This newsletter was sent to all of the subscribers on Jim’s list (2,912) on Friday, February 8, 2019.
This week’s newsletter takes a short break from writers and writing (mostly) and explores a couple of other topics, such as post-prison rehabilitation and the interesting story of a 1960s folk music classic. But you can scroll down and see for yourself.
My campaign to rehabilitate Edward Bulwer-Lytton, not from prison but from the unfair label of “bad writer,” continues. Below the signature of this email is the second chapter (about 1,300 words) of his 1828 novel Pelham. You may recall an item about Bulwer-Lytton from a couple of weeks ago, and the newsletter in which we included chapter 1 of that novel.
Possibly, you will find something of interest in all this. I hope so, and I hope you will have a wonderful weekend.
Under the newsletter’s hood: Last week’s newsletter was sent to 2,924 subscribers and had a 27.2 percent open rate; 11 people unsubscribed.
Important: Remember to open the images or click on one of the links so that my email service will record your engagement and you will stay active on the list. Thanks.
Cellist Pablo Casals, at 93, told us how to stay ‘young’
If you feel that you are piling up the birthdays and that you are “growing old” — a phrase that has become part of our natural conversation these days — consider the words of Pablo Casals, the famous cellist:
On my last birthday I was ninety-three years old. That is not young, of course. In fact, it is older than ninety. But age is a relative matter. If you continue to work and to absorb the beauty in the world about you, you find that age does not necessarily mean getting old. At least, not in the ordinary sense. I feel many things more intensely than ever before, and for me life grows more fascinating. Source: Legendary Cellist Pablo Casals, at Age 93, on Creative Vitality and How Working with Love Prolongs Your Life – Brain Pickings
Casals knew that having a lot of birthdays was not particularly meaningful unless you made it so. What is far more meaningful is maintaining a creative spirit, a zest for discovery, and a child-like sense of amazement about where we find ourselves in the universe.
Maria Popov, on her excellent blog Brain Pickings, has outlined some of Casals insights on the value of meaningful routine and ritual, the necessity of self-renewal, and what talent really means. This is an excellent and inspirational article that will take five-to-ten minutes to read but one you will think about for quite a while.
M.T.A. lyricist Jacqueline Steiner dies at 94
The name Walter O’Brien has long since faded from just about everyone’s memory. The fact that he ran for mayor of Boston in 1949 and captured all of 1 percent of the vote wouldn’t even rise to footnote status in the city’s history.
But the O’Brien mayoral campaign did produce one memorable item: a theme-song that we know today as the M.T.A.
The song was co-written by Jacqueline Steiner and Bess Lomax Hawes. Bess was the sister of folklorist and ethnomusicologist Alan Lomax and had a distinguished career as an anthropologist and director of the folk arts program of the National Endowment for the Arts. She died in 2009. Jacqueline, after a career as a singer and anti-war and civil rights activist, died on February 5. (Jacqueline Steiner, 94, Lyricist Who Left Charlie on the M.T.A., Dies – The New York Times)
In 1949 the two were friends and members of Boston’s leftie folk singing circle and dashed off the song for O’Brien, whose campaign was a protest against a recent fare increase by the Massachusetts Transit Authority.
Let me tell you the story
Of a man named Charlie
On a tragic and fateful day
He put ten cents in his pocket,
Kissed his wife and family
Went to ride on the MTA.
(The complete lyrics are here.)
Charlie, the song says, tried to transfer to another line, but the transfer cost another nickel (the hated fare increase) and was thus doomed to “ride forever ‘neath the streets of Boston.”
The song might have died with the O’Brien campaign, but the Kingston Trio recorded a slightly altered version of it, and it became a big hit for them in 1959. Those of us who have enough birthdays will remember it was one of the songs that kicked off the great era of folk music that saw us through the 1960s.
If — tragically — you have never heard the Kingston Trio sing the MTA, here it is on YouTube.
The song came to life again in 2004 when Boston subway officials did away with tokens and began issue fare cards. They’re called CharlieCards.
