Thursday, August 31, 2006

sabbath sermons: Emerson's journal, 8/31/1823

From the Journals of Ralph Waldo Emerson:
In the morning [of August 31, a Sunday] I called at Mr. Ripley's, and was sorely disappointed to learn that his son was at Cambridge. The family were exceedingly hospitable, and I listened with as great pleasure to a sermon from Rev. Mr. Perkins of Amherst in the morning, and in the afternoon rode over to the other parish with Mr. R. to hear Rev. Lincoln Ripley. After service Mr. L. R. returned with us, and in the evening we heard another sermon from Mr. Perkins which pleased me abundantly better than his matins. He is a loud-voiced, scripture-read divine, and his compositions have the element of a potent eloquence, but he lacks taste. By the light of the evening star I walked with my reverend uncle [see note at bottom], a man who well sustained the character of an aged missionary. It is a new thing to him, he said, to correspond with his wife, and he attends the mail regularly every Monday morning to send or receive a letter.

Note: The photo shows George Ripley (source: PAL).

Rev. Lincoln Ripley was Mr. Emerson's step-great-uncle, as being brother of Dr. Ezra Ripley, minister of Concord, who had married the widow of Rev. William Emerson of Concord, the builder of the "Old Manse," and chaplain in the army at Ticonderoga. Rev. Lincoln Ripley was minister of Waterford, Maine. [Editors' note.]

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Joost interviewed

Joost Posthuma's web site tells of an interview with him in Sportweek and gives a link to a pdf file of the article.

Like his site, the sports mag is written in Dutch. It explains that Joost came relatively late to professional cycling and has had to do some quick catching up. As a teenager, he excelled in 800- and 1000-meter track races, but found that he was an eternal second behind Bram Som. Som has gone on to be the European 800-meter champion, while Joost, as we know, has been making his way nicely on the Rabobank team.

The article says Rabobank hasn't been known for nurturing young talent, rather wasting it in support roles. Thus Joost has spent a lot of time protecting the Rabobank team leader of the moment. Still, he has shown a lot of flair when given his own lead, taking off on early breaks and placing well in time trials. He's also twice taken stages in the Paris-Nice race and came in second in this year's young-rider competition in that race. He also possessed the White Jersey for best young rider during the first two days of this year's Tour de France, and took 6th in this year's Eneco Tour.

All this comes out in the interview as well as some comments from his team coach on his development: how he's young: has developed the ability to be a winnner, but hasn't yet got the right mind-set. He himself says he still feels the uncertainties of a new-comer since most of the guys he's up against were winning as junior bike racers when he was still running track. He's comfortable providing support (domestique in racing lingo). Still, he also points out, he was the top Rabobank finisher in the Eneco Tour.

He says his style is to be constantly on the attack, taking chances rather than playing the odds, and adds that -- like his mentor Erik Dekker -- he seems to be suited for the tours as much as the one-day classics. This makes him strategically useful to Rabobank, since they haven't been as strong in the tours as they might (despite winning last year's Tour of Spain).

Dekker himself says that Joost has lots of potential. The two are frequently compared these days, with Dekker saying Posthuma has yet to prove himself and Posthuma saying it's flattering, though premature, to be called the new Erik Dekker. He feels his confidence growing and says he's being given more and more freedom to drive forward. He hopes to progess by winning small, short races and see whether in time he's able to come out on top of the major ones.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

meditating in the dark: Emerson's journal, 8/29/1823

From the Journals of Ralph Waldo Emerson:

Here's more from Emerson's travel diary about his walk to western Massachusetts. This one describes his stay in the Amherst area, written a week or so later.
Friday morning [August 29] we went in a chaise in pursuit of a lead mine said to lie about five miles off, which we found after great and indefatigable search. We tied our horse and descended, by direction, into a somewhat steep glen, at the bottom of which we found the covered entrance of a little canal about five feet wide. Into this artificial cavern we fired a gun to call out the miner from within. The report was long and loudly echoed and after a weary interval we discerned a boat with lamps lighted on its side issuing from this dreary abode. We welcomed the miner to the light of the sun, and leaving our hats without, and binding our heads, we lay down in the boat and were immediately introduced to a cave varying in height from four to six and eight feet, hollowed in a pretty soft sandstone through which the water continually drops. When we lost the light of the entrance and saw only this gloomy passage by the light of lamps, it required no effort of the imagination to believe we were leaving the world, and our smutty ferryman was a true Charon.

After sailing a few hundred feet, the vault grew higher and wider overhead, and there was a considerable trickling of water on our left; this was the ventilator of the mine and reaches up to the surface of the earth. We continued to advance in this manner for 900 feet, and then got out of the boat and walked on planks a little way to the end of this excavation. Here we expected to find the lead vein, and the operations of the subterranean man, but were sadly disappointed. He had been digging through this stone for 12 years, and has not yet discovered any lead at all. Indications of lead at the surface led some Boston gentlemen to set this man at work, in the expectation that after cutting his dark canal for 1000 feet, he would reach the vein, and the canal would then draw off the water which prevented them from digging from above. As yet he has found no lead, but, as he gamely observed, 'has reached some excellent granite.' In this part of the work he has forty dollars for every foot he advances and it occupies him ten days to earn this.

He has advanced 975 feet, and spends his days, winter and summer,alone in this damp and silent tomb. He says the place is excellent for meditation; and that he sees no goblins. Many visitors come to his dark residence, and pay him a shilling apiece for the sight. A young man, he said, came the day before us, who after going in a little way was taken with terror and said he felt faint, and returned. Said miner is a brawny person, and discreet withal; has a wife and lives near the hole. All his excavations are performed by successive blasting.

In the afternoon I set out on my way to Greenfield, intending to pass the Sabbath with George Ripley. Mr. Strong insisted on carrying me to Hatfield, and thence I passed, chiefly on foot, through Whately and Deerfield over sands and pine barrens, and across Green River to Greenfield, and did not arrive there till after ten o'clock and found both taverns shut up. I should have staid in Deerfield if Mr. S. had not ridiculed the idea of getting to Greenfield that night.

Monday, August 28, 2006

climbing Mount Holyoke: Emerson's journal, 8/28/1823

From the Journals of Ralph Waldo Emerson:

Here's more from Emerson's travel diary about his walk to western Massachusetts. He's writing a week or so later about the end of his stay in the Amherst area.
After spending three days very pleasantly at Mrs. Shepard's, among orators. botonists, minerologists, and above all, ministers, I set off on Friday morning [August 28] with Thomas Greenough and another little cousin in a chaise to visit Mount Holyoke. How high the hill may be I know not; for different accounts make it eight, twelve, and sixteen hundred feet from the river. The prospect repays the ascent, and although the day was hot and hazy, so as to preclude a distant prospect, yet all the broad meadows in the immediate vicinity of the mountain through which the Connecticutt winds make a beautiful picture, seldom rivalled. After adding our names in the books to the long list of strangers whom curiosity has attracted to this hill, we descended in safety without encountering rattlesnake or viper that have given so much bad fame to the place. We were informed that about forty people ascended the mountain every fair day during the summer. After passing throught Hadley meadows, I took I took leave of my companions at Northampton bridge and crossed for the first time the far-famed Yankee river.

{caption and credit: This is a hazy-day August view from atop Mount Holyoke showing the Connecticut River. The photographer says "on a clear day you can see Amherst, Northampton, even Greylock, Monadnock, and Mount Snow." credit: Jimmy Squid}

Joost takes 6th place in Eneco Tour

Joost Posthuma took sixth place in the tour of Belgium and the Netherlands (Eneco Tour). The highest-placed Dutchman in the event, he beat out a bunch of big-name riders, including Tom Boonen, Didier Rous, Karsten Kroon, and, on his own Rabobank team, the primo rider, Juan Antonio Flecha.

The conclusion of the final stage, late last week, was exciting. Stefan Schumacher, the eventual winner, overcame George Hincapie in the final few meters by a 2-second margin. He took him down, literally, after an inavertent slap from a spectator forced him to swerve into George's path.

