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.