) her gender, she’s become the perfect foil to our current president, who really doesn’t understand her. So, although at nearly 77 myself I do think 80 a bit elderly for active political leadership, I say Happy Birthday, Nancy (D’Alesandro) Pelosi, and as many happy returns as the fates allow!!
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 27 Mar 2020, 13:17

"Working with glass . . . the important thing is the play of reflections and not the effects of light and shadow, as in ordinary buildings." Mies van Der Rohe.

“Genius” in its youthful expression is an attractive concept, and when you can get three young geniuses together, at the same time and place, there arise fascinating possibilities. In this case the three were all architects, and each and all of them apprenticed in the Berlin offices of Peter Behrens. One would use a smidgeon of poetic license, for they were not there at exactly the same time. First (in 1905) it was Mies van der Rohe (1886-1969), then (in 1906) it was Walter Gropius (1883-1969), and finally (in 1910) came Le Corbusier (1887-1965). One wonders what they learned from Behrens—and what they might have learned from each other. Ludwig Mies van der Rohe was born in Aachen on March 27, 1886, appropriately enough the son of a stone mason. Appropriate but odd, for if there’s anything that Mies was not known for it was building in stone. More uncompromisingly modernist than either Gropius or le Corbusier, Mies’s mature style was expressed rectilinearly in steel and glass, whether designing a domestic house or a two-story academic building or a soaring skyscraper. But it took him a while to get there, for many of his earliest buildings were of brick or stone and owed more to arts & crafts or neoclassical aesthetics than to a bare-bones architectural rendition of modern industrial society. During this period, when Mies worked in Germany, he was associated with Gropius in the ‘November Group,’ artists, architects, writers of generally left-wing views, but the survivors amongst them scattered to the winds with the rise of Hitler (who demolished Mies’s main ‘modernist’ structure, a tribute to Rosa Luxembourg). Once established in the USA, Mies headquartered in Chicago where he was for 20 years director of the School of Architecture at the Illinois Institute of Technology. There he redesigned the IIT campus and peppered the American landscape with his steel and glass curtains—curtains which, I think, reflect us rather well. In the process, Mies designed both the building in which my father ended his academic career, at Drake in Des Moines, and the building in which my son began his, at IIT in Chicago. That, perhaps, is another reason I identify so readily with Mies van der Rohe’s unmistakable artistic signature. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 28 Mar 2020, 13:10

"The proper education of the young does not consist in stuffing their heads . . . but in opening up their understanding." John Comenius.

One of my favorite detours in historical research involved the friendship struck up by Scotsman John Dury (1596-1680), and Samuel Hartlib (1600-1662), born in Poland of Anglo-German parentage. They met in 1628 and their association lasted, off and on, until Hartlib’s death. They had many interests and friends in common, and I ‘met’ them, so to speak, in Oxford when, in about 1640, they brashly proposed to set up an “Office of Information” to collect and disseminate what we might call real knowledge, data, ‘facts’ proven by experiment or experience. On the side, they also proposed educational reform, recklessly promising to make schooling enjoyable, and more centrally (though by no means religious skeptics) they believed that people—at least Protestant people—should stop killing each other in God’s name. In all three of these interests (and several others) they were undoubtedly inspired by Jan Ámos Komensky (John Comenius), born in Hapsburg Moravia on March 28, 1592. When Hartlib met Comenius (early 1620s) the Czech scholar was already modestly famous. Dury came along a bit later, introduced by Hartlib, and the two were particularly taken by Comenius’s theories of language teaching, that students would best learn a new language by using it in daily life, an idea embedded in his more fundamental appreciation of the child as an eager, ‘natural’ learner, part of what Comenius called his “pansophical” philosophy, “A General Consultation Concerning the Improvement in Human Affairs.” With Europe still engulfed in the savagery of the Thirty Years’ War, ‘improvement’ seemed a great idea, and so Hartlib (and perhaps Dury) got Comenius to come to England in order to set up a college for “men from all nations.” It would teach the new knowledge, experimental knowledge, and thus help to usher in an age of progress and peace. For where men agreed on the facts, surely good sense would rule the world. Sadly it was not to be. Britain fell into its 3-kingdom Civil War, and Comenius fled to the continent to lead the pacifist, pietist Moravian Church. His educational ideas lingered on, still inspiring Dury and Hartlib and then to be reborn and revivified by reformers in the 19th and 20th centuries. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 30 Mar 2020, 02:30

"Strictly speaking we cannot say exactly where the animal ends and the environment begins — unless it is dead, in which case it has ceased to be a proper animal at all." Charles Elton.

