BOB'S BITS

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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 01 Jan 2019, 13:56

Spoon feeding in the long run teaches us nothing but the shape of the spoon. E. M. Forster.

I confess that I haven’t yet read E. M. Forster’s fiction, but given the great vogue of the film adaptions of A Room with a View (1908, movie 1985), Howard’s End (1910, movie 1992), and A Passage to India (1924, movie 1984), I have been “made aware” of his gifts as a novelist. But his greater significance may have been as a critic, a role he played with distinction in print journals but also as a BBC broadcaster. Edward Morgan Forster was born on January 1, 1879, into the more secure reaches of the Victorian middle class, so safe that when his father died (in 1880), his mother and a troop of maiden aunts took over his parenting. One of the latter, Forster’s great-aunt Marianne, made it all easier in 1887 by leaving Forster a large trust fund (£1,000,000 in 2018 values). As he matured, this bequest enabled him to live independently. But Forster’s was a very particular kind of independence, most definitely not of the Ayn Rand variety. His extensive travels (to Europe with his mother, to Egypt and India on his own), the imaginative worlds he explored as a novelist, his endless curiosity about others and about how they were made, and perhaps his homosexuality, all these combined to enable Forster to see those “others” not as foreign or strange but as human alternatives that (ab initio) deserved to be taken on their own merits. One can see in his remarkable radio broadcasts (some of which I have read) an independence best described as openness: tolerant, knowledgeable, contextual. Forster’s open-mindedness was not without moral compass (his WWII broadcasts show his utter contempt for Hitlerism), but he would put it all in personal terms, addressing his listener as an individual (“you”), their conversation as a meeting of minds (“our”), and their common task the exploration of cultures. Modern criticism tells us that Forster did not wholly succeed at this task of ‘translation,’ but he made the effort. We could use him today. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 02 Jan 2019, 11:08

The only way I could get that door open was to knock it down. Sadie Tanner Mossell Alexander.

In her mature years, Sadie Tanner Mossell Alexander was known by all her names. And why not? She was born (on January 2, 1898) into two high-achieving families, the Tanners and the Mossells, and married into another, the Alexanders. Her grandpa Benjamin Tanner was an early bishop of the AME Church; her uncle Henry Ossawa Tanner was an accomplished artist, resident in Paris; another uncle, Nathan Mossell, was a surgeon and the founder of Philadelphia’s Mercy-Douglass hospital; her father Aaron Mossell was the first black graduate of the Penn law school, and her husband Raymond Alexander, though he started out as a bootblack, graduated from Wharton and then Harvard law. So what could Sadie do but achieve? Sadie Mossell was the first black female to earn a PhD (Economics, at Penn, 1921), and after a spell as an actuary for an all-black insurance company in North Carolina she returned to Philadelphia, married Alexander, and (after becoming the first black woman to graduate from Penn law, magna cum laude) she joined him in a law firm (“Alexander and Alexander”) that became famous for its pro bono work in civil rights and criminal cases. They also took cases that put food on their table and enabled them to educate their daughters to a proper “Tanner-Mossell-Alexander” standard. In law and in politics, Sadie specialized in employment and wage issues (the gravamen of her economics PhD), and became a tireless advocate for a better deal for the working class, white and black. This brought her to change her allegiance from the Republican party loyalties of all her family to FDR’s New Deal (though she believed it wasn’t “new” enough for the working poor), and then to Harry Truman. The high point of Sadie Alexander’s career was her membership of, and leading role on, Truman’s precedent-breaking Civil Rights Commission of 1947. Sadie Alexander died full of years in 1989, having more than fulfilled her families’ promise. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 03 Jan 2019, 13:24

You will be judged by what you succeed at gentlemen, not by what you attempt. Prime Minister Clement Attlee to his cabinet, 1945.

When Prime Minister Attlee came to Washington in November 1945, one of his aims was to assure Americans that the alliance was still safe as houses, his Labour Party even safer. Americans, shocked by Britain’s massive rejection of the wartime hero, Churchill, in that May’s General Election, were glad to hear it, but one wonders whether they understood Attlee’s explanation. Rest assured, he told congress, that “the Old School Tie can still be seen on the government benches.” No doubt Attlee knew of whom he spoke, e.g. Sir Stafford Cripps (Winchester) or Hugh Dalton (Eton), even of himself (Haileybury College, if not quite “Old” still a public school), but what bothered many Americans was that he and those other thoroughly safe “gents” were intent on a major program of nationalization (coal, rail, steel, etc.) and, horrors, the creation of a National Health Service. To understand how this thoroughly middle-class man had moved so far Left, look no further than his life. Born on January 3, 1883, Clement Attlee (like all his brothers) went to a private ‘prep,’ then Haileybury, then Oxford, but as he embarked on a law career he got involved in social work and came into close contact with poverty, a transformative experience. ‘Barrow boys,’ whom Attlee had regarded as uncouth at best, “became human beings.” This was just as it had been, in the USA, for the likes of Harry Hopkins, but in Britain there was the Labour Party, a potential vehicle of government: and its aim of democratic socialism now seemed attractive to Attlee. He mastered the party well enough so that when the Attlees (Clem and Violet) replaced the Churchills (Winston and Clem) at 10 Downing Street Britain got changes of class and style but of substance, too: Attlee was sober, prosaic, unassuming, shy, willing to see others as better than himself, but seeing himself as ‘good enough’ to weld those others into a strong coalition of barrow boys and ‘Old School’ rebels and then to work with them to transform Britain for the better. And they did just that. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 04 Jan 2019, 14:12

I believe in what I call cold literature: a literature of flight for one's life, a literature that is not utilitarian, but a spiritual self-preservation. Gao Xingjian, 2006.

