BOB'S BITS

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'All that trite and unlovely material, how new and beautiful it became through Dan Leno's genius' Max Beerbohm on the comic style of Dan Leno

Having lived in Britain for 28 years, I feel moderately qualified to judge British humor as distinctive. ‘Unique’ would be an absurd claim, one that would be shredded by The Goon Show or Monty Python’s Flying Circus or made into a comic theme by Beyond the Fringe. Indeed the Brits are pretty good at laughing at themselves, an admirable trait that seems now to be on the wane. An essential quality of British humor is to represent the commonplace as absurd (outright or potentially) as in Monty Python’s ‘Dead Parrot Sketch’ wherein a disgruntled customer (John Cleese) complains to an obtuse pet shop clerk (Michael Palin) that a recently-purchased parrot had died, expired, become extinct, or was profoundly inactive. The line of descent of this comic style stretches back at least to the late Victorian or Edwardian music hall and to performers like Dan Leno, born George Galvin in London on December 20, 1850. His theatrical parents quickly incorporated George into their comic routines but their ill success made life hard, and George struck off on his own, allegedly encouraged by Charles Dickens (who saw the boy perform in Dublin in 1869). Now performing as Dan Leno (appropriating his stepfather’s surname, his father having expired in alcohol). Dan Leno first made his name in the provinces but hit London in 1884 with routines such as “Going to Buy Milk for the Twins” or “When Rafferty Raffled His Watch.” Jokes per se were not the secret of Leno’s work; rather he presented the everyday as fantastically surreal. Soon Leno was the talk of the town, even performing at Sandringham for Edward VII (in 1901, suggesting that mourning his mother was not the king’s top priority). Sadly, Leno had picked up a taste for alcohol, which brought him down in 1904. It is said that thousands watched his cortege on its way from the West End to Lambeth Cemetery, his last great performance. ©.
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“O Justice, when expelled from other habitations, make this thy dwelling place.” Editorial motto of the Denver Post.

The Bonfils family monument in the Troy, Missouri cemetery suggests wealth, respectability, and a desire to demonstrate both. The family is famous for another reason, however, for on December 21, 1860, in Troy, it gave birth to one of Missouri’s more memorable characters, Frederick Gilmer Bonfils. A bright lad, Bonfils entered West Point in 1878 but was not cut out for military discipline and jumped ship in 1881. He then got involved in some shaky land deals in Kansas and Texas before fetching up in Denver, where he met Harry Haye Tammen, a bartender by night and a newspaper editor by day. In 1895 Bonfils and Tammen bought the Denver Post and made it into a byword for journalistic excess. When there was no news, the Post made it up, and it often offended its subjects. In 1899 Bonfils and Tammen were both shot but not killed by a lawyer representing a man accused (by The Post) of cannibalism. Later, they were horsewhipped by another unhappy lawyer, sued by Buffalo Bill Cody, bought a circus, and then got involved (as principals) in the Teapot Dome scandal, Bonfils having taken a large bribe ($3.5 million in today’s $$) from Harry Sinclair. But their most spectacular stunt involved a devastating dynamite blast they set off in downtown Kansas City to publicize their new newspaper, the Kansas City Post. There Bonfils also made news through his ties with the Pendergast mob. Fred Bonfils died unquietly in 1933, contesting a libel suit (in which he was actually plaintiff). His monument, in a Denver cemetery, is far grander than the Bonfils family monument back home, in Troy. Whether that signifies progress is, perhaps, another question. ©.
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Re: BOB'S BITS

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"If We allow Slaves, we act against the very Principles by which we associated together, which was to relieve the distressed." James Oglethorpe.

James Edward Oglethorpe, who founded the colony of Georgia in 1732, was born on December 22, 1696, the youngest of ten children in a family made comfortable by its landholdings in Surrey and its connections with the royal court. A child of privilege, Oglethorpe was educated at Eton College and entered Oxford University (Corpus Christi College) in 1714. He didn’t stay long, although Corpus Christi would grant him a BA in 1731, perhaps because he was an MP, perhaps in recognition of his success in convincing George II that a new colony was needed in North America becoming a military buffer between the English in the Carolinas and the newly aggressive Spaniards in Florida. The king may also have liked the sounds of Oglethorpe’s intentions to make the new colony a refuge for England’s poor, the virtuous among them at least. They would be encouraged to go because of the promise of freehold land for all heads of families and encouraged to cultivate the virtues of work by a prohibition of slavery. It’s interesting to speculate on what made this wealthy young man into something of a social reformer. One factor was his conversion to prison reform, precipitated by the death from smallpox of a young friend who was imprisoned for debt. Another may have been his connections with the Wesley family, a “race of preachers,” including (in Oglethorpe’s generation) John and Charles Wesley, two of the surviving nine children of Samuel and Susannah Wesley. Certainly Oglethorpe invited the Wesley brothers to come with him to Georgia, and to bring the gospel with them. The whole Oglethorpe story is one of high hopes and disappointing results, as Georgia itself slid into slavery and the sort of plantation society that made the Carolinas into models of injustice. The Wesleys, meanwhile, perhaps inspired by some Moravian emigrants to the colony, began to work out a ‘method’ of living a holy life and, in due course, birthed the Methodist movement within the English church and which, in the longer term, became the dominant church in Georgia and in the south generally, having fashioned a ‘Christian’ apologia for human slavery. ©.
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"Disputants should always begin with a clear statement of the question, and not proceed to argue till they had agreed upon what it was that they were arguing about." Sara Coleridge.