Judging on current performance, too great a number of our most powerful politicians don’t know siccum about population studies, for instance theories about the potential harm—on an established population ‘community’—of invasive species. Such ignorance is dangerous, and also difficult to understand, for the ‘population’ perspective has been behind some of our most important scientific advances, not least (through the ‘population thinking’ of the Rev. Thomas Malthus and Charles Darwin) the theory of evolution by natural selection. Some argue (quite wrongly) that Darwin came to his conclusions without field experiments, but if he had so erred then we can credit Charles Sutherland Elton (among others) with taking the population idea out of the study and into the field. Charles Elton, son of a noted literary scholar, was born in Manchester, England, on March 29, 1900. His proclivities towards and preference of field work was noted by his Oxford examiners, and Elton himself later said that his whole notion of population studies and what we now call “ecology” was born during his undergraduate field trips. After graduation Elton continued his field trips, to very much more distant places (like the Canadian arctic), but he also resumed his life-long affair with Wytham Woods, Oxford University’s nature reserve just west of the city. The term ecology was just coming into use, and in 1927 Elton sped it along with his Animal Ecology, now regarded as fundamental to population studies. Elton quickly rose to a university readership in Oxford, became a fellow of the Royal Society in 1953, and (fittingly) received the Society’s Darwin Medal in 1970. Most of his work post-WWII focused on the enormous destructive power of invasive species when they move into an ecological community which lacks the ‘normal’ checks and balances (predation, disease, immunity) that might, but do not, operate against the invader. Charles Elton was interested in multicellular invaders (plants and animals), but in principle many of his concepts apply, have been applied, and now, here, in the USA, should be applied to an invasive virus that has found a niche amongst our population community. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 30 Mar 2020, 12:21

"There is one [disease] which is widespread . . . that every person thinks his mind … more clever and more learned than it is." Moses Maimonides.

If a time traveler were to visit the 12th century CE in search of a pleasant, civilized life, he would probably settle on some spot in the empire of Islam, then stretching from India in the east to Spain in the west. There, in Muslim Spain, he might pick Cordoba, a bustling city of half a million, choosing it perhaps for its libraries, or its dining (and elegant glassware), or just its physical comforts of street lighting, garbage disposal, and running water. After all, medieval London used the Thames, the Fleet, and Walbrook for its sewage (and its water), and most of its 10,000 people lived short lives of rude simplicity. But the family of Moses Maimonides (born on March 30, 1135) treasured Muslim Cordoba because of its religious freedom. They were Jews, everywhere condemned in Christian lands, but not in Cordoba, and the Maimonides family was especially honored for its scholarly traditions in language, philosophy, medicine, and theology. The young Moses Maimonides was raised in that tradition and, before his teens, was noted as a prodigy. But in the late 1140s an evangelical Islamic sect rose up, the Almohads, preaching purity. They captured Cordoba in 1148 and gave its Jews the choice of conversion, death, or exile. The Maimonides family’s wealth and connections saved them for a time, and Moses continued his studies, but circa 1160 they left, wanderers searching out a place of safety. Since that’s what they wanted, there was no point in trying Christian Europe, but first in Morocco and then in Egypt they found havens, and Moses Maimonides continued his studies and rose in fame. Before he’d finished (he died in 1204), he had revolutionized Jewish theology and law, made his own contributions to the preservation of the Greek classics, commented brilliantly on logic and mathematics, and become Muslim Egypt’s leading physician, court doctor to the Sultan Saladin: Moses indeed! Given where Maimonides lived, most of his writings were in Arabic, including his famous Guide to the Perplexed (1191, and a brilliant title for a work on theology and science), but quickly he was, and ever since has been, translated into many languages—including Hebrew!!—as befits his status as a giant of medieval thought and culture. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 31 Mar 2020, 12:39

"Counting My Chickens and Other Home Thoughts" (2002), one of 14 books written by Deborah, Duchess of Devonshire.