The photo at right shows Schumacher (in yellow) surviving the incident and Hincapie (in red) on the road. Joost, who is probably the guy in orange and blue at left, came in 14th in the sprint. {photo credit: Eneco Tour site}

Go to CyclingNews for all the news you could want about the race.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

does sport give meaning to life? - the Kop at 100

Yesterday marked the 100th anniversary of The Kop, a stand in the stadium of the Liverpool football club. It no longer exists, replaced roughly 20 years ago by conventional seating; it was a set of concrete terraces built on a constructed hillside made of brick and rubble. I blogged about it last February in a post on Liverpool FC fans, Susan Sontag, and the Boer War. The fans, called Kopites, were credited with helping the team achieve dominance in home matches, not through visciousness towards opponents but rather by showing unquestioning support and passionate affection. As local accounts put it, this passionate affection for the Reds is shown in the adoption of You'll Never Walk Alone as anthem.

A club fan-site has a short review of the Kop's history. I've put extracts below. There's more history at the club's tv site and has an informative article on Bill Shankly, who is credited with helping the Kop achieve much of its character.

Shankly came from a small Scottish mining village where life was hard and football was an essential diversion from the dangers of the pits. The article says "Working six days a week in the harsh dangerous world of the coal face, left only Saturday evening for socialising over a beer at the Miner's Welfare Club - and Sunday for playing soccer." Shankly turned into an excellent player (one of a surprisingly large number who were able to use the sport as a means of escape.) As the article quoted below says, his work-life gave him a life-long commitment to socialism and helped him retain a strong bond with the working-class fans who inhabited the Kop.


Here's the extract from the Liverpool FC tv web site:
Spion Kop's mixture of myth and magic, Aug 25 2006


Saturday's first home game of the season marks the 100th anniversary of Liverpool FC's Spion Kop. In the first of two special reports, Mike Chapple looks at the creation of a sporting legend

THE Afrikaans name for the battle is Spioenkop, spioen for spy or look out and kop meaning hill or outcropping. Logical then that, at the end of the 1905/6 season, the new brick and cinder banking at Anfield should be christened the Spion Kop by Liverpool Echo sports editor Ernest Edwards.

It was named in honour of the many Merseysiders who died vainly trying to take the hill against overwhelming odds during the Boer War.

If Mr Edwards were still alive to celebrate tomorrow's 100th anniversary celebrations for the Kop, he would no doubt be pleased to note that, without the benefit of foresight, his moniker had come to mean something more profound than its literal translation.

This is epitomised by the Kop's anthem You'll Never Walk Alone. Sung at the climax of Roger and Hammerstein's classic movie musical Carousel, it's a song about united strength and fighting on together against all the odds.

It became Liverpool's rallying call after the song became Gerry and the Pacemakers' recordbreaking third consecutive number one hit in October, 1963.

[Under one of the] most iconic managers of them all, Bill Shankly, the terrace at last began to build its own unique and formidable identity.

Shankly's influence in all this was crucial. A true Socialist, he was the ultimate believer in the concept a football club had a responsibility to perform a service not to the shareholders but to the ordinary man in the street who worshipped at its gates.

Kopites know that through the wind and the rain their support is always expected - and respected. They respond in kind.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

a new college: Emerson's diary for August 26, 1823

From the Journals of Ralph Waldo Emerson:

Continuing the narrative of his walk from Boston the Amherst, Emerson's travel diary for the evening of August 25, 1823, contains some strained witticisms revealing pretty clearly that (a) he intended to share the diary with his family and (b) that he felt a strong need to impress his brothers; by implication that (as he says elsewhere) he felt less accomplished, capable, or intelligent than they were.

Thus, having arrived in the town of Amherst, he writes: "I sit here ninety miles from home, and three from the Institution [Amherst College], and have the pleasure and eke the honour, to waft, on the winged steeds of a wish, my best regards to the lords and ladye who sit at home [i.e. his mother and brothers]; to the majesty of Tartary, chiefest of men, calling the young satraps to order from the elbow chair and secretly meditating golden schemes in an iron age; then to the young lion of the tribe (to change the metaphor) now resting and musing on his honourable oars; ..." [see note at bottom]

His diary entry for a Thursday early in September, catches us up:

Thursday, August [actually September; if a Thursday early in the month, probably the 4th]

Tuesday morning [August 26] I engaged Mr. Bartlett to bring me to Mrs. Shepard's and I think the worthy man returned with some complacent recollections of the instructions and remarks he had dropped on the way for the stranger's edification. Our wagon ride was somewhat uneasy from below, but its ups and downs were amply compensated by the richness and grandeur visible above and around. Hampshire County rides in wagons. In this pleasant land I found a house full of friends, -- a noble house, very good friends. In the afternoon I went to the College. Never was so much striving, outstretching, and advancing in a literary cause as is exhibited here. ... [Emerson writes about how the local people supported the college] About three years ago, ... when the cornerstone of the South College was laid, the institution did not own a dollar. A cartload of stones was brought by a farmer in Pelham, to begin the foundation; and now they have two large brick edifaces, a President's house, and considerable funds. ... A poor one-legged man died last week in Pelham, who was not known to have any property, and left them four thousand dollars to be appropriated to the building of a chapel, over whose door is to be inscribed his name, Adams Johnson. ...

Note: Waldo's brother William is the "Majesty of Tartary." He had begun the school for young ladies where Waldo then taught and he was about to leave Waldo in charge of the school so he could train for the ministry in Germany. The "lion of the tribe" is younger-brother Edward, a rising senior at Harvard. The entry also refers to Waldo's friend Robert Bulkeley and his youngest brother Charles. {Source: Journals of Ralph Waldo Emerson, with annotations, edited by Edward Waldo Emerson and Waldo Emerson Forbes (Boston : Houghton Mifflin Co., 1909).

Friday, August 25, 2006

a bit of precarious credit: Emerson's Journal 8/25/1823

From the Journals of Ralph Waldo Emerson:
Belchertown, August 25 [1823]

After passing through West Brookfield, I breakfasted among some right worshipful waggoners at the pleasant town of Western, and then passed through a part of Palmer (I believe) and on to this place. I count that road pleasant and that air good, which forces me to smile from mere animal pleasure, albeit I may be a smiling man; so I am free to commend the road from Cutler's Tavern in Western, as far as Babcock's in Ware, to any youthful traveller, whol walks upon a cloudless August morning. Let me not forget to record here the benevevolent landlady of Ware who offered me her liquors and crackers upon the precarious credit of my return, rather than exchange my bills.

This maps shows where Belchertown is located in Western Massachusetts. It looks like Emerson has walked across half the state. {source: Mass Dept of Env Protection, Belchertown page.}

This map shows the townships of Western Massachusetts, including part of Palmer and Belchertown, next to Emerson's destination: Amherst. {Source: Visit Western Mass}

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

pigs are said to see the wind: Emerson 8/22/1823

From the Journals of Ralph Waldo Emerson

August 22, 1823.

"Have lights when other men are blind
As pigs are said to see the wind"

Friday noon, Warren's Hotel.

After a delightful walk of twenty miles, I reached this inn before noon, and in the near recollection of my promenade through Roxbury, Newton, Needham, Natick, do recommend the same, particularly as far as the Lower Falls in Newton, to my friends who are fond of fine scenery.

To this stage of mine errantry no adventure has befallen me; no, not the meeting with a mouse. I both thought and talked a little with myself on the way, and gathered up and watered such sprigs of poetry as I feared had wilted in my memory. I thought how History has a two­ fold effect, viz., intellectual pleasure and moral pain. And in the midst of a beautiful country I thought how monotonous and uniform is Nature; but I found now as ever that, maugre all the flights of the sacred muse, the profane solicitudes of the flesh elevated the Tavern to a high rank among my pleasures.

WORCESTER; evening, 8 o'clock.

I reached Worcester one half hour ago, having walked forty miles without difficulty. Every time I traverse a turnpike, I find it harder to conceive how they are supported; I met but three or four travellers between Roxbury and Worcester. The scenery all the way was fine, and the turnpike, a road of inflexible principle. swerving neither to the right hand nor the left, stretched on before me, always in sight. A traveller who has nothing particular to think about is apt to make a very lively personification of his Road and to make the better companion of it. The Kraken, thought I, or the Sea-Worm, is three English miles long; but this land worm of mine is some forty. and those of the hugest.

