Monday, March 20, 2023

Things I wrote in Intercapillary Space, part 2

OK, here's a second tranche of things that I published on Intercapillary Space, or sometimes Stride. Note to self: This takes me up to August 2009.

(The first lot was here: .)

Richard Makin:

John Wilkinson:

Donald Ward:

Peter Riley:

Elizabeth Willis:

rob mclennan:

Van Der Graaf Generator:

Colin Falck:

Gunnar Björling:

Denise Riley:


Pentti Saarikoski:

Anne Campbell:

Lisa Samuels:

Lisa Samuels / Rosanna Warren:

The Many Press:

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Thursday, March 16, 2023

Early contributions to Intercapillary Space


This is a really boring post, but I figured it's time to link to some of the writing (mostly about poetry) that I produced for Intercapillary Space. Otherwise you might never know (and in quite a few cases I myself had forgotten) that I'd written about these guys. 

 IS was at its most vibrant in its first year, when we had relatively lots of contributors and Edmund just said to publish something every day if we could. (I just couldn't, none of us could, but we all tried.) You can get a better idea of the mix of improvisations that this advice produced by having a glance through some of the early months of Intercapillary Space in full. Just put into your browser, then change the 02 to an 03, and so on. 

This post covers things I wrote for IS between its inception (Feb 2006) and round about April 2007. What constrains it is the maximum total length of labels on a single post. So there'll have to be a follow-up or two. 
I've  missed out whatever I believe has already appeared on this blog (though I may have made some mistakes). 

Bob Cobbing:

Peter Redgrove:

Moniza Alvi:

Kathleen Raine:

Geraldine Monk:

Tua Forsström:

Thomas Kinsella:

Catherine Daly:

Jessica Smith:

Cathal Ó Searcaigh:

Arielle Greenberg:

Alexander Pope:

Robert Browning:

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Tuesday, March 07, 2023

Selected Prose of Sir Walter Scott


Selected Prose of Sir Walter Scott, Edited with an Introduction by J.C. Trewin (Falcon Prose Classics, 1952). (John Courtenay Trewin, 1908 - 1990, jounalist and drama critic.)

"I read Walter Scott first with the eagerness of a boy of ten, niched among the worn, sea-pink-tufted crags on Old Lizard Head upon several of the long primrose-and-blue July evenings of a lost summer."

That's the first sentence of the Introduction, and the best. Trewin remained a fan of the Waverley novels, and here he selects ten extracts. 

They are: 1. the battle of Prestonpans, from Waverley. 2. The funeral of Mrs Margaret Bertram, from Guy Mannering. 3. The post office scene, from The Antiquary. 4. First encounter with Andrew Fairservice, from Rob Roy. 5. The riot and death of Porteous, from The Heart of Midlothian. 6. Arriving at Wolf's Crag, from The Bride of Lammermoor. 7. Dalgetty meeting Ranald in the dungeon, from A Legend of Montrose. 8. Ivanhoe's joust with Brian de Bois-Guilbert at Ashby, from Ivanhoe. 9. Meg Dods talking about the new resort, from St Ronan's Well. 10. The end of the Chevalier's venture, from Redgauntlet.

If J.C. Trewin's book had any influence, it can only have been to hasten the precipitous decline of Scott's reputation. 

These are mostly great pages from mostly great books, and yet they are somehow a terrible advert for an audience unconvinced of Scott's merits. Taken out of context, the extracts lose most of their meaning: for instance, in the first extract, almost everything depends on having followed Edward Waverley's story to this point, his relations with Colonel Gardiner, with Fergus MacIvor, etc. And on the other hand, reading an extract focusses pitiless attention on the feeble and clumsy writing that is always to be found in Scott, even in selection, and it makes an uncommitted reader think (mistakenly but reasonably), well if this is the best I needn't bother with the rest.... (The extract that works best in isolation is the post office scene from The Antiquary, perhaps because it's peopled by characters outside the main narrative.) The truth is, that to have a chance of experiencing Scott's greatness you have to read one of his novels in full, and then you might feel it or you might not, but if you do feel it the feeblenesses and clumsinesses don't matter, any more than dead branches in a forest. 

Still and all, this is often great writing, though sadly chopped up; and Scott was a great prose writer, as well as (what is very different) a great novelist and (what is very relevant) a great poet. Here's the climax of that hard-bitten scene from Guy Mannering:

At length they arrived at the churchyard gates, and from thence, amid the gaping of two or three dozen of idle women with infants in their arms, and accompanied by some twenty children, who ran gambolling and screaming alongside of the sable procession, they finally arrived at the burial-place of the Singleside family. This was a square enclosure in the Greyfriars churchyard, guarded on one side by a veteran angel without a nose, and having only one wing, who had the merit of having maintained his post for a century, while his comrade cherub, who had stood sentinel on the corresponding pedestal, lay a broken trunk among the hemlock, burdock, and nettles which grew in gigantic luxuriance around the walls of the mausoleum. A moss-grown and broken inscription informed the reader that in the year 1650 Captain Andrew Bertram, first of Singleside, descended of the very ancient and honourable house of Ellangowan, had caused this monument to be erected for himself and his descendants. A reasonable number of scythes and hour-glasses, and death’s heads and cross-bones, garnished the following sprig of sepulchral poetry to the memory of the founder of the mausoleum:--

                               Nathaniel’s heart, Bezaleel’s hand, 
                                     If ever any had, 
                               These boldly do I say had he, 
                                     Who lieth in this bed.

Here, then, amid the deep black fat loam into which her ancestors were now resolved, they deposited the body of Mrs. Margaret Bertram; and, like soldiers returning from a military funeral, the nearest relations who might be interested in the settlements of the lady urged the dog-cattle of the hackney coaches to all the speed of which they were capable, in order to put an end to farther suspense on that interesting topic.

Greyfriars churchyard: The Greyfriars Kirkyard, on the southern edge of Edinburgh's Old Town. 

Nathaniel's heart, etc.: Scott stole this from an inscription in the Howff, Dundee, commemorating Andrew Schippert, haxter burgess of Dundee, who died in 1641. (See Traits and Stories of the Scottish People, by the Rev. Charles Rogers (1867).) Bezaleel was the chief artisan of the tabernacle (see Exodus 31:1-6). Nathaniel presumably refers to the prince who provided offerings to the tabernacle at the time of its consecration (see Numbers 7:18-23), though he is just one of several tribal leaders listed as doing so. 

dog-cattle: the impoverished horses mentioned earlier in the chapter. See Dictionaries of the Scots Language, "dog" : "dog-cattle, a contemptuous term applied to ill-nourished animals".

