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ARCHIVED ENTRIES FOR SEPTEMBER 2009

September  30,  2009

Patrick: Lagniappe

Another fragment, of an almost contrary kind, is to be found in one of Leonardo's own notebooks, and is practically the only record of his youth which they contain.  It is a memory, or a symbolic dream, which still retains the disturbing quality of an emotional experience deeply secreted in the unconscious mind.  'In the earliest memory of my childhood it seemed to me that as I lay in my cradle a kite came down to me and opened my mouth with its tail, and struck me many times with its tail between my lips.  This', he adds, 'seems to be my fate.'  We are still too ignorant of psychology to interpret such a memory with any finality, but it is not surprising that Freud has taken this passage as the starting point for a psychological study of Leonardo.  His conclusions have been rejected with horror by the majority of Leonardo scholars, and no doubt the workings of a powerful and complex mind cannot be deduced from a single sentence nor explained by a rather one-sided system of psychology.  Freud's study, though it contains some passages of fine intuition, is perhaps as over-simplified as Vasari. 

--Leonardo da Vinci by Kenneth Clark

[N.B.:  Some think the refutation of Freud is a relatively recent development, but wise writers have always rejected his system.  Clark's book was originally published in 1939 (the year of Freud's death).  Similarly, Freud was never awarded a Nobel prize because of similar concerns.  To distill complexity into simplicity is the sign of genius in mathematics but of charlatanry in human psychology.  Hence the reason we still worship Einstein but reject Freud.]

September  28,  2009

Patrick: Lagniappe

What is it that attracts us to the personality of an unknown writer, particularly to that of a writer of fiction?  He may amuse us, thrill us, or impress us by his penetration into the psychology of his characters, but it is perhaps most of all by his understanding of and sympathy with those frustrations of emotion and buffetings of fortune which are our common lot.  Thus it happens that a writer may arouse in us a set of vibrations so personal that we feel that he has shared our suffering and is releasing in us a sorrow long buried, unvoiced, and unshared, in our own heart.

--The Quest for Corvo by A.J.A. Symons

September  27,  2009

Patrick: Lagniappe

There is no doubt that Fr. Rolfe wrote himself into his Borgia book as he did into Hadrian.  He worked from a boarding house in Hampstead, but he dreamed himself in Rome, the Rome of the Middle Ages.  He turned from the twentieth century in which he was born, and in which he had failed, from its 'jaded physique and sophisticated brain', to what he called 'the physically strong and intellectually simple fifteenth, when the world--the dust which makes man's flesh--was five centuries younger and fresher; when colour was vivid; light, a blaze; virtue and vice, extreme; passion, primitive and ardent; life, violent; youth, intense, supreme; and sententious pettifogging respectable mediocrity, senile and debile, of no importance whatever'.  Reading this book (with its denunciation of 'that curse to real civilisation, the printed book', denounced because it ended the amenities of manuscript), with its joy in the 'raw reality and glittering light' of Italy, its cult of 'magnificence in manners and habiliments, its strenuous love of action and insistence on hardihood of nerve, it is easy to see that Rolfe had accepted himself as a contemporary of Cellini, and suffered from that nostalgia of the past which, of all temptations of the mind, is the most destructive of contentment.

--The Quest for Corvo by A.J.A. Symons

September  26,  2009

Patrick: Lagniappe

Rolfe's megalomania and mental conceit cannot be doubted; but they were in part his compensation against the feeling that others, far less gifted than he, were enjoying the pleasant fruits of a world in which he had no share.  His own observations on the subject reveal the man: 'To all these people who came professing friendship, he grimly said: "Actions before words.  If you wish me well, employ me: or help me to get a proper price for my work, and to become your social equal; and we will begin to ponder the matter of friendship."  For he failed to understand how anyone could be friendly, who did not act wholeheartedly on his behalf.'  Rolf never wrote anything more true than that last sentence.