(Thanks to my long-time best friend Chuck W. for pointing me to all of this information. We sang the MTA many times during our unending journey toward adulthood.)
The Prolific Reader. Kill the Quarterback is listed there along with some other great mysteries.https://theprolificreader.com/mystery”
A true crime story that goes beyond the standard ending
People who read or write about crime whether fiction or true crime — and that includes most of us — have a basic storyline in our heads:
— A crime is committed. Complications ensue.
— The person who committed the crime is brought to justice, again with the inevitable complications.
— The criminal is incarcerated. Sometimes there are post-trial complications, but the story usually ends with the incarceration.
But what if the story doesn’t end there? What is there is a story post-incarceration — after justice has been served?
That is the case with Bruce Reilly, deputy director of VOTE, a New Orleans-based organization that advocates for voting rights for ex-prisoners.
Bruce Reilly is a convicted murderer. He admitted his crime and in a plea deal was sentenced to 17 years for second-degree murder in Rhode Island. In 2005 he was paroled well short of the 17 years. He had been a model prisoner with a small circle of friends, some of whom he helped by researching the law on their cases.
When he was released, he was tried several things and eventually was accepted into law school at Tulane University, and according to a recent New York Times story (by Noam Scheiber):
Mr. Reilly, who graduated from Tulane in 2014, would like to be able to practice law, but it’s highly unlikely that he could pass the “character and fitness” portion of the bar admissions process. He’s interested in data and internet privacy issues, but he’s hard-pressed to get a foothold in such fields. Source: He Committed Murder. Then He Graduated From an Elite Law School. Would You Hire Him as Your Attorney? – The New York Times
Reilly is a convicted murderer. His crime was a violent one, and those who loved and cared for the victim are still living with that loss.
Still, he fits every definition of what we think about when we talk of “rehabilitation.” But would you want to work beside him? Would you hire him as your lawyer?
Reilly faces these questions every day and forces us to confront them, as uncomfortable as they are. The New York Times story cited here is well worth reading.
A picture of Oscar Wilde and copyright protection for photographs
Copyright protection for photographs is taken for granted today, but it wasn’t always so. It took a dispute over a photograph of Oscar Wilde, the British poet and playwright, to give the claim of copyrights for photographs judicial protection.
During an 1882 lecture tour of America, Wilde had his picture taken several times by the then-famed photographer Napoleon Saroney. There are at least 28 of these photographs, which you can see at this website devoted to Oscar Wilde’s time in America. Photograph number 18 (seen here) is the one that set off the legal dispute.
The Burrow-Giles Lithographic Company of New York took that particular photograph, made copies, and tried to sell them — despite Saroney’s clear labeling of it as his photograph. Saroney sued in a New York court and won a $600 judgment. Burrow-Giles had argued that Saroney could not claim “authorship” because the work was not a “writing” and because there was no creativity involved in taking a photograph. It appealed the verdict.
The U.S. Supreme Court in 1884 disagreed entirely with the Burrow-Giles argument. The court noted that lithographs and maps had been included in the original copyright last in the U.S. In addition, Saroney had dressed and posed Wilde in such a way as to make his product an “an original work of art” and himself its “author.”
The opinion was succinct and effective. Since that time, there has been no disputing that a photograph is a copyrightable work.
Jeanne L.: Thank you for the articles and links to the history of English. I used them and found much that was interesting.
Best quote of the week:
A hungry man is not a free man. Adlai Stevenson, statesman (1900-1965)
Helping those in need
Fires in California, hurricanes on the Atlantic Coast — disasters occur everywhere. They have spread untold misery and disruption. The people affected by them need our help.
It’s not complicated. Things happen to people, and we should be ready to do all the good we can in all of the ways we can. (Some will recognize that I am paraphrasing John Wesley here).
When is the last time you gave to your favorite charity? The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR.org) is my favorite charity. Please make a contribution to this one or to yours.
Keep reading, keep writing (especially to me), and have a great weekend.
His Amazon author page is where you can find more information about his books.