Scott's novels, a brief guide.


Sunday, March 05, 2023

The Aulins

From the 2017 Daphne CD Revived Piano Treatures: Valborg Aulin, Laura Netzel (Lucia Negro: piano). Artwork showing the title page of Valborg Aulin's Grande sonate sérieuse

A sketchy chronology of the sibling composers Valborg Aulin and Tor Aulin, dedicated musicians, and contributors to Swedish musical and cultural life. (Nearly all of it is uncritically drawn from the links that follow the composers' birth dates.)

Composition formed only a part of their lives. But the catalyst for this post is my obsession with Valborg Aulin's Grande sonate sérieuse (the original title on the first page of the score, dedicated to Hilda Thegerström: the words "Grande" and "sérieuse" were subsequently deleted). Perhaps, above all, its peculiar and wonderful Trio. I couldn't help but feel curious to know more about  the composer of such striking music. But I still don't know much more. I felt there had to be a story,  for instance to explain how the bold and ambitious music of the 1880s (basically, her years of study) dwindled into the slighter music of the 1890s and then to nothing at all. What did it feel like, to lose the critical respect that seemed to be her destiny when Ludvig Norman was her mentor and her string quartets were so admired? And this at a time when her younger brother stood at the very pinnacle of Scandinavian culture, its star violinist, the friend of Grieg, Stenhammar and Strindberg, the founder or leader or conductor of half a dozen orchestras? But this is romancing. She may not have seen it that way at all. Everyone has a story, but Valborg Aulin was one of the many people who choose not to tell their story, not to futurity anyway. All we have are stray facts.


Lars Axel Alfred Aulin, born 10 June 1826, died 16 September 1869. He was a teacher of classical Greek and published several educational books. He was also an enthusiastic amateur violinist involved in Stockholm musical life. (in Swedish)

In 1858 he was appointed a teacher in Gävle. Here he met Edla Walborg Holmberg, daughter of the city broker (stadsmäklare) Konrad Holmberg and his arty wife Vilhelmina. Konrad was a Finn who had moved to Gävle in 1809. 

Lars Axel and Edla married the following year.

Edla Walborg Aulin née Holmberg, born 12 August 1832, died 14 February 1914. Another enthusiastic musician, she had once had hopes of a singing career, but these were prevented by ill health, and instead she became an excellent pianist, like her mother Vilhelmina. Edla's maternal uncle Rudolf was a violinist in the Hovkapellet (orchestra of the Royal Swedish Opera). Edla's sister Klara was also a pianist and her brother Konrad a gifted amateur violinist. 

Olallo Morales (1874 - 1957) in the below-linked Riksarkivet article about Tor Aulin (Sweden's dictionary of national biography -- this article is probably from the 1920s) says of Edla: "Her upbringing went exclusively in an aesthetic direction to the neglect of practical activity; she loved studies and music but lacked a sense of reality." (I'm quoting Olallo, here and elsewhere, via Google Translate.)

The articles report that Edla was a very strict parent, but I don't know the primary source for this. One of the speculations about Valborg's unexpected removal to Örebro in 1903 was that she wanted to get away from her mother. 

Laura Valborg Aulin, born 9 January 1860 in Gävle, died 13 March 1928 in Örebro. (2018 article by Eva Öhrström for the Svenskt kvinnobiografiskt lexikon, in Swedish)

Axel Konrad Aulin, born 23 September 1862 in Gävle, died 25 February 1934 in Orsa (near Mora in Dalarna). He became a civil engineer. His wife's name was Elvira; they had three daughters.

1862, Lars Axel and his family moved to Stockholm where he had a new teaching post at the Högre Elementarläroverket.

Tor Bernhard Wilhelm Aulin, born 10 September 1866 in Stockholm, died 1 March 1914 in Saltsjöbaden. (by Jean-Luc Caron, in French: a long and informative article, containing much more detail about Tor's musical career, appointments, colleagues, tours, concerts and compositions than I have given here)

Olallo Morales, in the Riksarkivet article, says of Tor: "In addition to the early emerging musical tendencies originating from both sides, Aulin inherited from his father thoroughness, ability to work, initiative, devotion to his task, unpretentiousness, self-criticism, right-mindedness, disgust for humbug and external brilliance, skill and humour. From the mother came the Finnish stubbornness but also Finnish toughness, a warm heart, passionate love for art, a never-resting restlessness in the mind, which constantly dreamed of new proposals, art creations, work goals."

1866. From the age of six, Valborg receives piano lessons from her aunt Klara. Subsequently she is taught by the pianist and composer Jacob Adolf Hägg.

1869, death of Lars Axel. Uncle Konrad to some extent acted as father to the children after Lars Axel's death, and was influential in Tor's early instruction in the violin. 

1873, the seven-year-old Tor begins his violin studies. Jean-Luc Caron (link above) reports a story that the family forbade Tor from touching the piano, thinking they had produced enough pianists, but he became a fine pianist nevertheless. 

This is confirmed by a remarkable episode. Tor performed Grieg's Piano Concerto in A minor in private in front of the Norwegian master, who highly appreciated the demonstration, swearing softly before this gifted child ("this devil"), who seemed to make light of the difficulties that he himself had struggled with for so long! The two men would correspond at length for many years. 

(Jean-Luc Caron, loosely translated)

1873-1876, Valborg instructed in harmony by Albert Rubenson at the Musikaliska akademin. 

1877-1882, Valborg is a student at the Kungliga Musikkonservatoriet. Taught piano by Hilda Thegerström, and composition by Ludvig Norman among others (the only woman enrolled in the composition class).

1877-1883 At the age of eleven Tor enters the Stockholm conservatoire and studies violin under C.J. Lindberg, and theory under Conrad Nordqvist.

1880, Valborg and Tor Aulin's first public performances, at Söderköping, followed by a Norrland tour together. 

1881-1884, Tor plays in the theatre orchestra of Bernhard Fexer. At some point in this period his playing is witnessed by Emile Sauret on a visit to Stockholm (Sauret's wife was Swedish). 

1882-1885, Valborg Aulin gives private lessons in piano and harmony in Stockholm.

1882, Valborg Aulin's [Five] Tone Poems for Piano / [Fem] Tondikter för Pianoforte (op. 7) published. (NB Only principal compositions are mentioned here)

1884, Valborg Aulin's [Seven] Pieces for Piano / [Sju] stycken för piano (op. 8) published. She composes her String Quartet in F (op. 17 no. 1). 