Sara Coleridge, the fourth child and only daughter of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, was born in Greta Hall, Keswick, on December 23, 1802. Although her father was not often present, she grew up in a literary household (Greta Hall belonged to Robert Southey) and within an intellectual circle that included, inter alia, William Wordsworth and his sister Dorothy, with whom Sara became a favorite. Although she received no formal schooling, Sara throve in this atmosphere, not least in the Southeys’ library, and before she reached her majority was fluent in Latin and Greek, not to mention four modern tongues. Her first publications were anonymous translations (one from Latin, the other from medieval French), fine enough that some credited Robert Southey for the Latin translation (from a book on Paraguay by an Austrian Jesuit). Southey denied the connection and in a long poem indicated that a woman (“that great Empress Queen”) should have the credit. At this point the Empress Queen, Sara Coleridge, was not yet 20 years old. A few years later, in 1829, Wordsworth paid tribute to Sara in a longish poem, “The Triad,” where she plays the last of three idealized women (the other two were daughters of Southey and Wordsworth). At that point Sara was already married to a Coleridge cousin and a mother (two of her three children would have successful careers in the arts), but she had not yet embarked on what would be her most remarkable literary works, which began soon after Samuel Coleridge died in 1834 and were still in progress when Sara died in 1852. These were defenses or celebrations or explanations of her father’s most important works, each including Sara’s critical introductions. Some of these continue to guide modern scholars, and have led some to puzzle over the question of why Sara Coleridge never fully explored the genius of her own voice. ©
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Stanley wrote: 23 Dec 2020, 12:59 Sara throve in this atmosphere, not least in the Southeys’ library, and before she reached her majority was fluent in Latin and Greek, not to mention four modern tongues. Her first publications were anonymous translations (one from Latin, the other from medieval French)
Love the word 'throve'

How do we identify these super intelligent people now that avenue of study (classics) is not so popular.? I think of Denis Healey and Enoch Powell in that context - though perhaps Boris Johnson could sneak onto the list. :smile:
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" I lament that we waste so much time and money in punishing crimes and take so little pains to prevent them. " Benjamin Rush.

Those born on the cusp of the Enlightenment lived in exciting times. With many new ideas available it is no wonder that, from our perspective, they often display strange inconsistencies. One such was Benjamin Rush, born in Philadelphia on December 24, 1746 and destined to become one of the leading young men of the American Revolution. Rush was educated at the College of New Jersey (now Princeton), acquired a medical degree at Edinburgh (and, while he was at it, fluency in three modern languages), and then returned to Philadelphia just in time for the excitements of the Revolution—which he wholeheartedly supported. Despite his eminent position as professor of chemistry and medicine at the College of Philadelphia (now the University of Pennsylvania) he joined the Sons of Liberty, befriended the radical Tom Paine, thought the Pennsylvania constitution too radical, and became surgeon-general of the Continental Army. There he effected significant advances in camp medicine (Rush thought cleanliness quite a good idea), but clashed with General Washington (he thought Washington too timid). Nevertheless, Rush emerged from the revolution with credit and became influential in politics, education, and reform, particularly during the presidency of Thomas Jefferson. Rush’s scattergun approach makes him seem, today, a genius of inconsistency. For instance, he believed Africans to be naturally equal to Europeans, while at the same time viewing dark skin as a kind of disease. Rush argued that in a republic women should be highly educated, but he remained committed to patriarchy and so placed limits on how highly women should (and could) be educated. A pioneer in many areas of medicine, for instance in preventative care and psychiatric medicine, he remained a hidebound reactionary in other respects (advocating bleeding, for instance). One of his great services to history was to help engineer a rapprochement between his old friends John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. Sadly, Rush did not live to see the fruits of that renewed friendship, for he died in 1813, before Adams and Jefferson began their remarkable correspondence. ©.
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"'Bah,' said Scrooge. 'Humbug!'"