This extract comes the Journals of Ralph Waldo Emerson, edited by Edward Waldo Emerson and Waldo Emerson Forbes (Houghton Mifflin, 1909) Of it, The Edward Emerson says: "This, though written in a pocket note-book, is inserted in its proper place in this journal."


Ralph Waldo Emerson was 19 when he wrote this, a year out of Harvard. He was then earning his way by teaching young Boston ladies in a school that his brother William had started and left to Waldo when he departed to study in Germany. Edward Emerson says he was distressed in these months by a feeling of inadequacy as a teacher (in most things he felt less able than his accomplished brothers) and worried about his health (most of his family suffered from consumption and he himself had symptoms of it).

During a summer break from teaching, he took a solitary walk to the Connecticut River to visit the new Amherst College. On August 22, he had only just begun this trek.

The quotation that heads the entry comes from William Butler's comic epic, Hudibras. You can find the full text at As Emerson says, his mind has turned to this and other "sprigs of poetry" and Butler's mock-heroic style clearly infects him as he writes. At bottom I quote the (very long) sentence in which "pigs are said to see the wind" appears. Notice that Emerson -- consciously or not - re-phrases Butler's first line (it reads: "Had Lights where better eyes were blind").

Notice too that Emerson addresses a hypothetical reader in this entry. He may have intended to share his notes on this expedition with friends and family after his return. That might be why he put it in a pocket notebook and not the journal volume he was keeping at the time.

Those who have seen Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest will be familiar with Kraken (as the character, Ragetti -- played by Mackenzie Crook -- says, pronounced Krawken or Kroken, not Krayken). {Source of image: wikipedia - Colossal octopus by Pierre Denys de Montfort.}

The issue of Notes and Queries for July 30, 1853, has a discussion of pigs that are said to see the wind. The author asks whether it simply means pigs are sharp-sighted or that they have the privilege of seeing what is invisible. He inclines to the latter folk belief and quotes an authority to that effect. He adds: "The version I have always heard of it is --
"Pigs can see the wind 'tis said,
And it seemeth to them red."
Here is the run-on sentence out of Butler's Hudibras:
To turn your zealous frauds, and force,
To fits of conscience and remorse;
To be convinc'd they were in vain,
And face about for new again;
For truth no more unveil'd your eyes, 1085
Than maggots are convinc'd to flies
And therefore all your lights and calls
Are but apocryphal and false,
To charge us with the consequences
Of all your native insolences, 1090
That to your own imperious wills
Laid Law and Gospel neck and heels;
Corrupted the Old Testament,
To serve the New for precedent
T' amend its errors, and defects, 1095
With murther, and rebellion texts;
Of which there is not any one
In all the Book to sow upon
And therefore (from your tribe) the Jews
Held Christian doctrine forth, and use; 1100
As Mahomet (your chief) began
To mix them in the Alchoran:
Denounc'd and pray'd, with fierce devotion,
And bended elbows on the cushion;
Stole from the beggars all your tones, 1105
And gifted mortifying groans;
Had Lights where better eyes were blind,
As pigs are said to see the wind
Fill'd Bedlam with predestination,
And Knights-bridge with illumination: 1110
Made children, with your tones, to run for't,
As bad as bloody-bones, or LUNSFORD:
While women, great with child, miscarry'd,
For being to malignants marry'd
Transform'd all wives to DALILAHS 1115
Whose husbands were not for the Cause;
And turn'd the men to ten horn'd cattle,
Because they came not out to battle
Made taylors' prentices turn heroes,
For fear of being transform'd to MEROZ: 1120
And rather forfeit their indentures,
Than not espouse the Saints' adventures.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Joost does well in the BeneLux tour

Joost is in seventh place overall after four stages of the Belgian Eneco Tour. As usual, he did best in the time trial events, third in the Prologue and seventh in the stage-4 ITT.

CyclingNews has good coverage.

Joost's web page says he lost 15 seconds in the ITT because he missed a turn. He had a mechanical problem in the third stage, but managed to fight his way back to the front and finished 25th.

This shot comes from the Eneco site.

slouched in a tilted chair, reading: Emerson 8/21/1820

August 21st.
In the H[arvard] C[ollege] Athenæum I enjoyed a very pleasant hour reading the life of Marlborough in the "Quarterly Review." I was a little troubled there by vexatious trains of thought; but once found myself stopping entirely from my reading and occupied in throwing guesses into futurity while I was asking myself if, when, ten or a dozen years hence, I am gone far on the bitter, perplexing roads of life, when I shall then recollect these moments, now thought so miserable, shall I not fervently wish the possibility of their return, and to find myself again thrown awkwardly on the tilted chair in the Athenæum study with my book in my hand; the snuffers and lamps and shelves around; and Motte I coughing over his newspaper near me, and ready myself to saunter out into gaiety and Commons when that variously-meaning bell shall lift up his tongue.
"Sed fugit interea, fugit irreparabile tempus."

This comes from the Journals of Ralph Waldo Emerson. He was 20 when he wrote this. Though it's summer, the college term was only now coming to an close and he was about to end his junior year at Harvard.


I don't have information about a Harvard College Athenæum. He may have meant the reading room of Hollis, his residence hall. The Boston Athenæum was established in 1807. {I got the photo of Hollis from wikipedia.}

About the Quarterly Review, Schoolnet says:
The Quarterly Review was established by John Murray in 1809 as a Tory rival to the Whig supporting Edinburgh Review. The idea for the journal came from Sir Walter Scott, a Tory who had previously worked for Francis Jeffrey's Edinburgh Review. The first editor was William Gifford and contributors included Robert Southey and Tory politicians George Canning, and the Marquis of Salisbury.

The Quarterly Review stood politically for preserving the status quo. The journal was very hostile to the work of writers in favour of political reform. Writers such as Percy Bysshe Shelley, Leigh Hunt, William Hazlitt, Thomas Babington Macaulay and Charles Dickens all received hostile reviews in the journal, whereas the work of Jane Austin and Sir Walter Scott was warmly praised. It was alleged that John Wilson Croker's savage review of John Keat's Endymion contributed to the poet's early death. The Quarterly Review ceased publication in 1967.

Motte was a classmate, Mellish Irving Motte, a Southern boy (Charleston, SC). After graduating he became minister of a Boston Congregational church.

Sed fugit interea fugit irreparabile tempus means, "But it flees in the meantime: irretrievable time flees". Wikipedia says: "The expression was first used in the verse Georgica written by Roman poet Virgil"

Sunday, August 20, 2006

night fears: Emerson 8/20/1837

An entry in the Journals of Ralph Waldo Emerson
August 20, 1837

Lidian remembers the religious terrors of her childhood
when Young tinged her day and night thoughts, and the
doubts of Cowper were her own; when every lightning
seemed the beginning of conflagration and every noise
in the street the crack of doom. I have some parallel
recollections at the Latin School when I lived in Beacon
Street. Afterwards, what remained for one to learn was
cleansed by books and poetry and philosophy, and came
in purer forms of literature at College. These spiritual
crises no doubt are periods of as certain occurrence in
some form of agitation to every mind as dentition or
puberty. Lidian was at that time alarmed by the lines on
the gravestones.

Emerson was 34 when he wrote this. His brother Charles had died some months before of consumption, the family disease. Too many whom Emerson loved most died young: his first wife Ellen, his brothers, his son Waldo.

When he wrote this entry he was preparing his famous Phi Beta Kappa speech, The American Scholar, to be delivered less than two weeks hence.

Lidian was his second wife, Lydia Jackson; they had married two years prior to this entry in the Journals.

The "Young" who tinged Lidian's day and night thoughts was Edward Young, English poet, who published a pretty morbid book called "Night Thoughts." (examples: "The knell, the shroud, the mattock, and the grave, / The deep damp vault, the darkness and the worm."
(Night Thoughts. Night iv. Line 10.)
, "The spirit walks of every day deceased."
(Night Thoughts. Night ii. Line 180.)
, and "Prayer ardent opens heaven."
(Night Thoughts. Night viii. Line 721.)

"Cowper" was William Cowper, also an English poet, a forerunner of Wordsworth in his celebration of nature and English country life.

Both Young and Cowper were evangelical Christians -- Young became a minister and Cowper composed hymms including some that are well known, including:
GOD moves in a mysterious way,
His wonders to perform;
He plants his footsteps in the sea,
And rides upon the storm.
Olney Hymns (1779)--'Light Shining out of Darkness'
It's pretty safe to say that a kind of super-charged spirituality evoked Lidian's childhood religious terrors.