In 2000, Gao Xingjian joined the list of Nobel prizewinners whose work I have yet to read, and perhaps in 2019 I will correct this oversight. His life is interesting enough, and his aim of self-liberation—to free his experiences by transforming them into literature—is a promising prospectus. He’s also a gifted artist in traditional ways, illustrating his books with his own pen and ink drawings. Gao Xingjian was born on January 4, 1940, in the midst of chaos, his parents on the run because of the Japanese occupation. In 1946 the family returned to its home in Nanjing where his father, a bank manager, and his mother, a literature-loving actress, brought him up to a good education in the newly-communist China. Gao’s ambition to write was nearly killed, but not quite, by his experiences as a farm laborer during the Cultural Revolution; on the other hand, he was able to prove his devotion to the Party sufficiently well to join, in 1975, an elite Beijing group of writers and actors who were allowed to perform in the West. Even so, his works became progressively more avant garde, his critiques of Chinese life less guarded. Then, in 1986, a mistaken diagnosis of lung cancer took Gao out of himself, to a long trek along the whole course of the Yangzte, and into the novel-memoir (Lingshan, published in English as Soul Mountain) that took him right out of China and eventually to the Nobel Prize as “one of those singular literary creations that seem impossible to compare with anything but themselves.” Since 1998, Gao has been a French citizen (his university degree was in French) and, besides the Nobel, has won just about every honor France gives to its literary heroes. Meanwhile, back in China, he has been pronounced a heretic, his books no longer sold, his plays no longer produced (except occasionally, and controversially, in Hong Kong), his output adjudged by the Party as “most pernicious.” Sounds like a recommendation to me! ©.
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 05 Jan 2019, 14:09

We are not short of ideas [but] it's an emotional business. Richard Prescott, current CEO of Blackwell's, on the process of turning the firm into an employee-owned trust.

Alongside Linacre’s collegiality and excellent food, browsing for books at Blackwell’s in the Broad was among the pleasanter aspects of Oxford life. Linacre still thrives, and its catering (though not as brilliant as it was in the late 1960s) still good, and I believe that Blackwell’s thrives. It was already a going concern when Richard Blackwell was born, on January 5, 1918, in a big north Oxford house at the SW corner of Frenchay and Woodstock roads. His grandfather Benjamin had started the business and his father Basil (Sir Basil from 1964) consolidated it. It was Richard (joining the firm in 1946 after distinguished Royal Navy service in WWII) who made Blackwell’s into an institution. It all began by Basil’s moving upstairs (Benjamin’s ground-floor shop was just 12 feet square), and then Richard dug deep (into family pockets and, literally, under Trinity College), to open the cavernous Norrington Room (wisely named after Trinity’s President) in 1966. I spent many happy hours, and way too many £££s, there, blissfully unaware that Richard Blackwell was using my money to expand both wings of the enterprise, bookselling and publishing. Starting by buying out a competitor across the Broad (now Blackwell’s Art and Poster shop), Blackwell’s bought up booksellers across Britain, mainly in college towns (today its 70 locations include Heffer’s in Cambridge), and expanded Blackwell’s publishing, partly on its own, partly in partnerships, not least with Oxford University Press. Richard’s animating ideas were two. First, good universities deserved, even required, good bookshops. And, second, Blackwell’s should remain in family ownership. As long as Richard lived (he died in 1980), and for many years beyond, Blackwell’s remained “in the family.” But families grow, stock shares are alienable, and to preserve the firm’s identity the current Blackwell generation has begun the process of turning the company into an employee-owned trust. Long may it prosper!! ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 07 Jan 2019, 05:03

"Well," said my aunt, "this is his boy - his son. He would be as like his father as it's possible to be, if he was not so like his mother, too." From David Copperfield, by Charles Dickens.

When Charles Dickens and his wife Catherine separated in the late 1850s, it was messy (Dickens had fallen for Ellen Teman, his young secretary, and may have had an affair with her). It was the Victorian age, and several of the children sympathized with their mother: none so much as the eldest, Charles Culliford Boz Dickens, born on January 6, 1837. “Charley” chose to go with his mother, leaving the others to Catherine’s sister Georgina, a “formidable” auntie and in Charles Dickens’s words his “best and truest friend.” Charley’s decision didn’t surprise Charles, who feared that the boy had inherited from his mother her “indescribable lassitude of character.” This concern about Charley dogged the boy’s footsteps at and convinced Charles that the boy needed a different influence. Enter then the greatest heiress of the age (other than Victoria herself) Angela Burdett-Coutts, whose social reforms (many with Dickens, including the Urania House project for fallen women) now included reform of the novelist’s eldest son. With all that generous help, and a famed father, it’s arguable that Charley should have done better. Angela, whose immense fortune can be estimated by following her philanthropies, financed Charley at Eton and Cambridge, and then on his unsuccessful attempt to establish himself in Asia as a tea merchant. It’s not clear whether her sponsorship survived Charles Dickens’ death (1870) or her own elevation as Countess suo jure (1871), but it’s probable. At any rate, Charley was able to purchase his dad’s estate at Gad’s Hill and a publishing firm. Charley lost Gad’s Hill (much to Aunt Georgina’s fury), but his publishing venture limped on to mild success before expiring, and (though not a patch on his father) he became a successful writer (of guide books), the editor of his father’s collected works, and perhaps a better father and husband. As for Countess Burdett-Coutts, she married her young male secretary (in 1881) and then outlived them all. ©.
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 07 Jan 2019, 14:53

By and large, by asking the question "what use is it?" you are asking the animal to justify its existence without having justified your own. Gerald Durrell.

