Sunday, 29 December 2013

Seasonal Greetings from frozenink.blogspot

A very big thank you to all those whose blogs I follow and enjoy reading regularly - including Spitalfields Life, English Buildings, Quad Royal, Fired Up, James Russell,  First Known when Lost, and many others.

And if you wish to raise a glass, you may find a tipple or a tavern to your taste here :…

"Home-made drinks in England are beer and ale, strong and small:  those of most note that are to be sold, are Lambeth ale, Margaret ale, and Derby ale; Herefordshire cider, perry, mede.  There are also several sorts of compounded ales, as cock-ale, worm-wood ale, lemon-ale, scurvygrass-ale, College-ale, &c.  These are to be had at Hercules Pillars, near the Temple; at the Trumpet, and other houses in Sheer Lane, Bell Alley; and, as I remember, at the English Tavern near Charing Cross."

Letters, 1697    John Locke
[and see for more detail]

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

St Nicholas arrives for Louise

"Albany,  N.Y.

Dear St. Nicholas:  I have scarlet fever at present and cannot write this to you with my own hand.  It has to be read to Mother through the sealed door of my room, and she writes it down and reads it over the telephone to my father's office, to his secretary.

You may be interested to know that this is the second time I have had scarlet fever at Christmas time.  Last year like this year I was in quarantine, and Father carried my gifts up in a bag like a Santa Claus, and came up a ladder to the roof under my window; and all the family came, too, except the cook, who was afraid to climb the ladder.  Several of our neighbours came too, to see me and my presents.  I got many beautiful things,  but I think I like you as well as any of them.

….of all the stories in St Nicholas,   The Lost Prince  is my favourite.  I have liked all of Mrs. Burnett's stories ever since I first read Little Lord Fauntleroy.  You keep me very happy until I have read you all through.  I always gobble you up at my very first chance.

Your interested reader,
Louise van Loon     (age 10)"

St Nicholas: an illustrated magazine for Young Folks   1915 

Monday, 23 December 2013

Competitive greenery

"And in my helm a triple plume shal spring,
Spangled with Diamonds dancing in the aire,
To note me Emperour of the three fold world,
Like to an almond tree ymounted high,
Upon the lofty and celestial mount,
Of ever greene Selinus quaintly dect
With blooms more white than Hericinas browes,
Whose tender blossoms tremble every one,
At every little breath that thorow heaven is blowen:"

 Tamburlaine,  Part 2, Act 4, sc.3   Christopher Marlowe

"Upon the top of all his loftie crest,
A bunch of haires discolourd diversly,
With sprincled pearl, and gold full richly drest,
Did shake, and seem'd to dance for iollity,
Like to an Almond tree ymounted hye
On top of greene Selinis all alone,
With blossoms brave bedecked daintily;
Whose tender locks do tremble every one
At every little breath, that under heaven is blowne."

The Faerie Queene  Bk. I, canto VII, 32.  Edmund Spenser

Thursday, 19 December 2013

The diary maketh the man (according to Mr Pooter)

"December 18.  Another thing which is disappointing to me is, that Carrie and Lupin take no interest whatever in my diary.
I broached the subject at the breakfast-table today.  I said: 'I was in hopes that, if anything ever happened to me, the diary would be an endless source of pleasure to you both; to say nothing of the chance of remuneration which may accrue from its being published.'
Both Carrie and Lupin burst out laughing.  Carrie was sorry for this, I could see, for she said: 'I did not mean to be rude, dear Charlie; but truly I do not think your diary would sufficiently interest the public to be taken up by a publisher.'
I replied: 'I am sure it would prove quite as interesting as some of the ridiculous reminiscences which have been published lately.  Besides, it's the diary that makes the man.  Where would Evelyn and Pepys have been if it had not been for their diaries?"

The Diary of a Nobody  George & Weedon Grossmith

Thursday, 12 December 2013

A reader at the Lisbon Liceu

"He had slim hands with long, finely shaped fingers, as if they had been created to turn the pages of precious old books.  With these fingers, he now leafed through Prado's book.  But he didn't read it; moving the pages was like a ritual to bring back the distant past.

'All the things he [Amadeu de Prado] had read when he entered crossed the threshold of the Liceu at the age of ten in his small, tailor-made frock coat!  Many of us caught ourselves secretly calculating whether we could keep up with him.  And then, after class, he sat in the library soaking up all the thick books, page after page,  line after line.  He had an incredible memory and an incredibly concentrated, rapt look on his face when reading.  "When Amadeu finishes reading a book," said another teacher, "it has no more letters.  He devours not only the meaning, but also the printer's ink."

'That's how it was: the books seemed to disappear inside him, leaving empty husks on the shelf afterwards'. "

Night Train to Lisbon   Pascal Mercier, trans. B. Harshaw

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

In the Commander's room

"I raise my hand, knock, on the door of this forbidden room where I have never been, where women do not go.  Not even Serena Joy comes here, and the cleaning is done by Guardians. What secrets, what male totems are kept in here?

I'm told to enter.  I open the door, step in.

What is on the other side is normal life.  I should say: what is on the other side looks like normal life.  There is a desk, of course, with a Computalk on it, and a black leather chair behind it.  There's a potted plant on the desk, a pen-holder set, papers.  There's an oriental rug on the floor, and a fireplace without a fire in it.  There's a small sofa, covered in brown plush, a television set, an end table, a couple of chairs.
But all around the walls there are bookcases,  They're filled with books.  Books and books and books, right out in plain view,  no locks, no boxes.  No wonder we can't come in here.  It's an oasis of the forbidden.  I try not to stare."

The Handmaid's Tale  Margaret Attwood

Sunday, 24 November 2013

An Artistic Interior in Hampstead

"Miss Redpath was a cousin of one of the leading Pre-Raphaelites (I think Holman Hunt) and the interior of her house had already acquired a strong period flavour.  Immediately on entering one was confronted with a large reproduction of 'May Morning on Magdalen Tower' with an affectionate message from the artist scrawled on the mount, and on all sides one was conscious of Burne-Jones maidens yearning at one in sanguine chalk above bosky thickets of honesty and cape-gooseberries tastefully arranged in polished copper pots.  Elsewhere were many brass-rubbings of recumbent knights and innumerable Arundel prints, while the presence of several Della Robbia plaques, a set of faded, purplish photographs of the Gozzoli frescoes in the Medici Chapel  and some small, painstaking water-colours of Assisi, indicated that their owner shared to the full the Italophil enthusiasm of the late Victorians.  The two small ground-floor rooms in which, against Morris wallpapers, all these treasures were displayed were connected by an open arch so that it was possible on the moment of entry to see right through the house to the little orchard beyond.   This, besides filling the interior with a green, filtered light, invariably suggested to me the scene that would be revealed were one to walk through the range of buildings in the background of Millais' Autumn Leaves."

All Done from Memory Osbert Lancaster

Saturday, 23 November 2013

A town and country life for Constable

"My wife is at Hampstead, and both she and the infant are doing well.  I am endeavouring to secure a permanent small house there, and have put the upper part of this house into an upholsterer's hands to let, made my painting room warm and comfortable and have become an inhabitant of my parlours.  I am three miles from door to door, and can have a message in an hour.  I shall be more out of the way of idle caller, and above all, see nature, and unite a town and country life, and to all these things I hope to add a plan of economy…"

Letter to John Fisher, from  Charlotte Street,  November 28th 1826

" …This house is to my wife's heart's content; it is situated on an eminence… and our little drawing-room commands a view unsurpassed in Europe, from Westminster Abbey to Gravesend.  The dome of St. Paul's in the air seems to realise Michael Angelo's words on seeing the Pantheon: 'I will build such a thing in the sky.'  We see the woods and lofty grounds of the East Saxons to the north-east.   …I have painted one of my best pictures here."

Letter to John Fisher, from  Well Walk, Hampstead,  Aug 26th 1827

Memoirs of the Life of John Constable  C.R. Leslie

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

To Colin Cloute

Thy lovely Rosolinde seemes now forlorn,
  and all thy gentle flockes forgotten quight,
Thy chaunged hart now holdes thy pypes in scorne,
  those prety pypes that did thy mates delight.
Those trustie mates, that loved thee so well,
Whom thou gav'st mirth: as they gave thee the bell.

Yet as thou earst with sweete roundelayes,
  didst stirre to glee our laddes in homely bowers:
So moughtst thou now in these refined layes,
  delight the dainty eares of higher powers.
And so mought they in their deepe skanning skill
Alow and grace our Collyns flowing quill.

And fare befall that Faerie Queene of thine,
  in whose faire eyes love linked with vertue sits:
Enfusing by those bewties fiers devyne,
  such high conceites into thy humble wits,
As raised hath poor pastors oaten reede,
From rusticke tunes, to chaunt heroique deedes.


From To the learned Shepheard.  Hobynoll.

[Verse by Gabriel Harvey on Spenser's The Faerie Queene]

Sunday, 17 November 2013

John Painter at Hardwick Hall

"The ceiling and cornice in the Long Gallery were entrusted to another plasterer, John Marker, and the frieze was painted by John Painter -- a name which may have been a convenient substitute for something unpronounceably foreign.  Painter occupied an important position, acting as a sort of general foreman as well as exercising his own craft, for which he had to be supplied with a lot of special material.  For example, four gallons of linseed oil at fourpence the gallon and a runlet to put the oil in.  Two pounds of yellow ochre cost another four pence and two hundredths of painting gold came to twelve shillings.  He also needed a pound of red lead and six pounds of varnish which was bought at Nottingham at sixteen pence the pound, not to mention two pounds of verdigrease [sic] which cost six shillings and eightpence.  Other exotic sounding commodities ordered by John Painter include fernando bark, brasill, blockwood, allorme, fusticke and coppris, but his list ends with a prosaic request for a pound of gum and two pounds of glue costing one and fivepence."

Mistress of Hardwick  Alison Plowden

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

A Tudor writing box

Writing-box from the court of Henry VIII, wood, covered with painted and gilded leather, c. 1525
Figures represented are Mars and Venus, head of Christ and St. George, and Paris and Helen of Troy in roundels (after designs by Hans Burgkmair).