Last week’s newsletter: Robert Caro’s interviewing trick; something new in Nashville; and reader recommendations for the cold winter: newsletter, Feb. 1, 2019
New edition of the Baseball Joe series (repeated from last week)
The newsletter last week carried an item about the incomparable Edward Stratemeyer whose publishing syndicate produced for us young 20th-century readers series of books like the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew. One of those series was titled Baseball Joe, and Stratemeyer published 14 volumes between 1912 and 1928. The “author” of the series was Lester Chadwick, but they were actually written by Howard Garis and John Duffield.
I promised a big announcement about Baseball Joe last week, so here it is: First Inning Press is publishing new editions of some of the volumes of the Baseball Joe series. So far, we have four Kindle (ebook) editions out and about on Amazon:
The Baseball Joe series follows Joe Matson as he starts on the local sandlot and ascends to the top of the baseball world. These new editions contain more illustrations than were found in the originals. The new illustrations are by me.
The first of the volume listed above (Silver Stars) is currently $ .99 on Amazon. The others are $2.99. We will be bringing out paperback editions before long and will also be publishing other volumes in the series.
Seeing Suffrage (repeated from last week)
Several years ago I wrote a book about the 1913 Woman Suffrage Parade that was held on March 3, 1913, in Washington, D.C. It was the day before Woodrow Wilson was inaugurated. Not only did this event turn out to be a pivotal one in the history of the suffrage debate, but it also was one that was well-covered by the newspapers of the day — particularly photographers. In my research, I had discovered a trove of photographs in the Library of Congress and in the library of the Sewell-Belmont House, the historic headquarters of the National Woman’s Party. Many of these photographs had never been published before and were included in the book.
The book, Seeing Suffrage: The 1913 Washington Suffrage Parade, Its Pictures, and Its Effect on the American Political Landscape, was published by the University of Tennessee Press. The press published it only in a hardback edition, however, and has never brought it out as an ebook. Since I hold the copyright, I decided that it was time for that to change. That project was completed just two days before Christmas and is now available on Amazon (free if you are a Kindle Unlimited member). If you have a chance to look at it, I’d like to know what you think.
CHAPTER II: Eton and Cambridge
Tell arts they have no soundness,
But vary by esteeming;
Tell schools they want profoundness,
And stand too much on seeming.
If arts and schools reply,
Give arts and schools the lie.
—The Soul’s Errand.
At ten years old I went to Eton. I had been educated till that period by my mother, who, being distantly related to Lord_____, (who had published “Hints upon the Culinary Art”), imagined she possessed an hereditary claim to literary distinction. History was her great forte; for she had read all the historical romances of the day, and history accordingly I had been carefully taught.
I think at this moment I see my mother before me, reclining on her sofa, and repeating to me some story about Queen Elizabeth and Lord Essex; then telling me, in a languid voice, as she sank back with the exertion, of the blessings of a literary taste, and admonishing me never to read above half an hour at a time for fear of losing my health.
Well, to Eton I went; and the second day I had been there, I was half killed for refusing, with all the pride of a Pelham, to wash tea-cups. I was rescued from the clutches of my tyrant by a boy not much bigger than myself, but reckoned the best fighter, for his size, in the whole school. His name was Reginald Glanville: from that period, we became inseparable, and our friendship lasted all the time he stayed at Eton, which was within a year of my own departure for Cambridge.
His father was a baronet, of a very ancient and wealthy family; and his mother was a woman of some talent and more ambition. She made her house one of the most recherchee in London. Seldom seen at large assemblies, she was eagerly sought after in the well winnowed soirees of the elect. Her wealth, great as it was, seemed the least prominent ingredient of her establishment. There was in it no uncalled for ostentation—no purse-proud vulgarity—no cringing to great, and no patronizing condescension to little people; even the Sunday newspapers could not find fault with her, and the querulous wives of younger brothers could only sneer and be silent.
“It is an excellent connexion,” said my mother, when I told her of my friendship with Reginald Glanville, “and will be of more use to you than many of greater apparent consequence. Remember, my dear, that in all the friends you make at present, you look to the advantage you can derive from them hereafter; that is what we call knowledge of the world, and it is to get the knowledge of the world that you are sent to a public school.”
