Wednesday 1 January 2020

2020: Beginnings and endings for a new decade

"Every new Beginning comes from some other beginning's End"  

from Seneca the Younger,  Roman stoic philosopher;  ceramic portrait, Plaza de Espana Seville

This New Year and a new decade is a time for change, and I have decided to focus on the present, on time with friends and family, and the world on my doorstep, instead of the fascinating people and places from the past which have featured in my frozenink blog. The very first post was in July 2012 with a quote from John Evelyn's Diary ( a regular source), and in January 2013 appears the eighteenth century reference to frozen ink, from which my blog was named, but for the foreseeable future this blog will be truly "frozen".  

My very sincere thanks to all my regular followers and to the many people and institutions whose internet material I have enjoyed and used in my research, particularly those sources which are not always properly acknowledged.   My very best wishes to every one of you for a happy and successful New Year 2020. 

"Tomorrow to fresh woods and pastures new."  Lycidas, John Milton

Stoke-by-Nayland, Summer   John Nash c. 1949  
© the artist's estate/Bristol Museum &Art Gallery

Saturday 21 December 2019

Carols at Christmas: " All broad and bright rises th' Eternal Morning Star"

King's College Chapel Window, Cambridge

Music by Charles Gounod, lyrics by Henry F.. Chorley

"Though poor be the chamber
Come here, come and adore:
Lo the Lord of Heaven
Hath to mortals given,
Life for evermore…life for evermore…life for evermore.

Wind to the cedars proclaim the joyful story:
Wave of the sea, the tidings bear afar;
The Night is gone! behold in all its glory,
All broad and bright rises th' Eternal Morning Star."

I first came across this Victorian carol in an old children's novel , The Gentle Shadows by Kathleen Wallace.  Published in 1947, it tells how Vicky, a lonely eleven year old, is befriended by an ebullient unconventional family, just returned from overseas, moving into an old Dutch-style house* in time for the first postwar Christmas of 1945.

Dutch-gabled houses, Topsham, Devon

 She joins the Marshalls hunting for furniture in sale-rooms and junk shops, and making home-made decorations and presents, when shop goods are still scarce and everything was rationed.

"Bunches of holly hung in the greengrocers' doors, Christmas-trees leaned against the windows from the pavements outside, and there was a brave attempt with cotton-wool and some tinsel and red paper, to make the shop windows look decorated.  There were no turkeys dangling from hooks at the butchers' shops and only very makeshift toys in the shops where you might expect to find them;…"  but there were still carol singers and plenty of music.

Carol Singers, collage, Shadwell Local History Society 

When the family join the carol singers, they include another Victorian composition, "Like Silver Lamps in a distant shrine, The Stars are sparkling bright",  as well as regular favourites such as "I saw Three Ships come Sailing by , The Holly and the Ivy, and The Twelve Days of Christmas.  The story concludes through Christmas Day  and homecoming celebrations for their soldier son returned from Burma, with his wife and new baby, all shared with friends and neighbours, and some "gentle shadows" from the past.

"Like silver lamps"

Kathleen Wallace (1890-1958) is little remembered now, but was a popular poet and novelist in the 1930s and '40s.  Daughter of  William Montgomery Coates*, Bursar of Queens' College, she grew up in Cambridge and graduated from Girton in 1914. Her twin sister died as a baby, and her brother was killed in action in 1915; she  expressed her grief in her war poems, Lost City Verses, published in 1918.  She married Major James H. Wallace of the Canadian Mounted Rifles in 1917 and brought up their four sons. The family lived in China for seven years, and she only began writing novels after they returned in 1927, setting her first novel  in China.

Through the '30s and '40s she wrote many novels and children's stories, including  fictional  studies of Mary Kingsley and the Brontes: (in The Prize Essay, two schoolgirls find themselves visiting the Haworth household, just as the "gentle shadows" are welcomed by the Marshall family). Although out of fashion now, elements of her writing have been praised as 'masterly', and her poems are included in Cambridge Poets of the Great War, Michael Copp's anthology, of 2001.