--The Quest for Corvo by A.J.A. Symons

September  25,  2009

Patrick: Lagniappe

On 23 December, the Saturnalian Festival, [Vespasian] gave special gifts to his male dinner guests, and did the same for the women on 1 March which was Matrons' Day.  But even this generosity could not rid him of his reputation for stinginess.  Thus the people of Alexandria continued to call him 'Cybiosactes' ('a dealer in small cubes of fish'), after one of the meanest of all their kings.  And when he died, the famous comedian Favor, who had been chosen to wear his funeral mask in the procession and give the customary imitations of his gestures and words, shouted to the procurators: 'Hey! how much will all this cost?'  'A hundred thousand,' they answered.  'Then I'll take a thousand down, and you can just pitch me into the Tiber.'

--The Twelve Caesars by Suetonius (tr. Robert Graves)

September  24,  2009

Patrick: Lagniappe

His wastefulness showed most of all in the architectural projects.  He built a palace, stretching from the Palatine to the Esquiline, which he called 'The Passageway'; and when it burned down soon afterwards, rebuilt it under the new name of 'The Golden House'.  The following details will give some notion of its size and magnificence.  A huge statue of himself, 120 feet high, stood in the entrance hall; and the pillared arcade ran for a whole mile.  An enormous pool, more like a sea than a pool, was surrounded by buildings made to resemble cities, and by a landscape garden consisting of ploughed fields, vineyards, pastures, and woodlands--where every variety of domestic and wild animal roamed about.  Parts of the house were overlaid with gold and studded with precious stones and nacre.  All the dining-rooms had ceilings of fretted ivory, the panels of which could slide back and let a rain of flowers, or of perfume from hidden sprinklers, shower upon his guests.  The main dining-room was circular, and its roof revolved slowly, day and night, in time with the sky.  Sea water, or sulphur water, was always on tap in the baths.  When the palace had been decorated throughout in this lavish style, Nero dedicated it, and condescended to remark: 'Good, now I can at last begin to live like a human being!'

--The Twelve Caesars by Suetonius (tr. Robert Graves)

September  23,  2009

Patrick: Lagniappe

It might have been possible to excuse his insolent, lustful, extravagant, greedy or cruel early practices (which were, I grant, more furtive than aggressive), by saying that boys will be boys; yet at the same time, this was clearly the true Nero, not merely Nero in his adolescence.  As soon as night fell he would snatch a hat or cap and make a round of the taverns, or prowl the streets in search of mischief--and not always innocent mischief either, because one of his games was to attack men on their way home from dinner, stab them if they offered resistance, and then drop their bodies down the sewers.  He would also break into shops, afterwards opening a miniature market at the Palace with the stolen goods, dividing them up into lots, auctioning them himself, and squandering the proceeds.  During these escapades he often risked being blinded or killed--once he was beaten almost to death by a senator whose wife he had molested, which taught him never to go out after dark unless an escort of senior officers was following him at a discreet distance.  He would even secretly visit the Theatre by day, in a sedan chair, and watch the quarrels among the pantomime actors, cheering them on from the top of the proscenium; then, when they came to blows and fought it out with stones and broken benches, he joined in the fun by throwing things on the heads of the crowd.  On one occasion he fractured a praetor's skull.

--The Twelve Caesars by Suetonius (tr. Robert Graves)

September  22,  2009

Patrick: Lagniappe

Again, during a wrangle between counsel as to whether a man accused of wrongfully posing as a Roman citizen should wear a Roman gown or a Greek mantle in court, Claudius demonstrated his fair-mindedness by making him wear a mantle when accused and a gown when defended.  Before one case opened, it is said, he wrote out the following verdict, which he subsequently delivered: 'I decide in favour of the party which has told the truth.'  Such erratic behaviour brought Claudius into open and widespread contempt--so much so that when a lawyer kept apologizing for the non-appearance of a provincial witness whom Claudius had subpoenaed, but would not explain it, Claudius had to browbeat him before at last eliciting the answer: 'He is dead; I trust the excuse is legitimate.'  Another lawyer thanked Claudius for letting him defend a client, and added: 'Though this is, of course, established practice.'  Old people I know have told me that litigants imposed so rudely on his good nature that they would not only call him back after he had closed the Court, but would catch at the hem of his gown, and even at his foot, in their efforts to detain him.  Though all this may sound incredible, I must also record that one nasty little Greek lawyer lost his temper with Claudius during a hearing and burst out: 'And as for you, you're a stupid old idiot!'