Prehistoric cave art, discovered first in Europe and now as far afield as Indonesia, reveals contemplation of nature as the earliest expression of our species’ odd ability to think, and communicate, in abstract, symbolic ways. The ghostly images at Lascaux, Sulawesi, and elsewhere suggest this stone age “nature writing” had mainly to do with hunting (and thus eating), but in modern times writing about nature has assumed broader, more varied purposes: for instance putting the natural sciences into lay language as per John McPhee (geology) and Stephen Jay Gould (evolutionary biology). And there’s a philosophical strain, expressing the pleasures and challenges of seeing ourselves encountering nature, living within and learning from a natural ecology, Thoreau’s Walden for example. A more modern (and in terms of immediate sales far more successful) practitioner was Gerald Durrell, born in British India on January 7, 1925. After his engineer father died, his fairly astonishing mother took Gerald and his older siblings first to England, and then to Corfu, not yet a tourist’s paradise but a traditional society living more simply—or more cheaply—within nature. While his older siblings, notably the novelist-to-be Lawrence, interested themselves in Corfu’s human nature, young Gerald collected animals, dead or alive and of all sorts. What may have begun as a way of alarming his elders, or just getting their attention, soon became a habit, and then a professional expertise. He wrote attractively enough about his expertise, but then came his ‘Corfu Trilogy’ (1956, 1969, and 1978), starting with My Family and Other Animals. These partly fictionalized books have become the basis for successful TV series (first BBC, then ITV). Their charm and good humor shines throughout, but also conceal the adult Gerald Durrell’s deepening depression (and rising anger) about the impact of humans on a nature writ much larger than he had managed in his Corfu trilogy. ©.
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 08 Jan 2019, 13:47

"You are too old to study . . . and too young to live in London . . . and you aren't at all strong." Octavia Wilberforce's mother, forbidding Octavia to take up a career in medicine.

William Wilberforce, Britain’s ‘Great Emancipator,’ spent his youth (as did many of his class and time) in riotous excess. In his late 20s, he was brought to a sense of duty and purpose by his friendship with the younger Pitt and his own conversion to evangelical Christianity. After his death, the family returned to politer religion (his son Samuel, Bishop of Oxford, was the “Soapy Sam” of the Darwin debates). But a wild strain remained to be picked up by his great-granddaughter, Octavia Margaret Wilberforce, born on January 8, 1888. The youngest child of her family, Octavia was let run on its Sussex estate, and continued running into adulthood, if not riotously like William then idly: tennis and tea, riding, country house dances, and presentment at court (at 21, of course). Then Octavia outraged her family’s expectations (she was disinherited) by spurning marriage and getting down to business, in her case as a pioneering woman doctor interested in treating women’s bodies of course but also their spirits, which she thought in need of emancipation. In Octavia’s conversion it was not religion, but a visit from and then companionship with her “adopted mother,” the American actress and suffragette Elizabeth Robins (1862-1952). Given Octavia’s early life that required a lot of remedial education, but she persevered, fully (brilliantly) qualifying in 1918. Octavia set up her own practice in Brighton, and developed Elizabeth’s nearby farm as a home for women to rest from their labors (in the 15th-century farmhouse) and to eat the farm’s wholesome produce (including milk and cheeses from Octavia’s pedigreed Jerseys). Now very much her own woman, Octavia Wilberforce became associated with the Bloomsbury Group and an inspiration to some of its members, notably Leonard and (Octavia’s patient) Victoria Woolf. Throughout, Octavia retained her core commitment to women’s causes and women’s health both as a physician and as a member of the Sussex County Council. She outlived Elizabeth by a decade. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 09 Jan 2019, 13:22

It is not the voice that commands the story, but the ear. Marco Polo.

The Venetian merchant Marco Polo may (or may not) have been born sometime in September 1254 and probably (or perhaps not) died early in the morning of January 9, 1324. He is famous not for his making his three-score and ten, but for recording his Travels to and from the Court of Kublai Khan. His fame notwithstanding, uncertainties about the book exceed those about his birth and death dates. It was written, it did make a great hit, and it did circulate throughout Europe (even to remote England), and that’s part of the uncertainty, for it moved in manuscript form, of course, and scholars have concluded that there is no “authorized” edition. There were doubts even at the time about its genuineness (some knew it as “Marco’s million lies”). We can take it as read, however, that Marco (aged 17 to 20) did take one trip to Asia, via the Silk Road, that his father and uncle accompanied him, and it was their second “travel.” They also made a lot of money, had an exciting time, and survived to tell the tales. That some of the tales improved in the tellings, copyings, and translations is taken as a given; so the book becomes a compendium of what westerners knew and what they wanted to believe about ‘the East,’ an early version of what Edward Said called “Orientalism.” Five centuries later, Polo’s travels (and possibly a bit of opium) inspired Samuel Taylor Coleridge to write

In Xanadu did Kubla Khan// A stately pleasure dome decree . . .

