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ARCHIVED ENTRIES FOR MARCH 2014

March  31,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

The term "adultery" is chosen carefully, for it applies only to women who were married.  And it was married, rather than unmarried, women who were likely to pass the couple of hours between five and seven (known as a cinq à sept) in the pattern set by Queen Victoria's pleasure-loving son, King Edward VII, and his coterie of friends.  This group had been named the Marlborough House Set after the mansion Edward had entertained in as the Prince of Wales before becoming kind.

The choice of this hour of the day was purely practical.  It took some considerable time for a lady to unbutton and unlace her layers of corsets, chemises, and underskirts, let alone button and lace them up again.  Lovers therefore visited just after tea, when ladies were undressing in order to exchange their afternoon clothes for their evening ones.

--The Bolter by Frances Osborne

March  30,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

The group of Cedars, remaining on this part of the Lebanon, is held sacred by the Greek Church, on account of a prevailing notion that the trees were standing at the time when the Temple of Jerusalem was built.  They occupy three or four acres on the mountain's side, and many of them are gnarled in a way that implies great age, but except these signs I saw nothing in their appearance or conduct that tended to prove them contemporaries of the cedars employed in Solomon's Temple.  The final cause to which these aged survivors owed their preservation, was explained to me in the evening by a glorious old fellow (a Christian Chief), who made me welcome in the valley of Eden.  In ancient times the whole range of the Lebanon had been covered with cedars, and, as the fertile plains beneath became more and more infested by Government officers and tyrants of high and low estate, the people by degrees abandoned them, and flocked to the rugged mountains for protection, well knowing that the trouble of a walk up hill would seriously obstruct their weak and lazy oppressors.  The cedar forests gradually shrank under the axe of the encroaching multitudes, and seemed at last to be on the point of disappearing entirely, when an aged chief, who ruled in the district, and who had witnessed the great change effected even in his own life-time, chose to say that some sign or memorial should be left of the vast woods with which the mountains had formerly been clad, and commanded accordingly that this group of trees (a group probably situated at the highest point to which the forest had reached) should remain untouched.  The Chief it seems was not moved by the notion I have mentioned as prevailing int he Greek Church, but rather by some sentiment of veneration for a great natural feature,--a sentiment akin, perhaps, to that old and earthborn Religion which made men bow down to creation, before they had yet learnt to know and worship the Creator.   

--Eothen by Alexander Kinglake

March  29,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

The broad cold marble floor--the simple couch--the air freshly waving through a shady chamber--a verse of the Koran emblazoned on the wall--the sight and the sound of falling water--the cold fragrant smoke of the narguilè, and a small collection of wives and children in the inner apartments--all these, the utmost enjoyments of the grandee, are yet such as to be appreciable by the humblest Mussulman in the empire.   

--Eothen by Alexander Kinglake

March  28,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

The impossibility of handing down property from father to son for any long period consecutively, seems to prevent the existence of those traditions by which, with us, the refined modes of applying wealth are made known to its inheritors.  We know that in England a newly-made rich man cannot, by taking thought, and spending money, obtain even the same looking furniture as a Gentleman.  The complicated character of an English establishment allows room for subtle distinctions between that which is comme il faut, and that which is not.  All such refinements are unknown in the East--the Pasha and the peasant have the same tastes.    

--Eothen by Alexander Kinglake

March  27,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

The chief places of public amusement, or rather, of public relaxation, are the baths, and the great café.  This last is frequented at night by most of the wealthy men of the city, and by many of the humbler sort; it consists of a number of sheds, very simply framed and built in a labyrinth of running streams--streams so broken and headlong in their course that they foam and roar on every side.  The place is lit up in the simplest manner by numbers of small, pale lamps, strung upon loose cords, and so suspended, from branch to branch, that the light, though it looks so quiet amongst the darkening foliage, yet leaps and brightly flashes, as it falls upon the troubled waters.  All around, and chiefly upon the very edge of the torrents, groups of people are tranquilly seated.  They drink coffee, and inhale the cold fumes of the narguilè; they talk rather gently the one to the other, or else are silent.     

--Eothen by Alexander Kinglake

March  26,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

Every man wanted to know,--not who was his neighbour, but who was to be his ruler; whose feet he was to kiss, and by whom his feet were to be ultimately beaten.  Treat your friend, says the proverb, as though he were one day to become your enemy, and your enemy as though he were one day to become your friend.  The Syrians went further, and seemed inclined to treat every stranger as though he might one day become their Pasha.  

