"Most men will readily admit that the two poets who have the greatest hold over Englishmen are Handel and Shakespeare — for it is as a poet, a sympath "Most men will readily admit that the two poets who have the greatest hold over Englishmen are Handel and Shakespeare — for it is as a poet, a sympathiser with and renderer of all estates and conditions whether of men or things, rather than as a mere musician, that Handel reigns supreme." in Alps and Sanctuaries of Piedmont and the Canton Ticino, by Samuel Butler
(....a world without machines...)
Well, I’ve started to read the utopian novel Erewhon, and as most often, I try to get, as much as possible, information on the author, to better understand the text. That’s why I picked up this biographical work by Cannan. I had also some notions of the other novel of Butler: The way of all flesh; so, the critical study by Cannan made a lot of sense.
But, before Cannan, the enlightening introduction by Francis Byrne in the novel Erewhon*. The great character traits of Butler (the son, because the father was a minister) may be summed up in a few words: temperamental, with a “practical imagination” . Mainly known for his satirical work which encompassed “all British institutions”; but maybe at the top: the Anglican church, a personally relevant institution in the sense that Butler himself almost got ordained; yet, he left Cambridge by 1858, not becoming a parson.
Darwin’s influence will prove great in his life; the 1859 book, The Origin of Species, some wrote, posed “a big social problem”. By 1859 Butler left to New Zealand, a sort of exile. His experiences there will be transposed, fully or in part, in the novel Erewhon.
Cannan calls the attention for the early years of Butler: though a failure as a painter, the writer got (at the age of 13) “fortified “ by music; he would have three main figures to admire for life: Homer, Shakespeare and Handel. I can recall the Erewhon chapter when the main character, while alone, having lost his native mate Chowbok, falls asleep in the mountain and has this dream: he sees a church organ and can hear the music playing : of Handel. The atmosphere is charged with music, it's vivid, and, as he woke up, it still endured: “distant sounds of music” as of Aeolian harp- like.
Cannan says Butler was “mischievous” though not malicious. In his criticism of the church (and he wrote many articles on religious issues) he wouldn’t attain the level of Voltaire. The latter would call the Catholic Church the Infamous (L’ infame).
Now, I’ m about to approach the chapters dealing with the Darwin's influence; and the issue of the “machines”; something the Erewhoanians had destroyed in their utopia, Erewhon, the “idyllic” land.
As for Darwin, Cannan affirms he could never have been taken seriously by Butler, because he lacked humor (“the valet of imagination”). Yet Butler accepted “evolution”. It made him to elaborate on several fronts/contributions: (1) the connection between heredity and memory (check on his book Life and habit); (2) the teleological aspect of organic life (3) the explanation of the physics of memory (here Butler saw memory as “organized matter”). Nevertheless, he was critical on Darwin (Cannan says “offended”). Darwin omitted the works of his grandfather Erasmus Darwin and those of Lamarck and Buffon. And to be precise, Darwin’s natural selection was different from H. Spencer formulation: “survival of the fittest”.
As Cannan put it: “Scientists have been right in preaching evolution but they have preached it in such a way as to make it almost as a stumbling block as of an assistance”.
Regarding the machines and the concept of “mechanical consciousness”, Butler, while in New Zealand, published, in 1863, an article/letter called “Darwin among the machines” (signed by Cellarious) where he compared the human evolution to the machines evolution; in it you could read a sort of prophecy that one day man would become the “inferior” race, therefore replaced by machines.
He kept the belief, one could wonder: “…he desired to live in grace, not under the law” [of evolution].
I think as I read more and more of the book, I started questioning the likes and dislikes of Butler. He really loved south Europe and its people.
In Erewhon, the utopian novel, he spoke of the Erewhonians of dark skin, but not darker then south Italians and Spaniards; and he had found them “agreeable”. In fact, his holidays for some years were spent in Italy.
From another source I got access to the reaction to his death, in Italy (Varallo) . In the Il Corriere Valsesiano, Varallo, of 28 June 1902, was written “la morte d’un inglese entusiasta di Varallo”….and “Nostro buonissimo amico Samuel Butler è morto il 18 di Giugno”…and “poiché a Varallo tutti lo conoscevame e lo amavano”. Indeed, everybody knew him and loved him.
