The wheel came off my chariot of fire

Jun. 25th, 2016 05:23 pm
oursin: Painting of Clio Muse of History by Artemisia Gentileschi (Clio)
[personal profile] oursin

It has been commented upon quite extensively that there is among certain sections of the population a nostalgia for the Britain past that never was.

One of the things that is the forefront of my consciousness at the moment because of thing I am writing is a nostalgia for the futures that never happened.

All those utopian visions of various forms of nicer, kinder, fairer, cleaner, safer, all round more pleasant societies.

And, okay, one can see the problems when revisiting them, and sometimes they are not places one would really like to live though might be fine for a visit, but still -

I will take a bland 'paradise of little fat men' (Orwell on Wells: this actually strikes me as something of a mischaracterisation of Wells' utopias) over a dystopia of inequality and fears of the 'other', any day.

(no subject)

Jun. 25th, 2016 11:29 am
oursin: Brush the Wandering Hedgehog by the fire (Default)
[personal profile] oursin
Happy birthday, [personal profile] shana!

Lady Z- is troubl'd with qualmishness

Jun. 25th, 2016 10:29 am
the_comfortable_courtesan: image of a fan c. 1810 (Default)
[personal profile] the_comfortable_courtesan

The ladies of the party have withdrawn from the dinner-table, and sit about in the very fine large drawing-room that has a pleasing view over the grounds. There are some that gossip, several at embroidery, a couple that play spillikins, and Mrs D- K-, that plays patience with an expression like unto Medusa.

Lady Z- and I look at one another and sigh somewhat. I wonder a little that Mr and Mrs D- K- have been invit’d, but have some suspicion that there may be some distant family connexion that provides them an entrée. Lady P- goes ask her whether she would like a little tea, or perhaps a glass of ratafia, and receives a refusal which is no model of gracious behaviour.

O, Lady B-, says Lady Z-, I mind me of that fine ghost story that you told us at A-. Might I desire you to tell it again, 'twas a very fine tale.

Why, says I, putting down my tea-cup, 'twould be an entire pleasure.

This is a tale, I commence, was told me by the Contessa di S- as one that has come down in her family in Naples. And indeed, says I, looking at Lady P- and Lady D- that show attentive, there is a deal of superstitious belief in those parts, why, the cook at the fine villa of the late Marquess was give out to be a strega, or as we should say, witch - tho’ in her defence, I will say that she did not go cozen the local peasantry for gain. The Contessa herself, I go on, is a fine educat’d woman that had an English governess, and communicat’d the tale to me as a curiosity -

As I continue with the tale, Mrs D- K- continues to play patience, slapping down the cards somewhat emphatick, but I see the hands at embroidery grow still, the spillkins suddenly fall in a clatter, and the gossip dyes into silence.

Miss S-, I see, is quite particular rapt.

There is a little silence after I conclude.

Lady D- gives a little shudder and says 'tis a most remarkable tale. Miss S- is still quite rapt. Lady P- says that there are many superstitious tales told in this part of the country, in particular among the miners.

Lady D- gives her sister, that is still away in some dream, a little nudge, and says, a little musick would be exceeding pleasant, would it not? at which Miss S- shakes herself, takes the hint, and goes over to the piano. She is a player of some competence tho’ not, I think, an equal to Meg in talent.

I sit back and covertly observe Mrs D- K-. It seems to me that she is not quite so well-turn’d-out as at the party at A-. Since I confide she is not a woman that would care to present herself as a poor relation, I wonder what is ado.

Lady Z- leans over to me and says, is that not a gown she wore at A-, made-over somewhat?

I think you are right, says I. And then I bethink me that, altho’ an MP may not be su’d for debt, tradesmen are not oblig’d to extend credit where they consider their chances of payment exceeding remote, which I confide is the on-dit about the D- K-s.

I should not be surpriz’d, she goes on in the same undertone, does that brute stint her over dress. Sure there are far worse husbands than Sir H-.

At this moment the gentleman come rejoin us. Mrs D- K- immediate puts on an agreeable face, and I wonder at whom she casts her nets. Mr W- Y- goes over to the piano to make pleasant to Miss S-, which may be entire civility, or it may be he wishes to establish interest in that quarter.