 "The shadows that people this house are very gentle ones."  Charlotte Yonge, 1860


Monday 2 December 2019

December beginnings: "far into the golden sea"

 "  'Good-bye',  they were all crying. 'Good-bye, Peter. Good-bye, good-bye.'  And he meant to call out 'Good-bye' again to all of them,  but the lump in his throat choked the cry to no more than a squeak.
'Good-bye, Peter,' they were calling still; and clearly came after him the voice of old Turlough, 'Peter, come home soon with your pockets full of the Spanish gold.'  "

The Golden Ocean    Patrick O'Brian, 1956.

HMS Centurion in action, (based on Lt. Piercy Brett's drawing c. 1747),     Samuel Scott  © National Maritime Museum Greenwich

Like so many great maritime adventures  - Moby Dick, Treasure Island, Two Years before the Mast, Sailing Alone around the World, and O'Brian's Master and Commander series - most of these narratives  begin ashore, and it is some time before the hero actually sets sets sail.  Even before the real adventure begins, young  Peter Palafox has to sail from Cork up the English Channel to Spithead:

"The steady northeaster sang in the brig's taut rigging,; the sun came out low under the clouds, lighting the green of the land with an extraordinary radiance…..the wind was blowing across and somewhat against the tide and a little away out from the land was a line of rough water, chopped up on the invisible swell from the Atlantic: when they crossed cross haven, now a sprinkling of while on the loom of the land, the Mary Rose entered this zone of cross forces and began to grow lively.  In an inquisitive manner she pointed her bowsprit up to the sky , then brought it down to explore the green depths below, and her round bows went thump on the sea."  (The Golden Ocean, chapter III).

 Here Peter joins HMS Centurion, a 60-gun ship of the line, as a new midshipman, to sail under Commodore Anson on a gruelling journey around the world, from 1740-1744,  and O'Brian tells this story from the midshipmen's point of view.
Commodore George Anson, later Lord Anson  c. 1744-5,   unknown artist  © NMM
Sealord Sir John Norris remembered Anson as a midshipman, or "snotty" (perhaps too outspoken?) and refused many of his requests for crew and supplies.

Anson's secret orders, finally delivered in June 1740, were to sail into the South Pacific and harry the Spanish ports and shipping there, leading a squadron of five men-of-war and one store ship.  But the "secret" expedition was by now known to all,  and sailing was delayed yet more months before setting out ill manned (untrained marines and frail and ailing Chelsea Pensioners were embarked instead of an regiment of infantry), and Anson was constantly balked in his efforts to equip the ships properly.

The squadron left St. Helen's on 18 September 1740, but their voyage starting so late in the year was beset by problems: shipwreck, contrary winds blowing them off course, unprecedented storms and lightning, frostbite rounding Cape Horn in the winter,  tropical fevers and the dreadful affliction of scurvy leaving the crews too weak to rig the sails, or raise the anchor, and the ships were frequently separated with few navigational aids in uncharted seas.  Some ships were lost at sea, the Wager was shipwrecked off Patagonia and only a handful returned to England, the Tryal fell to pieces and the Gloucester had to be burnt as it was sinking with seven feet of water in it.

Captain, (later Admiral) Keppel, here portrayed by Reynolds as an Apollo, while a midshipman on the Centurion lost his hair and teeth from scurvy, but huge numbers died from it.  
Joshua Reynolds, c.1760  © Maritime Museums Greenwich

Missing the prize Spanish bullion ship off Acapulco, Anson desperately sailed west to Canton and safety.  Yet by seamanship and force of character, with only the Centurion and a depleted crew, Anson finally managed to capture the great Spanish galleon, Nuestra Señora de Covadonga off Manila, returning to England via Cape of Good Hope, with a prize of 1,313,843 pieces of eight plus silver and plate ( 30 wagon loads were delivered to the Tower of London for safekeeping in July 1744).

Engraving of the capture in ship's chaplain Richard Walter's account, 1748; the smaller Centurion is on the right.  © British Library

It is also notable that several future Admirals served under Anson during this voyage. Captain Saumarez  later died young in action off Finisterre, but produced the design for regulation naval officers' uniform.  Charles Saunders, Anson's  lieutenant in command of the sloop, Tryal, as Vice-Admiral in 1759, supported General Wolfe's daring night-time assault on the cliffs at Quebec, bringing a fleet of troopships silently up the dark waters of the St. Lawrence river; (one of his navigators was a certain James Cook.)

