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Re: BOB'S BITS
Posted: 27 Jul 2018, 04:03
Mail came in......
TODAY’S WAS LATE. HERE’S YESTERDAY’S, WHICH DID GO OUT.
FW: The men of this country are, during this mortal life, more prone to anger and revenge than any other race. Gerald of Wales, circa 1200.
Medieval Wales is almost as shrouded (in mountain mists and heroic legends) as ancient Wales, but there are texts (in Welsh as well as Latin) and in them the assiduous can learn of lineages, including the princely lineage of the last native Welshman to be Prince of Wales, Owain Glyn Dwr (c. 1359-c. 1415), Shakespeare’s “Owen Glendower” (a Merlin-like figure in Henry IV, Part 1). The real Owain Glyn Dwr was wilier and braver, never captured by the English, and indeed the conqueror of Harlech Castle where (in 1404) he was crowned Prince of the Welsh. Owain’s mother was Elen ap Llywelen, and she was the daughter of a long lineage that gave Owain his claim to the lordship of Wales, the lineage of Gryffud ap Rhys, who died on July 25, 1201. Born probably in the 1150s, Gryffud established his own lordship and lineage by paying homage to the Anglo-Norman king, Richard I. Irony of ironies, this had also required him to undergo a humiliating penance, a scourging, before the Bishop of St. David’s, to atone for his father’s outrages (including horse-stealing) against the good bishop. Gryffud had himself rebelled against his father, another Welsh hero who had made his own peace with King Henry II in 1171, only to break it when Henry died and move into rebellion against Richard I (and, of course, against the Bishop of St. David’s, who then excommunicated Gryffud’s father, who then stole those horses). The mists and legends swirled wildly, driven by the shifting dynastic alliances (and periodic wars) between the Welsh princes and the Anglo-Norman Marcher Lords who were, in theory, supposed to guard England from the wild Welsh. Two centuries on, Owain Glyn Dwr himself began life as a client of a marcher lord, as husband to an English lawyer’s daughter, and as a soldier in the service of yet another King Richard (Richard II) before moving into revolt against yet another King Henry (Henry IV). It’s all very confusing, and perhaps best left to the Welsh. ©
'I know I injure him and perhaps destroy for ever my own tranquillity' Mrs. Fitzherbert, concerning her agreement to marry the Prince of Wales, 1785.
I knew little and cared less about the romances of the current Prince of Wales, but there were echoes, notably the odd relationship between a previous Prince of Wales, the one who became regent for his unhappy father who had not only lost the American colonies but also his mind. By the time George III died (in 1820), few expected George IV to be a good king, and he wasn’t. But his bad record produced public sympathy, even admiration, for his “illegal” wife, known as “Mrs. Fitzherbert.” Mrs. Fitzherbert was born Maria Anne Smythe on July 26, 1756, daughter of a prosperous Catholic gentry family. She married well, twice, and her husbands’ deaths left her comfortably well off. A bit rotund, she was nevertheless a striking figure, and had already come to the Prince’s predatory notice, and he proposed (in 1784) that she should be his mistress. She refused, but after a stormy interlude (during which the Prince stabbed himself to show his devotion) of several months the couple (secretly) married in December 1785 and landed themselves in a sea of trouble. Anti-Catholicism had again peaked in England, and besides the marriage broke three laws on the succession. To demonstrate further his devotion, the Prince made a will in her favor, and it’s to her credit that she never showed in public the will or the documents that proved the marriage. She must have been tempted, though, for the Prince proved himself sexually unfaithful (besides his many mistresses he even married, in public, Princess Caroline of Brunswick) and fickle in other ways too. While it lasted (23 years), the tempestuous romance involved parliament, society, and even the theatrical profession (Richard Brinsley Sheridan and Sarah Siddons played their parts). It finally fizzled in 1809, leaving “Mrs. Fitzherbert” (as she still was) with a generous civil list pension (later, as George IV, the prince raised it to £10,000 p.a.) and a better insight than most into the perils of romancing the royals. ©
Re: BOB'S BITS
Posted: 27 Jul 2018, 11:50
Real men don't lift weights. They lift women. Popular saying in the ballet.
