30 April 2018

Outdoor Erections

Bernard E. Jones, The Practical Woodworker, Vol. II (London: The Waverley Book Company Ltd., 1920), pp. 417-418:


It could be exciting to build a bicycle shed...

A related post: Portable Cold Frame

27 April 2018

Don't Go Back

George Gissing, The Private Papers of Henry Ryecroft (London: Archibald Constable, 1912), p. 97:
As a rule, it is better to revisit only in imagination the places which have greatly charmed us, or which, in the retrospect, seem to have done so. Seem to have charmed us, I say; for the memory we form, after a certain lapse of time, of places where we lingered, often bears but a faint resemblance to the impression received at the time; what in truth may have been very moderate enjoyment, or enjoyment greatly disturbed by inner or outer circumstances, shows in the distance as a keen delight, or as deep, still happiness. On the other hand, if memory creates no illusion, and the name of a certain place is associated with one of the golden moments of life, it were rash to hope that another visit would repeat the experience of a bygone day.
Not unrelated: Let the Past Remain in Peace

24 April 2018

Mere Treasures of Words

Isaac Watts, Improvement of the Mind (New York : A. S. Barnes & Co., 1849), p. 73:
When you have learned one or many languages ever so perfectly, take heed of priding yourself in these acquisitions: they are but mere treasures of words, or instruments of true and solid knowledge, and whose chief design is to lead us into an acquaintance with things, or to enable us the more easily to convey those ideas or that knowledge to others. An acquaintance with the various tongues is nothing else but a relief against the mischief which the building of Babel introduced: and were I master of as many languages as were spoken at Babel, I should make but a poor pretense to true learning or knowledge, if I had not clear and distinct ideas, and useful notions in my head under the words which my tongue could pronounce. Yet so unhappy a thing is human nature, that this sort of knowledge of sounds and syllables is ready to puff up the mind with vanity, more than the most valuable and solid improvements of it. The pride of a grammarian, or a critic, generally exceeds that of a philosopher.

20 April 2018

A Troublesome Companion

Maurice Rollinat, Ruminations: prose d'un solitaire (Paris: Eugène Fasquelle, 1904), pp. 20-21 (my translation):
Hate is a troublesome companion who awakens in solitude, gives soliloquies in complete silence, and is never more agitated than when you are in peaceful places.

La haine est une inquiétante compagne qui se réveille dans la solitude, soliloque dans le  plein silence, n'est jamais plus agitée que dans les endroits paisibles.

Maurice Rollinat, photographed by Félix Nadar

18 April 2018

Empfindsamkeit

Marie-Louise von Franz, Puer Aeternus (Santa Monica: Sigo Press, 1980), p. 8:
In general, where there is sentimentality there is also a certain amount of brutality. Göring was a wonderful example, for without a qualm he could sign the death sentence for three hundred people, but if one of his birds died, then that fat old man would cry. He was a classic example! Cold brutality is very often covered up by sentimentality.

16 April 2018

Why Soldiers Read

Edward Earle Purinton, Personal Efficiency in Business (New York: Robert M. McBride, 1920), pp. 258-261:
When a man is training to meet death, literary tastes undergo transformation; he ceases to care for the latest news of the sporting circle or the social set or the political grab-bag or the local gossip manufacturers; he has no time to waste on the petty, foul, superficial or trite in literature. But death is no more serious than life, and a man training to meet life should learn to read as wisely and effectively as a soldier. From the statements of military authorities and the records of camp and field librarians we have noted a few of the main reasons and purposes that American soldiers have in mind when they take up a certain book or periodical. They do not always analyze their own mental process, but the results of their instinctive choice of books reveal their subconscious choice, whether analyzed or not.
They read to prepare themselves for new tasks, opportunities and responsibilities.

They read to learn the trend of current events in their line of action the world over.

They read to be able to forecast probabilities and rise to the top in emergencies.

They read to broaden their minds and equip themselves with knowledge that was lacking in their early education.

They read to take their minds off the dangers and difficulties of their work.

They read to soften the pain of wounds and the memory of scars.

They read to conquer loneliness by the mental and moral companionship a good book affords.

They read to shorten the suspense of waiting for only God knows what to happen to them.

They read to overcome physical fatigue with mental refreshment.

They read to understand and remember more clearly what they are fighting for.

They read to think harder and thus to fight better.

They read to get in line for a commission and other chances for promotion.

They read to avoid wasting time and strength in dangerous or vicious amusements.