                     Commodore Charles Saunders,  Richard Brompton © Royal Naval College Greenwich

And a midshipman on the ill-starred Wager, was one John Byron, later Admiral, who discovered the Gilbert & Ellis Islands and was known as 'foul weather Jack'.  Shipwrecked on the coast of Patagonia, he was one of the few to survive starvation and mutiny and imprisonment, reaching England  several years later in 1746.  His account of his travels inspired his  famous grandson,  Lord George Byron, in his poem Don Juan.

Anson was always happiest at sea, rather than behind an Admiralty desk, but as well as training up fine seaman on his ships, he brought in many naval reforms after the experiences of his men during their epic round the world voyage, which had lastedthree years and nine months.
…"though prudence, intrepidity, and perseverance united are not exempted from the blows of adverse fortune, yet in a long series of transactions they usually rise superior to its power, and in the end rarely fail of proving successful."  So Richard Walter the chaplain concludes his account of Anson's voyage, published in 1748.

See  The Unknown Shore  P. O'Brian 1955
The Prize of All the Oceans  Glyn Williams, 1999
Lord Anson's Voyage Round the World  Richard Walter 1748, abridged ed. S.W.C.Pack 1947

Friday 1 November 2019

November beginnings: "One watched, on the pale semicircular beach, wave after wave shedding again and again smoothly, a film of mother of pearl." Virginia Woolf, 1927

   Godrevy  Lighthouse, St. Ives

" 'What you need to do is get behind the counter, Richard.'  My Uncle George was speaking on the beach at Carbis Bay, St. Ives.
The counter he was referring to was that of the Hogarth Press, run by Leonard and Virginia Woolf, which at that time, in the late twenties, was becoming the forum of the Bloomsbury Group.
I was sixteen and had just been superannuated from Marlborough after I had failed, during three and a half years, to get beyond Lower School*.
An informal discussion was going on about my future, in which my aunt and my mother, though present, took little part -- busying themselves with Thermos flasks.
My uncle explained that he had met Leonard Woolf at the Cranium Club and, hearing that he was on the lookout for 'a likely young man', had persuaded him to take me on as an apprentice publisher."

A Boy at the Hogarth Press   Richard Kennedy  1972

Still a gauche, if well-meaning schoolboy, who read Russian novels and wanted to be an artist,  Richard Kennedy's career with Leonard and Virginia Woolf at 52 Tavistock Square was not entirely a success.

 "he was clumsy and a little absent-minded."  Virginia Woolf's "Orlando".  
illus.© R. Kennedy

"I have started to go to Pitmans …I find myself drawing the backs of people's heads instead of getting on with my typing."  Kennedy did design several covers for their Hogarth Press books, but he was dyslexic* and not good with sums (working out discounts), nor as a travelling salesman, even for the bestseller Orlando (1928), and finally managed to order quite the wrong size of paper needed for the uniform edition of Virginia's novels.  "LW refuses to speak to me...I suppose I have really got the sack…Wrapped up parcels all day. LW is still irate and glares at me."

Memorial to Virginia Woolf in Tavistock Square, London

He is best known now for his insider view of life at the Hogarth Press,  and the personalities of the Bloomsbury world in his memoir, A Boy at the Hogarth Press, 1972.