--Eothen by Alexander Kinglake

March  25,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

I reached Suez at last.  The British Agent, though roused from his midnight sleep, received me in his home with the utmost kindness and hospitality.  Heaven! how delightful it was to lie on fair sheets, and to dally with sleep, and to wake, and to slepp, and tow ake once more, for the sake of sleeping again!

--Eothen by Alexander Kinglake

March  24,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

For several hours I urged forward my beast at a rapid, though steady pace, but at length the pangs of thirst began to torment me.  I did not relax my pace, however, and I had not suffered long, when a moving object appeared in the distance before me.  The intervening space was soon traversed, and I found myself approaching a Bedouin Arab, mounted on a camel attended by another Bedouin on foot.  They stopped.  I saw that there hung from the pack-saddle of the camel one of the large skin water-flasks commonly carried in the Desert, and it seemed to be well filled.  I steered my dromedary close up alongside of the mounted Bedouin, caused my beast to kneel down, then alighted, and keeping the end of the halter in my hand, went up to the mounted Bedouin without speaking, took hold of his water-flask, opened it, and drank long and deep from its leathern lips.  both of the Bedouins stood fast in amazement, and mute horror; and really if they had never happened to see an European before, the apparition was enough to startle them.  To see for the first time a coat and a waistcoat with the semblance of a white human face at the top, and for this ghastly figure to come swiftly out of the horizon, upon a fleet dromedary--approach them silently, and with a demoniacal smile, and drink a deep draught from their water-flask--this was enough to make the Bedouins stare a little; they, in fact, stared a great deal--not as Europeans stare with a restless and puzzled expression of countenance, but with features all fixed and rigid, and with still, glassy eyes.  Before they had time to get decomposed from their state of petrifaction, I had remounted my dromedary, and was darting away towards the East.

--Eothen by Alexander Kinglake

March  23,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

The theory is that the English traveller has committed some sin against God and his conscience, and that for this, the Evil Spirit has hold of him, and drives him from his home like a victim of the old Grecian Furies, and forces him to travel over countries far and strange, and most chiefly over Deserts and desolate places, and to stand upon the sites of cities that once were, and are now no more, and to grope among the tombs of dead men.  Often enough the wandering Englishman is guilty (if guilt it be) of some pride or ambition, big or small, imperial or parochial, which being offended has made the lone places more tolerable than ball-rooms to him a sinner.

--Eothen by Alexander Kinglake

March  22,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

One of them got a few minutes of private conversation with Dthemetri, and ventured to ask him anxiously whether the English did not travel under the protection of Evil Demons.  I had previously known . . . that this notion, so conducive to safety of our countrymen is generally prevalent amongst the Orientals.  It owes its origin partly to the strong wilfulness of the English Gentleman (a quality which, not being backed by any visible authority either civil or military, seems perfectly superhuman to the soft Asiatic), but partly too to the magic of the Banking System, by force of which the wealthy traveller will make all his journeys without carrying a handful of coin, and yet, when he arrives at a city, will rain down showers of gold.

--Eothen by Alexander Kinglake

[N.B.:  That explains the current "magic" of the Banking Sytem--Evil Demons!]

March  21,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

You look to the Sun, for he is your task-master, and by him you know the measure of the work that you have done, and the measure of the work that remains for you to do.  He comes when you strike your tent in the early morning, and then, for the first hour of the day, as you move forward on your camel, he stands at your near side, and makes you know that the whole day's toil is before you; then for a while, and a long while, you see him no more, for you are veiled and shrouded and dare not look upon the greatness of his glory, but you know where he strides over head, by the touch of his flaming sword. 

--Eothen by Alexander Kinglake

March  20,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

As long as you are journeying in the interior of the Desert you have no particular point to make for as your resting place.  The endless sands yield nothing but small stunted shrubs; even these fail after the first two or three days, and from that time you pass over broad plains--you pass over newly reared hills--you pass through valleys dug out by the last week's storm, and the hills and the valleys are sand, sand, sand, still sand, and only sand, and sand, and sand again.

--Eothen by Alexander Kinglake

March  19,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

It is in such things as my rescue by the two angels that make me in life believe more in E. M. Forster's and Elizabeth Bowen's sort of plot, that intersperses literally incredible melodrama with lulls where the shifts are apparently minimal, rather than in the steady organised tempo offered by more evenly plotted novels.  Elizabeth Bowen says this in her notes on writing a novel: 'Chance is better than choice, it is more lordly.  Chance is God. Choice is man.'