Here's the Romanza, the first of the Op 8 pieces. If I was told this was a Brahms intermezzo I might believe it. Performance by Steven Luksan (Music Center of the NorthWest):

1884-1886, Tor Aulin is in Berlin, where he studies with Emile Sauret. He is invited to play viola in Sauret's own Quartet, stands in for Sauret himself at a concert at the Berlin Opera, and is involved in performing music by Saint-Saëns.

1885 (probably), Valborg Aulin composes Pie Jesu Domine, Missa sollemnis for choir and orchestra (op. 13), dedicated to the memory of her mentor Ludvig Norman (1831 - 1885). 

Olallo Morales, in the Riksarkivet article linked above (written during Valborg Aulin's lifetime), wrote: "During her studies, Valborg Aulin received particular encouragement from the composer Ludvig Norman, who followed her compositional development with interest. Her Nordic romantic tone poetry also shows a certain kinship with Norman's gentle muse, without however denying its origin in an era that also produced Sjögren's more colourful creations. A thorough schooling had given her creation certainty and clarity of form, refined feminine taste in combination with French influence has given it its amiable comfort and elegiacally soft touch, in which, however, a healthy rudeness is not missing".

1885-1887, Valborg Aulin has a Jenny Lind grant to study abroad, in Copenhagen under Niels Gade, briefly in Berlin, and for perhaps a couple of years in Paris.

1885, in Copenhagen Valborg Aulin composes her piano sonata in F minor (Grande sonate sérieuse, op. 14).

It was Valborg Aulin's only multi-movement piano work, but it is a remarkable one. Here it is, in a performance by Lucia Negro:

1886, in Paris, Valborg Aulin composes Tableaux Parisiens, her only purely orchestral work (op. 15) and her lyric suite Procul este! (op. 28) for soprano, mixed choir and orchestra. Music studies with  Benjamin Godard (who had also taught Helena Munktell), woman pianist E. Bourgain (I can't find out anything else about her, as yet), and to a lesser extent Jules Massenet and Ernest Guiraud.

Here's one of the Tableaux Parisiens, "In the Quiet of the Night", performed by the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra conducted by Johannes Gustavsson. (You can listen to the other three tableaux on YouTube too.)

1886, Tor Aulin returns from his studies in Berlin and swiftly gains a reputation as a virtuoso violinist, though this is endangered for some weeks by over-exertion leading to a paralysis of the left arm and little finger.

1887, Tor Aulin forms the Aulin Quartet.(Aulinska kvartetten) with Edvin Sjöberg, Berndt Carlsson and Axel Bergström. The quartet, which lasts until 1912, is important in Swedish musical history for its promotion of chamber music. Valborg often performs with the Aulin Quartet: e.g. Saint-Saëns piano quartet, Mozart's G Minor piano quartet.

1887, Valborg Aulin returns to Stockholm in August and resumes giving private piano lessons. 

1887, Valborg gives a performance of her Grande sonate. The reviews are mixed: "Valborg Aulin 'shone as a composer', wrote respected critic Adolf Lindgren in Aftonbladet after the concert. Unfortunately however, her piano technique was not adequate to do justice to the expansive sonata, but as a composition it was well received, even though some critics complained about the free form. They got more of an impression of a number of different character pieces rather than a coherent sonata. Otherwise, the reviewers praised the modern harmonies and rhythms." (from Christina Tobeck's liner notes for Lucia Negro's 2017 CD Revived Piano Treasures: Valborg Aulin, Laura Netzel).

1888, The Aulin Quartet give the first performance of Valborg's F major String Quartet; the reviews are positive, and it is published the same year. It was a significant achievement for a woman composer; according to Eva Öhrström, string quartets had only male members at the time, and woman composers were expected to keep away from the form; Elfrida Andrée's D minor quartet (1887) was never performed.

Valborg Aulin's are considered the most significant Swedish string quartets of the 1880s, i.e. prior to Stenhammar's. The F major quartet is performed here by the Tale Quartet (Talekvartetten):

1889, Valborg Aulin composes her string quartet in E minor (op. 17 no. 2). The pianist Ida Åquist is documented as performing with the Aulin Quartet.

1889 (probably), Tor Aulin composes his Concert Piece for Violin and Orchestra (G minor, later known as violin concerto No. 1, op. 7)

1890, Tor Aulin composes his violin concerto "No. 2" in A minor (op. 11). First performance of Valborg's E minor quartet: positive reviews.

1892, Tor Aulin composes his violin sonata in D minor (op. 12). 

1892 (?), Valborg Aulin composes her Valse élégiaque

Performed here by Gamma1734 on digital piano:

1895, Tor Aulin composes his violin concerto in C minor ("No. 3", op. 14). 21 May, marries Ida Åquist, who was born Ida Hjort on 11 September 1848; he is 28 and Ida is 46. 

This remains one of the most celebrated Swedish violin concertos. Performed here by Christian Bergquist and the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra conducted by Okko Kamu:

1896, approximately. Wilhelm Stenhammar (1871 - 1927) begins his formative collaboration with the Aulin Quartet.

1896, Valborg gives a public performance dedicated to her own compositions. Some good reviews, some bad.

1898  Tor Aulin's first marriage (to Ida Åquist) dissolved on 30 December. He has begun a relationship with the married singer Anna Hedvig Bendixson (b. 30 June 1865); suffers social condemnation and falls into depression. Eventually marries Anna on 2 January 1900. 

(Anna later wrote, of Valborg's Paris years, "Despite her total lack of outward charm, which Frenchmen are so highly appreciative of, she became popular due to her immense talent". Of Tor she said that his compositional accomplishments were restricted by his humility and commitment to promoting music by other Swedish composers.)

1899, Tor composes his Four Aquarelles (Fyra akvareller) for violin and piano. 

Performed here, in Memphis TN, by Basil Alter (violin) and Brian Ray (piano):

1900, Tor Aulin forms the Svenska Musikerföreningens (the Swedish Musicians’ Society) orchestra, whose concert takings went to pensions and medical care for impoverished musicians.

1901, Valborg gives another concert of her own works. It is sold out but the reviews are negative.

1902-1909, Tor Aulin is a co-founder and conductor of Stockholms Konsertförening (the Stockholm Concert Society). 

1903, Valborg Aulin moves from Stockholm to Örebro as music teacher. She lives here for the rest of her life and plays a significant part in the musical life of the town, but does not compose any more music. In Örebro, unlike in Stockholm, Valborg is a big fish and her work is appreciated. She performs with the Philomeles society and at Nikolaikyrkan (St Nicholas' church).

1905, Tor conducts the premier of Franz Berwald's rediscovered Symphonie singulière. Co-founds the Göteborgs orkesterförenings orkester (Gothenburg Orchestra Society orchestra).