©  Victoria & Albert Museum

Monday, 11 November 2013

Two Minutes' Silence

Sunday, 9 November 1947

"Two points of interest today.  Potato rationing, and the fact that I observed the Two Minutes' Silence in the kitchen here, with the two German POWs.  If anyone had told me on 11 November 1918, that,  twenty-nine years later, I should observe the Silence in my kitchen, with two German POWs from World War II, I should have thought they were crazy.  I wonder with whom I shall observe it in, say, ten years' time, after World War III has happened?  Hermann brought me two large turnips."

B. Charles in Our Hidden Lives, the Remarkable diaries of Post-war Britain  ed.  Simon Garfield

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Posted to France

"Half past five.  And still Commandant has not sorted the letters.
.    .   .    .    .
At six o'clock the room is practically empty.  Those who are hungry for letters have given up in despair and gone to lie down.  The ten o'clock convoy may turn out a certainty, although the eight o'clock one is off.  Five new drivers arrive straight out from England.  They look half-dead.  They have had a drive of about seventy miles in the snow in an ambulance on top of a filthy crossing to Boulogne.  They are completely exhausted.  The tea is finished, too.  I am about to enquire of cook when Commandant comes in.  She eyes the newcomers severely and, without any greeting, turns to me.
'Smith, show these drivers to the vacant beds and see they report to me in five minutes.'
What a welcome! No wonder the poor things look depressed.  She leaves her door open.  I simply dare not ask about the tea.
'I'm dying for a cup of tea,' says one, 'and then I'm going to have a sleep.'

Poor deluded fool.  She has no idea she will be sent straight out to learn the various localities of the different hospitals, to take over her own ambulance at midnight.  She is lucky if she gets a cup of hot tea first.  It all depends whether Commandant has closed her door and I can bully cook.

'Smith.  Take one of these new drivers. Preston, go with Smith.'

The snow is thick now.  I am so cold my fingers refuse to grip the wheel. ... How am I going to point out the landmarks when they are all snow-obscured?  The black tree-stump on the left that leads to Number Eight, the shell-hole that indicates the turning to Number Five, and so on.  Familiar as the landscape is to me, it takes me all my time to keep my bearings.  We go on and on in silence till the station is reached.  We couldn't converse, even if we felt chatty.  The snow gets in our mouths every time we open them.
This girl has been twice round the camp...I am only supposed to take her once.  But so worried am I at the possibility of the wounded men being ditched in the snow ... or worse... I have exceeded my duty.  The result is she has not located one hospital correctly.

It is after ten when we get back.  I am so numb I cannot feel my feet.  All I want is a hot drink, a fag, a hot-water bottle, and an hour's stew in my fleabag.

There are four letters on my camp-bed from my sister Trix, one from mother, one in a handwriting I do not recognise, and one from Aunt Helen.  They can wait until I am warm and cosy under my blankets."

Not So Quiet ... Stepdaughters of War  Helen Zenna Smith (pseudonym of Evadne Price)  based on the war diaries of Winifred C. Young.
[This is one of the less searing passages to read of those young ambulance drivers' experiences on the night convoys of wounded men.]

Saturday, 9 November 2013

The purloined pages

"November 1.
Mrs Birrell called, and in reply to me, said: 'She never see no book, much less take such a liberty as touch it.'
.... I would willingly give ten shillings to find out who tore my diary."

"November 9.  My endeavors to discover who tore the sheets out of my diary still fruitless."

"November 11.
 Returned home to find the house in the most disgraceful uproar....Sarah was excited and crying.  Mrs Birrell (the charwoman) who had evidently been drinking, was shouting at the top of her voice.  Lupin .... was standing between the two women, and I regret to say, in his endeavour to act as peace-maker, he made use of rather strong language in the presence of his mother; and I was just in time to hear him say: 'All this fuss about the loss of a few pages from a rotten diary that wouldn't fetch three-halfpence a pound!'  I said, quietly: 'Pardon me, Lupin, that is a matter of opinion; and as I am master of this house, perhaps you will allow me to take the reins.'

I ascertained that the cause of the row was, that Sarah had accused Mrs Birrell of tearing the pages out of my diary to wrap up some kitchen fat and leavings which she had taken out of the house last week.  Mrs Birrell had slapped Sarah's face, and said she had taken nothing out of the place, as there was 'never no leavings to take'. I ordered Sarah back to her work, and requested Mrs Birrell to go home.  When I entered the parlour Lupin was kicking his legs in the air, and roaring with laughter."

The Diary of a Nobody  George and Weedon Grossmith

Thursday, 7 November 2013

Publishers' wares in Westminster

"During this time I noticed the windows of publishers' offices. To say that the standard of display has now improved will be to make those who had not marked their former disarray boggle with incredulity.  The faded crepe paper and yellow jackets of one were matched by the dust and dead flies of another.  Warped bindings, scratched peg-boarding, bearing the hangover of last year's sellotape, curling show-cards and scarred areas of cobwebbed woodwork displaying nothing except the need for a char -- these typified the average publisher's window.  In some cases, still do.  But many are now making concessions to current trends and while the effect is mostly pathetic there are exceptions, like Heinemann's, who in their new building in Queen Street, Mayfair, mount eye-catching set pieces.  Macmillan's, in St Martin's Street and Collins', in St. James's Place, however, maintain a stately domestic dignity and do not show their wares at all."

The Book of Westminster  ed. Ian Norrie

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Parliament in Flames

..."I saw the fire of the two Parliament Houses; and, what was curious enough, Matthew Allan (of York, you remember) found me out in the crowd there, whom I had not seen for years.  The crowd was quiet, rather pleased than otherwise; whew'd and whistled  when the breeze came as if to encourage it:
'there's a flare-up (what we call shine) for the House of Lords.' -- 'A judgment for the Poor Law Bill!'  -- 'There go their hacts' (acts)!  Such exclamations seemed to be the prevailing ones.   A man sorry I did not anywhere see. -- They will have to build a new house; and it may produce consequences not generally foreseen yet..."

Letters  Thomas Carlyle

[The Houses of Parliament were burnt in October 1834, not November 5th; the old Court of Exchequer wooden tally sticks were being burnt in the furnace and the fire spread to the Palace of Westminster buildings above]  

Friday, 1 November 2013

Gough Square to Gunpowder Alley

For the shade of the author of Rasselas still seems to haunt the scenes of his Titanic labours, and his ponderous but homely and temperate rejoicings.  Every court and alley whispers of books and the making of books; formes of type trundled noisily on trollies by inksmeared boys, salute the wayfarer at odd corners, piles of strawboard, rolls or bales of paper, drums of printing-ink or roller composition stand on the pavement outside dark entries; basement windows give glimpses into Hadean caverns tenanted by legions of printer's devils, and the very air is charged with the hum of press  and with odours of glue and oil.  The entire neighbourhood is given to the printer and binder;..."

Dr. Thorndyke and the Eye of Osiris  R. Austin Freeman

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

"Someone tampers with my diary."

"October 30.  I should like very much to know who has wilfully torn the last five or six weeks out of my diary.  It is perfectly monstrous!  Mine is a large scribbling diary, with plenty of space for the record of my everyday events, and in keeping up that record I take, (with much pride) a great deal of pains.

I asked Carrie if she knew anything about it.  She replied it was my own fault for leaving the diary about with a charwoman cleaning and the sweeps in the house.  I said that was not an answer to my question.  This retort of mine, which I thought extremely smart, would have been more effective had I not jogged my elbow against a vase on a table temporarily placed in the passage, knocked it over, and smashed it.

Carrie was dreadfully upset at this disaster, for it was one of a pair of vases which cannot be matched, given to us on our wedding day by Mrs Burtsett, an old friend of Carrie's cousins, the Pommertons, late of Dalston.  I called to Sarah and asked her about the diary.  She said she had not been in the sitting-room at all;  after the sweep had left, Mrs Birrell (the charwoman) had cleaned the room and lighted the fire herself.  Finding a burnt piece of paper in the grate, I examined it, and found it was a piece of my diary.  So it was evident someone had torn my diary to light the fire.  I requested Mrs Birrell be sent to me tomorrow."

The Diary of a Nobody  George & Weedon Grossmith

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

"The inky rook"

"Only the inky rook,
Hunched cold in ruffled wings,
His snowy nest forsook,
Caws of unnumbered Springs."

Collected Poems  Walter de la Mare
 quoted by Philip Larkin in "Big Victims",  New Statesman 1970

Friday, 25 October 2013

Undiscovered letters

"Sign of the Vulture,
St. Paul's Churchyard,
Nov. 1, 1678

Dear Mr. Bunyan,
Many thanks for letting me see the manuscript of Pilgrim's Progress, which I am returning as I am afraid we cannot envisage a use for it in the foreseeable future.  The fact is, there really isn't much demand for travel books at this moment in time.  Also it is a bit gloomy in places.

Are you interested in madrigals, at all?  We find there is a  growing demand for books of this nature.  We would also be quite interested in something based on your prison experiences.

Incidentally, I am afraid we have had to put Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners on the remainder list.  It didn't do as well as expected.  Perhaps it is unfortunate that it came out at the same time as Paradise Lost.

Yours sincerely,
Thos. Jarvis
Printer and bookbinder. "

Tonight Josephine, and other undiscovered letters  Michael Green

Friday, 18 October 2013

October passes

"It was at Rome, on the 15th October 1764, as I sat musing amid the ruins of the Capitol, while the barefooted friars were singing Vespers in the Temple of Jupiter, that the idea of writing the decline and fall of the city first started to my mind."