The families that constituted the huntin’, fishin’, and shootin’ circles of rural England were an unlikely source of male ballet dancers, danseurs nobles. And then Henry and Helen Kay made it less likely by naming their second son Sydney Francis Patrick Chippindall Healey Kay, born on July 27, 1904. His father, master-owner of Sussex’s South Coast Harriers and Staghounds, had not wanted his Sydney to dance, but even at 10 the boy insisted, and in Brighton began the lessons that took him first into a Christmas panto (in 1915, aged 11) and then, via instruction in London and Paris, into Serge Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes in 1921. But lead male dancers are not called Sydney Kay, so he began as “Patrikeef,” rather awkwardly one must say, and by 1923 (still with Diaghilev) he was Anton Dolin. And it was as Anton Dolin that he became famous, dancing wherever he could (including, free-lance, in musicals and West End revues) but always with his eye on “the Dance.” In 1925, he was partnered with Tamara Karsavina and then Ninette de Valois (another name-changer, born as Edris Stannus). Anton Dolin founded the first English Ballet Company in the 1920s and then in the next decade, with Alicia Markova (yet another name-changer), started a new company, financed by Laura Henderson (she of the Windmill Theatre!!), which toured the world. He dropped off in the USA, circa 1940-48, to help found the American Ballet Theatre, and then returned to the UK to dance with the Sadler’s Wells Ballet. After that, advancing age and a bad hernia moved him towards ballet production (although he did still dance into his 60s), teaching, acting, and writing, including a distinguished biography of Markova. He was knighted in 1981 (as Sir Anton Dolin, of course) and died (heart attack) in 1983. His huntin’, shootin’, and fishin’ father would have been proud; in 1916, suddenly aware of his boy’s great talent, he’d sold up his hounds and moved the family to London for Sydney’s first formal ballet lessons. ©
Re: BOB'S BITS
Posted: 28 Jul 2018, 13:40
Once upon a time there were four little Rabbits, and their names were Flopsy, Mopsy, Cottontail, and Peter. Beatrix Potter, 1902.
One of the best of the few movies I have seen lately was Chris Noonan’s Miss Potter (2006), wherein Renée Zellweger beautifully evokes the worlds (imaginary and real) of Beatrix Potter. Noonan overplays the repressiveness of Beatrix’s parents, better thought of as over-protective and over-indulgent, but his broad narrative compels. Miss Potter was born on July 28, 1866, in London, into a family that was comfortable and became wealthy. Although they never moved from their London house, the Potters’ wealth enabled them to indulge Beatrix (and her younger brother) with menageries of domestic and wild creatures and long holidays in wilder parts of Britain, including, latterly, the English Lake District. Both children drew their animals, told tales about them, and committed many of the stories to paper. Beatrix, kept a child for longer than she wanted to be, developed finer skills, became an accomplished scientific illustrator and a perceptive diarist (in code). She sent pictures and stories to her last governess-companion’s children, and it was the governess (Annie Moore) who urged her to publish these charming, sometimes sharply moralistic, tales. There followed Beatrix’s romance with her publisher Norman Warne, her parents’ opposition, his death, and the huge success of her children’s books, beginning with The Tale of Peter Rabbit (1902). The whole episode, somewhat drawn out in Miss Potter, enabled Beatrix to carry forward her and Norman’s plans to live in the Lake District. There, centered on the village of Near Sawrey, Beatrix Potter kept writing and established another legend, for she now became a noted farmer and breeder of Herdwick sheep, but more importantly a major landowner and an irresistible force for the preservation of the ecologies (natural and human) of that loveliest of landscapes. Beatrix died in 1943, in Near Sawrey. Her extensive properties, willed to the National Trust, now anchor the Lake District National Park and are her best monument. ©
Re: BOB'S BITS
Posted: 30 Jul 2018, 04:04
It is tedious and ultimately unrewarding to attempt to extract any worthwhile information from the essentially legendary material presented in the thirteenth-century sources. The DNB's last word on Offa, King of the Mercians.
As I write, I do not have to hand my (well-thumbed) copy of Paine’s Common Sense (1776 et seq). It’s a pity, for Paine’s strictures on monarchy (in principle and in practice) might be useful in discussing Offa, king of the Mercians from about 757 to exactly July 29, 796. Nor can I remember whether Paine actually mentioned Offa, although in many ways he would have been right up Paine’s street: he came to power in the period of war and rapine that followed on the murder of his cousin, King Æthelbald, ruled through warfare, and although he did die in his sleep (a rare treat for Mercian monarchs) and pass the crown to his son Ecgfrith (even rarer), he may have accomplished that feat by killing off all other of his near relatives. Alas, Ecgfrith perished almost at once and the Mercian throne passed to a shirttail cousin, Cenwulf. Offa is known to history for his warfares, against his own nobles, then against the Welsh, and then against the Danes (just now beginning to make bloody inroads on the eastern fringes of Mercia), But unusually among Saxon kings, Offa did leave his mark on the English landscape. Not his body or his tomb, which were quickly and conveniently lost, perhaps by Cenwulf, but Offa’s Dyke, that surpassingly strange monument to the Anglo-Saxons’ fear of the Welsh. It’s a great long ditch, more or less along the current border between England and Wales (app. 150 miles) from the Severn to the Dee. Its purpose has recently been debated, the new argument being that it was built to preserve the peace, not to enable Mercian aggression. One can only say that the Welsh, in their bones, know better. After all, early in his reign, Offa made his reputation by a series of murderous raids on the bordering Welsh kingdom of Powys. And we know from Paine that murder and monarchy go together like ham ‘n’ eggs or, perhaps, Welsh rarebit and toast. ©
Re: BOB'S BITS
Posted: 30 Jul 2018, 13:29
Good pitching will always stop good hitting--and vice-versa. Casey Stengel.