Princess Alexandra, for many years Chancellor of Lancaster University, knew how to do her job, and I much enjoyed my annual luncheons with her while I was a college principal. Still, I am no great admirer of the aristocracy, so it pains me to confess a sneaking respect for another noble lady, not royalty but undeniably aristocratic, Deborah Freeman-Mitford, born on March 31, 1920 in Asthall Manor, Oxfordshire, the youngest of the six Mitford sisters. In their family argot, she was known as “Debo,” and while sister Jessica—the socialist—could not abide sister Diana—one of two fascists—Debo got along pretty well with most of them. To the others she was a kind of country cousin, a lover not of men but of chickens, sheep, horses, and dogs. Like a Wodehouse character, Debo was said (by a sister) perfectly to mimic a hen laying an egg. Still, she had charm, and she did what girls of her class did, married well, in 1941, in a bomb-damaged church in London. He was Lord Andrew Cavendish, younger son of the Duke of Devonshire, and when his elder brother was killed in battle (1944) Andrew became heir apparent to the dukedom and then succeeded in 1950. And so Debo, the country girl who knew how to sell eggs (whatever her skill at imitating hens), became the Duchess of Devonshire. She proved to know how to do that, too, becoming one of Britain’s most successful marketers of aristocratic lives, comforts, and styles. ‘I spent money, she made it,’ her husband the duke would say, and certainly someone had to do it, because (for technical reasons) the estate was subject to particularly high inheritance tax. So Debo transformed her childhood loves into adult skills, selling off some properties (including Hardwick Hall), and directly managing or supervising others. She’s most associated with the family seat, Chatsworth, a grand pile Debo made into a tourist attraction, and with its home farm, which she made into a successful business. It’s said she knew all its fields and most of its ewes by name. She once milked a goat in a railway station (in the first-class parlor although she had only a third-class ticket), and not then but later she made goats’ cheese a line in her successful Chatsworth Foods, Ltd. Her labors did not finish in 2004, when she became Dowager Duchess, but did in 2014 when, aged 94, she died, the remarkable survivor of six remarkable sisters. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 01 Apr 2020, 12:16

"The Color of Medicine: The Story of the Homer G. Phillips Hospital," title of a 2018 documentary produced by the Missouri Historical Society.

That our health as individuals depends on our health as a community is being demonstrated yet again, but we are reluctant to learn the lesson. Now, still, we would rather ration health care by wealth. Recently installed safety nets are being drawn up and put away, witness political attacks on Medicaid and ‘Obamacare,’ and some say Medicare is in danger. It all calls to mind the tangled, tragic history of how in St. Louis medical care was rationed by race as well as by ability to pay. Memories of that raised up this winter, before the coronavirus was upon us, by the proposal of a white property developer to create a 3-bed urgent care clinic in north city called “Homer G. Phillips Hospital.” St. Louis once had such a hospital, named after a young lawyer, Homer Phillips, who was born in Sedalia, MO, on April 1, 1880. Phillips himself lived a very short life, gunned down in his prime in June 1931 while waiting to board a streetcar. His killers were arrested but released for ‘lack of evidence.’ But Phillips had been among the leaders in a campaign to create a St. Louis hospital for black folks (the one hospital then available to them—for instance in the great pandemic of 1918—was inadequate by several measures), and it was decided to name the new hospital after him. The ‘real’ Homer G. Phillips Hospital opened its doors in 1937, a place of pride in the black community. The whole idea had seemed to be an embarrassment for our “city fathers” (so-called), who had diverted tax money voted in 1922 for that precise purpose to street repairs and new sidewalks, mainly in white neighborhoods. But local folk like Phillips carried on the campaign, and after Phillips’ murder, the New Deal in Washington came through with a 600-bed hospital that not only opened its wards to black patients but provided important employment opportunities to black healthcare workers, from surgeons to janitors, nurses to managers, jobs then not open to them in “white” hospitals. At its founding, indeed, Homer G. Phillips served our whole, segregated nation as one place that black medical school graduates could receive professional residency training. Phillips was closed, against protest, in 1979, but to know its history is to know why the proposal to name an urgent care clinic, with one 3-bed ward, “The Homer G. Phillips Hospital” was seen in St. Louis as injurious and insulting. It’s also to know an important chapter in the sad social, political and economic history of our nation’s public health. The coronavirus is not our only problem. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 02 Apr 2020, 13:00