The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire  Edward Gibbon

Thursday, 17 October 2013

The University Carrier

"On the University Carrier who
sickn'd in the time of his vacancy, being
forbid to go to London, by reason of
                   the Plague

'Here lies old Hobson, Death hath broke his girt,
And here alas, hath laid him in the dirt,
Or els the ways being foul, twenty to one,
He's here stuck in a slough, and overthrown.
'Twas such a shifter, that if truth were known,
Death was half glad when he had got him down;
For he had any time this ten yeers full,
Dodg'd with him, betwixt Cambridge and the Bull.
And surely, Death could never have prevail'd,
Had not his weekly cours of carriage fail'd;
But lately finding him so long at home,
And thinking now his journeys end was come,
And that he had tane up his latest Inne,
In the kind office of a Chamberlin
Shew'd him his room where he must lodge that night,
Pull'd off his Boots, and took away the light:
If any ask for him, it shall be sed,
Hobson has supt, and's newly gon to bed.' "

"Another on the Same
His Letters are deliver'd all and gon,
Onely remains this superscription.'  "

Poems  John Milton

Friday, 11 October 2013

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

The quest for the Great Happiness

"Later in 1944 Cecil and Elisabeth began the first of their sojourns in Cambridge.  It was typical of wartime conditions that they found themselves in circumstances so cramped that they had to make up their bed every night under a grand piano.  They were saved from this by a new friend, the poet Robert Nichols who suggested they should take a room in the lodgings at 12 Newnham Terrace, where he lived.

Collins turned again to print-making, but without the support he had had in the Dartington studios.  He worked in an unheated attic of the house in Newnham Terrace in the winter of 1944-5:  the facilities available to him were so meagre that he was forced to employ the wax stencils used in Roneo machines to make his masters, with a penknife, sandpaper and needles for his tools.  This new medium enabled him to undertake further explorations of the theme of the Fool in prints such as The Joy of the Fool,  as well as the enchanting work The Artist's Wife Seated in a Tree*...."  

Cecil Collins  The quest for the Great Happiness   William Anderson
[*both these prints are in the Tate Gallery]

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

An Uncommercial Traveller

"She could not go straight to the lounge where she had arranged to meet Carne.  She must seek other diversion.  Of course, she knew, she had a note to write.

On the first-floor landing a notice with an arrow pointed to  'Writing Room'.  She followed it, and found herself in an apartment not unlike a station waiting-room.  It lacked human occupants, but there was accommodation for them.  Round the walls stood desks, back to back, with dusty blotting-paper gummed to their surfaces.  Inkwells in which the moisture had long since dried, cross nibs, and half-torn envelopes.

If she had wanted to write, this equipment might have deterred her.  But she wanted nothing.  No words could describe, to no one could she communicate, this extraordinary rapture which had transformed the universe -- because she was going to eat a third-rate dinner in a second-rate hotel, with a ruined farmer who was father to one of her least satisfactory pupils.

She could not keep still.  The wide skirts of her dress swayed round her as she moved about the room, examining the dusty but elaborate stationery, and the papers on the circular table in the middle of the room.

Who, she wondered, reads The Textile Mercury? or Iron and Steel, the Autocar,  the Iron and Coal Trades Review, the Electrical Times?  Ah, the times are electrical, she thought, 'perhaps that's what wrong with them,' and trembled, quivering with laughter at her small feeble joke, pressing her palms on the cold, smeared mahogany, because she suddenly found her eyeballs pricking with hot, irrational tears.
I shall remember this room until I die, she told herself."

South Riding   Winifred Holtby

Sunday, 6 October 2013

The Royal Library

"The King,  observing with judicious eyes
The state of both his universities,
To Oxford sent a troop of horse, and why?
That learned body wanted loyalty;
To Cambridge books, as very well discerning
How much that loyal body wanted learning."

Epigram (on George I's gift of Bishop Moore's library to Cambridge University)  Rev. Joseph Trapp

"The King to Oxford sent a troop of horse,
For Tories own no argument but force:
With equal skill to Cambridge books he sent,
For Whigs admit no force but argument."

Reply  Sir William Browne

Saturday, 5 October 2013

Henry Mill's patent

"The invention of the typewriter, or rather an attempt to invent one, belongs to the last year of Queen Anne's reign.  On January 7th, 1714, she granted a patent to one Henry Mill, later engineer to the New River Water Company  -- the company which Anne's great-grandfather had helped found  -- for  'An Artificial Machine or Method for Impressing or Transcribing Letters Single or Progressively one after another, as in Writing, whereby all Writing whatever may be Engrossed in Paper or Parchment  so Neat and Exact as not to be distinguished from print.' "

The Jacobeans at Home  Elizabeth Burton

Thursday, 3 October 2013

Mr. Yatman's writing cabinet

The Yatman Cabinet, writing desk designed by William Burgess, painted by Edward Poynter, 1858
©  Victoria and Albert Museum.

The decoration shows the story of Cadmus of Thebes, who is credited with introducing the alphabet to Greeks,  and three images below show the cutting of cuneiform letters, Dante writing and Caxton printing, on the drop-down writing flap.

Friday, 27 September 2013

Rituals of composition: the Chairman's desk

"He demanded from his underlings the strictest observance of infinitesimal minutiae.  For instance, every object on his desk had to be arranged each morning with meticulous exactitude.  The edges of the in-tray must be flush with those of the out-tray.  The silver calendar, turned for the day, two inches to the left of the clock.  Pencils, newly sharpened, and clean nibs in pen-holders.  The penwiper at right angles to the blotter, freshly filled.  Telephones and inter-communicator slightly staggered at an angle of, say, 22 degrees from the chair.  Envelope rack within easy reach without necessitating undue stretching, yet not so close that the elbow had to be unnaturally crooked.  If the softest of the three India rubbers was not found on the left-hand side of the row on the allotted tray and adjacent to the red (not blue) sealing wax, Sir Roderick's displeasure could be terrible."

Another Self   James Lees-Milne
(on the desk arrangement of Sir Roderick Jones, Chairman of Reuters)

Thursday, 26 September 2013

Under the frangipani

"Domenica was fussy about the circumstances in which she wrote. In Scotland Street, she would sit at her desk with a clean block of ruled foolscap paper in front of her and write on that, with a Conway Stewart fountain pen, in green ink.  There were those who said that writing in green ink was a sign of mental instability, but she had never understood the basis for this.  Green ink was attractive, more restful on the eye than an intense black, and she persisted with it.
Such rituals of composition were impossible in that small village near Malacca.

There, she made do with a simple, rather rickety table, which provided a surface for her French moleskin notebook and for a rather less commodious writing paper.  But there was still the Conway Stewart pen, and supplies of green ink, and it was with this pen that she now wrote a letter to James Holloway in Edinburgh.
'Dear James,' she began, 'I know that you are familiar with the Far East and will be able to picture the scene here --  the scene of me upon my veranda, at my table,  with a frangipani tree directly in front of me.'  "

Love over Scotland Street  A. McCall Smith

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

September shelter

"I sit with all the windows and the door [of the greenhouse] wide open, and am regaled with the scent of every flower in a garden as full of flowers as I have known how to make it.  We keep no bees, but if I lived in a hive I should hardly hear more of their music.  All the bees in the neighbourhood resort to a bed of mignonette, opposite to the window; and pay me for the honey they get out of it by a hum, which though rather monotonous, is as agreeable to my ear as the whistling of my linnets."
September 18, 1784,  Buckinghamshire

Correspondence  William Cowper (quoted Geoffrey Grigson, as before)

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Tangier Harbour

"The Commissioners for Tanger met, and there my Lord Tiviott, together with Capt. Cuttance, Capt. Evans, and Jonas Moore, sent to that purpose, did bring us a brave draught of the Molle to be built there, and report that it is likely to be the most considerable place the King of England hath in the world; and so I am apt to think it will."

Diary ( 28 Sept. 1663)  Samuel Pepys

Monday, 23 September 2013

Kinde and True Love

" 'Tis not how witty, nor how free,
Nor yet how beautiful she be,
But how much kinde and true to me.
Freedome and Wit none can confine,
And Beauty like the Sun doth shine,
But kinde and true are only mine.

Let others with attention sit,
To listen, and admire her wit,
That is a rock where I'le not split.
Let others dote upon her eyes,
And burn their hearts for sacrifice,
Beauty's a calm where danger lyes.

But Kinde and True have been long tried,
A harbour where we may confide,
And safely there at anchor ride.
From change of winds there we are free,
And need not fear Storme's tyranny,
Nor Pirat, though a Prince he be."

attrib. Aurelian Townshend

Sunday, 22 September 2013

On the subject of maps

" 'Dear friends,' [Angus]  began,  'Domenica is back from a distant place.  Would you mind a great deal if I were to deliver a poem on the subject of maps?'

'Not in the slightest,' said David Robinson. 'Maps are exactly what we need to hear about.' ...

 'Although' he began, ' they are useful sources
Of information we cannot do without,
Regular maps have few surprises: their contour lines
Reveal where the Andes  are, and are reasonably clear
On the location of Australia, and the Outer Hebrides;
Such maps abound; more precious, though,
Are the unpublished maps we make ourselves,
Of our city, our place, our daily world, our life;
Those maps of our private world
We use every day; here I was happy, in that place
I left my coat behind after a party,
That is where I met my love; I cried there once,
Once I saw the hills of Fife across the Forth,
Things of that sort, our personal memories,
That make the private tapestry of our lives.
Old maps had personified winds,
Gusty figures from whose bulging cheeks
Trade winds would blow; now we know
That wind is simply a matter of isobars;
Science has made such things mundane,
But love  -  that, at least, remains a mystery,
Why it is, and how it comes about
That love's transforming breath, that gentle wind,
Should blow its healing way across our lives.' "

Love over Scotland Street   A. McCall Smith

Friday, 20 September 2013

Domenica and the pirates

"When the last of the pirates had entered the warehouse, Henry started his engine again and they began to inch towards the other side of the jetty.  Domenica watched carefully.  This was extremely exciting, and she could already imagine her telling this story to Angus Lordie or James Holloway, or Dilly Emslie -- to any of her Edinburgh friends, in fact.

'There I was,' she would say.  'There I was with my good friend Henry, creeping up the jetty to peek through the windows of the pirate warehouse.  What would I see within?  Chests of booty? Wretched captives tied and gagged by these ruffians?  Things that can hardly be described ...?'

There is a certain self conscious pleasure in describing, before the event, one's more distinguished moments, and that is exactly what Domenica experienced, sitting there in the boat, waiting for the adventure to unfold.  And it did unfold."

