Monday, August 05, 2019

The bells of St M's

Tues 22nd

Didn't feel as well as
yes: although all avowed(?)
I was better. Throat
hurt much more to sides
...  Egg for break -
horrid swollowing. Dr C
came about 11.15 & Sh after
that. Sh & Lu going Shanklin
tomorrow by the early
train. He left & Lu came
with Punches. I wrote
note to B

                 I not
so perky as yes & M
against my entreaties said
something re food & nurse
then took offence & rejectid
....'never been spoken to'
etc  Edinburgh training
etc etc Awful fuss  on my
"complaints". I upset &
cried wee. Sat up for supper
Dr C came in even tho' said
no as M. had said
she wanted him to have look
at throat - paining & he prob.
needn't looked at it - so I
was really quite furious.
I tried to make as good as I
could of it all & he crankily
departed I howled. Nurse
"Miss Gibbonsed" me & shut
her door tight I woke at 1.30
& 4.30 - dry throat, spluttered
etc, but didn't ring the bell
for the cranky thing. She
came in about 6.30 & gave
me junket & then tea.

Wed 23rd

Dr C came, a bit less
cranky. I said there
had been a perfect
storm in the tea cup
here & we all exelarated (?)
the rumpus ... He
asked me if I had liked
my fish. I gave a
hesitating no & he said
doubtful? & he said re
bones ... nurse
is disapeed about no
of bones. He quite annoy-
ed & talked re: cook  ...
... re:
complaints & I said I
hadn't. He said no,
not you - seemed quite
friendly & O.K. again.
Departed & nurse jabber-
ed some but seemed
quite brisk. Read &
talked. A.R. came
about 11.15. brought
... games. I told her
re bust & we made
jigsaw puzzle - the
2nd - nice. Fish
for dinner ... 1 bone!
...    P knew
story of bust. He departed
& M & I talked re bust
She left about 6.30, nurse
brought in brandy
essence, not very loving

Thur 24th


Decided to stay here
till Mon. Up to lunch -
squashed (?) chicken.
Rested till 3.15 but as
nurse didn't come & I
tried write up bits of
this. Nurse came in ...
... & Ellen came
...  Played
Cabouche & Carpet - felt tired
...  may have exhausted
myself more, been used to
not having bad throat when
playing with her. Showed
her various things &
talked sundries, nurse
in off & on. Ellen left
at 6.30. I got washed. I
said something re slough
not coming off & no food
etc & she murmured re
"not being spoken to ... Miss
Gibbons" etc. Goodness knows
why. Blew over. Up to supper
... fish
... choking fit 11 - 11.30
Had to ring. Thought would
never stop ....
glycerine. Woke wee at 4
& then on nicely

Fri 25th

Slept quite wellish. Had tea 7.15.
Nurse gave me another jigsaw
puzzle to do - Homeward Bound.
Cow's "tum" missing! Fin. it in
even. Dr. C. came 11.15 talked
re: going home ...
Throat getting on
I got up - & sat in chair. S & P
came more talk re ...
... P. left first then came
for S. 12.45...
...  Slept a wee. Matron
came in about 3.45 & gave
me tea.  M. came talked
re: going. Settled yes & packed
some. Then nurse came ...
talked. & then settled no. I
wanted to go by then &
M & I cranked some. M
left about      Round
waist hurt back & front.
Chill? indi? wind? muscle?
a hump in bed? Told
nurse. She gave me an
enima - O. K. Did one
twice.  ....
... Fin Lu's book.
Quite fair. Back to bed.
Nurse O.K. again. Showed
me 2 photos & laughed
& talked. I let out some
re "the miss". Lives here
about ... married etc. Hope
O.K. ....
O.K. Must be careful
though. No letters or
anything. A G & G Rosa
go Bexhill tomorrow.
Nurse gave me ...
... throat - looks vile ....

