Author Archives: Jim Stovall

About Jim Stovall

Jim Stovall, (JPROF.com) a retired journalism prof, is now a novelist, self-publisher, watercolorist, gardener, woodworker, and beekeeper -- among other things. Subscribe to his weekly newsletter at http://www.jprof.com .

The best-selling textbook of all time, the motivations of an art forger, and the remarkable Mary Somerville:newsletter, June 18, 2021

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,332) on Friday, June 18, 2021.

The latest controversy to hit Major League Baseball revolves around the “sticky stuff” many pitchers apply to a baseball before they throw it. Applying any foreign substance to a baseball is against the rules. The controversy has been sparked by Sports Illustrated cover article that claims as many as 80 percent of MLB pitchers are doing just that.

One well-regarded pitcher, whom I won’t name, admitted that he had used such a substance a couple of years ago. He said that he stopped because he didn’t like the way it felt while he was pitching. His team manager praised him for his “integrity.”

If that constitutes integrity in our public life these days, then I am left sadly shaking my head. Here I thought integrity I meant doing the right thing because it was the right thing to do.

I hope you have a great weekend.

Under the newsletter’s hood: Last week’s newsletter was sent to 2,319 subscribers and had a 26.3 percent open rate; 1 person 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.


Harbrace Handbook: the all-time best-selling textbook

If you were in a college English composition class most anytime between 1955 and the year 2000, chances are that your textbook was a small-sized book that people referred to simply as the Harbrace Handbook.

No one keeps records of these things, unfortunately, but the Harbrace Handbook is thought to be by far the best-selling college textbook ever published. Since it’s life began as a published book in the early 1940s, it has sold millions of copies, gone through several name changes, and it’s been used in courses around the world. There have been more than 20 editions published.

Where did this publishing gold mine spring from?

The answer to that is fairly simple. It came from one English professor, a man named John C. Hodges, who taught at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville from the 1920s into the 1960s.

Like just about every other professor who has attempted to teach writing to his or her students, Hodges struggled to get his students to understand and appreciate the technical aspects of the language. English usage has many rules and customs, and good writers adopt, understand, and use those to their advantage.

But at the time Hodges began teaching, the books that contained those rules were not very interesting or accessible to students faced with writing what was demanded by English composition courses. In 1922, Hodges began keeping a list of the most common mistakes that students made. Later he enlisted graduate students to comb through papers written by students to find even more mistakes.

During the next fifteen years, Hodges compiled not just a list of mistakes but also a list of principles and rules — often with succinct explanations and examples — that students could have by their side as they were writing. This locally published manual became a valuable resource for students.

It was also a valuable tool for teachers because it was organized in a way that made it easy for them to use. When marking papers, they simply had to refer to the chapter or section number in Hodges’ manual rather than write out long explanations for errors that students might have made. That ingenious innovation saved teachers a great deal of time.

In the late 1930s, a traveling salesman for Harcourt Brace publishers came to Knoxville, met Hodges, and became intrigued with the system that Hodges had devised. He contacted his bosses in New York, and after some negotiations, they offered Hodges a publishing contract. The name Harbrace was a combination of Harcourt and Brace. The book did not carry the name of John C Hodges as its author. In fact, Hodges’ name did not appear on the book until the 1960s.

According to an article about Hodges and the book by Brooks Clark on the University of Tennessee website, he just had two objectives in mind when he composed the book:

The first read: “To make correction of written work as clear and easy as possible for the student.” The second was: “To make marking of student papers as easy as possible for the instructor.” The latter point—making teachers’ lives easier — has been the secret to its continuing success. https://volumes.lib.utk.edu/news/grammar-book-built-the-library/

Hodges, as you can imagine, made a great deal of money as the book gained adoptions through the 1940s and 1950s. Publishers noticed, and imitators soon appeared. That ironically cemented Harbrace’s place as the first, and the best, English composition handbook.

Hodges retired from teaching at UT in 1962, and five years later he died of a heart attack. He made provision in his will to funnel part of the royalties from Harbrace to the University of Tennessee. Those royalties were a major source of funding for UT’s library, which carries the name John C. Hodges Library.

Han van Meegeren: an update on the motives of the 20th century’s most successful art forger

The story of Han van Meegeren, often thought of as the greatest forger in the history of art theft, was the subject of a two-part series of posts that I offered to newsletter readers a couple of years ago. Part 1 is here. Part 2 is here.

Now, we have new information about this extraordinary, though not very exemplary, individual.

During the 1930s and 1940s in Holland, van Meegeren produced at least six paintings that he claimed were the work of Johannes Vermeer. These paintings fooled the authenticating experts of the time, and they were sold for vast amounts of money.

One of those paintings was bought by Reichsmarschall Hermann Goering at the time when Holland was occupied by Nazi Germany. Goering paid more guilders for that painting than anyone had ever paid in the history of art. Owning a Vermeer was one of Goering’s proudest achievements.

Things didn’t go well for Goering after the war. He committed suicide while under a death sentence in a prison in Nuremberg, Germany.

Things didn’t go well for van Meegeren, either. He was arrested by Allied authorities and accused by the Dutch government of collaborating with the Germans. It was a serious charge, one that he could have been executed for.

That story is contained in the previous posts cited above.

What’s new is the information — or at least a very educated opinion — about van Meegeren’s motivations. He consistently claimed he began forging art because of the rough handling that he had received early in his career from art critics. He would show them, he said, by creating works of art just like the Old Masters and by doing so in such a way that critics and experts would think they are real.

A different view of this story is taken by Jonathan Lopez, the author of The Man Who Made Vermeers: Unvarnishing the Legend of Master Forger Han van Meegeren, a biography that makes no claim being sympathetic to its subject. 

Van Meegeren was no wounded artist merely seeking revenge, Lopez says. Instead, he was part of a multinational art forgery and theft network long before he made any claims of merely warning to send up the critics. His chief motivation: greed.

That network “found” lost artworks by the Old Masters, authenticated them in various and sundry ways, and then sold them for a lot of money to rich museums and art patrons. One of their major targets was Andrew Mellon, an American multi-millionaire an art collector, to whom two of the fake Vermeers painted by van Meegeren were sold. Melon later donated his entire collection to the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.

Lopez’s book serves as the basis for a feature-length movie, The Last Vermeer, that was produced in 2020. I have seen the movie and am now reading the book. Both are fascinating.


The Prolific Reader. Kill the Quarterback is listed there along with some other great mysteries.https://theprolificreader.com/mystery”


Mary Somerville, the woman who became the first scientist (part 2)

By the time Mary Somerville was 47 years old in 1827, she had lived what might have seemed like to many a full life for a nineteenth-century female. Actually, more than a full life.

She had grown up the daughter of a British Naval captain, and as a child the circumstances of her family were financially stretched. Mary had not done well with her formal education, but she had managed to teach herself far beyond what any of her headmasters could have accomplished. Mary’s interests included biology, geology, Latin, astronomy, and physics. But she was particularly keen on various forms of mathematics.

She had taught herself algebra and geometry and it made in-depth explorations in many other areas of mathematics.

But domestic obligations had intruded heavily into Mary’s life, and in 1804 she was married to a distant cousin. She moved from her native Scotland to London, where the couple began a family. They had two sons, but in 1807 her husband died, and that tragedy was followed shortly thereafter by the death of her son.

Her husband’s death had left her financially independent, and she and her surviving son then moved back to Scotland. There, she continued with her intellectual explorations. She had become somewhat famous in the small world of mathematicians by solving problems posted by mathematics journals.

In 1811, she married for the second time, again to a distant cousin named William Somerville. William was a physician, and unlike Mary’s first husband, he encouraged her varied intellectual pursuits. The couple moved back to London in 1819. There, they began social and professional contacts with many of the great intellects of the day.

In Mary’s vast and varied reading, she had become familiar with the work of Pierre-Simon LaPlace, a giant in mathematics of the previous generation. Mary had been asked to produce an English translation of LaPlace’s work, something she initially felt unqualified to do. But she was persuaded otherwise and believed, when she started, that the translation would take only a few months. Instead, it took about three years.

The translation wasn’t the hard part of the work, Mary found. What she realized, however, was that she had much to add to what LaPlace had done. Consequently in 1831, Mary’s “translation,” The Mechanisms of the Heavens, was published. It was an astonishing work, and it made her instantly famous.

The high praise that she received for this book — plus the £200 royal stipend that she was awarded — undoubtedly gave her the confidence to carry on with her groundbreaking work. Her second book On the Connexion of the Physical Sciences , was even more ambitious than the first in that it drew together many of the scientific principles that have been developed for individual fields such as botany and astronomy.

In reviewing the book, William Whewell bestowed upon her the title of “scientist”, the first time that term has ever been used. The book sold 15,000 copies, made her a lot of money, and cemented her reputation as one of the few leading intellectuals the day.

Nothing published in the scientific world and as much impact as that book until 1859 when Charles Darwin published his The Origin of the Species.

Her book Physical Geography was published in 1848, and it too was both groundbreaking and profitable. The book was beautifully illustrated by Mary, an accomplished artist in addition to her intellectual feats. It was used as a textbook in British schools until well into the 20th century. A fourth book, Molecular and Microscopic Science, was published in 1869 and was a compendium of the latest discoveries made using a microscope. That book took her nearly a decade to write, but it was beautifully Illustrated and well-received.

Mary had lived much of the last 40 years of her life in Naples, Italy, because of the ill health of her husband. She died in Naples in 1872 at the age of 91, the most celebrated female intellect of her time. She was so well thought of that after her death, Somerville College in Oxford was named in her honor.

More from The Devil’s Dictionary

A few weeks ago, we took a look at The Devil’s Dictionary by Ambrose Bierce, a book you should know more about. Bierce was a Civil War combat veteran who became one of the nation’s foremost writers and cynics in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Here are some more of the dictionary’s entries:

PATRIOT, n. One to whom the interests of a part seem superior to those of the whole. The dupe of statesmen and the tool of conquerors.

RABBLE, n. In a republic, those who exercise a supreme authority tempered by fraudulent elections. The rabble is like the sacred Simurgh, of Arabian fable—omnipotent on condition that it do nothing. (The word is Aristocratese, and has no exact equivalent in our tongue, but means, as nearly as may be, “soaring swine.”)

SCRIPTURES, n. The sacred books of our holy religion, as distinguished from the false and profane writings on which all other faiths are based.

TELEPHONE, n. An invention of the devil which abrogates some of the advantages of making a disagreeable person keep his distance.