They read to improve themselves in matters of dress, morals and military conduct.

They read to learn the exact truth in case of argument.

They read to help solve personal and professional problems of all kinds.

They read to break up the depressing monotony of mechanical routine.

They read to develop the free imagination that must offset compulsory action.

They read to learn how to handle their minds and bodies more effectively.

They read to renew their courage, faith, optimism, endurance.

They read to grasp more firmly the basic truths of life and to ground themselves in principles on which they stand immovable.

13 April 2018

A Vaudeville of Despair

Ernest Becker, The Denial of Death (New York: Free Press, 1973), p. 149:
The uncontrolled emotional outpouring, the dazed masses standing huddled in the city squares sometimes for days on end, grown people groveling hysterically and tearing at themselves, being trampled in the surge toward the coffin or funeral pyre — how to make sense out of such a massive, neurotic "vaudeville of despair"? In one way only: it shows a profound state of shock at losing one's bulwark against death. The people apprehend, at some dumb level of their personality: "Our locus of power to control life and death can himself die; therefore our own immortality is in doubt." All the tears and all the tearing is after all for oneself, not for the passing of a great soul but for one's own imminent passing.

11 April 2018

Courage

Ernst Jünger, "Mut," in Sämtliche Werke, Vol. 7 (Stuttgart: Ernst Klett Verlag, 1980), p. 52 (my translation):
Courage is the wind that drives ships to far shores, the key to all treasures, the hammer that forges great empires, and the shield without which no culture survives. Courage is the individual's commitment to inevitable consequences, the hurtling of an idea against matter without regard for the outcome. Courage is allowing yourself to be nailed to the cross, alone, for your cause. Courage is to affirm, in the final nervous spasm and with your dying breath, the principles for which you stood and fell. To hell with an age that wants to take courage and men from us!

Everyone has experienced this feeling too, no matter how dull he may be. There is something about courage that cannot be resisted, something which jumps from one heart to other hearts at the moment of action. Unless one's character is utterly depraved and ignoble, the feeling for the heroic is not so easy to escape. Struggle is certainly sanctified by its cause; and a cause is even more sanctified by struggle. How else could you respect an enemy? Only the brave can fully understand this.

Struggle is always a holy thing, God's judgement over two ideas. It is up to us to support our cause with greater and greater determination, and so to fight is our ultimate reason and what we have fought for and won is our only true possession. No fruit will ripen for us unless it has endured storms of iron, and the best and the most beautiful also demand that they be won through earnest struggle.
Rudolf Schlichter, Ernst Jünger (c. 1929)
Image via Verlag Antaios

9 April 2018

The Difference Between Civilized and Savage Man

A. Hyatt Verrill, Knots, Splices and Rope Work (New York: Norman W. Henley Pub. Co., 1912), p. 8:
Few realize the importance that knots and cordage have played in the world's history, but if it had not been for these simple and every-day things, which as a rule are given far too little consideration, the human race could never have developed beyond savages. Indeed, I am not sure but it would be safe to state that the real difference between civilized and savage man consists largely in the knowledge of knots and rope work. No cloth could be woven, no net or seine knitted, no bow strung and no craft sailed on lake or sea without numerous knots and proper lines or ropes; and Columbus himself would have been far more handicapped without knots than without a compass. 

5 April 2018

Bitter Recollections

Charles Wagner, The Better Way, tr. Mary Louise Hendee (Toronto: William Briggs, 1903), p. 50:
Do not condemn yourself to bitter recollections. Why so honor the offence as to write it on the tablets of your memory? Is your heart so large that you can afford to give so much place to resentment? What a pity that the little man saves from the wreck of forgetfulness should consist first of all in the wrongs which have been done him! There are deeds that are unpardonable; people who merit neither excuse, nor good-will, nor forbearance. Is this sufficient reason for remembering them forever? Let the injury fall to the ground and do not stoop to recover it. Stoop rather to pick the flower, however humble, that smiles up at you here in this valley.
For the original, see  L'ami: dialogues intérieurs (Paris: Fischbacher, 1902), p. 66.

Related posts:

2 April 2018

Paul Cézanne's Prayer

Henri de Régnier, "La Prière de Paul Cézanne," Vestigia Flammae (Paris: Mercure de France, 1921), pp. 223-224 (my translation):
Lord of light, air, and cloud,
You to Whom I have called so often,
Look on the hard and weary features of my poor face,
The mouth beneath the beard and the stubborn forehead;

Consider the eyes which have gazed on things
With such determination to know the truth of them,
And see these hands, gnarled and weakened
By the painful effort of their sincerity;

And now, Lord, in Your mercy,
Hear me and let me be, tomorrow, by Your grace,
The faithful servant whom the master grants
A simple tomb in a corner of the garden.