[.......much later, at Domenica's home-coming party:]

" 'But you've finished with pirates?' asked James. 'I really think that we've had enough pirates.  Hunter-gatherers are fine, but pirates....'

Domenica nodded.  'My pirates proved to be rather dull at the end of the day.  They were a wicked bunch,  I suppose.  Their attitude to intellectual property rights was pretty cavalier.  But bad behaviour is ultimately rather banal, don't you think?  There's a terrible shallowness to it.'

'I couldn't agree more,' said Antonia.  ' I would have found Captain Hook a very dull companion,  I suppose.  Peter Pan would have been far more fun.' "

Love over Scotland Street  A. McCall Smith

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Temptations - The Tree of Love

"Belle quittez moy ces amants qui ne sont pour vous que de glace dénichez les sur cette arbre cessez de leur faire des present coupez moy larbre par le tronc et moquez vous de leurs audace faite les tombe sur la place sont des laches et des poltrons"  [outer border inscription]

"Mes dames nous allons tous descendre  Appaizez tous vostre fureur nous vous allons donn nos coeurs que voulez vous donc entre pré(n)dre allons descendez chers amants et ne soyez plus rebelle vous serez chéris tendrement de vos maitress fidèle"  [inner border inscription]

Delftware Salad bowl, Nevers 1739  ©  Fitzwilliam Museum

Monday, 16 September 2013


"Pirate s. [Gk, pirate, Fr.]

1. A sea robber.
2. Any robber, particularly a bookseller who seizes the copies of other men."

A Dictionary of the English Language  Samuel Johnson, LL.D.

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Treasure Island lost

"It is one thing to draw a map at random, set a scale in one corner of it at a venture and write up a story to the measurements.  It is quite another to have to examine a whole book, make an inventory of all the allusions contained in it and, with a pair of compasses, painfully design a map to suit the data."

My First Book  (Juvenilia)  Robert Louis Stevenson

[Stevenson drew the first detailed 'Treasure Island' map to please his stepson, Lloyd Osbourne.  When he discovered that the map had never reached his publishers, Cassell, it had to be redrawn, but it was never the same as his original. ]

Saturday, 14 September 2013

Cloud atlas

"Thursday, 7th November  --

Beyond the Indian hamlet, upon a forlorn strand, I happened on a trail of recent footprints.  Through rotting kelp, sea cocoa-nuts & bamboo, the tracks led me to their maker, a white man, his trowzers & Pea-jacket rolled up, sporting a kempt beard and an outsized Beaver,  shovelling and sifting the cindery sand  with a tea-spoon so intently that he noticed me only after I had hailed him from ten yards away.
Thus it was, I made the acquaintance of Dr Henry Goose, surgeon to the London nobility.  His nationality was no surprise.  If there be any eyrie so desolate, or isle so remote that one may there resort unchallenged by an Englishman, 'tis not down on any map I ever saw."

Cloud Atlas  David Mitchell

Thursday, 12 September 2013

'Forensic Podiatry'

"For my Mother, (who will insist on calling this book 'Two Small Furry Shoes').
'I can no other answer make but thanks, and thanks, and ever thanks.'   (Twelfth Night, Act III, Sc. iii)"

Dedication to Too Small for his Shoes   Laurence Payne

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Off the coast of Chile

"It happened one day, about noon, going towards my boat, I was exceedingly surprised with the print of a man's naked foot on the shore, which was very plain to be seen in the sand.  I stood like one thunderstruck, or as if I had seen an apparition;  I listened, I looked round me, but I could hear nothing, nor see anything; I went up to a rising ground, to look farther; I went up the shore and down the shore, but it was all one;  I could see no other impression but that one."

The Life and Strange Surprising Adventures of Robinson Crusoe of Yorks, mariner  Daniel Defoe

[traditionally based on accounts of Andrew Selkirk's stay on Juan Fernandez]

Monday, 9 September 2013

Aboard HMS "Centurion"

" 'I shall try to write it down,'  said Peter, dully.  But somewhere in the wash and bilge his journal rocked to and fro, its pages spread and pale.  Yet he had done his best to keep it up:  for Elliot, only a little while before the end, had begged him to persevere.  Elliott had been light-headed then, and going fast; but there had been something cruelly moving about his care for Peter's book.

It was the scurvy, of course, that had broke him down; but it was Cape Noir that killed him.  It was on the 13th of April.  'I will write it down,' said Peter, again. 

.... After that, what was the main happening? ....' I must write it down in succession,' said Peter again.  

There had once been a time when it was almost impossible to write in the midshipmen's berth, when you had to take your journal into the top, either because there was physically too little space or because someone would inevitably pour the sand into the ink in a spirit of fun.  But now Elliot was gone: and Hope was gone too, vanished at some moment in a furious storm when the ice blew from the sea and drew blood where it touched -- no one knew exactly when and how.   Keppel was lashed into his hammock and nobody thought he would leave it.  There was room enough now: and now when a midshipman came below he ate silently and fast, devouring what meagre rations and green scum was left, and flung himself into his hammock, dead until the next pipe.  There was not much boyishness left in the midshipmens' berth. "

The Golden Ocean  Patrick O'Brian

Sunday, 8 September 2013

It's a Battlefield

"Condor opened one of the sound-proof boxes on the top floor and closed the door.  Immediately all the typewriters in the room became silent, the keys dropped as softly as feathers.  The chief reporter sitting on his desk with his knees pressed under his chin was interrupted in mid-sentence :  'I was waiting at Winston's all the morning and when he came out with his head all bandaged up, he only said --'   On the floor below the leader-writers sat in little studies and smoked cigarettes and chewed toffee, held up for the right word, looking in dictionaries, leading public opinion.  On the floor below, the sub-editors sat at long tables and ran their blue pencils over the copy, scrawled headlines on scraps of paper, screwed the whole bunch into a metal shell, and sent it hurtling with a whine and a rattle to the composing-room.

On the floor below the swing door turned and turned and the porter sat in his box asking: 'Have you an appointment?';  the rolls of paper were wheeled like marble monuments towards the engines which turned and turned, spitting out the Evening Watch pressed and folded:  'Mr. Macdonald Flies Home to Lossiemouth.  Are you Insured?', packing them up in piles of a hundred, spinning them down a steel incline, through a patch of darkness, into the waiting van."

It's a Battlefield   Graham Greene

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

"History has its foreground and its background"

"Contemporary English historians, it seemed, were miserably neglecting the art of narration, yet the popularity of well-written biographies showed that it was possible to combine both truth and colour.  Such books as Boswell's  life of Johnson and Southey's account of Nelson were [according to Macaulay]
 'perused with delight by the most frivolous and indolent.  Whenever any tolerable book of the same description makes its appearance, the circulating libraries are mobbed; the book societies are in commotion; the new novel lies uncut; the magazines and newspapers fill their columns with extracts.  In the meantime histories of great empires, written by men of eminent ability, lie unread on the shelves of ostentatious libraries.' "

1828: Thomas Babington Macaulay on historians, quoted in Peter Rowland's  Introduction to Macaulay's The History of England  from 1485 to 1685

Sunday, 1 September 2013

A warming read

"The Gift is Small,
Good will is All"

Delft Handwarmer,  London 1688   © Fitzwilliam Museum

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

August 27th

"It is so cold this 27th. of August that I shake in the green-house where I am writing."
William Cowper, Correspondence 1782, (Buckinghamshire)

From The English Year  compiled by Geoffrey Grigson

Monday, 26 August 2013

John Bland, the urgent reader

"My Lamb, you are so very small,
You have not learned to read at all.
Yet never a printed book withstands
The urgence of your dimpled hands.
So, though this book is for yourself,
Let mother keep it on the shelf
Till you can read.  O days that pass,
That day will come too soon, alas! "

Dedication to Five Children and It   Enid Nesbit

Sunday, 25 August 2013

Unsuitable reading

" 'Reading, were you?'   Rupert picked up the book which lay on the little table by the fire.  It turned out to be the poems of Tennyson, bound in green morocco.  Could she really have been reading that? he wondered,  looking for the novel stuffed behind a cushion.

'Yes, but I was just going to make some coffee.  Would you like some?' said Ianthe.

How convenient women were, Rupert thought, accepting her offer, the way they were always 'just going' to make coffee or tea or perhaps had just  roasted a joint in the oven or made a cheese soufflé.

'I didn't think people read Tennyson nowadays,' he said, 'but then of course you aren't just "people". '

Ianthe flushed and busied herself with the coffee tray. She had not exactly been reading Tennyson but had remembered John quoting one of his poems during the first days of their acquaintance.
      Now lies my heart all Danae to the stars
      And all my heart lies open unto thee ...

She was ashamed to think that Rupert might have discovered her looking it up."

An Unsuitable Attachment   Barbara Pym

Saturday, 24 August 2013

My library for a horse?

What do we, as a nation, care about books?  How much do you think we spend altogether on our libraries, public or private, as compared with what we spend on our horses?

John Ruskin

Friday, 23 August 2013

Letters from the Windward Islands

[The dressing-room] "seemed crowded after the emptiness of the rest of the house.  There was a carpet, the only one I had seen, a press made of some beautiful wood I did not recognize.  Under the open window a small writing-desk with paper, pens, and ink. "A refuge" I was thinking when someone said, 'This was Mr. Mason's room, sir, but he did not come here often.  He did not like the place.'  ...

.... I sat on the soft narrow bed and listened.  Not  a sound except the river. I might have been alone in the house.  There was a crude bookshelf made of three shingles strung together over the desk and I looked at the books, Byron's poems, novels by Sir Walter Scott, Confessions of an Opium Eater, some shabby brown volumes, and on the last shelf,  Life and Letters of...   The rest was eaten away.

  Dear Father, we have arrived from Jamaica after an uncomfortable few days.  This little estate in the Windward Islands is part of the family property and Antoinette is much attached to it.  She wished to get here as soon as possible.   All is well and has gone according to your plans and wishes.  I dealt of course with Richard Mason. ..... This place is very beautiful but my illness has left me too exhausted to appreciate it fully.  I will write again in a few days' time.