You can get a free copy of The Devil’s Dictionary in a variety of formats through Project Gutenberg.

 

Reactions

Finally . . .

This week’s watercolor: Constantinople chess match

Best quote of the week:

One day I was speeding along at the typewriter, and my daughter — who was a child at the time — asked me, “Daddy, why are you writing so fast?” And I replied, “Because I want to see how the story turns out!” Louis L’Amour, novelist (1908-1988)

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.

Jim

Jim Stovall
www.jprof.com

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: The first ‘scientist,’ Forsyth’s enjoyment of silence, and the Irish gun plot: newsletter, June 11, 2021

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 Lazarushttp://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 Howehttp://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.

Mary Somerville, the woman who became the first scientist (part 2)

By the time Mary Somerville was 47 years old in 1827, she had lived what might have seemed like to many a full life for a nineteenth-century female. Actually, more than a full life.

She had grown up the daughter of a British Naval captain, and as a child the circumstances of her family were financially stretched. Mary had not done well with her formal education, but she had managed to teach herself far beyond what any of her headmasters could have accomplished. Mary’s interests included biology, geology, Latin, astronomy, and physics. But she was particularly keen on various forms of mathematics.

She had taught herself algebra and geometry and it made in-depth explorations in many other areas of mathematics.

But domestic obligations had intruded heavily into Mary’s life, and in 1804 she was married to a distant cousin. She moved from her native Scotland to London, where the couple began a family. They had two sons, but in 1807 her husband died, and that tragedy was followed shortly thereafter by the death of her son.

Her husband’s death had left her financially independent, and she and her surviving son then moved back to Scotland. There, she continued with her intellectual explorations. She had become somewhat famous in the small world of mathematicians by solving problems posted by mathematics journals.

In 1811, she married for the second time, again to a distant cousin named William Somerville. William was a physician, and unlike Mary’s first husband, he encouraged her varied intellectual pursuits. The couple moved back to London in 1819. There, they began social and professional contacts with many of the great intellects of the day.

In Mary’s vast and varied reading, she had become familiar with the work of Pierre-Simon LaPlace, a giant in mathematics of the previous generation. Mary had been asked to produce an English translation of LaPlace’s work, something she initially felt unqualified to do. But she was persuaded otherwise and believed, when she started, that the translation would take only a few months. Instead, it took about three years.

The translation wasn’t the hard part of the work, Mary found. What she realized, however, was that she had much to add to what LaPlace had done. Consequently in 1831, Mary’s “translation,” The Mechanisms of the Heavens, was published. It was an astonishing work, and it made her instantly famous.

The high praise that she received for this book — plus the £200 royal stipend that she was awarded — undoubtedly gave her the confidence to carry on with her groundbreaking work. Her second book On the Connexion of the Physical Sciences , was even more ambitious than the first in that it drew together many of the scientific principles that have been developed for individual fields such as botany and astronomy.

In reviewing the book, William Whewell bestowed upon her the title of “scientist”, the first time that term has ever been used. The book sold 15,000 copies, made her a lot of money, and cemented her reputation as one of the few leading intellectuals the day.

Nothing published in the scientific world and as much impact as that book until 1859 when Charles Darwin published his The Origin of the Species.

Her book Physical Geography was published in 1848, and it too was both groundbreaking and profitable. The book was beautifully illustrated by Mary, an accomplished artist in addition to her intellectual feats. It was used as a textbook in British schools until well into the 20th century. A fourth book, Molecular and Microscopic Science, was published in 1869 and was a compendium of the latest discoveries made using a microscope. That book took her nearly a decade to write, but it was beautifully Illustrated and well-received.

Mary had lived much of the last 40 years of her life in Naples, Italy, because of the ill health of her husband. She died in Naples in 1872 at the age of 91, the most celebrated female intellect of her time. She was so well thought of that after her death, Somerville College in Oxford was named in her honor.

The first ‘scientist,’ Forsyth’s enjoyment of silence, and the Irish gun plot: newsletter, June 11, 2021

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,332) on Friday, June 11, 2021.

Periodically, a few people, and a few members of the news media — and then a few government officials and agencies — will stir themselves up over an identified flying objects, UFOs. As I write this, we are awaiting the release of a government report on possible sightings of such objects.

I must admit, as may be obvious, that I am an extreme skeptic about UFOs. Yes, there are things that people see that remain unexplained. But why must we have the government issue a report that will say simply that?

There are many things that I do know exist that merit the government’s attention. One of those, to give you an example, is robocalls and why we can’t stop them. I eagerly await the government’s report on that.

Whatever government report you are awaiting, I hope wonderful summertime weekend.

Under the newsletter’s hood: Last week’s newsletter was sent to 2,324 subscribers and had a 24.3 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.


Mary Somerville, the first person to be called a ‘scientist’ (part 1)

William Whewell had a problem.

In 1834, he was reviewing a newly-published book titled On the Connexion of the Physical SciencesIt was an extraordinary work, something that he had never encountered before. It was a book that took on incomplete and fragmented knowledge of the fields of astronomy, mathematics, physics, geology, and chemistry and brought all of them together into a beautiful tapestry.

Whewell was no stranger to the idea that one could reach across specific fields of inquiry to come up with larger conclusions. He was known as a polymath because of his wide variety of Interests in poetry, theology, astronomy, mathematics, and many other such topics. At this point in his own career he was well on his way to be coming a Master at Trinity College in Cambridge.

In writing his review, when he would normally have referred to the author as a mathematician or an astronomer or whatever other field the author specialized in, he might also have referred to the author as a “ man of science.” None of those monikers, however, was appropriate in this case because the author of this extraordinary book did not specialize in any single field. More importantly, the author was not a man.

She was Mary Somerville, a Scottish woman and one of the most versatile intellects of her age.

Whewell needed a new term for her, so he invented one. He came up with the word “scientist.” We have been using that term ever since.

And it is especially fitting that Mary Somerville was the first person to have that term bestowed upon her. Mary was born as Mary Fairfax, daughter of an English naval officer, in Jedburgh, Scotland, in 1780. The family lived in genteel poverty, with Mary’s mother having to keep farm animals and grow crops to make ends meet when her husband was at sea.

Mary was something of a wild child, roaming through fields and meadows and taking in only a small part of the little formal education that was offered to her. Her mother taught her to read but not to write. But when her father returned home from sea at one point and found that she could not write, he sent her to a boarding school in Musselburgh. That did not go well. Mary chafed at the school’s emphasis on repetition and memorization.

Mary’s active intellect needed something else. When she was about 15 years old, she noticed an algebraic equation that was an illustration in a fashion magazine. She was intrigued. She managed to get her hands on an algebra book and learned how to solve algebraic equations on her own. It was the beginning of her lifelong love of mathematics.

Her parents did not encourage this particular love affair, however. They actively tried to stop her pursuits by taking her her candles away so that she could not read at night.

Despite their opposition, Mary continued her self education by teaching herself to read Latin so that she could understand Euclid and his writings on geometry. Mary’s parents finally got their way in 1804 when she married a distant cousin, Samuel Greig, and the family moved to London. Mary fulfilled her role as a modern wife, producing two sons and spending most of her time taking care of them. Her husband did not encourage Mary’s intellectual endeavors.

In 1807, tragedy struck when Mary’s husband died, and that was followed shortly thereafter by the death of one of her sons. Her husband’s death left her with enough income so that she could move back to Scotland with her other son and once again take up her studies of mathematics and other fields of Interest. She began to submit solutions to problems posted in mathematics journals, and she even won a prize for doing so.

Again, her family objected to her continued studies. It was undoubtedly a great relief to them when Mary married William Somerville in 1812. William was a medical man, and he encouraged Mary to expand her interests, which eventually included Greek, geology, botany, and mineralogy. The couple moved to London where William was elected to the Royal Society of surgeons, which allowed them to meet and mix with some of the great intellects of the day.

During the next decade and a half, Mary continued to delve into her many interests in all parts of the scientific world and to impress its leaders with her reasoning and her writing.

In 1827, when Mary was 47 years old, Lord Henry Brougham, the head of the society for the diffusion of useful knowledge, asked Mary to take on the task of translating Simon-Pierre LaPlace’s Celestial Mechanics. At first, Mary did not think she was up to the task because she did not have a university education. The job, however, appeared to be one of simple translation and would probably take only a few months, so she decided to tackle it.

The task turned out to be far longer than a few months and far more complex than simple translation. But when it was done, what she produced set Mary on the road to intellectual fame.

Next week: Mary Somerville’s impact on the entirety of science

So, Republic, what did you do during The Troubles?

When The Troubles erupted in August 1969 in the six counties in Northern Ireland that Great Britain still claimed, the two sides of the conflict — the Protestants and the Catholics — were well and quickly established in the eyes of the world.

Protestants were in the majority in those counties, and discrimination against Catholics, which included confining them to certain neighborhoods in many places, was open and widespread. To those who paid attention — particularly in those in the United States who had just experienced the decade of civil rights — that kind of discrimination shocked the senses.

The British government in London had initially left the situation in the hands of the authorities in Northern Ireland, but the police force there was overwhelmingly Protestant. The mutual hatred between the Catholic community and the Royal Ulster Constabulary was intense. Catholics barricaded themselves in Derry and fought police with petrol bombs.

Where was the Republic of Ireland and its government among all this chaos?

The sympathies of the people of the Republic were definitely with the Catholics of Northern Ireland, and there was indeed political pressure on officials to do something. But what?

Invade Northern Ireland? The idea certainly had its advocates, but the British would have considered that an act of war, and the army of the Republic will ill-prepared for any such action.

What some in the Republic did is the subject of a nine-part podcast produced by the Irish national broadcaster RTÉ titled GunPlot.

It’s a fascinating story. I listened to the first two episodes in one sitting and the third soon thereafter. I’m still listening.

If you are interested in The Troubles specifically or the history of Ireland in general — or if you just enjoy hearing Irish accents and a rollicking good story — this is a podcast to spend some time with.


The Prolific Reader. Kill the Quarterback is listed there along with some other great mysteries.https://theprolificreader.com/mystery”


Frederick Forsyth and the importance of silence to a writer

Stories of how writers become writers — the origin narrative, if you will — are continually fascinating and somewhat more rare than you might think. Writers, particularly writers of fiction, enjoy telling other people’s stories, but they often think but their own stories or dull or even non-existent. 

Not so with Frederick Forsyth, one of the most successful writers of the Intrigue and thriller novels of our age.

