Friday, November 30, 2007

Mann's Dilemmas

[Thomas Mann to Heinrich Mann]

Garrison Infirmary,

Friday, November 2, 1900.

Dear Heinrich:

Many thanks for your letters, both of which finally arrived in order, despite Dr. von Staat's lengthy attempt to prevent delivery, and for the card from Ferrara with the monument, which pleased me especially. The figure is very inspiring. Might you not be able to find a larger photograph of it and send it to me rolled up--to HerzogstraBe, for this time it really is likely that I shall not be here much longer.

In principle everything remains the same with my feet. The sodium silicate bandages (a substitute for plaster) have been taken off and, since the inflammation has not yet gone down completely, they will now be treated once more with wet poultices. But they are built badly and will stay that way; and for that reason I now want to be released back to duty soon, so that the first exercises will promptly cause them to fail again. In fact, they want me to purchase--at a considerable sum--springy insole supports for flat feet or even specially designed footwear; but if I'm not directly forced, I shall not do so, for my belief is that whoever has limbs requiring the correction of some kind of apparatus is not fit for active duty, and I think I shall be able to have this view prevail. When? That, of course, I can't say; but it would be very nice if I were already free by Christmas, and then I really would like to move to Florence soon after, to read what I need to on the spot. But, unfortunately, things have not progressed that far as yet, and then there is the question of what I would do with the apartment and my furniture. That will be easily taken care of, however, once I'm moving around again in the plain coat of free man. . .

I'm not doing well at the moment, for my worries about Buddenbrooks seem only to have begun now that it is finished. Fischer wrote to me after he had read the first half, and therefore did not yet know anything. After a few bits of exaggerated praise and some criticism, he arrived at the conclusion that he would be very inclined to publish it if I were willing to cut the book down by half. He was so shocked himself by this villainous demand, that he immediately called it "monstrous" and nearly begged my pardon; but, as a publisher, that was what he had to say. The sad story is simply that the novel amounts to more than a thousand pages and would have to appear in two volumes, which, at 8 to 10 marks each and in current circumstances, would be really and truly unsellable. Nevertheless, I am insisting that the book appear as it is, for, wholly aside from the question of my artistic conscience, I simply do not feel that I have the strength to set pen to it once again. Only extreme exertion allowed me to finish it and now I want finally to be freed of it so I can occupy myself with other things. In my extensive reply to Fischer, then, I refused resolutely to cut the book, but showed myself to be very flexible and resigned in regard to everything else. As things are now, I'm prepared to sign any contract that merely preserves the appearance that I am not simply giving away the work of three years. I instructed him to draw one up that offers him security, more or less; that limits, conditions, or reassigns the royalties, and stipulates, for example, that a potential loss on his part will be compensated by me out of later royalties. But he is to put the book out as it is. There is a distinction, after all, between long and long-winded! Even today a two-volume novel is not an absolute impossibility! And then I said to him that this novel was by no means the last book I would ever give him, and that ultimately everything depended upon whether he--also as a businessman--believed a little in my talent and was willing, or not, to stand up for it once and for all. Now I must return to waiting patiently, until he has read the story through to the end and writes again. The situation is difficult, difficult and in danger of proceeding badly. It would be very sad if I were left sitting with the book; I can already feel how that would make it harder for me to continue producing.--Incidentally--now you are not the only one receiving abusive postcards. I got a rhymed one about Piepsam, saying that I'm obviously a guzzler myself and therefore should "leave off" with the "scribbling." How charming! Dr. Geheeb sent me a whole package of new publications from the press in consolation, along with the request that I cause another such pleasant scandal right away. . .

I'll let you know when I change my address again. The time to come is likely to be very unpleasant for me, since I'll be back in training and have to make up a lot of exercises and, at the beginning, still have to sleep in the barracks. And I'm so weak from all the time in bed that I don't know how I'm supposed to manage it. If only they wanted to make an end of it and throw me out!

Warm regards,
Your T.

Translation, Winstons.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Death in the family

Maria Edgeworth to Mrs. Ruxton.

Edgeworthtown, Feb. 11, 1790.

Your friendship, my dear Aunt Ruxton, has, I am sure, considerably alleviated the anguish of mind my father has had to feel, and your letter and well-deserved praise of my dear mother's fortitude and exertion were a real pleasure to her. She has indeed had a great deal to bear, and I think her health has suffered, but I hope not materially. In my father's absence, she ordered everything, did everything, felt everything herself. Unless, my dear aunt, you had been present during the last week of dear Honora's * sufferings, I think you could not form an idea of anything so terrible or so touching. Such extreme fortitude,such affection, such attention to the smallest feelings of others, as she showed on her deathbed! My father has carefully kept his mind occupied ever since his return,but we cannot help seeing his feelings at intervals. He has not slept for two or three nights, and is, I think, far from well to-day.

He said the other day, speaking of Honora, "My dear daughters, I promise you one thing, I never will reproach any of you with Honora. I will never reproach you with any of her virtues." There could not be a kinder or more generous promise, but I could not help fearing that my father should refrain from speaking of her too much, and that it would hurt hismind. He used to say it was a great relief to him to talk of my mother Honora.
Maria Edgeworth

*Honora Edgeworth, fifteen years old, died of consumption, only daughter of Honora (Sneyd) Edgeworth, Maria's step-mother, number one.

-from The Life and Letters of Maria Edgeworth edited by Augustus J. C. Hare.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Things that minister shadow

To the Editor

When Were Umbrellas Introduced into England?

homas Coryat, in his Crudities, vol. i, p. 134 gives us a curious notice of the early use of the umbrella in Italy. Speaking of fans, he says:--

"These fans are of a mean price, for a man may buy one of the fairest of them for so much money as countervaileth one English groat. Also many of them (the Italians) do carry other fine things of a far greater price, that will cost at the least a ducat, which they commonly call in the Italian tongue umbrellaes, that is, things that minister shadow unto them for shelter against the scorching heat of the sun. These are made of leather something answerable to the form of a little canopy, and hooped in the inside with diverse little wooden hoops that extend the umbrella in a pretty large compass. They are used especially by horsemen, who carry them in their hands when they ride, fastening the end of the handle upon one of their thighs: and they impart so long a shadow unto them, that it keepeth the heat of the sun from the upper parts of their bodies."

