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  • From Damian Grant on Attempting to not-bore for England about limericks

    Patrick: thank you for your entertaining and informative take on the limerick, via a discussion of Uglow’s book on Lear. I particularly like the idea of Lear’s recurring rhyme forming a kind of trap (or manhole cover?); there is no escape — usually afforded by a witty third rhyme which comically reverses the drift of the foregoing. A favourite in this mode:

    There once was a man from Darjeeling
    Who boarded a bus bound for Ealing.
    It said on the door,
    ‘Do not spit on the floor,’
    So he stood up and spat on the ceiling.

    But poor Brodsky! He must have done something bad to you at some time, to be thrown into the blog with his feet stuck in the concrete of that dismal example.

    I’m sure your readers have sampled the anarchic delights of the unrhyming limerick: ‘There once was a man from Dunoon / Who always took soup with a fork’ etc, and ‘There once was a man from Dundee / Who was stung on the nose by a wasp’ etc. But I wonder how well known is the rare French example, a limerick most scandalously heretical:

    Il y avait un jeune homme de Dijon
    Qui n’avait que peu de réligion.
    Il dit, ‘Quant à moi,
    Je déteste tous les trois:
    Le père, et le fils, et le pigeon.’

    I couldn’t remember the middle of this, but tracked it down in the lively introduction to Norman Douglas’s anthology ‘Some Limericks…’, published by the Library of Alexandria in 1929.

    I won’t try any of my own on you, for fear of ending up like Brodsky at the bottom of a lake…

    2018/01/22 at 7:37 pm
  • From Bryan Missenden on Attempting to not-bore for England about limericks

    Not original, but surely . . . The limerick’s an art-form complex, Whose contents run chiefly to sex. It’s famous for virgins and masculine urgin’s and vulgar erotic effects?

    2018/01/22 at 3:57 pm
  • From Damian Grant on So what IS biography?

    Patrick: I have just read your most interesting reflections on the entity of an Introduction, and its unstable relationship to the work that follows. ‘The self can’t do it’, you say, of the degree of reflexivity involved; yes indeed, as one can’t lift the chair one is sitting on. (Just tried.) But I find your argument that the dialogue between author and subject is central to biography totally convincing; we’re back to an inflated DNB without it. (And it’s this perception that enables you to make such a sensitive analysis of Uglow’s method — if it is such — in her recent Mr Lear.)

    There is a well-known observation by Henry James in one of his Prefaces (forgive me quoting from memory), where he says: ‘There is one’s story, and then the story of one’s story’, proceeding to confess, with (affected?) embarrassment, that for the author — especially the author of Prefaces, which is what you are talking about — ‘the latter imbroglio might end up being the more interesting of the two’. This most insightful of comments, from a not-uninsightful (I parody the man) novelist, seems to offer a strong defence, justification, of your method and your argument. In a haiku:

    George Calderon met
    Patrick Miles: a strange meeting
    that redefined both of them.

    2018/01/18 at 4:03 pm
  • From Patrick Miles on Some notes on orthodoxy

    Thank you, Jules, both for your Comment (we don’t often get them from Emeritus Professors of Chekhovian Business Management), and for putting your money where your bemusement is! Would you believe it, I have twelve preorders already. But we shall be printing SIGNIFICANTLY less than 6000..! All best, Patrick

    2018/01/18 at 10:07 am
  • From Julian Bates on Some notes on orthodoxy

    Callooh! Callay! Patrick, belated congratulations on this huge step forward. I am so pleased that my prediction came true. But down to business: how do I pre-order? £30? A mere bagatelle. I shall put aside five of your English pounds each month till June!
    Only 5,999 to go!
    Jules

    2018/01/17 at 7:46 am
  • From David Scherchen on Some notes on orthodoxy

    These words of Theodor Adorno’s came to mind regarding your point about orthodoxy in publishing: ‘Education is precisely that for which there are no correct uses; it is to be attained only through spontaneous effort and interest, not guaranteed solely by courses, even if these are of the general study type. Yes, in truth it does not even happen through effort, but instead thanks to receptiveness, the faculty of actually allowing something spiritual to come to one and absorbing it productively into one’s own consciousness, instead of (as an unbearable cliché puts it), just learning, just talking.’ (Philosophy and Teacher, 1963)

    2018/01/07 at 10:11 pm
  • From John Dewey on Some notes on orthodoxy

    Congratulations on reaching closure after your many ‘Gogolian’ tussles with the publishing industry, Patrick. Your sense of relief comes across vividly: the phrase ‘With one bound he was free’ springs to mind.

    £30 for such a thoroughly researched hardback of quality seems very reasonable to me, particularly as with Clay as printers production standards promise to be high.

    As you say, the orthodoxy we are up against is largely cultural rather than political, although the reservations expressed by some which you quote concerning George’s anti-suffragism and strike breaking are perhaps significant. In my biography of Tyutchev I made no attempt to gloss over his extreme PanSlavist views, which, if he were alive today, I’m sure would make him an ardent supporter of Putin, at least in the field of foreign policy. (Quixotically, he combined this with an equally ardent support of freedom of speech and internal reform.) Whether this may have put publishers off I have no way of telling, not that I would have changed a word of the book if it had. That would have been a shameful reversion to the Soviet practice (at least before Gorbachev) of playing down, shrugging off or even ignoring Tyutchev’s political views. Having said that, I have to say the main reason publishers dismissed the book was most likely that they saw it, in the words of sympathetic acquaintance, as ‘the biography of an unknown poet by an unknown writer’, and hence requiring some effort on their part to market.

    Your aphorism ‘you can only improve the design of boats by rocking them’ hits the nail on the head – one to remember!

    I wish you all the very best for your further steps in the exciting world of self-publishing, and look forward to the book’s long awaited appearance on 4 June.

    John

    2018/01/07 at 7:51 pm
  • From Margaret Kerry on Some notes on orthodoxy

    Hi Patrick – a large part of the pleasure of being your friend is that you are not an establishment man! Long may it continue. I feel pretty confident of that prediction.

    2018/01/07 at 6:23 pm
  • From Clare Hopkins on An Edwardian Christmas

    A Happy Christmas to you too Patrick, and thank you for another year of unfailingly interesting and stimulating posts.

    This one surprised me a little – clearly I have not been paying sufficient attention. One day in the summer I happened to find myself walking up Well Walk, Hampstead, and mused that when George Calderon is famous (again), he might have a blue plaque… But he didn’t actually move there until 1912? And Heathland Lodge, his primary home for 11 years then, sounds so much bigger and grander. I had also formed the impression that Kittie and George were pretty comfortably off after inheriting from her mother, but their move to Well Walk looks like a major downsize. One wonders why…

    … And looks forward to reading your book to find out!

    2017/12/22 at 7:49 am
  • From Damian Grant on An Edwardian Christmas

    A dog’s (Christmas) dinner indeed! Is there such a thing, Patrick, as a bidography? Yes there is–Virginia Woolf’s Flush a prime example, if not known under this handle. But I can see ‘Bidography’ having its own shelf space in bookshops at this time of year…

    Given the importance of their pets to George and Kittie –something which you faithfully record–I wonder whether it is impertinent to suggest that you might get sponsorship for your book from the RSPCA (‘A’ standing for authors as well as animals: a breed equally at risk of cruel treatment), or even Battersea Dogs’ Home, liberally endowed as it is by people who persist with Edwardian values?

    2017/12/21 at 9:41 am
  • From Ian S. on The 'politics' of publication

    A publisher writes: Hmm, I should perhaps say something in defence of our ignoble profession. From our side of the desk, we are overladen with submissions, most of which are of too poor quality to pursue, but each one still needing a reply. The ones that are worth pursuing often come without any thought to marketing, and we never use the word ‘publishing’ without it being followed by ‘and marketing’. Once in a while we will come across a submission that is worth pursuing on all fronts and then find it is unfundable. And funding these days is the big issue. With the book trade buying at 50% discount on the one hand and using the best colour reproduction possibilities on the other, there are simply losses to be made publishing and marketing illustrated non-fiction. Going down the digital route as Patrick is doing is a valid alternative, but one needs to be awfully careful not to end up with a garage full of unsold and unsellable books. If one plays one’s cards right one can have one’s cake and eat it, if that’s not moxing mitaphors, by ‘self-publishing’ with a proper publisher, if that’s not a contradiction in terms. Good luck to all authors and artists out there; and good luck to all publishers and marketers too!

    2017/12/02 at 11:08 am
    • From Patrick Miles on The 'politics' of publication

      ‘A publisher’ is clearly not the kind we have been inveighing against, since he believes in replying to writers’ proposals/submissions! I have no doubt what he says here is true. ‘Unfundable’, though, presumably means ‘the publisher would suffer a five-figure loss if he himself invested in it’. On the one hand, one can see that this is not an option for the publisher, and a writer would be better off self-publishing for a four-figure sum and printing a realistic number that he knows he can sell and even make a ‘profit’ from. On the other hand, it would be refreshing to hear publishers talk for once about taking a ‘risk’, e.g. with a book they said they ‘believed in’, e.g. a ground-breaking biography of Fyodor Tyutchev, one of Russia’s greatest poets. On the third hand, one gathers that it won’t be long before Amazon can publish hardbacks simply ‘on demand’ from writers’ typeset, and that will surely drive many traditional publishers to the wall?

      2017/12/05 at 10:06 am
  • From John Dewey on The 'politics' of publication

    This all sounds depressingly familiar, Patrick, not that I have such a wide and long experience of the commercial publishing racket as yourself. My encounter with it came as a shock after years of working for a small friendly firm which published translations from Russian largely as a labour of love. Apart from downright crooks (and there are some of those), for a large number of those involved the power they wield seems to have gone to their head. Best to think of such self-proclaimed ‘gatekeepers’ perhaps as jobsworths in peaked caps who get a kick from turning people away. There are exceptions of course, and I hope you do succeed in finding the odd jewel or two among the dross. Re ‘marketing storm’ (should you go for self-publishing), a fruitful approach I found was emails targeted at university and other specialist libraries, as well as selected university staff in relevant fields (in your case, Russian depts., Theatre Studies, WW1 studies, etc.) identified from their online academic profiles. All time-consuming, but at least that way one can guarantee sales to libraries. The American academic market is particularly vast, of course. Anyway, the best of luck whichever route you take.