Forsyth is most famous for his breakthrough novel, The Day of the Jackal, as well as others such as The Dogs of War, The Odessa File, and many others.

Forsyth begins his autobiography, The Outsider: My Life of Intrigue, with these words:

We all make mistakes, but starting the Third World War would have been a rather large one. To this day, I still maintain it was not entirely my fault. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

During the course of my life, I barely escaped the wrath of an arms dealer in Hamberg, been strafed by a MiG during the Nigerian civil war, and landed during a bloody coup in Guinea-Bissau. The Stasi arrested me, the Israelis regaled me, the IRA prompted a quick move from Ireland to England, and a certain attractive Czech secret police agent — well, her actions were a bit more intimate. And that’s just for starters.

All of that I saw from the inside. But all that time, I was, nevertheless, an outsider.

The writer, Forsyth says, must enjoy silence, and it was the development of that characteristic that drove him to be a writer. There were, he said, three factors that over the long haul taught him to enjoy silence.

One was but he was an only child, and that circumstance in and of itself meant that he would spend a good deal of time alone growing up.

A second factor was that he grew up in the town of Ashford, England, during World War II. Ashford is on the coast, and many of its residents, including most of the children there, were evacuated because of the threat of a German invasion. Forsyth stayed in Ashford for the duration of the war, but he had no one of his age just spent his boyhood with.

The third factor, he says, was that he was sent off to school when he was 13 years old. The type of school that he went to could be particularly brutal on a young boy with no friends or family connections. Consequently, the way to cope often is to retreat into the safe space of your own mind, and that’s what Forsyth said he did.

Forsyth served in the Royal Air Force, and afterward joined the Reuters News service is a correspondent. In 1965 he became a reporter for the BBC, and he covered conflicts in Africa at that time. His first book was the nonfiction the Biafra story, published in 1969.

The Day of the Jackal was published in 1971 and almost immediately became an international bestseller and the basis for a highly popular movie. Forsyth has been writing with the same what kind of talent and energy ever since.

He is 83 years old and has slowed his writing down somewhat. His last novel, The Fox, an espionage thriller, was published in 2018. Forsyth’s autobiography, The Outsider, is written in the same breathless and intriguing style as that of his novels.

From the archives: Edgar Allen Poe and the development of the mystery novel

American author Edgar Allan Poe — whom we all read in school and some continued to read long afterwards — gets lots of credit for developing the modern detective/mystery novel. He was not the first to write about mysterious crime and its solution, but his five short stories (Murders in the Rue Morgue, The Purloined Letter, The Mystery of Marie Roget, Thou Art the Man, and The Gold Bug) pointed the way for future writers to develop this genre.

In addition, Poe — the literary critic — had some definite thoughts about the detective story. It should contain the “unity of effect of impression” that he believed could only be achieved by a short story or something that could be read in one sitting. Plenty of authors have taken the detective story to the novel form and maintained this unity.

But Poe also wrote that

  • the mystery should be preserved throughout most of the story, 
  • that the mystery should converge in the denouement (“There should be no word written, of which the tendency, direct or indirect, is not to the one pre-established design.”), and
  • that no “undue or inartistic means should be used by the author to conceal the solution to the mystery.”

This information all comes from Detnovel.com, a website created by Prof. William Marling, who has written extensively on the topic of the detective novel.

 

Reactions

Tiffany N. : After only seeing James Bond films, I was so surprised to thoroughly enjoy the books! They were succinct and fast-paced, and he seemed to have more depth as a character than we see in the movies sometimes. I made my way through the entire collection a few years ago and highly recommend for a summer read!

Jane R.:I live in Wellington, New Zealand and experience the cicada rock concert annually. Of course here it usually occurs from January with it varying in sound intensity and duration depending on how good the summer season was 17yrs before.

Enjoy your newsletter immensely and so does my mother who I forward then to.Thank you for all the interesting things you write.
Marcia D.: Apparently in Washington State we have Orchard Cicadas. That would be in E. Washington, not too worried about them coming across the Cascade Mountains.
 

Vic C.: My first look at “Goal Kick” was a quick one and required a closer examination because, at first glance, the object of the kick looks like the head of someone lying on the ground.  “Ouch!”

Elizabeth F.: As a psychologist and teacher and presenter of multi media learning opportunities, I have long known that the “teacher” learns more and is forever indebted to the student. 

Finally . . .

This week’s watercolor: Header

Best quote of the week:

There is always something to do. There are hungry people to feed, naked people to clothe, sick people to comfort and make well. And while I don’t expect you to save the world, I do think it’s not asking too much for you to love those with whom you sleep, share the happiness of those whom you call friend, engage those among you who are visionary, and remove from your life those who offer you depression, despair, and disrespect. Nikki Giovanni, poet and professor (b. 1943)

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.

Jim

Jim Stovall
www.jprof.com

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: Inoculation’s advocate, Fleming’s Casino Royale, and the first American to die in Vietnam: newsletter, June 4, 2021

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 Lazarushttp://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 Howehttp://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.

Frederick Forsyth and the importance of silence to a writer

Stories of how writers become writers — the origin narrative, if you will — are continually fascinating and somewhat more rare than you might think. Writers, particularly writers of fiction, enjoy telling other people’s stories, but they often think but their own stories or dull or even non-existent. 

Not so with Frederick Forsyth, one of the most successful writers of the Intrigue and thriller novels of our age.

Forsyth is most famous for his breakthrough novel, The Day of the Jackal, as well as others such as The Dogs of War, The Odessa File, and many others.

Forsyth begins his autobiography, The Outsider: My Life of Intrigue, with these words:

We all make mistakes, but starting the Third World War would have been a rather large one. To this day, I still maintain it was not entirely my fault. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

During the course of my life, I barely escaped the wrath of an arms dealer in Hamberg, been strafed by a MiG during the Nigerian civil war, and landed during a bloody coup in Guinea-Bissau. The Stasi arrested me, the Israelis regaled me, the IRA prompted a quick move from Ireland to England, and a certain attractive Czech secret police agent — well, her actions were a bit more intimate. And that’s just for starters.

All of that I saw from the inside. But all that time, I was, nevertheless, an outsider.

The writer, Forsyth says, must enjoy silence, and it was the development of that characteristic that drove him to be a writer. There were, he said, three factors that over the long haul taught him to enjoy silence.

One was but he was an only child, and that circumstance in and of itself meant that he would spend a good deal of time alone growing up.

A second factor was that he grew up in the town of Ashford, England, during World War II. Ashford is on the coast, and many of its residents, including most of the children there, were evacuated because of the threat of a German invasion. Forsyth stayed in Ashford for the duration of the war, but he had no one of his age just spent his boyhood with.

The third factor, he says, was that he was sent off to school when he was 13 years old. The type of school that he went to could be particularly brutal on a young boy with no friends or family connections. Consequently, the way to cope often is to retreat into the safe space of your own mind, and that’s what Forsyth said he did.

Forsyth served in the Royal Air Force, and afterward joined the Reuters News service is a correspondent. In 1965 he became a reporter for the BBC, and he covered conflicts in Africa at that time. His first book was the nonfiction the Biafra story, published in 1969.

The Day of the Jackal was published in 1971 and almost immediately became an international bestseller and the basis for a highly popular movie. Forsyth has been writing with the same what kind of talent and energy ever since.

He is 83 years old and has slowed his writing down somewhat. His last novel, The Fox, an espionage thriller, was published in 2018. Forsyth’s autobiography, The Outsider, is written in the same breathless and intriguing style as that of his novels.

 

 

 

 

 

So, Republic, what did you do during The Troubles?

When The Troubles erupted in August 1969 in the six counties in Northern Ireland that Great Britain still claimed, the two sides of the conflict — the Protestants and the Catholics — were well and quickly established in the eyes of the world.

Protestants were in the majority in those counties, and discrimination against Catholics, which included confining them to certain neighborhoods in many places, was open and widespread. To those who paid attention — particularly in those in the United States who had just experienced the decade of civil rights — that kind of discrimination shocked the senses.

The British government in London had initially left the situation in the hands of the authorities in Northern Ireland, but the police force there was overwhelmingly Protestant. The mutual hatred between the Catholic community and the Royal Ulster Constabulary was intense. Catholics barricaded themselves in Derry and fought police with petrol bombs.

Where was the Republic of Ireland and its government among all this chaos?

The sympathies of the people of the Republic were definitely with the Catholics of Northern Ireland, and there was indeed political pressure on officials to do something. But what?

Invade Northern Ireland? The idea certainly had its advocates, but the British would have considered that an act of war, and the army of the Republic will ill-prepared for any such action.

What some in the Republic did is the subject of a nine-part podcast produced by the Irish national broadcaster RTÉ titled GunPlot.

It’s a fascinating story. I listened to the first two episodes in one sitting and the third soon thereafter. I’m still listening.

If you are interested in The Troubles specifically or the history of Ireland in general — or if you just enjoy hearing Irish accents and a rollicking good story — this is a podcast to spend some time with.

The Rime of the Ancient Mariner: the great poetic influencer of the 19th century

Since the early 19th century, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834), has remained one of the most honored, discussed, and beloved poems in all of English literature. (Here I am excluding the feelings of most high school sophomores who when faced with reading the poem find it daunting, dreary, and dense) 

The poem tells the story of an old sailor who is compelled, again and again, to relate the weird happenings that occurred on a long voyage when he was a young man. The poem contains a number of famous and quotable lines, most notably:

Water, water, every where,
And all the boards did shrink;
Water, water, every where,
Nor any drop to drink.

The poem deals with many parts of the human condition, but one of the overarching themes is the power of a story to hold our attention, especially when told by a master storyteller. The setting of the poem occurs when the ancient mariner buttonholes a man on his way to a wedding. At first, the man tries to get away, but eventually, he is captured by the story the sailor is telling.

The story of how Coleridge came to write the poem and the way in which it defined the rest of his life is also interesting and instructive.

Coleridge was born in 1772 the 10th of 10 children, and his father died when Coleridge was just nine years old. Coleridge was sent to a boarding school in London and for the rest of his childhood was essentially cut off from his family. He rarely made visits home even during holidays. But he was a precocious child and an avid reader, and during his late teenage years, he secured a university place at Jesus College, Cambridge.

Coleridge loved poetry and wanted to be part of a new movement of poets that was forming toward the end of the 18th century in England. He befriended other young poets such as Robert Southey and Charles Lamb, and in 1796 he published his first volume of poems. He also attempted to edit and publish a new journal, the Watchman, but that attempt failed after only a few months.