TUE TIMES, LONDON, 20 June 1902.
We regret to announce that Mr Samuel Butler, best known to his countrymen as the author of "Erewhon," died on Wednesday night, in his 67th year. He was a remarkably gifted man,...
A chapter of the Cannan work is dedicated to the holidays of Butler. He speaks of a Butler “cloistered “ like a Michelangelo. Yet, riding horses, and enjoying Varallo…and Sicily, a finer place. Butler, who, after the death of Miss Savage (his aid), dedicated himself to the translation of the Iliad and the Odyssey.
Everything was in God’s hand, working through evolution or descent with modification, was Butler’s thinking. Cannan said Butler was a genius for fifteen years; had no interest in politics, but, curiously, his God was “too close”, and… “casts a shadow”.[!].
The critical study approaches the novel The way of all flesh, as an application of the theories of Butler on heredity; it’s a book whose subject involves the “relation of parents and children under the shadow of the church of England”.
The Conclusion of the book hints at an under-appreciated British writer (just like Bernard Shaw had called the attention to), who, despite all “prejudice” , managed to plant his “mustard seed”.
It is written that after The Fair Haven publication, an “elaborate and intricate irony”, Butler made the “clergy angry”. He even wrote “so I had no friends”.
Of himself, he wrote: “I am elderly, grey bearded and according to my clerk, Alfred, disgustingly fat; I wear spectacles and get more and more bronchitic as I grow older”.
But back to the dislikes, Cannan quotes Stendhal who said that England was a perilous country to live in: genius and talent lose 25% of their value.
Butler was happy in Italy, his “second country”. Butler, the solitary bachelor, at his 100 percent,…plus.
PS I’ve found it curious Butler’s theory of the Odyssey being written by a woman, and set in Sicily.
An artist-illustrator, a games-trickster, a mathematician, a logic-scholar, Lewis Carroll (aka Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, a reverend) w (Alice Lidell)
An artist-illustrator, a games-trickster, a mathematician, a logic-scholar, Lewis Carroll (aka Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, a reverend) was once solicited by the Dean’s daughter to tell her a story, while on board the boat on that hot summer day of 1862; up the river Thames.
In fact, they were 3 girls. They had a picnic by the river bank. The soliciting girl was named Alice Lidell.
And so the story came out of his lips: a girl called Alice, bored, being with her sister by the river bank…watches the white rabbit with a watch on hands…rushing.
Alice is now going after him, the one with pink eyes, falling into that sort of abyss/well.
Then inside this little room she tastes this sort of cake which will allow her getting shorter. She’ll meet other animals, the Dodo and other birds and animals on a race. They swim over a tears’ lake.
It looks all so strange to Alice; again, that white rabbit rushing.
Alice gets another change in size while drinking from the little bottle. Now she’s big again …and she meets the blue caterpillar on top of the mushroom. The mushroom has two sides. She bites it and again her size changes. It really depends on which size of the mushroom she picks from; one side makes her grow, the other side makes her shorten.
Now she meets the Duchess holding the little baby in her hands. The Duchess needs to rush to meet the Queen of “croquet” game. So, she throws the baby into Alice’s arms. No, it was not a baby, rather a pig. Alice wants, too, to attend the game, croquet’s. So she gets the advice from the ever-smiling Cheshire cat.
...Finally she arrives to the croquet field; the queen is somehow mad, because she orders the beheading of Alice; yet, since Alice knows how to play the game, the Queen concedes. As a stick/club the Queen uses a flamingo bird. Alice notices the apparent lack of rules of those cards-soldiers playing the game.
… By the end Alice concludes it’s all a crumbling deck of cards, and she finds herself back to the river bank, at the side of her sister.
Just a curious “dream” she had had.
:::: I’ve heard saying Alice is like a “rebel” in the story; a “breaker of rules”. I’ve heard also some saying that the story is just an introduction to another type of Geometry Dodgson was working on; not the Euclidian one, with angles and areas and measurements; but a new geometry ,the projective one, where what’s important is “the shape”. It was just a way to make sense of this new MATH. [Take the case of the Möbius Strip and twist].
