Hugh Walpole, reactions to masks and COVID-19, First Amendment violations, and an international watercolor conspiracy: newsletter, July 3, 2020

July 5, 2020 | By Jim Stovall | Filed in: books, First Amendment, journalism, newsletter, writers, writing.

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,5xx) on Friday, July 3, 2020.


An international cabal of industrialists and watercolorists has met in secret (not sure when, probably at night; not sure where, probably Switzerland) and decided that July will be International Watercolor Month. I will continue my investigations and report my findings. Anyway, during July we watercolorists are to flood social media and other forums with our paintings, mediocre though they may be. Fair warning: Get ready for the onslaught.

Sometime in June 2017 I started this newsletter in its present form and have been irritating you with it weekly ever since. That more than 150 newsletters and, for me, very hard to believe. Thanks for sticking with me.

Blackberries, which I mentioned, struck a chord with many of you. Childhood memories of picking blackberries, good or bad, are always welcome. Our blackberry stash is approaching four gallons.

civil disagreement has almost become a self-contradiction these days. I hope that’s not the case in this newsletter (see below) or in your life this Fourth of July weekend. Have a great one.

Under the newsletter’s hood: Last week’s newsletter was sent to 2,573 subscribers and had a 26.1 percent open rate; 10 persons 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.

Hugh Walpole, once highly popular and now nearly forgotten

It is likely that in the 1920s and 1930s, few authors sold more books, produced more novels, articles, non-fiction works, and short stories, and made more money than Hugh Walpole. He was hugely popular with the British and American reading public. His books were generally well-received by critics, and just about anything he put his name on turned to gold.

Then he died of a heart attack in 1941 at the age of 57 after participating in an exhausting campaign to raise funds for the war effort.

After that, it was as if he dropped off the face of the literary earth. Distracted by the war and then the unsettled peace and lured by a new crop of post-war writers, the readers who had been so loyal seemed to forget all about him. In the 75 years since the war, Walpole’s reputation has never undergone a revival or rediscovery. Today, little is known about him or his work.

It’s possible, even probable, that today’s readers would find Walpole’s prose and stories hard going. I recently tried reading The Cathedral, thought to be one of his better works and his attempt to be the 20th century Anthony Trollope. I read some of Trollope’s books years ago and found them mildly interest. The Cathedral was, for me, a slog that lacked the punch and drama that I was used to.

(If you’re interested, I downloaded The Cathedral from Project Gutenberg where you can find this and other of Walpole’s works. But I can’t say I would recommend your doing that if you are short of reading time.)

What is interesting today about Walpole is his life and his range of writing.

He was born in New Zealand in 1884 the son of Anglican missionaries. He was shipped off to an English boarding school at an early age — an experience found to be nearly universally awful by those who experienced it — and thus had a less than pleasant childhood. His first choice at a career was to be a clergyman like his father but realized that he didn’t like it and was a miserable failure.

The Great War (a.k.a. World War I) broke out about the time Walpole turned 30, and that provided him plenty of opportunities for travel and adventure. By that time, he was already a published novelist, and he worked for the Red Cross at the Russian front and for the British propaganda office in Russia. Walpole was exceptionally well-read, and after the war, he was in demand not only as a writer but also as a lecturer on literature both in Britain and in America.

Walpole’s writing ranged around numerous genrés. His first works were comedies, then literary novels, and then historical novels. He was a member of the Detection Club, along with Agatha Christie and Dorothy L. Sayers, but his forays into mystery and detective fiction were brief. He wrote dozens of short shorties as well as novels, and he produced several well-reviewed works of non-fiction. He also wrote popular children’s stories. He even tried his hand at screenwriting, traveling to Hollywood a couple of times at the behest of the movie studios.

He wrote quickly and rarely did much editing of his work. His output included 36 novels, five volumes of short stories, two original plays and three volumes of memoirs.