July 30, 2018 is the 128th anniversary of the birth, in Kansas City, of Charles Dillon Stengel, who when his sporting talents brought him into major league baseball took his home city’s initials as his nickname and became Casey Stengel. Born in 1890 to a middle class family, Casey (or Charles) wanted to be a dentist, but he was so good at baseball that—following the lines of least resistance, as most of us do—he migrated instead to the Kansas City Blues and then to pro teams at Kankakee, Shelbyville, and Maysville before hitting the big time in 1913 with the Brooklyn Dodgers and a $2,100 contract (about $50,000 in today’s $$). He was a fine player for the Dodgers, then the Pirates, then the Giants (where he is said to have learned much about management from the legendary John McGraw), and then the Boston Braves, but would be best remembered as a manager, his first big successes being with the Toledo Mud Hens, the Milwaukee Brewers (then a minor league club), and the Oakland Oaks, each time chalking winning seasons, but most famously with the world champion New York Yankees (1949-1960) and then the miraculously incompetent New York Mets (1961-1965). He was not highly thought of when he arrived in the Yankees dugout, but such was his success there that he was thought capable of bringing the Mets to a championship. Instead, he “saw new ways to lose I never knew existed before.” Besides being a brilliant manager, Stengel was the master of the quotable quote. If it hadn’t been for Yogi Berra, another urban Missourian with a certain verbal talent, Stengel would likely be the most quoted baseballer in history.
Re: BOB'S BITS
Posted: 01 Aug 2018, 04:05
The first black president of a white university.
Partibus sequitur ventrum is the name of the legal principle that children born of a slave woman would themselves become slaves. It was intended to avoid the mess and expense involved when young slaves, the product of interracial union between masters and slaves and often to all appearances white, grew into adulthood and developed a taste for freedom. Some slavowners did try to get around this, including Michael Healy. A Georgia planter quite in love with his wife, he (among other things) arranged a common law marriage ceremony with her, in 1829. But you can’t live forever, even in Georgia, and in 1850 as death approached for both Michael and Mary Eliza, he set out to arrange for all their children migration to the north, and education there as Roman Catholics, but just in case there were any errors he sent the boys first to a Quaker school. They all seemed to do pretty well, especially after their tenure at Holy Cross in Worcester, MA. Brother James, for instance, would become the Bishop of Maine. Sherwood became a medical doctor in Paris. Michael became a celebrated sea captain, USN. A few of the Healy offspring may have kept their “race” under their hat, including Patrick Francis Healy, who took Jesuit orders in the early 1850s, went to Belgium to earn his doctoral degree (philosophy) in 1864, and returned to America where, on July 31, 1874, he was named President of Georgetown University. He had a huge influence on the school’s curriculum and financial development, is often called Georgetown’s second founder (after Bishop Charles Carroll, a slaveowner). The discovery that this hugely influential priest-president was, indeed, “black” has eased Georgetown’s acceptance that in its first years it depended heavily on the ‘peculiar institution.’ ©
Re: BOB'S BITS
Posted: 01 Aug 2018, 16:48
The object of our invention is the . . . reduction of cereals . . . . to desirable forms of food without detracting from their natural nutritious qualities and virtue. Henry Perky, patent application 1893.
19th-century America was a land subject to many enthusiasms, religious, political, economic. Upstate New York knew so many fiery religious revivals that we call it “the burned-over district.” But there were others, including the food fads that have given us some of our most distinctive breakfast cuisines, and each one seems to have had behind it a guiding genius, a man with a bee in his bonnet and willing to give up the secret of a long (or at least a happy) life if only someone would buy his stuff. These notes have already mentioned several of these characters (notably Kellogg and his flakes and Post and his Postum—a breakfast beverage), but possibly the most characteristic of them all was Henry Perky, who on August 1, 1893, took out a patent—later refined—on a Rube Goldberg machine that miraculously transformed boiled grain into something he first called “a little whole wheat mattress.” Since no one wants to eat a mattress—even their own—he later changed it to Shredded Wheat®, and thus it survives still. He was ‘characteristic’ because although his bowels did occasionally cry out for some better diet, what really drove Perky was the invention of new products and their entrepreneurial management. Born in Ohio in 1843, Perky moved west, studied law, and was admitted to the bar (and elected to the Nebraska legislature multiple times). Although his GI tract was continually throwing up problems, he first big successes were in building railcars. But in the early 1890s, Perky encountered a man who tamed his own active bowel with boiled wheat, and (always on the lookout for a new product) brought in a machinist friend from out east to see if something more palatable (than boiled wheat grain) could be devised. The result was, literally, shredded wheat. It took off like wildfire, and by 1902 (when Perky sold up) he’d built model factories to make the stuff and a sales operation that took Shredded Wheat ® into Canada and Europe.
