Saturday, July 02, 2022

New age

 

Hypericum pulchrum. Battle, 30 June 2022.


For various reasons I'm not going to have much time to blog over the next month or two. Anyway, here are some pictures of a little group of Slender St John's-wort (Hypericum pulchrum) that I saw while walking with my family in Great Wood, Battle (E. Sussex) last Thursday. This is a managed woodland and it's good to see the variety of wild plants slowly increasing. The best place to see Hypericum pulchrum in those parts is, or used to be, Fore Wood in Crowhurst (ancient oak woodland). Hypericum pulchrum really is beautiful, like its botanical name. The stems and buds are often reddish, but not on this particular specimen.

In Sweden it's called Hedjohannesört (i.e. "Heath St John's-wort"). It's a rare plant there, growing only on heaths near the west coast. 

It occurs in most of the British Isles but has somewhat declined in central England since 1950. It only likes acidic habitats, which perhaps accounts for why I've never noticed it in my thirty years of living in Frome and Swindon. 


Hypericum pulchrum. Battle, 30 June 2022.

Detail of the previous photo. You can just make out the black dots on the edges of the petals. You can also make out the toothed sepals mentioned by Jean-Jacques Rousseau:

Le mille-pertuis élégant est une espèce branchue qui croît dans les bois et dans les bruyères, avec des tiges en forme de colonne ; les feuilles embrassent la tige ; elles sont unies et en forme de cœur ; les calices sont dentelés, avec des dents garnies de glandes.

The Elegant St John's-wort [Hypericum pulchrum] is a branched species that grows in woods and heaths, with columnar stems ; the leaves clasp the stem ; they are plain and heart-shaped ; the calyces are toothed, with some teeth furnished with glands. 

(from Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Lettres élémentaires sur la botanique, Letter XV, 4 June 1776)

In later life Rousseau (1712 - 1778) had become an excellent botanist. He was still in robust health when he wrote this letter, but a few months later he was concussed in a Paris street accident (Oct 1776), and he began to suffer seizures. He died of a cerebral hemorrhage on 2 July 1778.

These letters on the elements of botany, written to instruct the daughters of Mme. Delessert, were published as a book in 1785 and were much admired. Goethe said: "It's a true pedagogical model, and it complements Emile".

*

The OED does not commit itself to a specific explanation for the vernacular name "St John's-wort". Similar names occur through much of Europe, from Portugal to Serbia to Norway. 

The usual explanation is that Hypericum perforatum (the most common species) comes into flower around the time of the Feast of St John the Baptist (24 June). This theory works out all right in much of the British Isles, but it doesn't make sense in, say, Spain, where "hierba de San Juan" comes into flower in March. 


Hypericum pulchrum. Battle, 30 June 2022.

Things I learned while away in Sussex:

Bexhill-on-Sea has its own flag (since 1893). We saw it being displayed among the union jacks in the main streets.

How to play Shark Tag in the swimming pool. 

Two versions of a Swedish counting rhyme. To me they are just nonsense, so apologies if they contain anything offensive!


My mum's:

Binke bane koff
Koffe lane doff
Doffe lane binke bane
Ulle dulle doff!


My nephew Finn's:

Ulle dulle doff
Kinke nane koff
Ettan pettan puff
Du får en knuff
av puff!

Here's a very rapid one from Laura's Somerset childhood, perhaps with faint traces of the days when children were taught Latin.

Eeny meeny maccaracca
Dare down dominacca
Chickaracca bominacca
Om Pom Push!

The sung version of the alphabet in US English. You can sing it to the melody of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star (but miss out the middle part).

A-B-C-D-E-F-G
H-I-J-K l-m-n-o-P
Q-R-S-T-U and V
Double-U X and Y and Zee

There is a Swedish equivalent, but it's a bit different towards the end. "dubbel-vi"is promoted to the end of the third line, and this allows room in the fourth line for the three additional letters in the Swedish alphabet: Å, Ä, Ö. (oar, air, err)

My English grandmother used to teach us a brisk marching chant that went like this:

Abaca Defaghij
Kalama Nop
Qrestuvee Double-you
Ex Why Zed

Actually, this was my pedantic rationalization of what she was saying. It really sounded more like this:

Abaca Deffergee
Kalama Nop
Restervee Double-you
Ex Why Zed

When we tired of this marching chant, she had another one to keep us moving smartly along Eastbourne sea-front. I'll need to put in bar lines for this one:

                 L                   R                   L         R     L          R       L
           I ||: had a good | home that I | LEFT, |      | LEFT, |        | LEFT, a |  
                R                L                    R            L     R            L    R
               home that | always was | RIGHT, |      | RIGHT, |     | RIGHT, and| 
                L                     R          L          R     L           R      L
               I always was | sorry I | LEFT, |      | LEFT, |       | LEFT that|
                R                 L                   R           L      R            L      R
               home that | always was | RIGHT, |      | RIGHT, |       | RIGHT. ( I ) :||

*

OK, that's all that time allows for now. See you for the occasional flying post in the weeks ahead. 
 






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Thursday, June 16, 2022

Midsummer limes

 



So finally the lime trees come into fragrant bloom, leaving it to the time of roses, peonies and grasses: the definitive midsummer tree. 

I love limes, but I hate them too, because in forty years I've never been able to securely tell them apart. 

These ones are from the lakeside park in Warminster.

The one on the left here, at any rate, is Small-leaved Lime (Tilia cordata): small buds, leaves grey-green and more or less hairless apart from gingery tufts at base of veins on the underside. 

The other two (from different individuals) are both Broad-leaved Lime (Tilia platyphyllos). I'm saying this with more confidence than I really feel. It's true that the young leaves are hairy all over the underside and even on the upperside. On the other hand some of the cymes (like the one on the right) have six buds, an exceptional number for Broad-leaved Lime. Anyway, I'm sticking with that for now. 



Above, Small-leaved Lime, the aforementioned gingery tufts in vein axils. 

Below, another distinguishing feature of Small-leaved lime (left). Looking at the upperside of the leaf, you can see that only the main veins are easily visible. Compare the many little cross-members on the Broad-leaved Lime (right), which are quite deeply impressed. Clive Stace calls them "tertiary veins"; Francis Rose calls them "side-veins". 

Leaf uppersides of Tilia cordata (left) and Tilia platyphyllos (right)


Broad-leaved Lime. Hairy underside of leaf. 




Broad-leaved Lime. Hairy upperside of leaf. Tertiary veins strongly impressed. 


Below, a few shots of Broad-leaved Lime. 


.





A couple of days later, I collected some samples of Common Lime (Tilia x europaea), the hybrid between Small- and Broad-leaved Limes. Common Lime can grow taller than either of its parents, in fact taller than any other native broad-leaved tree. These samples come from one of the tall trees in North Parade in Frome. 



Along the back, Common Lime. Front centre, Broad-leaved Lime. Front right, Small-leaved Lime.




Common Lime, leaf underside. Most of the leaf surface is hairless. The vein axils have dirty white tufts. There are also stray hairs along the veins. 



Common Lime, leaf upperside. Even here there are a few hairs on the main veins, if you look very closely.