I reread this letter and added a postscript:
   I feel that I have left you too long without news for the bare announcement of my marriage was barely news.  I was down with fever for two weeks after I got to Spanish Town.  Nothing serious but I felt wretched enough.  I stayed with the Frasers, friends of the Masons.... It was difficult to think or write coherently.  In this cool and remote place it is called Granbois (the High Woods I suppose) I feel better already and my next letter will be longer and more explicit.

A cool and remote place...  And I wondered how they got their letters posted.  I folded mine and put it into a drawer of the desk.
As for my confused impressions they will never be written.  There are blanks in my mind that cannot be filled up."

Wide Sargasso Sea  Jean Rhys

Thursday, 22 August 2013

African correspondence

"There was nobody in the kitchen.  A glorious pheasant lay unplucked on the table.  Dark alcoves yawned back into the walls.  High, huge, and Gothic, a framed text hung above the loaded dresser,
 I AM THE BREAD OF LIFE.  The capital letters were blue and red and gold, under years of smoke and dust and grease.  I put my hand on the pheasant's breast, a stone under the fiery feathers.  I looked out of the windows to the stars.  Tomorrow there would be a letter for me.  Or perhaps not.  He was moving round Africa.  He had never had my letter about Papa.  I saw a native running to nowhere with my letter in the cleft of a forked stick, or it might be his letter to me.  The idea cheered me."

Good Behaviour  Molly Keane

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Summer correspondence

"I write in a nook that I call my Boudoir.  It is a summer-house not much bigger than a sedan chair, the door of which opens into the garden, that is now crowded with pinks, roses, and honeysuckles, and the window into my neighbour's orchard...  Having lined it with garden mats, and furnished it with a table and two chairs, here I write all that I write in summer-time, whether to my friends or to the public."

Correspondence  William Cowper,  June 25, Buckinghamshire.

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

"Darwin took up his pen"

"In the gaps of time, morning and night, Darwin took up his pen.  He wrote indoors, balancing a cushion on the arm of his chair and resting his writing board on it; in the heat of summer he wrote in his summer-house, its windows opening over the river; on the way to see patients, he wrote in his carriage, the front of which 'was occupied by a receptacle for writing paper and pencils, likewise for a knife, fork and spoon; on one side was a pile of books reaching from the floor to nearly the front window ...  on the other, a hamper containing fruit and sweetmeats, cream and sugar'.  As well as countless letters, Darwin was writing on clouds and spa water and piling up material for his Zoonomia, his ever expanding work on diseases.   And all the time his poem lay on his desk, acquiring new touches and more notes."

The Lunar Men  Jenny Uglow
[quotation from The Life of Mary Anne Schimmel-Penninck, ed. C. Hankin]

Saturday, 17 August 2013

August thoughts

"Charlotte Street, August 18th, 1823:  I was at the Countess of Dysart's fete champetre at Ham House.  I have pleased her by painting two portraits lately, and she has sent me half a buck."

John Constable to John Fisher.

Well Walk, Hampstead, 16th August 1833:  "I can hardly write for looking at the silvery clouds; how I sigh for that peace (to paint them) which this world cannot give, (to me at least). "

John Constable to C.R. Leslie.

Friday, 16 August 2013

Mother Hubbard no reader

"Mother Hubbard, you see, was old;  there being no mention of others, we may presume she was alone; a friendless, old, solitary widow.  Yet did she despair?  Did she  sit down and weep, or read a novel, or wring her hands? No! She went to the cupboard."

Mock Sermon  William U. O'Connor Cuffe,  4th Earl of Desart

Monday, 12 August 2013

A ' killer' novel

"Exclude from your library all books that have no Albany connections.  Buy only such books as were written here, planned here, written elsewhere by men who once lived here or peopled with characters who had chambers here by writers who owned no part of Albany.  With the touch of Albany as sole criterion, and still you will own a not unrepresentative collection of English literature since the end of the eighteenth century.

It began, this relationship between Albany and literature,  almost in that moment when the mansion house became what everywhere else in Britain (but never in Albany) would be called a block of flats.  And it began with a sensation which, after the fashion of sensations, has since slithered off the front page of knowledge into the graveyard of footnote obscurity.  One of the most famous of all habitués of Albany's forerunner, Melbourne House, was killed, (or was said to have been killed) by a novel.  In 1806, a clerk at the Bank of England, Thomas Surr, published a bestseller, Winter in London.  In it he caricatured the Duchess of Devonshire so successfully that when she read the book the shock of self-recognition hastened her death."

'Albany'  J.E. Morpurgo in The Book of Westminster  ed.  Ian Norrie

Sunday, 11 August 2013

The fashionable novel

"I shall not be satisfied unless I produce something which shall for a few days supersede the last fashionable novel on the tables of young ladies."

Letter to Macvey Napier,  5 Nov. 1841    Thos. Babington Macaulay

G. M. Trevelyan's Life and Letters of Macaulay

Friday, 9 August 2013

Macaulay's New Zealander

"And she may still exist in undiminished vigour when some traveller from New Zealand shall, in the midst of a vast solitude, take his stand on a broken arch of London Bridge to sketch the ruins of St. Paul's."

 Essay (on von Ranck's History of the Popes)  Thos. Babington Macaulay

[and see  "Contemplating the Ruins of London",  David Skilton;
and "When the New Zealander Comes" in The Strand Magazine, Sept. 1911]

Thursday, 8 August 2013

Ozymandias in London

"We wonder, and some Hunter may express
Wonder like ours, when thro' the wilderness
Where London stood, holding the Wolf in chase,
He meets some fragments huge, and stops to guess
What powerful but unrecorded race
Once dwelt in that annihilated place."

from "Ozymandias"  Horace Smith

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Miching Mallecho Esquire

...when London shall be an habitation of bitterns, when St. Paul's and Westminster Abbey shall stand, shapeless and nameless ruins, in the midst of an unpeopl'd marsh; when the piers of Waterloo Bridge shall become the nuclei of islets of reeds and osiers and cast jagged shadows of their broken arches on the solitary stream, --

Dedication to Peter Bell the Third by Miching Mallecho Esquire, 1819  Percy Bysshe Shelley

[Waterloo Bridge was opened in June 1817 - see John Constable's painting]

Monday, 5 August 2013

A poet's poet

"Three poets, in three distant ages born,
Greece, Italy & England did adorn.
The first in loftiness of thought surpass'd;
The next in majesty,  in both the last:
The force of nature could no farther go;
To make a third she joined the former two."

Lines Printed under the engraved Portrait of Milton, in Tonson's Folio edition of The Paradise Lost  John Dryden

Sunday, 4 August 2013

"Circumspice "

"This digression is leading me sadly astray
From my object -- A grave for my poor dog Tray!

I would not place him beneath thy walls
And proud, overshadowing dome, St. Paul's.
I've always considered Sir Christopher Wren
As an architect, one of the greatest of men;
And, talking of Epitaphs -- much as I admire his,
'Circumspice, si Monumentum requiris';
Which an erudite Verger translated to me,
'If you ask for his Monument, Sir-come-spy-see!' "

The Cynotaph  Richard Harris Barham (Thomas Ingoldsby)

Saturday, 3 August 2013

A London Diversion (part two)

The Lord Mayor's Coachman continues on his way...

"Up to Old Bailey then he goes on to the Viaduct,
Up Holborn and High Holborn, there was nothing to obstruct,
When 'Now you're going up Oxford Street',  the Lord Mayor shouts again,
But John said 'I don't go that way! I go down Drury Lane.'
Down Drury Lane, Long Acre, and St. Martin's Lane he drives,
And thus to keep out of a street he artfully contrives,
And when they reach Trafalgar Square, the Lord Mayor in a pet,
Said, 'Dash my wig and barnacles! I think he'll do it yet.'

John nearly drove into the Strand, then stopped as if in doubt,
And the Lord Mayor said, 'I'm not surprised to find that you're put out.
Through Parliament Street you must go, or else cross Cockspur Street,
It's very hard, but still you must acknowledge your defeat,'
But John turned back and said, 'My Lord, I don't much think I shall,
If you ask me, I think you'll find I'm going down Pall Mall',
Then round the Square the coachman goes and drives at racing rate,
Goes through Pall Mall, into the Park to Buckingham Palace straight.

The Coachman gave the Lord Mayor, the Lord Mayor, the Lord Mayor,
The Coachman gave the Lord Mayor a curious kind of treat,
He drove him from the Mansion House, the Mansion House, the Mansion House
From Mansion House to Buck'n'am Palace and didn't go through a street."

Song by Harry Hunter and David Day, 1896
Historians of London  Stanley Rubinstein

Friday, 2 August 2013

"The Lord Mayor's Coachman" -- a London diversion (part one)

"The Lord Mayor had a Coachman, and the Coachman's name was John,
Said the Lord Mayor to the Coachman, 'Take your wages and be-gone,
I want a better driver, for I'm going to see the Queen',
Said John, 'I am the finest Coachman that was ever seen,
And if you'll let me drive today I'll show I can't be beat,
For I'll drive to Buckingham Palace and I won't go through a street'.

'You must be mad',  the Lord Mayor said, 'but still I'll humour you,
But remember that you lose your place, the first street you go through'.

The Coachman jumped upon his box and settled in his seat,
And started up the Poultry, which we know's not called a street,
Then up Cheapside he gaily went, the bobbies cleared the course,
To the statue of the Bobby who first organized the force,
'Why you're going into Newgate Street', the Lord Mayor loudly bawls
But John said 'Tuck your tupp'ny in, I'm going round St. Paul's!'

'Well, round St. Paul's means Ludgate Hill and Fleet Street, John!' said he,
But John said, 'No! down Ludgate Hill and up the Old Bailey'. "

The Lord Mayor's Coachman  or,  the Man Who Knew How to Drive  (part I)

Lyrics by Harry Hunter,  music by David Day, 1896
(see  Historians of London  Stanley Rubinstein)

Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Piping down the valleys wild

"Piper sit thee down and write
In a book that all may read --
So he vanish'd from my sight
And I pluck'd a hollow reed

And I made a rural pen,
And I stain'd the water clear,
And I wrote my happy songs,
Every child may joy to hear."