Lt.-Col. (afterwards Gen.) Wolfe, writing from Paris, in the year 1752, says:--

"The people here use umbrellas in hot weather to defend them from the sun, and something of the same kind to secure them from snow and rain. I wonder a practise so useful is not introduced in England, (where there are such frequent showers,) and especially in the country, where they can be expanded without any inconveniency."

Query, what is the date of the first introduction of the umbrella into England?

-from Notes and Queries Vol. 1 (26) Apr. 27, 1850, p414-15.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Mother Grey's Apples

To the Editor

Mother Grey's Apples

t the time I was a little girl,--you will not, I am sure be ungallant enough to inquire when that was, when I tell you I am now a woman-- I remember that the nursery maid, whose duty it was to wait upon myself and sisters, invariably said, if she found us out of temper--"So, so! young ladies, you are in the sulks, eh? Well sulk away; you'll be like 'Mother Grey's Apples', you'll be sure to come round again." We often inquired, on the return of fine weather, who Mother Grey was, and what were the peculiar circumstances of the apples coming round? --questions, however, which were always evaded. Now, as the servant was a Cambridge girl, and had a brother a gyp, or bedmaker at one of the colleges, besides her uncle keeping the tennis court there, I have often thought there must have been some college legend or tradition in Alma Mater, of Mother Grey and her apples. Will any of your learned correspondents, should it happen to fall within their knowledge, take pity on the natural curiosity of the sex, by furnishing its details?

A. M.

-from Notes and Queries Vol 2 (36) July 6, 1850, p.88.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Classic Derivations

To the Editor

rigin of the word "Snob".

I think that Snob is not an archaism, and that it cannot be found in any book printed fifty years ago. I am aware that in the north of England shoe-makers are still sometimes called Snobs; but the word is not in Brockett's Glossary of North Country Words, which is against its being a genuine bit of northern dialect.

I fancy that Snobs and Nobs, as used in vulgar parlance are of classic derivation; and, most probably, originated at one of the Universities, where they still flourish. If a Nob be one who is nobilis, a Snob must be one who is s[ine] nob[iliate]. Not that I mean to say that the s is literally a contraction of sine; but that, as in the word slang, the s, which is there prefixed to language, at once destroys the better word, and degrades its meaning; and as, in Italian, an s prefixed to a primitive word has a privative effect--e.g. calzare, "to put on shoes and stockings"; scalzare, "to put them off"; fornito, "furnished;" sfornito, "unfurnished," &c.; as also the dis, in Latin (from which, possibly, the aforesaid s is derived), has the like reversing power, as shown in continue and discontinue--so nob, which is an abbreviation of nobilis at once receives the most ignoble signification on having an s put before it.

The word scamp, meaning literally a fugitive from the field, one qui ex campo exit, affords another example of the power of the initial s to reverse the signification of a word.

All this, Mr. Editor, is only conjecture, in reply to "Alpha's" query (No. 12, p.185); but perhaps you will receive it, if no better etymology of the word be offered.

A. G.
Ecclesfield, Jan. 21. 1850.

-from Notes and Queries Vol. 1 (16) Feb. 16, 1850 p. 250.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

A Library Attached

To the Editor

Public Libraries

In looking through the Parliamentary Report on Libraries, I missed, though they may have escaped my notice, any mention of a valuable one in Newcastle-on-Tyne, "Dr. Thomlinson's;" for which a handsome building was erected early last century, near St. Nicholas Church, and a Catalogue of its contents has been published. I saw also, some years ago, a library attached to Wimborne Minster, which appeared to contain some curious books.

The Garrison Library at Gibraltar is, I believe, one of the most valuable English libraries on the continent of Europe.

W. C. T.
Edinburgh, March, 30, 1850.

-from Notes and Queries, Vol. 1 (24) Apr. 1850 p.391.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Clough's Dilemma

[Arthur Hugh Clough To Rev. J. P. Gell.]

Liverpool: October 8, 1843.

do not think I am particularly inclined to become a Puseyite, though it is very likely my Puseyite position may prevent my becoming anything else; and I am ruminating, in the hope of escaping these terrible alternatives, a precipitate flight from Oxford, that is, as soon as my exhibition expires, for I cannot think of sacrificing 601. on any consideration. Also, I have a very large amount of objection, or rather repugnance, to sign ‘ex animo’ the thirty-nine Articles, which it would be singular and unnatural not to do if I stayed in Oxford, as without one’s M.A. degree one of course stands quite still, and has no resource for employment except private pupils and private reading. It is not so much from any definite objection to this or that point, as general dislike to subscription, and strong feeling of its being a bondage and a very heavy one, and one that may cramp and cripple one for life.

What to do, if I don’t stay at Oxford, is a very different question. I do not dislike the tutor’s work at Oriel, but without taking an M.A. I cannot go on with it; and if, as I supposed, I give up both this and residence, where to go and what to do will be a perplexity. However, I shall do nothing ωστε ανηκεστον τι παθειν before this time year; though, as to the tutorship, I shall probably have to decide before this reaches you.