Last month's issue of Natural History Magazine contained what is for me a fascinating article on an archeological dig in Turkey. It's This Old House by Ian Hodder.

At Çatalhöyük, a Neolithic site in Turkey, families packed their mud-brick houses close together and traipsed over roofs
to climb into their rooms from above.

Çatalhöyük was first identified and excavated in the late 1950s and early 1960s by the English archaeologist James Mellaart. His excavations revealed fourteen levels of occupation in the larger mound, created as people tore down old houses, filled them in, and built new ones on top. Altogether, Mellaart excavated about 160 buildings, spread over the various levels. Each building probably housed a family of between five and ten people. One main room was the locus of family living, cooking, eating, craft activities, and sleeping, and there were side rooms for storage and food preparation.

Wall painting, some 8,500 years old, was discovered by the English archaeologist James Mellaart in the 1960s, during his excavations of the Turkish site of Çatalhöyük. In Mellaart’s interpretation of the painting, the foreground shows a town, possibly Çatalhöyük itself, with the eruption, in the background, of a twin-peaked volcano, perhaps Hasan Dag( (see map below). Mellaart’s reconstruction of the painting appears at the head of the article.

Mellaart’ s excavations turned up evidence that the people of Çatalhöyük made use of domesticated plants and animals. The finding excited wide interest, because it meant that very early farming villages grew up not only in the Levant and adjacent areas of the Middle East, where wild plants and animals were first domesticated, but also here, in Anatolia. But even more astonishing were some other distinctive characteristics of Çatalhöyük that Mellaart was the first to describe. The houses of Çatalhöyük were so tightly packed together that there were few or no streets. Access to interior spaces was across roofs—which had been made of wood and reeds plastered with mud—and down stairs. People buried their dead beneath the floors. Above all, the interiors were rich with artwork—mural paintings, reliefs, and sculptures, including images of women that some interpreted as evidence for a cult of a mother goddess.

Çatalhöyük was quite large for a town of Neolithic age—the time from about 11,500 to 8,000 years ago, when people began living in relatively permanent villages and making use of domesticated crops and animals. The population fluctuated between 3,000 and 8,000; in physical area the large mound encompassed some 33.5 acres. Unsurprisingly then, despite excavating for four years, Mellaart uncovered only a small part of the town. The current dig, which I direct, has excavated or determined the outlines of eighty more buildings and has identified four additional levels of occupation in the larger mound. Yet as I walk over that mound, I am well aware that thousands of buildings are still hidden beneath the soil, full of art and symbolism, waiting to be explored.

Archaeologists do know a lot more now than they did at the time of Mellaart’s discovery about other Anatolian settlements dating from the Neolithic. But for any student of that era—myself included—Çatalhöyük and its mysteries hold a special appeal. What led to the concentration of art in so many houses at one site? Why was the settlement so large—what drew people to that particular place? And how much can be learned from what is perhaps the most intriguing feature of all about Çatalhöyük: that the site was built and rebuilt over the centuries in ways that provide an unusually rich record of the minutiae of daily life?

These photos accompany the article.

Caption: "Excavations of the East Mound of Çatalhöyük, done by Mellaart in the 1960s, show that the buildings on the 33.5-acre mound were packed close together, without intervening streets or alleyways. Access to house interiors was originally across the roofs and down a stairway."

Caption: "Wall painting, some 8,500 years old, was discovered by the English archaeologist James Mellaart in the 1960s, during his excavations of the Turkish site of Çatalhöyük."

This is a drawing of the wall painting.

{Source of these three photos:}

The website for the dig, Çatalhöyük Homepage gives a bit more information and some useful links, one to an exhibition on view this summer in Istambul, and another to a photo album on flickr.

There's also a excavation blog, giving the personal experiences of six young people working at the site during the summer months. This image comes from the blog and shows a "face-pot" excavated this summer.

This is a drawing by an artist blogger, John S.

The blog says this is "Sonya with a reconstructed clay ball." Clay balls were used in cooking. They were heated and then put in liquids to make them boil or used on the hearth to cook meat.

Here are a few of the many flickr photos:

Neolithic pottery.

The caption reads: "Fisheye overhead shot of Building 56 in South Area of excavation. Candemir Filling in as a scale."

This shows the interior of an experimental house built to show what a typical neolithic one looked like.

Friday, August 18, 2006

silly people: Emerson 8/18/1830

I've a mind to do some entries from Ralph Waldo Emerson's Journals from day to day. He kept journals for many years so, for any given day, there are likely to be many choices. Here's a short one from 1830 for this day:
Bookline, August 18

The sun shines and warms and lights us and we have no curiosity to know why this is so; but we ask the reason of all evil, of pain, and hunger, and musquitoes and silly people.
Emerson was 27 when he wrote this. He had been appointed pastor of the Second Church, Unitarian, in Boston, and was madly in love with Ellen Tucker, whom he would wed a month hence.

Painting of Emerson in 1829 by Sarah Goodrich. {Source: The Ralph Waldo Emerson Society}

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Pearlstein and Taggart on the "soft landing" scenario

Steven Pearlstein, one of my favorite columnists, wrote a good piece this week laying out the risks which the US faces in the global finance system (one of my favorite topics). Directly below I give a citation and some extracts. Still lower down I've added further information from a long article (by R. Taggart Murphy, Professor, Graduate School of Business Sciences, University of Tsukuba, Tokyo) which treats the same topic from a different point of view.

Both articles restate cautions issued by the International Monetary Fund (and many other reputable sources) over the past few years. (I'm particularly partial to the analyses of Raghuram G. Rajan, the head of the IMF's research department, who, like Pearlstein and Taggart, writes to be understood not to impress.)

Pearlstein expresses the risks for Americans in terms of twin evils: slow growth and creeping inflation. Taggart reminds us that the most likely long-term scenario has the Chinese Yuan replacing the Dollar as the world's hegemonic currency, with the result that Americans will no longer be able to count on foreigners to finance their hyper-consumerism and government overspending (of course) but also with the result that Americans will be much less able to purchase imports or make foreign investments using their Dollars. They will have to use foreign currencies (Yuan and Euro mostly). And this will push up the cost of imports, bankrupting thousands of Americans who now depend upon cheap imports to make ends meet, forcing up the price of oil imports even higher than we can now imagine, putting American business under enormous pressure, generating rampant inflation (perhaps), and much more. In short, the scenario results in the decline of the US to a second-class power -- like the EC if we're lucky. The questions no one can answer are (a) whether China will be able to make an orderly transition from unbalanced (export-dependent) to balanced (able to sustain growth through internal consumption along with exports) and (b) whether the unravelling of the Dollar-dominated global finance system will be gentle or catastrophic.

The Fed Pause That Refreshes? Hardly.
By Steven Pearlstein
Washington Post, Wednesday, August 9, 2006; Page D01

Over the next two or three years, the U.S. economy is in for a period of uncomfortably slow growth and uncomfortably high inflation, and there's little the Fed can do to prevent it.

This is not the story the Fed or the financial markets want to hear. They've convinced themselves that by slowly and steadily raising short-term interest rates over the past two years, the Fed can engineer a "soft landing" for the economy

So what's wrong with the soft-landing scenario? Plenty.

there is too much cheap money sloshing around the global financial system.

This excess liquidity began to develop in 1998, when the Fed and other central banks pumped money in response to the Asian financial crisis. They did it again in 2001, after the bursting of the stock-market bubble, and again in 2003, as a defense against Japanese-style deflation.

During the last two years, the Fed has tried to sop up some of that excess liquidity by raising the short-term interest rates under its control. But to a surprising degree, those efforts have been thwarted by China's central bank, as it has sought to keep the yuan pegged to the value of the dollar.

By printing up yuan to buy all those extra dollars earned by Chinese exporters -- and then investing those dollars in U.S. Treasury bonds -- the People's Bank of China has effectively been adding to the global money supply and pushing down interest rates, even as the Fed has been struggling to do just the opposite.

But in simple terms, it means that, along with shoes and toys and auto parts, an overheated Chinese economy is now exporting inflation to the United States. This is reducing the Fed's ability to manage the U.S. economy.