Tor Aulin, a photograph published in Hvar 8 dag in 1906.

[Image source: Wikimedia .]

1907 onwards, Tor Aulin conducts the orchestra of the Dramatiska Teatern and leads the Sydsvenska filharmoniska sällskapet (Southern Sweden Philharmonic Society).

1908, Tor Aulin composes incidental music for August Strindberg's Mäster Olof (op. 22). (Strindberg also tried to persuade him to write operatic versions of A Dream Play and The Ghost Sonata, but Tor Aulin didn't feel up to that.)

1909, Tor Aulin moves to Göteborg and becomes Stenhammar's conducting partner at the Göteborgs Symfoniker (Sweden's first full-time professional orchestra) but depression and increasing ill-health take their toll.

1912, Tor Aulin composes the Svenska danser (op. 32), initially for violin and piano, arranged for orchestra the following year.

1913, Tor Aulin has a stroke that leaves him partially paralysed. Is carried into rehearsals of his Svenska danser, but is overcome by emotion and waves farewell to the musicians (according to a memorial by his friend Emil Hansen). His decline is excruciating and his formerly amiable personality becomes irritable.

1914, death of Edla Aulin and, just two weeks later, Tor Aulin.

1914-1924, Valborg gives concerts every February (at St Nicholas' church?) to an appreciative audience.

1928, death of Valborg Aulin. She was buried in the churchyard of St Nicholas' church in Örebro, with no gravestone, but recently her gravesite was discovered and a stone placed there. 

Finding Valborg Aulin's grave: (in Swedish).

Valborg Aulins vänner (Friends of Valborg Aulin):

Valborg Aulin's gravestone in St Nicholas' churchyard, Örebro, provided by admirers in around 2006.

[Image source: .]

My list of Nordic women composers:

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Wednesday, March 01, 2023

-- Nay, Traveller! rest.


Buds of male flowers on Yew (Taxus baccata). Frome, 19 February 2023.

It's tempting to say, "a male yew". Although, as with many other dioecious plants, individual yews have occasionally been known to change sex, or to speak more accurately, change the sex of the flowers they produce. 

Buds of male flowers on Yew (Taxus baccata). Frome, 19 February 2023.

Each "bud" is actually a cluster of buds enclosed within a transparent membrane.

Open male flowers on Yew (Taxus baccata). Frome, 1 March 2023.

Ten days later, the cluster pushes out of its membrane (now revealed as multiple scales) and the buds open. Puhpowee.*

Each time I brushed the foliage I was immersed in a cloud of pollen. Sometimes a puff of breeze can make the tree look as if it's on fire.


* A word in the Potawatomi language. 

I come here to listen, to nestle in the curve of the roots in a soft hollow of pine needles, to lean my bones against the column of white pine... 

I could spend a whole day listening. And a whole night. And in the morning, without my hearing it, there might be a mushroom that was not there the night before, creamy white, pushed up from the pine needle duff, out of darkness to light, still glistening with the fluid of its passage. Puhpowee.

... My first taste of the missing language was the word Puhpowee on my tongue. I stumbled upon it in a book by the Anishinaabe ethnobotanist Keewaydinoquay, in a treatise on the the traditional uses of fungi by our people. Puhpowee, she explained, translates as "the force which causes mushrooms to push up from the earth overnight".

(Robin Wall Kimmerer, Braiding Sweetgrass (2013), p. 48, 49.)

Later, at a tribal gathering, "I learned that the mystical word Puhpowee is used not only for mushrooms, but also for certain other shafts that rise mysteriously in the night" (p.54).

That's two useful words in a single paragraph,  because I didn't know "duff" either (decaying vegetable matter on forest floor). I found myself looking with new eyes at the duff beneath these yew trees.

Open male flowers on Yew (Taxus baccata). Frome, 1 March 2023.

Open male flowers on Yew (Taxus baccata). Frome, 1 March 2023.

On the female tree, by contrast, it looks as if not much is happening.

"Female" Yew (Taxus baccata). Frome, 3 March 2023.

But in fact the flowers are here, though very unobtrusive:

Female flowers on Yew (Taxus baccata). Frome, 3 March 2023.

They look like buds, but are receptive of pollen. They are green at first and then brown. 

More noticeable are these "artichoke galls", made by the gall fly Taxomyia taxi:

Gall of Taxomyia taxi on Yew (Taxus baccata). Frome, 3 March 2023.

Debris beneath a female Yew (Taxus baccata). Frome, 6 March 2023.

The seed contents are highly poisonous to humans but palatable to some other creatures, for example squirrels, dormice, hawfinches, nuthatches, and marsh tits. (Blackbirds and thrushes swallow the whole fruit, but the seed passes through the gut unbroken.)

Male flowers on an Irish Yew (Taxus baccata 'Fastigiata'). Tytherington, 12 March 2023.

The fascinating variety known as the Irish Yew, with needles radiating all round the stem. All plants are cuttings deriving from a single specimen found in Co. Fermanagh in the eighteenth century. The plant is a dense shrub with multiple small pinnacles.

More about yew trees:

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Sunday, February 26, 2023

Hetty Sorrel's lack of sympathy

Adam Bede (1859) is a terribly irritating book. A book full of wonderful things, and it might be nice to write more appreciatively about those one day. But a first and perhaps only post shouldn't trivialize and evade the issue. It has to be about Hetty Sorrel. (Spoilers will follow immediately, by the way.)

The tools of the joiner, from Joseph Moxon's Mechanick Art (1703 edition)

[Image source: Woodworking Tools 1600 - 1900, by Peter C. Welsh (1966), who tells us that the illustration shows the "workbench (A), fore plane (B. 1), jointer (B. 2), strike-block (B. 3), smoothing plane (B. 4 and B. 7), rabbet plane (B. 5), plow (B. 6), forming chisels (C. 1 and C. 3), paring chisel (C. 2), skew former (C. 4), mortising chisel (sec. C. 5), gouge (C. 6), square (D), bevel (F), gauge (G), brace and bit (H), gimlet (I), auger (K), hatchet (L), pit saw (M), whipsaw (N), frame saw (O), saw set (Q), handsaw (unmarked), and compass saw (E)".]

George Eliot was writing her novel in Munich, Dresden and Richmond; a world away, in a more than geographical sense, from anything Hetty could comprehend. Yet she set out to comprehend Hetty with the same almost reckless ambition to write the impossible that gives us e.g. Poyser's labourers at the Harvest Supper (Ch 53). 