The tertiary veins are more noticeable than on Small-leaved Lime, but less noticeable than on Broad-leaved Lime. 




The lower trunk of a Common Lime, completely hidden by suckers and epicormic sprouts. A pretty common sight. You might see a few sprouts on either of the parent species too, but the hybrid is the most prone.


*

'Love! thou art leading me from wintry cold,
  Lady! thou leadest me to summer clime,
And I must taste the blossoms that unfold
  In its ripe warmth this gracious morning time.'
So said, his erewhile timid lips grew bold,
  And poesied with hers in dewy rhyme:
Great bliss was with them, and great happiness
Grew, like a lusty flower in June's caress.

Parting they seem'd to tread upon the air,
  Twin roses by the zephyr blown apart
Only to meet again more close, and share
  The inward fragrance of each other's heart.
She to her chamber gone, a ditty fair
  Sang, of delicious love and honey'd dart;
He with light steps went up a western hill,
And bade the sun farewell, and joy'd his fill.


Oh well, I don't need much excuse to quote a bit of Keats' June-drenched poem Isabella. Or this, from Swedish troubadour Evert Taube's song "Rosa på bal":

Tyss, ingen såg att jag kysste Er kind.
Känn hur det doftar från parken av lind,
Blommande linder kring månbelyst stig -
Rosa jag älskar dig!

Shush, so I kissed your cheek in the dark --
Ah, smell that smell of the limes in the park!
Lime-flowers and moonlight in our avenue,
Rosa I do love you!

Happy Midsummer!

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Friday, June 10, 2022

The pot of basil

 


Basil (Ocimum basilicum, Sw: Basilika), a tender plant native to India and South East Asia. Possibly Africa, too; internet sources are a bit inconsistent about that. Anyway, the bulk of other Ocimum species are African. 

I have read that wild populations of Ocimum basilicum * live in dry scrubland, which seems so unlikely that I suppose it must be true. My own pot of basil, at any rate, requires daily watering. I was supposed to be eating it but got too interested in watching the plant develop. (If you grow basil for the leaves, you should pinch out the flower heads when they start to emerge.) Basil has been cultivated as a culinary and medicinal herb for thousands of years. 

[* Not to be confused with the species whose vernacular English name is Wild Basil (Clinopodium vulgare); a plant that's native to Europe and N. America as well as N. Africa and W. Asia.]





LII
Then in a silken scarf,—sweet with the dews
        Of precious flowers pluck'd in Araby,
And divine liquids come with odorous ooze
        Through the cold serpent-pipe refreshfully,—
She wrapp'd it up; and for its tomb did choose
        A garden-pot, wherein she laid it by,
And cover'd it with mould, and o'er it set
Sweet Basil, which her tears kept ever wet.

LIII
And she forgot the stars, the moon, and sun,
        And she forgot the blue above the trees,
And she forgot the dells where waters run,
        And she forgot the chilly autumn breeze;
She had no knowledge when the day was done,
        And the new morn she saw not: but in peace
Hung over her sweet Basil evermore,
And moisten'd it with tears unto the core.

LIV.
And so she ever fed it with thin tears,
        Whence thick, and green, and beautiful it grew,
So that it smelt more balmy than its peers
        Of Basil-tufts in Florence; for it drew
Nurture besides, and life, from human fears,
        From the fast mouldering head there shut from view:
So that the jewel, safely casketed,
Came forth, and in perfumed leafits spread.


(Isabella reburies the head of her murdered lover Lorenzo. From John Keats, Isabella, Or The Pot Of Basil).  


*

The unsettling tone of Keats' Boccaccio poem has been extensively discussed. I enjoyed looking through these essays:


Jack Stillinger, 'Keats and Romance', Studies in English Literature, 1500-1900
Vol. 8, No. 4, Nineteenth Century (Autumn, 1968), pp. 593-605. https://www.jstor.org/stable/449467

Louise Z. Smith, 'The Material Sublime: Keats and "Isabella"', Studies in Romanticism Vol. 13, No. 4 (Fall, 1974), pp. 299-311. https://www.jstor.org/stable/25599944

Susan Wolfson, 'Keats's "Isabella" and the "Digressions" of "Romance"', Criticism Vol. 27, No. 3 (summer, 1985), pp. 247-261. https://www.jstor.org/stable/23110370

Kurt Heinzelman, 'Self-Interest and the Politics of Composition in Keats's Isabella', ELH
Vol. 55, No. 1 (Spring, 1988), pp. 159-193. https://www.jstor.org/stable/2873115 

Diane Long Hoeveler, 'Decapitating Romance: Class, Fetish and Ideology in Keats's Isabella', Nineteenth-Century Literature Vol. 49, No. 3 (Dec., 1994), pp. 321-338. https://www.jstor.org/stable/2933819

Michael Lagory, 'Wormy Circumstance: Symbolism in Keats's "Isabella"', Studies in Romanticism
Vol. 34, No. 3, On Keats in 1995 (Fall, 1995), pp. 321-342. https://www.jstor.org/stable/25601124


Isabella, 1849 painting by John Everett Millais


[Image source: Wikipedia . Millais was just nineteen when he painted it. Now in the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool.]

These brethren having found by many signs
   What love Lorenzo for their sister had, ... (XXI)

Keats gave no further details. Millais imagined the discovery occurring at the dinner table. 

To the right, Lorenzo offers Isabella half a blood orange (unwittingly portending his own decapitation). Isabella's brothers (left) observe the intimacy of Lorenzo and Isabella. The brother at the front vents his rage by kicking the dog and pulverizing a nut in the nutcrackers. The other two seem to be meditating a more controlled but no less deadly approach. 

Lorenzo's face stands out as the only one not in profile. His gaze is haunting; even frightening, in a sickly devotional vampiric sort of way. I feel some sympathy with the brothers for wanting to shield their Isabella from it. 


Isabella and the Pot of Basil, sketch by Dante Gabriel Rossetti.




Isabella and the Pot of Basil, 1868 painting by William Holman Hunt

[Image source: Wikipedia .]


Isabella, or the Pot of Basil, 1877 painting by Joseph Severn


[Image source: https://www.meisterdrucke.uk/fine-art-prints/Joseph-Severn/302654/Isabella,-or-the-Pot-of-Basil,-1877-.html . Over half a century before he painted this, Joseph Severn had been Keats'  close friend; they probably met in 1816, and it was Severn who later accompanied the dying Keats to Italy.] 


Isabella and the Pot of Basil, 1897 painting by John White Alexander

[Image source: https://www.artsalonholland.nl/john-white-alexander/isabella-and-the-pot-of-basil . John White Alexander (1856 - 1915) was born in Pennsylvania. This painting is in the Boston Museum of Fine Arts.]

Isabella and the Pot of Basil, 1907 painting by John William Waterhouse




Isabella and the Pot of Basil, painting by George Henry Grenville Manton

[Image source: https://largesizepaintings.blogspot.com/2017/12/george-henry-grenville-manton-isabella.html . George Henry Grenville Manton (1855 - 1932) was a Hertfordshire painter. This painting is in Wycombe Museum. I haven't been able to find a date for it.]

