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.