This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,769) on Friday, June 21, 2019.
The local library where I live — the Blount County Public Library — continues its vital work despite the county commission’s threat of underfunding its operation. The funding issues should be resolved in a couple of weeks. Meanwhile, the Blount County Friends of the Library had its annual membership meeting this past week, and the support that the library receives from this group of citizens is exceptionally gratifying and vital to the library’s efforts to be of service to the community. We are indeed fortunate to have such a group in this county.
The garden got a good going-over with rain, hoe, and tiller this week, and it’s beginning to produce. The tomatoes are starting to ripen, the beans are turning, and every day there are new cucumbers to be picked. And on the fencerows, the blackberries are going from red to black at a rapid pace.
So ends this week’s report on the two things necessary for a full life: a library and a garden. I hope that your life has been full this week and that you have a wonderful weekend.
Under the newsletter’s hood: Last week’s newsletter was sent to 2,775 subscribers and had a 30.2 percent open rate; 4 people unsubscribed. A chart showing the percentage of newsletter recipients who opened the newsletter each week during 2019 is now in the first newsletter of each month.
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.
A newspaper story becomes a poem: The writing of The Charge of the Light Brigade
The poem was originally composed on December 2, 1854, after Tennyson, who was very famous and was then the poet laureate of the United Kingdom, had read two newspaper accounts of a failed action by British forces fighting in what became known as the Crimean War.
The action actually took place in October, and one of the stories that Tennyson read was by William Howard Russell, a correspondent for The Times of London who was making a name for himself by covering that war. Russell would later travel to the United States to cover the American Civil War for The Times. Part of his report reads this way:
They swept proudly past, glittering in the morning sun in all the pride and splendor of war. We could hardly believe the evidence of our senses. Surely that handful of men were not going to charge an army in position? Alas! It was but too true — their desperate valour knew no bounds, and far indeed was it removed from its so-called better part — discretion.
They advanced in two lines, quickening the pace as they closed towards the enemy. A more fearful spectacle was never witnessed than by those who, without the power to aid, beheld their heroic countrymen rushing to the arms of sudden death. At the distance of 1200 yards the whole line of the enemy belched forth, from thirty iron mouths, a flood of smoke and flame through which hissed the deadly balls.
Their flight was marked by instant gaps in our ranks, the dead men and horses, by steeds flying wounded or riderless across the plain. The first line was broken — it was joined by the second, they never halted or checked their speed an instant. With diminished ranks, thinned by those thirty guns, which the Russians had laid with the most deadly accuracy, with a halo of flashing steel above their heads, and with a cheer which was many a noble fellow’s death cry, they flew into the smoke of the batteries; but ere they were lost from view, the plain was strewed with their bodies and with the carcasses of horses. They were exposed to an oblique fire from the batteries on the hills on both sides, as well as to a direct fire of musketry.
The action itself was a short, minor one, but Tennyson’s poem vaulted it into one of the most famous battles of all times.
The poem was published a week after he wrote it in The Examiner. As was Tennyson’s habit, he revised the poem a number of times as it appeared in various publications throughout the years of his life. In whatever form the poem took, the public loved it, took it to heart, and thousands upon thousands of school children in Great Britain, the United States, Canada, Australia, and many other places memorized it in the next century and a half.
The images here are of a version of the poem written and signed by Tennyson in 1864.
The solution to the things that divide us: ‘Love Your Enemies’
The New York Times has recently reviewed a book that I have not read but whose title I certainly agree with: Love Your Enemies.
The book is by Arthur C. Brooks, who is, among other things, the former director of the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think-tank in Washington, D.C. The author of the review is journalist Lance Morrow, and he writes:
Brooks beholds America’s 21st-century tribal feuds — which on a national scale add up to nothing less than a religious war, a clash of faiths and value systems — with a clear, intelligent eye and a hospitable attitude that is rightly focused on the spiritual dimensions of the problem: Only transcendence can open the way to better solutions down the road. The real swamp just now is in the American mind. Source: Healing the Divisions in Our Country – The New York Times
America has always been a nation riven with deep divisions, culturally, socially, and politically, Those divisions seem particularly acute now — so much so that there seems to be no way around them.
But Brooks points out that there is much more that we can agree about than what we have chosen to disagree about. Recognizing that is the first step toward healing those divisions. I hope that more of us — especially me — can take that first step.
The Prolific Reader. Kill the Quarterback is listed there along with some other great mysteries.https://theprolificreader.com/mystery”
Julia Ward Howe’s not so perfect marriage
When the Battle Hymn of the Republic’s stirring lines were first published in the Atlantic Monthly in February 1862, Julia Ward Howe seemed ideally positioned to receive the fame and accolades that she was about to get for her poem. She was the mother of six children, and she and her husband, Samuel Gridley Howe, known by his family as Chev, had been prominent reformers and abolitionists before the war. Julia was the author of a well-received book of poetry, Passion-Flowers, and they both had many friends and connections among the New England intellectuals of the day.