Virginia Woolf at work."She looks at us over the top of her steel-rimmed spectacles, her grey hair hanging over her forehead and a shag cigarette hanging from her lips."  
© Richard Kennedy

It was Richard Kennedy's experience at the Hogarth Press which helped him to get onto a journalism course at UCL (where he met his future wife).  He followed this with an art course at Regent Street Polytechnic and then worked in advertising. He was RAF ground staff during the war and then made his name as an illustrator,  particularly for quality children's books.
The Stream that Stood Still,  Jonathan Cape, illus. © Richard Kennedy, 1948

Blue Birds over Pit Row, by Helen Cresswell  illus. © Richard Kennedy 1975

The popular children's author Helen Cresswell became a close friend, sharing Kennedy's interest in Jung and transcendental meditation.  When he was first commissioned to work on a series of her books in the 1970s, she was warned he was forgetful and went to meet him at the station:
"I had no idea what he looked like, but, having scanned everyone as they left the train, I ended up with this six-foot-two tramp wearing hobnailed boots and trousers held up with a tie, and this was him. ...
He was such a talented artist and he was a marvellous writer too, despite being dyslexic. … He was a lovely, lovely man, and so diffident.  He was really like a big child. " (quoted from The Book Collector, 1999)

Another friend and colleague, John Randle,  commented on  first meeting Kennedy in 1964:
"I was somewhat struck by the distracted air of the artist, but even more so by the fluidity and sureness of line of his drawings."

A Boy at the Hogarth Press was published by The Whittington Press in 1972.

Wednesday 2 October 2019

October Beginnings: "see thy treacherous guile outreach, And perish in the pit thou mad'st for me" *

 Passage du Pont-Neuf,  illustration by Horace Castelli, 1870

"At the end of the Rue Guenegaud, when you come up from the river, you reach the Passage du Pont-Neuf, a sort of narrow, gloomy corridor running from the Rue Mazarine to the Rue de Seine.  Thirty paces long and no more than two wide, this passageway is paved with yellowish flagstones, loose and worn, constantly oozing an acrid damp: the glazed roof that shields it, peaked at a right-angle, is black with grime.
On fine summer days, with a torpid sun scorching the streets, a  whitish brightness falls from the soiled panes and lingers miserably in the passage,  On nasty winter days, on foggy mornings, the panes of glass cast nothing but darkness on the sticky flagstones - a vile, sullied darkness.

Dug into the left-hand side are some dingy shops, sordid and squat, venting the cold breath of cellars,  Here there are dealers in old books, toy-sellers and pasteboard makers, whose dust-grey displays laid dim and sleepy in the shadows; the windows glazed in small panes cast a strange, shimmery green light over the wares; past the displays, the gloom-laden shops are so many mournful holes restless with fantastical shapes."

Thérèse Raquin   Émile Zola, 1866  © trans. Adam Thorpe

This description of the Passage du Pont-Neuf runs like a dark thread of desperation all through the psychological story of Thérèse Raquin. It is here that she lives above their damp haberdasher's shop with her Aunt, Madame Raquin, and the sickly cousin she has grown up with, now her husband,  Camille.  Into this repressing existence comes Camille's friend, the brutish lazy peasant, Laurant,
who  is painting Camille's portrait. Laurent and Thérèse,  a creature of  "burning blood and tensed nerves", develop a passionate affair, with daily assignations.

Une Olympia moderne - Le Pacha,   Paul Cezanne  1870 (wikimedia commons)

No longer able to meet, their thwarted desires drive them to murder Camille on a boating trip, planning to marry after a suitable time has passed, and to live off Madame Raquin's money. But both the lovers are haunted day and night by the drowned body of Camille, which Laurent had seen rotting in the Paris Morgue, and their physical passion turns to consuming fear and violence.

"Camille's ghost, thus conjured up, came to sit between the newly-weds…"  (wikimedia image)

Zola traces each tortured mental and physical stage of the depraved lovers' consuming guilt, in grotesque details, until the inevitable violent end is reached, with only the paralysed, silent Madame Raquin as witness.

He vividly presents the lives and mental torments of the characters in a cinematic, or painterly way, with multiple repeated adjectives, (such as brutal, nervous, abyss, yellowish glimmers, burning, foul, speechless, fearful)  but  described his novel as a portrayal of temperament, not character.  It was a forensic study of "the deep-seated disturbances of a sanguine nature brought into contact with a nervous one",  as they struggle to restore their daily equilibrium, and the murderous events which follow must take their course.
"the equilibrium was broken"

Still Life with Black Clock,   Paul Cezanne  1869-70  (wikimedia image)

 Zola  and Cézanne, both from Aix-en-Provence, were friends of long-standing, both looking for a new realism in their work. This still life painting shows Zola's black marble clock and the china inkwell, and Cézanne painted it for his friend, although later they fell out over Zola's critical portrayal of an artist (thought to be based on Cézanne) in The Masterpiece.

