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