    2017/12/01 at 5:46 pm
  • From Patrick Miles on The 'politics' of publication

    Dear Duke, it’s great to hear from you again, and thank you so much for your good luck, which we shall certainly need! The cost of good digital publishing has greatly fallen over here (and our printers seem to be the best in the business), but I’m afraid at the moment the ‘limited edition’ (hardback) will not be less than £30… We think we can afford the two marketing storms, because (a) I don’t have to cost my time, (b) we already have a Web presence and can develop that, (c) Armistice 2018 is a last opportunity for a long time. In a way, the financial problem is going to be if we sell out the hardback edition by December 2018 (unlikely) and demand for it is such that have to reprint before going to Kindle/paperback. All best as ever, Patrick

    2017/11/30 at 9:57 pm
  • From Duke Ryan on The 'politics' of publication

    Hi Patrick,
    At the end of your piece, you mention self-publishing and creating a “marketing storm,” but can you afford one such storm, much less two? I believe most self-publishers simply deliver a supply of books to your house. Anyway, good luck. Cheers, Duke

    2017/11/30 at 4:32 pm
  • From Patrick Miles on Alan Coren touches root

    I love it! You have given me an idea for the Christmas post, Jenny! Best, Patrick

    2017/11/24 at 3:41 pm
  • From jennyhands on Alan Coren touches root

    Hello Patrick
    Have you discussed with publishers a subtitle for your book?
    Under “A writer goes to the war’ , you could have “Puppy left behind!” in Comic Sans size 36 -?

    I’m looking forward to publication.
    Best regards

    2017/11/24 at 2:26 pm
  • From Henry "Duke" Ryan on Brexit: a modest theory

    I found this a very interesting piece. Congratulations. I think the memory of WWI as part of Britain’s whole ambivalent attitude towards Europe is a point well made. The roots of that attitude can undoubtedly be traced back long before WWI, but surely those feelings have been strengthened by that holocaust, as David Reynolds aptly describes it.

    I am also fascinated by the parallels with American attitudes, especially the view that “We saved you twice”. Americans, of course, would include Britain in that statement. One wonders about the effect of a water barrier in helping create that separatist viewpoint in both countries, even though the bodies of water are vastly different. Incidentally, I am always struck by the power of the WWI memory in Britain, especially compared with the way the memory has faded in the US. I understand, of course, the huge difference in suffering and sacrifice between the two countries in that war, but still it is interesting, when in Britain, to remember what a God-awful thing WWI was.

    2017/11/21 at 10:49 pm
  • From Clare Hopkins on Dulc(e) et decor(um) est...

    Oh Harold!

    Very many thanks Damian for answering my question so promptly and fully. I just went online to see where Wilfred Owen’s letters ended up – the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center Library at the University of Texas. Their webpage says, ‘many of the letters to the Owen family have the deletions made by Harold Owen and noted in the Collected Letters.’ Thrown on the fire then, most likely… and yet…. and yet… what a holy grail those missing sheets would be!

    I don’t suppose Harold Owen ever regretted his instinctive protection of his elder brother’s reputation. But like you, I have regrets… A regular guest at our family table as I grew up was an elderly and lonely neighbour called George. His 80th birthday coincided with my father’s 50th, so he must have turned 18 in August 1916. “George fought on the Somme you know,” said my mother regularly, “you ought to ask him about it.” But I never did.

    2017/11/20 at 8:36 pm
  • From Damian Grant on Dulc(e) et decor(um) est...

    And hello to you Clare; I’m delighted to reply to your question–as far as I’m able. The information about the ‘half sheet missing’ from this letter comes from Wilfred Owen: Selected Letters (ed. Julian Bell, Oxford, 1985), p. 283. This letter to his mother (one of 600 he wrote her) is dated Tuesday ?16 October 1917. Bell’s selection is drawn from the Collected Letters, edited by Harold Owen, Owen’s younger brother, and Julian Bell in 1967 (which I have not consulted).

    The regrettable fact about omissions from Owen’s letters is that Harold Owen was himself responsible for many of the excisions; made one understands to protect Owen’s reputation–from what one can only guess. Biographers Jon Stallworthy and Dominic Hibberd take him to task for this (Hibberd more severely). Whether this ‘missing’ half page comes into this category, I really don’t know; though a real Owen scholar might.

    For an edition of the poems, the most current is Stallworthy’s The Poems of Wilfred Owen (London: Chatto, 1985), now in its 25th impression! Stallworthy’s Note to ‘Dulce…’ here (pp 117-8) includes the quotation from the letter to his mother, but makes no reference to the missing half page.

    An autobiographical note to conclude. I very much regret the fact, now, that when I came to Manchester as a junior lecturer in the 1960s, early Owen critic Dennis Welland, who knew Harold Owen well, was then Professor of American Studies, and a very approachable character. But my own enthusiasm for Owen had not yet caught (though I remember well enough marking A level papers in the late 60s where ‘Dulce…’ was the text set for commentary), and so I missed out on a golden opportunity…to answer your question with more authority!

    2017/11/20 at 6:11 pm
  • From Clare Hopkins on Dulc(e) et decor(um) est...

    Hello Damian, may I ask a specific question about your tremendously interesting first comment on this post? I was fascinated to learn that Wilfred Owen wrote a letter to his mother, commenting on ‘Dulce et Decorum Est’… Rather, I was brought up short by the information that “half a page is missing after he repeats the words ‘Sweet! And decorous!’”

    Surely this cannot be a coincidence! I believe officers censored their own letters. But did Mrs Owen find her son’s views about or details of the satanic evil of war simply too shocking to risk them being read by anyone else? Or did he express himself so beautifully that the rest of the page was given away as a keepsake to some careless family member? (If the answer is, as is likely, ‘I don’t know’, then do you have a hunch?)

    Meanwhile Christmas is coming…. Is there an edition of Wilfred Owen’s poetry and letters that you would particularly recommend?

    2017/11/20 at 5:25 pm
  • From Damian Grant on Dulc(e) et decor(um) est...

    PM asks, ‘can emoji dissemble?’
    The very idea makes one tremble;
    The sulk and the smile
    Are as plain as a dial,
    But what would a Janus resemble?

    2017/11/20 at 4:28 pm
    • From Patrick Miles on Dulc(e) et decor(um) est...

      Felicitous facility as ever, Damian! Thank you! In my Comment, ‘would it be used dishonestly’ should, of course, have read ‘be used diplomatically’… Goodness, yes, what one would give to have the rest of that page of W.O.’s letter.

      2017/11/20 at 11:03 pm
  • From jennyhands on Brexit: a modest theory

    Interesting comments, Patrick, on how coverage of WW1 commemoration has differed in Britain and continental Europe. I started to wonder why British coverage has not given much visibility to other nations’ commemorations of this globally significant event.

    That in itself talks to the Brexit story! (Here we are, isolated and protecting our culture, including our reverence for the world wars…)

    I do think you are onto something regarding attitude to the war and Brexit. In Britain we think of ourselves as “on the right side” and “winners”. Other EU countries have long and more recent experience of shifting borders, and are surely more careful to respect each other’s perhaps blotchy histories.

    I remember the conversation I had with a German on 8 November 1989. I was working in Berlin that week – I’m not going to make any pretence of being a Brexiteer, by the way. As you can imagine, the city was buzzing with expectation, though no-one knew that the Berlin Wall would be torn down the next day, and I also remember a Dutch person saying that the Germans were very excited but nothing would happen for a few weeks. The German’s view surprised me: he said that the rest of Europe was surely very worried about German reunification and he understood why; Germany would need to work with European neighbours to be able to reassure them.

    It’s unfair to contrast the German’s careful (whilst still German-centric) attitude, with British attitudes to possible conflict. But I’m going to do that. It makes the Brexit vote more believable. No need to point out that I have only mixed with German academics and Europhiles, or that there are alternative newspapers to The Sun! Here goes with a description of how a widely read newspaper covered continental reluctance to join the 2003 Iraq war, provided by the BBC’s “’Le Soleil’ condemns ‘Chirac the worm’” from 20 February 2003:
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/2782393.stm
    Enjoy. Whilst praying for an end to conflicts.

    2017/11/20 at 3:13 pm
    • From Patrick Miles on Brexit: a modest theory

      Dear Jenny, thank you for this most thought-provoking Comment… I read your link and thought it was a Private Eye cover!

      2017/11/20 at 11:09 pm
  • From Damian Grant on Dulc(e) et decor(um) est...

    Patrick: I am not Latinist enough to follow in the furrow you cut, very neatly, between the perfect infinitive and imperfect infinitive constructions on Horace’s ‘mori’; but the way you use this to prise open the contradictory/complementary readings of this celebrated and oversimplified poem is I find admirable. (And it’s surely surprising that Heaney, who had to tread his own stepping stones carefully, couldn’t better negotiate the poem.) It seems to me that you manage to demonstrate how Owen succeeds in taking the quotation from Horace both ways: literally, in praise of one’s duty to fight for one’s country–‘I have my duty to perform towards War’ (18 Feb 1918)– and ironically, in the hallucinatory awareness of the dying this duty may exact. Defying those who trivialize and mechanize this duty, this difficult moral choice, Owen has his quote and eats it.