Sat 26th

Had good night. Woke &
coughed twice, but nothing
much. Slept on till about 8
break & Dr. C. came. M. here
before him. He seemed
satis: M piled on agonies.
He left  & I sat up, dressed
all but blouse. M. and I cracked.
Throat hurt somewhat to
talk. Had basket chair
in from outer room. -
... Had comfy
snoozy rest in noon
3.45. Rose came in. Had tea.
Ellen came before fin. H...
with ... & ... Did
one. We did a puzzle ...
... with patience
book - 86 pieces but
quite a puzzle. Ellen left
about 6 as nurse ....
.... & wanted me
back in bed. She said
flowers at home for me
from Mrs Clarke. I
asked her to bring my
camara to take view
from window. Hope will
be decent day as want
.... today.
Windy very & rain, no
letters again. Bed &
Rose gave me supper.
Read Home Chat & wrote
diary. Throat ....
    ....  - hope no
bone in it. Haven't made
clear what great joy &
comfort it is & has been
to  be so near St. M's. Joy
to hear the quarters strike
& the bells for service.
Rose sat in room some
after & before supper &
crochet. Settled me
about 9. Looked at G.s patience
book. Mr T's is on it.
Read Home Chat.

Sun 27th

Had quite a good
night, woke & coughed
a wee about 3   Didn't
drink tea  Thick groats
& egg etc for break & got
up soon after    Dressed
all but tie. Sat & looked
at paper & began "4 leaf
Clover" Nurse came in
off & on. ...

Bells rang for service
at 8. 11 12 & 6.30 - nice.
Horrid rainy & windy
morn. Letter from B -
all O.K. Rested in
chair in noon. Dr. C.
came & said getting
on satis. ...
... up myself for lunch
& trifle - nice. Tea &
Ellen came before fin:
she brought camara &
she took one of view
of St M's from window -
hope O.K. Light fair:
she & I did the big puzzle
S. sent me yes  ...
hard but interesting. A R
came in for mo ...
... Helen .....
staying there. (T.P)
Ellen said on leaving
that she had sent me
flowers ...  to say
before. Of course I
didn't thank. Ellen to
fetch me at 12.30 to-
morrow before tea. ...
... In
morn I and nurse went
well walking round
passages and in to the
1st room I had,
Ellen left around 6.45.
Nurse & I fin. puzzle. Then
I sat & watched windows
of St M's ...
...  She & I had
some serious converse
re: my purposeless life
at supper time. Bed &
wrote diary. Throat
felt better today on right
side. Jaw very stiff
but not so slippy.

Mon 28th

Slept well - woke about 5.30
& then slept on. Drank tea.
Poached egg for breakfast etc.
Had throat swarfed &
got up. Nurse did my hair
partly loose. Packed up
my things. Nurse & I -
all. wish I had given
her scent or something.
Read 4 leaf clover. Dr C
came & saw throat.
Seemed satis. Told
various tales re ...
in ... shire, where he
once worked - interesting.
left, lunch. Read &
fin packing, Ellen
came about 12 & cab
about 12.20. ....
... didn't say goodbye.
Nurse saw me to
cab  Shook hands &
thanked for all her
loving kindness & got
in - all well wrapped
up. Round up St M's hill
Sorry to say goodbye to
St. M's.  ...


Rescued from cardboard recycling: a notebook containing scrawled diary entries, frequently indecipherable. Miss Gibbons (who after she got home wrote them up neatly in another book) certainly presented me with a "hard but interesting" puzzle!

It was part of a hoard of old treasures that someone had dumped: I randomly retrieved the three items shown above. Some recurring surnames in the other items I looked at (Gibbons, Gall, Corbin) suggested family papers.


The first item that came to hand -- because it literally dropped into it while I was forcing my own cardboard into the over-full skip -- was The Floral Text Book. It proved to be a kind of printed calendar (i.e. like a W.H. Smith Diary) that had been used as a shared resource for recording the birthdays of various Gibbons, Galls, Corbins etc. A couple of the entries had been neatly excised with a pen-knife, leaving a window in the page; and leaving me to speculate on the reasons you'd want to suppress a name.

On each facing page the pre-printed calendar is adorned by the publishers with the names of flowers, their associations, and appropriate verses. Thus:


Lulled in the countless chambers of the brain,
  Our thoughts are linked by many a hidden chain.
Awake but one, and lo ! what myriads rise !
Each stamps his image as the other flies.