"The artist who can make an instrument that will pick or open this lock shall receive 200 guineas the moment it is produced." The Bramah Challenge, circa 1785.

Many American revolutionaries in 1776 thought England was class-ridden, and they were right. But that England of country squires and forelock-tugging yokels was itself in the early throes of the industrial revolution and this upheaval would produce some local heroes of humbler origins, men (and a few women) whose virtues were known by their products, not their bloodline. Among them was a Yorkshire farmer’s son, Joseph Bramah, born near Barnsley on April 2, 1748. After village schooling and a carpentry apprenticeship, he moved to London to work as a cabinet maker, and soon found himself in a different line, making toilets (water closets, or WCs). So he didn’t design a better mousetrap; rather a better WC, and some of them are still installed (and still functioning) at Queen Victoria’s Osborne House, Isle of Wight. From then on it was for Bramah an inventive life. His work with WCs led on to other “water works”, and he’s credited with inventing the hydraulic press, really a fiendishly clever way of ‘gearing up’ water pressure, and still known as the “Bramah Press.” That (1795) led on to a whole raft of inventions, many having to do with water and its uses, but not all. Bramah, for instance, figured out a mechanical way to number banknotes serially. He was himself a serial tinkerer, so there may have been many failures, notably a sort of Rube Goldberg (or Heath Robinson) fountain pen, but his list of successes is long enough. Besides making “Bramah” synonymous with hydraulic presses, he gave his name (for a time) to padlocks, his first patent (of several) coming in 1784. His locks were successful, and were made more so by the so-called “Bramah Prize,” 200 guineas (£210) for anyone who could pick a Bramah lock. Enough folk tried (and failed) that the ‘unpickable’ Bramah became a selling point. Finally, at the 1851 Crystal Palace Exhibition, an American locksmith, Alfred Hobbs, picked the lock and claimed the prize (and, in 1854, the Telford Medal by the British Institution of Civil Engineers). But it took Alf so long (51 hours spread over 16 days) that, for a time, his success made the Bramah even more famous. As for Joseph Bramah himself, he died in 1814 after catching pneumonia while overseeing, in inclement weather, a trial of his final invention, a machine (run by water pressure) for uprooting trees. But his family still paid up, in 1851, proving that there is honor among locksmiths. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 03 Apr 2020, 12:16

"I was a rebel against authority and I had no respect for the police." George Henry Chatham, recalling his life of crime.