A century after that, Eugene O’Neill staged Marco Millions, a verse satire on Marco Polo’s “lies” but also on western materialism circa 1928. The play was not then a success (there have been successful revivals), but the play-ending device was memorable: Marco himself stands in the midst of the audience, magnificent in medieval garb, gets in his limousine, and gives “a satisfied sigh at the sheer comfort of it all.” So Marco Polo, liar or truthteller but probably both, still lives in our imaginations. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 11 Jan 2019, 05:09

We do plead with greater force for the Emancipation of our Slaves, in proportion as the Oppression exercised over them exceeds the Oppression exercised by Great Britain over these States . . . Methodists of Frederick County, petition to Virginia Gener...

‘Methodism’ began as a reform within the Church of England, at home and in the colonies. In America self-proclaimed ‘Methodist’ churches began to appear during the Revolutionary era, and an interesting expression of their devotion to evangelical principles was that almost everywhere—even in Virginia—American Methodists concluded that slavery was an unchristian institution. Southern Methodists would later disavow this view, and in 1844 the national Methodist communion broke apart on it, presaging our great Civil War, but in the meanwhile American Methodists coped with the notion that black souls and white souls were equal souls. Among varied solutions, in New York City the John Street Methodist Church went so far as to make a black member one of its pastors. He was James Varick, born a slave in Newburgh on January 10, 1750. He was baptized in the Dutch church, and when the family moved to the city James, now 16 and probably freed, moved into the John Street Church. There Varick’s exemplary life brought him into church activities as a layman and soon his mainly white parishioners ordained him pastor. But then, amidst all the upsets of a Revolution that proclaimed all men to be born equal, the whites at John Street began to think that black members were not quite as ‘equal’ as they. By the 1790s Varick was still preaching, but to blacks only, and in 1796 he and almost all of the church’s black communicants withdrew to form their own Methodist communion, first called Zion Church, and then by stages—as white Methodists began to define themselves denominationally—the Zion church and others came together in 1818 to form the African Methodist Episcopal Church Zion, with James Varick as its first bishop. He died in July 1827, just two weeks after (on July 4th!!) the state of New York formally and finally abolished slavery. But James Varick had already declared his own independence. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 11 Jan 2019, 13:30

I'd rather be a success as a fish than a failure as a fish trying to be a bird. Eva La Gallienne.

In writing up the 1904 London premiere of Peter Pan, I ran across Eva La Gallienne. She was not the first actress to play the role in America, but she’s said to be the first to fly away through the nursery window. The New York Times critic (probably Brooks Atkinson) loved it and thought La Gallienne’s Peter “gallant, buoyant, clean-cut” and full of “élan and boyish grace.” After that (1928), flying Peter Pans ruled, most famously Mary Martin in 1954. Eva La Gallienne was born in London on January 11, 1899. Her parents soon split, and Eva’s mother (Julie Nørregaard) took Eva to Paris, where (1913) she first acted and then, in wartime, to New York. By the time Eva played Peter, she was an established actress (in film and on stage) and impresario. She was Peter Pan in a theatre that she’d played a leading role in founding, financing, and programming: the Civic Theatre of New York. La Gallienne reigned there for six years (1926-32) and was marked by much innovation (in drama and design) which made her a leading spirit of New York’s artistic community and at the famous Algonquin “Round Table.” There she was one of the “Four Horsemen,” all leading actresses like her and including the irrepressible Tallulah Bankhead. Like many lesbians at this time, Bankhead and La Gallienne kept their affair from the public eye, but it was one of several La Gallienne affairs and partnerships that were common knowledge in the art world. La Gallienne’s sensitivities about this—and her occasional public denials—have led some biographers to see her as “self-hating,” but a more perceptive judgment is that, in a man’s world that was much less tolerant than today’s, the so-called “sewing circles” of women in film, theatre, and the creative arts expressed not only natural inclinations but a reasonable way of retaining mastery in and over their own creative lives. Eva went on acting, and directing, and innovating, into the 1980s, last playing the White Queen in her own production of Alice in Wonderland. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 12 Jan 2019, 12:39

My job is to bear witness. Marie Colvin, interviewed in 2010.

We hear much of “fake news,” usually from dictators like Putin, so it’s good to recall a journalist who courageously laid out the facts so that we ordinary folk could decide things for ourselves. In 2012 the Syrian government issued its own story, that two journalists (an American reporter and Rémi Olchik, a French photographer) covering the war had been killed by an IED (improvised explosive device) planted by anti-Assad “terrorists.” Other journalists in the scene reported that their colleagues had died during a government artillery bombardment. The American was Marie Colvin, born on January 12, 1956, the daughter of school teachers who were active in their local Democratic party. Marie went to Yale on scholarship, graduating in Anthropology in 1978, but she’d a writing course, worked for the Yale Daily, and acquired a taste for journalism. Within a few years she was an established foreign correspondent for the Sunday Times of London, among other things obtaining a face-to-face (in 1986) with Muammar Gadhafi. From that kind of coup becoming a war correspondent seemed an easy step, and no, Marie Colvin was not “even-handed” in her reporting. Most wars she reported were brutal civil wars, and she was particularly concerned with their civilian victims. In Sri Lanka, for instance, Colvin’s presence among 1200 Tamil refugees, her satellite connection with the outside world and her refusal to leave them undoubtedly preserved them from merciless government attack. In the same war she was seriously wounded by (and lost her left eye to) government shelling. This took mental toll, too, and in England she underwent treatment for PTSD. But she went back to her “hard calling,” and on February 22, 2012, just after filing a live report on CNN, Marie Colvin’s luck ran out while she huddled in an apartment building with refugees from the civil war in Syria. So, too, did their luck run out, and in that sense especially hers was a fitting end.©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 13 Jan 2019, 13:40

Remembering Charlotte Ray, 1850-1911, the first black woman lawyer in the USA.