*  Christopher Marlowe, A Massacre at Paris,  possibly written 1593
For images of the Passage du Pont-neuf, see

Sunday 1 September 2019

September beginnings: 'And I would love you all the day…' John Gay 1728*

"When Francis, fourth Viscount  Castlewood, came to his title, and presently after to take possession of his house of Castlewood, county Hants, in the year 1691, almost the only tenant of the place besides the domestics was a lad of twelve years of age, of whom no one seemed to take any note until my Lady Viscountess lighted upon him, going over the house with the housekeeper on the day of her arrival.

Clevedon Court, Somerset   Thackeray's model for Castlewood House, after staying there

"The boy was in the room known as the book-room, or yellow gallery, where the portraits of the family used to hang, that fine piece among others of Sir Antonio Van Dyck of George, second Viscount, and that by Mr Dobson of my lord the third Viscount, just deceased, which it seems his lady and widow did not think fit to carry away, when she sent for and carried off to her house at Chelsey, near to London, the picture of herself by Sir Peter Lely, in which her ladyship was represented as a huntress of Diana's court.

"The new and fair lady of Castlewood found the sad lonely little occupant of this gallery busy over his great  book, which he laid down when he was aware that a stranger was at hand. And, knowing who that person must be, the lad stood up and bowed before her, performing a shy obeisance to the mistress of his house.

"She stretched out her hand - indeed when was it that that hand would not stretch out to do an act of kindness, or to protect grief and ill-fortune?  'And this is our kinsman,' she said;  'and what is your name, kinsman?   'My name is Henry Esmond,' said the lad, looking up at her in a sort of delight and wonder, for she had come upon him as a Dea certe, and appeared the most charming object he had ever looked on.  Her golden hair was shining in the gold of the sun; her complexion was of a dazzling bloom; her lips smiling, and her eyes beaming with a kindness which made Harry Esmond's heart to beat with surprise."

The History of Henry Esmond, Esq.  
'A Colonel in the service of Her Majesty Q. Anne  Written by himself.'    W. M.  Thackeray 1852

Thackeray's story of family loves and loyalty is set in the period of political upheaval from the 'Glorious Revolution' of  protestant William III and his wife Mary II (daughter of James II) through to the death of Queen Anne and the succession  of Hanoverian George I.  Henry Esmond's father  was the 3rd Viscount Castlewood, who died fighting in the Jacobite cause against William III at the Battle of the Boyne, although the orphaned Henry is believed for very many years to be his illegitimate son.  From the beginning Henry falls in love with the whole family:  he is devoted to the 4th Viscount and his Lady, he mentors the Castlewood's young son Frank like a brother,  and is completely dazzled by their precocious daughter Beatrice.

Portrait of a Lady with flowers    Sir Godfrey Kneller 

Compared with Thackeray's satirical novel Vanity Fair, this is a more moral tale about the vanities of being in love and the ardent beliefs of the Catholic Jacobite supporters, who would bring back James II's exiled son James Stuart (the 'Old Pretender') as James III.  It is about the values of honour and constancy, of love versus sentiment.  As  Henry lives through duels, scandals, battles and conspiracies in the first decades of the 1700s,  he grows older and wiser, but still follows his heart despite what his head tells him.
He fights in the War of the Spanish Succession (from Blenheim to Malplaquet) under General John Webb (a distant ancestor of Thackeray) and sees the venalities of the leaders, particularly the Duke of Marlborough; in London he is befriended by the writers Richard Steele and Joseph Addison.  Now Colonel Esmond, he is reunited with the widowed Lady Castlewood and her wilful ambitious daughter Beatrix;  he is in love with Beatrix still, though she 'has no heart'.