We know how magically George Eliot can bring out a character who can talk: Adam's querulous mother Lisbeth is the best example in this novel. Lisbeth is self-pitying and bullying and obsessive but no-one could mistake her for being narrow; George Eliot shows us how in spite of her shortcomings, in fact because of them and inseparably from them, she has a terrifyingly keen perception. 

But Lisbeth uses her voice as a weapon. With Hetty the challenge was quite different, to portray one of the many people on this earth who has very little to say, whose life and interests have no use for talk. (Hetty and Arthur in the wood are pure chemistry.) George Eliot chose to make a central character of a type that, I think, she could not understand and so could only describe by negatives; vain, self-absorbed, motivated by shallow triumphs over her peers, hard-hearted, narrow, uneducated and ignorant. No amount of defensive persiflage can hide those judgments. 

Poor wandering Hetty, with the rounded childish face and the hard, unloving, despairing soul looking out of it—with the narrow heart and narrow thoughts, no room in them for any sorrows but her own, and tasting that sorrow with the more intense bitterness! My heart bleeds for her as I see her toiling along on her weary feet, or seated in a cart, with her eyes fixed vacantly on the road before her, never thinking or caring whither it tends, till hunger comes and makes her desire that a village may be near.

What will be the end, the end of her objectless wandering, apart from all love, caring for human beings only through her pride, clinging to life only as the hunted wounded brute clings to it?

God preserve you and me from being the beginners of such misery!

(Ch 37)

I'm annoyed by this, for example. The narrator claims that his heart bleeds for Hetty, yet his unsparing judgments don't really back that up: it suggests that he falls for Hetty, as people do, merely because she gives off so kittenish or duckling-like an air (see Ch 7). And it's quickly apparent that the narrator's present concern is with educated people, with the potential Arthur Donnithornes who might thoughtlessly bring misery on girls like Hetty; he simply cannot maintain interest in Hetty for her own sake, she must be used to underline a moral. (I think this narrator is plainly intended to be male, like the author's pseudonym.)

And I'm not sure if the author herself sees that these judgments of Hetty in fact rebound on the Poysers who Hetty is so ungrateful to. If Hetty has grown up so self-absorbed and alienated, explanations aren't far to seek (especially in Ch 31). The underlying lack of sympathy between the good Poysers and their orphaned dependent is, after all, mutual: but old Martin is the only person who is barefaced enough to say it like it is; that is, until Hetty's arrest; then they throw her off entirely. 

Thus the Poysers confer (in the midst of calmly dismissing Hetty's request to "go as a lady's maid"):

“Thee’dst be sorry to part wi’ her, if it wasn’t for her good,” said Mr. Poyser. “She’s useful to thee i’ the work.”

“Sorry? Yes, I’m fonder on her nor she deserves—a little hard-hearted hussy, wanting to leave us i’ that way. I can’t ha’ had her about me these seven year, I reckon, and done for her, and taught her everything wi’out caring about her. An’ here I’m having linen spun, an’ thinking all the while it’ll make sheeting and table-clothing for her when she’s married, an’ she’ll live i’ the parish wi’ us, and never go out of our sights—like a fool as I am for thinking aught about her, as is no better nor a cherry wi’ a hard stone inside it.”

(Ch 31)

Surely the categorical judgment outweighs the alleged foolish fondness, for which Mrs Poyser can offer no explanation. I infer that it's important for her to believe in her own fondness for her husband's niece and to talk it up. Perhaps because she really feels that Hetty's neatness in the diary and exceptional beauty enhances her household's prestige. Perhaps because fondness is what she obscurely senses she ought to feel though she doesn't. Perhaps because a general belief in her fondness for Hetty is important to the Poysers' credit in the community. Or perhaps Mrs Poyser too isn't immune to the charms of kittens and ducklings. 


Doesn't the book's judgment, in seeming defiance of its author, fall just as heavily on her hero Adam, besotted with a pretty trophy of whose life and interests he knows nothing? (Adam is apt to assume Hetty might share his own interest in geology, ants, etc.)

Far more so, in my opinion, than on Arthur Donnithorne, who acts by his own selfish nature, but therefore naturally, and who alone gives Hetty what she has lived for. Yes, he would have abandoned her in due course. We know that Hetty feels she could have borne being cast aside, if he was still kind to her, as he would have been (Ch 35). And would he ever have allowed his child to die and his forsaken lover to be wandering the roads alone? Certainly not; it was only Adam's violent and misguided and - yes - selfish - intervention that precipitated all that. 

The warning to the do-gooders was there, earlier, in Hetty's response to Dinah (for even Dinah doesn't escape stricture):

... and for the first time she became irritated under Dinah's caress. She pushed her away impatiently and said with a childish sobbing voice, --

'Don't talk to me so, Dinah. Why do you come to frighten me? I've never done anything to you. Why can't you let me be?'

(Ch 15)

It's a good point, and a good question. Hetty has assuredly not done anything to Dinah. So it's reasonable to suppose that Dinah's unquietness is about what Hetty may do to her in the future. Which is, to bring shame on her family...  Would that be such an unfair inference? 


Sir Walter Scott and George Eliot.... they are enormously different authors, not least in their contemporary reputations... yet it's interesting to trace some parallels.

They both began as translators from the German. (Bear with me, I know this isn't serious ... at least not yet.)

They were both late starters, as novelists. Scott was nearly 42 when Waverley was published; when Adam Bede appeared in February 1859, George Eliot was 39. As novelists they were beginners, but as writers they had secure reputations, though of extremely different kinds. Neither put their real name on the title pages. 

Accordingly, the youthful leads of their debut novels were a lot younger than the authors were. 

And perhaps because of that remarkable psychological inhibition that makes writers very nervous about trying to portray a later era than their own, both authors chose to set the action of their novels well back in time. We don't readily think of Adam Bede as a historical novel, but it too might have borne the subtitle, 'Tis Sixty Years Since: it begins in 1799. 

The deeper and more troubling relationship, however, is with The Heart of Midlothian (1818). Hetty's hopeless journey to Windsor is like a dreadful parody of Jeanie Deans' journey to the south; though it was not at Windsor that Jeanie met Queen Caroline, but at another royal residence, Richmond Lodge. (Coincidentally or not, George Eliot was actually living in Richmond when she wrote this part of her novel.) 

Both novels arose from actual infanticide cases. Scott based The Heart of Midlothian on the story of Helen Walker of Irongray, Dumfries, who in around 1730 obtained a pardon for her sister Tibby, under sentence of death for infanticide. John McDiarmid wrote this account of the case in 1830: .