In 1795, Coleridge met William Wordsworth, and they formed a friendship that would have profound effects on the lives and the poetry of both. At Wordsworth’s suggestion, they made plans to jointly write a long lyrical poem  Wordsworth was reading a book, A Voyage Round The World by Way of the Great South Sea (1726) by Captain George Shelvocke, and he suggested that as their inspiration. Coleridge jumped on the idea and began work, but Wordsworth, who was more interested in Landscapes Than The Human Condition, tune felt out of place in the project.

For Wordsworth, however, the idea was exactly the one that he should be pursuing as a poet, and he did it with great vigor.

The poem was first published in 1798 in a book of poems, Lyrical Ballads, that contain works of both Wordsworth and Coleridge. The Rime of the Ancient Mariner appeared as the first and the longest poem in the book, and it was the one that received the most attention, much to Wordsworth’s annoyance. Most critics were confused or put off by the poem, but a few, such as Coleridge’s friend Charles Lamb, recognized its genius from the very beginning.

Coleridge was never satisfied with the poem and continued to revise it for the rest of his life. The poem grew in significance and influence as more and more people read it, thought about it, and were mesmerized by the poet’s mastery of the language and its poetic forms. Its expanse in terms of themes and ideas exerted a major influence on every significant British and American writer who came after its publication.

***

An excellent podcast on the poem can be found on the BBC’s long-running In Our Time here.

Many experts believe that the poem should be heard rather than read. LibriVox has several versions, including this one.

 

 

 

 

 

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 where 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 oh, 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, he 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.

Inoculation’s advocate, Fleming’s Casino Royale, and the first American to die in Vietnam: newsletter, June 4, 2021

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 Lazarushttp://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 Howehttp://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.

Reactions

Greg S.: I totally agree with your thought: Teachers, when they teach, learn more than their students.

While I haven’t taught much, I did teach one class of Intro to Advertising at UT. When I started preparing the lecture about media buying, I realized my knowledge was peripheral at best. I spent at a day reading multiple texts and even called a media buyer friend to get more background. The stuff I didn’t know about my own field was amazing.
Eric S.: You’re right about teachers and their learning, often more than their students. Over the years, my students taught me as much or more than I did them.

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.

Jim

Jim Stovall
www.jprof.com

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: Fleming conceives of Bond, Wesley’s strategy, and a librarian reveals all: newsletter, May 28, 2021

Constantinople

 

Written
January 1718
in the Chiosk at Pera
overlooking Constantinople

 

Give me Great God (said I) a Little Farm
in Summer shady, & in Winter warm
where a cool spring gives birth to a clear brook
by Nature slideing down a mossy Rock
Not artfully in Leaden Pipes convey’d
Or greatly falling in a forc’d Cascade
Pure & unsully’d winding throu’ ye Shade.
All bounteous Heaven has added to my Praier
a softer Climate and a purer Air.
 
Our Frozen Isle now chilling Winter binds
Deform’d by Rains, & rough wth blasting Winds
ye wither’d Woods grown white wth hoary Frost
by driving storms their scatter’d beautys lost
The Trembling birds their leaveless coverts shun
And seek in distant Climes a warmer Sun
The Water Nymphs their silenced Urns deplore
Even Thames benumb’d a River now no more
The barren Meadows give no more delight
by Glist’ning Snows made painfull to ye Sight.
 
Here Summer reigns wth one Eternal Smile
And double Harvests bless ye happy Soil.
Fair, fertile Fields to warm Indulgent Heaven
Has every Charm of every Season given!
No Killing Cold deforms ye Beauteous Year
The springing Flowers no coming Winter Fear
But as ye Parent Rose decays & dies
ye Infant Buds wth brighter Colours rise
And with fresh sweets ye Mother-scent supplys
Near them the Vi’let glows wth odours blest
And blooms in more than Tyrian Purple drest
The rich Jonquils their golden gleam display
And shine in glorys emulateing day.
These chearfull Groves their living Leaves retain
The Streams still murmur undefil’d by Rain
And growing Green adorns ye Fruitfull Plain
The warbling Kind uninterrupted Sing,
Warm’d wth Enjoyment of perpetual Spring.
 
Here from my Window I at once survey
The crouded City, & resounding Sea
In distant Views see Assian Mountains rise
And Lose their Snowy Summits in ye Skies.
Above those Mountains high Olympus Tow’rs
The Parliamental Seat of Heavenly Powers.
New to ye Sight my ravish’d Eyes admire
Each guilded Crescent & each Antique Spire
The Fair Serail where sunk in Idle ease
The Lazy Monarch melts his thoughtless days
The Marble Mosques beneath whose Ample Domes
Fierce Warlike Sultans sleep in peacefull Tombs
Those lofty Structures once the Christian boast
Their Names, their Honnours, & their Beautys lost
Those Altars bright wth Gold, wth Sculpture grac’d
By barbarous Zeal of savage Foes defac’d
Convents where Emperors profess’d of old
The Labour’d Pillars that their Triumphs told.
Vain Monuments of Men that once were great!
Sunk, undistinguish’d, by one Common Fate!
How art thou falln Imperial City, Low!
Where are thy Hopes of Roman Glory now?
Where are thy Palaces by Prelates rais’d
Where preistly Pomp in Purple Lustre blaz’d?
So vast, that Youthfull Kings might there reside
So Splendid; to content a Patriarchs pride
Where Grecian Artists all their skill displayd
Before ye happy Sciences decay’d;
So vast, that Youthfull Kings might there reside
So Splendid; to content a Patriarchs Pride;
Convents where Emperors proffess’d of Old,
The Labour’d Pillars that their Triumphs told,
Vain Monuments of Men that once were great!
Sunk, undistinguish’d in one common Fate!
 
One Little Spot, the small Fenar contains,
Of Greek Nobillity, the poor Remains,
Where other Helens show like powerfull Charms
As once engag’d the Warring World in Arms:
Those Names that Roial Auncestry can boast
In mean Mechanic Arts obscurely lost
Those Eyes a second Homer might inspire,
fix’d at the Loom, destroy their useless Fire.
 
Greiv’d at a view which strikes vpon my Mind
The short liv’d Vanity of Human kind
In Gaudy Objects I indulge my Sight,
And turn where Eastern Pomp gives gay delight.
 
See; the vast Train in various Habits dress’d!
By the Bright Seymetar and Sable Vest;
The Vizier proud, distinguish’d o’re the rest!
Six slaves in gay Attire his Bridle hold;
His Bridle rough with Gems, his Stirups Gold;
His Snowy Steed adorn’d with lavish Pride
Whole Troops of Soldiers mounted by his Side,
These toss the Plumy Crest, Arabian Coursers guide.
With awfull Duty all decline their Eyes,
No bellowing Shouts of noisy Crouds arise;
Silence in solemn State the march attends
Till at the dread Divan the slow processions ends.
Yet not these Objects all profusely Gay,
The Gilded Navy that adorns the Sea,
The riseing City in Confusion fair;
Magnificently form’d irregular
Where Woods and Palaces at once surprise
Gardens, on Gardens, Domes on Domes arise
And endless Beauties tire the wandering Eyes,
So sooths my Wishes, or so charms my Mind,
As this Retreat, secure from Human kind.
No Knaves successfull Craft does Spleen excite
No Coxcombs tawdry Splendour shocks my Sight;
No Mob Alarm awakes my Female Fears,
No unrewarded Merit asks my Tears;
Nor Praise my Mind, nor Envy hurts my Ear,
Even Fame it selfe can hardly reach me here,
Impertinence with all her Tattling Train
Fair-sounding Flatterys delicious Bane
Censorious Folly; Noisy Party Rage;
The Thousand with which she must engage
Who dare have Virtue in a Vicious Age.
 

 

What happens when you rule just about everything

What happens to a nation that becomes the largest, most far-reaching empire in the history of the world, making the Romans look like pikers by comparison? Things start to go downhill, that’s what.

That is where Great Britain found itself it’s the 19th century turned into the 20th. Much of that century had been peaceful, thanks in great part to Britain’s imposing her will through its vast Network of colonies and dominions. Its huge navy “rule the world,” in its own words.

But with the new century, Great Britain found that things were coming unglued. A new industrial power across the Atlantic, the United States of America, was on the rise. Germany, jealous of Britain’s hegemony, was becoming more warlike. British colonies themselves — for example, South Africa — were restless and more and more wanting to go their own way.

All of this is to subject of a new book by historian Simon Heffer titled The Age of Decadence. It was recently reviewed in the New York Times by Richard Aldous, who wrote:

“What fools we were,” King George V told his prime minister, Ramsay MacDonald, in 1930, looking back to the era before World War I. In the context of the wartime catastrophe his generation had delivered, the king may have had a point. That was the time of Rudyard Kipling’s “long recessional” and A. E. Housman’s “land of lost content.” Arthur Balfour, prime minister from 1902 to 1905, lamented “some process of social degeneration” that “may conveniently be distinguished by the name of ‘decadence.’” Joseph Chamberlain, the most charismatic politician of the late-Victorian age, put it more pithily. “The Weary Titan,” he said in 1902, “staggers under the too vast orb of its fate.” Source: Britain at the Turn of the 20th Century Was Dealing With a Lot, Badly – The New York Times

And there is a message for Americans in this bit of history, according to the review:

For many Americans today, perhaps fearing late-stage decadence and their own Weary Titan, this story may strike close to home. For in Simon Heffer’s telling, the history of Britain from 1880 to 1914 is one in which “a nation so recently not just great, but the greatest power the world had ever known, sustained in its greatness by a rule of law and parliamentary democracy, had begun its decay.”

The message is not all gloom and doom, however, as you will see if you read the entire review.

Podcast recommendation: The Lazarus Heist from the BBC

North Korea involved in a bank robbery — a BIG bank robbery? This is a true-crime podcast that sounds like a lot of fun — and it’s from the BBC, so the production values are top-notch.

Hollywood is involved, too.

The most daring bank theft ever attempted? From hacking Hollywood to a billion-dollar plot. North Korea stands accused but says it had nothing to do with it and it’s part of the United States’ attempts to tarnish its image. Premieres 19 April 2021. A true crime investigation with Geoff White and Jean Lee. Source: BBC World Service – The Lazarus Heist, Introducing The Lazarus Heist

Yes, this sounds like a lot of fun, but it gets serious pretty quickly. The heist is no joke. It affects the lives, careers, and bank accounts how many people and organizations. Rather than being a lot of fun oh, it turns out to be pretty scary.

