BOB'S BITS

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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 16 Jan 2020, 12:49

"When I see the ways of others and thinks on you, I cannot but acknowledg myself most happie in so verteus a parson." Letter of William, duke of Hamilton, to his wife, the duchess of Hamilton.

Early modern Scotland produced a number of remarkable women, but one of the most remarkable was not born in Scotland at all. Lady Anne Hamilton was born at Whitehall Palace, London, on January 16, 1632. The Hamiltons were old and rich and possessed a good claim to the Scottish throne, but they never tried it out. That and their loyal service made them much loved by the Stuarts. Lady Anne, as a female, could not expect much but marriage, and that prospect was somewhat clouded by her very plainness and by the civil war that raged around her. But the same war would take her father the duke and then her uncle his successor, fatally loyal to Charles I and then Charles II, and since neither of them possessed a male heir she became Duchess of Hamilton suo jure in 1651, at the tender age of 19, and thus held the dukedom and the family’s extensive estates on the Scottish mainland and the Isle of Arran. In 1656 she married William Douglas, making him a duke (but a landless one). He renounced his Catholicism to gain her Presbyterian favor, and whatever his motives and her looks it became a love match. And it was also a business partnership. Together they paid off the punishing fines imposed by parliament. Then they successfully took on the mountainous debts of her father and uncle, transforming the Hamilton estates into a prosperous little kingdom. They peopled it too. In 16 years she birthed thirteen children, and enough of them (seven) survived to marry and further populate the peerage. In all this they were helped along by her success in recovering from the restored monarch, Charles II, his and his father’s debts to her father and uncle, as miraculous an accomplishment as any other. When William died in 1694, the duchess did the right thing by transferring the dukedom to her eldest son, but wisely (knowing his recklessness and fecklessness) she retained the estates in her own name. His death in a duel (1712) meant that when the Duchess died four years later she passed on intact both her titles and her lands, the final accomplishment of her life’s work. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 17 Jan 2020, 12:53

"My father Backhouse, lying sick, bequeathed to me the true Matter of the Philosophers Stone." Elias Ashmore, diary entry, 1653.

Today we draw sharp distinctions between science and ‘superstition’ but in the century that saw the origins of modern science, those boundaries were fuzzy if indeed they existed at all. Even the great Newton dabbled in astrology and alchemy (not to mention biblical prophecy). Others, like Elias Ashmole (the founder of Oxford’s Ashmolean Museum) were more involved in occult realms. In this, Ashmole was encouraged by his landowner neighbor, William Backhouse, a Berkshire gentleman of uncertain but armigerous origins whose family motto (in archaic French) is best translated as “know to conceal”—certainly not a core principle of the ‘new’ science. Backhouse was born on the family estate, in Berkshire, at Swallowfield, on January 17, 1593. He may have inherited some occultish matter from his father, but he added much to it and in several fields, notably astrology, alchemy, and Rosicrucian texts and gadgets, and finally built a ‘long gallery’ onto his house to keep the stuff museum style. This excited the curiosity of his collector-neighbor, Ashmole (and may have found its way, eventually, into Ashmole’s hands) but also of people more usually identified with the ‘new’ knowledge such as Samuel Hartlib. Unlike many of his fellow ‘magicians’ Backhouse doesn’t seem to have published much, but his reputation as an adept spread far and wide and he exhibited his curiosities not only at home in Berkshire but in London too. He contributed an odd poem (“The magistery”) to one of Ashmole’s publications and (also for Ashmole) translated a couple of ancient alchemical texts, one of them in Greek. He pottered at other things, too, and may have invented, certainly improved, the odometer, which he charmingly called the “waywiser.” Backhouse was withal a substantial gentleman, one of some notoriety, and in 1662 he passed on his whole property to his daughter, Flower (speaking of charming names), who in 1670 wed Henry Hyde and thus, in 1674, became Countess Clarendon and oversaw the building of Hyde’s new country seat, known (charmingly) as Swallowfield Park House. It sits on the Backhouse estate, in its own way a fruit of the occult. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 18 Jan 2020, 13:05

"I know nothing in the world that has as much power as a word. Sometimes I write one, and I look at it, until it begins to shine." Emily Dickinson.