I observe that Lord D- is quite engrosst in conversation with Sandy.

Lady D- says she has heard of my work with the optickal dispensary, what a fine practickal endeavour that is, that will enable those that are hinder’d by defects of sight to be self-supporting.

I tell her that I shall be holding a drawing-room meeting for this cause when Society returns to Town, and have had a promise from the celebrat’d actress, Miss A-, to give us some recitations from the Bard.

An actress? says Lady D- in dubious tones.

O, says I, there can be entirely no objection to Miss A-. Has the patronage of Lady J-, that is sister to the Duke of M-.

Ah, says Lady D-, that would quite allay one’s concerns. Sure Lady J- is quite a queen in philanthropick circles. And how romantick a tale this is of her marriage, quite like unto a novel - tho’ of course I do not read novels, she adds with something of a blush. (I confide that this means that she reads novels, but not where any may see, and carefully conceals them.)

Is it not? says I. She goes out to the Mediterranean to visit her husband – indeed, I daresay she would go sail with him was it not that she feels the responsibilities of the fine property he inherit’d.

What an admirable woman she must be, says Lady D-.

Why, says I, I confide that she will be present at my drawing-room meeting, and attends my soirées. I would be entire delight’d to make an introduction.

Lady D- goes on to say that in the autumn they purpose opening up P- House and residing in Town – that is, she says, Lord D- and myself, and also my sister, so that we may give her a little society – she gives a little sigh, which I suppose to be that of a well-marry’d sister who observes that her sister does not take and wishes to promote her interest but is not in full confidence over the matter.

Indeed, says I, is she of a musickal inclination Lady J- holds the finest, very select, private musicales. 'Twould be a pleasure to ensure she is sent a card – and you too, do you care to attend.

Oh, that would be quite the most agreeable thing! she exclaims. For we have not been much in Town Society.

When I go up to my chamber, I mention to Docket the matter of Mrs D- K- and whether she has yet sound’d out any intelligence from her lady’s maid.

Docket says that they arriv’d exceeding late and her maid was thus not at the fine tea-drinking there was: but she will go about the matter.

I add that there will be a ride in the park in the morn, so is my riding-habit not yet furbisht up, I shall need it then.

Docket sniffs and says she was in consideration that there might be riding and Sophy has already been at the matter.

So in the morn I go out to the stables – for it has been given out that Lord P- is able to mount those that do not bring their own horses – and Ajax leads me up a fine bay horse, that he communicates to me with nods and winks &C is an excellent quiet creature that will give me no trouble, that he has saddl’d and bridl’d himself.

Sure 'tis not my lovely Jezzie-girl, but when I mount I find he sits placid under me and does not twitch or fuss.

What, says Lord P-, you ride Trantum? Should have thought you would have pickt out a more spirit’d steed. (Sure I now have an entire false reputation as a dashing horsewoman.)

Why, says I, for a quiet morning ride over country I do not know, I prefer something that will not of sudden take off with me and perchance catch its foot in a rabbit-hole. And does one ride in company, I confide that good manners are a thing most desirable (for Mrs D- K-‘s horse swishes its tail, sidles, and offers to bite does any come close – 'tis an entirely fitting mount for that b---h).

Sure you are right, he says. As we ride off he goes on to say he hears that this property that Lady J- has marry’d into has some very fine dairy-cattle, and would very much like to convoke with her upon the subject.

She is now on her way – may even be there by now – to the Mediterranean to join her husband, but purposes to return in a few months.

Fine woman, says Lord P-, most excellent understanding of cows as one seldom finds, and a prime hand at dairying.

Alas, says I, I know very little about the bovine race but for those one may see in Hyde Park.

This sets Lord P- off on quite a diatribe concerning the failings of Town cows, the poor conditions they are kept in, the badness of the milk, &C.

He then minds that he should be doing the polite with other members of the company and trots off.

Comes up Sir H- Z- by my side. O, says I, Lady Z- does not ride the morn?

He replies that she sent her woman to say she was feeling a little indispos’d, so would stay in bed a little. Womanly troubles, eh? he goes on, in the tones of one who minds that this is a phrase much us’d by husbands.