Re: BOB'S BITS
Posted: 02 Aug 2018, 13:27
The only exercise I take is walking behind the coffins of friends who took exercise. Peter O'Toole.
Critics often break into conditional mode when writing about a very young actor, as did Kenneth Tynan in reviewing Peter O’Toole’s first starring role in London, in 1958: “I sensed a technical authority that may, given discipline and purpose, presage greatness.” Perhaps Tynan had heard something about O’Toole’s carousing habits, but for the next 15 years he became almost everyone’s favorite English actor. Or Anglo-Irish. Or Anglo-Scots-Irish. Peter James O’Toole was born in Leeds on August 2, 1932, to an itinerant Irish bookie and a Scottish nurse. He changed his middle name to Seamus sometime after his stint in the Royal Navy, perhaps at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. After RADA, he acted regularly at Bristol’s Old Vic other provincial theatres, then came his London breakthrough. Then O’Toole’s salad days: fine historical drama on film (Lawrence of Arabia, 1962; Becket, 1964, The Lion in Winter, 1968) punctuated by dominant performances on stage in what we can now call modern classics, and excellent light comedy in both media. But then his carousing took charge, ending his first marriage in 1975 and bringing on two major medical crises. What survived all that was a certain amused truculence, showed off to disadvantage on a 1978 Johnny Carson interview, and one started to read of about O’Toole’s squandered potential and lost talents rather his presaged greatness. However, the great O’Toole did make a comeback, first with an excellent revival of My Fair Lady, then with his portrayal of a drunken journalist (on stage) in Jeffrey Barnard Is Unwell, then of a rather good two-volume autobiography with an appealing main title, Loitering with Intent. O’Toole, who’d never won an Oscar, despite seven nominations, was presented with an honorary one in 2003. He shuffled off this mortal coil in 2013, after having been nominated the eighth time for Venus, in 2006, ©
Re: BOB'S BITS
Posted: 04 Aug 2018, 05:25
I furnished the body that was needed to sit in the defendant's chair. John T. Scopes.
John T. Scopes, the volunteer fall-guy in one of the most famous trials of the 20th century, was born on August 3, 1900, in Paducah, KY, the son of a railway worker and a farmer’s daughter. Later the family moved to Illinois where John played sports, did well academically, and graduated in June 1919 from Salem High School. The commencement address was given by William Jennings Bryan, apparently full of jokes as, only five years later, Bryan—prosecuting Scopes for teaching Darwinian evolution and thus breaking state law—claimed to remember Scopes laughing appreciatively. Scopes graduated from the U of Kentucky in law (with a geology minor) and in 1924 took a job as football coach and supply teacher for the Rhea County High School, in Dayton, Tennessee. There he fell in with a scheme launched by local businessmen to put Dayton on the map and—perhaps—to embarrass the state into changing its anti-evolution law, The Butler Act, passed only in 1925. John Scopes agreed. They all got more and less than they hoped for. The trial attracted star teams of lawyers on both sides, notably Bryan and, for the defense, Clarence Darrow. It brought in national journalists, notably H.L. Mencken of the Baltimore Sun. It brought in circus performers, including, inevitably, live primates who were not human. The town got a bit of mud on its face (notably that slung by Mencken). Scopes was found guilty and fined $100. The fine was later removed, on a technicality. And everybody went home. The Butler Act survived until 1967, such is our American thirst for knowledge. As for Scopes, he got a scholarship to study more geology at the University of Chicago, and then spent a lifetime working for oil companies. And the oil companies were not interested in using Genesis to find oil, wherein—if you don’t need Darwinism—you do need an earth history a very great deal longer than that allowed by the Bible. ©
Re: BOB'S BITS
Posted: 04 Aug 2018, 13:04
There is a noble sublimity . . . in some of our ancient ballads, which shew the work of a masterly hand. . . . yet their very names are now buried among the wreck of things which were Peter Buchan, 1825.
Cyril Tawney (1930-2005), the noted English folksinger and collector, was a student of mine in the early 1970s. “Sally Free and Easy” was his own, modern folk song, and royalties from it kept him in eggs and bacon for years. I heard him play at Lancaster and in 1981 ran across him in Chicago where, at a Gold Coast Folk Club, he did a great show as scholar-performer. In the process, he taught me how little I knew about ‘the folk song,’ especially how wrong I was to think of the collection, recording, and then editing of folk songs was a modern vogue. In fact, it’s been going on for so long (since Homer) that we can hardly speak of precursors. But one of Cyril’s predecessors was Peter Buchan, born in Peterhead, Aberdeenshire, on August 4, 1790. Peterhead was a major port, and his father a seaman, so it may be that he came to his odd career just as Cyril (Gosport, Royal Navy) did, but it seems he had a different yen, to become a published writer and to contribute to the revival of Scottish literature. To that end, he set up Peterhead’s first printing press and became its first printer. But it was the Romantic Era, and the time of Walter Scott, and popular currents and Buchan’s own interests brought him to focus on the collection, editing, and printing of traditional songs, from the sea and from the countryside. He published a very great deal, successfully, but in 1825, Gleanings of Scotch, English, and Irish, Scarce Old Ballads, struck a particular chord, won him Scott’s respect at first, and the great man’s encomium as “our hirsute poet of Peterhead.” But only at first, for Peter Buchan’s aim was accuracy rather than legend, and everything was grist to his mill (even bawdy songs, as in his Secret Songs of Silence, and Scott’s circle soon made great efforts to discredit his work, which stood against Scott’s romances in several respects. Today, scholars recognize that it’s Buchan we should be listening to. And so we do. ©
Re: BOB'S BITS
Posted: 05 Aug 2018, 13:12
Separate we come, and separate we go, And this be it known, is all that we know. Conrad Aiken.