From Songs of Innocence  William Blake

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Devouring Time

"But I forbid thee one most heinous crime:
O! carve not with thy hours my love's fair brow,
Nor draw no lines there with thy antique pen;
Him in thy course untainted do allow
For beauty's pattern to succeeding men.
Yet, do thy worst, old Time: despite thy wrong,
My love shall in my verse ever live young."

from Sonnet 19.  William Shakespeare

Friday, 26 July 2013

Holiday postcards

27 July:  "End of holiday quite definitely in sight, and everyone very kindly says, why not stay on?  I refer, in return, to Robert and the children -- and add, though not aloud, the servants, the laundry, the Women's Institiute, repainting the outside of the bath, and the state of my overdraft.  Everyone expresses civil regret at my departure, and I go so far as to declare recklessly that I shall be coming back next year -- which I well know to be unlikely in the extreme.
Spend last evening sending picture-postcards to everyone to whom I have been intending to send them ever since I started."

Diary of  a Provincial Lady  E.M.Delafield

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Delivering the letters

..."So I went to Carlisle (eleven miles away) that would be in 1934, and I biked..... off I would set on the bike to Carlisle to be there at six.  Well I was always there before six.
Then I had to bike back [to Wigton at the end of the day].  Well, I started at six o'clock and we sorted the letters into postman's walks and then after we had finished sorting into postman's walks we used to go out to our own postman's walk and clear the boxes, prepare them and about an hour after seven o'clock we would be packing our bags and going out to deliver the letters we had got ready.  And we would be back about somewhere about half past nine and ten o'clock in the morning.  And then we used to have half an hour for a meal and then we went back again and did another delivery of letters and parcels.  And in those days there were three deliveries of letters in the town area of Carlisle, there were three on Monday to Friday and on Saturday there were two deliveries.  Now there's two deliveries Monday to Friday and on delivery on Saturday and it's quite possible as time goes by that there will only be one delivery Monday to Friday -- but I don't think I'll be in the Post Office when that happens.  I think it will come because of the telephones.  People are using the telephone more now if their friends have got telephone and they have telephone, well they're not writing letters.  And the people that are writing letters are mostly oldish people that haven't the use of the phone.  They're dying off very quickly and if it wasn't for bills and circulars well I don't know what a postman would find to do."

Henry Fell, Carlisle postman.
Speak for England  Melvyn Bragg

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Whose letter?

"I sent a letter to my love, and on the way I dropped it;
One of you has picked it up and put it in your pocket.
It's not you, it's not you, it's not you........ It's You!"

Children's round game,  (anon).

Sunday, 21 July 2013

A lover's madrigal

Love in thy youth, fair maid; be wise,
Old Time will make thee colder,
And tho' each morning new arise
Yet we each day grow older.
Thou as Heaven art fair and young,
Thine eyes like twin stars shining:
But ere another day be sprung
All these will be declining.
Then winter comes with all his fears
And all thy sweets shall  borrow;
Too late then wilt thou shower thy tears
And I too late shall sorrow."

Madrigales and Ayres,  Walter Porter 1632

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

A Photograph Album

" I close the book;
But the past slides out of its leaves to haunt me
And it seems, wherever I look,
Phantoms of irreclaimable happiness taunt me,
Then I see her, petalled in new-blown hours,
Beside me -- 'All you love most there
Has blossomed again,' she murmurs, 'all that you missed there
Has grown to be yours.'  "

The Album   C. Day-Lewis

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Nicola da Urbino

"Every touch is sensitive, singing and dancing, charged with a mysterious life of its own."

The Art of the Potter  William Honey

Friday, 12 July 2013

The artist's answer

"If you look for only one answer, then you will find only one."

Pablo Picasso.

Monday, 8 July 2013

The unaccountable element

"Fire is an awe-inspiring, unaccountable element, and it is good that this wild partner should at times assert his share in the potter's work."

Style in Pottery  Arthur Lane

Sunday, 9 June 2013

'A pleasant academical retreat...'

"Wednesday 6 April.   ... We then walked into the City, and then strolled about the Temple, which is a most agreeable place.   You quit all the hurry and bustle of the City in Fleet Street and the Strand, and all at once find yourself in a pleasant academical retreat.  You see good convenient buildings, handsome walks, you view the silver  Thames.  You are shaded by venerable trees.  Crows are cawing above your head.  Here and there you see a solitary bencher sauntering about.  This description I take from the Reverend Dr. Blair, who is now come to town.  To select all these circumstances shows a fine imagination."

Boswell's London Journal 1762-3  James Boswell

Monday, 3 June 2013

A judicious man

"The world's much like a fair deceitful nut,
Whereto when once the knife of truth is put
And it is opened, a right judicious eye
Finds nothing in it but meer vanitye."

Writingbook of Andrew Andrewes, 1677
National Art Library (Great Britain).  Manuscript. MSL/1960/3067

Sunday, 2 June 2013

Every wise man

"For as outwardly every wise man carries himself gravely in public places ... yet inwardly has imagination and fire which sometimes flies out unrestrained, just as nature sometimes flies out to delight or amuse us (...laughter, contemplation or even horror...) -- So in Architecture the outward ornament is to be solid, proportionable according to rule, masculine and unaffected."

Inigo Jones

Friday, 31 May 2013

John Thorpe's house

"Another curiosity is a plan for a monogram house built on the plan of his own initials I-T, with the verse beneath:

'Thes 2 letters I & T
Joyned together as you see
is meant for a dwelling house for me.'  "

British Architects and Craftsmen  Sacheverell Sitwell

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

The music of architecture

"For architecture can console, and inspire, as can no other art but music.  Under that stimulus, whether it soothes or fires, we see what the man-made world has been, and what it still could be."

British Architects and Craftsmen  Sacheverell Sitwell

Tuesday, 28 May 2013


"... 'Tis strange that death should sing.
I am the cygnet to this pale faint swan,
Who chants a doleful hymn to his own death,
And from the organ-pipe of frailty sings
His soul and body to their lasting rest."

King John   Act 5, Sc.VII         W. Shakespeare

Friday, 24 May 2013

Henry Moore's sketchbook

Londoners lie under London, incubating
A different energy, a different life.

Round the corner the artist watches,
Jotting notes on an envelope.
To have drawn from life would be like

Sketching in the hold of a slave ship.
Not the Cockney wags of legend, but huge
Muffled forms, trussed and bandaged

Like Lazarus.  Wood and stone,
As well as bones and veins, wait inside
These vast vulnerabilities.

From their coding, we can construe
Houses falling, bridges falling, London falling,
Civilisations falling down.  The artist

Must show this without saying. Just
His sketchbook's sotto-voce.  Abstractish figures shelter background,
And  Try white again then scramble greyish over." 

 from Underground  (on Henry Moore's 'A Shelter Sketchbook')   U. A. Fanthorpe 

Thursday, 23 May 2013

A sigh for Lord Byron

"By  & by the group collected into about a hundred or more when the train of a funeral suddenly appeared on which a young girl that stood beside me gave a deep sigh & uttered 'Poor Lord Byron' I looked up at the young girls' face it was dark & beautiful & I could almost feel in love with her for the sigh she had uttered for the poet it was worth all the newspaper puffs & magazine mourning that ever were paraded after the death of a poet."

Autobiography   John Clare

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Casanova's Stratagem

"I next ordered Laurent to buy me the new folio Bible that was just printed; for I fancied its great size might enable me to conceal my tool there, and so send it to the monk.  But when I saw it, I became gloomy -- the bolt was two inches longer than the Bible.....

At last I hit upon a device.  I told Laurent that on Michaelmas Day I wanted two dishes of macaroni, and one of these must be the largest dish he had, for I meant to season it, and send it with my compliments, to the worthy gentleman who had lent me books.  Laurent would bring me the butter and the Parmesan cheese, but I myself should add them to the boiling macaroni.

I wrote to the monk preparing him for what was to happen, and on St Michael's Day all came about as I expected.  I had hidden the bolt in the great Bible, wrapped in paper, one inch of it showing on each side.  I prepared the cheese and butter; and in due time Laurent brought me in the boiling macaroni and the great dish.  Mixing my ingredients, I filled the dish so full that the butter nearly ran over the edge, and then I placed it carefully on the Bible, and put that, with the dish resting on it, into Laurent's hand, warning him not to spill a drop.  All his caution was necessary: he went away with his eyes fixed on his burden, lest the butter should run over; and the Bible, with the bolt projecting from it, were covered, and more than covered by the huge dish.  His one care was to hold that steady, and I saw that I had succeeded.  Presently he came back to tell me that not a drop had been spilt."

"Casanova's Escape", trans. May Kendall, in The True Story Book,  edited Andrew Lang 

Sunday, 19 May 2013

Prince Giglio and the Fairy Blackstick's Bag

"He took a modest lodging opposite the Schools, paid his bill at the inn, and went to his apartment with his trunk, his carpet-bag, and not forgetting we may be sure, his other bag.

When he opened his trunk, which the day before he had filled with his best clothes, he found it contained only books,  and in the first of them which he opened there was written--
    'Clothes for the back, books for the head;
    Read, and remember them when they are read.'

And in his bag, when Giglio looked in it, he found a student's cap and gown, a writing-book full of paper, an inkstand, pens, and a Johnson's dictionary, which was very useful to him, as his spelling had been sadly neglected.

So he sat down and worked very, very hard for a whole year, during which 'Mr. Giles' was quite an example to all the students in the University of Bosforo."

The Ballad of the Rose and the Ring  William M. Thackeray

Monday, 13 May 2013

Travelling lighter

Artist Andrea Zittel intentionally leaves or creates large holes in the fabrics to reveal the clothing underneath.
"One time I was on an airplane and these guys were staring at my dress.  Finally one said  'What happened?  Did a giant moth get you?' "

Andrea Zittel in uncited magazine article.