For years, economists have warned that the United States cannot continue to live beyond its means by running large and persistent trade deficits. At some point, the piper must be paid. And that point is upon us. We will either pay the price through slower growth or higher inflation, or, as now seems likely, through a combination of the two.

Ultimately, both will have the same effect, lowering our standard of living until the global economy comes back into rough balance. Pause or no pause, the Fed's task is not to forestall that needed adjustment, but to see that it happens in as orderly a fashion as possible.

Here's a citation and extracts from the other article on this topic, expressed mainly from the Japanese viewpoint:

EAST ASIA’S DOLLARS, by R. Taggart Murphy {Same article in one pdf file is here.}

Americans have long been warned that running large, continuous deficits courts disaster.

With beleaguered Republicans dependent on low taxes and government largesse to remain in power, and Democrats unelectable on an explicit programme of higher taxes and spending cuts, [experts have seen] no plausible scenario other than a dollar crash for any reversal in the ever-growing-deficit trends.

At some point, the foreigners who help finance the [trade and budget] deficits would surely refuse to throw more good money after bad. They would dump their dollar holdings, leading to a crash in the dollar that would finally force Americans to live within their means.

But none of this has happened. The markets reacted to the doom-saying with the insouciance of a dog shaking itself dry. By the end of 2005 the dollar stood 15 per cent higher against the euro, 13 per cent higher against the yen, than it had in January; and this during a year when both government and trade deficits continued to set new records practically every month.

Hence the conundrum: the savviest observers pronounce the trend lines of the deficits to be unsustainable; no realistic scenario can be imagined under which those trends will be reversed through political action, leaving only a dollar crash to do the job; yet the dollar crash stubbornly refuses to occur.

China ... hopes that, if and when the dollar-centred global financial regime unravels, it will have an economy sufficiently developed to permit the yuan to take its place among the world’s major currencies without the need for external backing that the country’s dollar reserves currently provide. That will allow it to deal with the collapse in American purchasing power when the us is finally forced to live within its means.

Forecasting that collapse is, however, devilishly hard; and there can be no assurance that markets will wait politely until the Chinese financial system is sufficiently robust to cope with the fallout. For markets are jittery everywhere; their fears almost endless. Renewed inflation in the United States, an unseasoned Federal Reserve chairman who has yet to confront his first real crisis, a politically crippled Bush administration, the implosion of the us housing bubble; all on top of spiking commodity prices, the ever-present threat of calamitous disruption to the flow of petroleum by events in the Middle East, the galloping us trade and government deficits, and indeed worries over the Chinese financial system—any one of these, or yet something else, could trigger a panicked flight from the dollar that would overwhelm the ability and willingness of the East Asian central banks to contain the flood.

The collapse of the dollar will take with it American hegemony; the United States will be hard-pressed to sustain its global military reach in a world where it must earn euros or yen to pay its foreign creditors rather than fob them off with more us government paper. No matter what form it takes, the end of American hegemony will bring the return of the central Japanese political question—the right to rule—with a vengeance; particularly so because it may well be accompanied by serious upheaval in Japan’s most important neighbour. There is no obvious present substitute for the American market in providing the engine of demand to sustain the kind of growth China needs in order to manoeuvre its way past the ever-looming threat of a domestic financial crisis, unless it were to be Japan itself.

Locke's method

As part of some research I'm doing I encountered a short work by John Locke, A New Method of a Common-Place-Book. Arie Altena, writing on his blog, has been doing research on commonplace books in general and Locke's method in particular. I've put a copy of his post at bottom. The paper by Richard Yeo which he summarizes is a good one, worth a full read if you're interested in the subject.

It's not hard to imagine the commonplace book as precursor to the blog. As one blogger says, "With the availability of relatively cheap paper beginning as early as the 14th century, people began to collect knowledge in commonplace books. Bits of quotes, reference materials, summaries of arguments, all contained in a handy bound volume."

The research I'm doing isn't about proto-bloggers, but rather ways that people assembled, organized, and indexed information that came their way. Locke had a way of recording snippets in a bound notebook in categories that he'd set up beforehand with a finding aid and a means of linking entries that ran over a page and that might appear pages apart in the book.

Notice that Locke describes his technique using the Method itself -- description and example in one. A text version of the pamphlet is here.

Here are the pages, scanned (by me) from Locke's collected works (click to enlarge):

Here's Altena's post on Locke's "New Method:"
Locke, commonplaces and methods of retrieving knowledge

(Damn, just lost a long post because Safari crashed… Here I go again).

I read John Locke’s A New Method of a Common-Place-Book a few days ago. (E-text here: I was quite excited to find out it only deals with his method of indexing and retrieving previously ’stored’ notes; his ways to deal with paper-techniques to extends one’s own memory.

Actually Locke’s method shows that his commonplace books were no commonplace books anymore, but notebooks. Commonplace books belong to the Rennaissance, and to a world in which rhetorics are predominant. Notebooks belong to the new world of modern science. One deals with constructing arguments the other with arriving at scientific truth. One still puts (human) memory in the centre; the other values reporting and writing down. (To put it bluntly). What I find exciting is to see the co-development of storage & publishing techniques (paper not really being scarce anymore in Locke’s time) and techniques of writing, noticing and researching.

Interesting in this respect are the theories of Richard Lanham about economies of attention and the return of rhetorics in the world of the electronic word (as his book, froom 1993 (!) is called):

A long an thorough paper on Locke’s methods of commonplacing is Richard Yeo’s John Locke’s New Metod of Commonplacing, (2004): Here’s my digest in quotes.

(All this I find interesting because of the (for me) implied reference to blogging: making notes, research, indexing, use of keywords, referencing, working/writing/publishing methods — and the relation to rhetorics & the use of commonplaces — read: samples).

“I argue that on his own account, Locke extends and complicates the previous functions of these notebooks, making them part of a system for managing information that could be adapted to suit individual purposes.”

“In his influential De Copia (1512), Erasmus offered a manual of examples, advising that themes, quotations and maxims from classical texts be entered under various loci (places) to assist free-flowing oratory.”

“By 1704, the year of Locke’s death, Jonathan Swift (who kept his own commonplace book) regarded the worst applications of the method as part of a syndrome of techniques—including abridging, epitomizing, and indexing—all offering easy ways to skim a book. He dubbed this syndrome “Index learning.” Such abuse of commonplacing was disastrous: “By these Methods, in a few Weeks, there starts up many a Writer, capable of managing the profoundest and most universal Subjects. For, what tho’ his Head be empty, provided his Common-place-Book be full.” The reputation of this humanist legacy had further to fall: by the nineteenth century the term “commonplace” degenerated to refer to ordinary, unremarkable facts or observations—the very opposite of its early modern meaning.”

“yet Cicero stressed that the good orator needed knowledge, not just rhetorical skill: “A knowledge of a vast number of things is necessary, without which volubility of words is empty and ridiculous … the whole of antiquity and a multitude of examples is to be kept in the memory.” This is why the natural powers of memory needed to be augmented, a demand inflated by the humanist passion for “copious” embellishment of material.”

“Bacon affirmed the role of a “good and learned Digest of Common Places”: “The great help to the memory is writing; and it must be taken as a rule that memory without this aid is unequal to matters of much length and accuracy.”"

“Between 1500 and 1700 there was a subtle shift in the function of such notebooks: from being repositories of the material that individuals sought to memorize, they came to be seen as ways of retaining information that could never be memorized”

“Thus although material is placed under an appropriate category, or subject, its position in the notebook is determined by alphabetical combinations. Such compression and scattering of related material is tolerable because the index operates as a finding device?provided that the maker of the commonplace book remembers the Head under which particular material has been placed.” (Concerning Locke’s notebooks).

“This “topical man,” as Locke pointedly calls him, has a memory full of “borrowed and collected arguments” but usually mixes incompatible elements because he has not thought these ideas through. This stance anticipates several passages in Some Thoughts where Locke ridicules the collection and memorizing of quotations, “which when a Man’s Head is stuffed “with, he has got the Furniture of a Pedant.””

“Locke rarely made marginal notes in his books. Instead, on the inside back cover he noted the pages containing something that he entered in one of his commonplace books. When picking up this book on a subsequent occasion, he then knew that there was already a commonplace book entry.”