In my researches for these ‘anniversary notes’ I’ve run into many useful publications, not least Phebe Hanaford’s Women of the Century, the “century” being the first century of the republic, 1776-1876, and the book (Boston, 1877) was dedicated “To the Women of the Second Century” for Ms. Hanaford was an optimist. And why not? She found enough first-century women to fill a 700-page book with thumbnail sketches of notable women, presidents’ wives of course but also inventors, soldiers, scientists, scouts, travelers, philanthropists, preachers, etc., and not finally but pretty far down the list, lawyers (Chapter XXI). There Hanaford begins with “Miss” Phebe Couzins, daughter of another famous woman (the reformer Mrs. Adaline Couzins) and the first female graduate of the Washington University school of law (1869), but the chapter also notices Charlotte E. Ray, the first woman graduate of the Howard University school of law, the “first lady” to be admitted to the Bar in the District of Columbia, and, Hanaford notes, a woman possessed of a “fine mind.” In 1876, Hanaford couldn’t say much more, for Charlotte Ray (born in New York on January 13, 1850) had only graduated in 1872, and her admission to the Bar was hot off the presses. So Charlotte Ray was a woman of Phebe Hanaford’s “second century.” Ray was not only the first black woman lawyer in D.C.; she was the first to practice law in the USA, and she found it hard. She persevered long enough to take a couple of landmark cases (including an illiterate woman freed by Ray from a tyrannical and violent husband), but her clients were few and poor, a far cry from the corporation law that was her specialty. So she returned to New York, joined her two sisters (one was the poet Cordelia Ray) to teach school, to work for the vote, and to wait impatiently for a third century of the republic in which black female lawyers would (in greater numbers and more readily) make their mark. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 14 Jan 2019, 13:26

Nobody Said Not to Go. Emily Hahn.

Some of the best students in the honors college have been engineering majors, and among the best about half have been women. It was not always so. When Emily Hahn decided to major in mining engineering (at Wisconsin-Madison) she was told that “the female mind is incapable” of the mathematics required. But Emily persevered, and did well, the first woman to graduate in mining engineering. She had always been a bit perverse in that way, and continued so through a long and productive life, though not as a mining engineer. Rather she became a prolific writer, journalist, essayist, historian, and biographer. Also humorist: one of her earliest successes was Seductio ad Absurdam: the Principles and Practices of Seduction (1930), perhaps an uptake on Is Sex Necessary? (1929) by her New Yorker colleagues James Thurber and E. B. White. The magazine began to publish her when her brother-in-law sent to the editor her letters about her transatlantic car journey with her friend Dorothy Raper, she (Emily, that is) dressed as a man (there was no sex in it: just as girls shouldn’t be mining engineers, nor should they travel alone across country in a rickety Ford “T”). Emily Hahn was born in St. Louis on January 14, 1907. Her mother called her “Mickey” (not after the mouse), and the name, fitting her well, stuck like a plaster. Emily took it with her to engineering school, to the New Yorker, to Shanghai’s red-light district, to a passionate affair (one kid, marriage, another kid, amicable separation) with a British military attaché, interned as an enemy alien (it could have been worse) by the Japanese, and once freed to a life of writing. Emily Hahn wrote, furiously and continuously, not only for the New Yorker but in over 50 books, most of them with fascinating titles, becoming (as the New Yorker said in its 1997 obit) “America’s forgotten literary treasure.” I think I’ll start with the Seductio, having read Thurber and White, but there is much from which to choose, and so many adventures. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 15 Jan 2019, 13:18

I wanted to speak, to rise--it was impossible. Charlotte Brontë, journal entry at age 20, in 1836.

The saccharine sentimentalities of the Victorian age (in Britain and America) have been seasoned, somewhat, by historians anxious to point out its enthusiasms for science and its great literatures, on the plus side, and on the other its cruelties (to the working classes at home or to the “lesser breeds” of its empires). But the sentimentality remains, as perfectly illustrated in the short life of Miss Marjory Fleming, born in Edinburgh on January 15, 1803 and then dead in December 1811. Marjory did not live to see the Victorian age, but she left behind her manuscript journals that were rediscovered in the 1850s, published in 1863, and then gushed over by reviewers, read and loved by many thousands, including Mark Twain in America and, in Britain, Leslie Stephen, Virginia Woolf’s father. Surely these two, discerning enough to laugh at the mawkish excesses of their time, should have seen through the whole business, but they swallowed it whole, Twain producing a hagiographic sketch and Stephen insisting on adding her into his Dictionary of National Biography. So somehow this little child’s diary, with its child-poems, its child-obsessions with (and personifications of) dolls and toys, and its child-imitations of the moralisms she had heard her adults discuss, somehow this caught the Victorian eye, tugged at the Victorian heartstring and became an actual Victorian fad, the “Pet Marjorie” (note the deliberate misspelling) fad. Twain and Stephen were late to the feast; by the time they got to the table little “Marjorie” was a child genius whose life was cruelly cut short, though not before her cousin Sir Walter Scott had recognized her wonderful talents and swept her up in his arms. But the Scott story was a more complete fabrication than the rest of the Marjory Fleming myth. Had Marjory grown into old age, one wonders what she would have thought of the role her diaries played in making “cute” a fashionable behavior for good little girls. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 16 Jan 2019, 14:17