It’s Christmas, right?!? And many who celebrate the day will pull down from dusty shelves their copy of Charles Dickens’ novella, A Christmas Carol (1843), read it, and wonder at the transformation of its main character, Ebenezer Scrooge, from the original “Bah, humbug” man to one who embodies the spirit of Christmas. Indeed A Christmas Carol not only improved Dickens’ bank balance (the first edition sold out in a week) but has been identified as one (of several) factors in making the modern Christmas into a season of gifts, good cheer, and too much turkey. But who was Scrooge? I was taught that Scrooge was a literary embodiment of Thomas Malthus, who saw poverty and its attendant miseries (including disease and early death) as effective ways of removing surplus population. But now comes a different idea, that there was an actual Scrooge, living and breathing, whose meanest eccentricities made him famous in 18th-century England. He was by birth (in London in April 1714) John Meggott, the heir of a brewery fortune, but also a man who thought he could never have too much money. That being so, he changed his name to John Elwes to please his even richer uncle, Sir Hervey Elwes, and to sedulously imitate Uncle Hervey’s pathological stinginess. This was an easy task, for stinginess appears to have been a family trait (Meggot’s mother, an Elwes, reputedly starved herself to death while sitting on a fortune). So when Sir Hervey died, he willed his entire estate to John Elwes, whose legendary miserliness then made him well-known. So, possibly, it was John Elwes whom Dickens transformed into Scrooge. What is much more likely is that sketches of John Elwes were used by John Leech, the illustrator of the first edition of A Christmas Carol, to give real substance and physical shape to Dickens’s unforgettably mean—and then unforgettably generous—Ebenezer Scrooge. ©
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"The amount of eccentricity in a society has generally been proportional to the amount of genius, mental vigor, and moral courage which it contained." John Stuart Mill, "On Liberty," 1859.

I cannot tell you exactly when the English learned to treasure eccentrics and their eccentricities but the mid-Victorian age would be a good guess. In this regard I would note not only the characters in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865) but also John Timbs’s two-volume survey English Eccentrics and Eccentricities (2 vols., 1866, although a modern one-volume condensation is available). But one eccentric who did not make Timbs’s survey was Charles Babbage, mathematician and gadfly, who was born in London on December 26, 1791 and lived long enough (he died in 1871) to be considered a Victorian. His banker father, Benjamin, saw to it that Charles was well educated and that he received an inheritance large enough to enable him to mess about for decades, mainly with inventions (a cowcatcher is my favorite) but also with schemes for social reorganization, which began at Cambridge where Charles was a founding member of the “Extractors Club” whose initiates were bound by oath to save any “Extractor” from the madhouse, should he be committed to one. Like the author of Alice’s Adventures, Babbage was a mathematician, and a good enough one to occupy Isaac Newton’s Lucasian chair at Cambridge. Although he never delivered even one lecture, he became interested in the structures of mathematics and began work on his “Difference Engine,” based I think on logarithmic principles, but which today is recognized as a precursor of the digital computer. It was an exceedingly complex machine with many toothed wheels and an actual “memory.” In 1991 it was replicated by a group of 20th-century eccentrics financed by a government grant. Babbage’s engine is also famous because Ada Lovelace, Lord Byron’s daughter, wrote a “program” for it. So Ada may qualify as the world’s first software engineer, as well as being a bit of an eccentric herself. ©
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"A time will come when Einstein's amazing revelations have likewise sunk into the commonplaces of educated thought." Sir Arthur Eddington.

There is a charming story that Albert Einstein intuited the law of general relativity (1916) while looking out on a wood from his seat in a Zurich tram and noticing that distant tree trunks seemed to ‘jump’ behind closer tree trunks as the tram moved along, and then jump out when they came back into view. “Aha,” thought the great man, “light bends.” Sadly, that’s not how it happened, but the story attracts me because I don’t understand Einstein’s math and cannot easily picture the idea of a space-time continuum. Einstein did use a thought experiment ( Gedankenexperiment) to explain relativity, a scenario involving a man inside an elevator compartment that is falling to the earth, but that doesn’t help me much, either. Luckily, in 1919, an English astronomer proved in real space and real time that light can and does bend, and that gravity is the only likely culprit. This life-saver was Arthur Eddington, born into a Quaker family on December 28, 1882, in Kendal in the English north-west. He’d already distinguished himself in mathematics and astronomy as a Cambridge student, then taken a prestigious Cambridge chair in astronomy at 31, and he was quickly converted to Einstein’s theory. In 1919, Eddington (observing from the island of Principe off the African coast) used the total eclipse of the sun (observable on a long path from Brazil to South Africa) to prove the point experimentally. Light from stars known to be behind the eclipse was observable. This was actually one of Eddington’s less weighty contributions to physics, math, and astronomy, but it proved his ability to render complicated theories into terms that could be understood by lay persons. For that we can all be grateful. ©
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That's interesting. I shall think of Arthur next time I'm in Sainsburys in Eddington. It's an odd place - not really for me - too modern - and they have communal underground computer controlled refuse bins. Yes really !



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"A door once opened can be stepped through in either direction." Jeanne Antoinette Poisson, Marquise de Pompadour.