*

Keats wrote Isabella between February and April 1818. The story came from Boccaccio's Decameron (Day 4, No 5). [Keats did not work directly from Boccaccio's Italian text, but from The Novels and Tales of the Renowned John Boccacio, 5th edn, 1684; an anonymous translation first published in 1620 and attributed to John Florio.]

Keats retold the story in ottava rima. This stanza form was actually Boccaccio's invention, but he did not use it in the Decameron, which was in prose. Keats was pretty likely to have come across it in, say, John Harington's 1591 translation of Ariosto's Orlando Furioso. But it had come back into prominence the previous year, when John Hookham Frere anonymously published his satiric poem, with the complicated title The Monks and the Giants: Prospectus and Specimen of an Intended National Work, supposedly by "William and Robert Whistlecraft, of Stow-Market, in Suffolk, Harness and Collar-Makers". The title is offputting, but the poetry is not.

I think that Poets (whether Whig or Tory)
   (Whether they go to meeting or to church)
Should study to promote their country's glory
   With patriotic, diligent research;
That children yet unborn may learn the story,
   With grammars, dictionaries, canes and birch:
It stands to reason -- this was Homer's plan,
And we must do -- like him -- the best we can.

(Proem, stanza VII)

The poem caught Byron's eye, and the result was Beppo, published on 28 February 1818. 


'Tis known, at least it should be, that throughout
   All countries of the Catholic persuasion,
Some weeks before Shrove Tuesday comes about,
   The people take their fill of recreation,
And buy repentance, ere they grow devout,
   However high their rank, or low their station,
With fiddling, feasting, drinking, dancing, masquing,
And other things which may be had for asking.

(Stanza I)



Keats would likely have read one of these recent poems if not both, and he has been criticized for failing to attain their urbanely cutting wit, especially when he steers close to raillery or satire ("Great wits in Spanish, Tuscan, and Malay" (XVII)). Then, or in the preceding stanza where Keats bludgeons away at "Why were they proud?" (XVI), the comparison with Byron is damaging. 

The criticism might be unfair. Keats was evidently not attempting to write in the vein of Frere or Byron; for example, his poem has few feminine rhymes, and those of the most commonplace kind. More likely he was aiming at something like a Chaucerian flexibility, receptive to many changes of mood, and I think he achieves it. And in such passages as the digging up of Lorenzo's body he got to a place beyond Chaucer, never mind Byron. 

But he could not be urbane: he was no middle-aged diplomat or glamorous young lord. He really loathed the brothers' capitalist exploitation and he wrote from the heart, as in the lovely letter to Fanny Brawne of which an appalled Matthew Arnold pronounced: "We have the tone, or rather the entire want of tone, the abandonment of all reticence and all dignity, of the merely sensuous man, of the man who 'is passion's slave.'" (I deeply love Arnold as a poet, but his literary criticism tends to infuriate me.)

I wondered if Keats, when he wrote Isabella, would have been familiar with the actual plant "Basile" that he found in the Boccaccio story (Decameron Day 4 No 5). 

Most likely, yes. Keats was apprenticed to an apothecary between 1810 and 1815, trained as a surgeon-apothecary at Guy's Hospital, and received his apothecary license in 1816. "Sweet Basil" was a plant that was grown in apothecaries' gardens: Nicholas Culpeper (The English Physician, 1652) had evidently grown it himself, noting that "It must be sowed late, and flowers in the heart of Summer, being a very tender plant". 

As for its properties, a cautious Culpeper found his authorities contradictory.  

This is the herb which all authors are together by the ears about, and rail at one another (like lawyers). Galen and Dioscorides hold it not fit to be taken inwardly; and Chrysippus rails at it with downright Billingsgate rhetoric; Pliny, and the Arabian physicians defend it.

For my own part, I presently found that speech true:

                           Non nostrum inter nos tantas componere lites.

And away to Dr. Reason went I, who told me it was an herb of Mars, and under the Scorpion, and perhaps therefore called Basilicon; and it is no marvel if it carry a kind of virulent quality with it. Being applied to the place bitten by venomous beasts, or stung by a wasp or hornet, it speedily draws the poison to it; Every like draws his like. Mizaldus affirms, that, being laid to rot in horse-dung, it will breed venomous beasts. Hilarius, a French physician, affirms upon his own knowledge, that an acquaintance of his, by common smelling to it, had a scorpion bred in his brain. Something is the matter; this herb and rue will not grow together, no, nor near one another: and we know rue is as great an enemy to poison as any that grows.

To conclude; It expels both birth and after-birth; and as it helps the deficiency of Venus in one kind, so it spoils all her actions in another. I dare write no more of it.


This account by Culpeper suggests that Sweet Basil had yet to find a place in the English kitchen. 

Keats is curiously insistent that Lorenzo and Isabella don't reveal their feelings to each other until May has passed into June (IV). In autumn Lorenzo is dead and Isabella "By gradual decay from beauty fell" (XXXII). Their love, like Sweet Basil itself, was a tender plant. 

NB "Sweet Basil" is the variety commonly grown and used in cooking, at least in Europe and N. America. There are about sixty other varieties. 







Fesleğen

şimdi orda buzlar eriyordur
yürümek istiyordur donmuş sular
sen bir odun atıyorsundur ateşe
bir odun daha

derken kış uyanıyor
bir akarsuda.

burda neler olduğunu kestirmek zor
elinde kitap olan bir adam
terkedilmiş bir bahçeye bakıyor
savaş haberleriyle uyanıyoruz

ihanete mi uğradık dağlarda
bir halk kendini tanımaya mı çalışıyor?

seni orda sanıyordum
güneşli pencerelerden mi çıkıp geldin
ellerin hâlâ fesleğen kokuyor?



Basil

there the ice must be melting now
the frozen waters wish to walk again
you must be putting a log on the fire
and perhaps another
just then in the river
winter awakens.

it is difficult to establish what has happened here
a man with a book in his hand
staring out at an abandoned orchard
we wake to news of war.
were we betrayed in the mountains
was a people struggling to know itself?

I thought you were there
have you come from the sun filled windows
your hands still smelling of basil?


(by Salih Bolat, b. 1956 in Adana. (Translator not specified.) Poem Source.)





A question the box of earth
still asks the kitchen,

...


as in a pot of,
where the lover's head

explodes into new 
ideas, as in

chop the loss finely,
add salt and stew

and halo the old charred
grandmother stove,

...

(from Sandra M. Gilbert's "Basil" (1997). Poem Source.)







An Ode to Basil

In Grecian myth
Good fortune springs
From all Sweet Basil brings.

It grows and thrives
In pot or ground
Wherever Sun is found.

Its perfumed leaves
Will bring you cheer
Throughout its growing Year.

And freshly picked
From fragrant bunch,
It makes a great Spaghetti lunch!


(Inge Meldgaard's "An Ode to Basil" (2011). Poem Source.)








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Wednesday, June 08, 2022

the adjacent water





The Observer's Book of Freshwater Fishes of the British Isles, by A. Lawrence Wells (Frederick Warne & Co., 1941). 