Walpole was a homosexual at a time when homosexuality in Great Britain was a crime. Consequently, he was extremely discreet. His longtime companion was an ex-policeman who had a wife and family. Walpole hired him as a chauffeur, but he really served as a business manager. Walpole supported him and his family handsomely.

Walpole had a lot of money with his writing and bought an estate in the Lake District of England, which he dearly loved. His wrote a series of historical novels set there, which many believe are his most enduring works.

His range of writing also included some journalism. In 1939 William Randolph Hearst commissioned him to travel to Rome to write a series on the death of Pope Pius XI and the election of his successor — an assignment that he enjoyed immensely despite advancing age and failing health.

NY judge’s order violates the First Amendment

A New York judge issued a temporary order earlier this week stopping the publication of a book. The order is an absurd misuse of judicial power, and the judge should be sanctioned and removed from the bench for an egregious violation of the First Amendment.

It doesn’t matter who the personalities involved in the case are or what the content of the book is.

Here’s The Guardian’s story about the situation.

In a statement, Ted Boutrous, a lawyer for Mary Trump, called the order in New York supreme court in Dutchess county “a prior restraint on core political speech that flatly violates the first amendment”.

The book, he said, “addresses matters of great public concern and importance about a sitting president in election year [and] should not be suppressed even for one day”. Source: Trump niece’s book blocked by New York judge but lawyer files appeal | US news | The Guardian

UPDATE: A New York Court of Appeals has rescinded the judge’s ruling, as reported in this story in the New York Times. This was Thursday, two days after the initial ruling.

That’s the good news, but nowhere in the story does the appeals court admonish the judge for his misuse of power. I doubt that they did. Judges, like other professionals, tend to stick together. Still, I think that judge should be encouraged to seek another line of work.

The Prolific Reader. Kill the Quarterback is listed there along with some other great mysteries.”

Tennessee Vietnam War Roundtable

The Tennessee Vietnam War Roundtable will hold its monthly meeting (via Zoom) on Monday, July 13, 2020, at 7 p.m. ET. Our featured guest will be Bill Beaty. Here is the URL you need to join the Zoom meeting:

Bill flew 155 combat missions in an A-7 Corsair, an attack aircraft, which he selected because “I always wanted to fly low and fast.” He deployed in 1970 to Vietnam aboard the USS Ranger, an aircraft carrier.

You don’t have to be a veteran or a Tennessean to join the Tennessee Vietnam War Roundtable. You just need to be interested in what happened in Vietnam and in America’s involvement there in the 1960s and 1970s. Show your support for the men and women who were there by joining us on July 13.

The Tennessee Vietnam War Roundtable is a part of the Vietnam Voices project of the Blount County Public Library.

The benefits of walking are not just physical

Many years ago when I lived in Edinburgh, Scotland, for a few months while working on my dissertation, I would reserve Sunday mornings for taking long walks around that ancient and beautiful city.

I had a detailed map of the city, and I would often plan my walks carefully, making sure I passed by the sites noted on the map. Sometimes I would wander off my planned route if I saw a street or a building or a monument that caught my eye.

My purpose then was to take advantage of my time in that place to see it as closely and intimately as possible.

With the benefit of decades of hindsight, I can now see that there was more to these urban jaunts than what was at the top of my head. Shane Parish, creator of the Farnham Street blog — something I read regularly — has this interesting post of the benefits of walking that go far beyond the physical ones we think about, and it has helped me see my Edinburgh walks in a new light:

Solitude (while walking) is an important aspect of creative thought. You could make an argument that in our information-overloaded world where our senses are stimulated nearly 18 hours a day, solitude and calming our minds is more important than ever. Walking allows us time to play with ideas, explore concepts, and be wrong in our thinking without worrying about others seeing the rawness of our thoughts. Source: Thoreau, Nietzsche and Kant on a Philosophy of Walking

A reaction to my mask-wearing post, and a response

From my good friend, Dan C.:


The so-called medical experts have had their heads up their asses since this pandemic began. At the end of January, the CDC said, “Don’t worry about the Coronavirus, it may be bad but the flu is much more of a threat.” For the first four and a half months of the crisis, the CDC recommended treating SARS CoV-2 as pneumonia. They finally realized it was better to treat it as a fibrosis type disease, something a respiratory therapist friend in LA has had her hospital doing since March with far better results than hospitals following the CDC’s recommendations. The “wear a mask or don’t need a mask” controversy has been bouncing back and forth at the CDC and the Surgeon General for months now. So, no, Jim, I cannot listen to the so-called medical experts.