Google “Madame de” on your browser and the chances are that you will get Madame de Pompadour at the top of your list. Indeed she was the most famous and most successful of the Bourbon kings’ mistresses, rivalled only by Madame de Maintenon (1635-1719) who actually married her royal lover, Louis XIV, in 1683. Madame de Pompadour’s royal swain was Louis XV, by whom she was named ‘official chief mistress’ in 1745. It’s often said that the French are more relaxed than most of humanity about what we might call ‘political sex,’ and that may be true even today, but these famous Bourbon mistresses played their roles to near perfection, supporting actresses, so to speak, in the delicate drama of the royal court. Pompadour’s tenure as official mistress, for instance, lasted only six years, but from 1751 to her death in 1764 she remained an important figure at court and a constant companion-advisor to the king. Just so, Madame de Maintenon actually married her Louis, in 1683, but the marriage was kept secret and was (apparently) never even documented, partly because she came from the wrong end of the nobility, which almost qualified the marriage as an act of lèse majesté. But at least Maintenon was born into the aristocracy. The Marquise de Pompadour was, in comparison, nothing more than an arriviste, her noble rank created for her by Louis XV, apparently in return for the favor of her company. Born Jeanne Antoinette Poisson on December 29, 1721, her father a disgraced (and exiled) speculator, she came to the attention of various aristocrats (and eventually Louis XV) because of her beauty, her charm, and her intelligence. Indeed she was groomed to be a royal mistress, although she did marry (in 1740, a marriage annulled when she became royal mistress). Once accepted at court, Pompadour perfected her role, becoming (for instance) guardian to the royal children as well as Louis’s advisor on court politics, garden and palace designs, artistic merit, and European diplomacy. Some of her advice turned out to be bad, but historians now generally give her credit for being who she was: a mere commoner, and a woman to boot, who made herself into one of the most important persons in 18th-century French culture and politics. ©.
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"I don't believe the cinema is a place for little lectures on how everybody should live." Carol Reed.

Carol Reed was born on December 30, 1906, in London, to Beatrice May Pinney, then the mistress of Sir Herbert Beerbohm Tree. Ms. Pinney later took the surname Reed, and all her children, including Carol, followed suit. Carol took after his father in several ways, taking minor acting roles while still in his teens, but where Sir Herbert, as actor and as manager, was a dominant figure on the British stage, son Carol quickly shifted over to the cinema, producing or directing two notable films in the late 1930s. Then, during WWII, Reed directed several British army documentaries, winning an Oscar for The True Glory (1945). Come the peace, and the Cold War, Reed hit upon a streak of true genius when he began to work with writer Graham Greene and producer Alexander Korda. In three years they produced three fine films, first Odd Man Out (1947), then The Fallen Idol (1948) and finally The Third Man (1949), starring Joseph Cotton and Orson Welles. The Third Man is truly a work of art, but I’ve never seen it in a movie theatre, which would be necessary if one were to appreciate fully its remarkable photography, a brilliant noir treatment of post-war Vienna, wan, exhausted, full to bursting with cynicism. Its bleakness is perfectly matched by the music score, featuring only a zither, an idea seized upon by Reed when he dined at a Vienna restaurant which featured a solo zither player. Someday I hope to see The Third Man in an actual theatre, but several views on late-night TV have been enough to convince me of its brilliance. Reed was knighted in 1952. As Sir Carol, Reed never again equaled the brilliance of The Third Man, unless perhaps when he directed a very different film, the musical Oliver!, in 1968, which won him an Oscar as best director. Reed died in London in 1976, just short of his 70th birthday. ©.
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"I have done my best, and I hope I have sown some seeds that will bear good fruit. " George Marshall, Nobel Prize speech, December 11, 1953.

President-elect Biden’s choice of Lloyd Austin as Secretary of Defense may run into trouble as Austin is a military man, having retired from the army only four years ago. Likely he will be granted a congressional waiver, and in this he was preceded by General George C. Marshall, appointed to the defense post by President Harry Truman in 1950. Marshall did good work at defense, notably in helping to still criticism of Truman’s decision to fire General Douglas MacArthur, but most would agree that his best work was behind him, for as Secretary of State (1947-49) Marshall was the author of the “Marshall Plan”, aka the “European Recovery Program,” which—like it or loathe it—was the most successful of all 20th-century diplomatic initiatives. Marshall announced the plan in a speech at Harvard in June, 1947, but (truth be told) parts of it were already underway. Its public aim was to help all European states recover from the devastation of World War II. But several requirements (notably that recipients of Marshall Plan aid had to comply with American economic directions and also open their treasury books for American inspection) meant that no communist regime could participate. This excluded the Soviet Union and most of Eastern Europe. George Catlett Marshall, Jr., was born in Pennsylvania on December 31, 1880. Academically brilliant (at VMI and then the Army Staff College), his record as a battlefield commander was humdrum at best, and it’s not entirely clear why he was appointed Chief of Staff by FDR in 1939, and thus managed the largest military mission in US history. He was also notably successful in dealing with allies, and it was his understanding of the European crisis that made him a brilliant Secretary of State. The success of the Marshall Plan in western Europe won him the Nobel Peace Prize in 1953. It also insured that the Cold War would have a long life. ©.
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"Cinematography is infinite in its possibilities." Conrad Hall