    It is no doubt a matter of some frustration that in the letter to his mother of 17 October 1917, where he comments on this poem, half a page is missing after he repeats the words ‘Sweet! And decorous!’ with exclamation marks; but we owe the poem our own best (and unassisted) understanding. As Owen once concluded a letter to his mother which contains some harsh recollections, ‘I had meant this to be a consoling kind of letter; and if you read it rightly, it will prove so.’ (22 Feb 1918). Reading poems rightly is even more difficult (if not for Jesse Pope’s “Simple Rhymes for Stirring Times”, 1916); but an awareness, such as you demonstrate in your Post, of moral balance, ambiguity, and paradox, is an essential part of it. This habit of thought is evidenced, and supported, in another letter, from February 1918: ‘There is a point where prayer is indistinguishable from blasphemy. There is also a point where blasphemy is indistinguishable from prayer.’

    It is also interesting, I think, that another letter which contains more of Owen’s self-contradiction (‘I hate washy pacifists as much as I hate whiskied prussianists’) ends with this observation: ‘The figure of Caliban at Somerset Place affects my imagination even more than the dainty Ariel.’ (2 October 1917) Don’t we hear behind this Keats’s famous declaration about the poetical character, which ‘has no character – it enjoys light and shade…It has as much delight in conceiving an Iago as an Imogen. What shocks the virtuous philosopher, delights the chameleon Poet. It does no harm from its relish of the dark side of things any more than its taste for the bright one, because they both end in speculation.’ (But not speculation in armaments, needless to say.)

    Fair is foul, and foul is fair. For Owen, as for many (poets and others), war brought out almost inevitably what was best and worst in human beings. If Owen had a duty towards the War, he also had a duty towards poetry; which was to ensure that his witness was not blinkered like a war horse, but looked courageously both ways.

    2017/11/14 at 2:34 pm
  • From Clare Hopkins on Dulc(e) et decor(um) est...

    Thank you, Patrick, for your very helpful analysis of Owen’s poem. Thank you, Jim, for your reminder about J. M. Barrie. (And for introducing the emoji to Calderonia!) I find myself not so much comparing as contrasting. There is a world of difference between the noble self-sacrifice that may result from believing ‘the soil of Britain was worth dying for because certain values grew in it,’ and the careless self-centredness of embarking on a solo adventure from which nobody ever reports back. I followed the links to the related blog posts of September 1914 and March 1916 with interest. Patrick, I hope you won’t mind my observing that in the latter you would seem to have been mistaken when you wondered if George was suffering from ‘Peter Pan Syndrome’. According to Wikipedia, this refers to individuals who do not want to grow up, rather than those who think that ‘to die will be an awfully big adventure.’ (Although of course it is a characteristic of children that they cannot grasp the permanence of death.) There should though be a name for the alternative syndrome that George was surely suffering from – that seemingly ubiquitous Edwardian delusion that ‘to go to War [would] be an awfully big adventure’.

    I’d be interested to know more about the Roman view of pro patria mori. But when I looked online it quickly became apparent that Horace’s famous line is now almost entirely owned by Owen. (Take note, anyone who believes that WW1 poets will forever maintain their present prominence in British culture and education. So they thought about Virgil & Co, a century ago.)

    Googling J. M. Barrie was more fruitful. Although if I knew how to attach an emoji to a comment on WordPress, mine would be looking both startled and disapproving. I was curious as to whether Barrie conceived the screwed up eponymous hero of his most famous work before or after the First World War – and was engulfed by disturbing speculation about the playwright’s private life. Anyhow, Peter Pan was first performed on 27 December 1904. Did Kittie and George ever go to see it – perhaps with some friends’ children in tow? Did George and James ever meet? Did George have an opinion about Barrie’s 1913 knighthood? And Patrick, while you have been carrying out your exhaustive exploration of modern biography, have you encountered Piers Dudgeon’s Captivated?

    2017/11/14 at 9:30 am
    • From Jim D G Miles on Dulc(e) et decor(um) est...

      As you probably surmised Ms Hopkins, I am an emoji addict…to the point of actually posting a straight up image of the one I wanted to use, rather than being able to deploy it natively…alas.

      Some of the common emojis can be copied and pasted, but the “thinking” face I used wasn’t amenable to that and I suspect that “both startled and disapproving” is likewise not easily WordPress-able.

      I cannot pick out for sure what the “startled and disapproving” emoji ought to be, but perhaps this fits the bill:

      Regarding Peter Pan Syndrome I agree the term literally means the fear of growing up, and “to die will be an awfully big adventure” does not – on the surface – naturally transfer.

      However, if we read “to die” not as the literal death of Pan but the “death” of his childhood [innocence] then it perhaps all makes rather more sense.

      2017/11/20 at 1:35 am
      • From Clare Hopkins on Dulc(e) et decor(um) est...

        Thank you Jim, that’s perfect. [types smiley face emoticon – let’s see if WordPress can cope!] 🙂

        You call yourself an emoji addict, but I suspect you would be more properly described as an expert in this universal language of succinct emotional expression. I fear I am too old to learn any new language fluently, but I am most definitely a fan of this one. My sister once sent me an entire communication composed of emoji; it was beautifully eloquent. Our world has at its fingertips a means of communication that is simple, rapid, clear, honest, and international – what’s not to like?

        At risk of sounding flippant (and of wandering far, far away from the subject of George Calderon), I wonder how Brexit negotiations would be going if both sides were forced to communicate using only emoji-studded texts…

        2017/11/20 at 10:20 am
        • From Patrick Miles on Dulc(e) et decor(um) est...

          This fascinating new subject (is it a form of theatrical communication? in Brexit negotiations would it be used dishonestly? can an emoji dissemble?) is not at all far away from the subject of George Calderon: I believe he was the first person in English to use the phrase “emotional intelligence” (1911)…

          2017/11/20 at 2:57 pm
    • From Patrick Miles on Dulc(e) et decor(um) est...

      Dear Clare, my utmost thanks to you for continuing to support Calderonia so stalwartly and steadfastly in its staggering fourth year. I am extremely grateful to you, and to Jim, for pointing out the other reasons I speculated on for George et al. signing up voluntarily. You are both, of course, right. In the universities particularly, I think, many adults deplored the numbers of zealous young men who were, in effect, throwing up everything in order to ‘have a go at’ the Germans. It approximated to jingoism and adventurism; I think one can say that. At the same time, George had foreseen war with Germany by about 1912, amazed his dinner-party guests long before 4 August 1914 by saying ‘England only ever went to war for an idea’, and seems to have been swayed more by his idea (‘decency’, ‘civilisation’, ‘freedom and democracy’, a different future world) than by his visceral and possibly even Crusading emotions.

      Alas, when I wrote about a ‘Peter Pan Syndrome’, I thought I was inventing the thing! It always pays to Google first! As you say, sensu stricto PPS refers to ‘individuals who do not want to grow up’. So I propose ‘ABA(W) Syndrome’ for people who throw overwhelming odds of risk to the winds in the name of Awfully Big Adventure (War). But it has been suggested that for Peter Pan growing up was the equivalent of death. Conversely, it seems terrible but for many of these young public school soldiers dying was the equivalent of growing up… (They acquired adult posthumous personas.)

      I had a similar experience to you, trying to find out more about the Romans’ understanding of Horace’s line. I take my old Latin course off the shelves, however, and it confirms my memory that we were taught that they had a somewhat fascistic approach to ‘patriotism’ — ‘my country right or wrong’, ‘a Roman soldier/officer/citizen unquestioningly sacrifices his life for the fatherland (Emperor)’. Not so different from the Victorian idea of fighting for Empire, perhaps, but I think that was muted by 1914. There is a clear classical and quasi-jingoistic element to Rupert Brooke’s war sonnets, but neither Thomas nor Owen joined up in the ‘afflatus’ of 1914, they thought harder about it first.

      It is really very curious that there are no references in the Calderons’ extant correspondence to their seeing, appreciating, or taking their numerous godchildren to see Peter Pan, neither is Barrie’s address in Kittie’s celebrity-studded address book. I think there is a reference to ‘Pan’ in a letter of George’s, which I took to mean Peter, but I don’t think it was more than that. On the other hand, he undoubtedly saw it and its success was surely in his and William Caine’s mind when they tried to approach its theatrical presenter, the American Charles Frohman, about taking on their children’s fairytale script The Brave Little Tailor in 1914. Nothing came of this, because the German source of the script put it off limits after 4 August, and Frohman went down on the Lusitania in May 1915.

      I’m so grateful to you for pointing me towards Piers Dudgeon’s book about Barrie. I will certainly read it. From the WEB reviews etc it sounds as though it might be a conspiracy theory — endlessly verifiable by this and that, but not actually falsifiable. However, I must say this: as a child, I personally found Peter Pan so sinister I wanted nothing to do with it after the film! Lewis Carroll, I felt, was weird but fundamentally amiable, Peter Pan fundamentally sinister…

      2017/11/16 at 3:00 pm
  • From Jim D G Miles on Dulc(e) et decor(um) est...

    That “To die for one’s country is a sweet and fitting thing”, presented in various forms in the above entry, is somewhat reminiscent of the J. M. Barrie “to die will be an awfully big adventure”, mentioned previously on Calderonia here and here. Thinking Emoji

    2017/11/12 at 7:55 am
  • From Patrick Miles on Russia (continued)

    Great to hear from you again, John! Thank you. It’s really encouraging that you are looking forward to reading the book; I’m intending to discuss your, G. Orwell’s, and my views on the orthodoxy of British publishers after December 15th, when the final decision’s been taken about how to get the book out in 2018. Of course, you are absolutely right about the Russian dream of ‘recapturing’ Constantinople as a result of the Gallipoli campaign. Alas, as we know the chances were thrown away long before the landings. But George, for instance, on his way to Gallipoli in May 1915, still believed that the British-French expeditionary force would join up with the Russians in Constantinople. That is one reason why he took with him a copy of Tolstoi’s Sebastopol Stories — ‘to brush up the lingo’, as he wrote Kittie…

    2017/10/23 at 9:36 pm
  • From John Dewey on Russia (continued)

    Fascinating! I’m really looking forward to reading the book, Patrick. If Russia had been more successful militarily in WW1, is it not possible that the outcome feared by George in his letter of 1914 would have come about much earlier than it did? I seem to recall for instance reading somewhere that the ill-fated Gallipoli campaign was launched at least in part to help our ally achieve the Panslavist dream of recapturing Constantinople. And what an irony of history that – as indicated by that Russian in 1989 – the dream of a vast empire in the east of mainly ‘brother Slav’ nations was finally realised by none other than Stalin!