The Sweden Model ( of limited government intervention (except no visitors in nursing homes and less than 50 people in nightclubs) has a higher mortality rate than the U.S. but not so high. Sweden currently has a SARS CoV-2 Death Rate of 52.3 per 100,000 people while the U.S. Rate is 37.5 per 100,000 people. If the U.S. had the Swedish Rate we would have an additional 15% casualties (putting the U.S. at 142,785 deaths). Taking that into consideration and the fact the negative economic impact of the shutdown is at least ten trillion dollars in direct increase to the national debt and lost taxes, as well as business and personal financial losses, those 18,624 to 20,000 cost half a billion dollars each ($536,941,580.76). I don’t want to be crass, but how much is a human life worth? Some states did not ease their restrictions early on (Nevada for one) yet the cases are still trending upward. The media is laying the blame for the rise in cases solely on the states easing of restrictions (which doesn’t make sense), failing to mention that the nationwide protests had an equal or greater effect.

Just so you know, I have followed all the required procedures. I stay home, basically because that’s what I was doing before. I would go out to the movies once or twice a week and for a good dinner at a bar near me. That was it. I stopped playing poker a year before the isolation orders. We went to Flagstaff, AZ for Father’s Day and followed their “Everyone Wears a Mask Everywhere” rules. The Navajo Nation Cameron Trading Post even required everyone to have a mask on in your car before they would hand you your food. Nevada started the “All Mask, All the Time” policy yesterday with what I feel is a stupid caveat. If you have a medical reason to not wear a mask, you don’t have to. So the most vulnerable (the elderly with underlying conditions) do not need to protect themselves or those around them. I am one that does not require a mask. I thought I could get past 40 years of smoking with only a massive heart attack and double-bypass eight months after I quit smoking. Now, COPD is rearing its ugly head. On a good day, my ‘pulse ox’ is 92%. On a hot day, it is 90% or less. At high altitude (like Flagstaff), I don’t sleep much because when lying down my lungs don’t suck in enough air. Give me a hot day and a restrictive mask that increases my CO2 and my ‘pulse ox’ drops to dangerous levels. I am not the only one, I am just lucky I have a daughter that could go out, even though she is a breast cancer survivor going in for surgery in a few weeks to remove her colon cancer. Actually, I use her new husband, not her when I need something. Not for medical reasons, I’m just lazy.

I think we overreacted from the beginning, just as the CDC said early on. An average Seasonal Flu cycle kills, directly or indirectly, nearly a million people world-wide. I think the work shutdowns were not nearly as bad as most people imagine. Nation-wide unemployment rates went from 3% to 20%, while the media makes it look like every other person is out of work. They were in the most visible areas, entertainment and food, so it was a bigger story. Most people that were out of work got unemployment and C.A.R.E.S. relatively quickly and the average $3,000.00 a month, which is more than many were making prior to shutdown (my daughter was one of them). Who knows what the real truth is. I don’t side with the conspiracy theorists but I don’t side with the government and the experts.

Well, enough of my rant. I hope I did not keep you from anything important.