The original title of Roget’s Thesaurus was Thesaurus of English Words and Phrases, Classified and Arranged so as to Facilitate the Expression of Ideas and to Assist in Literary Compilation. Think about it. By its publication in 1852, Roget had had plenty of time to think about it, for he’d started it in 1805. Its short title derives from the classical Greek for ‘treasure house’ (a transliteration is thisavrofylákio). Anyone who enjoys thinking about writing—and is OK with taking a detour or two before deciding exactly which word is almost exactly right—should enjoy this treasure house. Its classification scheme is said to be Aristotelian, but I’d give more credit to Carl Linnaeus (1707-78) and his revolutionary new way of classifying life forms, by how they were put together and by their affinities, too, their place in the natural scheme of things. Peter Mark Roget, born in London of Genevan Protestant stock on January 18, 1779, defies classification himself, unless perhaps by some Roget-an system, for he was a plural genius. We could celebrate him for his improvements in the slide rule, for his manifold contributions to medicine (the foundation of a medical school at Manchester, advances in epidemiology and anesthesiology). And he was one of the small crowd of founders of London University and then (to close the bargain) a co-designer of London’s sewage system. But we honor him (or should) for his words. His Thesaurus (which has grown with each succeeding edition) is not universally admired, and it can lead the unwary, or the gullible, or the too-clever-by-half into culs de sac or on long, winding paths with only a booby prize at the end. But it’s worth even those journeys. A special 150th anniversary edition was published in 2002, and I don’t yet have it. Of that, I am “ashamed,” possibly “mortified,” but I might find a better name for it under Roget’s “Words Relating to the Sentiment and Moral Powers.” As for “anniversary” itself, I might look amongst “Words Expressing Abstract Relations” subheading “Recurrent Time.” And so on, possibly ad infinitum, but certainly deeper and deeper into Peter Mark Roget’s treasure house. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 19 Jan 2020, 13:23

"I had an immense advantage inasmuch as I did not suffer from the general belief that whatever is, is right." Henry Bessemer.

On Groucho Marx’s quiz program, “You Bet Your Life,” contestants who failed to answer any of the first-round questions were offered, for a consolation prize, a question they could not get wrong. I remember, though, a contestant getting hers wrong, and much to Groucho’s irritation: “Who is buried in Grant’s Tomb?” So, in steel making, who invented the Bessemer Process? On the face of it, that must have been Sir Henry Bessemer, born in Hertfordshire on January 19, 1813. Of course he wasn’t Sir Henry then. That honor was conferred upon him by Queen Victoria in 1879, in honor of his steel-making genius. But just like that old lady (not Victoria but a retired teacher, as I recall) at Groucho’s podium, you might beware of this as a trick question. The ‘bessemer’ process involves blowing air (nowadays doctored, I think, to add to its oxygen content) over and through molten pig iron. The air, far from cooling the iron, combusts and removes impurities. And out flows steel, more cheaply and more quickly and purer than ever before. It’s the sort of thing that might have been known before Henry Bessemer tried it out in 1855-56, for instance by foundry workers just messing about, and today it’s thought that maybe foundry workers did just that, not only those in Bessemer’s Sheffield works, but (for instance) the Chinese steelmakers who, bizarrely, had been shipped in to William Kelly’s Kentucky foundry. They’d (maybe) brought the secret with them from The Middle Kingdom. There were other claimants, too, including the Scottish ironmaster But such considerations—if they existed—did not stop Sir Henry Bessemer or “Pig Iron” Kelly from claiming their paternity (and their patent rights). Bessemer got a British patent, Kelly an American one, and by the 1870s the weather seemed set fair for civil suits that would have made a very few lawyers very much wealthier, but (to oversimplify) an American firm stepped in, bought both patents, and settled the issue by calling it The Bessemer Process. So if Groucho Marx, or his quizmaster shade, ever asks you that consolation question, you should feel free to give him a very long answer, or the wrong one. It’s up to you. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 20 Jan 2020, 11:51

"An adventurous life well-lived." From Brian Ketcham's obituary for his wife, Carolyn Konheim, December 2019.