I have employed this Midsummer vacation half in going abroad, and half with pupils at Grasmere. I left England, July 1, with Walrond; went to Havre, Paris, Lyons, Marseilles, Genoa, Leghorn, where Burbidge joined us; with him we went to Pisa and Florence, and from Florence made excursions to the monasteries of Vallombrosa, Camaldoli, and Laverna. I was then ill for about a week at Florence; left Walrond and Burbidge, and started for England. I went by Bologna, Parma, and Piacenza, to Milan; saw the Cathedral, the most beautiful building I ever beheld, as also the Leonardo da Vinci, which is, I think, the most beautiful painting. Then I crossed the Simplon, went up the Rhone, over the Grimsel Pass, and one or two others in the Bernese Oberland, and so to Thun and Berne, and thence by Basle and the Rhine home. I liked Switzerland much better than Italy myself, principally, perhaps, because it was so exceedingly hot, and so impossible to enjoy exercise, in the latter; perhaps, also, in some degree, from being continually lionised about galleries and the like, which is far less agreeable than walking through the beauty of a country.

I went off directly after my return to Grasmere, where I had a party of pupils waiting for me, and there passed six weeks of a very pleasant mixture of work and walking about. Stanley was at Fox How for the last three weeks, working at the memoir.

We have all been reading a grand new philosophy-book, “Mill on Logic;’ very well written at any rate, and ‘stringent if not sound.’

-from Poems and Prose Remains of Arthur Hugh Clough with a Selection from his Letters and a Memoir edited by his wife (London-2 vols.)

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Don't Judge a Book by its Cover

To the Editor

Books by the Yard-

any of your readers have heard of books bought and sold by weight,-in fact it is questionable whether the number of books sold in that way is not greater than those sold "over the counter,"-but few have probably heard of books sold "by the yard." Having purchased at St. Petersburg, the library left by an old Russian nobleman of high rank, I was quite astonished to find a copy of Oeuvres de Frederic II originally published in 15 vols., divided into 60, to each of which a new title had been printed; and several hundred volumes lettered outside Oeuvres de Miss Burney, Oeuvres de Swift &c., but containing, in fact all sorts of French waste paper books. These, as well as three editions of Oeuvres de Voltaire, were all very neatly bound in calf, gilt, and with red morocco backs. My curiosity being roused, I inquired into the origin of these circumstances, and learnt that during the reign of Catherine, every courtier who had hopes of being honoured by a visit from the Empress, was expected to have a library, the greater or smaller extent of which was to be regulated by the fortune of its possessor, and that, after Voltaire had won the favour of the Autocrat by his servile flattery, one or two copies of his works were considered indispensable. Every courtier was thus forced to have a room fitted up with mahogany shelves and filled with books, by far the greater number of which he never read or even opened. A bookseller of the name of Klostermann, who being of an athletic stature, was one of the innumerable favourites of the lady "who loved all things save her lord," was usually employed, not to select a library, but to fill a certain given space of so many yards, with books, at so much per volume, and Mr. Klostermann, the "Libraire de la Cour Imperiale," died worth a plum, having sold many thousand yards of books (among which I understood there were several hundred copies of Voltaire), at from 50 to 100 roubles a yard, "according to the binding."

A. Asher

Berlin. Dec. 1849

-from Notes and Queries Vol. 1 (11) Jan. 12, 1850, p. 166.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Half-caf, non-fat latte with a whisper of cinnamon

To the Editor

offee, the Lacedaemonian Black Broth

Your correspondent "R. O." inquires what modern author suggests the probability of coffee being the black broth of the Lacedaemonians? The suggestion, I think, originated with George Sandys, the translator of Ovid's Metamorphoses. Sandys travelled in the Turkish empire in 1610. He first published his Notes in 1615. The following is from the 6th edit. 1652, p. 52:

"Although they be destitute of taverns, yet have they their coffa-houses, which something resemble them. Their sit they, chatting most of the day, and sip of a drink call coffa (of the berry that it is made of), in little China dishes, as hot as they can suffer it; black as soot, and tasting not much unlike it (why not that black broth which was in use among the Lacedaemonians?) which helpeth, as they say, digestion, and procureth alacrity," & c.

Burton also (Anatomy of Melancholy) describes it as "like that black drink which was in use among the Lacedaemonians, and perhaps the same."

E. B Price

-from Notes and Queries Vol. 1 (9) Dec. 29, 1849, p. 139.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

A Game-keeper's umbles

Mr. Editor,

our correspondent, Mr. Hammack, having recorded Mr. Pepys's love of "brave venison pasty," whilst asking the derivation of the phrase, "eating humble pie," in reference to a bill of fare of Pepys's age, I venture to submit that the humble pie of that period was indeed the pie named in the list quoted; and not only so, but that it was made out of the "umbles" or entrails of the deer, a dish of the second table, inferior of course to the venison pasty which smoked upon the dais, and therefore not inexpressive of that humiliation which the term "eating humble pie" now painfully describes. The "umbles" of the deer are constantly the perquisites of the game-keeper.

Ecclesfield, Nov. 24, 1849.

-from Notes and Queries, Vol. 1 (6) Dec. 8, 1849, p. 92.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Dr. Dryasdust


o you or any of your readers know anything of the family of that celebrated antiquary, and do you think it probable that he was descended from, or connected with, the author of a work which I met with some time ago, intituled "Wit Revised, or A new and excellent way of Divertisement, digested into most ingenious Questions and Answers. By Asdryasdust Tossoffacan. London: Printed for T. E. and are to be sold by most Booksellers. MDCLXXIV." 12mo. I do not know anything of the author's character, but he appears to have been a right-minded man, in so far as he (like yourself) expected to find "wit revived" by its digestion into "most ingenious questions and answers;" though his notion that asking and answering questions was a new way of divertisement, seems to indicate an imperfect knowledge of the nature and history of mankind; but my query is simply genealogical.

H. F. W.

-from Notes and Queries Vol. 1 (2) November 10, 1849, p. 26.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Erasmus, the Messenger, and More

Erasmus to Thomas More

Epistle 103

cannot find any malediction sufficiently strong to hurl at the head of the messenger, to whose carelessness or perfidy I attribute it that I am defrauded of that letter which I so certainly expected from my More. For I cannot and ought not to suppose for a moment, that the fault is yours, though we were a little vehement in our expostulations in that former letter; but we are not afraid of our freedom giving offence to you, who are not ignorant of that Spartan fashion of fighting at close quarters.