--The Twelve Caesars by Suetonius (tr. Robert Graves)

September  21,  2009

Patrick: Lagniappe

'But, my dear madam, I had not known you more than a day or two.  It was not a full-blown love--it was the merest bud--red, fresh, vivid, but small.  It was a colossal passion in embryo.  It never matured.'

'So much the better perhaps.'

'Perhaps.  But see how powerless is the human will against predestination!  We were prevented meeting; we have met.  One feature of the case remains the same amid many changes.  While you have grown rich, I am still poor.  Better than that, you have (judging by your last remark) outgrown the foolish impulsive passions of your early girlhood.  I have not outgrown mine.'

'I beg your pardon,' said she with vibrations of feeling in her words.  'I have been placed in a position which hinders such outgrowings.  Besides, I don't believe that the genuine subjects of emotion do outgrow them; I believe that the older such people get the worse they are.  Possibly at ninety or a hundred they may feel they are cured: but a mere threescore and ten won't do it--at least for me, if I live so long.'

--The Woodlanders by Thomas Hardy

September  20,  2009

Patrick: Lagniappe

Grace was thus unexpectedly worsted in her encounter with her old friend.  She had opened the window with a faint sense of triumph, but he had turned it into sadness; she did not quite comprehend the reason why.  In truth it was because she was not cruel enough in her cruelty.  If you have to use the knife, use it, say the great surgeons; and for her own peace Grace should have handled Winterborne thoroughly or not at all.  As it was, on closing the window an indescribable--some might have said dangerous--pity quavered in her bosom for him.

--The Woodlanders by Thomas Hardy

September  19,  2009

Patrick: Lagniappe

It often happens that in situations of unrestraint, where there is no thought of the eye of criticism, real feeling glides into a mode of manifestation not easily distinguishable from rodomontade.  A veneer of affectation overlies a bulk of truth, with the evil consequence, if perceived, that the substance is estimated by the superficies, and the whole rejected.

--The Woodlanders by Thomas Hardy

September  18,  2009

Patrick: Lagniappe

That stillness about the arm, hip, and knee-joint, which was apparent when he walked, was the net product of the divers sprains and over-exertions that had been required of him in handling trees and timber when a young man, for he was of the sort called self-made, and had worked hard.  He knew the origin of every one of these cramps; that in his left shoulder had come of carrying a pollard, unassisted, from Tutcombe Bottom home; that in one leg was caused by the crash of an elm against it when they were felling; that in the other was from lifting a bole.  On many a morrow, after wearying himself by these prodigious muscular efforts, he had risen from his bed fresh as usual; and confident in the recuperative power of is youth he had repeated the strains anew.  But treacherous Time had been only hiding ill-results when they could be guarded against for greater effect when they could not.  Now in his declining years the store had been unfolded in the form of rheumatisms, pricks, and spasms, in every one of which Melbury recognized some act which, had its consequences been contemporaneously made known, he would wisely have abstained from repeating.

--The Woodlanders by Thomas Hardy

September  17,  2009

Patrick: Lagniappe

The real Dr Fitzpiers was a man of too many hobbies to show likelihood of rising to any great eminence in the profession he had chosen, or even to acquire any wide practice in the rural district he had marked out as his field of survey for the present.  In the course of a year his mind was accustomed to pass in a grand solar sweep throughout the zodiac of the intellectual heaven.  Sometimes it was in the Ram, sometimes in the Bull; one month he would be immersed in alchemy, another in poesy; one month in the Twins of astrology and astronomy; then in the Crab of German literature and metaphysics. 

--The Woodlanders by Thomas Hardy

September  16,  2009

Patrick: Lagniappe

Fitzpiers sat down to the book he had been perusing.  It happened to be that of a German metaphysician, for the doctor was not a practical man, except by fits, and much preferred the ideal world to the real, and the discovery of principles to their application.