This is a tale for our time oh, and it is definitely worth listening to. The recording is superb oh, and the production values of the podcast are at the standard you would expect from the BBC.

The vivd life and imagination of Ian Fleming

When Ian Fleming accompanied his boss, Admiral John Godfrey, chief of British Naval Intelligence, to America in May 1941, they had to stop over in neutral Portugal. There, they visited a casino. 

When they left the casino, Fleming said to Godfrey, “What if those men had been German secret service agents, and suppose we had cleaned them out of their money. Now, that would have been exciting.”

Twelve years later in 1953, Fleming’s Casino Royale introduced James Bond to the reading world with the following lines:

The scent and smoke of a casino are nauseating at three o’clock in the morning. Then the soul-erosion produced by high gambling — a compost of greed and fear and nervous tension — becomes unbearable and the senses awake and revolt from it.

James Bond knew that he was tired. . . .

Bond, the gentle reader soon learns, is a secret agent for the British government, and on a mission for Her Majesty’s government. He is in the process of cleaning out an enemy agent at the gaming table.

Bond became one of the most iconic characters in all of the literature and cinema of the twentieth century. It was a remarkable beginning for a novelist who up to that point had lived an extraordinary life. With Casino Royale, Fleming had begun to put the scenes and characters of his life and his vivid imagination into a set of books that would capture the attention and devotion of millions of readers around the world.

James Bond has never lost his appeal even though Fleming has been dead for more than 50 years.

Ian Fleming was born in London in 1908 into a family that was privileged and well-connected. His father, who was a good friend of Winston Churchill, was killed in World War I, but despite that devastating loss never lacked for much. He attended Eton and Sandhurst but found himself unsuited for military life. As he grew into adulthood and search for a suitable career, he was able to travel across Europe and to develop in the end various romances.

In 1931, he took the foreign service exams and despite fluency in French and German was unable to secure a position with the foreign office. Finally, through family connections, he went to work for the Reuters news service. Journalism — and more particularly writing — was his life’s calling.

In 1933 Reuters sent him to Moscow to cover the show trial of six British engineers who were accused of espionage and sabotage. Fleming took advantage of his time in the Soviet capital to learn all he could about the USSR and its secret police. He also wrote a letter to the Soviet Premier Josef Stalin, asking for an interview. Stalin turned him down but did so with a letter that he signed himself, something that Fleming kept in treasure for the rest of his life.

Fleming’s report on the trial for vivid and well-written, and when you return to London, the Foreign Office asked him to submit his impressions of what he had seen and heard. In doing so the British government marked Fleming as a man you might be good at intelligence work should the need ever arise.

The need did indeed arise. With tensions growing among nations throughout Europe in the late 1930s, Fleming was asked by the foreign office to accompany a trade mission to Moscow. The real purpose of his trip was to find out what he could about the Soviets’ military preparedness.

Fleming landed in the office of Naval intelligence, and part of his charge was to come up with outlandish but doable schemes that would confound the Germans. Imagination was well suited for such an assignment. While he was never involved in direct combat, he oversaw or participated in the planning and execution of many such missions. One of those was Operation Mincemeat, the now-famous plan to fool the Nazis as to the location of the Allied invasion of Italy.

Next week: The writing life of Ian Fleming

 

American Library Association’s list of “most challenged books” for 2020

Chances are, there’s a group in your community that wants to dictate what books you and your children can read. They often do this by telling public libraries what they should not put on the shelves.

Most libraries resist this kind of pressure, and the American Library Association keeps track of these challenges. Here is a list of the 10 most challenged books for 2020 and the reasons for the challenges:

George by Alex Gino
Reasons: Challenged, banned, and restricted for LGBTQIA+ content, conflicting with a religious viewpoint, and not reflecting “the values of our community”

Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You by Ibram X. Kendi and Jason Reynolds
Reasons: Banned and challenged because of author’s public statements, and because 

of claims that the book contains “selective storytelling incidents” and does not encompass racism against all people

All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely
Reasons: Banned and challenged for profanity, drug use, and alcoholism, and because it was thought to promote anti-police views, contain divisive topics, and be “too much of a sensitive matter right now”

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
Reasons: Banned, challenged, and restricted because it was thought to contain a political viewpoint and it was claimed to be biased against male students, and for the novel’s inclusion of rape and profanity

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
Reasons: Banned and challenged for profanity, sexual references, and allegations of sexual misconduct by the author

Something Happened in Our Town: A Child’s Story About Racial Injustice by Marianne Celano, Marietta Collins, and Ann Hazzard, illustrated by Jennifer Zivoin
Reasons: Challenged for “divisive language” and because it was thought to promote anti-police views

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Reasons: Banned and challenged for racial slurs and their negative effect on students, featuring a “white savior” character, and its perception of the Black experience

Of Mice and Men by John SteinbeckReasons: Banned and challenged for racial slurs and racist stereotypes, and their negative effect on students

The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
Reasons: Banned and challenged because it was considered sexually explicit and depicts child sexual abuse

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
Reasons: Challenged for profanity, and it was thought to promote an anti-police message

This list and lists from previous years can be found at this ALA site.

Notably absent from last year’s list is the Harry Potter series, which has appeared in many previous lists.

 

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 behind her. 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 we believed the girls should be limited in their education and ambition. Mary believed otherwise.

Her family had acquired a substantial Library, and despite her governesses 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 in 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 live 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 I can’t 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 publicize the fact that she had an ocular lighted her children oh, that few people in the Ottoman Empire contracted smallpox because of inoculation, ended inoculation should be a standard medical procedure.

Her opponents pounced. They labeled her as a religious because she was advocating a non-Christian practice. They called her and ignorant woman who knew nothing about standard medical procedures. 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 willing and sympathetic ears, including some in 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 saying 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:

Constantinople

 

Written
January 1718
in the Chiosk at Pera
overlooking Constantinople

 

Give me Great God (said I) a Little Farm
in Summer shady, & in Winter warm
where a cool spring gives birth to a clear brook
by Nature slideing down a mossy Rock
Not artfully in Leaden Pipes convey’d
Or greatly falling in a forc’d Cascade
Pure & unsully’d winding throu’ ye Shade.
All bounteous Heaven has added to my Praier
a softer Climate and a purer Air.
 
Our Frozen Isle now chilling Winter binds
Deform’d by Rains, & rough wth blasting Winds
ye wither’d Woods grown white wth hoary Frost
by driving storms their scatter’d beautys lost
The Trembling birds their leaveless coverts shun
And seek in distant Climes a warmer Sun
The Water Nymphs their silenced Urns deplore
Even Thames benumb’d a River now no more
The barren Meadows give no more delight
by Glist’ning Snows made painfull to ye Sight.
 
Here Summer reigns wth one Eternal Smile
And double Harvests bless ye happy Soil.
Fair, fertile Fields to warm Indulgent Heaven
Has every Charm of every Season given!
No Killing Cold deforms ye Beauteous Year
The springing Flowers no coming Winter Fear
But as ye Parent Rose decays & dies
ye Infant Buds wth brighter Colours rise
And with fresh sweets ye Mother-scent supplys
Near them the Vi’let glows wth odours blest
And blooms in more than Tyrian Purple drest
The rich Jonquils their golden gleam display
And shine in glorys emulateing day.
These chearfull Groves their living Leaves retain
The Streams still murmur undefil’d by Rain
And growing Green adorns ye Fruitfull Plain
The warbling Kind uninterrupted Sing,
Warm’d wth Enjoyment of perpetual Spring.
 
Here from my Window I at once survey
The crouded City, & resounding Sea
In distant Views see Assian Mountains rise
And Lose their Snowy Summits in ye Skies.
Above those Mountains high Olympus Tow’rs
The Parliamental Seat of Heavenly Powers.
New to ye Sight my ravish’d Eyes admire
Each guilded Crescent & each Antique Spire
The Fair Serail where sunk in Idle ease
The Lazy Monarch melts his thoughtless days
The Marble Mosques beneath whose Ample Domes
Fierce Warlike Sultans sleep in peacefull Tombs
Those lofty Structures once the Christian boast
Their Names, their Honnours, & their Beautys lost
Those Altars bright wth Gold, wth Sculpture grac’d
By barbarous Zeal of savage Foes defac’d
Convents where Emperors profess’d of old
The Labour’d Pillars that their Triumphs told.
Vain Monuments of Men that once were great!
Sunk, undistinguish’d, by one Common Fate!
How art thou falln Imperial City, Low!
Where are thy Hopes of Roman Glory now?
Where are thy Palaces by Prelates rais’d
Where preistly Pomp in Purple Lustre blaz’d?
So vast, that Youthfull Kings might there reside
So Splendid; to content a Patriarchs pride
Where Grecian Artists all their skill displayd
Before ye happy Sciences decay’d;
So vast, that Youthfull Kings might there reside
So Splendid; to content a Patriarchs Pride;
Convents where Emperors proffess’d of Old,
The Labour’d Pillars that their Triumphs told,
Vain Monuments of Men that once were great!
Sunk, undistinguish’d in one common Fate!
 
One Little Spot, the small Fenar contains,
Of Greek Nobillity, the poor Remains,
Where other Helens show like powerfull Charms
As once engag’d the Warring World in Arms:
Those Names that Roial Auncestry can boast
In mean Mechanic Arts obscurely lost
Those Eyes a second Homer might inspire,
fix’d at the Loom, destroy their useless Fire.
 
Greiv’d at a view which strikes vpon my Mind
The short liv’d Vanity of Human kind
In Gaudy Objects I indulge my Sight,
And turn where Eastern Pomp gives gay delight.
 
See; the vast Train in various Habits dress’d!
By the Bright Seymetar and Sable Vest;
The Vizier proud, distinguish’d o’re the rest!
Six slaves in gay Attire his Bridle hold;
His Bridle rough with Gems, his Stirups Gold;
His Snowy Steed adorn’d with lavish Pride
Whole Troops of Soldiers mounted by his Side,
These toss the Plumy Crest, Arabian Coursers guide.
With awfull Duty all decline their Eyes,
No bellowing Shouts of noisy Crouds arise;
Silence in solemn State the march attends
Till at the dread Divan the slow processions ends.
Yet not these Objects all profusely Gay,
The Gilded Navy that adorns the Sea,
The riseing City in Confusion fair;
Magnificently form’d irregular
Where Woods and Palaces at once surprise
Gardens, on Gardens, Domes on Domes arise
And endless Beauties tire the wandering Eyes,
So sooths my Wishes, or so charms my Mind,
As this Retreat, secure from Human kind.
No Knaves successfull Craft does Spleen excite
No Coxcombs tawdry Splendour shocks my Sight;
No Mob Alarm awakes my Female Fears,
No unrewarded Merit asks my Tears;
Nor Praise my Mind, nor Envy hurts my Ear,
Even Fame it selfe can hardly reach me here,
Impertinence with all her Tattling Train
Fair-sounding Flatterys delicious Bane
Censorious Folly; Noisy Party Rage;
The Thousand with which she must engage
Who dare have Virtue in a Vicious Age.
 

