This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,332) on Friday, June 4, 2021.
In addition to all of the delights of a late but beautiful spring here in East Tennessee, we are being treated to one of Mother Nature’s rare rock concerts. It happens less often than a Bruce Springsteen show but more often than Woodstock.
What I’m talking about, of course, is cicadas. They are out and about these days, doing apparently what they do best: making a lot of noise. We began seeing then come out of the ground two or three weeks ago (photo) and then beginning to shed their old skins. Now They Are Up In the trees singing — or whatever you call it — for all they’re worth.
This all happens once every 17 years. So even if you find yourself annoyed but the noise, you can’t help but be awed by the miracle of it all.
I hope that you were being awed by something these days and that you have a great weekend.
Under the newsletter’s hood: Last week’s newsletter was sent to 2,330 subscribers and had a 22.0 percent open rate; 2 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.
Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, early advocate of inoculation
More than 300 years ago, Lady Mary Wortley Montagu faced the same problem that public health officials face today: persuading people to inoculate themselves against a dreaded disease.
Only Lady Mary did not have 300 years of research and evidence behind her efforts, and she did not have most of the medical community to back her up. In fact, most of the doctors of the day were staunchly opposed to inoculation. It was not part of their normal medical procedures — many of which did more harm than good for their patients — and they were in no mood to take any advice, especially from a woman.
Still, Lady Mary persisted.
Born in 1689, Lady Mary Wortley Montagu (née Pierrepont) was part of a privileged family and lived in grand houses in London. But she spent much of her childhood under the gaze of a governess whom she despised and who believed the girls should be limited in their education and ambition. Mary believed otherwise.
Her family had acquired a substantial library, and despite her governess’s efforts, she absorbed all that she could from it. By the time she was 16, she had authored two volumes of poetry and a novel. She had also taught herself Latin.
When she was 23, she married Edward Wortley Montagu, and the couple became leading lights in London’s social and political circles. Her brother had died of smallpox — the scourge of the age — when he was 20, and Lady Mary contracted the disease in 1715. She was one of the lucky few in her time who got smallpox and lived to tell about it.
The next year her husband was appointed the British ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, and she and her family moved with him to Constantinople.
After she had been there for a while, she realized that smallpox was not as widespread in the Ottoman Empire as it was in Great Britain and other parts of Western Europe. Having suffered from the disease herself, Mary was curious about why it had not affected the land where she was.
What she discovered was that inoculation against smallpox was a widespread practice in the Ottoman Empire. Inoculation involved infecting a person with a small amount of the disease — enough certainly to make them sick but not enough to be fatal. Once the person had recovered, they were extremely unlikely to be infected again.
Mary had the doctor at the British Embassy inoculate her son. When the family returned to London in 1721, the world was experiencing a global outbreak of smallpox that was affecting many people in both Europe and America. During that time, Mary had her daughter inoculated.
Setting herself up for bitter recriminations — something we might call “cancel culture” today — Mary publicized the fact that she had inoculated her children, that few people in the Ottoman Empire contracted smallpox because of inoculation, and that inoculation should be a standard medical procedure.
Her opponents pounced. They labeled her as irreligious because she was advocating a non-Christian practice. They called her an ignorant woman who knew nothing about medicine. They advocated ignoring not only her ideas about inoculation, but also her other writings. Some even called for her to be jailed or to be treated as a witch.
Still, she persisted.
Despite her critics, Mary’s advocacy of inoculation fell on some willing and sympathetic ears, including members of the royal family. Caroline, Princess of Wales, had her two daughters inoculated, and many other people did the same. They did so secretly, however, and inoculation did not become a widespread practice for many years.
Aside from her advocacy of inoculation, Mary Wortley Montague was one of the most prolific and well-known writers of her time. She continued to write travel pieces, political articles, and poetry throughout her long life. She died of cancer in 1762 at the age of 73.
Eventually, the dangerous method of inoculation was replaced by the safer and more reliable method of vaccination. And as we are seeing today, that method, too, is a cause for controversy.
Dan Snow’s History Hits podcast and television channel has an excellent podcast on Lady Mary which you can listen to here: https://access.historyhit.com/dan-snow-s-history-hit-1/videos/lady-mary-and-the-first-inoculation
A poem by Lady Mary written when she was living in Constantinople is below the signature of this email.
Ian Fleming debuts James Bond with Casino Royale in 1953 (part 2)
When Casino Royale, the first James Bond novel, was published in 1953, it was the product of more than a decade of Ian Fleming’s imagination but only about two months of actual writing work.