The classic comedy The Pink Panther (1963) introduced Peter Sellers’ remorselessly incompetent Inspector Jacques Clouseau, a ‘fool’ in the classic sense—he thinks he’s not. The film’s other archetype is the professional thief, the Phantom, played by David Niven, whose criminal exploits make him famous but whose classic disguise (as a rich playboy, Sir Charles Lytton) renders invisible his inner burglar. Nivens’ character could have been drawn from the life of George Henry (‘Taters’) Chatham, although in truth Chatham was a bit too rough around the edges to play the aristocrat. George Chatham was born, instead, of the respectable working class, in Fulham, London, on April 3, 1912. He was a promising footballer in his youth (he played for England Schoolboys), but turned to crime at about the same time, as more sporting and more lucrative. His first conviction (for theft, of course) came in 1931, but by the end of the decade he was rather more famous for burglaries that could not be pinned on him, for like the Phantom he chose his victims carefully, researched them well, and robbed them of really neat stuff. Among his early victims were the Nazi sympathizers Lord and Lady Rothermere, the maharaja of Raipur, and jewelry, furs, and fine arts from London’s poshest shops and galleries. There was little of Robin Hood about him, though, for his usual MO was to fence the stuff then lose the proceeds in high-stakes gambling and gaming—at which point he had again to undertake his life of crime. His most famous exploit (1948) was to nick (from the Victoria and Albert, no less) two of the Duke of Wellington’s ceremonial swords, jewel-encrusted, and then to use some of the stones as gaming sureties. Although his crimes were meticulously planned, coolly executed and brought him millions, Chatham spent almost as much time (35 years) in prison as out. His last arrest came at age 76, for shoplifting of all things, and it could be said that he died of shame. In fact he died of motor neuron disease in a nursing home in 1997. Long obits appeared throughout the quality press. On the whole, they were admiring and mournful, as if his passing indicated that crime had entered a new, less appealing stage. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 04 Apr 2020, 13:25

"My mother told my father, Just before hmmm, I was born, "I got a boy child's comin', Gonna be, he gonna be a rollin' stone." Muddy Waters, "Rollin' Stone".

It took the University of Texas to teach Alan Lomax that he wasn’t a genius, good service as it turned out, for it diverted him from philosophy to his father’s path of devoted folklorist (his father, professor of English at Texas A&M, had introduced young Alan to Huddie Ledbetter), and from 1937 to 1942 Alan directed the folklore section of the Library of Congress. One of his most memorable field trips, in 1941, seemed a failure, for he went to the Mississippi delta country to record Robert Johnson, only to find out that Johnson had died in 1938. Local folk told Lomax that he might as well, then, visit the “juke house” of McKinley Morganfield (born April 4, 1913), a local farm laborer who’d learned some of Johnson’s style with guitar and harmonica. Perhaps he’d do. He did famously. Better known to us as Muddy Waters, a local nickname that owed to his childhood recreations, he played and sang for Lomax (and Mrs. Lomax). Lomax’s equipment had some playback capabilities, and Muddy Waters was so impressed with what he heard that he up and left his juke house and joined the Great Migration northwards. Of course he wanted to find war work in northern factories, but he also aimed to follow his audience and change his venue. As Waters moved from the quiet of his creekside shack to the bustle and noise of Chicago’s bars and clubs, he made himself more heard, buying his first electric guitar in 1944, becoming involved with various club combos, and signing his first recording contract in 1946. That signing, with a company that soon became Chess Records, was probably more important to Waters’ growing fame than the Lomax ‘discovery’ for it secured his place in the ‘black’ market and also in the ‘race records’ business among white consumers. His distinctive styles (his voice was among his instruments) and his composing skills made him a touring hit and a hero for many, including a young English rock group that took Muddy Waters’ song “Rollin’ Stone” and made it their name. The Stones visited Chicago often to pay him honors and homage, including a memorable 1981 concert, jointly recorded, just two years before Muddy Waters finally stopped rollin’ along. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 05 Apr 2020, 12:15

"She is able to pick the ball off an indifferent, unsympathetic lie with a brassy … and send it flying straight to the mark." Report on the golfing prowess of Lady Margaret Scott, circa 1894.