 

Il y a plus de 300 ans, Lady Mary Wortley Montagu était confrontée au même problème que les responsables de la santé publique aujourd’hui: persuader les gens de se vacciner contre une maladie redoutée.

Seule Lady Mary n’avait pas 300 ans de recherche et de preuves derrière ses efforts, et elle n’avait pas la majeure partie de la communauté médicale derrière elle. En fait, la plupart des médecins de l’époque étaient fermement opposés à l’inoculation. Cela ne faisait pas partie de leurs procédures médicales normales – dont beaucoup faisaient plus de mal que de bien à leurs patients – et ils n’étaient pas d’humeur à prendre des conseils, en particulier à une femme.

Pourtant, Lady Mary a persisté.

Née en 1689, Lady Mary Wortley Montagu (née Pierrepont) faisait partie d’une famille privilégiée et vivait dans de grandes maisons à Londres. Mais elle a passé une grande partie de son enfance sous le regard d’une gouvernante qu’elle méprisait et nous pensions que les filles devaient être limitées dans leur éducation et leur ambition. Mary croyait le contraire.

Sa famille avait acquis une bibliothèque substantielle, et malgré les efforts de sa gouvernante, elle en a absorbé tout ce qu’elle pouvait. À l’âge de 16 ans, elle avait écrit deux volumes de poésie et un roman. Elle s’était également enseignée le latin.

Quand elle avait 23 ans, elle a épousé Edward Wortley Montagu, et le couple est devenu les chefs de file de la société londonienne dans les cercles politiques. Son frère était mort de la variole – le fléau de l’âge – à l’âge de 20 ans, et Lady Mary a contracté la maladie en 1715. Elle était l’une des rares chanceuses de son temps à avoir contracté la variole et à vivre pour en parler.

L’année suivante, son mari a été nommé ambassadeur britannique auprès de l’Empire ottoman, et elle et sa famille ont déménagé avec lui à Constantinople.

Après avoir été là-bas pendant un certain temps, elle s’est rendu compte que la variole n’était pas aussi répandue dans l’Empire ottoman qu’en Grande-Bretagne et dans d’autres parties de l’Europe occidentale. Ayant elle-même souffert de la maladie, Mary était curieuse de savoir pourquoi elle n’avait pas affecté le pays où elle se trouvait.

Ce qu’elle a découvert, c’est que la vaccination contre la variole était une pratique répandue dans l’Empire ottoman. L’inoculation impliquait d’infecter une personne avec une petite quantité de la maladie – assez certainement pour la rendre malade mais pas assez pour être mortelle. Une fois que la personne s’est rétablie, il est extrêmement peu probable qu’elle soit à nouveau infectée.

Mary a fait vacciner son fils par le médecin de l’ambassade britannique. Lorsque la famille est revenue à Londres en 1721, le monde connaissait une épidémie mondiale de variole qui affectait de nombreuses personnes en Europe et en Amérique. Pendant ce temps, Mary a fait vacciner sa fille.

Se préparant à des récriminations amères – ce que nous pourrions appeler aujourd’hui la culture d’annulation – Mary publie le fait qu’elle avait un oculaire éclairé ses enfants oh, que peu de gens dans l’Empire ottoman ont contracté la variole à cause de l’inoculation, la vaccination terminée devrait être une procédure médicale standard .

Ses adversaires ont bondi. Ils l’ont qualifiée de religieuse parce qu’elle préconisait une pratique non chrétienne. Ils l’ont appelée et une femme ignorante qui ne savait rien des procédures médicales standard. Ils ont préconisé d’ignorer non seulement ses idées sur la vaccination, mais aussi ses autres écrits. Certains ont même demandé qu’elle soit emprisonnée ou traitée comme une sorcière.

Pourtant, elle a persisté.

Malgré ses critiques, le plaidoyer de Mary pour l’inoculation est tombé sur des oreilles bienveillantes et sympathiques, y compris dans la famille royale. Caroline, princesse de Galles, a fait vacciner ses deux filles, et de nombreuses autres personnes ont fait de même. Cependant, ils l’ont fait en secret et l’inoculation n’est pas devenue une pratique répandue pendant de nombreuses années.

Outre son plaidoyer pour l’inoculation, Mary Wortley Montague était l’une des écrivains les plus prolifiques et les plus connus de son temps. Elle a continué à écrire des articles de voyage, des articles politiques et de la poésie tout au long de sa longue vie. Elle est décédée d’un cancer en 1762 à l’âge de 73 ans.

Finalement, la méthode dangereuse d’inoculation a été remplacée par la méthode de vaccination plus sûre et plus fiable. Et comme nous le disons aujourd’hui,  cette méthode est aussi une cause de controverse.

***

Le podcast et la chaîne de télévision History Hits de Dan Snow ont un excellent podcast sur Lady Mary que vous pouvez écouter ici: https://access.historyhit.com/dan-snow-s-history-hit-1/videos/lady-mary- et-la-première inoculation

 

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 was 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 directly French underground operations of intelligence gathering and sabotage. During all of this time, he 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.

Fleming conceives of Bond, Wesley’s strategy, and a librarian reveals all: newsletter, May 28, 2021

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,332) on Friday, May 28, 2021.

Do you know a secret? This week’s newsletter has an item about a secret that “only librarians know.” It’s a fun piece, and I recommend the link. But it got me to thinking that as a long-standing member of the teaching profession, we also had a secret that no one else knew.

That secret was this: Teachers, when they teach, learn more than their students. That is particularly true when we tackle a new subject, and it is somewhat — though not entirely — less true when we teach the same thing again and again. This secret, in part, drove me to volunteer to teach a wide range of courses within our curriculum, and I never fully understood some of my colleagues who insisted on teaching the same thing year after year.

There are many aspects to this idea — too many to explore here. But the simple truth is that teaching something is the best way to learn it.

Whatever you are learning these days, I hope wonderful and educational weekend.

Under the newsletter’s hood: Last week’s newsletter was sent to 2,338 subscribers and had a 28.5 percent open rate; 6 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.


The vivid life and imagination of Ian Fleming

When Ian Fleming accompanied his boss, Admiral John Godfrey, chief of British Naval Intelligence, to America in May 1941, they had to stop over in neutral Portugal. There, they visited a casino. 

When they left the casino, Fleming said to Godfrey, “What if those men had been German secret service agents, and suppose we had cleaned them out of their money. Now, that would have been exciting.”

Twelve years later in 1953, Fleming’s Casino Royale introduced James Bond to the reading world with the following lines:

The scent and smoke of a casino are nauseating at three o’clock in the morning. Then the soul-erosion produced by high gambling — a compost of greed and fear and nervous tension — becomes unbearable and the senses awake and revolt from it.

James Bond knew that he was tired. . . .

Bond, the gentle reader soon learns, is a secret agent for the British government, and on a mission for Her Majesty’s government. He is in the process of cleaning out an enemy agent at the gaming table.

Bond became one of the most iconic characters in all of the literature and cinema of the twentieth century. It was a remarkable beginning for a novelist who up to that point had lived an extraordinary life. With Casino Royale, Fleming had begun to put the scenes and characters of his life and his vivid imagination into a set of books that would capture the attention and devotion of millions of readers around the world.

James Bond has never lost his appeal even though Fleming has been dead for more than 50 years.

Ian Fleming was born in London in 1908 into a family that was privileged and well-connected. His father, who was a good friend of Winston Churchill, was killed in World War I, but despite that devastating loss, Fleming never lacked for much. He attended Eton and Sandhurst Military School but found himself unsuited for military life. As he grew into adulthood and searched for a suitable career, he was able to travel across Europe and to develop and end various romances.

In 1931, he took the foreign service exams and despite fluency in French and German was unable to secure a position with the foreign office. Finally, through family connections, he went to work for the Reuters news service. Journalism — and more particularly writing — was his life’s calling.

In 1933 Reuters sent him to Moscow to cover the show trial of six British engineers who were accused of espionage and sabotage. Fleming took advantage of his time in the Soviet capital to learn all he could about the USSR and its secret police. He also wrote a letter to the Soviet Premier Josef Stalin, asking for an interview. Stalin turned him down but did so with a letter that he signed himself, something that Fleming kept the rest of his life.

Fleming’s reports on the trial were vivid and well-written, and when he returned to London, the Foreign Office asked him to submit his impressions of what he had seen and heard. In doing so the British government marked Fleming as a man who might be good at intelligence work should the need ever arise.

The need did indeed arise. With tensions growing among nations throughout Europe in the late 1930s, Fleming was asked by the Foreign Office to accompany a trade mission to Moscow in 1939. The real purpose of his trip was to find out what he could about the Soviets’ military preparedness.

Fleming landed in the office of Naval intelligence, and part of his charge was to come up with outlandish but doable schemes that would confound the Germans. His imagination was well suited for such an assignment. While he was never involved in direct combat, he oversaw or participated in the planning and execution of many such missions. One of those was Operation Mincemeat, the now-famous plan to fool the Nazis as to the location of the Allied invasion of Italy.

Next week: The writing life of Ian Fleming

American Library Association’s list of “most challenged books” for 2020

Chances are, there’s a group in your community that wants to dictate what books you and your children can read. They often do this by telling public libraries what they should not put on the shelves.