Adam Bede drew on the case of Mary Voce, "Executed on Nottingham Gallows, on Tuesday, March 16, 1802, for the MURDER OF HER OWN CHILD". I quote from Henry Taft's contemporary broadsheet , celebrating Mary's penitence and turning to God. George Eliot's Methodist Aunt Samuel had been one of the devout visitors to the condemned cell. (The two novels are also connected by the devout religious temperaments of Jeanie / Dinah. And -- but maybe I'm becoming frivolous again -- by taking an unconscionable time to end.)

Effie Deans had a sister to walk south on her behalf. Hetty had no-one. She may have an aunt and uncle, but no brother or sister. Nor is there any hint that she ever had a friend. No-one, least of all Dinah or Adam, has ever interested themselves in Hetty's interests, in her elegance and deftness and dreams, foolish or otherwise. The lack of sympathy that Hetty evinces is a perfect mirror of the lack of sympathy shown to her by her "family".  


The story turns on sex and pregnancy, topics on which, in the usual Victorian manner, nothing can be said outright except by coded hints and significant silences. That's irritating, too. (This same kind of information management contrives to prevent us finding out if Hetty's baby was a boy or a girl.)

How do the Poysers and Adam fail to notice that Hetty is pregnant? It seems incredible, but I must admit that George Eliot does her best to account for this. Hetty herself isn't sure she's pregnant until November, shortly after Adam's proposal. Then Mrs Poyser is confined to her room from Christmas until early in February, so she doesn't see much of Hetty, who is working unusually hard downstairs (maybe hoping to induce a miscarriage). It's when Mrs Poyser becomes active again that Hetty's agitation becomes unendurable: she must kill herself or run away. (The Hall Farm is an exemplary shame culture; Hetty has thoroughly taken that on board, if nothing else.)

And Hetty is not yet in such a very advanced stage of pregnancy. The most likely date when she becomes pregnant is the first of August, when Arthur arranges to meet her at the end of the coming-of-age party (Ch 26). At the beginning of February, she's perhaps just six months pregnant. 

It follows that her baby, born around the first of March, is seriously premature, a birth brought on by the terrible stresses of Hetty's wanderings. Even in those days, a seven-month baby might survive; this was reputedly the case for both Kepler and Isaac Newton. But it wasn't very likely, especially in Hetty's circumstances. 


I've questioned how far George Eliot herself would have subscribed to the things I've been arguing here. One reason to think that she might have done, is the extraordinary way in which the novel treats Hetty's story from the moment when she's on the condemned cart and Arthur Donnithorne rides in, a Jeanie Deans of sorts, waving the pardon that is no pardon. Hetty's transportation keeps her alive in our minds, but softened heart or no -- and the author is too honest to pretend that Hetty really experiences any religious emotion, even if Dinah has persuaded her into confession -- no-one at Hayslope forgives her for what she's done or expresses the slightest wish of seeing or hearing of her again. It's we the readers who would like to know more of Hetty's story, but the novel baulks us cruelly: "... And the death of the poor wanderer, when she was coming back to us, has been sorrow upon sorrow" (Dinah, in the Epilogue). Whatever Hetty found in Australia, it wasn't apparently a new life. It must have been desolate enough, to want to come back to Hayslope.  In the mean time, no-one mentions her name. I'd like to think that the author (recalling The Heart of Midlothian, perhaps) perfectly intended that uncomfortable shadow to lie across her quiet ending.

View from the bench behind the church at Ellastone

(Image source: . Photograph by Dave Welford, illustrating his lively account of a ramble from Ellastone to the Weaver Hills.)

Hayslope is generally accepted as being based on Ellastone, Staffordshire (close to the Derbyshire border). George Eliot's father, Robert Evans, spent the early part of his life there, working as a carpenter. Her uncle lived there, and Mary Ann Evans did visit the area several times, in particular in 1839-40 (See  She must surely have passed through Ellastone with her father on their journey from Ashbourne to Alton Gardens (letter to Miss Lewis, 23 June 1840).

But though Hayslope is based on Ellastone it is not Ellastone. Ellastone's proximity to the River Dove is its major topographical fact, but George Eliot didn't want a river playing in the background of Dinah's preaching. Hayslope is a dry-sounding name. In the landscape of Adam Bede there is only the brook (Chapter 4) in which Thias Bede drowns, and the pool in the Scantlands (Chapter 35) where Hetty thinks of drowning herself. It is not just at Hayslope; the novel is everywhere shy of rivers. Hetty's journey takes her to Stratford-upon-Avon  (a painful mistake) and eventually to Windsor, beside the Thames, but the imaginative vision of Adam Bede blanks out those rivers, too. There's something thirsty about Adam Bede; a spiritual thirst. It's strikingly in contrast to George Eliot's next novel, The Mill on the Floss (1860). 


Adam Bede: complete online text:

I stayed away from the wider conversation while I tried to gather my thoughts and write this post. Now I'm dipping in and, of course, discovering that I'm not being very original.

I was pleased to find that much of what I've said was more comprehensively laid out in Jennifer Gribble's "The Hidden Shame: Telling Hetty Sorrel's Story" (Sydney Studies, 1996): .

And this is a brilliant exploration of the contradictions in Adam Bede, George Eliot and Victorian society: Rosemary Gould's "The History of an Unnatural Act: Infanticide and 'Adam Bede'" (Victorian Literature and Culture Vol. 25, No. 2 (1997), pp. 263-277): .

I also enjoyed reading R.E. Sopher's "Gender and Sympathy in Adam Bede: The Case of Seth Bede" (George Eliot - George Henry Lewes Studies No. 62/63 (September 2012), pp. 1-15): ; focussing on another character who troubles our idea of the values Adam Bede may seem to uphold. 

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Wednesday, February 08, 2023

Marie de France


Frozen cobweb. Frome, 22 January 2023.

[Young Guigemar, wounded and in a swoon, has been rescued by a beautiful lady who herself lives in house imprisonment, married to a jealous old lord. Soon love overwhelms them...]

Guigemar was very much in love and either had to receive relief or be forced to live a life of misery. Love emboldened him to reveal his feelings to her. "My lady," he said, "I am dying because of you; my heart is giving me great pain. If you are not willing to cure me, then it must all end in my death. I am asking for your love. Fair one, do not refuse me." When she heard his words, she replied fittingly, and said lightly, "Friend, such a decision would be over-hasty: I am not accustomed to such requests." "My lady," he replied, "in God's name, have mercy on me! Do not be distressed if I say this: a woman who is always fickle likes to extend courtship in order to enhance her own esteem and so that the man will not realize that she has experienced the pleasure of love. But the well-intentioned lady, who is worthy and wise, should not be too harsh towards a man, if she finds him to her liking; she should rather love him and enjoy his love. Before anyone discovers or hears of their love, they will greatly profit from it. Fair lady, let us put an end to this discussion." The lady recognized the truth of his words and granted him her love without delay. He kissed her and henceforth was at peace. They lay together and talked, kissing and embracing. May the final act, which others are accustomed to enjoy, give them pleasure. 