Through loyalty to the family and his lifelong love and devotion to them, Esmond, although become more Whig than Tory,  joins in young Frank's conspiracy to smuggle the exiled Pretender, Prince James Stuart into England:

James Francis Edward Stuart, as a young man c. 1715 : coloured portrait from a Jacobite broadside     (National Library of Scotland)

 "twas a scheme of personal ambition, a daring stroke for a selfish end  -- he knew it.  What cared he in his heart who was king? Were not his very sympathies and secret convictions on the other side -- on the side of People, Parliament, Freedom? and here was he, engaged for a prince, that had scarce heard the word liberty; that priests and women, tyrants by nature both, made a tool of".

The Jacobite supporters plan to present Prince James Stuart to his dying half-sister Queen Anne, so that through family loyalty and sentiment,  she will announce him as her heir to the throne, but the coup is thwarted through the Prince and Beatrix's philandering at the critical moment.  The scales fall from Henry Esmond's eyes and he and his Lady Castlewood leave for a new life in Virginia - 'Over the Hills and far away'* .

Friday 23 August 2019

The journey to Tintagel

"Tintagel.  Black cliffs and caves and storm and wind, but I weather it out and take my ten miles a day walks in my weather-proofs."  Alfred, Lord Tennyson,   25th August 1860

Tintagel Castle   Wiilliam Trost Richards, a Philadelphia artist, who visited in 1878  (wikimedia,

Many families will be making for the Cornish coast this weekend, searching for sandy beaches, rock pools, ice creams, Cornish pasties and exhilarating cliff walks (preferably in sunshine).

Alfred, Lord Tennyson visited Cornwall many times, finding inspiration there for his great Arthurian suite of poems, The Idylls of the King, with its tales of King Arthur's court, based at Tintagel, according to the legend.

Edryn travels to King Arthur's Court   Gustav Dore engraving for Idylls of the King 1868

It was some ninety years later that our family first made the long journey down to Cornwall.  Maybe Tennyson would have visited Stonehenge - where we could just park by the road then and cross the meadow to touch the stones in awe and wonder. 

Victorian visitors at Stonehenge 

 He would know that Queen Victoria expressly wore Honiton lace on her wedding dress to support the  local industry, where we smiled at "Ye Olde Honitone Lace Shoppe":

Queen Victoria in her Wedding Dress (of 1840)  Anniversary portrait by Franz X. Winterhalter 1847

and perhaps he was also kept awake on his journey by town clocks striking every quarter all night long, as we once were at Okehampton.

In late August, we climbed the tortuous path to Tintagel's ancient ruins, returning decades later with my own young children, too nervous for their safety on the precipitous slopes to enjoy it fully, but the mystique of the ancient site and its spectacular views remains. A new footbridge now links the two parts of the headland, and excavations have unearthed ancient slates, one with a mysterious Latin inscription: "Artignou father of a descendant of Coll has had (this) made".  (see english

And when I think of Tintagel's cliffs and the seas around it,  I am reminded of Tennyson's 1851 poem The Eagle:
"Ring'd in the azure world he stands.
The wrinkled sea beneath him crawls,
He watches from his mountain walls
And like a thunderbolt he falls."

Tintagel, the birthplace of King Arthur     William Trost Richards

Thursday 1 August 2019

August beginnings: "A faire field ful of folke fond I there between "*

  Animas, Hidalgo County, New Mexico  ( wikimedia)

"When they came south out of Grant county Boyd was not much more than a baby and the newly formed county they'd named Hidalgo was little older than the child.  In the country they'd quit lay the bones of a sister and the bones of his maternal grandmother. The new country was rich and wild. You could ride clear to Mexico and not strike a cross fence.  He carried Boyd before him in the bow of the saddle and named to him features of the landscape and birds and animals in both spanish and english.  In the new house they slept in the room off the kitchen and he would lie awake at night and listen to his brother's breathing in the dark and he would whisper half aloud to him as he slept his plans for them and the life they would have.

One winter's night in that first year he woke to hear wolves in the low hills to the west of the house and he knew that they would be coming on to the plain in the new snow to run the antelope in the moonlight.  He pulled the breeches off the footboard of the bed and got his shirt and his blanketlined ducking coat and got his boots from under the bed and went out to the kitchen and dressed in the dark by the faint warmth of the stove and held the boot to the window light to pair them left and right and pulled them on and rose and went to the kitchen door and stepped out and closed the door behind him."
The Crossing,  Cormac McCarthy 1994

Most of the key elements of this novel are here in the beginning paragraphs, the characters of Billy Parham and his brother Boyd, the landscape, the details of a spare practical daily life, of youth and loss.  This was a country where men needed to work with nature.