Most libraries resist this kind of pressure, and the American Library Association keeps track of these challenges. Here is a list of the 10 most challenged books for 2020 and the reasons for the challenges:

George by Alex Gino
Reasons: Challenged, banned, and restricted for LGBTQIA+ content, conflicting with a religious viewpoint, and not reflecting “the values of our community”

Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You by Ibram X. Kendi and Jason Reynolds
Reasons: Banned and challenged because of author’s public statements, and because 

of claims that the book contains “selective storytelling incidents” and does not encompass racism against all people

All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely
Reasons: Banned and challenged for profanity, drug use, and alcoholism, and because it was thought to promote anti-police views, contain divisive topics, and be “too much of a sensitive matter right now”

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
Reasons: Banned, challenged, and restricted because it was thought to contain a political viewpoint and it was claimed to be biased against male students, and for the novel’s inclusion of rape and profanity

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
Reasons: Banned and challenged for profanity, sexual references, and allegations of sexual misconduct by the author

Something Happened in Our Town: A Child’s Story About Racial Injustice by Marianne Celano, Marietta Collins, and Ann Hazzard, illustrated by Jennifer Zivoin
Reasons: Challenged for “divisive language” and because it was thought to promote anti-police views

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Reasons: Banned and challenged for racial slurs and their negative effect on students, featuring a “white savior” character, and its perception of the Black experience

Of Mice and Men by John SteinbeckReasons: Banned and challenged for racial slurs and racist stereotypes, and their negative effect on students

The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
Reasons: Banned and challenged because it was considered sexually explicit and depicts child sexual abuse

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
Reasons: Challenged for profanity, and it was thought to promote an anti-police message

This list and lists from previous years can be found at this ALA site.

Notably absent from last year’s list is the Harry Potter series, which has appeared in many previous lists.

 


The Prolific Reader. Kill the Quarterback is listed there along with some other great mysteries.https://theprolificreader.com/mystery”


From the archives: John Wesley and money

John Wesley was a thoroughly modern, Westernized individual. He advised his followers to do three things with money. The first two were

— Make all you can.

— Save all you can.

So far, so good. The advice is financially sound and rings responsibly in our ears. The third piece of advice might not:

— Give all you can.

Sometime early in his ministry, Wesley found that he could live comfortably 30 pounds a year. He determined that after earning that sum, he would give everything else away. And so he did — for the rest of his life.

Wesley stayed on the road for most of his life. He never owned a house, and he never had a family or children to provide for. (His marriage later in his life was to a widow with four children who was financially well off when they married. He made sure that she kept her income and that he used none of it.)

As Wesley gained fame and as he published more and more pamphlets and books, his income increased. He never deviated from his income limit, however, and at the end of his life, it was estimated that he had given away more than 30,000 pounds. He once wrote:

“Not, how much of my money will I give to God, but, how much of God’s money will I keep for myself?”

A secret only librarians know

Will Thomas, a librarian at the Tulsa Public Library in Oklahoma, has written a delightful piece for CrimeReads.com that tells a secret only librarians know.

No, I am not going to disclose it here. It’s his secret, so if you want to know, you’ll have to read the article.

If you do, Thomas, author of a dozen historical mystery novels, will tell you a bit about how he does his research for his books, which often include real historical characters.

I’ve often been asked how I get away with using historical characters in my novels, as if any day now there will be a knock at my door and I will be given a cease-and-desist order or be led off in handcuffs.

So far this hasn’t happened, but I definitely believe I have a file with the FBI.  Sometimes in the writing of a mystery novel, especially a historical one, the opportunity to toss a historical character into the mix presents itself. I believe this is fine, even relevant, especially in my novels, which frequently center on a societal danger (anti-Semitism, Imperialism, etc.) or an event (Jack the Ripper, a royal wedding), as long as the person in question was actively involved in whatever I am writing about. If W.B. Yeats was an IRA sympathizer, or the Duke of Clarence a suspect in the Ripper murders, they are fair game. Source: Confessions of a Librarian and Historical Mystery Novelist ‹ CrimeReads

This one is worth five minutes of your time and may even lead you into his books if you are not already familiar with them.

 

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 Lazarushttp://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 Howehttp://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.

Reactions

Phyllis P.: What you said about journalism-trained authors is so right. Even though newspaper work was not my first love, I’m grateful to it. What are the essentials to your story? How do you tell it without pretentiousness? And, best of all, how do you get on with it? ‘Cause ain’t nobody got time for you to ruminate. We got a paper to get out. 

Vic C.: Apropos of detectives (see the item about Eugene Francois Vidocq in the May 14 newsletter), when I was a young teen (early 50s), I had an Aunt and Uncle who loved in Mamaroneck, NY.  One afternoon, I was introduced to Clayton Rawson.  At the time, I had not yet read any of his books but he entertained a bunch of us by doing magic tricks.  I clearly remember him doing one of them — twice — and we could not figure out how he did it despite being “up close and personal” while he performed. Now, I’ve got his five “Great Merlini” books and the two “Don Diavolo” books he authored as Stuart Towne.  Every now and again, I’ll reread them and enjoy the “magic” he put into them.

At the same time, I was also introduced to a guest: Judith Merril.  Yes, I know, her real name was Judith Grossman, but her nom de plume was how she introduced herself.  At the time, I had already started reading (consuming) sci-fi novels and knew who she was.  I can remember, distinctly, that part of our discussion was about telepathy.  She said that she thought it was possible.  Fast forward to 1969 and I was home on leave.  My parents urged me to go to synagogue with them to listen to a guest speaker.  The speaker was Isaac Asimov.  When I got the chance to tell him of my earlier conversation with Ms Merril and asked his opinion, he said that he did not consider telepathy to be real.  This, of course, did not stop him from having used it in one of his Robot novels.  He also used a variation of telepathy, empathic projection, as a key factor in his character “The Mule” in “Second Foundation”, the third of the original “Foundation” trilogy.

I have read the entire series many times and, despite the quaintness of the originals, they’re still fun to read.  The thing that makes them endure, I believe, is that the science therein is an established fact.  There is no “wow” factor involved; it’s simply part of everyday life.  One of the devices (fanciful at the time of my first reading) was the “transcriber.”  This was a device that typed what you spoke.  Again, it was a completely normal device for a student to use.  It, by the way, also appeared in “Second Foundation.”  I can remember my first exposure to voice recognition in the 80s and how delighted I was at the development and have always wondered whether Asimov ever got the chance to use it, even in its primitive form.  Today, my psychologist wife uses that technology to record her session notes and is distraught when it’s not available.

Finally . . .

This week’s watercolor: Goal kick

Best quote of the week:

A change in perspective is worth 80 IQ points. Alan Kay, computer scientist (b.1940)

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.

Jim

Jim Stovall
www.jprof.com

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: Ambrose Bierce, Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, all in the same space: newsletter, May 21, 2021

The power of forgiveness

Anyone who is human and social has experienced the pain of being offended or hurt deeply and the inevitable sequence of anger or even hatred toward the person responsible.

It seems that the best we can do in those situations is to turn it aside and cut off contact by “unfriending” that person or cutting off all contact.

But what about forgiveness? Is that an option?

Nathaniel Wade, a professor of psychology at Iowa State University, examines the concept of forgiveness in a long essay for  Aeon magazine. He is interested in the psychology of forgiveness and religiaon, particularly as they are applied in counseling and therapy settings, and he writes:

Early work by Worthington and myself, and by others, identified what forgiveness was not. Robert Enright at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the other pioneer in the psychology of forgiveness, was instrumental in this work. For example, he and his colleagues distinguished between forgiveness and condoning, excusing or overlooking an offence. Source: Forgiveness therapy can free you from the hurts of the past | Aeon Essays

Wade delves deeply into forgiveness, what it is and what it isn’t, and how to achieve it through what he and his colleagues call “forgiveness therapy.”

This is an interesting and informative essay, particularly because forgiveness does not seem to be a popular or approved response in our civic society. Maybe we should think a little more about using it.

A secret only librarians know

Will Thomas, a librarian at the Tulsa Public Library in Oklahoma, has written a delightful piece for CrimeReads.com that tells a secret only librarians know.

No, I am not going to disclose it here. It’s his secret, so if you want to know, you’ll have to read the article.

If you do, Thomas, author of a dozen historical mystery novels, will tell you a bit about how he does his research for his books, which often include real historical characters.

I’ve often been asked how I get away with using historical characters in my novels, as if any day now there will be a knock at my door and I will be given a cease-and-desist order or be led off in handcuffs.

So far this hasn’t happened, but I definitely believe I have a file with the FBI.  Sometimes in the writing of a mystery novel, especially a historical one, the opportunity to toss a historical character into the mix presents itself. I believe this is fine, even relevant, especially in my novels, which frequently center on a societal danger (anti-Semitism, Imperialism, etc.) or an event (Jack the Ripper, a royal wedding), as long as the person in question was actively involved in whatever I am writing about. If W.B. Yeats was an IRA sympathizer, or the Duke of Clarence a suspect in the Ripper murders, they are fair game. Source: Confessions of a Librarian and Historical Mystery Novelist ‹ CrimeReads

This one is worth five minutes of your time and may even lead you into his books if you are not already familiar with them.

John Wesley and money

John Wesley was a thoroughly modern, Westernized individual. He advised his followers to do three things with money. The first two were

— Make all you can.

— Save all you can.

So far, so good. The advice is financially sound and rings responsibly in our ears. The third piece of advice might not:

— Give all you can.

Sometime early in his ministry, Wesley found that he could live comfortably on about 30 pounds a year. He determined that after earning that sum, he would give everything else away. And so he did — for the rest of his life.

Wesley stayed on the road for most of his life. He never owned a house, and he never had a family or children to provide for. (His marriage later in his life was to a widow with four children who was financially well off when they married. He made sure that she kept her income and that he used none of it.)

As Wesley gained fame and as he published more and more pamphlets and books, his income increased. He never deviated from his income limit, however, and at the end of his life, it was estimated that he had given away more than 30,000 pounds. He once wrote:

“Not, how much of my money will I give to God, but, how much of God’s money will I keep for myself?”

Axis Sally, North Korea, the world’s first real-life detective, and reader reactions: newsletter, May 14, 2021

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,350) on Friday, May 14, 2021.

The Big Apple is the common nickname for New York City, but its origins are murky. What do apples have to do with New York City? The answer, according to an essay I found recently by Maria Popov (BrainPickings.com), is nothing. It’s not about apples at all.

The expression was first used by a sportswriter named John J. Fitz Gerald, who covered horse racing for the Morning Telegraph in the early 20th century. Fitz Gerald used the term first in a story and later had a regular column headed “Around the Big Apple.” Fitz Gerald never claimed he originated the term but also never explained fully where he picked it up.

Popov digs a little more deeply into it, and I’ll let you read her results if you are interested. But the name is highly appropriate, she says, for a city where for generations people have bet their fortunes, their careers, and their lives.

Wherever you have placed your bets this weekend, I hope that the results are good ones.

Under the newsletter’s hood: Last week’s newsletter was sent to 2,352 subscribers and had a 25.7 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.