Sunday, 12 May 2013

Travelling light

"I left England in the autumn of 1862, intending to try whether the south of France was really, as I had been told, a cheaper place of abode than England.  I travelled (for a lady) in rather a peculiar fashion, for I took with me only one small waterproof stuff bag, which I could carry in my hand, containing a spare dress, a thin shawl, two changes of every kind of under clothing, two pairs of shoes, pens, pencils, paper, the inevitable 'Murray', and prayer-book, so that I had no trouble or expense about luggage.    My plan was to locate myself by the week, in any town or village that took my fancy, and ramble about on foot to botanize, and see all that was worth seeing in the environs;.....   There are disadvantages, however, in this gypsy style of travelling which I did not foresee when I set out."

A Lady's Walks in the South of France  Mary Eyre

Friday, 10 May 2013

Printing money

"In this city of Kanbalu is the mint of the grand khan, who may truly be said to possess the secret of the alchemists, as he has the art of producing money by the following process.  He causes the bark to be stripped from those mulberry-trees the leaves of which are used for feeding silk-worms, and takes from it that thin inner rind which lies between the coarser bark and the wood of the tree.  This being steeped, and afterwards pounded in a mortar, until reduced to a pulp, is made into paper, resembling (in substance) that which is manufactured from cotton, but quite black.  When ready for use, he has it cut into pieces of money of different sizes, nearly square, but somewhat longer than they are wide....  The coinage of this paper money is authenticated with as much form and ceremony as if it were actually of pure gold and silver;......

When coined in large quantities, this paper currency is circulated in in every part of the grand khan's dominions; nor dares any person, at the peril of his life, refuse to accept it in payment. ...   With it, in short, every article may be procured."

The Travels of Marco Polo  (Everyman's Library edition)

Thursday, 9 May 2013

Penny plain

"Venice en fete is an incomparable thing to see, but to live with, give me the Venice of every day; for the Venice of every day is perfect, wanting nothing; and when, in this world, you get for once anything already perfect, why not be content with the penny plain, why hanker after the twopence coloured?"

Wanderings  Arthur Symons

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

The Stationers' Company

"Certain corporations of the period still recognised the wife's position as a business partner. ...

Strongest of all was the position of the printers' widows.  Membership of the Stationers' Company, which included booksellers, binders and printers, was strictly limited to twenty-two persons.  Widows actually retained their freedom of the Stationers' Company not only after their husband's death, but following remarriage.  In this way a printer's widow represented an eligible match for an aspirant printer, printers' businesses frequently travelling sideways in this manner, as when the widow of Francis Simpson married in turn Richard Read and George Elde, carrying the vital membership of the Stationers' Company with her."

The Weaker Vessel,  Woman's lot in seventeenth century England   Antonia Fraser

Tuesday, 7 May 2013


"I would not like to say that Polchester had a more snobbish spirit than other Cathedral towns, but there is no doubt that, thirty years ago, the lines were drawn very clearly between the 'Cathedral' and the 'Others'....

When Joan arrived, then, in the Deanery dining-room,  there was a fine gathering.  Very unsophisticated they would all have been considered by the present generation.  Lady Rose and Lady Mary, who were both of them nearer forty than thirty, had of course had some experience of London, and had been even to Paris and Rome.  Of the 'Others' at this time, only Betty Callender, who had been born in India, and the Foresters had been farther, in all their lives, than Dryhorizon.   Their lives were bound, and happily bound by the Polchester horizon.   They lived in and for the local excitements, talks, croquet, bicycling (under proper guardianship), Rafiel or Buquay or Clinton in the summer, and the occasional (very, very occasional) performance of amateur theatricals in the Assembly Rooms.

Moreover, they were happy and contented and healthy.  For many of them Jane Eyre was still a forbidden book and a railway train a remarkable adventure."

The Cathedral  Sir Hugh Walpole

Saturday, 4 May 2013

The power of Orpheus

"Such Heavenly power in musick rests
It calmes and tames the savage beasts;
While Orpheus playes
Each beast obeyes."

from frontispiece to  A Book of Beasts,  Thomas Johnson,  published anonymously 1630 

Friday, 3 May 2013

O Fortune!

" O Fortune! How thy restless wavering state
Hath fraught with cares my troubled wit,
Witness this present prison, whither Fate
Could bear me, and the joys I quit.
Thou caus'dst the guilty to be loosed
From bands wherein are innocents enclosed,
Causing the guiltless to be strait reserved,
And freeing those that death had well deserved,
But by her envy can be nothing wrought,
So God send to my foes all they have wrought."

Charcoal inscription attrib. Princess Elizabeth (Queen Elizabeth I),  while imprisoned at Woodstock.

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Farringdon Road bookstalls -- perhaps

"Once on a stall in Farringdon Road I found
An atlas folio of great lithographs,
Views of Ionian Islands, flyleaf inscribed
By Edward Lear -  and bought it for a bob.
Perhaps one day I'll find a first of Keats,
Wedged between Goldsmith and The Law of Torts;
Perhaps -- but that was not the reason why
Untidy bookshops gave me such delight.
It was the smell of books, the plates in them
Tooled leather, marbled paper, gilded edge ..."

Summoned by Bells  John Betjeman

Monday, 22 April 2013

The Senses of Loss

"It is said the musical sands will give out a sound even in a laboratory far from their native dunes.  It may be, yet sometimes in my London home  I take up a handful of  Crescent Lake sand and try to make it sing, but I listen in vain for the thunder-roll of its voice.  Between the leaves of a book I have pressed a small branch of sand-jujube* flowers, and whenever I catch its subtle but fading fragrance, I, like the Kashgarian exile, long for a place that seems so near and is yet so far away.  Sick with longing I walk among the crowds while my spirit flees to the quiet which is found by the hidden lake among the dunes."
[* eloeagnus latifolia]

The Gobi Desert  Mildred Cable with Francesca French

Saturday, 20 April 2013

"The Lost Diary" and the Scottish reviewer

"The Most Amusing Novel of the Autumn.

THE LOST DIARY by Horace Bleackley.  Author of Anymoon, etc.

Crown 8vo. Cloth. Price 7/- net.

Scotsman - 'Ridiculous situations, tangled misunderstandings, and humorous by-play.'

Glasgow Herald - 'This book is so good that it ought to be better.   That is our only complaint.' "

From Eveleigh Nash Company's List of New Books  Spring 1920

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

The strangeness of English

"...we could see the soldiers pike their bayonets among the heather, which sent a cold thrill into my vitals; and they would sometimes hang about our rock, so that we scarce dared to breathe.

It was in this way that I first heard the right English speech; one fellow as he went by actually clapping his hand upon the sunny face of the rock on which we lay, and plucking it off again with an oath.
'I tell you it's 'ot,' says he; and I was amazed at the clipping tones and the odd sing-song in which he spoke, and no less at that strange trick of dropping out the letter h.  To be sure, I had heard Ransome; but he had taken his ways from all sorts of people, and spoke so imperfectly at the best, that I set down the most of it to childishness.  My surprise was all the greater to hear that manner of speaking in the mouth of a grown man; and indeed I have never grown used to it; nor yet altogether with the English grammar, as perhaps a very critical eye might here and there spy out even in these memoirs."

Kidnapped  Robert Louis Stevenson

Monday, 8 April 2013

April 8. Trouble with a Stylographic pen.

"April 8.  No events of any importance, except that Gowing strongly recommended a new patent stylographic pen, which cost me nine and sixpence, and which was simply nine and sixpence thrown in the mud.  It has caused me constant annoyance and irritability of temper.  The ink oozes out of the top, making a mess on my hands, and once at the office when I was knocking the palm of my hand on the desk to jerk the ink down, Mr Perkupp, who had just entered, called out: 'Stop that knocking!  I suppose that is you, Mr Pitt?'  That young monkey, Pitt, took a malicious glee in responding quite loudly: 'No, sir; I beg pardon, it is Mr Pooter with his pen; it has been going on all morning.'  To make matters worse, I saw Lupin laughing behind his desk.  I thought it wiser to say nothing.  I took the pen back to the shop and asked them if they would take it back, as it did not act.  I did not expect the full price to be returned, but was willing to take half.  The man said he could not do that -- buying and selling were two different things."

The Diary of a Nobody  G. and W. Grossmith

Saturday, 6 April 2013

Farming with the Goughs

"In lazy sweeps, the crow-like chough
Returns to nest across the lough.
The farmer with asthmatic cough
Walks down the pathway, sometimes through
A valley where the wind may sough
Its music over many bough.
His wife prepares the Sunday dough,
While Bert, their son, whose hands are rough,
Gets ready to hitch up the plough."

attrib. George Bernard Shaw?
(quoted by Mr John William in a letter to The Times)

Friday, 5 April 2013

The Craftsman's Mosaic methods

"Mosaic of Quill Cuttings.

For this same work quills of feathers are very nice, cut up very small and stained as I have related.

Mosaic of Paper or Foil.

To lay in these figures as you do on a wall, you must adopt this expedient:  take little leaves of gilded or silvered paper, or thick gold or silver foil.  Cut it up very small, and lay in with these tweezers, the way you laid in your crushed shells, wherever the ground calls for gold.

Mosaic of Eggshells, Gilded.

Likewise, lay the ground with white shells; wet it with beaten white of egg; wet it with the same as that with which you gild on glass; lay your gold while the ground still draws; let it dry, and burnish with cotton.  And this must suffiice for this mosaic or Greek work."

The Craftsman's Handbook (Il Libro dell'Arte)  Cennino Cennini  (trans. D.Thompson, Jr.)

Thursday, 4 April 2013

A Social Mosaic

Mosaic Categories in use in 2000:

The main groups are broken down into types;  here are some of them (in no particular order):

"Chattering Classes
Ageing Professionals
Clever Capitalists
Town Centre singles
Suburban Mock Tudor
Pebbledash Subtopia
Corporate Careerists
Green Belt Expansion
Rejuvenated Terraces
Victorian Low Status"

[Unattributed source]

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Maiolica painters

"The invetriatura now having been thus applied and the pieces allowed to dry are now ready to receive the painting.  This is executed with coarser and finer brushes or penelli, made of goats' and asses' hair, and the finest of the whiskers of rats or mice;  the ordinary wares being held in the left hand or on the left knee and the finer in wooden cases, lined with tow, to prevent rubbing.  A different brush must be used for each colour.  The painters generally sit round a circular table suspended from the ceiling so that it may turn round, and upon this the different pigments are placed."