    2017/10/23 at 12:26 pm
  • From Patrick Miles on Is a dog literally...forever?

    Thank you very much, Damian, for correcting the Christocentrism of my post. Yes, of course, the Egyptians had their cat-acombs! Although I see from the Web that eight million mummified dogs have also been found in Egyptian catacombs. But these were around the temple of the dog-headed God of death, Anubis. What I don’t know, of course, is whether the ‘value’ was projected onto the cats and dogs from their respective cat-goddess and dog-headed god, or the other way round. My impression from the subtlety of Egyptian cat-sculpture, though, is that the Egyptians were cat-people — they really understood the Cat. Whereas in Greek and Roman literature all I can think of is dogs…

    I find the interplay between your father’s pedagogical disciplinarianism (the mind boggles Dotheboyswards!) and his failure with Nero completely hilarious. This relationship and the Life of Nero are surely begging to be immortalised in a 3000-word essay for, say, London Magazine?

    2017/10/23 at 11:49 am
  • From Damian Grant on Is a dog literally...forever?

    Patrick: I hope you and your readers will forgive me for coming in rather late with a further comment on your cats and dogs (it has been raining comment, one might say, in a curious reversal of the metaphor).

    My first thought, in response to your question as to why there are no cats’ cemeteries, was that of course there are–in Egypt, where the cat was revered as a symbol (even a goddess) of fruitfulness and maternity. Not only were cats therefore ritually mummified, and buried in special cemeteries (Herodotus records the existence of one such), but the Egyptians took things to a logical conclusion and mummified mice as well to accompany them on their journey into the afterlife. (I do not venture into the theological implications of all this).

    Less of a dog person, I do however keep a special place for the dog Bendico from Lampedusa’s The Leopard. (The author insisted that ‘the dog Bendico is a very important character and is almost the key to the novel.’) Not only is the dog described with great affection and attention throughout the book–his energy, intelligence, and fidelity–but after the Prince’s death, his (deceased) dog is not exactly mummified but made into a rug by one of his sisters; and the novel is only allowed to reach its bleak and moving conclusion when, finally, this moth-eaten rug is thrown out of the window, and disintegrates in the air. Plenty of work for theologians as well as taxidermists here.

    In the spirit of Greek theatre, where exhausting tragedy was followed by inspiriting farce, I cannot resist descending from an account of this most literary canine to the story of a demotic dog once owned by our family, in pre-Pinteresque Sidcup. My father ran a small private school in our large house, for close on thirty years, the accumulated anecdotes of which I have intended for years to put together (you better than most, Patrick, understand the delays and diversions). He was one has to say an old-fashioned disciplinarian; but the one living thing which escaped his discipline altogether was the dog–aptly named Nero–which, though amiable enough to those who respected his anarchic spirit, knew neither master nor limitation. On one of his explorations, he discovered Sidcup station, and thereafter took (so alarmed porters told us) to chasing trains; coming back on one occasion–like a Roman general showing his scars–with his coat singed by the live rail. But his career ended with less dignity than Bendico’s. One of our neighbours complained (justly) about his invasion of a chicken-run, and when the police arrived to check on this allegation the honest dog vomited feathers all over the mat. I cannot construct much of an afterlife here…

    Having begun with an apology, I should end with another, hoping that this anecdote has not caused distress to any of your readers.

    2017/10/19 at 4:53 pm
  • From Patrick Miles on Is a dog literally...forever?

    This is very interesting, Jenny. I agree, it’s so encouraging that the young have ‘ample levels of doubt’ about the Webo-sphere. Tempered in this area myself by Soviet media lies and disinformation, I confess my immediate reaction to the Pope-and-doggies story was ‘fake news!’. But does the story still tantalise by its suggestion that two very recent Popes could hold differing ‘truths’ about something that you would have thought had been decided doctrinally years ago? It is a bit worrying if one’s instant reaction to such a doctrinal difference is ‘it must be fake news’… Is that actually what the whole story was trying to provoke — doubt about papal infallibility?! ‘I think we should be told.’ Many many thanks. Patrick

    2017/10/16 at 11:02 pm
  • From jennyhands on Is a dog literally...forever?

    Ah, I do like a ‘well-attested story’! Such stories need no investigation. It is a matter of personal choice as to which of them can become your personal baggage, shoring up your value system, or maybe illustrating your thoughts and feelings to others.

    I guess it’s important to keep dates & exact names & locations out of the ‘well attested story’. Otherwise, you end up with FAKE NEWS! …which is how my daughters immediately labelled the Pope & Dog & Boy story, once debunked.

    I doubt if any of my daughters will study Theology but it is good that they have ample levels of doubt about the petabytes of data swirling around them and their phones.

    Ginger the Cat remains a pure story, of course. It perfectly illustrates lifelong loyalty, and the tolerance of friends to those who are different S:)

    2017/10/16 at 1:37 pm
  • From Clare Hopkins on Is a dog literally...forever?

    Give us today our daily dog meat.

    I’m afraid this comment isn’t about dogs and cats, or even about George and Kittie; it is a question for John Polkinghorne. Your juxtaposition of theology and pet dogs throws up some unsettling parallels between those two reciprocally-loving relationships – God and Human – and Human and Dog.

    • Faithful adoration on one side; all-powerful benevolence on the other.
    • Simple rules. The Ten Commandments; Sit! Beg! Heel!
    • Fawning; prayer.

    The Bible teaches that humans are made ‘in the image’ of God. If John Polkinghorne could tell us why God needs humans, might that go some way to answer your question, why do dog owners need dogs?

    2017/10/10 at 2:20 pm
    • From Patrick Miles on Is a dog literally...forever?

      Dear Clare,

      I love it! If you started a blog of your own — say, ‘Archivaria’ — I am certain it would be more entertaining than this one!

      Your inversion reminds me of turning up to my normally rather stern Russian supervisor one morning in 1967 to find him roaring with laughter. He couldn’t wait to tell me why. There was a Student Christian Movement campaign on at the time under the slogan ‘My God is Real’ and my supervisor had just come down King’s Parade, where in the high-up window of a student room visible to all was a large SCM poster with the first and last letters of ‘God’ neatly cut out from the slogan and transposed…

      I will certainly ask John Polkinghorne your question when I next have an opportunity. However, I must warn you that he is quite capable of saying ‘I don’t think that is a relevant question, Patrick’, or ‘I think that’s far too abstract a question for me to be able to answer’. Of course, I could suggest an answer myself, but wouldn’t that presuppose God exists?

      Thank you very much for both scintillating Comments,

      Yours aye

      Patrick

      2017/10/14 at 9:18 pm
  • From jennyhands on Is a dog literally...forever?

    Patrick – after chuckling aloud as I read your blog post, I got into an interesting discussion with savvy teen daughter Xan on Pope Francis’s recent pronouncement (so we both believed) that dogs can go to Heaven. We’d heard that he’d comforted a boy whose dog had died, but how specific was his remark to dogs as opposed to the rest of creation?

    We did not get anywhere near the insightful analysis in your discussion with JP, but turned immediately to google.

    Here is the boy and dog story: “Pope Francis says dogs can go to heaven” USA Today, 12th December 2014:
    https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation-now/2014/12/12/pope-francis-dogs-can-go-to-heaven/20296955/
    Awww. The main body of the article tells us: ‘During a recent public appearance, Francis comforted a boy whose dog had died, noting, “One day, we will see our animals again in the eternity of Christ. Paradise is open to all of God’s creatures.”’

    ***BUT** at the top of the page is an addendum:
    “Corrections & Clarifications: New information refutes reports Pope Francis said animals go to heaven. Those remarks were once made by Pope Paul VI. Reports also call into question whether John Paul II made remarks that animals have souls.”
    Check out “Sorry, Fido. Pope Francis didn’t say pets go to heaven” USA Today, 13th December 2014:
    https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2014/12/13/pope-francis-animals-heaven-debunked/20352275/
    Apparently there was no boy bereaved of dog. This retraction examines the “trail of digital bread crumbs” that led to the “journalistic train wreck”, involving Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera, the British press, and The New York Times. It concludes that “There should have been warnings signs: Francis has frowned at the modern tendency to favor pets over people, and he has criticized the vast amounts of money spent by wealthy societies on animals even as children go hungry.”

    Back on Patrick’s “why are there no cats’ cemeteries” theme, it was interesting to read “It’s a dog’s afterlife: Pope Francis hints that animals go to heaven” The Guardian, 27th November 2014:
    https://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/nov/27/pope-francis-hints-animals-heaven
    I have to say this article is blameless regarding the build-up of the boy and dog story, as it doesn’t mention it. It does state that Corriere della Sera, in their write-up of the pope’s public audience, is “in no doubt about [the pope’s] meaning”, quoting “the hope of salvation and eschatological beatitude to animals and the whole of creation”. But it says that “Others were not convinced”. It concludes: “it is unclear whether it will decide for once and all whether those who get to meet St Peter can expect to find a dog nearby lifting its leg on the pearly gates” thereby choosing to have both doggy title and conclusion.

    Not too doggy is the official Catholic voice: “Pope Francis ‘did not say pets go to heaven” Catholic Herald, 15-Dec-2014:
    http://www.catholicherald.co.uk/news/2014/12/15/pope-francis-did-not-say-pets-go-to-heaven/
    Vatican commentators say, “There is no evidence that Francis repeated the words [of Pope Paul VI] during his public audience on November 26, as has been widely reported, nor was there was a boy mourning his dead dog.”