There have been several calls for the ‘rediscovery’ of Conrad Aiken, most recently (2017) in the books pages of the LA Times. I rediscovered him by looking for a book gift for a friend whose lakeside home, in the Northwoods, had given her an affection for ravens and many young human visitors who loved to read, or be read to. So that set me on a search for one of Joan Aiken’s books about Mortimer, an urban (London) raven of louche appearance and odd behaviors. We’d read the Mortimer books to our kids and thought our friend could read them to her visitors. So I found out that Ms. Aiken was not English but the daughter of Conrad Aiken of Savannah, Georgia, himself a distinguished writer. Aiken was born on August 5, 1889, to New England parents who had migrated south. When he was 11, the eldest of four children, his father murdered his mother, then shot himself, leaving Aiken to find the bodies thence to be sent off to be raised by a maiden aunt. There he was educated (at preps and at Harvard), and became a close friend of T. S. Eliot and a protégé of George Santayana. Soon after graduation, he married a Canadian and moved to England, where they had two daughters and a son (Joan, b. 1924, was the youngest) before divorcing. The family stayed in England, but Aiken trickled back to his Savannah base to compile his record as a writer, , winning the poetry Pulitzer in 1929 and a National Book Award (poetry) in 1954. His distinctive fiction and sometimes prescient criticism also mark him as an author one should know more about. But other than Harold Bloom, few have given Aiken notice, and it’s ironic today that those who know something about Aiken probably learned it through Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. Midnight is when the characters in that book gather to have drinks in Banaventure Cemetery at the bench Aiken had placed over his grave. It’s inscribed “Cosmos Mariner. Destination unknown.” ©
Re: BOB'S BITS
Posted: 06 Aug 2018, 12:38
I will miss you, old soldier . . . Rosa Parks, in a letter to the family of Virginia Durr. 1999/
Virginia Durr was born in Birmingham, Alabama, on August 6, 1903. There was nothing in her background to suggest she might become an important civil rights leader, and much to suggest some other course. One grandfather had been a slaveowning planter, the other a founder-member of the KKK, and her Presbyterian minister father was more likely to preach racial harmony than racial equality. And racial harmony meant white supremacy. Two experiences changed her views, first her three years at Wellesley College. There social policy forced her to interact with young women of color; she began by knuckling under and ended by enjoying it. A dozen years later, married to a young lawyer appointed to a top job in the New Deal, she moved to Washington, D.C., where she became involved (with Eleanor Roosevelt) in the Southern Conference for Human Welfare. During this period she ran as Progressive Party candidate for Senate in 1948. The Durrs returned to Birmingham in 1951 to involve themselves more deeply in progressive politics and civil rights activism. This landed them in a sea of troubles—including investigation by the US Senate and harassment by the KKK—but they sailed through it with some aplomb, among other things giving aid and comfort to local civil rights activists, including Rosa Parks (also Virginia’s seamstress, from time to time). The Durrs bailed Ms. Parks when she was jailed for the presumption of sitting where she wanted, and in other ways supported the ensuing Montgomery bus boycott. Later, acting as “unofficial den mother,” Virginia Durr helped the young activists of the SNCC, and the Durr house served as a kind of base camp and short-order café for the 1965 Freedom March from Selma to Montgomery. If Virginia Durr had any regrets, she certainly failed to mention them in her autobiography Outside the Magic Circle (1990). She died in 1999. ©
Re: BOB'S BITS
Posted: 07 Aug 2018, 15:04
If farm economics and farm ecology go wrong, nothing else can go right in agriculture. If agriculture goes wrong, nothing else will have a chance to go right. M S Swaminathan, 2011.