Jesting aside, I do beg, sweetest Thomas, that you will cure that sickness which we have contracted from the long want of you and your handwriting, by a payment with interest. We expect not a mere letter, but a huge packet, enough to weigh down Aegyptus Achthophorus. And it will be a kindness, if you will incite any persons within your reach, who are cultivators of Good Letters, to write to me, that my circle of friends may be complete; I could not venture to challenge them myself. As for you, I reckon you will not care in what fashion I write to the best-natured of men, and one who, I am persuaded, has no little love for me. Farewell, dearest More.

Oxford, the Feast of SS. Simon and Jude, (28 Oct.) 1499.

from The Epistles of Erasmus, From the Earliest Letters to His Fifty-First Year, Arranged in Order of Time; translated from the Latin with notes and commentary by Francis Morgan Nichols (London: Longman's Green & Co., 1901) p. 212-13.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Erasmus In Praise of English Women

[Erasmus to Faustus Andrelinus, Laureate Poet]
Epistle 98

eavens, what do I hear? Is our Scopus really turned all at once from poet to soldier, and handling deadly weapons instead of books? How much better was it when he did battle with Delius the Volscian, as he called himself, and what a triumph awaited him, if he had slain that champion!

We too have made progress in England. The Erasmus you once knew is now become almost a sportsman, no bad rider, a courtier of some practice, bows with politeness, smiles with grace, and all this in spite of himself. If you are wise, you too will fly over here. Why should a man with a nose like yours grow to old age with nothing but French filth about him? But you will say, your gout detains you. The devil take your gout, if he will only leave you! Nevertheless, did you but know the blessings of Britain, you would clap wings to your feet, and run hither; and if the gout stopped you, would wish yourself a Daedalus.

To take one attraction out of many; there are nymphs here with divine features, so gentle and kind, that you may well prefer them to your Camenae. Besides, there is a fashion which cannot be commended enough. Wherever you go, you are received on all hands with kisses; when you take leave, you are dismissed with kisses. If you go back, your salutes are returned to you. When a visit is paid, the first act of hospitality is a kiss, and when guests depart, the same entertainment is repeated; where ever a meeting takes place there is kissing in abundance; in fact whatever way you turn, you are never without it. Oh Faustus, if you had once tasted how sweet and fragrant those kisses are, you would indeed wish to be a traveller, not for ten years, like Solon, but for your whole life, in England.

The rest of my story we will laugh over together, for I hope to see you before long. Farewell.

From England, 1499.

-from The Epistles of Erasmus, From the Earliest Letters to His Fifty-First Year, Arranged in Order of Time; translated from the Latin with notes and commentary by Francis Morgan Nichols (London: Longman's Green & Co., 1901) p. 203-204.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Erasmus's Judicious Apology

[Desiderious Erasmus to William Blount, Lord Mountjoy]

Epistle 76

My greetings to you, well-named Monjoie. I ought to beg pardon, but I prefer to make a defence. I acknowledge the trespass I have committed in cheating you of your lessons to-day, but necessity and not my will has been the cause. I am compelled to provide their burden of letters for two messengers at the same time. Beware how you shift the position, and object that my plea of necessity is false; for then the status of the plaintiff and defendant will be changed, and the subject will cease to be judicial, and be conjectural, or a matter of definition, the question being, what is necessity. But look what a clever defendant you have. I plead before I am summoned; and, with no prosecutor, and myself both defendant and judge, I am sure of acquittal. Farewell, and remain in favour with the Muses.

[Paris, 1498]
-from The Epistles of Erasmus, From the Earliest Letters to His Fifty-First Year, Arranged in Order of Time; translated from the Latin with notes and commentary by Francis Morgan Nichols (London: Longman's Green & Co., 1901) p.167.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Erasmus, the Muses, & Preceptorial Maxims

[Desiderius Erasmus to Christian*]

Epistle 46

Paris, [1496][College Montaigu, University of Paris]

Avoid nocturnal lucubrations and studies at unseasonable times. They exhaust the mind and seriously affect the health. The dawn, beloved of the Muses, is the fit time for study. After dinner either play, or walk, or take part in cheerful conversation. Possibly even among these amusements some room may be found for improvement. Take as much food as is required, not for your pleasure, but for your health. Before supper take a short walk, and after supper do the same. Before going to bed read something exquisite and worth remembering, of which you will be thinking when overcome by sleep, and for which you will ask yourself again when you wake. Let this maxim of Pliny rest always in your mind: All your time is lost which you do not impart to study. Remember that nothing is more fugitive than youth, which, when once it has flown away, never returns. But I am beginning to preach, after promising to be nothing but a guide. Follow, sweetest Christian, the plan I have traced, or any better that you can. Farewell.

*Christian, a young pupil at the University of Paris.

- from The Epistles of Erasmus, From the Earliest Letters to His Fifty-First Year, Arranged in Order of Time; translated from the Latin with notes and commentary by Francis Morgan Nichols (London: Longman's Green & Co., 1901) p.110.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Erasmus Imbued

Erasmus to Cornelius*

[undated, c. 1487?]