Fleming began the novel in January 1952 as he was anticipating getting married to Ann Charteris, a woman he had known and been in love with for nearly two decades. Their long-standing affair had produced a child while she was married to another man, but by this time they were finally free to get together.
Fleming was living in Jamaica at the time, having visited there during the war and vowing that one day he would make it his home. He had gone back to journalism when the war ended and had been the foreign editor of Kemsley News, which owned the Sunday Times. In 1951, he had become managing director of Queen Anne Press, a small publisher of quality books by well-known authors. His position with Kemsley News allowed him to live for part of the year in Jamaica.
The novel was finished in two months and went through several hands before it was sent to the publishing house Jonathan Cape, which was handling books authored by Fleming’s brother Peter. Fleming himself seemed unenthusiastic about the book, and at first, the publishers were reluctant to take it on. Finally, at Peter’s urging, they brought it out on April 13, 1953. The cover was designed by the author.
The book was an immediate success. Jonathan Cape printed nearly 5,000 copies for its first run, and they sold quickly. A second and a third run were authorized, and the book eventually sold more than 40,000 copies in its first year in Great Britain. In the United States, several publishers passed on the novel, but it was finally published by Macmillan.
Oddly enough, the book did not do well in the U.S., selling only about 4,000 copies in the first year. In 1954 CBS paid Fleming $1,000 for the rights to produce a one-hour version of the novel for its weekly Climax series. Network writers made numerous changes in the story, including making James Bond an American and giving him the name “Jimmy Bond.”
The show was produced with Barry Newman (not Sean Connery) playing the first on-screen Bond and was aired in October.
Overall, the success of Casino Royale could be termed as “modest,” but it did teach Fleming that he could write an acceptable and popular thriller. His writing regimen became spending 10 months of a year thinking and doing research and two months writing. In the 1960s, he described it himself:
“I write for about three hours in the morning … and I do another hour’s work between six and seven in the evening. I never correct anything and I never go back to see what I have written … By following my formula, you write 2,000 words a day.”
Throughout the 1950s, Fleming continued to produce James Bond novels, all of which sold well and were generally well-received by critics. By the end of the decade, however, critics were taking a different view of his work and were assailing him for a variety of literary sins. Fleming’s personal problems and his reliance on tobacco and alcohol spun him into periods of depression and self-doubt.
Fleming received a boost when in 1961 the newly inaugurated President John Kennedy listed From Russia With Love as among his favorite books. From that point, sales in the U.S. soared. Another boost came in 1962 with the release of Dr. No, the first major Bond movie. The film starred Sean Connery, and his depiction of Bond enhanced immeasurably the Bond franchise.
Despite these successes, ill-health plagued Fleming. He suffered a heart attack in 1961, and in 1964 on a trip to England, Fleming collapsed and died of a second heart attack. He was 56 years old. Two of his novels, The Man with the Golden Gun and Octopussy and The Living Daylights, were published posthumously.
Fleming was alive when Dr. No and From Russia With Love were released, and he had some input on the third Bond movie, Goldfinger. But he did not live to see the James Bond character that he had created became the biggest and most enduring star character in cinematic history.
The Prolific Reader. Kill the Quarterback is listed there along with some other great mysteries.https://theprolificreader.com/mystery”
Charles Altamont Doyle, Sherlock illustrator and author’s father
In the more than a century and a quarter since Arthur Conan Doyle created his character Sherlock Holmes, dozens of illustrators — many of them talented and famous – have given us a picture of what the famous detective might have looked like. One name among that group might surprise you: Charles Altamont Doyle, the author’s father.
In fact, Arthur Conan Doyle comes from a line of artists and illustrators, not writers. His father Charles was a professional artist and illustrator and so was his grandfather John Doyle, who was a well-known caricaturist. Three of Charles’ brothers were also artists.
Charles was born in England In 1832, but as a young man, he moved to Edinburgh, Scotland. There, he worked for the government as an illustrator and surveyor and also exhibited his watercolors and pen and ink drawings. He produced illustrations for more than 20 books, including The Pilgrim’s Progress and Robinson Crusoe.
Despite these commissions, Charles was not as successful as an artist as he had hoped to be, and he was prone to alcoholism and depression. He was institutionalized several times. He was declared insane in 1885 and spent the rest of his life in and out of asylums. In 1888, however, he produced six illustrations for his son’s new Sherlock Holmes book, A Study in Scarlet. A few months later, he drew one illustration for the story, The Mystery of Cloomber, which was serialized in the Pall Mall Gazette.
He spent the last year-and-a-half of his life in an asylum in Dumfries, Scotland. He died in 1893.
In 1924, his now-famous son Arthur Conan Doyle organized an exhibit of his watercolors that achieved some critical success.