I gave up golf at age 18 and never regretted it (although the cause of my departure was ‘regrettable’). I found on that day that golf requires far too much self-forgiveness. Despite my estrangement, I am totally charmed by P. G. Wodehouse’s golf stories, often told by the Oldest Member, sitting over a drink (often non-alcoholic) in his accustomed napping place on the club terrace overlooking the ninth green. The tales started in earnest in 1922, after Wodehouse had waxed rich enough to begin club golf, and their usual setting is a club course. In them you learn some archaic terms, my favorites being the “gutty ball” and the “niblick,” and you also learn that Woman rarely played golf but always worsened a man’s stroke play. There were a few exceptions, of course. In “There’s Always Golf” (1936) Clarice Fitch, an intrepid African adventuress, is tamed by a timid accountant (but devoted golfer) named Ernest Plinlimmon—who then taught Mrs. Plinlimmon to enjoy the game—though never to play her woods. But mostly the Wodehouse Woman is an unrequited love interest who puts off a (besotted) man’s game until the happy ending. Wodehouse must have known better, for by 1922 the ladies’ game was well established. One of the pioneers had been Lady Margaret Rachel Scott, born even before Wodehouse, on April 5, 1874. She learned her golf easily, for her father (the earl of Eldon) and her brothers approved, and they all played on the earl’s private 9-holer on the family’s Gloucestershire estate. But at the tender age of 19 she ‘came out’ in public by winning the first-ever Ladies’ Golf Union title in 1893 and then repeating in ’94 and ’95. Wodehouse must have been aware of all this, breathlessly reported as it was. In these years he was beginning his life-long affair with sports (at first, cricket and ruggers) at Dulwich School, indeed writing about sport in the school paper. As for Lady Margaret herself, she married in 1897 and, as befit the new daughter-in-law of the eighth Viscount Boyne, immediately withdrew from such public exhibitions. Thus she left the field open for her brother Michael to become British Amateur (men’s) Champion. Perhaps Wodehouse was right. One wonders if Lady Margaret’s retirement helped Michael to stop “shanking” and improve his stroke play. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 06 Apr 2020, 12:09

"The bond of common religion and unity of traditions constitute the Mussalmans into perhaps the only homogeneous nationality in India." Saiyid Ameer Ali, 1907.

The current rise—and temper—of Hindu nationalism reminds one of the tragedies and bloodshed that, post WWII, led to the partition of the subcontinent between India and Pakistan and, beyond that, to the jealousies that still divide the two powers. Given the broad historical and geographical span of Hindu-Muslim rivalries, it all seems inevitable. One man who helped inevitability along died 20 years before independence and partition, the lawyer Saiyid Ameer Ali, born in Bengal on April 6, 1849. His father, trained as a physician and married into a landowning aristocracy, took the temperature of the British Raj and decided that his sons’ best chances lay through anglicization and assimilation. Saiyid Ameer, his fourth son, plied those routes with great success. Educated in law at Hooghly College, a. Muslim foundation then well attuned to British rule, Saiyid went to England in 1870 to be admitted to the bar, via the Inner Temple, in 1873. His career thereafter had an interesting, ‘split personality’ character. In many ways an anglophile (and writing his many books and papers solely in English), Saiyid was a strong believer in English law and its utility in forwarding the modernization of both India and Islam. As a student and devotee of Islam, he argued that Islam had to change from its historic roots to embrace modern law and life, including the abrogation of many Koranic commands, and hoped that British rule made India the place for this to happen. As nationalist movements rose up in both Muslim and Hindu communities, and indeed showed signs of unity, Saiyid’s position became less tenable. Although he made some accommodations with the independence movements, his devotion to Islam and his belief that it was, indeed, a superior religious tradition—and, he argued, vastly superior to Hinduism—make him one of the architects of partition. But perhaps his ultimate loyalties lay with British rule and English law. In 1884 Saiyid had married an Englishwoman, Isabel Ida, and in 1904 following his retirement from his Indian high court judgeship, he and Isabel retired to a country estate in Sussex, where he died in 1928 as the Islamic lord of Pollingford Monor. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 07 Apr 2020, 12:36

"An Italian Opera Singer in 18th-Century London." Subtitle of a recent biography of Giovanna Sestina, by Audrey Carpenter.