The whole book is fascinating and very readable; it brought home to me how little contact I've had with fish, since those youthful days of pike and perch fishing in Jämtland. Even back then, I was often more interested in the waterside plants and left it to others to catch our dinner. According to the book there's a theory that pike and perch coexist so often because the perch's spined dorsal fin makes it unpalatable to the pike.

Here's a few extracts that caught my eye.


The Brook or Planer's Lamprey.

Both this and the Lampern [small lampreys] are now chiefly captured for bait, forming, in many of our rivers, quite profitable industries. Cod are very partial to a piece of lamprey. At one time they were greatly in demand for the table and "lamprey pie" was held in high esteem. ... Unfortunately this fish is somewhat indigestible and Henry I is said to have died from a surfeit of them ... A good recipe for cooking lampreys is the following which comes from Worcestershire : Clean the lampreys thoroughly by rinsing well with salt and water ; then gently rub a little mixed white spice over them and leave for twenty-four hours. Quite a lot of fluid will ooze out, but do not throw it away ; this will be put in the saucepan with them to stew. If this fluid does not completely cover the lampreys, unseasoned beef gravy may be added when they are nearly done. A glass of port wine added at this stage is also advocated. 

The Salmon.

Gradually the parr marks disappear and when they do the salmon is then referred to as a "Smolt". In mid-spring, usually about May, the smolts assume a silvery appearance and then take it into their heads to visit the sea, and when they arrive there they develop a tremendous appetite. Fortunately plenty of food awaits them in the shape of copepods (related to the cyclops of their native stream) which abound in the salt water, particularly in early summer. The copepod feeds on diatoms which, in spite of their diminutive size, manage to contain a certain amount of oil. This oil is then transferred to the copepods and thence to the salmon, and that is how the salmon obtains that delicate oil with which its flesh is permeated and, also, that is the reason why a fresh-run salmon is so fat. The herring, too, feeds on similar organisms and consequently it is also oily. Certain other animals such as squids and cuttle fishes feed on the small relations of the shrimp and in turn the cod and halibut feed on them. In the case of these two fishes the oil is appropriated by the liver, hence cod-liver oil and halibut oil -- all derived from the microscopic diatoms. 


The Char.

Incidentally, it is said that potted char makes a delightful breakfast dish. 


The Smelt or Sparling.

One of the most delightful of our fishes, with the delicate blues, greens, yellows and pinks of its coloration, the Smelt is noted principally, perhaps, for the insistent cucumber odour of the flesh. When the smelt-net is being hauled aboard, before it breaks the surface even, the cucumber smell is evident ; if one happens to be out in a boat and many smelt are in the adjacent water, that same piquant scent may be noticed.


The Stone Loach.

Queer little fishes are the loaches with their worm-like bodies and fringe of barbels around their mouths. 

... A strange feature of the loaches generally, though not quite so marked in the British species, is their reaction to thundery weather. The approach of a thunderstorm is sufficient to bring them from the bottom of the pond to dash wildly about near the surface. 


The Common Eel.

During the stay in the estuary certain adjustments are being made to the constitution of the creature's blood ; from an environment that exerts a pressure of fourteen pounds or so to every square inch of the surface of the body it will be moving to one with a pressure of over a ton to every square inch. 


The Pope or Ruffe.

Years ago, more especially in Yorkshire where they held mammoth fishing contests, the habit was to impale a cork upon the spines of the dorsal fins of this fish. The poor fish would then go floating down the stream quite helpless to combat the onslaughts of its many enemies. To the partisans it was great fun, but to the fish it was death. 


The Mullets.

There is a creek that I love well and many a time do I wend my way there early on a morning that promises a hot day. There is a pale blue haze over the water ; the grass of the sea-wall and the distant trees and meadows are bathed in that mist, even the mud of the creek itself reflects many colours, all subdued into pastel tints. A broken down wooden staging -- it was there when the good people of these parts were not averse to a spot of smuggling -- juts out over the mud. Presently the tide will be up and the sea-grass that adorns the ancient woodwork will float out gracefully in the water. Lying on this staging, with one's nose not many inches from the water, the Mullet can be seen clearly. They come up the creek in shoals several hundred strong full of the joy of living. ... 

People, seeing the shoals pass up these narrow creeks, have conceived the bright idea of stretching a net from one side to the other after the fish have passed ; then, when they return to the sea at the turn of the tide, their capture should be an easy matter. In theory it works out very well ; unfortunately, the Mullet is as accomplished an escapist as the late Houdini. The leader of the shoal will search for a weak part of the net, failing that he will attempt to get under the ground rope, and if there is no loophole there he will leap right out of the water over the top of the net. Whichever means of escape proves successful the others will follow, like sheep through a gap in a hedge. This will happen, too, when seine nets are used and the experienced fisherman will spread straw over the water inside the top rope. Consequently the fish will leap too soon and find itself still encircled by the net : just as an eagle will swoop but once, so the Mullet will leap but once. 


gentles : maggots. This angler's term was current until about 1960. 





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Saturday, June 04, 2022

Ji yoon Lee






....

The United States of America didn't want me.
My parents couldn't take me.
The wheels kept turning,
and the flight to Dallas, Texas is currently on time.

I never caught up with the time difference.
My messed up sense of time tells me
that Baby Visa Denied is still crying in the basement.

My unwantedness has totally messed up my root chakra, man --
My pelvic floor chakra.
The lonely wheel, with no traction,
keeps on spinning and spinning ...


....

My messed up imprinting.
The baby ducklings follow the Roomba.
Isn't that cute
their misguided survival instinct.
The ducklings are so fluffy
when they fall through the sewer grate
you laugh.

There's a reason baby seals are clubbed.
There's a reason veal is delicious.
Tender young flesh is attractive.
Love me tender, 
Love me sweet.

....


(Extracts from Ji yoon Lee's Baby Visa Denied that I found in the anthology  women: poetry: migration, ed. Jane Joritz-Nakagawa (2017))

Ji yoon Lee: born in South Korea (Republic of Korea), lives in Houston.

root chakra: the Muladhara in Hindu Tantrism, seated in the pelvic region, foundation of the energy body.

Roomba: robot vacuum cleaner.

*

Robert Grotjohn, "Translating Resistance: Don Mee Choi, Jiyoon Lee, Eunsong Kim, and Others", English Language and Literature Vol. 65 No. 3 (2019) pp. 455-75 :


Very informative piece on the rhizomatic connections within Korean American feminist poetry, including a detailed discussion of Ji yoon Li's collection Foreigner's Folly (Coconut Books, 2014). I can't resist requoting the passage Grotjohn quotes:

I am fresh off the boat, and now I am fresh meat. I am fresh meat, but I am also a butcher of their language . . . Forgive my meattongue, forgive my soul. Forgive me for I have sins.


*

Ji yoon Li's ferocious first chapbook IMMA (Radioactive Moat, 2012) is available in full online:


The opening lines:



I’m ok being your diversity plan;
It is my mode of existence: It is my mode of insistence
There is the cityplan under my belt of explosives;
It is my mode of modification: It is my mode of fornication

Defamation of American flag: Defecation of unidentifiable flag
An unidentifiable body surfaces on the level of cheap alliteration 
Please do not litter; be a good noncitizen!
Please use the container provided; be a good conartist

Is it ok that I am your diversity case?  Is it ok that I am your basket case?
....