My childhood fiction was full of talking pigs, gallant badgers, and silly toads, so it ill becomes me to say that I’m not a fan of fantasy fiction. Our ‘real’ world is odd enough, a proposition daily proven. But I make an exception for some fantasies, notably J. R. R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy, which I first read in grad school, circa 1966, and then read again in 1969, after the briefest of meetings with Tolkien’s son in Oxford. The trilogy bowled me over in several ways, notably in its portrayal of evil. I never imagined, however, that it could be made into a successful film, at least not one faithful to the text. It was just too, too fantastic. But then I reckoned without the development of digital photography, the bizarrely wild, beautiful New Zealand scenescape, and the inventiveness of the Australian cinematographer Andrew Lesnie, who was born in Sydney, N.S.W. on January 1, 1956. And in Sydney he stayed, beyond Sydney Grammar School and then beyond the Australian Film, Television and Radio School, and also beyond the wild success of his camera work in the Lord of the Rings trilogy: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001, for which he won an Oscar), The Two Towers (2002), and The Return of the King (2003). They were filmed together but distributed separately, and from this distance I could not tell you which one was best in terms of filming technique. Lesnie made them all work visually; bringing on screen Tolkien’s bizarre landscape and his even wilder monsters and mutants (some of them good guys but mostly not). Had I been present at the first meetings between Lesnie and the director Peter Jackson, I would have said “this cannot be done,” but in these films seeing is believing and pictures are worth thousands of words. Having again collaborated with Jackson on the first (of three) episodes of The Hobbit (An Unexpected Journey) Andrew Lesnie died, in Sydney of course, in 2012. ©.
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"What in heaven's name is strange about a grandmother dancing nude? I'll bet lots of grandmothers do it." Helen Beck, aka Sally Rand.

A new vocabulary word today, at least for me, is “vedette.” It refers to the female lead in a cabaret act, and it came up in the on-line Britannica’s treatment of Helen Gould Beck, born in the straggling village of Elkton, in west-central Missouri, on January 2, 1904. She had a very long performing life, but it had quieted down a bit by 1957, when she appeared (as Helen Beck) on the TV quiz show “To Tell the Truth.” All four panel members quickly twigged to the “truth,” which was that Helen Beck had been performing since the 1920s as Sally Rand, mainly (but not entirely) in burlesque, where she was most famed for her ‘fan dance.’ Before that, starting in 1915, in Kansas City, and then in the early 20s with the Ringling Bros. circus, as ‘Billie Beck,’ but the name Sally Rand was proposed to her by Cecil B. Demille (she’d appeared as a chorine, not as a vedette, in a couple of his silents). When Sally adopted the fan dance is unclear, but it was probably at a Chicago supper club in the late 1920s. She made her fans famous by performing the dance at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1933, now as a vedette. The Chicago police arrested her for indecency at least four times, which added to the publicity and made the fair’s Midway much more popular than it might otherwise have been. Popularity breeds envy, too, and in 1939 Sally was sued for a lot of money ($375K!!), by Faith Bacon, who claimed to have invented the dance in the 1920s. Nay, said Sally: “the fan idea is as old as Cleopatra.” Whether Sally was, behind her fans, really nude is a good question, to which the answer is sometimes yes, sometimes no. Either way, a San Francisco judge found Sally Rand innocent of indecency. “Anyone who could find something lewd about the dance as she puts it on has to have a perverted idea of morals.” That was in 1946, well after Ms. Bacon had lost her suit (pun intended). As for Sally Rand, she continued to perform, though eventually she fell on harder times. Her final medical bills were paid, in large part, by Sammy Davis, Jr. She died in 1979. ©.
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"A kissed mouth loses no savor, but rather renews itself, like the moon." Giovanni Boccaccio.

The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood’s artistic style has gone in and out of fashion since the first 7 of the ‘Brotherhood’ signed themselves up in 1848. They were then young rebels in favor of a pre-Raphaelite (specifically, 15th-century) unity of purpose incorporating flesh and spirit in a new (or old) aesthetic. One of them was Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828-1882), whose stylized way of portraying women was, some say, increasingly erotic; but innocent too, perhaps reflecting some inner battle. Chief among the women whose beauties, ethereal and physical, served as his muses, models, mistresses, and wife were Elizabeth Siddal and Fanny Cornforth. Siddal was one of Rossetti’s group, artist and poet in her own right, and of a rather ethereal beauty. They did marry (in 1860) just before her untimely death. But Rossetti was already in a relationship with Fanny Cornforth, a fleshier woman, whom he accidentally (or on purpose) bumped into one day in 1856. She was born Sarah Cox, on January 3, 1835, and she thought Rossetti was taken (at first) by her hair (which like several of his models was copious, curled, and of a pronounced reddish tint). Inspired, he took her home and drew her, and soon they were a pair, perhaps right through his relationship with Siddal. Indeed Fanny, as she called herself, was his muse, model, and mistress longer than anyone else. Whatever Rossetti’s views of her (clearly, he valued her beauty), his friends thought her coarse and common, and (after his death) sought to minimize her importance as they built a Rossetti legend that was decidedly on the spiritual side. Fanny herself kept the relationship alive, gradually selling off art and memorabilia he’d given her, until she died in a poorhouse in 1909. She was buried in a common grave. Late 20th-century biographers have rediscovered her, and about time, too. She was, in more ways than one, Rossetti’s model for Bocca Bacatia (1859), “the mouth that has been kissed,” a painting which is now said to be the pivot of his artistic development. ©
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"Well-arranged time is the surest mark of a well-arranged mind." ISAAC PITMAN.