    Xan was surprised that the dog and boy story is untrue. Of course, it lives on anyway. I can’t post a pic in this comment, but check out the featured image of blog entry “A heaven for all – Pope Francis has finally laid to rest the debate over whether or not animals can go to heaven” U.S.Catholic, 11-Feb-2016 ( http://www.uscatholic.org/blog/201602/heaven-all-30553 ) to really feel the dogginess of the pets in Heaven idea.
    Here’s a quote from the blog article: “This is a hugely important step for Fido and for those who love him. Thanks for Pope Francis and his love for animals (which is reflected in the name he chose to bear as pope) I can finally confidently say, with a comforted smile one my face, ‘all dogs go to heaven.’” And there is a lot of agreement in the many comments (as well as some regrettable hate for fellow humans, that Pope Francis would surely lament).

    Well, Patrick has excellently summed up the difference in dogs and cats from ownership perspective : “It is difficult to deny, I think, that dogs want to dedicate their whole existence to their owners — they want to live and die inside their owners’ lives — whereas cats are only interested in manipulating their owners’ deluded belief that they, cats, wish to do the same.” So, perhaps not surprising that dogs win a cemetery spot more often than cats.

    I’ll admit that I’m in a loyal and caring relationship with a dog myself. That doesn’t mean I enjoy sitting in a café with my canine family member while she barks enthusiastically at every other person and dog in the café. I quite see how Patrick has managed to keep a sense of perspective on dog-love, as presumably family activities were compromised quite a bit by a large dog who was even allowed to attend his birth. (Yes, that was the laugh-out-loud bit of the blog! Along with Ginger the Cat/Dog!)

    2017/10/10 at 1:53 pm
    • From Patrick Miles on Is a dog literally...forever?

      Dear Jenny,

      Wonderful to have you back onboard ‘Calderonia’, as it were! Thank you for such a long, deeply researched, and fascinating Comment! I am rather tempted, after this Comment-essay of yours, to ask you if I can interest you in doing a guest post…

      It is, as Clare says, deeply instructive to follow the twists and turns of this dog-canard, as it were. (By the way, a teen who can have such a savvy discussion of this subject should surely consider reading Theology at university? I am told it’s quite a popular subject these days, even with students who do not actually BELIEVE it all, because it’s such a mental workout.)

      The press story does, I think, bear out John Polkinghorne’s remark that this is a ‘conundrum’ — a conundrum even for Popes, whereas the Orthodox, I believe, have it doctrinally well sussed. When I told a clerical-theological friend of mine the other day what I believed to be the Orthodox position, he said ‘Well, yes, that’s the Catholic position, too, more or less…more or less..’ Now I think that ‘more or less’ knowingly concealed a Papal doubt!

      However, a Catholic friend has emailed me with what surely is the final theological word on the subject. An old lady, Mrs Mortley, aware of her imminent demise, consulted her vicar about the possibility of Fido going with her to heaven, but received the standard Anglican answer that animals don’t have souls, so there are no dogs in heaven. She then consulted an Anglican bishop, with the same outcome. In despair she found a Jesuit priest whose response was that if her perfect happiness required the presence of Fido, then the Lord would surely find a way to accommodate that.

      This, of course, is a well attested story as so admirably defined by Clare in her response to your Comment.

      Bless!

      Patrick

      2017/10/14 at 9:49 pm
    • From Clare Hopkins on Is a dog literally...forever?

      Jenny, your unpicking of the myth of the Pope, the Boy and the Dog is both salutary and exemplary. But then – you go and believe unquestioningly in the tale of Ginger the Cat!

      Well-attested is only a synonym for oft-told. Who was this bachelor don? When did he die? Are his last words footnoted in a biography? Has Patrick spoken with an eye-witness? Or did one of his Ginger-hating colleagues say, over coffee and newspapers perhaps, ‘Old so-and-so loved that cat so much, I bet he’s going to see it on his death bed… ’. And so it begins.

      Such stories – pithy – witty – bitchy – are the very stuff of Oxbridge common rooms. More than a decade after his death a book was published to contain all the amusing anecdotes about and sayings of one of George’s Trinity tutors and one-time-at-least-friend, Herbert Blakiston. George would doubtless have found it hilarious.

      My favourite common room story relates to that familiar trope, the world-weary college head. One morning the butler comes in and says, ‘I’m sorry to tell you, Master, but one of the fellows has died.’ To which the Master replies, ‘Don’t tell me! Let me guess – ”

      2017/10/13 at 7:49 am
  • From Harvey Pitcher on Is a dog literally...forever?

    I enjoyed your piece about cats and dogs, and share your view that the slavish dependence of dogs on their owners is not very appealing. We didn’t have pets at home, but we did once take in a Siamese cat inappropriately called Billy. It terrorised the local cats and it terrorised us. It settled on your lap quite companionably but if you tried to move, it stuck its claws into your shoulders. As cats go, it soon went.

    2017/10/09 at 4:54 pm
  • From Patrick Miles on Is a dog literally...forever?

    Thank you. My original caption was perhaps an example of ‘biographer’s tunnel vision’, because I’d forgotten that most people would not know that ‘Kay’s Crib’ was the name of Kittie’s house (she renamed it thus in 1922; it had previously been ‘Hurst Cottage’). I would think Bunty is in an egg basket, or some sort of shopping basket, in which perhaps she was carried around when still a young dog. Obviously, she’s also got ‘her’ blanket there and ‘her’ brush. In most of the other shots, she is not posing so perfectly. We don’t know who took the photo.

    2017/10/08 at 8:50 am
  • From Jim D G Miles on Is a dog literally...forever?

    When I came to post the tweet about this entry I was going to mention the dog is in a “basket” but I wasn’t sure, especially as the caption says “Kay’s Crib”. What is Bunty sitting in, here?

    2017/10/07 at 11:13 pm
  • From Patrick Miles on Enough (43) is enough!

    That’s the spirit! ‘Excelsior!’

    2017/10/06 at 9:52 am
  • From Jim D G Miles on Enough (43) is enough!

    Excellent post!

    It gets me fired up about the book’s imminent publishing!

    2017/10/05 at 6:55 pm
  • From Patrick Miles on Enough (43) is enough!

    Wonderful, Damian, wonderful! Thank you very much. Your Comment vibrates with many deeply commiserative, even panicked, emails I have received following this post. I was, in fact, going to begin the post with that priceless French phrase Il ne faut pas exagérer, and perhaps I should have: for there are still those nine chances left… I confidently expect that ‘something will turn up’!

    2017/10/01 at 11:24 pm
  • From Damian Grant on Enough (43) is enough!

    Patrick: exhausted all over again just by reading the summary you provide of your trial by publisher, I can’t surely be the only one to feel that this experience, and your alternately optimistic and disabused commentary on its unfolding, represents in itself something worth making into a book. Of course, you would have to find a publisher…

    Further: with all the book prizes around, it’s time there was a prize for the best book not to find a publisher. Here, the only problem would be finding a suitably well informed panel of judges…

    All the best with Plan B!

    2017/10/01 at 8:07 pm
  • From Clare Hopkins on Edwardian love, sex and the 'T'other'

    What a splendid post this is! Shimmering with enthusiasm for the nitty-gritty of archives (well done that visitors’ book) – and reverberating with the satisfying clunk of puzzle pieces falling into place.

    I have to admit that there have been times during the past three years when I have felt distinctly cross with Kittie Calderon. Somehow, your consistent presentation of her and George’s relationship as ‘symbiotic’ never quite rang true. Typing ‘symbio-’ into the Calderonia search-bar in order to check the veracity of this impression led me quickly and usefully to your post of 6 October 2016 – ‘Kittie Hamilton’ – where you enumerate the ‘issues’ that ‘the modern woman’ might have with Kittie. That woman does indeed sound remarkably like me, except, more than anything, I just wanted Kittie to be a bit more selfish [which word should be in italics, if not bold and capitals as well]. Your defence – that to ‘get her own life’ was impossible for her ‘kenotic personality’ – was unarguable, though depressing, and at the time I reluctantly accepted that Kittie was happy to be ‘like a doormat’ waiting for her husband and others to need her services. My frustration extended to Kittie’s relationship with Nina, which you described in that post as ‘entirely complement[ing]’ her marriage. To me it sometimes seemed sadly one-sided, with little evidence of Nina doing anything to reciprocate Kittie’s generous support with childcare.

    But now… Hip Hip Hoo-bloody-ray!! The realisation that Kittie was bisexual does not feel like a tweak; it feels like a sea-change. SHE COULD BE SELFISH. For Archie to have protested like that, Kittie must have intimated that she would prefer to share the marital bed with Nina when the opportunity arose; similarly she must have made it clear to George that there would be times – whole weeks on end – when she’d like him not to be around. I am delighted to learn that Nina hurried to provide intimate physical comfort when Kittie was depressed. Even the childcare feels different. Might you now reconsider your statement (6 May 2015), that ‘Lesbia was not the child [Kittie] wished she and Nina had had’?

    Incidentally, I recently followed the link you provided to your very first post on paradoxes (8 October 2016). Both then and a fortnight ago I was perplexed by George’s report of lunching with Kittie’s mother in 1899:

    “Dear dear Kit, I led Mammy Ham on at lunch for the pure delight of paradoxes; I could not help talking of you. She thinks you will never marry. Women marry twice, but they never love deeply twice. You have loved so well, that you cannot love much again; and without loving (we were both agreed) you could never marry again. Dear darling woman. Do you know your own value?”

    Perplexed, because I couldn’t see why such a clearly expressed opinion was a paradox at all. But now, I would be very interested to read your analysis of that conversation in the light of the subjects discussed in this post. Was Mrs Hamilton warning George that her daughter loved another? Or had Kittie and George been discussing as paradoxical the fact that one person could be in two exclusive relationships at once?

    2017/08/30 at 1:50 pm
    • From Patrick Miles on Edwardian love, sex and the 'T'other'

      Thank you, Clare, as ever, for taking so much time to comment on my posts — and for doing it challengingly, which is always healthy.