Epistle 28 [Merula: Vita Erasmi, 1607, p. 209; Erasmi Epistolae, Londini, 1642, xxxi, 42]

There are two things, according to Cicero, which more than anything else produce intellectual languor, leisure and solitude; and both these conditions are ours. Solitude is required by this very scheme of our life. And leisure is not likely to be wanting, when we see letters, which formerly bred for their votaries the greatest gain as well as glory, are now a loss and a disgrace to those who pursue them. For it is come to this, that the more imbued with letters a man is, the more ridiculous and wretched a being he becomes. Hence, my Cornelius, I have seen no reason why I should choose to waste my life to no purpose in literary study, and have therefore for some time quite turned my attention away from letters. Besides those two things, I have had in addition imperfect health, which itself is wont not only to lessen, but even to quench the ardour of the mind. Nevertheless, since I have no other purpose in life so settled as that of gratifying and serving you in every possible way, as indeed I am most bound to to in return for the favours you have heaped upon me, I have taken up this work again for your sake, and have finished with all possible pains the Oration for which you have asked; taking great care to mark the oratorical divisions, and what character and colour is proper to each, so that you in the first place may have your wish fulfilled, and that the learned may be pleased with our labour, the illiterate may see and envy, the Sciolist and boaster may blush, and the ordinary reader may carry off some profit. * * * * Finally, my sweetest Cornelius, you will, I hope receive some help, or at any rate some pleasure, from the pains I have taken. In any case I shall have done my duty as a loyal friend. Farewell, and love me as you do.
[Desiderius Erasmus]

*Cornelius [Gerard] of Gouda

- from The Epistles of Erasmus, From the Earliest Letters to His Fifty-First Year, Arranged in Order of Time; translated from the Latin with notes and commentary by Francis Morgan Nichols (London: Longman's Green & Co., 1901) 73-74.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

In Flanders Fields

[Lieut.-Col. John McCrae, MD to his Mother]

France, May 17th, 1915.

The farther we get away from Ypres the more we learn of the enormous power the Germans put in to push us over. Lord only knows how many men they had,and how many they lost. I wish I could embody on paper some of the varied sensations of that seventeen days. All the gunners down this way passed us all sorts of `kudos' over it. Our guns --those behind us, from which we had to dodge occasional prematures --have a peculiar bang-sound added to the sharp crack of discharge.The French 75 has a sharp wood-block-chop sound, and the shell goes over with a peculiar whine -- not unlike a cat, but beginning with n --thus, -- n-eouw. The big fellows, 3000 yards or more behind,sounded exactly like our own, but the flash came three or four seconds before the sound. Of the German shells -- the field guns come with a great velocity -- no warning -- just whizz-bang; white smoke, nearly always air bursts. The next size, probably 5 inch howitzers, have a perceptible time of approach, an increasing whine, and a great burst on the percussion -- dirt in all directions. And even if a shell hit on the front of the canal bank, and one were on the back of the bank, five, eight, or ten seconds later one would hear a belated WHIRR, and curved pieces of shell would light --probably parabolic curves or boomerangs. These shells have a great back kick; from the field gun shrapnel we got nothing BEHIND the shell --all the pieces go forward. From the howitzers, the danger is almost as great behind as in front if they burst on percussion. Then the large shrapnel-- air-burst -- have a double explosion, as if a giant shook a wet sail for two flaps; first a dark green burst of smoke; then a lighter yellow burst goes out from them. Then the 10-inch shells: a deliberate whirring course --a deafening explosion -- black smoke, and earth 70 or 80 feet in the air. These always burst on percussion. The constant noise of our own guns is really worse on the nerves than the shell; there is the deafening noise, and the constant whirr of shells going overhead. The earth shakes with every nearby gun and every close shell.

I think I may safely enclose a cross section of our position. The left is the front: a slope down of 20 feet in 100 yards to the canal, a high row of trees on each bank, then a short 40 yards slope up to the summit of the trench, where the brain of the outfit was; then a telephone wired slope, and on the sharp slope, the dugouts, including my own. The nondescript affair on the low slope is the gun position, behind it the men's shelter pits. Behind my dugout was a rapid small stream, on its far bank a row of pollard willows, then 30 yards of field, then a road with two parallel rows of high trees. Behind this again, several hundred yards of fields to cross before the main gun positions are reached. More often fire came from three quarters left, and because our ridge died away there was a low spot over which they could come pretty dangerously. The road thirty yards behind us was a nightmare to me. I saw all the tragedies of war enacted there. A wagon, or a bunch of horses, or a stray man, or a couple of men, would get there just in time for a shell. One would see the absolute knock-out, and the obviously lightly wounded crawling off on hands and knees; or worse yet, at night, one would hear the tragedy -- "that horse scream" -- or the man's moan. All our own wagons had to come there (one every half hour in smart action), be emptied, and the ammunition carried over by hand. Do you wonder that the road got on our nerves? On this road, too, was the house where we took our meals. It was hit several times, windows all blown in by nearby shells, but one end remained for us.

Seventeen days of Hades! At the end of the first day if anyone had told us we had to spend seventeen days there, we would have folded our hands and said it could not be done. On the fifteenth day we got orders to go out,but that was countermanded in two hours. To the last we could scarcely believe we were actually to get out. The real audacity of the position was its safety; the Germans knew to a foot where we were. I think I told you of some of the "you must stick it out" messages we got from our [French] General, -- they put it up to us. It is a wonder to me that we slept when, and how, we did. If we had not slept and eaten as well as possible we could not have lasted. And while we were doing this, the London office of a Canadian newspaper cabled home "Canadian Artillery in reserve." Such is fame!

Tuesday, June 1st, 1915.

1-1/2 miles northeast of Festubert, near La Bassee. Last night a 15 pr. and a 4-inch howitzer fired at intervals of five minutes from 8 till 4; most of them within 500 or 600 yards --a very tiresome procedure; much of it is on registered roads. In the morning I walked out to Le Touret to the wagon lines, got Bonfire, and rode to the headquarters at Vendin-lez-Bethune, a little village a mile past Bethune. Left the horse at the lines and walked back again. An unfortunate shell in the 1st killed a sergeant and wounded two men; thanks to the strong emplacements the rest of the crew escaped. In the evening went around the batteries and said good-bye. We stood by while they laid away the sergeant who was killed. Kind hands have made two pathetic little wreaths of roses; the grave under an apple-tree, and the moon rising over the horizon; a siege-lamp held for the book. Of the last 41 days the guns have been in action 33. Captain Lockhart, late with Fort Garry Horse, arrived to relieve me. I handed over, came up to the horse lines, and slept in a covered wagon in a courtyard. We were all sorry to part -- the four of us have been very intimate and had agreed perfectly -- and friendships under these circumstances are apt to be the real thing. I am sorry to leave them in such a hot corner, but cannot choose and must obey orders. It is a great relief from strain, I must admit, to be out, but I could wish that they all were.