Another extract from IMMA:



Imma single ready to commingle

....

It is impossibru to brew the coffee without panic attack

& perhaps pertaining your voicemail is impossible to raincheck

doublecheck on my penny attack; doublecheck on my fannypack

w/ my mailorderbride my cumulative fines O you so fine accrues the crew of
sailors w/ moneyorder carrier pigeon on my special occasion intensive
treatment on my dear roasted dove whose feeling is hurt

....

i have sewn my sleeve up my ass and it is impossible to unshove what is
shoveled down the chimney don't squeeze the quail I have qualms about
calling spade a spade

my lucky bunny paw will avenge for my soul my middle earth my
commonground of all the landfill mining crew

Review of Ji yoon Lee's IMMA by Min Kang in New Delta Review:

Review of Ji yoon Lee's IMMA by Jai Arun Ravine in Lantern Review:


*

Other poetry collections:

Ji yoon Lee's chapbook Funsize/Bitesize (Birds of Lace, 2013).

Ji yoon Lee's collection Foreigner's Folly: A Tale of Attempted Project (Coconut Books, 2014).

Paul Cunningham writes a bit about it here (Fanzine, March 2014):
(See also Robert Grotjohn's article, referenced earlier.)





Ji yoon Lee introduces Foreigner's Folly and reads some of the poems. She also talks about the "prequel" Baby Visa Denied, which sounds like it may be another full length collection, hopefully soon. 


*

Ji yoon Lee has translated Kim Yideum's poetry, and also the novel Blood Sisters

Kim Yideum's Cheer Up, Femme Fatale, translated by Ji yoon Lee, Don Mee Choi and Johannes Göransson, was published by Action Books in February 2016

Review by Megan Milks (Fanzine, May 2016):

There is also Poems of Kim Yideum, Kim Haengsook, and Kim Min Jeong translated by Don mee Choi, Johannes Göransson, Ji yoon Lee and Jake Levine (Vagabond Press, 2017)

Two poems by Kim Yideum translated by Ji yoon Lee, in Cordite Review, 1 February 2018:

Here's one of them: 

Wet Book

I walk along the street that is filling up with water. The evening outruns me like a truck covered in a dark blue tarp. The dark and narrow alley – is this the right way? My room on low ground easily sinks under lukewarm water, even when it is not full tide. I begin anew my search for home.

Remember to take the coat off by the door. I draw a line on my chest to measure the water level today. Humans are bound to leak. When everyone blinked at once, my bed floated away on their tears. The books that I kept in the bathtub didn’t get wet.

I sit on the chair floating in water, and I sit at the desk floating in water, and I write alphabets the way I drink water from rain boots. The tied up bundle of letters is a face filled with tears. Your cat won’t calm down. She trembles on the bosom of the wet book.

*

Three more poems by Kim Yideum translated by Ji yoon Lee, published in Asymptote:

Another Kim Yideum poem, "I Believe In This World", translated by Don Mee Choi, Johannes Göransson and Ji yoon Lee, published in Modern Poetry in Translation in 2016:


*

Ji yoon Lee interviewed by Jacob Silkstone in Asymptote (June 2019) about her translation of Kim Yideum's novel Blood Sisters (Deep Vellum, 2019).


Here she's talking about a place in the novel where Yeoul, the protagonist, says "I speak with my own mouth, so I will address others on my own terms ...."

The default system here [in ROK] is to pretend the power dynamic doesn’t exist and to politely perform the appropriate version of intimacy. But Yeoul rejects that. I see “I speak with my own mouth. . .” as a really powerful moment where she rejects societal imperatives in the language system. It is as simple as that: I am making sounds with my mouth to speak the language, so it is my language, and I speak it on my own terms.

I don’t think I would call this a struggle unique to Korea—performing and emoting something different from what you feel inside, being pressured by the power dynamic. That’s why art can be a universal refuge for our internal truth.

We make art so that we don’t forget what our truth is. That is how I approached my writing too. I wanted to really tap into what “I” am feeling, even when one is living in a situation where expressing that truth would be harmful. 

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Thursday, June 02, 2022

Charles Dickens et al: Somebody's Luggage (1862)




When Charles Dickens was preparing the extra Christmas Number of All the Year Round for 1862 he told potential contributors that "the tales are not supposed to be narrated to any audience, but are supposed to be in writing". It was an important clarification. In Somebody's Luggage the inset stories were to be pieces of writing discovered by the waiter Christopher, conceived as all written by the same unfortunate Somebody (who had secreted them in various articles of his abandoned luggage). 

This was indeed unlike the norm. Since 1852 the Christmas Numbers had been mostly framed as collections of stories that were told by various characters to each other, like a miniature Canterbury Tales; for instance in a charity lodging (The Seven Poor Travellers), an inn (The Holly Tree Inn), an open boat (The Wreck of The Golden Mary), a haunted house (The Haunted House), a club night (A Message from the Sea), a hermit's hovel (Tom Tiddler's Ground). 

It was a format that made sense. After all these Christmas Numbers, published a few days before each Christmas Eve and immensely popular (with sales approaching 300,000 at their peak), would probably be re-oralized at family firesides.  Family members might each read a different story aloud. The Christmas Number was thus a kit for domestic recreation, like sheet music for the piano. In 1862 it cost 4d, double the price and double the length of a normal weekly number. 

Anyway, Dickens' collaborators evidently took note of the point about their stories being written. In various ways they acknowledged their text's textuality (for instance, when John Oxenford's narrator comments on "the words I have italicised"). They also considered the narrator of their text. 

An orally recounted tale has by definition a first-person narrator, and such narrators do not need to be literary, they only need to be able to talk. This allows the possibility of stories told by such socially unprivileged voices as Poor Dick, the old seaman and the Scotch Boy (in The Wreck of the Golden Mary); or the various child narrators who appeared in the work of Dickens and other contributors (see Chapter 2 of Aine Helen McNicholas' thesis -- details below).

A story in writing is a different proposition. One option is to have an impersonal narrator (Dickens in "His Boots", and Julia Cecilia Stretton in her story of the complacent Mr Blorage, which is partly a drunken dream). A second approach is to have a first person narrator who is definitely portrayed as a writer: for example, Charles Allston Collins' narrator tells us at one point that he had "certain literary labours to which I was obliged to devote myself".

 A third approach, retaining some of the social inclusiveness of the oral tales, is to choose a narrator who is not normally a writer, but who takes to writing in exceptional circumstances. Dickens embraced that idea with relish, giving us the waiter Christopher of the frame stories, acutely conscious of appearing for the first and only time before a large public; giving us, too, the resentful Tom ("His Brown Paper Parcel") whose testament  "is looked over by a friend of mine, a ticket writer, that is up to literature".

John Oxenford's narrator is less easily defined, but not because we don't attend to him; on the contrary, he's as much on our minds as the superb ghost story he relates. He's a kind of flaneur, a bachelor from a good family, cultivated, apparently idle, comfortable but not ostentatiously wealthy, and agreeably selfish in small ways. Naturally we heartily enjoy his discomfiture at the claw-like hands of a haunted umbrella while secretly admiring him as a model, both in his selfishness and his humility; a narrator who's recognizably in the direct line leading to Three Men in a Boat (1889) and Bertie Wooster. He may have a job, and it might well be a literary one (a theatre critic like Oxenford himself?), but he has far too much taste to mention it.