Take Care, Stay Safe, and Keep SARS CoV-2 Free,



Thanks very much for taking the time to rant. I appreciate it and appreciate your point of view.
I guess we must part company at present on this issue (and just this issue). From my perspective, the so-called medical experts are indeed medical experts and epidemiologists who have invested their careers in the study and attempted prevention of what we are now experiencing. I don’t think this pandemic is equivalent to the flu or traffic accidents or anything else that kills a larger number of people. Isolation and wearing a mask have been correlated with the reduction of cases, illnesses, and deaths, and the correlation is reasonably strong.
We did not overreact. Unfortunately, we did the opposite. We’re paying the price.
I am doing my best to stay safe. I trust you are doing the same and hope to hear from you again soon.
Juanita W.: I remember picking blackberries at an early age with my mother and siblings. The briars, chiggers, and fear of snakes did not make a pleasant memory, but it was a necessary chore. My mother rose before daylight to build a fire in the woodstove to make hot biscuits. She opened a can of her sweet blackberries and poured them over hot biscuits. Anything sweet was a treat because each family was given a book of stamps from the government to limit buying during the war. I never heard a complaint about the rations, but on Saturdays, there was a gathering at the local store to swap stamps. My Dad swapped his extra stamps for JFG coffee.

Kathy R.: I too get frustrated with people who do not wear masks in public. I am puzzled by this, especially with people who are over 65 – where is their common sense?

I penned the attached letter one day after a trip to the grocery store (one of our few outings). Just thought I would share it with you.

You can read Kathy’s letter below the signature of this email.

Curtis D.: To mention a more recent round-robin, I believe I have this correct. Naked Came The Manatee. This was by a group of Florida writers including, I think, Dave Barry? I really enjoyed reading it.

Correct: Dave Barry, Carl Hiaasen, Edna Buchanan, and Elmore Leonard, among others.

Marcia D.: My Mom and I used to pick wild blackberries. She would freeze some, make blackberry pie and blackberry cobbler.

Kitty G.: I am in the middle of blueberry season. Jam, pies, muffins, cakes, pancakes…YUM!!

Finally . . .

This week’s watercolor (with graphite): The Flute Player

Best quote of the week:

The American who first discovered Columbus made a bad discovery. Georg Christoph Lichtenberg, scientist and philosopher (1742-1799)

Helping those in need

Fires in California, hurricanes on the Atlantic Coast, tornados in Tennessee, and now coronavirus — 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 ( 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.


Jim Stovall

You can connect with Jim on FacebookTwitterLinkedin, and BookBub.

His Amazon author page is where you can find more information about his books.

Last week’s newsletter: An admiral floats while multiple writers write the same story, the scientific method, and more reasons to stay home and read a good book: newsletter, June 26, 2020


Kathy R.’s letter:


This was grocery shopping day for us. We saw many of you out and about and not a single mask in sight. What a sad reflection of how much you care about those with compromised immune systems.

Many of you believe that catching the coronavirus is no big thing. Most likely you may not even know of anyone who has had it. After all there are less than 35,000 cases in Ohio. Not many when you consider the entire population of the state. And you are probably not in the age group that is most vulnerable. So, running around without a mask is your right and nothing will happen to you.

First of all, a reminder, the mask is not to protect you, it is for the protection of those around you. While your friends are in your age group, what about parents? Or aunts and uncles? Or that neighbor next door? How about the people you pass in the hallway at work or the store? Did you consider your grandparents? Or your friends relatives?

The problem with this virus is that you could have it and never know it – no symptoms at all. Of course, you cannot know this with any certainty unless you were tested today. By the way, if you test negative today, that does not mean you will be negative tomorrow. Unless you get tested EVERY DAY you may be contagious. Contagion happens before you have any symptoms.

We have a compromised immune system. We would love to be able to go out to dinner, or attend church, or go to a museum, or visit with friends. But we cannot because people like you do not care about us. Your wants are more important.

Stop and consider others in the state. Consider others in your church or the restaurant you go to tonight. Can you say with absolute certainty that you are not contagious?

Masks can be annoying to wear. But suffering with the virus will be worse.

Please have consideration for the rest of us. Thank you for your cooperation. If we all work together this will pass.



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