I have spent long days in honest labour,
And I made the most of the little I received.
No deceit ever soiled my palette,
And my eyes never betrayed what they saw.

Others sought tumult and glory,
But I only wanted the humble laurel
Whose leaves, almost black, grow somberly
At the doorstep of the true artist and good workman.

And this is why, Lord, having lived my life,
To the moment of my death, in the place were I was born,
I offer You these bright eyes in a poor face,
And this forehead, and these hands, and this willful stare.

Accept them, and take also these round apples,
These grapes, and these fruits which I painted as best as I was able,
For to me their contour was the shape of the world
And all eternal light is in them.

Paul Cézanne, Nature morte au crâne (c. 1897)

Seigneur de la clarté, de l’air et du nuage,
Toi vers qui si souvent mon appel s’est tourné,
Vois les traits durs et las de mon pauvre visage,
Sa bouche sous la barbe et son front obstiné ;

Considère ces yeux qui fixèrent les choses
Avec un tel désir de voir leur vérité
Et regarde ces mains noueuses, et moroses
Du douloureux effort de leur sincérité ;

Et maintenant, Seigneur, en ta miséricorde,
Ecoute et que je sois, par ta grâce, demain,
Le serviteur fidèle à qui le maître accorde
Une tombe rustique en un coin du jardin.

J’ai passé de longs jours en un labeur honnête
Et j’ai tiré parti du peu que j’ai reçu,
Nulle fraude jamais n’a souillé ma palette
Et mes yeux n’ont jamais menti ce qu’ils ont vu ;

D’autres ont recherché le tumulte et la gloire,
Mais moi je n’ai voulu que cet humble laurier
Qui pousse sobrement sa feuille presque noire
Au seuil du probe artiste et du bon ouvrier,

Et c’est pourquoi, Seigneur, ayant vécu mon âge,
Au moment de mourir aux lieux où je suis né,
Je t’offre ces yeux clairs en un pauvre visage
Et ce front et ces mains et cet œil obstiné.

Accepte-les et prends aussi ces pommes rondes,
Ces grappes et ces fruits que j’ai peints de mon mieux,
Car leur contour pour moi fut la forme du monde
Et toute la lumière éternelle est en eux.

29 March 2018

That Roving Habit

William Ellery Channing, Memoir of William Ellery Channing, Vol. I (Boston: Wm. Crosby and H. P. Nichols, 1850), p. 155:
There are periods, when the mind is indisposed to serious study, when it sympathizes with a suffering body, when its tone is destroyed, and its powers require relaxation. But we should distinguish natural infirmity from that indolence which grows by indulgence, and which one vigorous exertion would drive away. It is desirable, and I think it possible, to acquire a conquest over the former weaknesses of nature. May we not form a habit of attention which pain itself cannot distract? Do I not too often apologize for indolence, by attributing it to bodily indisposition? Let me check that roving habit, which I have indulged, of reading a thousand trifles, — a habit by which the tone of the mind is destroyed, until we turn with loathing from wholesome studies. Regularity and order are essential; and when I have formed a plan, let me submit to many inconveniences rather than swerve from it.