Guigemar was with her for a year and a half, I believe, and their life gave them great delight. But fortune, never unmindful of her duties, can soon turn her wheel. One man takes a fall, another rises; so it was in their case, for they were soon discovered. 

(from Marie de France's Guigemar, 1986 Penguin translation by Glyn S. Burgess and Keith Busby.)

Guigemar is the first of Marie de France's Lais in the only manuscript that contains all twelve of them: the 13th-century MS Harley 978 in the British Museum. Most translators have kept to the Harley sequence. And like many another reader, I found it so satisfying and logical that I felt it must go right back to the original author, writing perhaps eighty years earlier. There's no proof of that, but it's very possible. Marie, in my conception, was one of the first people to shape a really classic collection of short stories. 

I should admit to my conception being flagrantly anachronistic; but attempting to fit Marie into what we think we know about medieval authors is distinctly tricky. In the Lais she shows very little interest in religion and her tales far outrun any simple rule-based morality. Love is usually extra-marital, as it is here. Marie says she is re-telling Breton tales, but they are not really very like folk tales. Some have supernatural trappings, but the centre of interest lies in psychology and how people behave to each other.  

This still period of the lovers' ecstacy is like a hinge at the centre of Guigemar. Before it, the hero's exemplary family, a magic deer, a magic ship, and then this secreted love. After it, betrayal, separation, time-lapses, and an increasingly sober attempt to put things right in an imperfect world. The story never quite finds its way back to its magic, and its love remains something stolen. Marie's handling of pace, ekphrasis, elaborate and misleading openings, selective and seemingly random detail (we know the name of Guigemar's irrelevant sister, but not the name of the heroine): it all foreshadows the art of Chaucer, two centuries later.

You can read the whole of the Burgess and Busby translation of Guigemar here (PDF):

Original text of the same passage, in Anglo-Norman:

Guigemar aime durement :
u il avra hastif sucurs,
u li estuet vivre a reburs.
Amurs li dune hardement :
il li descuevre sun talent.
’Dame’, fet il, ’jeo muere pur vus ;
mis quers en est mult anguissus.
Se vus ne me volez guarir,
dunc m’estuet il en fin murir.
Jo vus requier de druërie :
bele, ne m’escundites mie ! ’
Quant ele l’a bien entendu,
avenantment a respundu.
Tut en riant li dit : ’Amis,
cist cunseilz sereit trop hastis,
d’otreier vus ceste preiere ;
jeo ne sui mie custumiere.’
’Dame’, fet il,’pur deu merci,
ne vus ennuit, se jol vus di !
Femme jolive de mestier
se deit lunc tens faire preier,
pur sei cherir, que cil ne quit
que ele ait usé cel deduit.
Mes la dame de bon purpens,
ki en sei ait valur ne sens,
s’ele trueve hume a sa maniere,
ne se fera vers lui trop fiere,
ainz l’amera, si’n avra joie.
Ainz que nuls le sace ne l’oie,
avrunt il mult de lur pru fait.
Bele dame, finum cest plait ! ’
La dame entent que veir li dit,
e li otreie senz respit
l’amur de li, e il la baise.
Des ore est Guigemar a aise.
Ensemble juënt e parolent
e sovent baisent e acolent ;
bien lur covienge del surplus,
de ceo que li altre unt en us !

Ceo m’est a vis, an e demi
fu Guigemar ensemble od li.
Mult fu delituse la vie.
Mes fortune, ki ne s’oblie,
sa roe turnë en poi d’ure,
l’un met desuz, l’altre desure.
Issi est il d’els avenu ;
kar tost furent aparceü.

(Source: .)

Full original text of the Lais:

The above link also contains Roquefort's 1820 translation into modern French, but this is very different; for instance Roquefort's rendering of the first paragraph ends simply thus: "La dame persuadée de la vérité de ce discours, accorda au chevalier le don d’amoureuse merci, et depuis ce jour ils furent heureux." I'm not sure if this is down to bowdlerization or to using a different source text. 

bien lur covienge del surplus,
de ceo que li altre unt en us !

But it may be, too, that Burgess and Busby were over-explicit ("May the final act, which others are accustomed to enjoy, give them pleasure.") Edith Rickert has only: "Surely it is fitting that they should have a just share of what other folk are wont to have!" I wish I knew enough Old French to be sure, but Suzanne Klerks says that OF "surplus" can mean both "excess" and "spilling of seminal fluid", so maybe these lines can be interpreted in different ways. (The Anglo-Norman Dictionary, however, provides no support for the latter meaning: .)


MS Harley 978 is a 13th-century miscellany in Latin, French and English. Besides the Lais it also contains music (including the sole text of "Sumer is icumen in"), a calendar, medical texts, poems including The Song of Lewes, Marie's Fables, and much more. Here it is in full:'manual'%20including,compiled%20between%201261%20and%201265.


The shortest of the Lais, the eleventh in the Harley sequence, is called Chevrefoil. Marie (who always claims that what she's passing on to us is a poem with a prior existence) says: "the English call it Gotelef and the French Chevrefoil". Unlike Laüstic, the eighth of the Lais, no Breton title is offered. It should be something like Gwezvoud, because that means honeysuckle in Breton, which is what she's talking about. The title alludes to something Tristram says in a letter to the queen: 

The two of them resembled the honeysuckle which clings to the hazel branch: when it has wound itself round and attached itself to the hazel, the two can survive together: but if anyone should then attempt to separate them, the hazel quickly dies, as does the honeysuckle. 'Sweet love, so it is with us: without me you cannot survive, nor I without you.'

(from Chevrefoil, in Burgess and Busby's translation)

The poem describes a joyous meeting between the parted lovers, a rare moment of perfect happiness. Yet Tristram's resonant image of their inseparableness has a shadow: our foreknowledge that this winding honeysuckle and this hazel stem will indeed be ripped apart, and will not survive it. 

"Goat-leaf" is a literal Englishing of "chevrefoil", the French name for honeysuckle ("chèvrefeuille" in modern French). The name comes from post-classical Latin caprifolium (7th c. onward) and is also in other languages e.g. Italian "caprifoglia" and Swedish "vildkaprifol" (indeed it had a brief tenancy in English: Spenser writes of the "caprifole"). But English people of the twelfth century didn't actually call it "goat-leaf". They would either have said "woodbine" or "honeysuckle". "Woodbine" (or "woodbind") seems to be the oldest term; it was used for this plant and also for ivy, bindweed, and probably other climbers too. And the word "honeysuckle" certainly existed in the fourteenth century and perhaps long before. 