Those three girls were once “fine friends” of Dodgson; yet, their friendship wouldn’t last long, at their mother's request. Don bachelor Dodgson had been exiled, for a while, from the deanery of Christchurch, in Oxford. Photographs of the girls and especially of Alice became something of the past. It is said that he’d asked a lock of her hair.
Was Dodgson in love with the real Alice? What type of love, you may wonder about. Was he a “repressed man”? It’s a fact that when a grown up, Alice Lidell married and gave her son the name of Carroll.
Or was Alice the only a way to get to her older sister Lorina; or even the governess?
But then all is speculation; maybe our dreamy (twisted?) speculation. Our own projections?
Coming July the 4th many will dress up as the white Rabbit with pink eyes or as Alice herself….or any of the other characters of the story.
It lives on.
(movie: Alice in Wonderland,1949)
'Awkward' Alice portrait on display for first time in Simon Schama show
"Il semble pourtant que Richard Jefferies ait herité de son père l'amour de la nature,des bons livres, de la pêche, de la chasse, et que tous ses goût "Il semble pourtant que Richard Jefferies ait herité de son père l'amour de la nature,des bons livres, de la pêche, de la chasse, et que tous ses goûts l´empecherent d´embrasser de métier de fermier. L'insuccès de son père comme agriculteur prévint sans aucun doute Richard contre cette vie, et ce fut l´ennui qu´il y trouvait et le désir d' y échapper qui le firent entrer dans la carrière de journaliste et de romancier".*
in "Richard Jefferies étude d'une personnalité" by Clinton Joseph Masseck
The book starts with the grim words: “after London ended” there “was green everywhere”. After the first spring, all “the country looked alike”.
Jepheries dedicates two chapters to a superb* exercise of “evolutionary” Biology. Only in the third chapter man is approached.
So, lots of lines make up the description of vegetable and animal species: those which survived/evolved, and those that perished.
There were “wheat fields”; but no one to care for them; the wheat being eaten by sparrows, rooks and pigeons. Twenty years on other plants took possession. There are big swamps…and the country now is “an immense forest”. The former roads are blocked. And thirty years on: there’s no single open space: the “fields had been left to themselves”.
On the animal kingdom: some dogs survived, but the poodle got extinct. The worst thing (worse than mice) are the rats, that people fear and came in vast numbers from the old cities.
There are horses still,... some species of pigs, and the forest cat and the wild sheep. Some few lions and tigers…still. The black wood dogs are ferocious.
As in a sort of biblical creation-sequence revisited, Jepheries approaches, finally, the men. Beset by wars and hatred.
You might wonder on what happened that caused the end of London.
It was extraterrestrial. It was due to the “passage of a dark body through space”, which “altered the flow of magnetic currents”, which, according to Jepheries, influence men’s minds.
It seems men were filled with the “desire to return to the east”. People started leaving the cities, especially rich people. The bulk of those remaining were “those unlettered”, rude and ignorant.
Barbarians stayed. Bushmen being a type living solely in the woods. It’s a kind of medieval society reedited. The barbarians are depraved, lawless. They devour raw meat. Yet, there are still the nobles; they are in possession of the knowledge.
What about London? and the Thames?
They’ve been replaced by a Lake; of stagnant water; a “oozy mass of fatal vapor”.
Surviving, are the Welsh and the Irish and the Scotts (“the finest of men”). They fight against each other, though. The Welsh think the Isle is “theirs”. The Irish take possession of the ancient city of Chester. All north Umbria is to the Scotts. Oxford is now called Sypolis.
The silver is their standard currency; yet, a corrupt justice prevails.
In the midst of this black picture, a noble man stands out, Sir Felix Aquila, the eldest of the three sons of a baron. A man dedicated to study, to annotations, to thought; a loner. He still holds letters from a lady called Aurora Thyma; and hanging on the wall, an ivory cross, she gave him. A “relic of the old world”.
Felix is quite different from his brother Oliver: a man of sport and exercise.