“In these ways, Locke’s adversaria and his library catalogue were linked, and so the commonplace method was now part of a sophisticated system for research and information management.”

” For Locke, however, commonplace books are not catalysts for related, yet memorized, material; instead, they are a means of reducing dependence on memory, retrieving references, and avoiding unnecessary duplication in note taking. His method allowed one to forget, thus relieving the memory, and yet also providing a means of finding required material at a later time.”

“Locke used commonplace books in new ways, expanding their scope and transforming them from a rhetorical storehouse into a research tool and a crucial component of his system for managing information.”

” Traditionally, commonplace books contained personal collections of publicly accepted knowledge. The material they stored, usually drawn from the classical corpus, comprised generally accepted tropes, maxims, and quotations that could be applied in oratory and written compositions. Such commonplace material was effective because its status was unchallenged and its authority could, with appropriate skill, be transferred to the particular case being argued.”

“Thus although such commonplaces were collected by individuals in unpublished notebooks, they were intended for public use and relied on widely endorsed values. Indeed, it was assumed that these notebooks could be shared and read with benefit by other educated individuals.” (This is an interesting relation with blogs I’d say…)

“Nevertheless, his [Locke’s] method of indexing does suit a world (described in Le Clerc’s introduction of 1706) in which the ambit of reading and study is expansive, and future topics not easily anticipated. Confessing his own habits, Locke acknowledged a tendency to “change often the subject I have been studying, read books by patches and as they have accidentally come in my way, and observe no obvious method or order in my studies.” Given such a pattern, we can see why he confronted the problem of allocating pages in a notebook.”

“I think that Locke’s account of memory shows why commonplace books are necessary for the proper ordering and retention of ideas; his concerns about disorderly and confused ideas entail the need for methodical collection; and his views on personal identity suggest a role for commonplace books in reinforcing a biographical sense of self.”

“Locke did not see the practice of making entries in commonplace books as a way of improving memory. ”

“In 1704 Locke’s French translator, Pierre Coste, reported that the great philosopher advised that “whenever we have meditated any thing new, we should throw it as soon as possible upon paper, in order to be the better able to judge of it by seeing it altogether; because the mind of man is not capable of retaining clearly a long chain of consequences, and of seeing, without confusion, the relation of a great number of different ideas.””

“The commonplace books gave Locke dedicated pathways to his library and saved time in finding passages previously read and noted. The emphasis was on retrieving, rather than recalling, information, but the indexing still required the user to remember the Heads that were chosen when particular entries were made.”

“The stress was not on quotations under generally shared Heads, but rather on referencing entries back to books, ideally those in a personal library.”

All quotes from Richard Yeo, ‘Locke’s New Method of Commonplacing: Managing Memory and Information’, in Eightteenth Century Thought, 2, (2004) 1-38.

going fast, how it happens

I had one of those unexpectedly good rides this week. Lately the muscles and joints have been feeling aged, the wind has been constantly adverse, and traffic has conspired against me. Wednesday the whole tenor flip-flopped, mostly because the breeze shifted and those (few) stoplights whose timing I can't predict were cooperative. Outcome: my morale jumped, discomfort faded, and I got home -- first time ever I think -- without having to plant my foot once.

While this pleasant event was unfolding, I thought about exceptional achievement in sports and the temptation to use performance-enhancing drugs. I've no knowledge about the effects of the drugs beyond what I've read and what I've seen the drugged athletes do. But I imagined them to be analogous to the good luck I experienced (favorable wind and traffic), a boost that -- both psychologically and physiologically -- leads to exceptional performance.

Floyd Landis's mom was quoted as saying she didn't know whether he took drugs or not, but she did know that the temptation to take them was greater than ordinary people (like she and her husband) could understand.

I'm still hoping for his exoneration. Opinion seems to be 50-50 among those who have any expertise.

Friday, August 11, 2006

praise for a "montster"

Monty continues to qualify in for inclusion in my collection of modest sports heroes. In fact he and Joost are the only ones on the list at the moment and Joost isn't doing much that's heroic. On the other hand Panesar is credited with making a major contribution to England's success in the current cricket Test Series with Pakistan (England won the critical third test all but guaranteeing a win in the series). BBC Sport published a piece on him yesterday saying "the modest Northants southpaw was keen not to get overwhelmed by his success." {See Hero Panesar plays down plaudits.} The article quotes the "Montster" himself: "All the world-class spinners that I've spoken to all say when you get to 30-plus you reach your peak, so I will find out then ." Regarding his selection to play in the all-important Ashes Test Series with Australia this fall he said, "I was just as excited watching it on television last year because it was something very special and it would be a dream come true if I could make it into the squad and playing in Australia would be good for my development." Panesar has been made fun of for his less-than-world-class batting and fielding and failed to be picked to play one-day matches for England. The article says "in typical calm fashion, [he] was not too downhearted 'One-day cricket is definitely something I want to play but at the moment I'm just grateful to be involved in the Test arena. I'm trying not to look too far ahead, but hopefully if I can develop in other areas I can be selected in one-day cricket.'"

{Image sources: BBC Sport}

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Marvell again

In the post just before this, I mention some scientific and mathematical imagry in Marvell's poems. Not able to leave the topic alone, I've found another example, THE DEFINITION OF LOVE, of 1652, in which Marvell displays some familarity with astronomy and geometry. More than a literary appropriation of science and math topics discussed in the coffee-houses, it's an example of Marvell's best work.
MY Love is of a birth as rare
As 'tis, for object, strange and high ;
It was begotten by Despair,
Upon Impossibility.

Magnanimous Despair alone
Could show me so divine a thing,
Where feeble hope could ne'er have flown,
But vainly flapped its tinsel wing.

And yet I quickly might arrive
Where my extended soul is fixed ;
But Fate does iron wedges drive,
And always crowds itself betwixt.

For Fate with jealous eye does see
Two perfect loves, nor lets them close ;
Their union would her ruin be,
And her tyrannic power depose.

And therefore her decrees of steel
Us as the distant poles have placed,
(Though Love's whole world on us doth wheel),
Not by themselves to be embraced,

Unless the giddy heaven fall,
And earth some new convulsion tear.
And, us to join, the world should all
Be cramp'd into a planisphere.

As lines, so love's oblique, may well
Themselves in every angle greet :
But ours, so truly parallel,
Though infinite, can never meet.

Therefore the love which us doth bind,
But Fate so enviously debars,
Is the conjunction of the mind,
And opposition of the stars.

This map from 1650 is probably the type of cramp'd space that Marvell intended in using the term "planisphere" -- the spherical earth shown in plan, two-dimentionally, with plentiful parallel lines (and a few oblique).

We usually think of planispheres as star maps like this showing the heavens above the Northern Hemisphere in flat plan with lines showing geometric relationships of the stars: plentiful lines oblique, but none parallel. Its possible Marvell had this in mind when writing the last stanza.

This one comes from a late 18th-century update to John Flamsteed's celestial atlas. Flamsteed was Royal Astronomer whose life overlapped Marvell's but he hadn't published anything by 1652 when this poem was written. (Flamsteed's dates are 1646-1719.)

a Marvell

I've been reading Andrew Marvell's poems lately, not for the music in them, but to guage reaction among the literate classes to the scientific revolution of his time (his life overlapped with Newton's, Hooke's, Wren's, Boyle's, and a host of other intellectual adventurers). And indeed Marvel writes of these men and aludes a bit to their work (notably in his Last Instructions to a Painter).

Surprisingly, given its great distance from everyday life, he uses "holy Mathematicks" in one of his best, Upon Appleton House, writing of "The Circle in the Quadrature!" which -- at the time Marvell wrote -- Wallis vainly sought, and which -- years later -- Brouncker may have found, and Newton made good.

It's easy to scan Marvell's poems for new-science references and easy too to overlook their "fine relish to the ear" as Birrell puts it (using Lamb). It's particularly easy to overlook his poetic virtues because our age hasn't Birrell's ear, hearing as we do sing-song jingles which compare poorly to Marvell's immediate predecessors, such as Milton. Nonetheless Marvell deserves a careful reading with attention to his nuances, contrasts, and use of balance. And some of his work requires little work, it's so easily accessible and satisfying. Take for example:
An Epitaph Upon ...