Chev had a longstanding opposition to Julia’s writing and to her attempts to create a life, name, and career for herself. He deeply resented the publication of Passion-Flowers in 1853 because many of the poems dealt with the limited role that society had for women and the unhappiness of females in a restricted marriage.
Even though the book had been published anonymously, the identity of its author was an open secret. Chev felt the poems were a criticism of him and their marriage. At one point Chev demanded that Julia revise some of the poems and that she promise to stop writing completely. Otherwise, he would divorce her and take custody of the children.
Faced with that threat, Julia agreed, but she continued writing secretly, and one of those works was the Battle Hymn of the Republic. When she finished it while she and Chev were on an inspection trip to Washington, D.C. — he had been appointed to the U.S. Sanitary Commission — she did not show it to her husband. Rather she showed the poem to a friend who urged her to send it to the Atlantic.
The editors put the poem on the cover of the February 1862 edition.
As people read the poem and connected it to a popular tune of the day, it soon became a theme song of the soldiers in camp and a bold, patriotic statement for Americans within the Union. Its popularity changed the dynamics of the Howes’ marriage.
The acceptance of the poem emboldened Julia to continue her writing and to do so openly. Chev could hardly object, at least not in public, but he did so vehemently in private. It was to no avail. Julia had been affirmed as a writer, and she no longer needed her husband’s assent.
The couple remained married until Chev’s death in 1876, but the marriage was never a happy one, and Chev never resolved himself to the fact that his wife had a life of her own.
Verse and Vision
My good friend and newsletter reader Vince V. suggested I read Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s most famous poem, The Charge of the Light Brigade and do a portrait of the poet for a video. It was an excellent suggestion, and it’s been a while since I did a portrait for the videos. This one was a lot of fun.
Here’s the complete list of videos I have made since the beginning of April:
The Charge of the Light Brigade by Alfred, Lord Tennyson: http://bit.ly/tennyson-lightbrigade
The House of Rest by Julia Ward Howe: http://bit.ly/howe-houseofrest
Lochinvar by Sir Walter Scott: http://bit.ly/scott-lochinvar
Ole Bert: In His Own Words by Bert Garner: http://bit.ly/ole-bert
In the Highlands and Consolation by Robert Louis Stevenson: http://bit.ly/RLStevenson-2poems
To His Coy Mistress by Andrew Marvell: http://bit.ly/Marvell-CoyMistress
Casey at the Bat by Ernest Lawrence Thayer:http://bit.ly/Thayer-CaseyattheBat
The Old Clock on the Stairs by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow: http://bit.ly/HWL-TheOldClock
Evening Star and Annabel Lee by Edgar Allan Poe: http://bit.ly
Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard by Thomas Gray: http://bit.ly
My Heart and I by Elizabeth Barrett Browning: http://bit.ly/EBB-myheartandi
The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe: http://bit.ly/poe-theraven
Sonnet 18 by William Shakespeare: http://bit.ly/shakespeare-sonnet18
And more are on the way.
Briefly noted: 5 great true crime reads from Book Riot
If you’re looking to crash your book club with some truly jaw-dropping, heart-stopping, knee-knocking true crime books, boy do I have a list for you. True crime isn’t for everyone, but these books are guaranteed to get your book club talking. And conspiring. And possibly plotting a scheme to have one member of the book club stay in the room, imitating the voices of all the other members, while the rest of you go out to commit a spree of murders. Source: 5 of the Best Books to Read With Your True Crime Book Club | Book Riot
So, take a look at this Book Riot list. Black Dahlia, Red Rose book is a particularly fascinating one, not because it was an unusual crime — it was actually one of many during that time and place — but because we still remember it 70 years after it happened.
Frank C.: There was an early 20th-century statement in the House of Commons in the UK along the lines that freedom of the press is the freedom to publish such of the proprietors’ prejudices as the advertisers do not object to. I wish I could remember who said it. We have seen in recent times how advertisers can punish a publication or social media when it offends them (commercially). editors need two eyes, so that they may keep one eye on their proprietor and one on their advertisers.
Josefina J: Woow! It is so interesting to see that we have apiculture in common as well.
Best quote of the week:
The longest day must have its close — the gloomiest night will wear on to a morning. An eternal, inexorable lapse of moments is ever hurrying the day of the evil to an eternal night, and the night of the just to an eternal day. Harriet Beecher Stowe, abolitionist and novelist (1811-1896)
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: Julia Ward Howe’s visions of glory, the fountain pen, more about libraries: newsletter, June 14, 2019
Get a FREE copy of Kill the Quarterback
Get a free digital copy of Jim Stovall's mystery novel, Kill the Quarterback. You will also get Jim's newsletter and advanced notice of publications, free downloads and a variety of information about what he is working on. Jim likes to stay in touch, so sign up today.