      I am delighted that you should feel I have produced a ‘sea change’ in my portrayal of Kittie. You will appreciate, however, that I have been living with this book and the Calderon set for so long now that I see things in a different context from you, one that can be communicated only by the book itself in its entirety. This means that for me the recent archival discoveries still amount only to a tweak and not a sea change.

      I don’t believe that either Kittie Hamilton or Archie Ripley was bisexual in any modern, active sense. We have to remember that late Victorian life was impossibly more gender-segregated than now. Education, among the upper and middle classes at least, presented two same-sex enclaves. Experimental homosexuality was the norm here. However, once you grew out of these enclaves the social imperative became Marriage. Archie came down from Oxford with a same-sex orientation that he seems to have perpetuated in his London club-life. He explained all this to Kittie and described how as soon as he became engaged to her his orientation changed. There is no evidence that after their marriage he was ever simultaneously heterosexual and homosexual in orientation, i.e. bisexual in the strict sense. Similarly, there is no evidence that Kittie and Nina Corbet were intimate in any modern sense after their respective marriages.

      For Kittie Hamilton, Nina Corbet and Constance Sutton — the closest of close friends — selfishness was one of the worst sins. They repeatedly say so. The subject is dealt with in my third chapter, ‘White Raven and Black Raven’. Furthermore, they saw their love for each other in distinctly religious terms. Typical of the quotations that Nina wrote out in the Friendship Book that she gave Kittie three months after marrying Walter Corbet, is: ‘What is the true way of loving one’s friends? It is, to love them in God, and God in them; to love what he has made them, and to bear for love of Him with what he has not made them’ (Fénélon). I regret, incidentally, giving you the impression that Kittie’s ‘kenotic personality’ prevented her from ‘getting a life of her own’. She had a life of her own as a professional garden-designer, home gardener, and literary agent, but there is still no doubt that she was kenotic: what other kind of person would marry an invalid whilst already caring for one in the house, her mother? As a relation said of her in the 1940s, ‘you are always doing good by stealth’.

      To respond (only glancingly, sorry) to your profound earlier point about Edwardian hypocrisy and ‘paradox’, I do think it is significant that such an intelligent Frenchman as Paul Boyer chose to disagree with the perceived English national characteristic. There’s no doubt that Edwardian public, and particularly royal, life was grounded in determined cynical hypocrisy. But in millions of middle-class marriages like the Calderons and the Newbolts, I am convinced it was a case of liberal private compromise. I don’t think Kittie ever had to intimate to Archie that she would ‘prefer to share the marital bed with Nina when the opportunity arose’; she and he agreed during their engagement (when they weren’t, of course, living together) that the worlds of married life and the ‘t’other’ would be kept separate. Similarly, I don’t think Kittie ever ‘made it clear to George that there would be times — whole weeks on end — when she’d like him not to be around’; he was already sensitive to the claims of the ‘t’other’, as his letter to Boyer implies, just as Kittie respected George’s need for ‘Adventure’, the Edwardian male’s drug. I’d even go so far as to say we ‘modern people’ could learn a thing or two from these Edwardians. How many husbands today would show the understanding and tolerance of a Walter Corbet, Archie Ripley, or George Calderon, to their wives’ exclusive relationship with a ‘t’other’?

      A further regrettable consequence of my broaching such themes on the blog without the contextual benefit of the whole book is that I evidently gave the wrong impression with my quote about George’s lunch with Kittie’s mother in 1899. By ‘delight in paradoxes’ George was referring to the fact that he knew Kittie loved him and they had been engaged to marry for the last fortnight, but Mrs Hamilton did not. So the subject of the conversation was heterosexual love and marriage and George was (typically) relishing every twist of dramatic irony.

      My apologies for answering such a splendid Comment with, in effect, ‘you will have to read the book’. I hope, at least, that you and other followers will want to read it…a book that still awaits its publisher!

      2017/09/07 at 9:48 am
  • From Clare Hopkins on A P.S. to paradox

    Is George’s ‘temperance mission entirely supported by brewery shares’ actually a paradox at all? The mission board can sell the shares whenever they wish – so their failure to put their money where their mouth is is surely nothing more than a case of out and out hypocrisy.

    Indeed, is hypocrisy (from the point of view of a century later) just one more thing that puts us off the Edwardians? Those educated and liberal men who praised the abilities of women – but denied them the vote. And the wealthy and privileged women who campaigned for birth control – as a means of controlling the working classes. Or the military leaders who recruited men – and sent them off to die like cattle. All clichés of course, but…

    Pondering on the relationship between the paradoxical and the hypocritical has given me a headache. Perhaps pure paradoxes can by definition never really exist in real life. Do they always have to be something else as well? We could say that George’s own life ended paradoxically – he wanted to write about the War, so off he went to fight, lost his life, and therefore couldn’t write about it. It may be a paradox, but more than anything, it is a tragedy.

    P.S. I’m getting on so well with the Edwardian novel (now on chapter 4 of my second) that I’m starting to feel I could tackle anything. Is The Fountain ever performed? You have made me really want to go and see it!

    2017/08/19 at 11:02 am
    • From Patrick Miles on A P.S. to paradox

      You have, I think, with unerring accuracy put your finger on a super-important point… Thank you, as ever! I am actually posting about a major aspect of what we perceive as Edwardian hypocrisy next Thursday. The post is of inordinate length and will stay up for three weeks, so perhaps we can have a real go at the subject then. But meanwhile, I am sure there is much truth in what you say in your Comment. Despite my efforts, I am afraid The Fountain hasn’t been performed for ages. In that connection, I shall be addressing an open letter on the blog to a certain nationally known dramatist, adaptor, director and subscriber later this year! I feel the play has a lot to say today about housing for the poor, dependency, liberalism and ‘charity’.

      2017/08/19 at 1:19 pm
  • From Jim D G Miles on A not-paradox, a not-paradox, a most ingenuous not-paradox

    Something I omitted is the much more accurate version that considers what happens when an object moves at close to the speed of light. Randall Munroe wrote a good article about this regarding a baseball.

    The short version is that everything/everyone within a mile or so is destroyed, akin to a bomb detonation, and the destruction beyond that tails off a little, to the upset of those living within at least a 10 mile radius.

    His model is for a baseball at 0.9c. For a cricket at 1.1c we have to assume an infinite quantity of energy and presumably the destruction of the entire universe – a big bang level of paradigm shift to sheer nothingness. I don’t know what happens. No-one does.

    2017/08/19 at 2:13 am
    • From Patrick Miles on A not-paradox, a not-paradox, a most ingenuous not-paradox

      Wonderful! You, and Randall Munroe, have, I think ‘said it all’ about the ‘Cricket Paradox’. Thanks very much. One must simply be grateful that my ‘thought experiment’ is not verifiable…

      2017/08/19 at 1:07 pm
  • From Jim D G Miles on A not-paradox, a not-paradox, a most ingenuous not-paradox

    I believe “thought experiments” have always been a tool of science and understanding, and I don’t think they are particularly more “all the rage in science today” than they have been in the past. I have heard the phrase used extensively with no bias towards the modern day.

    As an example, it has often been pointed out that humans understood the world was spherical long before “Christopher Columbus proved it” (as has occasionally been ignorantly taught in schools) and one reason is that ships “disappear downwards” as they are observed sailing to the horizon.

    This is – in my opinion – a simple form of thought experiment. “What if the world were a ball? Would we observe ships disappearing downwards as they sailed to the horizon?” … “What if the world were flat? Wouldn’t ships just get smaller and smaller rather than disappearing downwards?”

    If that seems a little weak and more like just plain reasoning than a true thought experiment, how about Plato’s The Republic? Outlining the effects and implications of his proposed hypothetical city-state Kallipolis is thought experiment on a grand scale!

    As for the cricket in the matchbox, if everything is taken at face value (and we – with great reluctance – try not to get into a discussion about whether the cricket – or indeed anything – can jump at 1.1 times the speed of light) then the matchbox opens, we see a little bit of cricket, a little bit more, a little bit more, a little bit more, and then, at the exact moment the box is open enough, the cricket leaps away at 1.1 times the speed of light and to us the box is now empty. We don’t perceive the cricket to have jumped; to us it looks like it has simply disappeared. While photons from that leap unquestionably will have reached our eyes, that’s simply not enough for our visual system to work with. This effect would be the same for the cricket moving more slowly than the speed of light. Our eyesight is good, and it’s fascinating to read deeper into it (e.g. we can perceive “flashes” certainly as brief as one 500th of a frame per second), but it’s nowhere near good enough to perceive anything moving close to (or indeed grumble grumble beyond) the speed of light.

    Now, if you meant that the cricket doesn’t leap away, but returns to its exact same position (all magically at 1.1c – I think I see where you were going with the “earth’s gravity” part but if the cricket leaps at superlightspeed then that doesn’t mean it returns at superlightspeed, earth’s gravity or no, we do need to fudge it a bit in true thought experiment fashion), then I believe for certain that we would perceive it to be just chilling still in the matchbox. For justification, the screen you are reading this on is refreshing at somewhere between 50Hz and 120Hz – yet to you (at least looking straight on) it appears to be a flat picture rather than a flickering one. The lightspeed cricket trounces that “refresh rate” and will look similarly motionless.

    2017/08/09 at 5:17 pm
    • From Patrick Miles on A not-paradox, a not-paradox, a most ingenuous not-paradox

      Terrific. This all needed saying! Thought experiments are the lifeblood of human endeavour. Thank you very much for your Comment.

      However, a thought experiment is not a scientific hypothesis. I believe the reason thought experiments are ‘all the rage’ is that the fuzziness, fitfulness, unpicturability and even unknowability of the highly mathematical quantum world encourages them, as opposed to the formulation of scientific hypotheses that are tested by empirical data. My reading suggests that quite a lot of scientists are worried by this development.