Shorthands have probably been in use since shortly after the inventions (plural) of writing. Generally phonetic, they enable the recorder to write more quickly and possibly more accurately, and for decades “shorthand” was a required expertise for secretaries. Shorthands have also been used by diarists, often for secrecy’s sake, most famously in the case of the diaries of Samuel Pepys. Once decoded, they made Pepys the most famous gossip of 17th-century England. In more modern times, in English, two different shorthands became dominant. The first was invented by Isaac Pitman, born in southwest England on January 4, 1813. He appears to have made much material progress by marrying widows (three in succession), but he was also a successful schoolmaster. Teaching spelling to schoolchildren made Pitman a convert to spelling reform, and he devised a system based on phonetics. This led to several publications, all of which sold pretty well, one of them (Sound-hand, 1837) being seen, today, as the precursor of the “Pitman Shorthand” that would make him (and his sons, and two brothers) wealthy and, into the bargain, won Pitman a knighthood in 1894. Pitman’s new way of writing was practical, but it also took on the character of a moral crusade. His motto, reprinted in most of his books and pamphlets, was “time saved is a life gained,” which sounds sunnier than Poor Richard’s (Ben Franklin’s) similar moralisms, There was a bit of a crusader about him, and he became a prominent layman in the Swedenborgian church, a promoter of vegetarianism and a leading temperance (of the tee-total variety) advocate. His brother Jacob brought Pitman shorthand, Swedenborgianism, and temperance to Australia, is memorialized by a monument in a Sydney cemetery, with a phonetically spelled epitaph. ©.
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"[Recently we added to our family] a dear little girl, to whom we felt it to be both an honour and a privilege to give the name of Elizabeth Pease." William Lloyd Garrison to Elizabeth Pease, April 1, 1847.

Through much of the 19th century there was a transatlantic reform movement, at times almost a coalition that gave shelter, comfort, and sometimes success to a multiplicity of reformers. Perhaps the abolition of slavery (1833 in the British empire and 1865 in the USA) was their great triumph, but there was a lot wrong with both societies and so there were a lot of reform movements. One woman who enlisted in most of them was Elizabeth Pease Nichol, born in the north of England (Darlington) on January 5, 1807. The Pease family were Quakers and already committed to reform. Elizabeth’s father Joseph was an industrialist who gained some fame from his long campaign against imprisonment for debt, and once Elizabeth had shaken free from her various frailties she began where he left off. But not always as a Quaker; she married Professor John Pringle Nichol, a Glaswegian Presbyterian, in 1853 and so was disowned by the Quakers. But the marriage was short (Nicol died in 1859) and had little effect on Elizabeth’s stronger links with transatlantic and European reform (she actively supported liberal nationalists in Hungary and Italy). As for the USA, Elizabeth was a faithful correspondent with the Grimké sisters, Theodore Weld, and William Lloyd Garrison, and (apart from her reluctance to speak in public) was most clearly identified with radical reform, devoting her money and her time to abolitionism, animal rights, female suffrage and women’s liberation, free public education, and once slavery was out of the way she took a leading role in the effort to achieve full civil equality for people of color. After Professor Nicol’s death, Elizabeth set up in Edinburgh, where she kept on reforming until her death, in 1897, aged 90. ©
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"Writers are witnesses. The reason we need writers is because we need witnesses to this terrifying century.” E..L. Doctorow.

One of the more prolific writers of my generation, E. L. Doctorow, was born Edgar Lawrence Doctorow on January 6, 1931, the son of first-generation American citizens. His parents may or may not have aimed him towards a literary career (as a teenager he had an inclination to science and attended the Bronx High School of Science), but they named him after Edgar Allen Poe, and for him literature did indeed win out over science. But it took some while for Doctorow to become a writer of novels. From his graduation (Kenyon College) to 1969, indeed, Doctorow did the rounds as an editor, working first on movie scripts and then (1964) moving full time into fiction, as editor-in-chief at the Dial Press. It seems that his varied experience as editor governed his development as a novelist, for he is regarded today as an experimental author, a sampler (so to speak) of different genres. But one theme stands out, for in his best works he was an historical novelist, framing the story by placing it in the context of a particular time and place. The main character(s) are or seem to be historically significant. For instance in Ragtime (1975) Doctorow shepherded a whole family through the trials and tribulations of the Progressive Era and contrasted their fates with those visited upon poor immigrants in lower Manhattan. It’s a great novel, and will sharpen your appetite for Doctorow fiction. There are plenty to choose from, but most critics would recommend The Book of Daniel (1971) and Billy Bathgate (1989). Doctorow was also a fairly prolific producer of short fiction. He died in 2015, just as a complete collection of his short stories was published—in Spanish translation. ©.
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"The Public is never wrong." Adolph Zukor.