http://www.victorianweb.org/sculpture/w ... on/13.html The web address where you can see detail of Wallsall's Sister Dora statue, and supporting text.

In Wallsall, Christmas 1878, the town turned out for Sister Dora’s funeral. 18 railwaymen (in their working uniforms) carried her coffin into St. Matthew’s and on to the cemetery. A memorial fund was gathered to send convalescents to the seaside for the proverbial breath of fresh air; another gave St. Matthew’s a stained glass window in her memory; yet a third gave a statue, by Victoria’s favorite sculptor, Francis Williamson, and adorned with Sister Dora’s nurse’s cap. In Midlands hospitals and beyond, those caps became known as “Sister Doras.” Dora died unmarried at age 46, and yet not a single one of her family attended the funeral, an important part of her story. Dorothy Wyndlow Pattison was born at Hauxwell Rectory, Yorkshire, January 16, 1832, the 11th of 12 children of the rector, Mark James Pattison. Reverend Pattison believed that men’s rule over ‘their’ women was divinely sanctioned, so rule he did. While his three sons were educated by him and went on to Oxford, his daughters received no formal education. But one son, Mark, took his sisters’ education in hand, and Dorothy responded so well as to become a nurse (much to Mark’s disgust, for his views of women were, in the end, similar to his father’s). Looking to help the afflicted, Dorothy joined an Anglican order in 1864. As Sister Dora and taking Matthew 25:40 as her guide, she gave her life to the ill and infirm. She learned nursing by doing, mostly in Wallsall, through mining disasters and epidemics, never leaving her post or her people, and in 1875 breaking all ties with the sisterhood (who had ordered her return to the convent). Along the way, Dora became an expert nurse, a strong advocate of the theories of Lister and Pasteur, seeing to it that Wallsall’s new hospital was built to their standards. Through all this her family did not approve. But Wallsall thought otherwise, and apparently still does. Sister Dora’s statue, restored by public subscription, still stands guard at the town centre. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 17 Jan 2019, 13:48

Particulars are frequently fallible, but universals never. Occult philosophy lays bare Nature in her complete nakedness, and alone contemplates the wisdom of universals. Robert Fludd.

Historians generally date the origins of modern science as ‘early modern.’ But they do so gingerly. It’s not only that giving dates to anything really big like “the scientific revolution” is a mug’s game. It’s also the irony that the ‘revolution’ contained some remarkably reactionary strains, for the ‘occult sciences’ (alchemy, astrology, natural magic, etc.) experienced a renascence in the same period. Some, though taking part in the new ways, still doubted that all truths about physical nature could be found through reductionism and experimentalism. There was a wholeness to nature—animal, vegetable, mineral, the universe—that could not or should not be broken into bits, into its “Atomis,” as John Donne put it. Among these scientist-occultists in England was Robert Fludd, baptized in rural Kent on January 17, 1574. As a student in Oxford, he came into contact with astrology, for sure, but also medicine and mathematics. In his ‘modern’ persona he was a successful physician (possibly anticipating and certainly supporting Harvey’s discoveries about the circulation of the blood), while as an ‘occultist’ he maintained a geocentric view of the universe (because it should be so, by astrological and similar principles). His occult writings covered many areas of knowledge (even music) and were popular on the continent. In England they caused Fludd some difficulties (for instance with James I) and brought him into controversy, but he survived them and published much on his conviction that the physical and spiritual worlds operated as one. He died peacefully and pretty well off in 1637. 350 years later, 1989 to be exact, Robert Fludd was reincarnated by Hilary Mantel in her strange novel, Fludd, to arrive in Featherhoughton, a grimy, industrial town, to play hell (and some heaven) with the locals, including a Catholic priest (Father Angwin) afflicted with doubt and a convent’s Mother Superior (Sister Perpetua) afflicted with certainty. Mantel makes Fludd’s new career every bit as ambiguous as his old life. ©.
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 18 Jan 2019, 14:07

Mr. Black man, watch your step! Ethiopia’s queens will reign again, and her Amazons protect her shores and people. Amy Ashwood Garvey.