--What to Look for in Winter: A Memoir in Blindness by Candia McWilliam

[N.B.:  And that, succinctly, is the problem with modern art--chance may create startling juxtapositions and the frisson of the strange and unknown--but those are fleeting sensations.  The enduring interest in the classical artists is due to choice, not chance.]

March  18,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

Who, fully conscious, lives in the moment, actually?  I have met some who think they do, or even appear to.  The first are often intolerably selfish, the second usually very old and of apparently high principle, or very young indeed.

--What to Look for in Winter: A Memoir in Blindness by Candia McWilliam

March  17,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

My computer has just offered to me, within its menu of formatting, the information that 'Widow/orphan control' is already in place.  This means that no lone word will be left to stand unprotected by the words with which it has been conjoined, or with which it has grown up on to the page.

When I worked at Vogue, laying out copy, we hunted these widows with our scalpels, taking out antecedent text in order to bring the widowed word up into a warm paragraph away from the cold of white space.

--What to Look for in Winter: A Memoir in Blindness by Candia McWilliam

March  16,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

She voiced an idea that is a common one but whose truth inheres, or so I think that I deeply believe, in its opposite, that she was glad I was doing a memoir as that is where truth lies not in fiction.

Well, exactly so.  It is in a memoir that truth will, if not lie, tell as many versions of itself as there are drops of water in a river.  Does anyone who has lived feel that there is one version of their life?  There is only the frozen water of story that will melt and retell itself in another shape, there are only the tides and storms, whose drift will be countered whose wreckage will be rebuilt, in countless ways by the survivor, and the survivors of that survivor.

--What to Look for in Winter: A Memoir in Blindness by Candia McWilliam

[N.B.:  This is absolutely true--if one is a pathological liar with no one left to lie to.  Old Scratch himself would have to work mighty hard to come up with a better self-justification for wrongdoing.  What is truth?  What is right?  What is wrong?  What is this bloody knife gripped in my hand?  I'm just a survivor--and a liar.]

March  15,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

So, in the face of being uncertain of sight, on my own, unsure of where I belong or live, and afraid of all of it, let us say that I can: resolve to use any talent I might have; try to use discipline as a tree and not a gallows; check for authenticity as you might for woodworm; avoid bitterness; reflect that anything that dismantles delusion and falsity is for the best.  Above all, it must be vital never to compare one's lot with that of others, which we cannot ever really know; continually to take the longer view; and always to see off the gratifications of self-dislike, that is cousin to pride.

--What to Look for in Winter: A Memoir in Blindness by Candia McWilliam

March  14,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

An ebb so low is reached that I feel my thoughts dwindled to just the one thought trawling empty along the stony repetitious levels and approaching the underwater cave mouth I do not want to look into, covetable extnctness.  Not extinction, extinctness.  It is a wanting to be dead, not emphatically, a wanting to die.  Moreover I can see it off with various forms of everyday magic, from folding sheets to washing my hands with welcome soap.  It's just not practical, though, routinely to address low-grade thoughts of suicide early every afternoon if you can avoid it.  It leaves a banal plaque on the mind and is no doubt antisocial, like bad breath.  That is what it is, bad breath.  The breath so bad, it stops at nothing.

--What to Look for in Winter: A Memoir in Blindness by Candia McWilliam

March  13,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

The last play I say in the company of my mother was The Cherry Orchard.  I had forgotten this till now, or so I think.  I must I suppose have remembered it every time I've read the play since then, or when it's been mentioned.  I've not seen it again, which is a bit peculiar.  At that first, that only visit, I was painfully bored until the end, when I couldn't bear it to stop in the way it did.  Perhaps that's what they mean when they say Chekhov is like life?  Unbearably boring, then you don't want it over with.  Or, please, not like that.  Boring isn't the word, it is?  The word is . . . like life.

--What to Look for in Winter: A Memoir in Blindness by Candia McWilliam

March  12,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

Proper fiction tells the truth by a means that, far from producing pain as untruth does, gives pleasure; this doesn't mean that it fails to reproduce or convey pain.  The transformative element is not lies but art.  Human truth is caught in translation, such that we may briefly be as close to not being ourselves while we read as we shall ever be.  It's not a promise but there is always the promise of a promise.

--What to Look for in Winter: A Memoir in Blindness by Candia McWilliam

March  11,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

What does the Brahms Adagio mean now?