In my youth, famine was in India an ever-present threat. Foreign aid was one answer, but not a stable one (the USA kept imposing unhelpful requirements, notably the Hickenlooper amendment). Another was provided by a high school friend who worked in aid administration in India for several years: “assassinate the whole upper class,” he told me, in London, on one of his stateside visits. Partaking much of the rationale (though little of the blood) of that diagnosis was the “Green Revolution,” in which an Indian scientist, M. S. Swaminathan, played a leading role, increasing the productivity of Indian farms to create a secure foundation for economic development. Mankombu Sambasivan Swaminathan was born in Tamil Nadu, South India, on August 7, 1925. His father, a surgeon and a Gandhi disciple in the independence movement, had chosen economic nationalism as his lead idea, and in Swaminathan’s 18th year, the Great Bengal Famine (in which 3 million died) set the boy on a determined course to use science to rid his nation of hunger. Independence came in 1948; by that time Swaminathan was a grad student in plant genetics at New Delhi. He moved on to Cambridge where, in 1952, he earned a PhD with research on potato genetics, and that carried him on to a post-doc at Madison where he kept on working with potatoes and returned to research on grains. He returned home (with an Indian wife, Mina, whom he’d met at their Cambridge research institute), concentrated on wheat and rice and, with Mina, growing a family of three daughters, each of whom has become a distinguished scientist. Besides his scientific output, which has been prodigious, he engaged successfully in politics, bringing his father’s Congress movement fully behind his “green revolution” ideas. His success has been astounding, suggesting that in a civilized society science and politics must mix, and (at 93) he is still an influential figure in India. ©
Re: BOB'S BITS
Posted: 08 Aug 2018, 14:00
Sophia: Princess, Suffragette, Revolutionary. Title of 2017 biography of Princess Sophia Alexandra Duleep Singh.
Queen Victoria’s ‘romance’ with the Indian civil servant Abdul Karim (Victoria and Abdul, 2017) was not her first vicarious excursion into empire, witness her long relationship with Maharaja Duleep Singh (1838-1893). Singh, a victim—or pensioner—of the British following their conquest of northern India, became in effect (in 1849) a ward of the British state. He was immediately subjected to a program of anglicization which, despite some odd political shenanigans with the Russian Tsar and a reconversion to Sikhism, worked. It also resulted in the births of eight children, Sikh royalty by inheritance, to two (successive) wives. None of his children had issue, so his royal line died out, but several had some impact on British life, probably most famously the Princess Sophia Alexandra Duleep Singh, born at the Maharaja’s Suffolk estate, Elveden Hall, on August 8, 1876. Besides being treated as royalty and growing up a privileged debutante, presented at court and all that, Princess Sophia did what she was supposed to do, for instance as patroness of Indian charitable organizations. She also became an accomplished (amateur) photographer. But she also did what she wasn’t supposed to do, which was to become a militant suffragette, an active and very public member of the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) and the Women’s Tax Resistance League (WTRL). She donated funds out of her own wealth but also raised a good deal of money through volunteer efforts, and took a prominent part in various public demonstrations. Her WTRL activities included, notoriously, being fined “in kind”, giving up to tax auctions spectacular pieces of jewelry (then immediately bought back by other WTRL members). Late in life, after the vote had been won, she still listed her sole career goal as “the Advancement of Women.” The old queen—who’d been reconciled several times to Sophia’s father—almost certainly would not have approved. ©
Re: BOB'S BITS
Posted: 08 Aug 2018, 20:33
There is a magnificent equestrian statue of Maharajah Duleep Singh in Thetford. It seems to have moved, as I'm sure it was in the town when I visited a long time ago . Perhaps Julie from Norfolk knows the story?
Re: BOB'S BITS
Posted: 09 Aug 2018, 02:34
That instalment reminded me of something and I am digging to get the details......
Re: BOB'S BITS
Posted: 09 Aug 2018, 10:14
I never for one moment believed I invented Mary Poppins. Perhaps she invented me. Helen Goff, aka P. L. Travers.
Every literate family, I hope, has its list of children’s classics, and every list alters through the generations. Our children listened to The Wind in the Willows and The House at Pooh Corner partly because we wanted to read them again. On the other hand, the Thornton W. Burgess books fell off the family story wagon, though they had been staples of both our childhoods. Mary Poppins never made our list (unless the kids sneaked it in when they learned how to read for themselves). Hugely successful, attracting a discerning fandom, and made into a Disney version, these fantasies began with Mary Poppins itself (1934) and were followed by seven significant sequels—at least one per decade—until 1989 (Mary Poppins and the House Next Door). The whole series was the creation of the Australian writer P. L. Travers (the P. L. is sometimes rendered Pamela Lyndon), herself as eccentric a Poppins person as one might hope to find. At the time of the first Poppins novel she was toying with the occult (she was a follower, for a time, of the Russian G. I. Gurdjieff) and with Jungian “archetypes.” Travers was born along Australia’s tropical coast, in Queensland, on August 9, 1899, christened Helen Lyndon Goff, and grew up near Sydney. Her grandfather’s money carried the family through the death of Helen’s father, and Helen was encouraged to develop what the family correctly saw as a writing talent, which really came out when, in the 1920s, she moved to London and made ends meet as a critic and travel writer while producing well-thought of fiction and poetry. Then came Mary Poppins, a huge success (in several languages), followed up immediately by Mary Poppins Comes Back (1935) then by well-timed sequels through the years, the last published when Helen Goff was 90, keeping up all the while her abiding interests in myth and mysticism. She died in London in April 1996. At her direction, no one knows where lie her ashes. ©
Re: BOB'S BITS
Posted: 10 Aug 2018, 12:45
Don't wait to buy real estate. Buy real estate and wait. Will Rogers, circa 1935.