When in 1922 Marcus and Amy Garvey divorced (in Missouri!!), they accused each other of infidelity, alcoholism, bigamy, and/or thievery. Earlier, he’d tried for annulment. Garvey then married Amy Jacques (their maid of honor). Ever after Amy Ashwood Garvey insisted that she was the ‘real’ Mrs. Garvey. She did much more than that, for she was a person of substance, brought up in comfort and proud of her Asante heritage. Amy Ashwood Garvey was born in Jamaica on January 18, 1897. Educated at a private school, she met Garvey in 1914 and immediately fell in with his black nationalist and pan-Africanist ideas. Indeed she helped him found the Universal Negro Improvement Association and a couple of its offshoots before they married (in 1919). After the divorce, Amy Garvey continued with her whirlwind life, touching down in many places but principally New York, London, Liberia, and Jamaica, in each place spending time, planting seeds, and then (usually) returning to see whether they’d sprouted, how much they’d grown, and to set off new growths. Not only did she advance the pan-African cause; her advocacy of women’s rights was constant. In 1945, in Manchester, she was one of two female delegates to the Pan-African Congress. Along the way Amy Garvey met and conquered (usually as friend, rarely as lover) a host of famous folk: C. L. R. James, Jomo Kenyatta, Fats Waller, Sam Manning, George Padmore, Paul Robeson, the Labour MP Fenner Brockway, the Tory MP Sir Hamilton Kerr, the US congressman Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., even President William Tubman of Liberia. Multitalented herself, she also promoted African art and music, founded a London jazz club, and produced a musical (Brown Sugar) in New York, and with Hamilton’s help an African social and cultural club in Ladbroke Grove, London. Ill, infirm, and exhausted, Amy Garvey returned to Jamaica to die, which she did on May 3, 1969. ©.
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 19 Jan 2019, 13:39

The fact that someone is dead may mean that they are not alive, but doesn’t mean that they do not exist. Julian Barnes, Levels of Life, 2013.

Britain’s New Fiction Society no longer exists and doesn’t even merit a Wikipedia entry, but as long as it lasted we were members and profited from it. Though government-supported, the NFS didn’t just encourage us to read new British fiction (through it we first read V. S. Naipaul and Marilynne Robinson), but it also ran us into British writers of ‘new’ fiction, for instance Penelope Fitzgerald. She was not new herself, having only started writing in 1975, aged 59. but her Human Voices (1980) was new, and wonderful. In that very year Julian Barnes published his first novel, Metroland, and if it made the NFS list we didn’t choose it. Even the reviews left a bad taste and set me against Barnes for life, but now I see that mine was a bad choice, for critics have since recognized him as a major writer, and I have been told by friends that it is I who need to reform. Julian Barnes was born in Leicester on January 19, 1946. He maintained a sentimental relationship with that town even though he left it in February 1946 and grew up in London. Educated at Oxford, Barnes stuck there for several years as a lexicographer for the Oxford English Dictionary, which made him into a good Scrabble player but (he claims) has had no effect on his writing. What did affect (and perhaps mellow) his writing was his marriage to Pat Kavanagh, a literary agent. Not only did she give Barnes the love of his life and a pen-name for his detective fiction (as “Dan Kavanagh” he writes about a gay gumshoe called Duffy), but in his own words she made the world anew for him. Pat died in 2008, and a threnody for her (though she is not named) forms the last third of his experimental novel Levels of Life (2013). Meanwhile, Julian Barnes has won just about every literary prize that can be won and national honors in four countries, including from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. I conclude that I need soon to read some of Julian Barnes’s old fiction. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 20 Jan 2019, 14:06

As a desert island castaway, which eight records, which book (not the Bible or Shakespeare), and which single luxury would you want to have with you? Roy Plomley's question to his BBC Radio guests, 1,791 times.

In 1940, a young Englishman and his Chinese bride fled Paris just in time. In England they married again—to make sure—and took part-time employments. In December 1941 the husband proposed to the BBC an odd radio program, one in which a well-known guest would be asked to say which eight records he or she would wish to have if marooned on a desert island (and then, of course, explain why). In the midst of the Battle of Britain, that desert island sounded a good enough idea to take on for a series of eight broadcasts, beginning on January 27, 1942. But “Desert Island Discs” ran for 1,791 ‘editions’ before its founder, Roy Plomley, died in 1985. Plomley was born on January 20, 1914. He had aimed for an acting career (and did snag bit parts in a few movies) but after several jobs (odd ones) he was hired by Radio Normandy, first as an announcer then as a Paris reporter, at which point he and Beatrice removed to England, he to his Desert Island. That island was but thinly populated at first (one early guest was Plomley himself), but the show caught and became an attractive destination for people who wanted (and in Plomley’s view deserved) to be the center of attention for 30 minutes. From 1969 to 1985 we were dedicated listeners, usually not disappointed, even when (in 1979) concert pianist Moura Lympany chose only her own discs. In the same year, Norman Mailer chose as his one ‘luxury’ a large stick of cannabis resin; if either was an embarrassment, Plomley carried things off with, pardon me, aplomb. Guests were established people, usually in the arts, generally highbrow, but there was light relief too, and a few politicians chose shipwreck. Most turned out well, perhaps thanks to Plomley’s decision to lunch guests beforehand at one or another of his favorite London clubs. The series continues to this day, but I doubt that that desert island can be quite as inviting as it was under Roy Plomley’s long reign. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 21 Jan 2019, 13:02

Probably no experience escapes from the influence of meaning. Wolfgang Kohler, 1930.