Oho, thinks I, sure there are other womanly troubles that render one reluctant to rise of a morning, but I wonder - ? When a lady has an ardent young Neapolitan nobleman as a lover, it gives me to speculate.

On our return I go visit Lady Z- with my smelling-bottle. That is very kind, she says, but indeed, 'twas a passing qualmishness.

I confide that she is unlike to say more indoors and with servants about.

Okay, it's familial anecdata

Jun. 24th, 2016 09:02 pm
oursin: Brush the Wandering Hedgehog by the fire (Default)
[personal profile] oursin

But my father, 94 next month, cannot even about Brexit. Though I suspect that he is a statistical outlier in a Leave stronghold, i.e. a seaside town where Empire Loyalists saw out their twilight years.

Is this just me defending my corner?

Jun. 24th, 2016 02:07 pm
oursin: The Delphic Sibyl from the Sistine Chapel (Delphic sibyl)
[personal profile] oursin

I'm not liking the number of comments/opinion pieces I'm seeing blaming Leave on 'the older generation'.


Ageism is not a pretty thing either.

The glass is falling hour by hour

Jun. 24th, 2016 09:50 am
oursin: Photograph of a spiny sea urchin (Spiny sea urchin)
[personal profile] oursin

I did not quite see Narnia the Welfare State born, but it looks as though I may see it die.

As a historian I can see that things do sometimes change in unpredictable ways and directions no-one had anticipated; but possibly I have the optimism of someone of that generation of my gender and class, for whom life was pretty much getting better as we grew up.

'Tis quite a large party

Jun. 24th, 2016 09:29 am
the_comfortable_courtesan: image of a fan c. 1810 (Default)
[personal profile] the_comfortable_courtesan

Indeed I am sorry to depart from Q-, but altho’ Biffle and Viola endeavour to prevail upon me to make a longer sojourn, 'twould be most incivil to cut Lord P-'s house-party even by a day or so. I promise that I will do my best to make another visit before we all return to Town.

Docket and Sophy regale me as we drive along with tales of Tibby’s fine sitting-room, the consequence she enjoys in the household, &C&C. She holds her head very high, says Docket with pride, quite crushes any fellows in the place that think they may go make suit to her. But will show kind to the women and girls and advise them on dress: 'tis a most prudent course.

I am like to wonder whether Tibby has communicat’d to Docket that Titus has obtain’d her preference? Titus, I have heard from the devot’d ladies, goes perform at Bath for a short season.

Docket descants a little upon Tibby’s excellences, which I confide is to lesson Sophy.

Sophy gives a little sigh and remarks upon how well Tibby is turn’d out.

Docket gives a complacent little smile and says, 'tis an excellent thing to obtain interest with a crack dress-maker. Tho’ it cannot hurt that Maurice is some sort of cousin of hers.

O, says Sophy, when I was little Maurice would ever be making fine dresses for our dolls.

Docket looks upon her kindly. Sure I am glad she takes so to Sophy, for I think she feels the loss of Tibby even does she feel exceeding pride at how well she does in her fine place.

'Tis late afternoon when we arrive at Lord P-'s fine estate in Shropshire.

Docket directs the footmen over conveying my trunks and boxes – sure there are a deal of 'em – and I am escort’d to the chamber assign’d me. There is fine hot water ready for me so that I may wash the dust of the journey from me. I should also change.

'Tis a most excellent fine large chamber with windows that look across the gardens to the lake, which is not’d for its fine array of ornamental water-fowl: 'twas Lord P-‘s father start’d the collection of these birds: they are indeed a deal prettier than cows, tho’ one hears that there are those, such as Lord P-, think nothing so lovely as a cow.

There are some several of the guests and I daresay members of the family go promenade by the lake. Even at this distance I can discern the Titian hair of il bello scozzese, that is talking to a lady that I do not recognize.

I look a little further over the scene before me to the gazebo in the likeness of a Temple of the Winds that stands upon a little mound, and observe with a sinking of my heart one that stands outside it in a poetickal attitude.

Docket, says I, should I require a parasol as well as this exceeding fine hat?