Mexican Grey Wolf,   National Wildlife Refuge Society, New Mexico

Billy was then still a child, but  "an hour later he was crouched in the dry creek bed where he knew the wolves had been using by their tracks in the sand of the washes, by their tracks in the snow... ..They were running on the plain  harrying the antelope and the antelope moved like phantoms in the snow and circled and wheeled and the dry powder blew about them in the cold moonlight and their breath smoked palely in the cold as if they burned with some inner fire and the wolves twisted and turned and leapt in a silence such that they seemed of another world entire."

He makes three crossings into Mexico, the first alone aged sixteen, to set free in the Sierra de la Madera mountains a wounded shewolf he has captured in a trap; people help him despite themselves.  "People hear about me givin first aid to a damn wolf I won't be able to live in this county." 

 All through this first journey, his youth and dogged integrity sustains him through hardship and danger, and he meets much kindness.

On his second crossing into Mexico Billy goes with his younger brother Boyd, after their parents are killed by Indians, determined  to find the family's stolen horses.   In this wild border country, the teenagers meet danger from nature and from men, hardship and evil, but most people they meet on their travels, despite extreme poverty, share what they have with the brothers.

The Chihuahua Desert, Mexico  (wikimedia)

Boyd finds a girl and stays in Mexico, leaving his brother, while Billy goes home to the States to enlist for WWII, but is rejected.  In his final border crossing many years later, a widely travelled and much older Billy, now a homeless solitary man, returns to Mexico to find his brother's grave and bring his body back to Animas.

South of Animas,

"He slept that night in his own country and he had a dream wherein he saw God's pilgrims labouring…When he woke in the round darkness about, he thought that something had indeed passed in the desert night and he was awake a long time but he had no sense that it would ever return again."

 The border today: "The soul of Mexico is very old, said Quijada.  Whoever claims to know it is either a liar or a fool. Or both."

[All quotations from The Crossing,  Vol. 2 of the Border trilogy © Cormac McCarthy]

* Piers Plowman, William Langland's medieval allegory: "Of alle manner of men, the mene and the riche, Working and wandring as the world asketh."

Saturday 20 July 2019

Part 2. "The Moon takes up the wondrous tale" *

Galileo's first refracting telescope, in the Museo Galileo, Florence

The early telescopes were not perfect.  When  a founder member of the Royal Society,  Sir Paul Neale (or Neile) enthusiastically claimed to see a giant elephant on the Moon, it proved to be a mouse which had crept in between the tubes, along with gnats and insects, which were interpreted as Lilliputian armies.   These Royal Society virtuosi were duly mocked by Samuel Butler as:

 "learned men who greedily pursue,
Things that are rather wonderful than true."

He attacked their aims and their methods as they

"... grew distracted, whether to espouse,
The party of the Elephant or Mouse.
 Some held there was no way so orthodox
As to refer it to the ballot box".*

Samuel Butler, The Elephant in the Moon, c. 1670

Fortunately sense and the empirical method prevailed, and the telescope was taken apart to reveal the mouse.   [Maybe our politicians today should read Butler's poem.]

The early lunar romances were popular with the educated.  Before Bishop Godwin's flying swans, Ariosto in his Orlando Furioso, 1532, sends his hero, Astolfo, a knight of Charlemagne, flying around on a hippogriff, half eagle and half horse (as described in Virgil).

Contemporary wood engraving with hippogriff  for "Orlando Furioso",  (wikimedia commons)

Reaching Paradise, Astolfo is then sent to the Moon in Old Testament Elijah's flaming chariot, where he discovers mad Orlando's lost wits, for according to myth, everything lost or wasted on earth is found on the moon.  How prescient were these writers from antiquity?