Some of my fonder memories revolve around the board game Monopoly®, played incessantly with cousins in Grundy Center and Ames (the GC lot slightly preferred Easy Money ©). Little did we know that the game itself is a kind of object lesson in American economic history. First, the game’s putative inventor, Charles Darrow (born on August 10, 1889, in Germantown, PA), had really best be known as its patentee. Darrow lost his job early in the Great Depression, and it was tempting to see his success as either a sardonic commentary on capitalism or a heartening moral tale of hard work in tough times. Either take may be truer of the game itself than of Darrow, however. Clever Charles was one of those in US history who demonstrate the importance of taking title to a good idea, while the real inventor may (or may not) starve in the proverbial garret. As to the “real” inventor? There are several candidates, including quite a few economics professors who used a similar board game to instruct their students in the ways of the market, but the current favorite is a woman, Elizabeth Magie, born (in 1866) of Radical Republican stock (her dad an abolitionist publisher in Macomb, IL). Pa Magie, disappointed in the economic promise of capitalism by the recurrent agricultural and financial depressions of post-bellum America, introduced his clever daughter to the radical musings of Henry George (Progress and Poverty, 1879 et seq), and—working with fellow Georgists (aka “Single Taxers”), she worked out “The Landlord’s Game” as an illustration of how easy it was (in the Land of the Free) just to sit on property and become wealthy. (Andrew Carnegie made the same points in his “The Gospel of Wealth,” 1889 & 1910). Lizzie Magie took out patents, too, in 1903 and 1924. Alas, her game had already flown the coop, and she was unable to profit much. It remained for Charles Darrow and Parker Bros. to play monopoly with Monopoly. ©
Re: BOB'S BITS
Posted: 11 Aug 2018, 13:19
Old Nollekens? No. Little Nollekens: The Sculpture Man. From Randall Jarrell, "Nollekens," circa 1935.
Historians have identified a ‘consumer revolution’ that transformed 18th-century Britain (the colonies, too). They’ve concentrated on how it redefined and empowered a growing middle class, but there was a much older tradition (‘conspicuous consumption’ by the rich) that held its own, notably in the production, marketing, and display (public and private) of fine art. One who rode this wave was the younger Joseph Nollekens, born in London on August 11, 1737. His painter father, “Old Nollekens,” died when Joseph was 11, but not before the boy’s talent was noticed, and after a long apprenticeship to a London sculptor, Little Joseph set off for Rome where (1762-1770) he learned from the masters living and dead. In Rome he began to recruit a clientele, for the Grand Tour had become a near necessity for young gentlemen, aristocrats, and others (like the actor David Garrick) who visited Nollekens’ studio, liked his work, and bought from him. Mostly he sold portraiture of the customer and acknowledged copies of classic sculptures, but Nollekens was not above forgery, selling (for instance) a new head on an ancient Minerva to a visiting Englishman for the stupendous sum of £1000. Having made a reputation, Nollekens returned to London, married, set up a studio and gallery, and spent the next five decades producing what the market wanted in sculpture. This included duplicated political iconography, in marble (including an original bust—and fifty copies, all in marble—of Charles James Fox, acknowledged copies of the classics (more Minervas, more Venuses, more Dianas), and some ‘contemporary’ monuments. There was an expanding market, and Joseph Nollekens labored long hours to meet its demands. In 1823, he left behind him over £200,000 but also a legion of friends, not least other artists, for in the market place of fine art he had been more generous to his rivals (and to his apprentices) than he was to himself or to his wife. ©
Re: BOB'S BITS
Posted: 12 Aug 2018, 13:11
You're neither unnatural, nor abominable, nor mad; you're as much a part of what people call nature as anyone else; only you're unexplained . . . Radclyffe Hall, The Well of Loneliness, 1928.