Maiolica  C. Drury E. Fortnum   (referring to Cipriani Piccolpasso's Li Tre Libri dell'Arte del Vasaio
or 'The Three Books of the Potter's Art') 

Monday, 25 March 2013


"A good book is the precious life-blood of a master spirit, embalmed and treasured up on purpose to a life beyond life."

Areopagitica  John Milton,   quoted on the fly-leafs of "The Kings Treasuries of Literature" series,  General Editor  Sir Arthur T. Quiller-Couch

Saturday, 23 March 2013

Kew Epigram

"I am his Highness' dog at Kew;
Pray tell me, sir, whose dog are you?"

Engraved on the Collar of a Dog which I gave to his Royal Highness 
Alexander Pope

Thursday, 21 March 2013

Epitaph on Frederick, Prince of Wales

"Here lies poor Fred
Who was alive and is dead:
Had it been his father,
I had much rather;
Had it been his brother,
Still better than another;
Had it been his sister,
No one would have missed her;
Had it been the whole generation,
Still better for the nation;
But since 'tis only Fred
Who was alive and is dead,
There's no more to be said."

Anonymous,  March 1751

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

"Who breaks a butterfly upon a wheel?"

"Is there a Parson, much be-mused in beer,
A maudlin Poetess, a rhyming Peer,
A Clerk, foredoom'd his father's soul to cross,
Who pens a Stanza, when he should engross?
Is there, who, lock'd from ink and paper, scrawls
With desperate charcoal round his darken'd walls?
All fly to TWIT'NAM and in humble strain
Apply to me, to keep them mad or vain.
Arthur, whose giddy son neglects the laws,
Imputes to me and my damn'd works the cause;
Poor Cornus sees his frantic wife elope,
And curses Wit, and Poetry, and Pope."

Epistle to Dr Arbuthnot  Alexander Pope

Saturday, 16 March 2013

Calumny, the merest whisper...

"Calumny Sir....
First the merest whisper skimming the earth like a swallow before the storm --

pianissimo --
A murmur and it's away sowing the poisoned seed as it goes,
Someone picks it up and --

piano piano --
insinuates it into your ear.
the damage is done.
It spawns, creeps and crawls and spread and multiplies and then --

rinforzando --
from mouth to mouth it goes like the very Devil.
Suddenly, no one knows how,  you see Calumny raising its head
hissing, puffing and swelling before your very eyes.
It takes wing, extending its flight in ever-widening circles, swooping and swirling,
drawing in a bit here and a bit there, sweeping everything before it,
and breaks forth at last like a thunder clap to become, thanks be to Heaven, the general cry,
a public crescendo,  a chorus universal of hate, rage and condemnation.

Who the deuce can resist it?"

The Barber of Seville  G. Rossini

Thursday, 14 March 2013

Islamic calligraphy

"The curvilinear script of North Africa and Spain is very different from those of the East.  Its most characteristic feature is the use of deep, almost hemispherical loops for the letters which descend below the line; in addition, the tops of the verticals incline to the left.  The loading of the rather thinnish, brown ink is very variable and this, together with the very soft attack of the strokes and the flick of the descenders, gives an appearance of brushwork rather than pen work; however, it is more probable that a rather soft and fibrous reed was used."

Islamic Art   Barbara Brend

Sunday, 10 March 2013

Necessaries for a Writer ...

for a Writer to India,
sold by Welch and Stalker,
(Late Evans and Welch,)
No. 134, Leadenhall-Street, London.

A cot.
Saddle and bridle.
Stationary. [sic]
Travelling case.
Moorish grammar.
Persian ditto.
Ditto dictionary.
Ditto interpreter.
Ousley's Persian Miscellanies.
Carlisle's Arabian Poetry.
Razor-case complete.
Box for Books.

Welch and Stalker handbill, c. 1800
copyright The British Library Board 2002

Saturday, 9 March 2013


"Captain Wentworth was folding up a letter in great haste, and either could not or would not answer fully....
Mrs Croft left them, and Captain Wentworth, having sealed his letter with great rapidity, was indeed ready, and had even a hurried, agitated air, which shewed impatience to be gone.  Anne knew not how to understand it....He had passed out of the room without a look!

She had only time however, to move closer to the table where he had been writing, when footsteps were heard returning; the door opened; it was himself.  He begged their pardon, but he had forgotten his gloves, and instantly crossing the room to the writing table, and standing with his back towards Mrs. Musgrove, he drew out a letter from under the scattered paper, placed it before Anne with eyes of glowing entreaty fixed on her for a moment, and hastily collecting his gloves, was again out of the room, almost before Mrs Musgrave was aware of him being in it -- the work of an instant!

The revolution which one instant had made in Anne, was almost beyond expression.  The letter, with a direction hardly legible, to 'Miss A. E.--,' was evidently the one which he had been folding so hastily.  While supposed to be writing to Captain Benwick, he had been also addressing her!  On the contents of that letter depended all which this world could do for her!"

Persuasion  Jane Austen

Friday, 8 March 2013

The Book of Tea

"Not a colour should disturb the tone of the room, not a sound mar the rhythm of things, not a gesture obtrude on the harmony, nor a word break the unity of the surroundings."

from The Book of Tea   Okakura Kakuzo  1919;    cited by Humphrey Evans (Sunday Colour supplement)

Thursday, 7 March 2013


"Architecture [is] like a wyse man,  [that] carrieth a gravitie in public places [yet] inwardly hath his imaginacy set on fire."

Inigo Jones

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

The duty of the artist

"to face the void without flinching, to declare that the world will yet be saved, and to weave their single strand of the great rope that holds the universe together."

Bernard Levin,  The Times, 17 December 1983.

Sunday, 3 March 2013


"I am the wind which breathes upon the sea,
I am the wave of the ocean,
I am the murmur of the billows,
I am the ox of the seven combats,
I am the vulture upon the rocks,
I am a beam of the sun,
I am the fairest of plants,
I am a wild boar in valour,
I am a salmon in the water,
I am a lake in the plain,
I am a word of science,
I am the point of the lance in battle,
I am the God who creates in the head the fire.
Who is it who throws light into the meeting on the mountain?
Who announces the ages of the moon?
Who teaches the place where couches the sun?"

Amergin, quoted in The White Goddess,  Robert Graves

Friday, 1 March 2013

A Musical Instrument

"What was he doing, the great god Pan,
Down in the reeds by the river?
Spreading ruin and scattering ban,
Splashing and paddling with hoofs of a goat,
And breaking the golden lilies afloat
With the dragon-fly on the river.

He tore out a reed, the great god Pan,
From the deep cool bed of the river:
The limpid water turbidly ran,
And the broken lilies a-dying lay,
And the dragon-fly had fled away,
Ere he brought it out of the river.

High on the shore sate the great god Pan,
While turbidly flowed the river;
And he hacked and hewed as a great god can,
With his hard bleak steel at the patient reed,
Till there was not a sign of a leaf indeed
To prove it fresh from the river.

He cut it short, did the great god Pan,
(How tall it stood in the river!)
Then drew the pith, like the heart of a man,
Steadily from the outside ring,
And notched the poor dry empty thing
In holes, as he sate by the river.

'This is the way,' laughed the great god Pan,
(Laughed while he sate by the river)
'The only way, since gods began
To make sweet music, they could succeed.'
Then, dropping his mouth to a hole in the reed,
He blew in power by the river.

Sweet, sweet, sweet, O Pan!
Piercing sweet by the river!
Blinding sweet, O great god Pan!
The sun on the hill forgot to die,
And the lilies revived, and the dragon-fly
Came back to dream on the river.

Yet half a beast is the great god Pan,
To laugh as he sits by the river,
Making a poet out of a man;
The true gods sigh for the cost and pain --
For the reed which grows nevermore again
As a reed with the reeds in the river."

The Musical Instrument   Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Thursday, 28 February 2013

A young gentleman of the university

"His study has commonly handsome shelves, his books neat silk strings, which he shows to his father's man, and is loth to untie or take down  for fear of misplacing.  Upon foul days for recreation he retires thither, and looks over the pretty book his tutor reads to him, which is commonly some short history, or a piece of Euphormio;  for which his tutor gives him money to spend next day.  His main loitering is at the library, where he studies arms and books of honour, and turns a gentleman critic in pedigrees.  Of all things he endures not to be taken for a scholar, and hates a black suit, though it be of satin..."

Microscosmography  John Earle

Monday, 25 February 2013

The Silver Swan

"The silver Swan, who living had no Note,
When Death approached,  unlocked her silent throat.
Leaning her breast against the reedy shore,
Thus sang her first and last, and sang no more:
'Farewell, all joys; O Death, come close mine eyes!
More Geese than Swans now live,
More Fools than Wise.'  "

Madrigal    Orlando Gibbons 1602

Saturday, 23 February 2013

"but cackle like a goose among melodious swans"

'Sunt et mihi carmina, me quoque dicunt
Vatem pastores; sed non ego credulus illis.
Nam neque adhuc Vario videor nec dicere Cinna
Digna, sed argutos inter strepere anser olores."

Eclogue IX. 33    Virgil

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

"Caves of Ice", reviewed

"Motored to Edinburgh in beastly cold weather, but this morning after church, an amusing little neo-Gothic structure, there was a Canaletto sky over the castle....
Vowed to make the best of everything, even though inconveniently located remote from Gloucestershire and SW1, SW3, SW7 and W1.  Decided would even try to make the best of James Lees-Milne's latest volume of diaries, Caves of Ice, which records some of his activities and emotional responses as Adviser on Historic Buildings to the National Trust in 1946 and 1947.

Glanced through the book before lunch.  Elegant, pale architectural jacket (Cotehele House, Cornwall) and endpapers (Cotehele House and Nostell Priory, Yorkshire).  Frontispiece portrait of the author looking up balefully from the pen in his hand and the sheaf of papers on his desk.  His expression suggests that he does not like writing, resents working in an office and really isn't at all pleased when someone intrudes to photograph him in such un-chic drudgery."

Extract from Book review (in Daily Telegraph?) by Patrick Skene Catling 1983