Here he is in full flow:

I sneaked out of the parlour to the bar, endeavoured to ingratiate myself by asking for something cheap that I did not want (a biscuit, I think it was), and then with the grossest affectation of vagueness, propounded the following question:

"Excuse the liberty, but did not I overhear -- unintentionally, of course -- something about some person who walked in some field in some remarkable manner?"

"That's right, master," replied a man in a shaggy great-coat.

"Oh yes, quite correct," said the landlord, "but for further particulars you had better address yourself to this good lady here. You know there's some sort of knowledge that thrives best in the heads of elderly ladies," he added with a wink.

I am overwhelmed with shame and confusion when I write down the humiliating fact that I actually -- winked in return. If I were a member of Parliament, I wonder whether I should ever, by the remotest chance, find myself voting with the minority!

"Oh, the gentleman is quite welcome to hear the story if he likes," said the old lady: a most respectable inoffensive-looking person. "I don't care for a laugh or two."

How unworthy was I to walk on the same soil with that heroic old woman!

I shall not repeat the words of her narrative, for it was somewhat prolix, and abounded in details that did not bear directly on the main subject ...

After exchanging a look of bland superiority with the landlord -- despicable being that I was! -- I asked if the ghost were in the habit of carrying an umbrella. 

"Ho-ho-ho!" roared the landlord. "Why, of course it would, if it went out on a wet evening like this. Well,  that's a good 'un. The gentleman has given it her there, and no mistake; hasn't he, Jim?"

The man in the shaggy great-coat grunted his assent, with a low chuckle. And there was I -- wretch that I was -- allowing myself to be applauded for inflicting a stupid sarcasm on a defenceless female, when I firmly believed every word of her statement, and was merely endeavouring to satisfy my curiosity with reference to my strangely acquired treasure. I even joined in the laugh, and allowed them all, the old woman included, to believe that I regarded myself as an exceedingly witty and facetious person. The old woman merely observed that she knew nothing about umbrellas, and left the house in a state of irascibility that was not only justifiable, but highly laudable. As for me, I swaggered back into the parlour with the air of a conqueror by whom a worthy adversary has been valiantly demolished. 

(from John Oxenford, "His Umbrella")

Arthur Locker's story demonstrates another possibility of the written story; a text whose identity changes as we read. It begins as an apparently sober account of an adventure at sea. After a shipwreck the travellers and crew are marooned on an iceberg, and our sense of incredulity begins to be palpable; still more so when the iceberg providentially comes to rest in the harbour of Port Stephens on the Falkland Islands. But what really transforms our view of the story is its ending, in which the supposed witness and narrator, Mr Monkhouse, is slyly revealed as a Baron Munchausen: the whole performance is a "tall story", whose exposure wipes away any residue of belief in its contents, narrator included. 

*

What Dickens didn't need to tell his collaborators was the kind of thing that worked in a Christmas number. Each contribution was a party piece in a variety show; it must be diverting. All of these stories had an element of caprice. Melodrama, sentimentality, morality, adventure, but not gravity or tragedy. Realism was to be held at arm's length, deployed to various degrees but not embraced. Art was to be portrayed only as craft, or else as a sham or something one didn't mention. Mr Mopes (Tom Tiddler's Ground) was to be lightly abandoned, society must be fortified against such disturbing negativity. In Les Fleurs du Mal (1857) and Notes from Underground (1864), the Mr Mopeses were already stirring in response. (Arguably they stirred closer to home, say within the Collins brothers, even within Dickens' own heart.) 

Of the eighteen Christmas numbers Somebody's Luggage has been one of the most discussed, chiefly because of its wry glances at the teeming literature industry of Victorian times, of which the Christmas numbers are themselves notable examples. Anonymous literary labour, lack of appreciation, the profusion and recycling and destruction of printed matter, the eccentricities of hack authorship, the appropriation of others' work and reputation and style, are all themes touched on here, well treated for instance in Chapter I of Aine Helen McNicholas' thesis, and in the Hesperus editors' introduction (details below). I've tried not to go over the same ground too much. 

*

Something that the unspoken Christmas story format licensed, and which perhaps comes under the banner of "caprice", is the reckless mingling of different kinds of diversion. Thus John Oxenford's hilarious scenes of social discomfiture don't preclude the authentic chill of the hero's graphic nightmares or his gropings in the nocturnal lumber room. Charles Allston Collins' brilliant screenplay of dinner-party small talk at the ducal house of Creel is abruptly followed by a shocking riding accident; it is not the beautiful Miss Crawcour's career that is marred (as the narrator fears), but her beautiful face.  

*

I'm trying to get from that perception (such as it is) to saying something about Dickens' off-message contribution "His Boots". It's a story that's been dismissed as a piece of sentimentality, and it doesn't play to our interest in the Victorian literature industry. But of all the various entertainments in Somebody's Luggage it leaves the deepest impression.  

... All day long, upon the grass-grown ramparts of the town, practising soldiers trumpeted and bugled; all day long, down in angles of dry trenches, practising soldiers drummed and drummed.  Every forenoon, soldiers burst out of the great barracks into the sandy gymnasium-ground hard by, and flew over the wooden horse, and hung on to flying ropes, and dangled upside-down between parallel bars, and shot themselves off wooden platforms,—splashes, sparks, coruscations, showers of soldiers.  At every corner of the town-wall, every guard-house, every gateway, every sentry-box, every drawbridge, every reedy ditch, and rushy dike, soldiers, soldiers, soldiers.  And the town being pretty well all wall, guard-house, gateway, sentry-box, drawbridge, reedy ditch, and rushy dike, the town was pretty well all soldiers.

What would the sleepy old town have been without the soldiers, seeing that even with them it had so overslept itself as to have slept its echoes hoarse, its defensive bars and locks and bolts and chains all rusty, and its ditches stagnant!  From the days when VAUBAN engineered it to that perplexing extent that to look at it was like being knocked on the head with it, the stranger becoming stunned and stertorous under the shock of its incomprehensibility,—from the days when VAUBAN made it the express incorporation of every substantive and adjective in the art of military engineering, and not only twisted you into it and twisted you out of it, to the right, to the left, opposite, under here, over there, in the dark, in the dirt, by the gateway, archway, covered way, dry way, wet way, fosse, portcullis, drawbridge, sluice, squat tower, pierced wall, and heavy battery, but likewise took a fortifying dive under the neighbouring country, and came to the surface three or four miles off, blowing out incomprehensible mounds and batteries among the quiet crops of chicory and beet-root,—from those days to these the town had been asleep, and dust and rust and must had settled on its drowsy Arsenals and Magazines, and grass had grown up in its silent streets.

(from Charles Dickens, "His Boots")

There's often a secret quality to Dickens' writings about France. It isn't all about Ellen Ternan, either. The secret quality was there before he met her, in his Boulogne piece "Our French Watering Place" (November 1854). It was at Boulogne, too, that he and his family stayed with a M. Beaucourt-Mutuel, who had "about 150 soldiers" billeted on him. 