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

-John McCrae

-from In Flanders Fields and Other Poems by Lieut.-Col. John McCrae, M. D. ; with an Essay in Character by Sir Andrew Macphail (New York-1919)

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Lieut.-Col. John McCrae, M. D.

[Lieut.-Col. John McCrae M.D. to his Mother]

Northern France,

May 10th, 1915.

We got here to refit and rest this morning at 4, having marched last night at 10. The general impression in my mind is of a nightmare. We have been in the most bitter of fights. For seventeen days and seventeen nights none of us have had our clothes off, nor our boots even, except occasionally. In all that time while I was awake, gunfire and rifle fire never ceased for sixty seconds, and it was sticking to our utmost by a weak line all but ready to break, knowing nothing of what was going on, and depressed by reports of anxious infantry. The men and the divisions are worthy of all praise that can be given. It did not end in four days when many of our infantry were taken out. It kept on at fever heat till yesterday.

This, of course, is the second battle of Ypres, or the battle of the Yser, I do not know which. At one time we were down to seven guns, but those guns were smoking at every joint, the gunners using cloth to handle the breech levers because of the heat. We had three batteries in action with four guns added from the other units. Our casualties were half the number of men in the firing line. The horse lines and the wagon lines farther back suffered less, but the Brigade list has gone far higher than any artillery normal. I know one brigade R.A. that was in the Mons retreat and had about the same. I have done what fell to hand. My clothes, boots, kit, and dugout at various times were sadly bloody. Two of our batteries are reduced to two officers each. We have had constant accurate shell-fire, but we have given back no less. And behind it all was the constant background of the sights of the dead, the wounded, the maimed, and a terrible anxiety lest the line should give way.

During all this time, we have been behind French troops,and only helping our own people by oblique fire when necessary. Our horses have suffered heavily too. Bonfire had a light wound from a piece of shell; it is healing and the dear old fellow is very fit. Had my first ride for seventeen days last night. We never saw horses but with the wagons bringing up the ammunition. When fire was hottest they had to come two miles on a road terribly swept, and they did it magnificently. But how tired we are! Weary in body and wearier in mind. None of our men went off their heads but men in units nearby did -- and no wonder.

-from In Flanders Fields and Other Poems by Lieut.-Col. John McCrae, M. D.; with an Essay in Character by Sir Andrew Macphail (New York-1919)

Friday, November 9, 2007

A Poet of the Trenches

[Isaac Rosenberg to Laurence Binyon]

Autumn, 1916

It is far, very far, to the British Museum from here (situated as I am, Siberia is no further and certainly no colder), but not too far for that tiny mite of myself, my letter, to reach there. Winter has found its way into the trenches at last, but I will assure you, and leave to your imagination, the transport of delight with which we welcomed its coming. Winter is not the least of the horrors of war. I am determined that this war, with all its powers for devastation, shall not master my poeting; that is, if I am lucky enough to come through all right. I will not leave a corner of my consciousness covered up, but saturate myself with the strange and extraordinary new conditions of this life, and it will all refine itself into poetry later on...

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Philosopher in the Trenches

[Letter from a soldier to his Mother]

[October 14, 1914]

October 14.

It is true, dear mother, that some renunciation costs a great deal of effort, but be sure that we both possess the necessary strength of soul to live through these difficult hours without catching our breath in painful longing at the idea of the return we both crave for.

The great thing is to know the value of the present moment and to make it yield all that it has of good and beauty and edification. For the rest, no one can guarantee the future, and it would be vain and futile torment to live wondering what might happen to us. Don't you think that life has dispensed us many blessings, and that one of the last, and the greatest, is that we have been able to communicate with each other and to feel our union? There are many unfortunate people here who do not know where their wives and children are, who have been for three months isolated from all. You see that we are still among the lucky ones.

Dear mother, less than ever ought we to despair, for never shall we be more truly convinced that all this agitation and delirium of mankind's are nothing in view of the share of eternity which each one carries within himself, and that all these monstrosities will end in a better future. This war is a kind of cataclysm which succeeds to the old physical upheavals of our globe; but have you not noticed that, in the midst of all this, a little of our soul is gone from us, and that we have lost something of our conviction of a Higher Order? Our sufferings come from our small human patience taking the same direction as our desires, noble though they may be. But as soon as we set ourselves to question things in order to discover their true harmony, we find rest unto our souls. How do we know that this violence and disorder are not leading the universal destinies towards a final good?

Dear mother, still cherishing the firmest and most human hope, I send my deepest love to you and to my beloved grandmother.

Send also all my love to our friends who are in trouble. Help them to bear everything: two crosses are less heavy to carry than one. And confidence in our eternal joy.

-from Letters of a Soldier 1914-1915 [Anonymous] Introduction by A. Clutton-Brock; preface by Andre Chevrillon; translated from the French by V. M. (London: Constable & Company, 1917).

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

A Soldier to his Mother

B.E.F., [June] 10th. [1916]

My darling Mother,

As I told you in my last letter we are now resting, and we are doing it very vigorously indeed. There are two kinds of rest for Infantry in the British Army, and they are (1) A good rest, and (2) a thoroughly good rest. A good rest is when your brigade is in the trenches, and your battalion or unit is out. Then between shells in the trenches you rest. You begin the cure at 7-0 in the morning, if you are lucky, and continue it all day and all night on working parties.When you are having a thoroughly good rest you rise at 6-0 a.m., parade at 6-45 every day, and charge across country, practicing the assault for the day that has always been coming (is always in a fortnight) and never comes off--the great Spring Offensive. That's what we have been doing the last few days, walking five or six miles out, then walking two miles or so across country, and then marching home. Every day we receive orders in the afternoon that the brigade will go somewhere, to the trenches or to some other village, but they are always cancelled in the evening. Fortunately, to-morrow is Sunday, and we are to have a day's rest. I hope it will not be cancelled.