One of the most ancient of European treaties is that of 1386 between England and Portugal. It has survived (more or less) through many crises, and was ceremonially invoked at the “treaty” celebrations (which I attended) between the universities of Lisbon (founded 1290) and Lancaster (founded 1964). But the treaty’s main businesses had been cod and corn (from England) and wine and salt (from Portugal). On the eve of the American Revolution the wine trade brought a Lisbon wine merchant (José Stocqueler) to London. Along with him came his Italian wife Giovanna and her brother Vincenzo. They were both opera singers, and while Vincenzo soon moved into tailoring (for theaters and private customers), Giovanna became one of imperial London’s dominant performers. She was born near Florence on April 7, 1749 as Giovanna Sestini, and was by 1763 (with Vincenzo and sister Anna) well-established in opera buffa, singing in several Italian cities. The Sestini siblings then moved to Lisbon where they played roles in the revival of Lisbon opera, devastated by the 1755 earthquake, and there she captured the heart of (and secretly married) José Stocqueler. Perhaps because of his family’s disapproval (they were eminent members of Portugal court circles) the couple moved to London in 1774, with Vincenzo and their two young sons in tow. There Giovanna Sestini (her stage name) dominated the London scene, first in comic opera where (despite her broken English) she was a success, but from 1783 also in more serious roles and in concert performances. By common report she had a good voice and a fine stage presence, but she was known also for her endurance and courage, singing right the way through six further pregnancies (typically giving birth a day or two after her ‘final’ performance). She retired in 1792. That the family prospered through her singing, José’s wine sales, and Vincenzo’s tailoring can be traced through residential moves from the theater district to more fashionable Mayfair and Chelsea addresses. Soon after José’s death (1812), Giovanna died a pensioner of the (Portuguese) Royal Wine Company. Vincenzo married (in sequence) two Englishwomen and continued as a fashionable tailor until his death in 1829. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 08 Apr 2020, 12:18

"What she did not know of the male sex was not worth knowing." A journalist's assessment of Lucy, Lady Houston, circa 1936.

The internet (Wikipedia) calls her “a British philanthropist, political activist and suffragette,” which sounds good, is truth, and is nothing but truth: but not the whole truth about the woman who, at her death in 1936, was known as Lucy, Lady Houston but was born (on April 8, 1857) Fanny Lucy Radmall. Britain’s Dictionary of National Biography, normally averse to snap judgment, calls her an “adventuress.” Whatever. At age 16 she was a chorus girl, “Poppy,” who eloped to Paris with a married man, a brewer of Bass ales called Fred Gretton, and lived with him there for a decade, emerging at his death with a lifetime annuity of £6,000 p.a. (well over £700,000 today), which served as her operational base for the rest of her life while she scaled different heights. After Mr. Gretton there were three marriages to men of higher social status, a baron in 1883, then a peer in 1901, and finally a baronet in 1924. The peer, the ninth of the Lord Byrons, was a bankrupt, but the name had class. The baronet, Sir Robert Houston, died on his yacht only two years after their marriage and left Lucy, his Lady, with a serious fortune estimated at £5 million (today, £300 million). Always, in her very own way but in a manner predictive of the Kardashians, Lucy used her money to ‘be’ famous. As a philanthropist? Yes, and her WWI philanthropies to British war nurses got her a DBE from a grateful king. A suffragette? Yes, an eminent one who used to shout feminist abuse to walkers on Hampstead Heath, near her mansion, and she once bailed Emmeline Pankhurst (who seems to have accepted the gift gratefully). And a political activist? Absolutely, especially after Sir Robert’s untimely death, when she became very close indeed to eminent figures on the right wing (some of them very far right) of British politics, gave money to military causes (notably the development of the engine for the Spitfire fighter plane), and charmed Winston Churchill into letting her pay death duties on the Houston estate as “an act of grace.” But her eccentricities became excessive in the 1930s, and when she died (mourning Edward VIII’s abdication, she starved herself to death) she was not herself widely mourned. Apparently, Lady Houston had concluded that the abdication was the result of a communist plot. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 09 Apr 2020, 12:31

“There is really nothing left for us kings except money!” King Leopold II of Belgium to Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany, circa 1888.