       The leaves of memory seemed to make
       A mournful rustling in the dark.


Lay a garland on my hearse
     Of the dismal yew ;
Maidens, willow branches bear ;
     Say, I died true.

My love was false, but I was firm
     From my hour of birth.
Upon my buried body lie
     Lightly, gentle earth.
                                          Beaumont and Fletcher. 

There must be about three hundred verse selections, and Scott, a bit surprisingly, appears only once.  Among the more frequent names are Adelaide Procter, Tennyson, Wordsworth, J.R. Lowell, O.W. Holmes, Lord Southesk, Christina Rossetti... (Even George Eliot, not often thought of as a poet these days, shows up twice.)  But anyway, here's the Scott extract.


    Oh ! Lady, twine no wreath for me
       Or twine it of the cypress tree !
    Too lively glow the lilies light,
    The varnished holly's all too bright ;
The may-flower and the eglantine
May shade a brow less sad than mine ;
But, lady twine no wreath for me,
Or weave it of the cypress tree.
                                                        Sir W. Scott. 

Here are the flowers and their associations for the month of January. As you'll see, some attempt was made to choose appropriate plants for the season. I've compared them with the other books tabulated in Brent Elliott's excellent paper and given the earliest instance of each association (the later books usually repeat them, unless they've come up with something else).

Fennel - Strength.     (Charlotte De La Tour, pseud. Louise Cortambert, 1819)
Colt's-foot - Justice shall be done (La Tour, though most versions append "you" until The Language and Poetry of Flowers (1880s))
Daisy - Innocence     (La Tour)
Turnip - Charity.      (Henry Phillips, 1825)
Mezereon - Desire to please.   (Phillips)
Grass - Submission.        (John Ingram, 1869)
Moss - Maternal love.       (La Tour)
Olive - Peace.              (B. Delachénaye, 1811)
Sage - Domestic virtues.    (Lucy Hooper, 1844)
Gorse - Love for all seasons (Anon, The Language and Poetry of Flowers, 1880s)
Orange - Generosity.        (La Tour)
Scotch Fir - Elevation.      (La Tour)
Hazel - Reconciliation.     (La Tour)
Meadow Grass - Endurance.   (None, but Phillips has Canary Grass: Perseverance)
Ivy - Friendship.    (La Tour)
Heather - Solitude.    (Delachénaye)
Cypress - Mourning.   (La Tour)
Shepherd's Purse - I offer you my all.  (Kate Greenaway, 1884)
Fir - Time.        (Hooper)

These January associations, as you can see, are nearly all attested in Elliott's lists, but that's not the case throughout; there are many "original" associations.

This esoteric topic has a Balzac connection (who else?), as is well described in Brent Elliott's paper. It's a flower-symbolism episode in Le Lys dans la vallée   (The Lily of the Valley, 1835-36) -- which as it happens is my current Balzac "loan" from the shelves of a café in Bath. In the novel the hero spends hours scouring the area for special combinations of blooms to arrange in the vases of his beloved's salon; a communication between the pair that is instantly comprehended. This is his  -- comparatively rudimentary -- first effort:

Imagine a stream of flowers gushing out of two vases, falling down in fringed billows, and from the heart of which leaped my vows in white roses and silver-cupped lilies. Upon this cool surface gleamed the cornflowers, forget-me-nots, adder-wort, all the blue flowers the shades of which, borrowed from the sky, so well match the white ; is it not a twofold innocence, that which knows nothing and that which knows all, the child's thought and the martyr's thought ? Love has its heraldry, and the countess secretly deciphered it. She gave me one of those incisive looks which resemble the cry of a sick person touched upon a sore : she was both confused and delighted. 

(The third of the blue plants is actually "vipérine", viper's bugloss.)