It means itself.  And after it has passed there comes that formal silence full of promise in which one lies refined and maybe hopeful.

--What to Look for in Winter: A Memoir in Blindness by Candia McWilliam

March  10,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

My gaze, like that of Actaeon upon the naked goddess Diana, is refused.  Many of my new or fresh thoughts came, in the sighted past, to my brain through my eyes in reaction to what I saw or to what I read.  The thoughts that lay in the new dark within were in danger, without the ever-fed light from outwith my closed brain, of knotting up.  My eyes had brought in the light that kept my mind open, or as open as it was.  Now that my brain refuses my gaze to me (my brain absolutely will not open my eyes; I do it, when I can, manually.  I would rather mention this blinkingly between the curving lids of parentheses), the thoughts can be like hunting dogs in my mind and tear and tear at my jittery gaze, my dear and dragged-low sight, tear at it constantly.

--What to Look for in Winter: A Memoir in Blindness by Candia McWilliam

March  9,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

For Romans the existence of the gods was accepted by almost everyone as true but tales about the gods were freely described as the inventions of the poets.  It is indeed rather hard to imagine Jupiter approving or encouraging the wide dissemination of the stories about his sexual misdemeanours; these were not stories designed to increase reverence for the gods.  Romans did not often ask themselves the function of their myths--it is hard, within a society, to stand back sufficiently from fundamental beliefs and attitudes in order to raise such issues--but a plausible explanation may be that the myths helped to make sense of the world as it was, or seemed to them: a mass of competing, contradictory forces, lacking any overall structure or purpose, in which cataclysmic change by earthquake, storm or death might strike at any time for reasons unknown and unknowable to humans, but a product of the struggles of the gods.

--Rome and Jerusalem: The Clash of Ancient Civilizations by Martin Goodman

March  8,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

Romans thought about the gods much as the scientifically illiterate nowadays think about germs, microbes and viruses.  We do not all know exactly what such entities are, and we cannot see, touch, hear or smell them at all, but we believe that they surround us in their millions and that they have the power radically to affect both us and the world about us.  Some gods were "known" and could be named and expected to intervene in the world specifically or mainly within certain spheres: the divinity Robigus or Robigo, whose festival of the Robigalia was celebrated by Romans on 25 April, was described by some Latin writers as a divinity worshipped for the purposes of averting blight from young cornfields, although his (or her) other characteristics were apparently obscure.  Since the cosmos contained an indefinitely large population of gods, most divinities were unknown to humans--hence invocations to a divine figure "sive deus, sive dea" ("be it god or goddess"), and the Roman state prayers which list a series of divinities but still end, cautiously, with "and all the other gods."  Romans thought of these supernatural beings as belonging in a number of different categories: deus (a god who had always been immortal), divus (a god who had once lived as a human), nymph or spirit.  Some were more powerful than others, some (like nymphs) generally benevolent to humans, others less so.  Some, like the divinities inherent in abstract qualities such as Iustitia (Justice) or Fides (good faith), had no real personality or stories about their characters.

--Rome and Jerusalem: The Clash of Ancient Civilizations by Martin Goodman

March  7,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

"Who is a jew?"  The question was as difficult to answer in the early Roman empire as it is now.  Indeed, the lack of clear boundaries to define Jewishness makes the contemporary world--or, more accurately, the world in which European and American Jews have lived since the emancipation of European Jews began in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries--more similar to the multicultural society of the pagan Roman empire than of any intervening period of Jewish history.  Throughout the Middle Ages, under both Christian and Muslim rule, the limits of Jewish communities were generally agreed both by the Jews themselves and by the states in which they lived.  In the Roman world in the first century CE, there was no such clarity.  Jewish identity was then, as now, both religious and ethnic, and the root cause of uncertainty was, for Jews as for Romans, the liberal extension of this identity to outsiders.  Precisely when and why Jews began to believe that gentiles who came to join them and took up their customs should be treated not just as tolerated strangers but as Jews in their own right is uncertain.  However, the notion of such proselytes was well entrenched in the text of the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible, and it is therefore reasonable to suppose that gentile conversions to Judaism were taken for granted by Greek Jews in the third and second centuries BCE, when the Septuagint was completed.  There is much in favour of the hypothesis that this Jewish concept was adopted in response to the universalism of Hellenism.  Just as anyone who wished to do so could become Greek by behaving in a Greek fashion, so too anyone who wished to do so could become a Jew by following the customs of the Jews.