Enough: and leave the rest to Fame.
'Tis to commend her but to name.
Courtship, which living she declin'd,
When dead to offer were unkind.
Where never any could speak ill,
Who would officious Praises spill?
Nor can the truest Wit or Friend,
Without Detracting, her commend.
To say she liv'd a Virgin chast,
In this Age loose and all unlac't;
Nor was, when Vice is so allow'd,
Of Virtue or asham'd, or proud;
That her Soul was on Heaven so bent
No Minute but it came and went;
That ready her last Debt to pay
She summ'd her Life up ev'ry day;
Modest as Morn; as Mid-day bright;
Gentle as Ev'ning; cool as Night;
'Tis true: but all so weakly said;
'Twere more Significant, She's Dead.


Addendum: Marvell's life, like that of his contemporaries among the scientists and mathematicians, was pleasingly varied and eventful. As assistant, he provided eyes when Milton's failed, was tutor to the daughter of the famous Thomas Fairfax (Commonwealth hero), later secretary to Cromwell's council, then Member of Parliament, and, following the return of the Stuarts, eloquent in opposition to religious dogmatism, monarchial absolutism, political corruption, and the venality of the Royal Court.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Sturdy Yeomen - more Hanger

I'm among the many thousand lovers of Jane Austin's novels. I'm probably not alone in curiosity about daily life in rural England of her time. Pride and Prejudice shows Mr. Bennet to be a gentleman. He earns his living from agriculture but is not a farmer. Still, Jane, Elizabeth, and the other daughters have friends among those who are farmers and the novel consequently gives us a few glimpses of farm life. Elsewhere, Robert Martin, a farmer, marries Harriet Smith, after much obstructive meddling, in the novel Emma.

Lately I stumbled upon a book by George Hanger full of advice and anecdotes on hunting and farming in the period during which Austin wrote her novels. Hanger was an eccentric character, a bon-vivant and companion to the Prince Regent, also a respected soldier, and an improvident ne'er-do-well. Taking everyone on own merits, he was the total antithesis of a snob. Here's his complaint about farmers' daughters, showing something of the growing prosperity of England's Yeoman class, showing much of his own status as a Regency Rake, and showing, though in a joke-y way, his belief that women could be as successful as men in professional roles.

From the book, Colonel George Hanger, to all sportsmen, and particularly to farmers, and gamekeepers by George Hanger, 4th baron Coleraine, 1751-1824 (London, printed for the author: sold by J. J. Stockdale, 1814).
What Farmers' Daughters were ,and what they now are.

In my youthful days, farmers' daughters put their read cloaks on, and the milking pails on their shoulders, went out before dawn of day into the field, to milk the cows, and before they had gone a hundred yards, generally split a cow-turd with their feet, -- but now, if one of them look even out at the door, the servant cries out, "Miss, pray do not go out, you will wet your feet, and catch cold." Formerly, when the lasses came home from milking, they had a rasher of bacon, broiled on the coals, for breakfast, and a pint of mild ale, washed their face at the pump, and rubbed it well, to make the blood circulate, with a coarse towel; -- now, miss must wash her face, or rather not wash it at all, with cream, or some other cursed nastiness; and breakfast in the finest tea and sugar, and a delicate, small, thin piece of buttered toast; and not eat heartily, for fear of growing too gross, and spoiling her complection. Formerly the lasses, in fine weather, used to dance on the green, with the lads; but now miss is taught to dance, and to sing, and play on the piano-forte: then she must attend all the county balls : -- the captain gets acquainted with her; mamma remarks, what an attentive, polite, and elegant man, the captain is. The captain dances with miss, frequently, and at last, when the regiment marches, the captain dances off with her, and she is never heard of in the county again.

In former days, farmers' daughters went in a cart to market, to sell butter, eggs, poultry, young pigs, &c.: now they are driving all over the county in elegant taxed carts; visiting, romping, and rioting all over the land. You may as well, now-a-days, ask a farmer's daughter to milk the bull, as to milk a cow. Then, to imitate women of fashion, at the balls, they dress half naked; neck and arms quite bare, and the gown cut down so low in the back, that you absolutely may see their rumps. I remember, many years ago, if a person had walked down St. James's Street, with an umbrella, and strings in his shoes, it would have occasioned much censure; but now all the priests and footmen wear and carry both.

Custom is prevalent, and custom establishes every thing; for the same nurse who looks after little miss, and little master, tells little miss, provided she shews only one inch of her ancle -- "0 fie, miss, for shame, you shew your ancle; that is very indelicate;" and, with the next breath, she tells little master to take up his coats and piss like a man. -- So it is, custom governs and sanctions every thing; or how could the most delicate and decent women permit a man-midwife, six feet high and two feet broad, over the loins, to attend them during their pregnancy; taking liberties, only professionally, to know whether the child lies right, &c., and, after that, to deliver them?

I have often thought that we men have lost a very great benefit and pleasure from women not having studied physic, so as to take out their diplomas as physicians; for, when I was a young man, I must confess that it would have been extremely satisfactory to me, when the complaint was so desperate, as to render it necessary to call in two female physicians, in order that they might attend diligently to my disorder, to rcquest them both to pass the night with me, and partake of my bed; and then, in the morning, for their kind attention to my disorder, dismiss them with a liberal fee.

{Source: This image, from, has the following caption: "'Farmer Giles'; this 1809 caricature by Gillray satirizes a prosperous farmer's family aspiring to female musical "accomplishments" and other middle class refinements: [1809 Gillray Farmer Young Lady Accomplishment Caricature .GIF] Text in oval on wall: "Cheese Farm" Music on Piano: "Blue Bells of Scotland sung by Mrs. Jordan" On back wall: Sampler sewn by "Betty Giles"}

Marg B. has done a web page on Colonel Banastre Tarleton which includes a section on friends, comrades, and enemies. One of the friends is George Hanger.

This page includes interesting biographic details and two nice images, which I've reproduced below. The first renders the anecdote I related in another post and otherwise pretty much explains itself. J.A. Smith wrote the book in which the anecdote appears.

Marg B. describes this one as "A contemporary engraving, taken from an etching by Richard Dighton, done in 1808. Apparently, George's love of natty attire never deserted him. He earned a place as one of the leading 'Beaux of the Regency' in Lewis Melville's study of the arbiters of Regency-era trends and fashions.[note 1] Etching by Richard Dighton. Notice the visual pun in the title of the image. "Lord" + a drawing of a sword, of the type called a hanger. Not entirely kind, given that a hanger is a type of light dress sword, largely dismissed as decorative but useless."

Her footnote:
[1] See Lewis Melville, The Beaux of the Regency, 2 vols. (London: Hutchinson & Co., 1908). Volume 1 includes a brief biography of Hanger.

Addendum: Here's the title page of George Hanger to All Sportsmen:

Another Addendum: Hanger had a realistic view of the ignorance of the medical men of his time. In the following image from George Hanger to All Sportsmen he gives a succinct statement on the benefits to horses and men of staying away from healers.

Thursday, August 03, 2006


The 350th anniversary of Spinoza's excumunication occured a week ago. There was little coverage: a polemical piece by Cornel West in the Boston Globe and a good piece in the New York Times by Rebecca Newberger Goldstein, who has a recent book on him (Betraying Spinoza - See Michael Dirda's review in the Washington Post.) Spinoza was Dutch so I checked Google News in the Netherlands, but came up dry.

Too bad. He's an intellectual hero of mine. Also, he figures in research I've been doing on the flowering of mathematics in late 17th-century England. A lens grinder, a philosopher, a renegade author, correspondent of Leibniz and Oldenburg, and also a mathematician who never got around to writing a projected book on algebra.

He was vilified as an atheist and forced to publish his works clandestinely (and for the most part postumously), but his religious views appear now only to have been ahead of their time. Search Spinoza in the Dictionary of the History of Ideas and look at the number and variety of articles in which his thoughts are discussed. The Stanford Encylopedia of Philosophy has an excellent article on him. The article in the Catholic Encyclopedia is also good, partly because it takes a critical point of view.

{image source}

this is dedicated ...

A while ago I wrote about George Hanger, Lord Coleraine, an English eccentric. He had an interesting life, which is pretty well documented in wikipedia and a bunch of other sources and he wrote some interesting books.