From this beginning the hero graduates to intense study of the spirit of nature in individuals and locations, to an understanding of every type of grass, to scouring burning plains and precarious cliffs for rare specimens, to an intoxicating page-long "symphony of flowers" of fantastic complexity, all founded on the scent of sweet vernal grass (flouve odorante):

Vous comprendrez cette délicieuse correspondance par le détail d’un bouquet, comme d’après un fragment de poésie vous comprendriez Saadi. Avez-vous senti dans les prairies, au mois de mai, ce parfum qui communique à tous les êtres l’ivresse de la fécondation, qui fait qu’en bateau vous trempez vos mains dans l’onde, que vous livrez au vent votre chevelure, et que vos pensées reverdissent comme les touffes forestières ? Une petite herbe, la flouve odorante, est un des plus puissants principes de cette harmonie voilée. Aussi personne ne peut-il la garder impunément près de soi. Mettez dans un bouquet ses lames luisantes et rayées comme une robe à filets blancs et verts, d’inépuisables exhalations remueront au fond de votre cœur les roses en bouton que la pudeur y écrase. Autour du col évasé de la porcelaine, supposez une forte marge uniquement composée des touffes blanches particulières au sédum des vignes en Touraine ; vague image des formes souhaitées, roulées comme celles d’une esclave soumise. De cette assise sortent les spirales des liserons à cloches blanches, les brindilles de la bugrane rose, mêlées de quelques fougères, de quelques jeunes pousses de chêne aux feuilles magnifiquement colorées et lustrées ; toutes s’avancent prosternées, humbles comme des saules pleureurs, timides et suppliantes comme des prières. Au-dessus, voyez les fibrilles déliées, fleuries, sans cesse agitées de l’amourette purpurine qui verse à flots ses anthères presque jaunes ; les pyramides neigeuses du paturin des champs et des eaux, la verte che- velure des bromes stériles, les panaches effilés de ces agrostis nommés les épis du vent ; violâtres espérances dont se couronnent les premiers rêves et qui se détachent sur le fond gris de lin où la lumière rayonne autour de ces herbes en fleurs. Mais déjà plus haut, quelques roses du Bengale clairsemées parmi les folles dentelles du daucus, les plumes de la linaigrette, les marabous de la reine des prés, les ombellules du cerfeuil sauvage, les blonds cheveux de la clématite en fruits, les mignons sautoirs de la croisette au blanc de lait, les corymbes des millefeuilles, les tiges diffuses de la fumeterre aux fleurs roses et noires, les vrilles de la vigne, les brins tortueux des chèvrefeuilles ; enfin tout ce que ces naïves créatures ont de plus échevelé, de plus déchiré, des flammes et de triples dards, des feuilles lancéolées, déchiquetées, des tiges tourmentées comme les désirs entortillés au fond de l’âme. Du sein de ce prolixe torrent d’amour qui déborde, s’élance un magnifique double pavot rouge accompagné de ses glands prêts à s’ouvrir, déployant les flammèches de son incendie au-dessus des jasmins étoilés et dominant la pluie incessante du pollen, beau nuage qui papillote dans l’air en reflétant le jour dans ses mille parcelles luisantes ! Quelle femme enivrée par la senteur d’Aphrodise cachée dans la flouve, ne comprendra ce luxe d’idées soumises, cette blanche tendresse troublée par des mouvements indomptés, et ce rouge désir de l’amour qui demande un bonheur refusé dans les luttes cent fois recommencées de la passion contenue, infatigable, éternelle ? Mettez ce discours dans la lumière d’une croisée, afin d’en montrer les frais détails, les délicates oppositions, les arabesques, afin que la souveraine émue y voie une fleur plus épanouie et d’où tombe une larme ; elle sera bien près de s’abandonner, il faudra qu’un ange ou la voix son enfant la retienne au bord de l’abîme. Que donne-t-on à Dieu ? des parfums, de la lumière et des chants, les expressions les plus épurées de notre nature. Eh ! bien, tout ce qu’on offre à Dieu n’était-il pas offert à l’amour dans ce poème de fleurs lumineuses qui bourdonnait incessamment ses mélodies au cœur, en y caressant des voluptés cachées, des espérances inavouées, des illusions qui s’enflamment et s’éteignent comme des fils de la vierge par une nuit chaude.  