--Rome and Jerusalem: The Clash of Ancient Civilizations by Martin Goodman

March  6,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

Both language about barbarians and the physical depiction of them could be extremely violent.  On the column of Trajan in Rome, which celebrated the emperor's victories in Dacia in 101-2 and 105-6, a series of images carved in relief record the operation of the Roman army on the Danube.  The scenes depicted, evidently preserved for the admiration of the general Roman public (even if not all the details could be fully appreciated from the ground), show the mass murder of the enemy, the enslavement of women and children, even the display of severed heads as trophies.  Extermination of such enemies could be celebrated in chilling terms.  According to the historian Cassius Dio, when the annihilation of the Nasamones in Africa in 85-6 included the destruction of all the non-combatants, the emperor Domitian announced triumphantly to the Senate, "I have forbidden the Nasamones to exist."  Peoples and groups might be defined as "internal barbarians" in this way only be certain individuals at particular times for specific purposes, but the language and concept were dangerously available for their isolation and denigration.

--Rome and Jerusalem: The Clash of Ancient Civilizations by Martin Goodman

March  5,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

Other Jews must have travelled to the diaspora voluntarily in search of a living, what we would now call economic migrants, compelled to leave their homeland by over-population caused not least by the distinctive Jewish antipathy to abortion and infanticide.  Their choice of destinations will have been determined in large part by distance: the biggest diaspora communities were in Egypt and Syria, the regions closest to Judaea.  Many must have been attracted by the prospects of joining existing Jewish communities which might offer charitable help, a religious framework, a social base or employment.  . . .  Jews were thus spread widely across the eastern Mediterranean world by the first century CE--indeed, to the angry emperor Claudius, attempting in a stern letter to the city of Alexandria dated 10 November 41 to bring to an end intercommunal disturbances between Jews and Greeks, Jews seemed to be everywhere.

--Rome and Jerusalem: The Clash of Ancient Civilizations by Martin Goodman

March  4,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

Even if it is impossible to know what proportion of the empire's economy was fuelled directly by state expenditure or direction, and how much depended on the decisions taken by the thousands of individuals who turned the political unity of the Roman world to their commercial advantage, the cumulative effect on the Mediterranean world of all this industrial activity has been illuminated, rather surprisingly, by discoveries far to the north, in the Arctic circle.  Analysis of the ice floes, which have accreted annually since antiquity, has shown tha the level of metal residues released into the world's atmosphere reached a peak in the first two centuries CE which was not to be equalled again in volume until the Industrial Revolution.

--Rome and Jerusalem: The Clash of Ancient Civilizations by Martin Goodman

March  3,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

Government without bureaucracy could operate successfully only if it was government by consent--even if the motivation for consent was ultimately the fear of extreme violence by the state as penalty for open opposition.  Much administration, such as the collection of taxes at the local level, was in effect carried out on behalf of the state by local urban elites in return for Roman support of their local status.  The success of government thus depended upon acceptance by provincial aristocrats of the value of honours and titles bestowed by local people and recognized by Rome.  Much of the extant evidence for this "empire of honour" appears to confirm such a consensus.  Inscriptions on monuments from all over the empire boast about the status of local magistrates and the favours granted to them, and through them to their communities, by governors and emperors.  Such evidence suggests an integrated society of provincials willingly cooperating with a benevolent and responsive state.  But of course only those individuals who accepted and benefited from the system will have paid for such monuments to be erected.

--Rome and Jerusalem: The Clash of Ancient Civilizations by Martin Goodman

March  2,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

Human nature is so well disposed towards those who are in interesting situations, that a young person, who either marries or dies, is sure of being kindly spoken of.

--Emma by Jane Austen

[N.B.:  Only the interesting die young.]

March  1,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

"Depend upon it Emma, a sensible man would find no difficulty in it.  He would feel himself in the right; and the declaration--made, of course, as a man of sense would make it, in a proper manner--would do him more good, raise him higher, fix his interest stronger with the people depended on, than all that a line of shifts and expedients can ever do.  Respect would be added to affection.  They would feel that they could trust him; that the nephew, who had done rightly by his father, would do rightly by them; for they know, as well as he does, as well as all the world must know, that he ought to pay this visit to his father; and while meanly exerting their power to delay it, are in their hearts not thinking the better of him for submitting to their whims.  Respect for right conduct is felt by every body.  If he would act in this sort of manner, on principle, consistently, regularly, their little minds would bend to his.

--Emma by Jane Austen

[N.B.:  Always maintain your frame--Jane Austen game.]