Trump’s rapid rise, and the slower decline of his party into xenophobia, racism, and irrationality, test one’s Yankee faith in progress (whether as concept or reality), but one can draw up other, more hopeful indices of cultural advance, for instance in free speech or in gay rights. In one singular case, that of Radclyffe Hall’s The Well of Loneliness, they came together. In 1928, the book was banned before publication, and a proof copy (on its way to France) was confiscated. The British Home Office declared it “inherently obscene . . . gravely detrimental to the public interest” and a judicial decision on the case famously stated that literary merit was no defense. That was 1928. In 1973, the novel was read, in full, on the BBC’s “Book at Bedtime.” I call that “progress.” Radclyffe Hall was born Marguerite Antonia Radclyffe-Hall on August 12, 1880. Her parents divorced (1883), and she was brought up by her unpleasant mother (an American) and an apparently predatory step-father, and then (in 1901) inherited a small fortune from her grandfather Radclyffe. She could thus afford to adopt publicly a lesbian persona before she began writing about it, and indeed through her long partnership with Una Elena Troubridge, an admiral’s wife, became a courageous crusader for (as we would say today) gay rights. She also may have confounded our expectations by becoming (in 1912) a staunch Roman Catholic, and in the 1920s and 1930s she more than dabbled in far-right politics (notably fascism and anti-Semitism). Nor was The Well of Loneliness a particularly good novel. She did write better ones, including Adam’s Breed (1926), a multiple prize-winner. But Hall’s life and her banned book provide useful lessons for us. “Freedom” does not belong only to persons we like or to things we admire or to lives we would emulate. Otherwise freedom becomes oxymoronic, and we justify processes that can whittle it away into nothing. ©
Re: BOB'S BITS
Posted: 12 Aug 2018, 13:28
There is a programme on BBC 4 tonight at 9 pm about Maharajah Duleep Singh mentioned in this thread a few days ago.
Re: BOB'S BITS
Posted: 13 Aug 2018, 02:15
Re: BOB'S BITS
Posted: 13 Aug 2018, 13:16
A knighthood makes you different, doesn't it? I don't want to be different. Frederick Sanger, ca. 1983, quoted in his obituary (2013).
Frederick Sanger won his first chemistry Nobel in 1958 for unraveling the molecular structure of insulin and, for good measure, detailing its differences among several mammalian species (including homo sapiens). His chosen method was “partition chromatography,” different from the x-ray crystallography that enabled Crick & Watson (in the same decade, also at the Cavendish Laboratory) to decode DNA, and to my layman’s mind requiring more exacting experimental techniques. By 1958, Sanger had already moved over to the problem of sequencing DNA (and other complicated protein ‘chain’ molecules, and here he and his colleagues developed a new technique—now known as the ‘Sanger method’—which has enabled rapid, surprisingly exact decoding of DNA. For this he won a second Nobel (in 1980), an astonishing if not quite unique achievement. Frederick Sanger was born in Gloucestershire, on August 13, 1918, 100 years ago today. His father had been an Anglican medical missionary (in China), but converted to Quakerism, and it was as a young Quaker that Frederick Sanger entered Cambridge in 1936, became a conscientious objector in WWII, and (as a graduate student) began working on the biochemistries of potatoes and pasture grass. It was the latter that got him interested in proteins and other amino acids (he was curious about whether the ways in which cows turned grass into proteins could be economically replicated). This led Frederick Sanger eventually to make discoveries of life-saving importance, not least the exact construction of insulin, and reminds us that any cost-benefit analysis of scientific research ought not be a financial year calculation. Sanger retired to his Cambridgeshire garden and his carpentry workshop in 1983, and died in 2013, insisting all the while that he was only an ordinary sort of person, just the sort who should (and did) refuse a knighthood. On the other hand, in 1985, he did accept the Order of Merit. ©
Re: BOB'S BITS
Posted: 14 Aug 2018, 08:08
Thanks for that. Now I know why The Sanger Institute
between Cambridge and Saffron Walden is so called.
Re: BOB'S BITS
Posted: 14 Aug 2018, 13:30
I can’t afford the luxury of being unbiased . . . when it comes to issues that really affect my people . . . I plead guilty, because I think that I am an instrument of change. Ethel Payne
The most famous of America’s urban black newspapers, the Chicago Daily Defender, announced on its masthead that “American Race Prejudice Must Be Destroyed” and in its news and editorial pages urged southern blacks to move north to a better life and improved access to political power. It was banned in several places across the south, so the Defender achieved a southern readership through clandestine distribution via railway Pullman porters, station to station and barber shop to barber shop, and that may be how Ethel Payne (born in Chicago on August 14, 1911) got to know about it, for her dad was a Pullman porter. The Defender had writers of talent (e.g. Langston Hughes and Gwendolyn Brooks), Ethel had a good high school English teacher, and she conceived an ambition to become a writer for the paper. It took her a while to get there, but in 1948 her personal journal (kept by her as a civilian worker in a segregated US Army facility in Japan) became a major source—credited—for a Defender series on persistent armed forces segregation (despite Truman’s desegregation order), and returning home she joined the Defender and moved up, becoming its Washington correspondent during the Eisenhower administration. Likeable Ike soon decided she was not the sort of person he wanted to call on in press conferences, and that helped make Ethel Payne’s reputation as a fearless, persistent, and pointed questioner. Since she was black and female those might not have been great career strengths, but as the civil rights climate improved under Kennedy and Johnson paths opened up for her, and in 1972 she joined CBS news as one of their Washington anchors. She was always and unashamedly an “advocacy journalist,” and according to an acclaimed 2015 biography “the first lady of the black press.” While in journalism “facts” are always preferable to “fakes,” Ethel Payne’s career reminds us that we do not always, or in all situations, want, or need, unbiased reporters. ©