Nevertheless, the intensity and detail of these pages is undoubtedly connected with his mysterious trips to France in 1862, presumably with Ellen alongside or at journey's end (Dickens himself remarked in a letter, re the sales of Somebody's Luggage, “I wonder how many people among those purchasers have any idea of the numbers of hours of steamboat, railway train, dusty French walk, and looking out of window, boiled down in ‘His Boots?’”)

It would be nice to think that Dickens had spent some time at one of Vauban's fortified towns, but the letter doesn't say so and I'm not convinced. The town in "His Boots" has a remote dream-like quality, for instance in its sleepiness and apparent lack of a river, that doesn't seem a good match for, say, Besançon. Vauban's real fortifications aren't incomprehensible, but these ones are: nothing suggests that this "dull" "sleepy old" town, becalmed in weedy canals and chicory fields, has any strategic significance. Dickens' writing yearns towards the symbolic, as eventually made clear in its apostrophe to the "Vaubans of your own hearts".

It's a story, then, about the softening of a hard heart; in the familiar line of A Christmas Carol and Dombey and Son, and perfectly in tune with the Christmas season. Mr The Englishman's eventual forgiveness of his erring daughter (who has given birth to an illegitimate child) begins, here in France, with witnessing the young Corporal Théophile's love for little Bebelle, herself an illegitimate orphan. When the Corporal dies in a fire, Mr The Englishman adopts the unwanted Bebelle; modern readers may be rather taken aback by how simple it seems to have been ("a brief recourse to his purse and card case"). 

This however is to jump ahead to the midnight train and to him "skulking into his own lodging like a man pursued by Justice" (guilty of warm-heartedness); an image strangely reflected in John Oxenford's embarrassed hero dodging the servants: "I could almost fancy I was breaking into my own house". I confess I find the sentimental story quite moving, but I sense that this agony of the heart concerns the author as much as its lingistically-challenged hero. In its ordinary French people, the soldiers "able to turn to cleverly at anything, from a siege to soup, from great guns to needles and thread, from the broadsword exercise to slicing an onion, from making war to making omelettes", he registers a vision of something lost from his own eminent but curdled life. 

*

In the cemetery, "little round waiters, whereon were depicted in glowing hues either a lady or a gentleman with a white pocket handkerchief out of all proportion..." ("His Boots")

waiter: A salver or small tray (OED, sense 11).

Outside the pawn shop, [I] "lingered at neighbouring windows, contemplating objects wholly devoid of interest. How long I looked at some pigs' pettitoes in one shop, and at some blacking bottles in another, I cannot conjecture." ("His Umbrella")

pettitoes: Pigs' trotters. 

*

I realize I've largely neglected three of the authors of Somebody's Luggage, so here are some samples to finish:

A brood of young ducks, always erratic, obstinate, and greedy, had squeezed their mucilaginous little bodies through nothing, and were out on the loose, their vigilant foster mother, 'in a fine frenzy', clacking within the shut-up poultry house.  

(From Julia Cecilia Stretton, "His Portmanteau", story completed in "His Hat-Box")

"Stout ship? Ha, ha! Why, this is a softwood ship -- a regular New Brunswicker. She'd have no more chance against the ice, than a chaney cup again a soup-and-bully tin; and then, with all this here copper ore in her inside, down she'd go -- and you along with her."

"And you too, Tom."

"Well, I don't know about that. Sailors ain't like passengers. There's the boats to cut adrift. Besides, I'm on deck, and you'd be below, smothered like a rat in his hole."

(from Arthur Locker, "His Dressing Case")

"Oh, he's not such a bad fellow," he said, "when you come to know him. He's affected, you know, and pretends to be wonderfully refined, and to be a petit-maître, and all that, but he has his good points. We fellows who are always shooting, or fishing, or riding over stone dykes, are apt to undervalue a man of quieter tastes, and more sedentary pursuits. Sneyd goes in, you know, for being a sort of artist. ..."

(from Charles Allston Collins, "His Black Bag", story completed in "His Writing-Desk") 

Collins himself went in "for being a sort of artist". And Dickens, who lamented his favourite daughter Kate's marriage to Collins in 1860, probably saw his son-in-law more as a Sneyd type than as the manly but improvident Jack Fortescue. Collins, whose health was as poor as his brother's, was certainly no rider over stone dykes. What was worse in Dickens' eyes, Collins had by now jacked in being an artist and taken to writing instead; it was just the kind of dilettantism that Dickens despised; Kate was set on marrying a Henry Gowan! He blamed himself; he knew that his own dreadful behaviour to her mother had made Kate's life within the family intolerable. And his fears proved correct: the marriage was apparently not happy. All the same, Collins was an excellent painter and an excellent writer too. 







I've been reading Somebody's Luggage (Christmas 1862) in the 2006 Hesperus edition, edited by Melissa Valiska Gregory and Melisa Klimaszewski. [Hesperus have published quite a few of the Christmas Numbers in their complete form, with introductions and notes.]

Somebody's Luggage is one of the eighteen Christmas Numbers of Household Words and All The Year Round that Dickens "conducted" between 1850 and 1867. After the first few years Dickens typically provided a frame for a collection of diverse stories. The other approach (e.g. 1858, 1867) was a longer narrative written in collaboration with Wilkie Collins. 

*

This is a scratchpad of information I've gathered on Dickens' Christmas writings, but with particular emphasis on the eighteen collaborative Christmas numbers published between 1850 and 1867 in Household Words and All The Year Round.

They have most commonly been re-published in fragmentary form, i.e. just the bits written solely or mainly by Dickens (e.g. Somebody's Luggage here, on Project Gutenberg). But the links I've supplied in the list below are to the full text, i.e. including all the contributions by other authors. 

All of the Christmas numbers can be read in their entirety on Dickens Journals Online, which is an amazing resource. But it retains the original lineation of those double-column pages, which doesn't make for a very pleasant on-screen reading experience. 

I had written most of this note when I discovered Aine Helen McNicholas' brilliant PhD thesis Dickens by Numbers: the Christmas Numbers of Household Words and All The Year Round (University of York, 2015). https://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/10391 . Her Appendix supplies a more detailed and complete list, including information about every one of the 130-odd contributions. 


Dickens Christmas writings. 

The Christmas Books (Dickens as sole author):

A Christmas Carol (Chapman & Hall, 19 December 1843, sold out by Christmas Eve)
The Chimes (Chapman & Hall, 1844)
The Cricket on the Hearth (Bradbury & Evans, 20 December 1845)
The Battle of Life (Bradbury & Evans, 1846)

[In 1847 Dickens agonized about what to do. He wanted to concentrate on Dombey and Son, so decided against a Christmas publication for that year, but he wrote to Forster that he was "loath to lose the money" and even "more so to leave any gap at Christmas firesides which I ought to fill".]

The Haunted Man (Bradbury & Evans, 19 December 1848)

In Household Words:  

[When published these Christmas Numbers, like the regular numbers, were simply "Conducted by Charles Dickens". No other authors were named.]