      If the quantum world is unpicturable and difficult to verify empirically, inevitably it will approximate more to metaphysical thought experiments like ‘the world rests on three whales’, or ‘the soul is a form of breath’.

      Where Miles’s Cricket is concerned, I’m immeasurably (as they say) gratified that you have teased out at least two of its possibilities. Again, thank you! You may or may not know that when, in 2011, it was announced that the particles accelerator in CERN, Geneva, had identified subatomic particles (neutrinos) travelling at faster than the speed of light, Jim Al-Khalili tweeted that he would eat his boxer shorts ‘live on TV’ if this was confirmed. He did not have to, as it turned out that it was a mistake due to a ‘bad connection with a cable that relayed satellite GPS signals to keep the experiment’s clocks in sync’…

      We should not forget, I think, that unlike testable scientific hypotheses, but very much like George’s paradoxes, ‘thought experiments’ are only words. What Russell said about the ‘barber paradox’ — ‘the whole form of words is just noise without meaning’ — may apply here too.

      2017/08/10 at 5:23 pm
  • From Clare Hopkins on Plum pie in the sky

    Dear Patrick, I feel ready to report back on the challenge that I set myself a fortnight ago: I have now read 60% of an Edwardian novel, ahem! It has been a very thought-provoking experiment, and, against all expectations, I find that I have rather enjoyed it. I anticipate reading to the end with some pleasure. The novel that I chose was Arthur Quiller-Couch’s The Mayor of Troy. It was published in 1906, so falls bang in the middle of the period, and it is set in his native county of Cornwall. There is much interest these days in Q the professional Cornishman.

    So what have I learned? You were absolutely right that reading an Edwardian novel in a modern format would make it more palatable. On the Kindle there were no distractions from the thickness, fragility or smell of the paper, nor from the size, spacing or serifs of the font. The characters are all much larger than life; strongly drawn, with detailed descriptions of their foibles and of various notable incidents in their lives. The plot turns around their typical plans and activities. The background and setting of the story are discrete and specific – Troy (based on Q’s home of Fowey) is a small town where the residents have smuggling in their blood, but are living in fear of a Napoleonic invasion. What the whole scenario most reminds me of, I realise, is situation comedy. Indeed, the book could almost be a forerunner of ‘Dad’s Army’! (Those poor Edwardians, with no telly to watch in the evenings…) It hasn’t yet made me laugh out loud – as Wodehouse might, pace your experiences – but yes, I have found it surprisingly entertaining.

    I have also found myself comparing it to the only other Edwardian novel that I have read (so far) – George Calderon’s Downy V. Green. The characters are similarly exaggerated; the action (I hesitate to call it a plot) is episodic and dependent on their idiosyncrasies; and there is a distinct ‘situation’ in the self-contained Oxford college community. I can’t help wondering if George really intended it as satire at all – or just good old crowd-pleasing ROFL comedy.

    Your point about telling not showing also holds good. The narrative of The Mayor of Troy has a very strong authorial voice – with frequent first-person asides addressed to the reader. I don’t recall that George does this. As I click through the pages, I can almost sense Q twinkling at me. It occurs to me to wonder if he knew George. They didn’t overlap at Trinity College, although they only missed each other by a year. Both were the first of their family to be ‘up’ at Oxford, and both had won academic awards but failed to take First Class Honours. Both lived extravagantly as undergraduates, and both went on to forge profitable careers as writers. Allegedly, Q wrote his first novel to pay off his student debts. Might he have inspired George in some way? The dons and older scholars must surely have talked about his success. Then again, the two men had very different views on the big stuff like religion, and there are no letters from George in Q’s archive. Have you encountered him at all in your research?

    2017/08/01 at 9:34 pm
    • From Patrick Miles on Plum pie in the sky

      Goodness, Clare, I do admire your determination and stamina. What a challenge you set yourself, yet you saw it through staunchly: Edwardians would be proud of you! My warmest congratulations. Could this be the start of a new area of expertise for you? Will you soldier on into this territory?

      I am particularly impressed because you started with Q’s novels, which I don’t think I would have been tempted to myself. Yet you give such a good account of The Mayor of Troy that it does sound entertaining (I’m a ‘Dad’s Army’ addict), so I may be tempted. Where I think you are absolutely right is to choose an Edwardian writer who approximates to typical. I mean, James’s The Golden Bowl, or Forster’s A Room with a View, or Wells’s Tono-Bungay, may historically be Edwardian, but they are wholly untypical. Mrs Woods, wife of your Trinity president, is far more typical of the Victorian-Edwardian novelist; will you try her, next? Archie Ripley owned a copy of her A Village Tragedy, by the way.

      Yes, I think ‘exaggeration’ of characters is probably a feature that all Edwardian readers enjoyed and one that Q and Downy V. Green share. George’s friend Michael Furse’s word for it was ‘burlesque’. George’s Downy was an attempt to cash in on the public interest in Rhodes’s will and the Greek controversy at Oxford with a ROFL burlesque; I think it’s true that (unlike Dwala) George’s conception wasn’t satiric. Even so, there are some serious undercurrents to Downy, e.g. the thesis that Oxford might learn something from the Americans (motto of the book: ‘They who teach, learn’).

      I have to confess that I looked up Q on Wikipedia because I only knew him, as it were, as a Cambridge professor of English literature and his relationship with Leavis. But I am extremely grateful to you for pointing me in his direction. He was almost as much of a polymath as George! I was amazed to discover that he was five years older than George, and I would have thought it very likely that they met in the literary world, but as you say, they were very different in character and views. Moreover, I hazard a guess that George would, unfortunately, have mocked Cornishism…he wrote an absolutely hilarious review of a Cornish novel in the TLS of 1908, which I might be persuaded one day to post on Calderonia. Yet if Q was so successful upon leaving Oxford — and with novels — his example could well have inspired George. If the latter hadn’t got obsessed by 1891 with Russian, he could have followed Q’s lead…

      You’ve got me worried now: is there a single reference to Q in George’s extant correspondence, or is it a ‘phantom fly in amber’ (see Calderonia passim)?

      2017/08/03 at 10:21 am
  • From Jim D G Miles on 28 July 1917: A letter to Mrs Calderon

    I particularly like how the rose looks like a figure with a head and two arms, one raised. I thought I’d seen a drawing or painting exactly like it, but the closest I could find is the Pokémon Roselia.

    The Pokemon Roselia

    2017/07/31 at 6:23 pm
    • From Patrick Miles on 28 July 1917: A letter to Mrs Calderon

      Thank you. Roselia is delightful, the last of a long line of female roses with and without faces stretching back through Le Petit Prince, Lewis Carroll, Le Roman de la Rose, to the ‘beloved’ of The Song of Solomon, and probably earlier.

      You’re undoubtedly right about the anthropomorphic look of Quinn’s rose for Kittie. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but now I think he perhaps pressed it so that the left hand leaf as we look at it (the rose’s right hand) is saluting..? (It was certainly pressed separately before he put it in with the letter.)

      What might one feel as a twenty-one-year-old miner from Sheffield, corresponding with a fifty-year-old upper-class lady from Hampstead who sent one whatever one asked for?

      2017/08/01 at 1:11 pm
  • From Clare Hopkins on Plum pie in the sky

    Thank you, Patrick, for such detailed answers to my questions. I really am not qualified to engage in anything so grand as a dialogue on this, but here goes with a very tentative response.

    Edwardian novels then. Your unappealing fonts theory sounds very plausible. The kindle store denied all knowledge of poor old Daisy Woods, but I have now downloaded ‘the Major Works of Arthur Quiller-Couch’ and will see how I get on absorbing his language in different sizes. The difference between ‘telling’ and ‘showing’ is also interesting, and I will try to keep an eye out for instances of this along the way.

    I am shocked to learn that I was so memorably rude about George Calderon’s writing when you first visited the Trinity archive! But I am proud to say I have since read Downy V. Green not once but twice. Realising that the story was set in a barely-disguised Trinity College of circa 1890 was undoubtedly what made it readable for me. It is also very short. As I recall, there were two things in particular that I initially found off-putting. The misleading title was the first – it sounds like a sporting fixture, but V. is in fact the initial of the eponymous hero’s middle name. I still find it surprising that George engaged in this irritating verbal trickery – or at least, why did he not then develop the joke in the text? (To digress, was there ever a less engaging book title than John Buchan’s ‘thriller’ The Island of Sheep? I once yawned my way through that in a holiday cottage.) My second difficulty with Downy was his painful American accent. Am I alone in finding the phonetic spelling out of regional speech deeply tiresome and very little help at normal reading speed?

    So, Swallows and Amazons. My experience of this is very different from yours. I’m afraid my opinion was entirely based on a distant memory of reading the series as a child. Unlike you, I didn’t love Ransome once upon a time; I read his stories because I read anything that I could get my hands on. There seemed to be never enough books in the world then. Swallows and Amazons is the only Ransome title I can remember in any detail – though not the illustrations as it turns out. Looking (online) at his drawings now, I don’t agree with you there – I think they are rather sweet! But you are dead right about the name Titty. That was embarrassing – and I wonder if this whole ‘weirdness’, or ‘creepiness’ thing is actually nothing more than that: embarrassment for the characters. These were children old enough to sail boats with remarkable skill and competence – so why were they still playing babyish make-believe games? They had real boats, tents and islands – but they chose to waste their long hours of freedom pretending to be pirates. (At least poor, damaged, friendless Christopher Robin had the excuse of being trapped in his nursery!)

    You say that the world of Swallows and Amazons is ‘genuinely childlike’ – but this seems to contradict your earlier remark that your ‘whole experience of the playground and classroom world was the opposite.’ I wonder if my struggle to ‘get it’ was somehow tied in with the asexuality that you identify. Was I sensing the unreality of idealised children playing nicely (‘nicely’ being a synonym for ‘unnaturally’) in a late and subtle manifestation of that Victorian notion of childhood innocence and ‘purity’?