By the 1920s, Adolph Zukor had already created Hollywood’s infamous star system by signing up Mary Pickford, who for the not at all measly sum of $20k per annum (about $320,000 in today’s $$$) agreed to perform only for Zukor’s Famous Players-Lasky. Pickford herself was no patsy in business matters and soon was pulling down 5 times that sum, but by then she was, to Famous-Lasky, small potatoes. For Zukor’s other obsession, merging together production and distribution companies, had made him (by the mid 1930s) virtually the King of Hollywood, or more prosaically the board chairman of “Paramount Pictures” an empire that controlled films, stars and directors from first conception to (for instance) the Paramount Theater in Des Moines, Iowa. By then Adolph Zukor was in his 60s, having been born in rural Hungary, the shtetl of Ricse, on January 7, 1873. Zukor’s long journey from Ricse to Beverly Hills began when he was orphaned and put under the care of his uncle Kalman, a rabbi. But Adolph knew already that he was better at business, and aged only 16 he emigrated to New York City to find out what business it might be. After a time sweeping floors in a fur emporium, in 1892 Zukor and a friend fled to Chicago where they set up as furriers. They were successful enough that Zukor was soon able to invest in entertainment, opening a penny arcade with a difference, one that featured moving pictures. That became , for the arcade, the cash cow, and Zukor started to look for larger venues, buying the Nickelodeon Theater in Kansas City, Missouri. It was then that Zukor hit upon the idea of making his own films (to show in his theaters and arcades) that would determine his future path and take him to the top of Paramount Pictures. There he stayed for a very long time, for at his death (in 1976!!) he was Chairman Emeritus of Paramount. ©.
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A Boston woman born in Missouri: Mary Kenney O'Sullivan.

In an entrance hall of the Massachusetts state house you’ll find six bas relief bronzes, each mounted on a marble slab, and each honoring a woman. They were installed in 1999 by the State House Women’s Leadership Project. One of these women was Mary Kenney O’Sullivan. She was born Irish, but not in Boston. She was born in Hannibal, MO, the only child of Irish immigrant parents, on January 8, 1864. Mary Kenney left school after 4th grade apprenticing first as a seamstress. At 14 she and her mother moved to Chicago in hopes of better pay and better lives, Mary as a bookbinder. Clearly an enterprising person, she quickly formed the Women’s Bookbinding Union #1, and applied (successfully) for membership in the American Federation of Labor. Mary serving as the Bookbinders’ delegate in Chicago’s Trade and Labor Assembly. Impressed by her articulacy and passion, the AF of L soon hired Mary away from bookbinding, making her their very first salaried organizer. That appointment took her to New York an Boston and the challenges of organizing women in the clothing industry. She settled there, married a merchant seaman, Jack O’Sullivan, birthed three kids (in an Addams-style settlement house run by her and Jack), and continued to organize unions. After Jack’s death (in a street car accident) she rose to prominence in the AF of L as secretary of its National Women’s Trade Union League, a position she held for 8 years until (in 1912) the AF of L withdrew its support for the Lawrence (MA) Textile Strike, a strike in which she’d played a leadership role. In the issue, Mary Kenney O’Sullivan negotiated an end to the strike and, in 1914, she was hired by the state board of labor to be its chief inspector, a post she held until retirement in 1934. This is one of the more interesting hires in American labor history, for Mary was then a member of the IWW. She died in 1943, age 79, willing her trade union papers, 1892 to 1943, to Harvard University. ©
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"Pat" Waddell, heroine of two wars.

On first viewing the Vale of Eden I was sure that its name derived from the biblical garden, but the name has pagan origins. The vale is named after its principal river, the Eden, a name that derives from the Celtic Ituna, “rushing water.” Today’s River Eden rushes occasionally because it must fall 2200 feet along its relatively short course to meet the Irish Sea. But for the most part it flows gently, quietly, through a gentle and quiet landscape of astounding beauty. “Gentle and quiet,” however, do not describe the life of one of the Vale’s most distinguished natives, born Catherine Marguerite Beauchamp Waddell on January 9, 1892. The youngest of three children (and her family’s only girl), Catherine was soon known as “Pat” Waddell, a young woman who did not accept the traditional boundaries of gender and age. In 1912 she joined the First Aid Nursing Yeomanry corps, known as FANY, and took its training courses from first aid to camp cookery. Come WWI, FANY volunteered for service on the Western Front, but the British Army contemptuously refused the offer, so instead FANY went to work for the French and the Belgians. Along with them went Pat Waddell, who served as an ambulance driver, sometimes working 24-hour shifts, carrying the wounded and dead from the front to Calais. Grievously injured in a chance accident, she was awarded the Croix de Guerre by the French but had to pay for her own artificial leg because the Brits still didn’t recognize FANY as an official part of the war effort. One-legged and indomitable, Pat married a wounded soldier, and went back to Eden Vale as an active FANY officer. World War II found her volunteering again, and turned down again, this time on grounds of her disability, and so she went to work for the Free Poles, not at their official HQ in Edinburgh (a post offered to her) but rather in ambulance service in France. Her hair’s-breadth escape back to Britain made her, again, a national figure, and it probably did not hurt that she was also beautiful and articulate. Augustus John thought so, and asked her to model for him, but considering the fates of his other models she turned him down. Back home and at peace in the Vale of Eden, “Pat” Waddell Washington served as a FANY volunteer until her death on Christmas Day, 1972.
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"Without Fleming, no Florey; without Florey, no Heatley; without Heatley, no penicillin." Sir Henry Harris, 1998.