A plain speaker and a conversationalist who liked a good joke, he made one of the most interesting dedications of his or any time. Wikipedia explains the usual function of dedications in his time. This one is from a book entitled Colonel George Hanger, to all sportsmen, and particularly to farmers, and gamekeepers (London, printed for the author: sold by J. J. Stockdale, 1814.)
Coleraine, George Hanger, 4th baron, 1751-1824.




I HAVE frequently read dedications of books, to persons of distinction, attributing almost every virtue, in nature, to them; and, after the most diligent search to discover where those virtues existed, I could find them no where but in the dedication. Indeed, many such persons, in my opinion, greatly resemble large china jars, in old family houses, which have outwardly a noble and handsome appearance, but, when you look into them, you will find nothing but dust and cobwebs.

I shall attribute three merits to you, which the whole world are acquainted with; passing over those others, which have so firmly attached so many friends to you. First, sir, your conduct in the Senate of the Nation, for so many years, has incontestably proved you to be a true patriot, zealously attached to the liberties and interests of your fellow-subjects. Secondly, sir, you have been a most laudable agriculturist, expending tens of thousands of pounds, experimentally, for the universal benefit of mankind. Thirdly, sir, you are a good sportsman, and a liberal one.

I do not attribute this last quality to you for that unbounded kindness you have favored me with, by permitting me to shoot over three whole parishes, all your own lands; but from your well-known liberality to many others. There is, in truth a very great difference in the conduct of landholders; for there are many who would as soon lend their wives for a day, as their manors. Your kindness, sir, and that of several, others in Norfolk and Suffolk, places me beyond the disagreeable predicament of receiving a refusal on application to them.

That you may live many years to continue that liberal and sumptuous hospitality, which have so much distinguished Holkham Hall, since it has been your country residence, and that you may enjoy every happiness in this world, is the sincere wish of
Sir, your most respectful, Most devoted,
And grateful humble servant, GEORGE HANGER.

London, April 4, 1814.

For contrast, here's a long-winded and much more traditional one, from Dryden's The Indian Emperor
Dedication to Dryden's The Indian Emperor



Dum relego, scripsisse pudet, quia plurima cerno,
Me quoque, qui feci, judice, digna limi. OVID.


May it please Your Grace, The favour which heroic plays have lately found upon our theatres, has been wholly derived to them from the countenance and approbation they have received at court. The most eminent persons for wit and honour in the royal circle having so far owned them, that they have judged no way so fit as verse to entertain a noble audience, or to express a noble passion; and among the rest which have been written in this kind, they have been so indulgent to this poem, as to allow it no inconsiderable place. Since, therefore, to the court I owe its fortune on the stage; so, being now more publicly exposed in print, I humbly recommend it to your grace's protection, who by all knowing persons are esteemed a principal ornament of the court. But though the rank which you hold in the royal family might direct the eyes of a poet to you, yet your beauty and goodness detain and fix them. High objects, it is true, attract the sight; but it looks up with pain on craggy rocks and barren mountains, and continues not intent on any object, which is wanting in shades and greens to entertain it. Beauty, in courts, is so necessary to the young, that those, who are without it, seem to be there to no other purpose than to wait on the triumphs of the fair; to attend their motions in obscurity, as the moon and stars do the sun by day; or, at best, to be the refuge of those hearts which others have despised; and, by the unworthiness of both, to give and take a miserable comfort. But as needful as beauty is, virtue and honour are yet more: The reign of it without their support is unsafe and short, like that of tyrants. Every sun which looks on beauty wastes it; and, when it once is decaying, the repairs of art are of as short continuance, as the after-spring, when the sun is going further off. This, madam, is its ordinary fate; but yours, which is accompanied by virtue, is not subject to that common destiny. Your grace has not only a long time of youth in which to flourish, but you have likewise found the way, by an untainted preservation of your honour, to make that perishable good more lasting: And if beauty, like wines, could be preserved, by being mixed and embodied with others of their own natures, then your grace's would be immortal, since no part of Europe can afford a parallel to your noble lord in masculine beauty, and in goodliness of shape. To receive the blessings and prayers of mankind, you need only to be seen together: We are ready to conclude, that you are a pair of angels sent below to make virtue amiable in your persons, or to sit to poets when they would pleasantly instruct the age, by drawing goodness in the most perfect and alluring shape of nature. But though beauty be the theme on which poets love to dwell, I must be forced to quit it as a private praise, since you have deserved those which are more public: For goodness and humanity, which shine in you, are virtues which concern mankind; and, by a certain kind of interest, all people agree in their commendation, because the profit of them may extend to many. It is so much your inclination to do good, that you stay not to be asked; which is an approach so nigh the Deity, that human nature is not capable of a nearer. It is my happiness, that I can testify this virtue of your grace's by my own experience; since I have so great an aversion from soliciting court-favours, that I am ready to look on those as very bold, who dare grow rich there without desert. But I beg your grace's pardon for assuming this virtue of modesty to myself, which the sequel of this discourse will no way justify: For in this address I have already quitted the character of a modest man, by presenting you this poem as an acknowledgment, which stands in need of your protection; and which ought no more to be esteemed a present, than it is accounted bounty in the poor, when they bestow a child on some wealthy friend, who will better breed it up. Offsprings of this nature are like to be so numerous with me, that I must be forced to send some of them abroad; only this is like to be more fortunate than his brothers, because I have landed him on a hospitable shore. Under your patronage Montezuma hopes he is more safe than in his native Indies; and therefore comes to throw himself at your grace's feet, paying that homage to your beauty, which he refused to the violence of his conquerors. He begs only, that when he shall relate his sufferings, you will consider him as an Indian Prince, and not expect any other eloquence from his simplicity, than what his griefs have furnished him withal. His story is, perhaps, the greatest which was ever represented in a poem of this nature; the action of it including the discovery and conquest of a new world. In it I have neither wholly followed the truth of the history, nor altogether left it; but have taken all the liberty of a poet, to add, alter, or diminish, as I thought might best conduce to the beautifying of my work: it being not the business of a poet to represent historical truth, but probability. But I am not to make the justification of this poem, which I wholly leave to your grace's mercy. It is an irregular piece, if compared with many of Corneille's, and, if I may make a judgment of it, written with more flame than art; in which it represents the mind and intentions of the author, who is with much more zeal and integrity, than design and artifice,

Your Grace's most obedient,
And most obliged servant,
October_ 12. 1667.
As addendum, here is Sir Walter Scott's take on the Dryden dedication:
Anne Scott, duchess of Buccleuch and Monmouth, was the last scion of a race of warriors, more remarkable for their exploits in the field, than their address in courts, or protection of literature. She was the heiress of the Scotts, barons and earls of Buccleuch; and became countess, in her own right, upon the death of her elder sister, lady Mary, who married the unfortunate Walter Scott, earl of Tarras, and died without issue in 1662. In 1665, Anne, countess of Buccleuch, married James Fitzroy, duke of Monmouth, eldest natural son of Charles II. They were afterwards created duke and duchess of Buccleuch. She was an accomplished and high-spirited lady, distinguished for her unblemished conduct in a profligate court. It was her patronage which first established Dryden's popularity; a circumstance too honourable to her memory to be here suppressed.

dog days

Our recent heat wave engendered some questions about my biking. Dressed for work I'm asked whether I'm riding and when in bike duds asked how I can do it. One example: On the stairway (I downward, she upward) a young Japanese woman says "Very hot!" I say "Sure is." She: "You bike?" Me: "Yes; lots of water!" (holding up water bottle).

Foul air -- ozone code red -- keeps me off the bike, but we haven't suffered that yet this year. High temperatures, even coupled with high humidity, isn't that much of a problem. Hot weather riding brings to mind pre-season football practice. In college, we'd run ourselves ragged in the late-August dog days. In those times, who knows why, we didn't rehydrate during, but only after each session. I remember my weight varying ten and more pounds in 24 hours. We did windsprints to close out the day. Coach said he knew when we'd had enough when the linemen could no longer stand straight -- we'd weave to and fro.

[Update: This afternoon, supposed to be the last of this round of "excessive heat," I managed to ride home in good form -- one of those combinations of good luck and a little extra effort resulting in few and short delays for traffic.]