Felix feels he’s got to see Thyma again. So the brothers depart to her castle.
Yet things are not easy for the couple. Despite all the reciprocal love.
A master-piece concerning the nature approach. Maybe prescient.
*It seems that Richard Jefferies had inherited from his father the love of nature, good books, fishing, hunting, and that all these tastes prevented him from embracing the profession of farmer. The failure of his father as a farmer undoubtedly made Richard to avoid this life, and it was the boredom he found there and the desire to escape which made him enter into the career of journalist and novelist".
** Jepheries was a naturalist of renown. A museum, in Liddington, has been dedicated to him. ...more
“The First Boer War also known as the First Anglo-Boer War or the Transvaal War, was fought from 16 December 1880 until 23 March 1881...”
“The First Boer War also known as the First Anglo-Boer War or the Transvaal War, was fought from 16 December 1880 until 23 March 1881...”
"There are no complex qualities in the Boer people. In one sense there is some truth in the saying of their enemies, that they are wanting in “civilization”. They are; but it is in the “civilization” with which we are familiar in the Anglo-Saxon countries-that of a godless culture, of refined vice, of divorce courts and immorality, of drunkenness and prostitution. The Boer is very backward in these modern costumes (…). The 130,000 men, women, and children of the Transvaal who were not afraid to fight the British Empire could not be nurtured on such a “civilization” ". In,The Boer fight for freedom, by Michael Davitt; from his voyage to the Transvaal.
"Your Honour must remember that England has more ships than Russia,France and Germany put together.(...) Africa shall be yours from sea to sea, every port and harbour from the Zambesi to Walfisch Bay".
Quite early on (in fact, in the preface) we’re introduced to the historical context the novel is shrouded into: “who’s going to rule South Africa? The Dutch Afrikaner or the British? . It seems the author would have been accused of stirring “racial animosity” with the book. Yet, struggle was yet to come between those two factions.
The book starts with the description of those shiny days of December 1896; a time when “money was flowing like water”, lots of drinking, ”hands shaking effusively”……high times for the Rand.
Mingling and co-habiting: the outlanders, the British, the American colonizers …and the Boers.
To commemorate Independence day (16th of December) trains are for free; so people are coming from Port Elisabeth, the Natal, Kimberly, cape Town….
The author satirizes: “the Boer lion lying down with the outlander lamb” …; a decree towards the outlander population had made things easier for that co-habitation. “Policy of conciliation”, it was called.
Splendorous, are the festivities ongoing, though the president (remaining in Pretoria) won’t attend them; he’d sent his secretary.
He’s the evening lion, the young and handsome man. At the Rand’s club there’s a ball to celebrate the 16th. A golden city of “hilarity”; diamonds tinkling, all over.
The secretary got an interest in the woman who enters: with “the loveliest face” ever seen; “lit by great liquid grey blue eyes”; with “a low sweet and clear voice”. She’s Princess Vavana Regna; the company of a Polish nobleman called Prince Paul Regna.
The Portuguese Matalla ambassador introduces the couple to the secretary. Happy secretary, he gets a dance with the girl, waltzing, …so perfectly.
Yet, she’s so negative about the “farmers”. She would say ”what set of fools these English are”.
The French had their Waterloo; the British didn’t forget about the “Amajuba”.
Next to the dancing the couple and the secretary are heading towards a hotel in Pretoria. Just so close to the government building.
“In the dark, nations are plotting and counterplotting”.
In the hotel the Polish prince speaks Russian; the princess uses the telegraph (a receiver and a transmitter). Messages from the executive chamber are BEING COPIED!! The messages are being sent to a hotel in Lourenço Marques. ….
It gives you a great sense of History; of what’s to become…reality. Majestically; that prose, does it.
It’s a still-performed play in our days. Though its best place for representation had been, for long, the Bl
"Black-birds fatten best in hard weather"
It’s a still-performed play in our days. Though its best place for representation had been, for long, the Blacks Friars Theater. According to scholar James Shapiro, it’s a “story of intrigue and murder”…”a bloody dark work”of 1623.