    Then again, it may simply be that I was just not sufficiently interested in sailing. Oh dear. Sincerest apologies to all you enthusiasts at the other end of the Ransome spectrum. Do tell – which were the books that you didn’t much like as kids….?

    2017/07/20 at 11:19 am
    • From Patrick Miles on Plum pie in the sky

      There is a sense that EVERYONE out there likes Swallows and Amazons and possibly all Ransome’s other children’s books. If you DO, then please DEFEND HIM AND THEM against my and Clare’s doubts and aspersions!

      Thank you very much indeed, Clare, for stirring up our brain cells further on the subject. I had not thought of it before, but I think you are right that at the time a lot of us devoured Ransome because at that age we read anything we could get our hands on (my parents could not afford such hardbacks, so I read them all from the local library). Closely questioning my memory, I also think you are right that there was a slight embarrassment for the characters, as you put it. But they were such obviously nice children amazingly more competent than oneself, that one couldn’t help but be drawn into their world and really like them, although one wasn’t ‘like’ them… It’s that unselfconsciousness of the characters of Swallows and Amazons and our acceptance of it then that I think is authentically childlike; one was instantly convinced at that age, but one can see so much missing now. Incidentally, on reflection I think it may not be the asexuality as such of Ransome’s world that threw one, but the rather polite English in which they addressed each other, which precluded any deeper interaction (even at that age) and seemed unreal. They didn’t communicate quite as we other children did.

      Finally, may I emphasise that I could well understand in 2011 why you found Downy V. Green unreadable. The fact that you have read it and enjoyed it (?) twice since perhaps proves my point that over a hundred years later one has to make a conscious effort to understand the context of the Edwardian literature one is reading, which is often difficult, though in this case as Trinity’s archivist and author of the college’s history you are probably the best qualified reader alive! I can’t be sure, but I think Edwardians reading Downy V. Green would have assumed the forename plus initial format was American; Downy’s American in George’s rendering certainly wowed Edwardian readers (but American critics weren’t so impressed). For a longer exposition of George’s Bildungsnovelle (which is all of 40,000 words) you will have to read the biography!

      Personally, I think Ransome’s illustrations are bizarrely varied in style and detail. As depictions of real children some of them are pretty unsettling, I find. It’s amazing to me that he rejected two other experienced illustrators and insisted on doing his own.

      Finally, in my original post about writers who were possibly Aspergic, in addition to Simon Baron-Cohen’s chapter ‘When Zero Degrees of Empathy is Positive’ I should have mentioned that a recent study has strongly suggested that genes linked to autism have actually been selected by evolution because they are associated with intellectual and technological progress. However, these genetic variants come ‘at a cost — an increased risk of autism spectrum disorders’ (i, 28 February 2017).

      2017/07/23 at 10:25 pm
  • From Clare Hopkins on Plum pie in the sky

    Like autism, like Asperger’s, like everything perhaps – is not enthusiasm for the works of P.G. Wodehouse on a spectrum? I wouldn’t go out of my way to read a Blandings novel, but if it was the only available book in a holiday cottage, say, I would find it acceptable enough. Despite being a woman!

    Confronted by a choice of two, I would definitely pick Wodehouse over Ransome. (And not because the latter wrote for children. One of the guilty pleasures of holiday cottages, surely, is reading Enid Blyton.) The main defect of Wodehouse, I have always thought, is simply that all his novels are essentially the same. Whereas Swallows and Amazon – yes, you are exactly right that it feels creepy. But why? Could you elaborate on this? It can’t just be the lack of realism or the self-contained world; and I hope you don’t mean that, conversely, it is the class system that makes me able to empathise with the Famous Five!

    This is as good a moment as any to bring out another deep literary question from the back of my mind – but with apologies if you have answered it somewhere on your blog already. What is it about Edwardian novels that makes them so very difficult to read? I don’t think I am alone in finding this to be true. I have had some professional engagement with Arthur Quiller-Couch and Margaret L. Woods, for example. Both were hugely popular in their day, but – dear me, what a struggle. Do you have any top tips – things to bear in mind perhaps, or allowances to be made – to make fiction of the period more palatable?

    2017/07/14 at 12:27 pm
    • From Patrick Miles on Plum pie in the sky

      Dear Clare, it is good to have your extended views again! (I quite miss the days of the Great Commemoration Dialogues, 2014-15.) Thank you.

      As usual, you make serious points and ask penetrating questions…so much so, that I doubt I can answer them at all satisfactorily. Let’s hope other followers pitch in?

      I agree that enthusiasm for most writers seems to be on a spectrum. But in my experience enthusiasm for Wodehouse is bunched at either end of the spectrum; it’s polarised. People either seem to be wild about him or can’t stand him. Thus Waugh, Orwell and Yegorov were seriously admiring and I knew a Cambridge professor who read the Wodehouse canon once a year with undiminished delight. My own father, who was not a great reader, read almost entirely Wodehouse in the 1940s and 50s, as far as I can make out, but my mother was scathing about Wodehouse’s superficiality and in the 1960s she weaned him off ‘Plum’ onto D.H. Lawrence. English masters at school were equally scathing about Wodehouse’s work. I would agree with you that if the only available book in a holiday cottage was a Blandings novel, I would lap it up…but what kind of recommendation is that? I could say the same of Barbara Cartland!

      Your invitation to me to say why Swallows and Amazons feels creepy is a humdinger. I think I would really need to do an Orwellian deep analysis job to get anywhere near the bottom of it. Make no mistake, I read all the Ransome books when I was about ten and couldn’t put them down. But even so there was something that I found weird about their world — fascinatingly weird, perhaps, but still other-planetary. It could be partly social; one was deeply aware these children came from another ‘drawer’. But I don’t think it was just that. Although I can’t say I knew anything about sex at that age, I think I felt deeply that this was a totally asexual or unerotic world (where, unlike the real world, you could seriously name a girl ‘Titty’), and my whole experience of the playground and classroom world was the opposite. Stevenson’s Black Arrow, a favourite at the time, was quite different: RLS hit just the right (low) level of innocent love and curiosity between boy and girl to seem of the real world. Then there were Ransome’s own illustrations. Dire! Some of them made the children look more like pieces of ectoplasm than humans. Profoundly alienating, even then. If this is how Ransome saw children, it’s surely worrying. On the other hand, remembering my enjoyment of his books at the time, perhaps the problem is simply that fifty years later one can’t re-enter that ‘Aspergic’ world, as it is genuinely childlike?

      When I first visited Trinity’s archive an unbelievable six years ago, you said to me cheerfully that you found George’s Downy V. Green unreadable, and I knew where you were coming from! Most Edwardian fiction falls, I think, into this category. Partly, perhaps, the problem is typographical. They put too much white space between the lines, the font was too big, the font was too serif-y for us today. So their ‘beautifully’ printed books are literally more difficult for the brain to process, perhaps, than we are used to, and than Victorian books are, even. But I think the main reason we can’t get into them is that the vast majority ‘tell’ too much rather than ‘show’ and the language is too unremarkable and just informative. Otherwise, though, a factor must be that we, unlike Mrs Woods’s readers, can’t slip effortlessly into the context in which they were written…it doesn’t already mean anything to us.

      I think my only advice would be to try and ignore the typography, or get a modern edition, and try to read the language slowly, concentrating on it as language. Eventually you might get hooked. This was certainly my own experience with George’s Downy and Dwala: when I just picked them up to read them, I quickly wilted, but reading his prose more slowly gave me much more. Even so, it seems to me, it’s more than likely an Edwardian novel isn’t worth reading if you can’t ‘get into it’…the future fate, I expect, of so many of our own!

      2017/07/15 at 9:36 am
  • From Patrick Miles on Punching on

    Thank you indeed. A Comment of this brilliance, however, demands a reply from master rhetoricians of the order of D. Grant. I hope Damian and others are watching!

    Being archaic myself, I used the word as the present participle of the verb ‘swinge’. I don’t understand why Sophie Elmhirst doesn’t tell her readers what that ‘very archaic verb’ means. It means to tear strips of flesh off, lacerate, excoriate. Personally, I think it’s an all too visual verb: the torturers ‘swing’ the lash, then it bites deep with the addition of the ‘e’…ghastly.

    I totally agree with you, and David Foster Wallace, about the use of footnotes. My trouble before writing this biography of George was that in practically every piece of non-fiction (‘academic’) prose I’d written I had HAD to employ footnotes and was fed up with the disease. George’s biography was a heaven-sent opportunity not to use them, as it is basically a narrative of his, Kittie’s, their friends’, Edwardian Britain’s lives, hence should be read more ‘fictively’. I’ve justified this in the swingèd Introduction thus: ‘Every fact presented has its material source. Letters quoted are held by the collections named in my Acknowledgements. Books and authors quoted are to be found in the Bibliography.’

    There are some sparing, but hilarious ‘authorial’ footnotes in Chekhov’s early short stories.

    2017/07/08 at 12:15 pm
  • From Jim D G Miles on Punching on

    For those – like myself – unfamiliar, Sophie Elmhirst’s New Statesman piece conveniently explains the term “swingeing” (…or does it?).

    As usual, Google provides a shorter route to understanding: {adjective} [BRITISH] (severe or extreme in size, amount, or effect).

    “It’s a real word; deal with it” …I tell myself, before making a record of the preceding in the ol’ cranial wax tablet.

    Regarding footnotes, I don’t wish to suggest that they ought to feature in this book, but David Foster Wallace did believe them useful as a general tool, and employed footnotes liberally [even – indeed especially – in his fiction]. A trademark was his “nested” footnote, wherein the reader is taken on a [wild goose] chase delving further away from narrative and more closely to the direct authorial voice1.

    1 Or, perhaps, further from it and closer to a second, meta-voice2.

    2 Or not, depending on your point of view, of course3.

    3 Obligatory nested nested footnote.

    2017/07/08 at 7:03 am