I have an abiding interest in penicillin, for it saved my life in late 1948, at the Allen Hospital in Waterloo, Iowa, where I’d been admitted with a rare lung infection. Of course others helped. Varina DesMarias, my mother’s best friend and the first (and in 1948 still the only) female doctor in Grundy County, played a dramatic part, as did my uncle Bill Bliss, who flew in from Louisville KY to be my hospital doctor. Bill later told me that they put so much penicillin into me that they had to map my butt. After my release from Allen Hospital I learned a lot more than I needed to know about the discovery (Alexander Fleming) and early development (Howard Florey) of the drug in Britain, but one name I missed was that of Norman Heatley (born January 10, 1911), an Oxford biochemist of almost perfect absent-mindedness, who was chiefly responsible for figuring out how to produce penicillin in bulk. Indeed, his diary entry on the crucial day mentions only that he’d put his underwear on back to front. Much more work remained to be done, oddly enough in Peoria, Illinois, not very far from Waterloo, by a small team of British scientists including Heatley. In Peoria Heatley worked with an American, A. J. Moyer, whose scientific article on the process omitted Heatley as co-author and indeed made no mention of Heatley’s critical contributions. Heatley, it seems, was more amused than angered by Moyer’s duplicity, and returned to his Oxford lab without fanfare (and without any share in the 1945 Nobel awarded jointly to Fleming and Florey). It was not until 1990 that Heatley’s contribution was recognized publicly, with the award (by Oxford) of a doctorate in medicine, honoris causa. I felt like sending him a thank-you note, but never got around to it. Heatley died in 2004 at his home in Marston, Oxfordshire. ©
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"To plant a pine . . . one need be neither god nor poet; one need only own a shovel." Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac.

Rand Aldo Leopold was born of German immigrant stock in Burlington, IA, on January 11, 1887. His father Carl was a furniture maker and nature lover who encouraged all of his children to take an interest in the living world about them, but it took most strongly in Aldo. When Aldo learned that Yale had instituted a forestry degree, he went east to prepare for Yale at the Lawrenceville School. He did well academically, graduated and joined the US Forest Service in 1909. Posted to the American Southwest, he made it apparent that he thought of nature as a community, each element bound to the other and dependent on the whole. He was, in short, an ecologist, not the first of that breed but one of the best known. Although his early papers include comprehensive ecological development plans for the Grand Canyon he really made his mark in Wisconsin, where he was transferred by the Forest Service in 1924. In 1933 he became the country’s first professor of wildlife management and director of the University of Wisconsin Arboretum, where he reestablished original (pre-European) “natural communities,” for instance an oak savannah and a tall-grass prairie. Meanwhile, Leopold, his wife Estella, and their five children (all of whom became naturalists) moved to an 80-acre smallholding just north of Madison, near Baraboo, where he put his family, and his principles, to work in recreating a natural species-scape. His A Sand County Almanac (published posthumously in 1949) recounts his experiences and focuses on the interdependencies of a “natural” community and on creating in humans an “ecological conscience” as the basis of a natural citizenship. Leopold himself died of a heart attack while fighting a fire on his neighbor’s land. His spirit lives on, for instance in the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State University. ©
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"The ultimate end of education is not a perfection in the accomplishments of the school, but fitness for life." Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi, 1819

Early in my research, I ran across two men whose educational theories seemed strikingly modern: they were John Drury, a Scot, and Samuel Hartlib, a Pole, who came together in Oxford in the early years of the English Civil War to propose new methods of teaching, notably in languages. Their outlandish notion that language instruction should be enjoyable had several bases, but central among them was the idea that children naturally wanted to learn. Their ideas had little immediate effect in the Anglophone world, but a century later, in another revolutionary era, they were taken up again by a Swiss educator, Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi. Pestalozzi’s success in systematizing these notions and then actually applying them in real schools gives him a far stronger claim to be the father of “progressive” education. Pestalozzi was born in Zurich on January 12, 1746. He began to develop his educational theories while visiting poor families of the parish with his maternal grandfather, a Protestant clergyman. He found it intolerable that children should be born into and brought up in the prison of poverty, a prison which denied them any means of escape, and he found hope in the revolutionary ideas of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, notably Emile and The Social Contract. These books were banned by the Swiss state, and it was not until the French Revolution and the French invasion of Switzerland that Pestalozzi was empowered to apply his ideas in actual schools (the first one was established for the orphans of war) and refine them through a series of writings, including fictional stories and philosophical essays that emphasized the basic goodness of children, the importance of family in “making” a educable child, and the ways in which education could empower children to achieve happy, productive lives. Taken together, Pestalozzi’s whole career, his ‘experimental’ schools, and his writings make him the true father of progressive education and thus worthy of our attention. ©
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