I think, however, to my shame, that notwithstanding my mother’s instructions, very few prudential considerations were mingled with my friendship for Reginald Glanville. I loved him with a warmth of attachment, which has since surprised even myself.
He was of a very singular character: he used to wander by the river in the bright days of summer, when all else were at play, without any companion but his own thoughts; and these were tinged, even at that early age, with a deep and impassioned melancholy. He was so reserved in his manner, that it was looked upon as coldness or pride, and was repaid as such by a pretty general dislike. Yet to those he loved, no one could be more open and warm; more watchful to gratify others, more indifferent to gratification for himself: an utter absence of all selfishness, and an eager and active benevolence were indeed the distinguishing traits of his character. I have seen him endure with a careless good nature the most provoking affronts from boys much less than himself; but directly I, or any other of his immediate friends, was injured or aggrieved, his anger was almost implacable. Although he was of a slight frame, yet early exercise had brought strength to his muscles, and activity to his limbs; and his skill in all athletic exercises whenever (which was but rarely) he deigned to share them, gave alike confidence and success to whatever enterprise his lion-like courage tempted him to dare.
Such, briefly and imperfectly sketched, was the character of Reginald Glanville—the one, who of all my early companions differed the most from myself; yet the one whom I loved the most, and the one whose future destiny was the most intertwined with my own.
I was in the head class when I left Eton. As I was reckoned an uncommonly well-educated boy, it may not be ungratifying to the admirers of the present system of education to pause here for a moment, and recall what I then knew. I could make twenty Latin verses in half an hour; I could construe, without an English translation, all the easy Latin authors, and many of the difficult ones, with it: I could read Greek fluently, and even translate it though the medium of a Latin version at the bottom of the page. I was thought exceedingly clever, for I had only been eight years acquiring all this fund of information, which, as one can never recall it in the world, you have every right to suppose that I had entirely forgotten before I was five and twenty. As I was never taught a syllable of English during this period; as when I once attempted to read Pope’s poems, out of school hours, I was laughed at, and called “a sap;” as my mother, when I went to school, renounced her own instructions; and as, whatever school-masters may think to the contrary, one learns nothing now-a-days by inspiration: so of everything which relates to English literature, English laws, and English history (with the exception of the said story of Queen Elizabeth and Lord Essex,) you have the same right to suppose that I was, at the age of eighteen, when I left Eton, in the profoundest ignorance.
At this age, I was transplanted to Cambridge, where I bloomed for two years in the blue and silver of a fellow commoner of Trinity. At the end of that time (being of royal descent) I became entitled to an honorary degree. I suppose the term is in contradistinction to an honourable degree, which is obtained by pale men in spectacles and cotton stockings, after thirty-six months of intense application.
I do not exactly remember how I spent my time at Cambridge. I had a piano-forte in my room, and a private billiard-room at a village two miles off; and between these resources, I managed to improve my mind more than could reasonably have been expected. To say truth, the whole place reeked with vulgarity. The men drank beer by the gallon, and ate cheese by the hundred weight—wore jockey-cut coats, and talked slang—rode for wagers, and swore when they lost—smoked in your face, and expectorated on the floor. Their proudest glory was to drive the mail—their mightiest exploit to box with the coachman—their most delicate amour to leer at the barmaid.
It will be believed, that I felt little regret in quitting companions of this description. I went to take leave of our college tutor. “Mr. Pelham,” said he, affectionately squeezing me by the hand, “your conduct has been most exemplary; you have not walked wantonly over the college grassplats, nor set your dog at the proctor—nor driven tandems by day, nor broken lamps by night—nor entered the chapel in order to display your intoxication—nor the lecture-room, in order to caricature the professors. This is the general behaviour of young men of family and fortune; but it has not been your’s. Sir, you have been an honour to your college.”
Thus closed my academical career. He who does not allow that it passed creditably to my teachers, profitably to myself, and beneficially to the world, is a narrow-minded and illiterate man, who knows nothing of the advantages of modern education.
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