Docket looks considering and says, 'tis the time of day when she confides that the sun’s rays are less deleterious to a lady’s complexion; and yet, there is a certain effect to carrying a parasol that Your Ladyship carries off extremely.

Docket, says I, are you sure you feel quite well, and have not been toucht by the sun or some such? 'Tis not your wont to praise me.

She hands me my parasol as we look at one another with some affection.

I go, she says, about taking tea with the other lady’s maids to see what’s afoot. Sophy, she adds briskly, go about furbishing up the gowns &C that Her Ladyship will be wearing here.

I take another look out, and observe that Sir H- Z-, with Lady Z- on his arm, strolls down to the lake. 'Tis quite a picture of conjugal harmony. (Perchance I shall find occasion to convoke with Lady Z- while we are here.) He greets Sandy very civil, and there are introductions made.

I take my parasol and go down and out onto the lawn. I observe that there are swans that glide upon the lake but I do not endeavour to emulate 'em, 'tis an effect more suit’d to a ballroom.

Comes up Lord P-, makes a leg as I curtesy, shakes me by the hand and makes exceeding civil towards me. Wishes to introduce his wife to me – Lady P- does have somewhat of the bovine about her looks but is a most agreeable lady. We exchange pleasantries.

I observe that 'tis quite a large party.

Oh, indeed, says Lord P-, if one is at the bother of holding a house-party one may as well make it something substantial. They go about to hold a ball two nights hence to which they invite the county.

(I apprehend that Lord P- desires to despatch a large number of social obligations at once so he may get back to his cows with no further interruption.)

He lifts a hand to beckon over a young fellow. Permit me, he says, to introduce D-, that is my son, has some desire to go into politicks -

Lord D-, that is a serious rather stout young fellow somewhat under thirty, says that he sure hopes that 'tis many years hence that he will be oblig’d to undertake the responsibilities of his rank in the Lords - with a respectfull glance towards his father, that is seldom seen there but when there is some matter of cattle-plague or such - but greatly desires to gain understanding of the government of the nation in the Commons first.

'Tis a view that does you great credit, says I, for sure there are fellows for whom those responsibilities sit very lightly.

Lord P- goes on to say that they have interest in a cozy little borough, but before the next election young D- intends going about in politickal circles to acquire some apprehension of the matter.

Why, says I to Lord D-, I must send you a card for my next soirée when Society returns to Town – and did I not hear that you had quite lately marry’d? and for your wife as well. Of course, I say with a little laugh, I do not understand the intricacies of politicks myself but there are a deal of fellows in my circle that do. ('Tis probable not the moment to mention the ladies in my circle that also have a very fine apprehension of politickal matters.)

Indeed, says Lord D- scanning the company, and waving towards a lady that is feeding the ducks, my wife, that was a Miss S- of the Derbyshire S-s, most entirely enters in to my ambitions.

Lady D- comes over and we are introduc’d to one another. She is a young woman of a pleasing plumpness with a serious expression to match her husband’s. She declares that she has heard much of Lady B-'s fine philanthropick works and after a little converse I am able to deduce that she and her husband incline towards the Evangelickal set.

What a fine lake, says I, sure I quite long to go see more closely those exceeding colourfull waterfowl. But indeed, Lady D-, we must talk further about good causes.

She shows some inclination to go on talking of such matters but Lord D- lays a hand upon her arm to remind her of les convenances, remarking that there will be plenty of time to discuss these in the coming days.

O, she says with a blush, indeed there will, but I have heard so much of Lady B-'s fine works 'tis most exciting to me to meet her at last.

I say we must sure have a good tete-a-tete in the next days, and proceed on to the lakeside.

Sure the fam’d waterfowl are quite noisy, with their quacking and gobbling and honking, but they make a pretty sight upon the water.

I observe Lady Z- waving to me and go to join their group. Sir H- Z- greets me exceeding civil, as does Sandy (that is most exceeding well-turn’d-out suitable to the company and the occasion) and they desire to introduce to me Miss S-, that is the sister of Lady D-.

Whereas Lady D-'s plumpness is of an entirely pleasing nature, her sister’s, alas, is of a more lumpish look and she has a round moon-like face, tho’ an expression of great amiability. I am like to suppose that she is the female relative they have on their hands and seek to dispose of with advantage.