I was (usually) very lucky in my professors, undergrad and graduate. One I particularly remember was the Penn psychologist Richard Solomon, partly for his argument that ‘race theory’ was not only wrong but supremely irrelevant to any meaningful question of public policy. Solomon also taught me about “Gestalt” psychology, the belief that the mind (aka the individual, ‘perception’) was something other than the sum of its measurable attributes. It’s an inherently humane view, I think, and certainly one of its founders, Wolfgang Köhler, born in Germany on January 21, 1887, was a humane man. In Gestalt terms it can’t be entirely clear how one becomes ‘humane,’ but in Köhler the process was helped along by his studies (on hearing in general and auditory responses in particular) at Berlin, and by volunteering as a human subject for Max Wertheimer’s pioneering Gestalt experiments. It was further intensified by his seven years (1913-1920) heading up the German anthropoid research institute at Tenerife, in the Canary Islands. He did foundational research there on chimpanzee perception and problem solving; but also he developed a great respect for his study subjects, Hominidae Pan troglodytes to give them their proper name, and the view that they really should not be studied in captivity. A person like Köhler, it seems to me, was hardly likely to get along with Hitler and the Nazis, and Köhler’s own Gestalt (so to speak) measured up to expectations. His outspokenness on the subject of Hitler’s inhumanity made him a marked man, and in 1935 Köhler fled to the USA, where he became a beloved teacher at Swarthmore College (1937-55) and then research professor at Dartmouth. He was also honored by the academy, many times, including as president of the American Psychological Association in 1959 and twice Gifford Lecturer at Edinburgh, where on his second turn (also 1959) his subject was “The Psychology of Values.” Of course. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 22 Jan 2019, 12:21

This is the way we were: in our growing up and in our marrying and in our living and in our dying. The Theatre Manager, in Wilder's Our Town.

My ‘pediatrician’ was the first woman doctor in her rural Iowa county. She later became a good friend, and when she turned 90 I asked her if there was anything she’d wanted to accomplish, but hadn’t. She’d hoped to become county coroner, but “farmers didn’t want someone in skirts examining the body hanging in the corn crib.” The town is, on its many good days, still an idyllic place, but Varina’s short, sharp sentence reminded one of other realities: hard work, disappointed hopes, gossips and jealousies. One might have been prepared for such a revelation by two plays about small towns, both of which premiered on January 22, Thornton Wilder’s Our Town (in 1938) and Arthur Miller’s The Crucible (in 1953). These latter days the plays are seen differently, but they have common features, some of them rooted in the scene-setting a small town allows. All the world’s a stage, of course, but with a village you can get all of it on the boards. Wilder’s town, Grover’s Corners, is wholly imaginary, and since the play is minimally staged the audience is forced to imagine it, its neighborhoods, its streets, not least its cemetery. In the play its dead come to life and remind us of tragedies not made small by the village setting and made ever so poignant by their knowledge that in a small place things can (and perhaps should) be better. Miller’s Salem presents darker scenes and more drama, brought on by witchcraft accusations whipped into a consuming fire by neighborly nosiness and small-scale nastiness. Today one thinks of Wilder’s Grover’s Corners as nostalgic and Miller’s Salem as horrific. But that’s too easy a contrast. In 1948, in the Soviet Sector of Berlin, the authorities would not allow Our Town to be staged for fear of its potentially depressive effect on the population: perhaps a wave of copycat suicides, inspired by Wilder’s suicide character Simon Stimson, the embittered, drunken church organist. And here one thought the Communists were not good theatre critics! ©.
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 23 Jan 2019, 13:04

There will never be socialism in England. You are safe so long as the people are devoted to racing. Count Otto von Bismarck to Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli, circa 1874.

According to John Dryden (1691, in King Arthur) ‘the sport of kings’ was warfare. Over the years, it became more closely associated with horse racing, and nowhere more so than in Britain. Not that all the kings were involved (and Queen Victoria disapproved of it as yet another example of her Bertie’s unfitness) but it did attract dukes, earls, and baronets. It is said that racing aristocrats paid more for horse-portraits than for wife-portraits, and equine bloodlines were followed as assiduously as those of noble sprouts on the marriage market. Wives and daughters were involved only as decorations, under great hats or dainty parasols, at great race meetings like Newmarket and Ascot. And then came Caroline Agnes Graham, duchess of Montrose. Born a lady on January 23, 1818, she raised herself to duchess in 1836, marrying the 4th duke of Montrose at a fashionable London church. Like many of the Scots peerage they lived and played in England (although it was Montrose who was responsible for restoring the kilt to legal status). The duchess bore him 5 children as per requirements. When he died (1874) she established a stable, hired jockeys and trainers, and bought into bloodlines. But remember Victoria’s disapproval: the dowager duchess of Montrose raced as “Mr. Manton.” It was a subterfuge seen through by many but one that other well-placed women-racers followed. Lillie Langtry (actress, gentlewoman, and Prince Bertie’s chief mistress) raced as “Mr. Jersey.” On the whole, Mr. Manton’s horses did better than Mr. Jersey’s (and better than Bertie’s). As widow, the duchess felt free enough to pursue unsuitable men, including her American jockey Fred Archer. Fred cried off, so she married within her class, a racing gentleman called Crawford, but then (aged 70) she outraged society by taking on a 24 year-old banker. But she didn’t care. Was she not a racing woman? She died in 1894 but her bloodlines have lived on, breeding and racing in the sport of kings. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Tripps » 23 Jan 2019, 14:17

"All men are equal on and below the turf" - Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII.


Fred Archer wasn't American - he was born in Cheltenham. :smile:
Born to be mild. . .

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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 24 Jan 2019, 03:47

David..... I've tweaked Bob.
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