But why did the plant get called caprifolium? There's usually no definitive answer to that sort of question. The most common explanation is that goats like to eat the leaves. This is apparently true, though honeysuckle may not be very good for them (especially if they eat the poisonous berries). But, after all, goats eat most greenery that it's possible to eat. 

Another explanation I've seen is that the name really refers to the roe-deer ("chevreuil") and a legend that they get intoxicated eating the leaves of honeysuckle. Deer being nearly as omnivorous as goats when it comes to tender leaves, they certainly do eat honeysuckle sometimes, and hunters regard honeysuckle thickets as a likely spot to find deer. Gardeners, on the other hand, consider honeysuckle to be safer from deer depredation than most other shrubs. 

A third explanation, that caprifolium got its name because it climbs "like a goat", is I suspect just nineteenth-century ingenuity. But who can really say? 

Frosty morning. Frome, 18 January 2023.

Marie de France may also have been the first author to produce a collection of "Aesop's" fables in a modern European language. She says that her fables were translations from the English of King Alfred. But there's no other evidence of English fables existing at that time. Marie's fables, on the other hand, are well preserved (they survive in a much larger number of manuscripts than the Lais). 

There are 103 fables in her collection. The first forty are from the Latin tradition of Aesop's fables, but the rest have various origins, sometimes unknown. They are often not as charming as you might expect.

51: The Monkey and Her Baby

Once there was a monkey-lady
Who showed all animals her baby.
They thought this mother quite absurd
Both in her manner and her word,
But then she did to lion go.
She asked him first if it weren't so --
That it was beautiful. Said he,
An uglier beast he'd yet to see.
He ordered her to take it home
And keep in mind this axiom:
'Every fox his tail does prize,
And marvels greatly that it's his.'
Sad and depressed, she went from there.
Along the way she met a bear.
Stock still the bear stood and assessed her.
Then cunningly the bear addressed her,
'Do I see here that infant small --
The talk of every animal --
The beautiful and noble one?'
'Indeed,' she said, 'this is my son.'
'Oh let me hold and kiss the dear.
I'd like to see it closer here.'
She gave it to the bear, and he
Took it and ate it hastily.
   And for this reason you should not
Disclose your secret or your thought.
Some things can bring delight to one,
Which to some others prove no fun.
Disclosure brings iniquity;
This world has no integrity.

(Translation by Harriet Spiegel, 1987.) 

There's a few more here (PDF):

Frosty lawn outside my home (one of fifteen or so flats, I should specify). Frome, 18 January 2023.

Reading Marie de France took me off in other directions. I drifted, fascinated, into reading about the whole fable tradition, and about that semi-legendary author Aesop. I even ended up reading John Vanbrugh's 1697 comedy Aesop, in which the ugly fabulist is transported into a world of coffee-houses, rakes, projectors, periwigs and the pox. Aesop is little regarded compared to The Relapse (1696) and The Provoked Wife (1697). Perhaps Colley Cibber, who had been by all accounts sensational as Lord Foppington in The Relapse, was not so well suited to playing a wise teller of home truths. And the dramatic momentum is a bit halting, with the middle Acts largely given over to Aesop receiving various dubious clients while the main story stands still. All the same, if you enjoy Vanbrugh's writing I think you'll be amply entertained. 

The play was freely based on Esope à la ville (1690) by Edmé Boursault (1638-1701), but Vanbrugh tells us the fifth act was all his own work: here's a sample.

[Euphronia, in love with Oronces, is being pressured by her father into marrying Aesop. Here Doris, her maid, is telling her to cajole Aesop into getting the wedding delayed.]


.... Why, you must tell him—'Tis natural to you to dislike Folks at first sight: That since you have consider'd him better, you find your Aversion abated: That though perhaps it may be a hard matter for you ever to think him a Beau, you don't despair in time of finding out his Iene scai quoy. And that on t'other side; tho' you have hitherto thought (as most young Women do) that nothing cou'd remove your first Affection, yet you have very great hopes in the natural Inconstancy of your Sex.

Tell him, 'tis not impossible a change may happen, provided he gives you time: But that if he goes to force you, there's another piece of Nature peculiar to Woman, which may chance to spoil all, and that's Contradiction: Ring that Argument well in his Ears: He's a Philosopher, he knows it has weight in't.

In short, Wheedle, whine, flatter, lye, weep, spare nothing, it's a moist Age, Women have Tears enough; and when you have melted him down, and gain'd more time, we'll employ it in Closet-Debates how to cheat him to the end of the Chapter.


But you don't consider, Doris, that by this means I engage my self to him; and can't afterwards with Honour retreat.


Madam, I know the World—Honour's a Jest, when Jilting's useful.

Besides, he that wou'd have you break your Oath with Oronces, can never have the Impudence to blame you for cracking your Word with himself. But who knows what may happen between the Cup and the Lip. Let either of the Old Gentlemen dye, and we ride triumphant. Wou'd I cou'd but see the Statesman sick a little, I'd recommend a Doctor to him, a Cousin of mine, a Man of Conscience, a wise Physician; tip but the Wink, he understands you.


Thou wicked Wench, woud'st poison him?


I don't know what I wou'd do, I think, I study, I invent, and some how I will get rid of him. I do more for you, I'm sure, than you and your Knight Errant do together for your selves.


Alas, both he and I do all we can; thou know'st we do.


Nay, I know y'are willing enough to get together; but y'are a couple of helpless Things, Heaven knows.


Our Stars, thou see'st, are bent to Opposition.


Stars!—I'd fain see the Stars hinder me from running away with a Man I lik'd.


Ay, But thou know'st, shou'd I disoblige my Father, he'd give my Portion to my younger Sister.


Ay, there the Shooe pinches, there's the Love of the Age; Ah!—to what an Ebb of Passion are Lovers sunk in these days. Give me a Woman that runs away with a Man, when his whole Estate's pack'd up in his Snap-sack. That tucks up her Coats to her Knees; and through thick and through thin, from Quarters to Camp trudges heartily on, with a Child at her Back, another in her Arms, and a brace in her Belly: There's Flame with a Witness, where this is the Effects on't. But we must have Love in a Feather-bed, Forsooth, a Coach and Six Horses, Clean Linen, and a Cawdle; Fie, for shame. ...

(from Aesop, Act V)

Complete text of John Vanbrugh's Aesop

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