26 March 2018

An Error on the Right Hand

John Denham (1615-1669) in the preface to his translation of The Destruction of Troy, from The Works of the British Poets, ed. Robert Anderson, Vol. V (London: John & Arthur Arch, 1795), pp. 693-694:
I conceive it is a vulgar error in translating poets, to affect being fidus interpres; let that care be with them who deal in matters of fact, or matters of faith: but whosoever aims at it in poetry, as he attempts what is not required, so he shall never perform what he attempts; for it is not his business alone to translate language into language, but poesy into poesy; and poesy is of so subtle a spirit, that in the pouring out of one language into another, it will all evaporate; and if a new spirit be not added in the transfusion, there will remain nothing but a caput mortuum, there being certain graces and happinesses peculiar to every language, which gives life and energy to the words; and whosoever offers at verbal translation, shall have the misfortune of that young traveller, who lost his own language abroad, and brought home no other instead of it: for the grace of the Latin will be lost by being turned into English words; and the grace of the English, by being turned into the Latin phrase. And as speech is the apparel of our thoughts, so are there certain garbs and modes of speaking, which vary with the times; the fashion of our clothes being not more subject to alteration, than that of our speech: and this I think Tacitus means, by that which he calls sermonem temporis istius auribus accommodatum; the delight of change being as due to the curiosity of the ear, as of the eye; and therefore if Virgil must needs speak English, it were fit he should speak not only as a man of this Nation, but as a man of this age; and if this disguise I have put upon him (I wish I could give it a better name) sit not naturally and easily on so grave a person, yet it may become him better than that fools-coat wherein the French and Italian have of late presented him; at least, I hope, it will not make him appear deformed, by making any part enormously bigger or less than the life; (I having made it my principal care to follow him, as he made it his to follow Nature in all his proportions) neither have I any where offered such violence to his sense, as to make it seem mine, and not his. Where my expressions are not so full as his, either our language, or my art were defective (but I rather suspect myself;) but where mine are fuller than his, they are but the impressions which the often reading of him, hath left upon my thoughts; so that if they are not his own conceptions, they are at least the results of them; and if (being conscious of making him speak worse than he did almost in every line) I err in endeavouring sometimes to make him speak better, I hope it will be judged an error on the right hand, and such an one as may deserve pardon, if not imitation.
A related post: Rather Impressionist Than Pre-Raphaelite

20 March 2018

The Aim of Literary Study

Arnold Bennett, Literary Taste (London: Frank Palmer, 1911), pp. 12-13:
The aim of literary study is not to amuse the  hours of leisure; it is to awake oneself, it is to be alive, to intensify one's capacity for pleasure, for sympathy, and for comprehension. It is not to affect one hour, but twenty-four hours. It is to change utterly one's relations with the world. An understanding appreciation of literature means an understanding appreciation of the world, and it means nothing else. Not isolated and unconnected parts of life, but all of life, brought together and correlated in a synthetic map! The spirit of literature is unifying; it joins the candle and the star, and by the magic of an image shows that the beauty of the greater is in the less. And, not content with the disclosure of beauty and the bringing together of all things whatever within its focus, it enforces a moral wisdom by the tracing everywhere of cause and effect. It consoles doubly — by the revelation of unsuspected loveliness, and by the proof that our lot is the common lot. It is the supreme cry of the discoverer, offering sympathy and asking for it in a single gesture.

17 March 2018

A Chamber of Horrors

Peter Mayle, A Year in Provence (London: Pan Books, 1989):
A couple with their small son were having coffee, and the boy indicated his need to go to the lavatory. The father looked up from his two-day-old copy of the Daily Telegraph.

“You’d better make sure it’s all right,” he said to the boy’s mother. “Remember what happened in Calais?”

The mother sighed, and made her way dutifully into the gloom at the rear of the café. When she reappeared it was at high speed, and she looked as if she had just eaten a lemon.

“It’s disgusting. Roger is not to go in there.”

Roger became immediately interested in exploring a forbidden lavatory.

“I’ve got to go,” he said, and played his trump card. “It’s number two. I’ve got to go.”

“There isn’t even a seat. It’s just a hole.”

“I don’t care. I’ve got to go.”

“You’ll have to take him,” said the mother. “I’m not going in there again.”

The father folded his newspaper and stood up, with young Roger tugging at his hand.

“You’d better take the newspaper,” said the mother.

“I’ll finish it when I get back.”

“There’s no paper,” she hissed.

“Ah. Well, I’ll try to save the crossword.”

The minutes passed, and I was wondering if I could ask the mother exactly what had happened in Calais, when there was a loud exclamation from the back of the café.

“Poo!”

It was the emerging Roger, followed by his ashen-faced father holding the remnants of his newspaper. Conversation in the café stopped as Roger gave an account of the expedition at the top of his voice. The patron looked at his wife and shrugged. Trust the English to make a spectacle out of a simple visit to the wa-wa.

The equipment that had caused such consternation to Roger and his parents was a toilette à la Turque, which is a shallow porcelain tray with a hole in the middle and footrests at each side. It was designed, presumably by a Turkish sanitary engineer, for maximum inconvenience, but the French had added a refinement of their own—a high-pressure flushing device of such velocity that unwary users can find themselves soaked from the shins down. There are two ways of avoiding sodden feet: the first is to operate the flushing lever from the safety of dry land in the doorway, but since this requires long arms and the balance of an acrobat, the second option—not to flush at all—is unfortunately much more prevalent. To add to the problem, some establishments install an energy-saving device which is peculiar to the French. The light switch, always located on the outside of the lavatory door, is fitted with an automatic timer that plunges the occupant into darkness after thirty-eight seconds, thus saving precious electricity and discouraging loiterers.