Last night I had dinner with "C" Company, my old Company; we had a wonderful dinner. This evening we went to our brigade theatre. It is an old barn, and we all sit on the floor--Colonels, Majors, Subalterns and privates. There are cinematograph films, songs, &c., and it is very cheering; Kitty, Dougal and I went together to-night. The chief talk is all about leave, everyone being in hopes of it, and all except the staff being put off from week to week until you almost despair of it. Dougal is just talking about hopping into a big hot bath and a feather bed, but if we had never done without them we should not value them quite as we do now.

Wednesday, 14th. The Day of Days, the heaven of every British soldier. Leave, that Will-o'-the-Wisp which everyone possesses, but which evades all but the staff, and the very lucky. A long journey from Mericourt, starting at 9-30 to Havre. Lunch of omelette and coffee during an hour's halt in the dignified perambulations of a French train at Bouchie. At Havre we rushed to get cabins, but found plenty,and we soon went to bed--Payne and I (Bernard Thompson on the same boat)--and we slept until wakened one hour out of Southampton. Breakfast off a cup of coffee, and then train again. Winnie met me at Waterloo, or rather I met her, gazing forlornly at streams of strange soldiers. All morning at Harold's offices and shopping, lunching at the Criterion, &c. Then on to Win's to tea and back in bare time to the Savoy to change for dinner. Then to "To-night's the night"--topping seats and a good show.

The writer of these letters arrived in England June 15th, 1916, and returned to France June 22nd. The Spring Offensive, of which he wrote, was launched at 7-30 on July 1st, 1916, and on that day he was killed near La Boiselle--"A corner of a foreign field that is for ever England."

-from Letters From France by Isaac Alexander Mack, Lieutenant of the 11th Suffolk Regiment, and later the Captain of the 101st Trench Mortar Battery. Privately Printed.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

The Death of a Father

[Robert Louis Stevenson to Sidney Colvin]

Edinburgh, June 1887.


At last I can write a word to you. Your little note in the P. M. G. was charming. I have written four pages in the CONTEMPORARY, which Bunting found room for: they are not very good, but I shall do more for his memory in time.

About the death, I have long hesitated, I was long before I could tell my mind; and now I know it, and can but say that I am glad. If we could have had my father, that would have been a different thing. But to keep that changeling - suffering changeling - any longer, could better none and nothing. Now he rests; it is more significant, it is more like himself. He will begin to return to us in the course of time, as he was and as we loved him.

My favourite words in literature, my favourite scene - 'O let him pass,' Kent and Lear - was played for me here in the first moment of my return. I believe Shakespeare saw it with his own father. I had no words; but it was shocking to see. He died on his feet, you know; was on his feet the last day, knowing nobody - still he would be up. This was his constant wish; also that he might smoke a pipe on his last day. The funeral would have pleased him; it was the largest private funeral in man's memory here.

We have no plans, and it is possible we may go home without going through town. I do not know; I have no views yet whatever; nor can have any at this stage of my cold and my business.

Ever yours,
R. L. S.

-from The Letters of Robert Louis Stevenson Vol. 2.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Pipe-lights and Peccadilloes: Omar Part 4

[Edward Fitzgerald to W. H. Thompson]

To W. H. Thompson
Market Hill, Woodbridge.
Dec. 9/61.

My Dear Thompson,

The MS. came safe to hand yesterday, thank you: and came out of its envelope like a ray of old times to my eyes. I wish I had secured more leaves from that old 'Butcher's Book' torn up in old Spedding's rooms in 1842 when the press went to work with, I think, the last of old Alfred's best. But that, I am told, is only a 'Crotchet.' However, had I taken some more of the pages that went into the fire, after serving in part for pipe-lights, I might have enriched others with that which AT himself would scarce have grudged, jealous as he is of such sort of curiosity. I have seen no more of Tannhauser than the Athenaeum showed me; and certainly do not want to see more. One wonders that men of some genius (as I suppose these are) should so disguise it in imitation: but, if they be very young men, this is the natural course, is it not? By and by they may find their own footing.

As to my own peccadilloes in verse, which never pretend to be original, this is the story of Rubaiyat. I had translated them partly for Cowell: young Parker asked me some years ago for something for Fraser, and I gave him the less wicked of these to use if he chose. He kept them for two years without using: and as I saw he didn't want them I printed some copies with Quaritch*; and, keeping some for myself, gave him the rest. Cowell, to whom I sent a copy, was naturally alarmed at it; he being a very religious man: nor have I given any other copy but to George Borrow, to whom I had once lent the Persian, and to old Donne when he was down here the other day, to whom I was showing a passage in another book which brought my old Omar up.

*In 1859, Fitzgerald, out of his own pocket, had Quaritch print up 250 copies of his translation of The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. They did not sell very well at all and Quaritch began to remainder them in his bargain bin for as low as a penny. The story goes that Swinburne picked one up and passed it on to Dante Gabriel Rossetti, and from there (1861) it began to garner attention from the literary circles and beyond. Of the original 250 copies, only 50 seem to be in existence. Oh, for a penny pamphlet. . . . the first edition now goes for perhaps upwards of $30 to $40 thousand! [Pepys]

-from The Letters of Edward Fitzgerald (London: Macmillan, 1901 ) vol. 2

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Fitzgerald's Omar Part 3

[Edward Fitzgerald to Edward Byles Cowell]

To E. B. Cowell.

Jan. 3/59.