Lady Z- exclaims much over my fine muslin gown and we both praise Maurice’s abilities.

Miss S- says that she has heard so much about Lady B-'s readings from Shakspeare: but, she says, putting a hand to her mouth, sure I should not seem as if I go demand a performance.

Sandy looks at her with considerable kindness and says that Miss S- has a very fine taste in poetry and is sure that Lady B- would greatly enjoy conversing with her on the subject.

Miss S- blushes and says in some confusion that she sees her sister beckoning to her, and scurries over to Lady D-.

Sir H- Z- says that if MacD- has a moment or so to spare before we all go change for dinner, he would be glad of a word or two about certain matters. They stroll off together.

Lady Z- ventures to put her arm thro’ mine and says, dear Lady B-, is there any chance we might contrive a conversation in confidence?

Sure, says I, 'twould be an excellent notion, tho’ 'twill be a business ensuring we are indeed in confidence.

I look about the grounds. Perchance, says I, did we at some time in the next day or so walk up that pretty winding path to the gazebo, where one can observe does any approach from a good distance –

'Tis given out, she says, that there are fine views to be seen from it.

We smile at one another, and walk together back towards the house.

The centre cannot hold

Jun. 24th, 2016 08:01 am
selenak: (Judgment Day by Rolina_Gate)
[personal profile] selenak
Bigoty and xenophobia won, and we all lost. I'm sorry for my British friends, but frankly, I'm horrified on account of what this means to the rest of us in Europe.

Thursday is posing as Wednesday again

Jun. 23rd, 2016 06:58 pm
oursin: Photograph of small impressionistic metal figurine seated reading a book (Reader)
[personal profile] oursin

What I read

Finished Black Narcissus, which rather confirms my feelings about the earlier India/adjacent parts set Goddens, and Nun Melodrama: that these do not really rate as My Favourites from Rumer. Oh, well-written and so forth: but ultimately NQOSD.

The WisCon Chronicles Vol 10: Social Justice (Redux): the format tends to mean the experience is uneven, but this did make me realise I had never read Vols 8 and 9, which I purchased last year, because immediately I got back I was not in the right frame of mind, and when I returned from my next jaunt, there had been all the upheaval of the initial stages towards a new carpet displacing books. Must try and find them.

Vintage Didion (2004): selections from earlier books and essays of hers. Again, somewhat uneven in how much I enjoyed the various pieces.

Finally finished The Givenness of Things: I was really bogging down in the theological parts, however much I admire Robinson's writing.

Jill Schary, Thanks for the rubies, now please pass the moon: a memoir of the First Lady of the World (1972). This is a very very weird book written in the form of an autobiographical memoir with annotations by the person to whom the writer has sent the ms, and I'm not sure how I'd classify it by genre. At first it looks like a satirical take on certain aspects of US life and history, as a sort of distorting mirror AU, but then there is also weird technology and dystopia and fantastical elements - was 'magic realism' even a thing in 1972? Jill Schary published several other works: fiction, memoir, fictional autobiography or autobiographical fiction - and this novel is the one she actually mentions several times she's working on in the auto/fiction/whatever Bed/Time/Story (1974).

On the go

Still rather gradually making my way through Forgotten Suns - I haven't given on up it, it's just it's somehow not compelling, and so it's the thing I read when I'm out and about with my ereader.

I've started Murder and Morality in Victorian Britain: The Story of Madeleine Smith, which is promising.

However, when I got in yesterday after a day conferencing, faffing around getting lost on my way back to the hotel to pick up my case (in my defence, I was talking to the very charming Australian scholar who was also speaking at the conference and walked right past where I should have turned off because the conversation was so engaging), hanging around waiting for the train I was actually booked on, being on the train, etc, I could only manage the latest (?) Simon R Green, From a Drood to a Kill (2015, only just out in paper).

One of the books I have still on the go probably falls into a category of 'friend's book I bought at their book launch, personally inscribed to me with an effusive message, but do I really want to read it?'

Up next

No idea. I now have two freebie Patricia Wentworth mysteries and a couple of other things I bought for the ereader awaiting my attention.


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