What can you do to better the world if you’re just a young woman with a couple of history degrees (BA and MA), a school teaching job, a husband, and a school-age child? If you are Carolyn Konheim, the answer is—or was, for Ms. Konheim died only recently—quite a bit. Carolyn Konheim was born Carolyn Salminem, of immigrant parents, on January 20, 1938. She got her education, found a job and a husband, birthed a child, and settled down to her several responsibilities in New York City. One winter’s day, early 1963, walking in a city park with her son Alex, Konheim noticed that he was speckled in soot. A bit of research, or common knowledge, identified the culprit as one or another of the metro’s power plants, then in the habit of burning cheap, high carbon fuel. Having just read Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, Carolyn Konheim and her neighbor Hazel Henderson (another pesky immigrant, and an ecologist) joined up to make a committee of two, to form Citizens for Clean Air. Almost overnight, the two became a movement. It helped, too, that they tweaked the ear of John Lindsay, a liberal Republican shortly to be New York’s mayor, because otherwise—as Rachel Carson herself had been—they might have been accused of communism. Instead, Lindsay incorporated their anger into his campaign promises and then carried through on them, imposing what we would call today a carbon surtax. It was too late to avoid New York’s “killer smog” of Thanksgiving, 1966, but soon enough to begin the long process of cleansing the city, and for decades Carolyn Konheim was at the forefront, sometimes holding appointive public office (for the city, under the liberal Republican Lindsay, and then for the state, under the liberal Democrat Hugh Carey), sometimes at the head of this or that ginger group, sometimes raising a stink all by herself. Or not quite alone. In 1981 Carolyn and her new husband, Brian Ketcham, formed a consulting company, Community Consulting Services, just in order to help others decide that the world needed changing and then do something about it. In her mid 70s Carolyn Konheim fell prey to dementia and retired from active service. But Hazel Henderson is still changing things out in California. ©.
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 21 Jan 2020, 13:19

A story of two poets, the English woolens trade, a missing husband, and a Greek-English dictionary.

The Cockayne Scheme, or project, was one of the minor scandals of James I’s reign, a monopoly in the wool trade granted (in 1614) to try to take some of the processing profits (notably in dyeing) away from the Dutch. It was the brainchild of Sir William Cockayne, Lord Mayor of London who was also active in the Greenland and Eastland trade. It failed miserably, irritating everyone and profiting nobody, and I thought that was that with the Cockaynes, although the name did enter English as a shorthand for ill-designed investment schemes. But now enter Thomas Cockayne, very possibly a relative and certainly well-born (in Derbyshire, on January 21 1587). Thomas married well, too, a well-connected lady of the Stanhope clan (earls of Derby, Chesterfield, etc.), and they produced 7 children and a cornucopia of odd products (including asparagus) from their Derbyshire estates. But then, in about 1615, Thomas suddenly left it all and decamped to London. There Thomas was befriended by John Donne, poet and dean of St. Paul’s. Besides keeping Mrs. Thomas Cockayne apprised of her husband’s whereabouts, Donne preached Sir William Cockayne’s funeral sermon, in 1626. But whatever Thomas’s connections with Sir William and his get-richer-quicker project, he also went to London on a religious mission, and that may have been the Donne connection. Thomas Cockayne, who lived in London under an assumed name, wanted to get the Bible—especially the New Testament—just right, a task, he thought, of better translation. To do that he set about becoming one of England’s first lexicographers, though not of English. His Greek lexicon was published posthumously in 1658. He died in 1638. His wife, that Stanhope girl, never remarried, but went on producing asparagus, marrying her children off advantageously, and preserving—as family legends—affectionate stories of her eccentric husband. After her death in 1664 those stories were passed on to posterity by their son, Sir Aston Cockayne, landowner and poet, though not one of the quality of John Donne. ©
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"Beware of certitude" (Jimmy Reid)
The floggings will continue until morale improves!

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