Webster surely based his story on a real one: the real Giovanna D’Aragona, who in 1493 married the regent, soon to die.She had two brothers.
Yet Giovanna had a secret marriage and two children concealed. By 1510 she was quite talked about in Europe. She managed to escape, but was captured in 1511,sent to prison…and thereafter “never to be seen again”.
"-how do you like the French court? Antonio:... admire it... ...the cardinal and brother are like fruit that grows crooked on plum trees....but only crows feed on them" (adapted)
The play is about this intrigue involving the twin brother of the duchess, Ferdinand, who doesn't want her to marry again; he is “incestuously infatuated with his sister”; he's "obsessed about the purity of blood".
The Duchess gets tormented by the brothers… one a cardinal. Ferdinand kills her. All major characters die in the end. The dark moments on the stage involve the exhibiting of “waxed cadavers” …and “a severed hand”.
It seems that, on a biographical short note, Webster himself was born near a slaughterhouse, in 1580, in the 22nd year of the Elizabethan reign; a time when criminals were executed and dismembered. His vocabulary is yet very different from Shakespeare and Marlowe. ...more
In Aeschylus’ Prometheus Bound, we see him by the end of the book being buried under the rocks that crumble, midst thunder and lightning. Prometheus,In Aeschylus’ Prometheus Bound, we see him by the end of the book being buried under the rocks that crumble, midst thunder and lightning. Prometheus, the god,(unjustly) bound to a rock by other gods,had though made a promise: “I swear in that moment there won’t be no fear “; he had a secret; “there will be a day when my value shall be needed.” The god wanted to give the fire to men...and got punished.
Shelley, maybe inspired by the “bright blue sky” of Rome decides to resurrect Prometheus; now he’ll be unbound. …released by Hercules.
The book starts with him bound to a precipice, morning breaking…Panthea and Ione meet Prometheus. The voices of the air, the springs and mountains,the whirlwinds…and Earth itself have kept silent for many years (3,000 years of sleep)….for fear of the Monarch of the Gods and the daemons.
Now,pierced and mocked Prometheus has no more hate,though.
"you [Raphael] neither desire wealth nor greatness"
More had been assigned by King Henry VIII to get to Flanders. In Brussels he's go
"you [Raphael] neither desire wealth nor greatness"
More had been assigned by King Henry VIII to get to Flanders. In Brussels he's got a dear friend named Peter,who introduces More to this philosopher/traveller called Raphael Hythloday. His four voyages have been published; he's Portuguese by birth and knows a lot about nations and countries.He's been to Ceylon, India and many other places.
But More is puzzled :how such a man is not serving under a monarch....why not to apply his thoughts to public affairs?
Raphael replies he's been under the equator...much further than the deserts ...and further away in a place where men know about astronomy and other subjects. The Philosopher says: "now I live as I will". He knows about the "laws and manners of the Utopians".But he knows also about those "proud" rulers of Britain,...in church and state.
Prospero and his daughter Miranda "stranded" in an island after shipwreck; it's been years, he explains her how he got betrayed by h Notes collected:
Prospero and his daughter Miranda "stranded" in an island after shipwreck; it's been years, he explains her how he got betrayed by his brother back in Milan. It's about time to get things straight vis-a-vis the King of Naples and brother Antonio,so "perfidious" a character.
Prospero is also a Magician,and a lover of books.He "owns" a slave named Caliban, whose mother was the witch Sycorax.For some time, though rebelliously, Caliban serves Prospero.
Under Prospero's command is also a spirit (both of the water and fire elements) called Ariel. The magician had freed him from a 12 -year confinement in "a cloven pine" performed by Sycorax. Ariel wants freedom,but so far he, too, obbeys to Prospero. He successfully wrecked/flammed a ship with mariners and royal figures. A task ordered by prescient Prospero.
Now he witnesses the rendez-vous between young royal Ferdinand and Miranda. Ferdinand thinks she's a "goddess". She finds him "noble". Meanwhile Ariel, now masquerading as a water nymph,invisible, had been charmingly singing to Ferdinand: "full fathom five...thy father lies" [in the bottom of the ocean].