Amazingly enough, à la Turque lavatories are still being manufactured, and the most modern café is quite likely to have a chamber of horrors in the back.

Related posts:

15 March 2018

Woodsmoke

Peter Mayle, A Year in Provence (London: Pan Books, 1989):
Walking in the hills, I was often able to smell a house before I could see it, because of the scent of woodsmoke coming from an invisible chimney. It is one of the most primitive smells in life, and consequently extinct in most cities, where fire regulations and interior decorators have combined to turn fireplaces into blocked-up holes or self-consciously lit “architectural features.” The fireplace in Provence is still used—to cook on, to sit around, to warm the toes, and to please the eye—and fires are laid in the early morning and fed throughout the day with scrub oak from the Lubéron or beech from the foothills of Mont Ventoux. Coming home with the dogs as dusk fell, I always stopped to look from the top of the valley at the long zigzag of smoke ribbons drifting up from the farms that are scattered along the Bonnieux road. It was a sight that made me think of warm kitchens and well-seasoned stews, and it never failed to make me ravenous.

12 March 2018

The Pageant of Old Learning

Robert Aris Willmott, Pleasures, Objects, and Advantages of Literature (London: George Routledge & Sons, 1866) pp. 9-10:
As we grow older, the poet and the historian of our boyhood and youth become dearer. The thyme of Theocritus is wafted over the memory with a refreshing perfume. By a sort of natural magic, we raise the ghost of each intellectual Pleasure, and make it appear without any dependence upon climate or time. The mind's theatre is lighted for the Pageant of old Learning to march through it, with all its pomp and music. The nightingale of Colonos enjoys a perpetual May in Sophocles. Pindar beguiles the loneliness of Cowley; while Horace lulls asleep the cares of Sanderson, and the domestic miseries of Hooker.

7 March 2018

Une Volupté Singulière

Camille Mauclair, Henri Le Sidaner (Paris: Georges Petit & Henri Floury, 1928), p. 232 (from the draft of my translation):
It requires a particular taste for voluptuous pleasure to remain sitting in a garden at twilight, watching all the details as they fade away and seem to die one by one, merging into the inexorable darkness, losing their colours and even their shapes, becoming ideas of themselves. This is when the Impressionist reckons the day is done  since there is neither daylight nor chromatic effects, he can no longer paint. But this is the moment when poetic depiction begins, when everything is a spirit, a dream, a refraction in consciousness, a prayer. And it was at this moment that Le Sidaner often set to work. 
Henri Le Sidaner, Heure Recueillir (1896)

2 March 2018

Ego Hippo

Florentin Félix Morin, "Ego Hippo," Angelaki: Journal of the Theoretical Humanities (Volume 22, 2017) 87-96 (at 88):
Something about being a hippo makes me feel cute, confident, sexy, and safe. I discovered that another self was available for me: being a hippo means that I don’t have to be a boy or a girl, a child or an adult, normal or strange. It means that my smile becomes a hippo smile, and the way that I carry my body, a hippo walk. It brings me freedom, space, and a thrilling sense of possibility. Where does this transformative power come from? How does a word, how does an image disrupt “reality” to the point that my body’s relationship to space is somewhat altered?

Here is a basic assertion that I will complicate later: my hippo ego was first a metaphor. I do not experience it as ontologically given, and I am fully aware that I created it with friends and loved ones. It is “merely” an image, but it is at once my shield, my screen, and my skin. My shield, because it linguistically and materially provides me with a way to evade (trans)gender assumptions and injunctions. My screen, because it is an imaginary surface of projection through which I can (dis)organize myself. And hippo is my skin, because it is a vulnerable and meaningful point of contact between my flesh and the (rest of the) world. Hippopotamus: the very word is powerful music to my ears.

What would it be like to live with a "tranimal" who identifies as a hippopotamus? Unpleasant, I should think.

Hat tip: The New Real Peer Review

28 February 2018

The Appeal of Fiction

Joséphin Péladan, Le Vice Suprême (Paris: Éditions du Monde Moderne, 1924), p. 24 (my translation):
Due to a fatal instinct in her soul, a woman who reads a novel tries on its passions; in the same way, should she find a strangely-shaped cloak hanging over a piece of furniture, she will inevitably pull it over her shoulders, happy to find herself playing the heroine.

A poster advertising two of Péladan's novels, circa 1886