Here's Katharine Prescott Wormeley's rendering, interpolating the names that I'd give to the species named by Balzac:

Natalie, you will understand this delightful intercourse through the details of a bouquet, just as you would comprehend Saadi from a fragment of his verse. Have you ever smelt in the fields in the month of May the perfume that communicates to all created beings the intoxicating sense of a new creation; the sense that makes you trail your hand in the water from a boat, and loosen your hair to the breeze while your mind revives with the springtide greenery of the trees? A little plant, a species of vernal grass, is a powerful element in this veiled harmony; it cannot be worn with impunity; take into your hand its shining blade, striped green and white like a silken robe, and mysterious emotions will stir the rosebuds your modesty keeps hidden in the depths of your heart. Round the neck of a porcelain vase imagine a broad margin of the gray-white tufts peculiar to the sedum of the vineyards of Touraine, vague image of submissive forms; from this foundation come tendrils of the bind-weed with its silver bells, sprays of pink rest-harrow mingled with a few young shoots of oak-leaves, lustrous and magnificently colored; these creep forth prostrate, humble as the weeping-willow, timid and supplicating as prayer. Above, see those delicate threads of the purple amoret [quaking-grass], with its flood of anthers that are nearly yellow; the snowy pyramids of the meadow-sweet [meadow-grass], the green tresses of the wild oats [barren brome], the slender plumes of the agrostis, which we call wind-ear; roseate hopes, decking love’s earliest dream and standing forth against the gray surroundings. But higher still, remark the Bengal roses, sparsely scattered among the laces of the daucus [wild carrot], the plumes of the linaria [cotton-grass], the marabouts of the meadow-queen [meadowsweet]; see the umbels of the myrrh [cow parsley], the spun glass of the clematis in seed, the dainty petals of the cross-wort, white as milk [croissette does mean cross-wort, but I wonder if Balzac meant something like meadow bedstraw], the corymbs of the yarrow, the spreading stems of the fumitory with their black and rosy blossoms, the tendrils of the grape, the twisted shoots of the honeysuckle; in short, all the innocent creatures have that is most tangled, wayward, wild,—flames and triple darts, leaves lanceolated or jagged, stalks convoluted like passionate desires writhing in the soul. From the bosom of this torrent of love rises the scarlet poppy, its tassels about to open, spreading its flaming flakes above the starry jessamine [jasmine], dominating the rain of pollen—that soft mist fluttering in the air and reflecting the light in its myriad particles. What woman intoxicated with the odor of the vernal grasses would fail to understand this wealth of offered thoughts, these ardent desires of a love demanding the happiness refused in a hundred struggles which passion still renews, continuous, unwearying, eternal!Put this speech of the flowers in the light of a window to show its crisp details, its delicate contrasts, its arabesques of color, and allow the sovereign lady to see a tear upon some petal more expanded than the rest. What do we give to God? perfumes, light, and song, the purest expression of our nature. Well, these offerings to God, are they not likewise offered to love in this poem of luminous flowers murmuring their sadness to the heart, cherishing its hidden transports, its unuttered hopes, its illusions which gleam and fall to fragments like the gossamer of a summer’s night?

The green tresses of Barren Brome

[Image source: .]


The last of my three items is a 1956 volume of The Journal of the Barbados Museum and Historical Society.

Here's an extract before I let this, and the rest, pass on to where they were going before I shoved my hand in. Lady Frederick Cavendish left the following account of a visit to the Governor's House, Barbados, January 4th 1872.

Most affably received by the good-natured pursy Governor Rawson, and pleasantly lodged in a clean white temple of the winds looking out upon a very pretty garden. Sir Graham Briggs, with all his blushing honours fresh upon him, came here with us, and was beyond kind in seeing after our luggage and ourselves; we drove with him in the evening along the coast, and very refreshing and enjoyable I found it to have nothing beautiful to look at, only the pleasant curious sight, so utterly unlike Jamaica or Santa Cruz, of excessive cultivation and swarming population. The people are far more ragged than in Jamaica, stark naked children being common; the numbers are such that they are forced to work for the lowest wages or starve, and thousands ought by hook or crook to be emigrated to St. Lucia or even Jamaica, so as to force up wages and bring about a more decent state of things. However, all looks thriving, and one can't pity nakedness in this climate as one would in England. There is a ceaseless cool breeze and the Gov. announced wintry weather viz. therm. down to 81! 

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