--The Woodlanders by Thomas Hardy

September  15,  2009

Patrick: Lagniappe

Yet assuming the value of taciturnity to a man among strangers, it is apt to express more than talkativeness when he dwells among friends.  The countryman who is obliged to judge the time of day from changes in external nature sees a thousand successive tints and traits in the landscape which are never discerned by him who hears the regular chime of a clock, because they are never in request.  In like manner do we use our eyes on our taciturn comrade.  The infinitesimal movement of muscle, curve, hair, and wrinkle, which when accompanied by a voice goes unregarded, is watched and translated in the lack of it, till virtually the whole surrounding circle of familiars is charged with the reserved one's moods and meanings.

--The Woodlanders by Thomas Hardy

September  14,  2009

Patrick: Lagniappe

The Viceroy possessed no name--nothing but a string of counties and two-thirds of the alphabet after them.

--A Germ-Destroyer from Plain Tales from the Hills by Rudyard Kipling

September  13,  2009

Patrick: Lagniappe

'Here's your pipe, Sorr.  Shmoke her tinderly wid honey-dew, afther letting the reek av the Canteen plug die away.  But 'tis no good, thanks to you all the same, fillin' my pouch wid your chopped hay.  Canteen baccy's like the Army; it shpoils a man's taste for moilder things.'

So saying, Mulvaney took up his butterfly-net, and returned to barracks.

--The Taking of Lungtungpen from Plain Tales from the Hills by Rudyard Kipling

September  12,  2009

Patrick: Lagniappe

He worked brilliantly; but he could not accept any order without trying to better it.  That was the fault of his creed.  It made men too responsible and left too much to their honour.  You can sometimes ride an old horse in a halter, but never a colt.  McGoggin took more trouble over his cases than any of the men of his year.  He may have fancied that thirty-page judgements on fifty-rupee cases--both sides perjured to the gullet--advanced the cause of Humanity.  At any rate, he worked too much, and worried and fretted over the rebukes he received, and lectured away on his ridiculous creed out of office, till the Doctor had to warn him that he was overdoing it.

--The Conversion of Aurelian McGoggin from Plain Tales from the Hills by Rudyard Kipling

September  11,  2009

Patrick: Lagniappe

Understand, I do not blame Schreiderling.  He was a good husband according to his lights, and his temper only failed him when he was being nursed: which was some seventeen days in each month.  He was almost generous to his wife about money-matters, and that, for him, was a concession.  Still Mrs Schreiderling was not happy.  They married her when she was this side of twenty and had given all her poor little heart to another man.  I have forgotten his name, but we will call him the Other Man.  He had no money and no prospects.  He was not even good-looking; and I think he was in the Commissariat or Transport.  But, in spite of all these things, she loved him very badly; and there was some sort of an engagement between the two when Schreiderling appeared and told Mrs Gaurey that he wished to marry her daughter.  Then the other engagement was broken off--washed away by Mrs Gaurey's tears, for that lady governed her house by weeping over disobedience to her authority and the lack of reverence she received in her old age.  The daughter did not take after her mother.  She never cried; not even at the wedding.

--The Other Man from Plain Tales from the Hills by Rudyard Kipling

September  10,  2009

Patrick: Lagniappe

[I]t is a venerable fact that, if a man or woman makes a practice of, and takes a delight in, believing and spreading evil of people indifferent to him or her, he or she will end in believing evil of folk very near and dear.

--Watches of the Night from Plain Tales from the Hills by Rudyard Kipling

September  9,  2009

Patrick: Lagniappe

Michele was a poor, sickly weed and very black; but he had his pride.  He would not be seen smoking a huqa for anything; and he looked down on natives as only a man with seven-eighths native blood in his veins can.

--His Chance in Life from Plain Tales from the Hills by Rudyard Kipling

September  8,  2009

Patrick: Lagniappe

Let a puppy eat the soap in the bathroom or chew a newly-blacked boot.  He chews and chuckles until, by and by, he finds out that blacking and Old Brown Windsor make him very sick; so he argues that soap and boots are not wholesome.  Any old dog about the house will soon show him the unwisdom of biting big dogs' ears.  Being young, he remembers and goes abroad, at six months, a well-mannered little beast with a chastened appetite.  If he had been kept away from boots, and soap, and big dogs till he came to the trinity full-grown and with developed teeth, consider how fearfully sick and thrashed he would be!  Apply that notion to the 'sheltered life,' and see how it works.  It does not sound pretty, but it is the better of two evils.