My Dear Cowell,

. . . .I am almost ashamed to write to you, so much have I forsaken Persian, and even all good books of late. There is no one now to 'prick the sides of my intent'; vaulting ambition having long failed to do so! I took my Omar from Fraser [? Parker], as I saw he didn't care for it; and also I want to enlarge it to near as much again, of such matter as he would not dare to put in Fraser. If I print it, I shall do the impudence of quoting your account of Omar, and your apology for his free thinking: it is not wholly my apology, but you introduced him to me, and your excuse extends to that which you have not ventured to quote, and I do. I like your apology extremely also, allowing its point of view. I doubt you will repent of ever having showed me the book. I should like well to have the lithograph copy of Omar which you tell of in your note. My translation has its merit: but it misses a main one in Omar, which I will leave you to find out. The Latin versions, if they were corrected into decent Latin, would be very much better. . . .

I have forgotten to write out for you a little quatrain which Binning found written in Persepolis; the Persian tourists having the same propensity as English to write their names and sentiments on their national monuments.

-from the Letters of Edward Fitzgerald (London: Macmillan and Co., 1901) vol. 2

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Fitzgerald's Omar Part 2

[Edward Fitzgerald to Edward Byles Cowell]

Merton Rectory
September 3/[18]58.

My Dear Cowell,

. . . Now about my studies, which, I think, are likely to dwindle away too. I have not turned to Persian since the spring; but shall one day look back to it: and renew my attack on the 'Seven Castles,' if that be the name. I found the Jami MS. at Rushmere: and there left it for the present: as the other poem will be enough for me for my first onslaught. I believe I will do a little a day, so as not to lose what little knowledge I had. As to my Omar: I gave it to Parker* in January, I think: he saying Fraser **was agreeable to take it. Since then I have heard no more; so as, I suppose, they don't care about it: and may be quite right. Had I thought they would be so long however I would have copied it out and sent it to you: and I will still do so from a rough and imperfect copy I have (though not now at hand) in case they show no signs of printing me. My translation will interest you from its form, and also in many respects in its detail: very unliteral as it is. Many quatrains are mashed together: and something lost, I no doubt, of Omar's simplicity, which is so much a virtue in him. But there it is, such as it is. I purposely said in the very short notice I prefixed to the poem that it was so short because better information might be furnished in another paper, which I thought you would undertake. So it rests.

*J. W. Parker, editor of Fraser's Magazine.
**Hugh Fraser, co-founder of Fraser's Magazine

-from the Letters of Edward Fitzgerald (London: Macmillan and Co., 1901) vol. 2

Friday, November 2, 2007

Lowry's Day of the Dead

[On November 2, 1938, Geoffrey Firman reads from a letter written by his ex-wife Yvonne]

. . . Geoffrey, why don't you answer me? I can only believe that my letters have not reached you. I have put aside all my pride to beg your forgiveness, to offer you mine. I cannot, I will not believe that you have ceased to love me, have forgotten me. Or can it be that you have some misguided idea that I am better off without you, that you are sacrificing yourself that I may find happiness with someone else? We can give each other so much more than more people can, we can marry again, we can build forward. . .

-from Under the Volcano by Malcolm Lowry (Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1963) p.366.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

The Last of Henry Jekyll

[Dr. Henry Jekyll to Dr. Hastie Lanyon]
10th December, 18---

Dear Lanyon,

You are one of my oldest friends; and although we may have differed at times on scientific questions, I cannot remember, at least on my side, any break in our affection. There was never a day when, if you had said to me, 'Jekyll, my life, my honour, my reason, depend upon you,' I would not have sacrificed my fortune or my left hand to help you. Lanyon, my life, my honour, my reason, are all at your mercy; if you fail me to-night, I am lost. You might suppose, after this preface, that I am going to ask you for something dishonourable to grant. Judge for yourself.

I want you to postpone all other engagements for to-night--ay, even if you were summoned to the bedside of an emperor; to take a cab, unless your carriage should be actually at the door; and with this letter in your hand for consultation, to drive straight to my house. Poole, my butler, has his orders; you will find him waiting your arrival with a locksmith. The door of my cabinet is then to be forced: and you are to go in alone; to open the glazed press (letter E) on the left hand, breaking the lock if it be shut; and to draw out, with all its contents as they stand, the fourth drawer from the top or (which is the same thing) the third from the bottom. In my extreme distress of mind, I have a morbid fear of misdirecting you; but even if I am in error, you may know the right drawer by its contents: some powders, a phial, and a paper book. This drawer I beg of you to carry back with you to Cavendish Square exactly as it stands.

That is the first part of the service: now for the second. You should be back, if you set out at once on the receipt of this, long before midnight; but I will leave you that amount of margin, not only in the fear of one of those obstacles that can neither be prevented nor fore-seen, but because an hour when your servants are in bed is to be preferred for what will then remain to do. At midnight, then, I have to ask you to be alone in your consulting-room, to admit with your own hand into the house a man who will present himself in my name, and to place in his hands the drawer that you will have brought with you from my cabinet. Then you will have played your part and earned my gratitude completely. Five minutes afterwards, if you insist upon an explanation, you will have understood that these arrangements are of capital importance; and that by the neglect of one of them, fantastic as they must appear, you might have charged your conscience with my death or the shipwreck of my reason.

Confident as I am that you will not trifle with this appeal, my heart sinks and my hand trembles at the bare thought of such a possibility. Think of me at this hour, in a strange place, labouring under a blackness of distress that no fancy can exaggerate, and yet well aware that, if you will but punctually serve me, my troubles will roll away like a story that is told. Serve me, my dear Lanyon, and save

Your friend,
H. J.

P. S. I had already sealed this up when a fresh terror struck upon my soul. It is possible that the post office may fail me, and this letter not come into your hands until to-morrow morning. In that case, dear Lanyon, do my errand when it shall be most convenient for you in the course of the day; and once more expect my messenger at midnight. It may then already be too late; and if that night passes without event, you will know that you have seen the last of Henry Jekyll.

-from The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson / illustrated by W. A. Dwiggins (New York: Random House, 1945) p.113-15.