Christmas Number (21 December 1850): This was in fact the regular number of Household Words, but was devoted to seasonal pieces by various authors, mainly essays rather than fiction. Dickens began it with "The Christmas Tree". The number went down very well, and henceforth it was decided to produce an "extra" number each Christmas. 

Extra Christmas Number (1851): Seasonal pieces by various authors, mainly essays rather than fiction. Included Dickens' "What Christmas Is, As We Grow Older".

Extra Christmas Number (1852): A Round of Stories by the Christmas Fire. Stories. "The Poor Relation's Story" (Dickens), "The Child's Story" (Dickens), "Somebody's Story" (William Moy Thomas), "The Old Nurse's Story" (Elizabeth Gaskell), "The Host's Story" (Edmund Ollier), "The Grandfather's Story" (the Rev. James White), "The Charwoman's Story" (Edmund Saul Dixon), "The Deaf Playmate's Story" (Harriet Martineau), "The Guest's Story" (Samuel Sidney) and "The Mother's Story" (Eliza Griffiths). This was the first number to increase the length from the standard 24 double-column pages to 32. [Available in Hesperus Editions.]

Extra Christmas Number (1853): Another Round of Stories by the Christmas Fire. Stories, by Dickens, Elizabeth Gaskell, George Augustus Sala and others. 

Extra Christmas Number (1854): The Seven Poor Travellers, framed stories. Dickens wrote the frame and the narrator's own story. Other stories were written by Wilkie Collins, George Augustus Sala, Adelaide Anne Procter, Mrs. Lynn Linton. [Available in Hesperus Editions.]

Extra Christmas Number (1855): The Holly Tree Inn, framed stories. Dickens wrote the frame and one of the inset stories ("The Boots"). Other stories were by Wilkie Collins, William Howitt, Adelaide Anne Procter, and Harriet Parr (aka Holme Lee). [Available in Hesperus Editions.]

Extra Christmas Number (1856): The Wreck of the Golden Mary, main narrative with inset stories. Dickens wrote most of the first part ("The Wreck"), except for an addendum by Wilkie Collins. The second part ("The Beguilement in the Boats") consisted of five inset stories by four authors: The armourer's story (Percy Fitzgerald), poor Dick's story (Harriet Parr aka Holme Lee), the supercargo's story (Percy Fitzgerald), an old seaman's ballad (Adelaide Anne Procter) and the Scotch boy's story (the Rev. James White). The third part ("The Deliverance") was by Wilkie Collins. Full text: https://www.fadedpage.com/books/20180640/html.php  . [Available in Hesperus Editions.]

NB The Lazy Tour of Two Idle Apprentices, by Dickens and Wilkie Collins, was not a Christmas story. It came out over several numbers in October 1857. [Available in Hesperus Editions.]

Extra Christmas Number (1857): The Perils of Certain English Prisoners, story by Dickens and Wilkie Collins. Full text on Google Books.

Extra Christmas Number (1858): A House to Let, collaborative story. The first and last chapters were collaborations by Charles Dickens and Wilkie Collins. The chapters in between were "The Manchester Marriage" (Elizabeth Gaskell), "Going into Society" (Dickens), "Three Evenings in the House" (Adelaide Anne Procter), "Trottle's Report" (Wilkie Collins). [Available in Hesperus Editions.]



In All The Year Round:

Extra Christmas Number (1859): The Haunted House, framed stories. Dickens wrote the frame narrative and two of the inset ghost stories. The others are by Hesba Stretton, George Augustus Sala, Adelaide Anne Procter, ​Wilkie Collins, and Elizabeth Gaskell. Full text on Google Books. With the advent of All the Year Round the length of the extra number was once more increased, from 32 double-column pages to 48. 

Extra Christmas Number (1860): A Message from the Sea, story/framed stories. Chapter 1 ("The Village") by Charles Dickens. Chapter 2 ("The Money") by Dickens and Wilkie Collins. Chapter 3 ("The Club-Night") by Dickens with inset stories by Charles Allston Collins, Harriet Parr (Holme Lee), Robert Buchanan (poem), H.F. Chorley, and Amelia B. Edwards. Chapter 4 ("The Seafaring Man") by Wilkie Collins. Chapter 5 ("The Restitution") by Dickens and Wilkie Collins.  Full text on Google Books.

Extra Christmas Number (1861): Tom Tiddler's Ground, framed stories. Dickens wrote the frame and the last of the inset stories. The others were by Charles Allston Collins, Amelia B. Edwards, Wilkie Collins and John Harwood. Full text on Google Books.

Extra Christmas Number (1862): Somebody's Luggage, framed stories. Dickens wrote the frame and two of the inset stories. One of them, "His Brown Paper Parcel", was written to replace a planned contribution by Wilkie Collins, who was too ill. The others were by John Oxenford, Charles Allston Collins, Arthur Locker and Julia Cecilia Stretton. Full text on Google Books. [Available in Hesperus Editions.]

Extra Christmas Number (1863): Mrs Lirriper's Lodgings, framed stories. Dickens wrote the frame. The other stories were "How the First Floor went to Crowley Castle" (Elizabeth Gaskell), "How the Side-Room was Attended by a Doctor" (Andrew Halliday), "How the Second-Floor Kept a Dog" (Edmund H. Yates), "How the Third-Floor Knew the Potteries" (Amelia B. Edwards) and "How the Best Attic was Under a Cloud" (Charles Allston Collins). Full text on Google Books. [Available in Hesperus Editions.]

Extra Christmas Number (1864): Mrs Lirriper's Legacy, framed stories. Dickens wrote the frame. Inset stories by Charles Allston Collins, Rosa Mulholland, Henry Spicer, Amelia B. Edwards, and Hesba Stretton. Full text on Google Books. [Available in Hesperus Editions.]

Extra Christmas Number (1865): Doctor Marigold's Prescriptions, framed stories. Dickens wrote the outer frame and one inset story. The others were by Rosa Mulholland, Charles Allston Collins, Hesba Stretton, Walter Thornbury, and Mrs. Gascoyne. Full text on Google Books.  [Available in Hesperus Editions.]

Extra Christmas Number (1866): Mugby Junction, framed stories. Dickens wrote two introductory chapters and the first two inset stories. Other stories were by Andrew Halliday, Charles Allston Collins, Hesba Stretton and Amelia B. Edwards. Full text on Google Books. [Available in Hesperus Editions.]

Extra Christmas Number (1867): No Thoroughfare, story by Dickens and Wilkie Collins, based on their play of the same year. Full text on Google Books.

[In 1868, Dickens intended a Christmas Number, but lamented in a letter to Wills:  

I have been, and still am -- which is worse -- in a positive state of despair about the Xmas No. I cannot get an idea for it which is in the least satisfactory to me, and yet I have been steadily trying all this month. I have invented so many of these Christmas Nos. and they are so profoundly unsatisfactory after all with the introduced Stories and their want of cohesion or originality, that I fear I am sick of the thing. I have had serious thoughts of abandoning the Xmas No.! There remain but August and September to give to it (as I begin to read in October), and I CAN NOT see it. 

And so it would prove; he never produced another Christmas Number. Apparently Dickens couldn't contemplate delegating the whole thing to other hands. It had to be his show.]


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