--Thrown Away from Plain Tales from the Hills by Rudyard Kipling

September  4,  2009

Patrick: Lagniappe

It cannot be pretended that business ethics were irreproachable.  A good deal of business was done by personal contact at bars and over luncheon tables, and on the golf course between rounds, the conclusions being later confirmed by secretaries' letters.  This made the atmosphere friendly and natural, but also gave large scope to poker-player technique and exercise of personality.  An intelligent and forceful person who could persuade another into a one-sided deal was called 'a good business man': so long as he avoided committing his misrepresentation in black and white.

--The Long Week End by Robert Graves and Alan Hodge

September  3,  2009

Patrick: Lagniappe

Each season brought in a 'new colour', meaning a new name for a hitherto unfashionable shade.  The Twenties showed great bravado in names--'Yes, modom, we stock it in all the new shades: Mud, N****r, Rust, Gunmetal, Old Boots, Dust, and Self.'

--The Long Week End by Robert Graves and Alan Hodge

[N.B.:  We have only one magical word left in our culture--which was spelled out in The Long Week End, not covered in the shame of asterisks.  But, of course, back then there were a multitude of magical words that could not appear in books (which I choose not to elucidate here, not because they retain their magical powers but because of my fantastic whimsy of hoping their magic will return).  The word is magical because like any efficacious incantation, it's mere utterance provokes a physical and/or emotional reaction in others.  It's our last link to understanding that words have power, they can change the world.]

September  2,  2009

Patrick: Lagniappe

The Daily Herald reported in 1924 that the T.U.C. was reviewing complaints about working condition in Woolworth's--'the well-known bazaar-owners'--and that this was the more serious because the stores were patronized chiefly by the working class.  But the firm never had any difficulty in engaging unskilled sales-girls at a low wage; for 'the local Woolworth's' was increasingly the focus of popular life in most small towns.  And the name of Woolworth was a blessed one to the general public; wherever a new branch was opened, the prices of ironmongers, drapers, and household furnishers in the neighbourhood would drop twopence in the shilling.  The middle class at first affected to despise Woolworth's goods, by they soon caught the working-class habit and would exclaim brightly among themselves: 'My dear--guess where I got this amazing object--threepence at Maison Woolworth!  I don't know how they do it.'

--The Long Week End by Robert Graves and Alan Hodge

[N.B.:  Wise old Solomon turns in his sleep beneath the sands, chuckling up dust at the thought there's nothing new under the sun, not even a giant retailer which gained dominance first in small towns offering low-wage jobs and low-price muck, also with a name that started with "W."]

September  1,  2009

Patrick: Lagniappe

But few reputable practitioners would go all the way with Freud, who had complicated his simple thesis, of the disguised emergence in dreams of feeling suppressed in waking life, with a most fantastic one.  He held that, besides particular adult suppressions, there were general ones which dated from earliest infancy and had a strong sexual colour: particularly what he called the Oedipus Complex, which made a male child want to kill his father and enjoy his mother.  This 'psycho-analysis'--the non-elision of the o in psycho before analysis was noted by purists as a ready instance of the scientists' increasing disregard of the humanities--consisted in dredging up from the oozy depths of the mind childish memories of thwarted inclinations which would account for later aberrancies, and indeed for almost every ruling motive in life.  To be encouraged by a doctor to talk about oneself in the most prattling detail, and to be listened to with serious interest, was a new and grand experience, especially for moneyed and lonely women who had had 'nervous breakdowns.'

--The Long Week End by Robert Graves and Alan Hodge

[N.B.:  Of course, there's plenty of gullible men, too, who would pay for such sympathetic company.  It's much cheaper, and gives greater pleasure to the listener, if one would just go to a nursing home twice a week and regale one of the inmates with tales of childhood trauma.  This is particularly true if one is lonely as it makes excellent training for acclimating oneself  to one's probable destination in old age.]