The twentieth century American novelist, Herman Wouk, wrote a strange little Utopian journey to the moon in The Lomokome Papers in 1949.  A US. Naval astronaut crash-lands and is captured and taken down to a subterranean (sublunar?) world.  The story is pieced together from fragments of his log, found near the crash site, interspersed with sections of government reports of their findings.
As in other Utopias, the hero discovers the failings of the Lomokome system:  -- "All the Hydrogen Belongs to All the People" -- and their chilling Law of Reasonable War and Death Day, which "reduces a foolishly chaotic arrangement, which threatens our total destruction, to a sane, safe, workable process".

The Lomokome Papers, with haunting illustrations by Harry Bennett  
1968 edition © Herman Wouk

Interestingly, by 1967 Wouk is "sobered by the speed with which truth is overtaking my grim fiction", but thought that, "the moon voyage as a literary form, approaches total eclipse".

1956 Film Poster  (wikimedia commons)

Where it has blossomed of course is on the screen, whether based on existing novels, or created by directors and authors now writing screenplays.  The Forbidden Planet, of 1956, based by its original writers Irving Block and Allen Adler on Shakespeare's The Tempest, is regarded as the forerunner of the genre, which took off in the 1960s with many notable films and TV series.  

To mention just two, 1968 sees Kubrick's unforgettable 2001: A Space Odyssey, based on a story by Arthur C. Clarke: 

Film still from Stanley Kubrick's  "2001: a Space Odyssey" (wikimedia commons)

and perhaps my favourite -- Silent Running, in 1972:

Film still from "Silent Running", with Bruce Dern and Huey,  1972 (wikimedia commons)

* from Joseph Addison's hymn, 1712

Friday 19 July 2019

Part 1. "Who announces the ages of the moon?" (Amergin, from the 12th century Irish Book of Leinster)

We will all be moon gazing on 20th July, 50 years since the first man stepped onto the moon, that "mythical " body watched in the night skies for  thousands of years.  Just 360 years ago, like Galileo and other contemporary astronomers,  Thomas Harriot, mathematician and navigator, with his splendid new telescope drew this map of the surface of the moon, although unlike Galileo, author of Sidereal Nuncio (or Starry Messenger)  in 1610, he never published his discoveries.  His friend and patron Sir Walter Raleigh  ended in the Tower, so maybe Harriot was being circumspect in uncertain political times.

Thomas Harriot's map measures just 6 ins across, and shows the 5-day-old moon's surface, 
as observed on 26th July 1609      © Petworth House Archives.

In 1679, the best map of the moon's surface for many years was compiled by Giovanni Domenico Cassini, the Director of the Paris Observatory, using a 34 ft telescope, and this was engraved for publication by Claude Mellan and widely copied.  

Cassini's Map of the moon, showing Cape Heraclides  and Sinus Iridium,   c. 1679
(wikimedia commons)

The light from the moon itself also contributed to the sciences from which the capacity for travel into space developed.  In eighteenth century Britain, the full moon lit the way for men of ideas to travel to meet together,  like the "Lunar Society" of Birmingham.  Its key members were Erasmus Darwin, Matthew Boulton, James Watt, Josiah Wedgwood and Joseph Priestley (discoverer of oxygen);  there must have been many such meetings elsewhere and on other continents, made practicable by moonlit nights. 

In seventeenth century Europe, the moon became not just a worldwide focus of ancient myth and legend in different cultures, or a universal practical guide to time and navigation, but now, as seen through the  astronomers' new telescopes, an intriguing subject of space travel stories, another aspect of this new spirit of scientific  exploration.  It becomes another New World, often a distant Utopia. 

One of Ben Jonson's court masques for James I in 1620 was News from the New World discovered in the Moon, (based on a classical Greek tale), but the bestseller of its day, The Man in the Moone, 1638, was written probably in the late 1620s by Francis Godwin, the Bishop of Hereford using a pseudonym.    

An early astronaut is transported to the moon by flying geese.  
 Bristol Delft plate c. 1740  Glaisher collection  © Fitzwilliam Museum 

It is also in the later seventeenth century that sees the discovery of the elephant in the moon --  but more of that and other tales in my next blog.