King Leopold II was born on April 9, 1835 and succeeded to the throne (not an old one, having like Belgium itself been invented by European diplomats in 1830) in 1865. Despite his title as King “of all the Belgians,” Leopold never learned to speak the language of half of his subjects, but he did use his vast personal wealth to build some important cultural institutions in and around Brussels and in his own estimation brought the blessings of civilization (Christianity and commerce) to the peoples of the Congo basin in Africa. Despite all that, or rather because of all that, Leopold became the European monarch whom Mark Twain most loved to hate. We know (from his A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, 1889) that Twain was no friend of monarchy, but his Arthur, for instance, proved capable (when properly instructed) of improved thought and better ethics. But Twain’s observation of the imperialist scramble for trade and territory in Africa and Asia led Twain to abandon all such shreds of optimism. What particularly galled him was the pervasive claim that imperialism brought civilization to the “person sitting in darkness.” And there were few who made this claim more often or more stridently than Leopold II of Belgium; not only that, but for peculiar reasons Leopold’s stab at empire was his own business, for the Congo became his personal property, his proprietary, which he called (apparently without irony) The Congo Free State. “Free” indeed. Leopold and his minions, declaring themselves missionaries, made the Congo their own version of Hell, bringing to a fine art the savagery that was always implicit in European racism: not only ‘exploitation’ (far too tame a word) but mass murder and rapine, and work disciplines that included mutilation (amputations) when workers failed to meet their daily quotas. Taking it all in, Mark Twain produced, in 1905, King Leopold’s Soliloquy. It poses as Leopold’s ‘apologia’ in full, “my mouth full of Bible and my pelt oozing piety at every pore.” Leopold’s Soliloquy sold well (royalties went for Congo relief funds), is viciously satirical, and it is still worth a read. But maybe not right after your breakfast. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 10 Apr 2020, 12:56

"MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN." Message (anon.) scrawled, very possibly, on the walls of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, circa 570 BCE.

Besides throwing the prophet Daniel (and two of his friends) into the flames, which didn’t work out as he intended, Nebuchadnezzar II was the likely architect of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, a wonder of the ancient world but neither the first nor the last urban pleasure garden. As a species of human endeavor, over the centuries, such gardens seem to have had several objectives. They have been displays of power and wealth (private and public). They have glorified human artifice, our ability to bridle nature, to display it tamed and docile. Of late (since the days of John Paxton in Britain and Frederick Law Olmsted in the US) urban parks have veered towards a more ‘natural’ presentation, not red in tooth and claw but nature as natural as might be practicable. St. Louis’s Forest Park is a fine example. However, in early modern London, artifice ruled the urban garden. Among artifice’s supreme practitioners was Jonathan Tyers, born in what was then a southern suburb on April 10, 1702. His origins are obscure; but by 1728 was able to take over a pleasure park on the south bank of the Thames, then called Spring Gardens. It was in bad shape (a “rural Brothel”), having been in fashion during Charles II’s time and then out. Even so it took Tyers 30 years to pay for it. Well before that he’d made it fashionable, a prepared feast of nature very well cooked and with all the trimmings, not only water features, wooded coves, stylish promenades, and a ‘natural’ amphitheater but boxed suppers (at varied prices, including the inevitable chicken dinner), acrobats, occasional concerts, live drama vignettes, declamations, and art works scattered here and there. Some of the best artists in London supplied the entertainments, and some of London’s very best people enjoyed them, as reported in the diaries and letters of such as Samuel Johnson and his Boswell, the Prince of Wales, and a Duchess of Devonshire. As for artists, who could complain about Handel, Mozart, and Hogarth? Tyers renamed his creation “Vauxhall Gardens.” It flourished for 70 years. What’s left of it is now a smallish public park, and not one to excite nature lovers, entertainment seekers, or Nebuchadnezzar types. But there you can enjoy open space and trees, walk your dog, wheel your pram, catch your frisbee, and book the soccer field for your club match. ©
Stanley Challenger Graham
Stanley's View
scg1936 at talktalk.net

"Beware of certitude" (Jimmy Reid)
The floggings will continue until morale improves!

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