The first American to die in Vietnam
There are, unfortunately, lots of candidates for “the first American to die in Vietnam.” Each historian of the conflict has a different name, usually from the early 1960s and some that go back to the 1950s.
Historian Frederik Logevall, in his Pulitzer Prizing winning Embers of War, takes readers all the way back to 1945 for his first American killed in Vietnam, and the person he identifies was unusually accomplished.
He is Lieutenant Colonel Peter Dewey, a member of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), the forerunner of the CIA. Dewey was the son of a Republican congressman and a graduate of Yale University, and his war record was unusually vivid. He had been a reporter for the Chicago Daily News in its Paris bureau and was in France during the German invasion in May 1940.
He left the newspaper and joined a contingent of the Polish Army fighting in France as an ambulance driver. With the French defeat, he escaped to Portugal.
Four years later, he parachuted into France behind enemy lines, leading a 10-man team for the OSS. He spent six weeks directing French underground operations of intelligence gathering and sabotage. By the time the war was over, he had authored two books, one on the defeat of France by German forces. Dewey won several medals for his work in France.
In August 1945, he was assigned to lead an OSS unit into Indochina to help repatriate Allied POWs. The French were at the time trying to reestablish control over Vietnam and essentially at war with the nationalist Vietnamese, who were represented by Ho Chi Min and the Viet Minh. Dewey, to the consternation of the French and the British who were supporting the French in restoring their empire, had made contact with Ho and was beginning to work with him.
Dewey complained to the British commander about the harsh treatment the French were doling out to the Vietnamese — a complaint that fell on less than sympathetic ears. In fact, the British commander invited Dewey and the Americans to leave.
Dewey complied and on September 26, 1945, left to meet a plane that was coming from Thailand take him out. The plane was late, so Dewey decided to return to his headquarters for lunch. On the way, he saw some Vietnamese hiding in a ditch, and he yelled at them in French. Mistaking him for a French officer, they opened fire, and Dewey was struck in the head and killed instantly.
Ho Chi Minh reportedly sent a letter of condolence to U.S. President Harry Truman and ordered a search for his body, but the body was never recovered.
Dewey’s name was left off of the Vietnam Memorial Monument in Washington, D.C., because of a Pentagon ruling that the American part of the war began in 1955.
Verse and Vision: Poems and painting from a couple of years ago
(I shared this list last month in a newsletter but later found out that none of the links in the original version of the newsletter work. I have tried to correct that with the list below.)
A couple of years ago a colleague at the Blount County Public Library asked me to record a poem because April is National Poetry Month. One thing led to another, and by September, I had made about 20 video recordings of poems recited as voiceovers for watercolor paintings that had some relationship to the poem or the poet.
Before April 2021 gets away from us, I thought it might be a good idea to reprise that list in honor of this year’s National Poetry Month, and I hereby invite you to revisit any of those videos with the links below:
Lines Written a Few Miles above Tintern Abby by William Wordsworth
The Village Blacksmith by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Ulysses by Alfred, Lord Tennyson
1492 and The New Colossus by Emma Lazarus: http://bit.ly/lazarus-newcolossus
To Althea, from Prison by Richard Lovelace
The Charge of the Light Brigade by Alfred, Lord Tennyson
The House of Rest by Julia Ward Howe: http://bit.ly/howe-houseofrest
Lochinvar by Sir Walter Scott
Ole Bert: In His Own Words by Bert Garner
In the Highlands and Consolation by Robert Louis Stevenson
To His Coy Mistress by Andrew Marvell
Casey at the Bat by Ernest Lawrence Thayer
The Old Clock on the Stairs by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Evening Star and Annabel Lee by Edgar Allan Poe
Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard by Thomas Gray
My Heart and I by Elizabeth Barrett Browning:
The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe
Sonnet 18 by William Shakespeare
Most of these videos were recorded out of doors on a small porch at the side of my house. I did that because the natural light is better than anything I can set up inside. Now that the weather is turning warmer, I may revive this Verse and Vision series. Any suggestions about poems or paintings would be greatly appreciated.
Greg S.: I totally agree with your thought: Teachers, when they teach, learn more than their students.
Finally . . .This week’s watercolor: Old City Knoxville
Best quote of the week:
In words as fashions the same rule will hold,
Alike fantastic if too new or old;
Be not the first by whom the new are tried,
Nor yet the last to lay the old aside.
Alexander Pope, poet (1688-1744)
Helping those in need
Fires in California, freezing weather in Texas, 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 (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: Fleming conceives of Bond, Wesley’s strategy, and a librarian reveals all: newsletter, May 28, 2021
in the Chiosk at Pera
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.