Axis Sally, the broadcasting voice that worked for the other side

In the late 1940s very few people knew the name Mildred Gillars, but the whole world seemingly knew her nickname: Axis Sally.

Part of the reason she remained famous, or rather infamous, in the years after the war was that the United States government — in the throes of the Cold War —had decided to put her on trial for treason. The government’s indictment charged her with 10 counts of treason, but its legal arguments we’re confused and even contradictory. So was her defense.

But that’s getting ahead of the story.

Mildred Gillars was born in 1900 in Ohio. She grew up wanting to be an actor, a dancer, or something that would make her famous. She ultimately achieved that goal, but certainly not in a way that anyone could have imagined.

Gillars had a way of falling in and out of love, and it was usually with the wrong person. She was unable to establish an acting career for herself in New York City, and in the early 1930s, she left for Europe. She eventually found herself in Germany, and she managed to land a job with the German State Radio.

She remained in Germany as it sunk into the grip of National Socialism and began to spin inevitably toward war. In 1941, United States Embassy in Germany began advising American citizens to leave the country, but Gillars decided to stay. She was engaged to a young American who had become a naturalized German citizen, and he told her that he would not marry her if she returned home. Shortly after that, Germany invaded Russia, and the young man was sent to the Eastern Front where he died in combat.

Gillars had no choice but to continue her work had to try to navigate her dangerous situation as best she could. She met another American who had also become a German citizen, Max Otto Koischwitz. Koischwitz was a leading figure in Germany’s propaganda machine, and he recruited Gillars to be the star voice for a program directed at American GIs called Home Sweet Home.

The purpose of the program was to damage the morale of the soldiers and remind them of the things they were missing back home.

Another show in which Gillars was the star was called Midge at the Mike. In this show, she interspersed American music with the Nazis’ racist and anti-Jewish propaganda, and she made many despairing remarks about American President Franklin Roosevelt.

Gillars acquired the name Axis Sally when another American female used the name “Sally” to broadcast anti-American propaganda from Rome. The two were often confused by American GIs. Gillars’ most famous broadcast came shortly before D-Day in 1944 when she played the part of a mother in Ohio who wakes up screaming after dreaming that her son had been killed as part of the D-Day invasion force.

When the war was finally over, Gillars disappeared into the chaos of Germany. American army officers had not forgotten about her, however, and they conducted an intensive search for nearly a year before she was located and arrested in March 1946. During the next two years she spent most of her days in American custody and was finally indicted and brought to trial for treason in late 1948.

The trial was closely covered by newspapers and radio reporters and caused a sensation. Gillars headed to the spectacle by dressing flamboyantly, showing off her mountain with blond hair, and treating the whole thing like a Broadway production with her as the star. Her defense centered on the argument that she had done nothing illegal and simply exercised her first amendment rights by expressing unpopular opinions.

Ultimately, the jury found her guilty on only one count of treason, and she was sentenced to 10 to 30 years in federal prison. She served a little more than 10 years of that sentence and was released in 1961.

During her time in prison, she converted to Roman Catholicism, and when she was released, she returned to Ohio. She eventually became a teacher in a convent school and lived quietly until her death in 1988.

A new movie about Gillars, starring Al Pacino and Meadow Williams and focusing on her treason trial, will be released in late May 2021. The title of the movie is American Traitor: The Trial of Axis Sally.

King William’s War and the first paper money issued in America

The little-known King William’s War (1688-1697) was but one of a series of conflicts in colonial history that pitted English settlers in New England against French settlers in Canada. It was a war of raid and retaliation, and its brutality was frequent and shocking. Tragically, its result was simply the status quo that had been in place before the conflict began.

The war did contain 1 major historical marker, however. It resulted in the Massachusetts Bay Colony government issuing the first paper money in America.

Central to this story is a man named William Phips, who was born in what is now the state of Maine in 1651 and who spent the first years is life working on his father’s sheep farm. He then was apprenticed to a shipwright, and he married a wealthy widow who taught him how to read and write.

His work as a shipbuilder brought him into contact with many people and their stories. One of those stories had to do with a ship that was carrying gold from Mexico to the mother country of Spain and had sunk in the Caribbean. Phips found financial backing for an expedition to search for the sunken treasure, and although his first expedition was a failure, a second expedition had the incredible good fortune of actually finding the ship.

As a result, Phips was given £16,000 and a knighthood. Despite his newfound wealth and status, Phips was known as a man who spoke easily, honestly, and without any pretense, and people had come to trust him.

When the conflict broke out between the New Englanders and the French Canadians, the English asked the Crown for money and material to support their efforts to defend themselves and to retaliate against the French. The Crown ignored their request. The Massachusetts Bay Colony government then stepped in to underwrite a two-pronged invasion of Canada.

Phips led one of the forces of the invasion, but the whole thing turned out to be a disaster. Part of the reason for the failure was a smallpox epidemic that spread through the invading militia. None of the war aims of New Englanders came to fruition, including the one that had the invaders raiding the Canadians’ treasury. As the force was returning home, those in power knew that the soldiers that they had sent out would expect to be paid.

There was no hard currency available, so the government began printing paper bills of credit. It was the first time that paper money had been issued in the American colonies.

When the soldiers returned home, they were none too pleased to find that their payment was in something other than hard currency. Phips prevented the situation from becoming a crisis when he expressed confidence in the paper money and even purchased many of the notes himself. With that start, paper currency soon proved to be a convenient and efficient way of handling and exchanging money, and it has been with us ever since.

King William’s War continued for several more years, but it mostly consisted of New England towns defending themselves against forays by the French Canadians. The war ended inconclusively in 1697, but a few years later, the conflict was ignited once again oh, this time being dubbed Queen Anne’s War.


The Prolific Reader. Kill the Quarterback is listed there along with some other great mysteries.https://theprolificreader.com/mystery”


From the archives: The ‘private eye’ in literature begins with the real-life character of Eugene Francois Vidocq

The genesis of the private eye lies with a 19th Frenchman named Eugene Francois Vidocq.

Eugene Francois Vidocq

Vidocq’s life and legends, some of which he created through his partially fictionalized memoirs, were the inspiration for Edgar Allan Poe’s character C. Auguste Dupin in Murders in the Rue Morgue (1841), which is considered the world’s first detective story.

All of the famous detectives of literature — including Dashiell Hammett’s Sam Spade, Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe, Ross Macdonald’s Lew Archer, and Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Millhone — owe something to the real-life Vidocq.

As a young man in the 1790s, Vidocq appeared to have a promising career in the army ahead of him. His trouble was that he was too imaginative – and maybe too hot-headed – to follow the rules. He strayed to the wrong side of the law, and there he remained for the next decade and a half.

Committed to prison by the courts several times, Vidocq always managed an escape. He had a generous, affable nature that sometimes got him into trouble — such as the time he forged a pardon for a fellow prisoner. He was a master of disguise, which also aided him in eluding the authorities. He was made an escaped by marching out of town in a funeral procession.

In 1809 he found himself in the hands of the police against, this time facing a long, harsh prison sentence. He boldly switched sides, telling the police that he could go undercover (to use a modern term) and help them capture dangerous and highly sought-after criminals.

For nearly two years, he did this with some noted success. He later wrote in his memoirs:

I believe I might have become a perpetual spy, so far was every one from supposing that any connivance existed between the agents of the public authority and myself. Even the porters and keepers were in ignorance of my mission with which I was entrusted. Adored by the thieves, esteemed by the most determined bandits (for even these hardened wretches have a sentiment which they call esteem), I could always rely on their devotion to me.

Eugène François Vidocq, Memoirs of Vidocq, p. 190

Vidocq also – obviously – had a talent for self-promotion, which he used to great effect for the rest of his life.

[button link=”http://jprof.com/category/private-eye” color=”red” window=”yes”]See other posts on the ‘private eye’ in literature on JPROF.com[/button]

And that life was, indeed, remarkable. It included

  • establishment of a plain-clothes criminal investigative unit for the French police, which inspired a similar unit for  Scotland Yard in Great Britain and eventually the Federal Bureau of Investigation in the United States;
  • identification techniques of criminals that relied on extensive record-keeping;
  • criminal investigation procedures that included ballistics examinations, crime-scene analysis, and even the beginnings of finger-printing;
  • founding of the first private detective agency, which he did in 1833 after tiring of constantly squabbling with police.

Vidocq was never shy about proclaiming his successes, taking credit for his accomplishments, and comparing his genius to the bumbling methods of the uniformed police. His fame spread through Europe and the United States, particularly as he cultivated close friendships with famous French authors of the day such as Honore de Balzac, Victor Hugo, and Alexander Dumas, just to name a few. Each of these writers created characters for their novels based on Vidocq.

Today, Vidocq is not well-known, not as much as he should be. As Mike Ashley has written

As with so many originals, Vidocq’s life has become so overshadowed and masked, not only by those he inspired, but by his own legend as well, that today, if he is mentioned at all, it is to dismiss his achievements as fiction. But he was real, and he was a true living legend.

Source: The Great Detectives: Vidocq – Strand Mag In this article from issue 4, Mike Ashley looks at the life of Vidocq, a thief turned detective who was to prove the inspiration for many great fictional detectives.

[button link=”http://jprof.com/category/private-eye” color=”green” window=”yes”]See other posts about the ‘private eye’ in literature on JPROF.com[/button]

Biographies of Vidocq:

  • Edwards, Samuel (1977). The Vidocq Dossier: The Story of the World’s First Detective (1st ed.). Boston: Houghton Mifflin. ISBN 0-395-25176-1.
  • Hodgetts, Edward A. (1928). Vidocq: A Master of Crime. London: Selwyn & Blount.
  • Morton, James. The First Detective: The Life and Revolutionary Times of Vidocq. Ebury Press. ISBN 978-0-09-190337-4.
  • Stead, John Philip (1954). Vidocq: Picaroon of Crime.

Podcast recommendation: The Lazarus Heist from the BBC

North Korea involved in a bank robbery — a BIG bank robbery? This is a true-crime podcast that sounds like a lot of fun — and it’s from the BBC, so the production values are top-notch.

Hollywood is involved, too.

The most daring bank theft ever attempted? From hacking Hollywood to a billion-dollar plot. North Korea stands accused but says it had nothing to do with it and it’s part of the United States’ attempts to tarnish its image. Premieres 19 April 2021. A true crime investigation with Geoff White and Jean Lee. Source: BBC World Service – The Lazarus Heist, Introducing The Lazarus Heist

Yes, this sounds like a lot of fun, but it gets serious pretty quickly. The heist is no joke. It affects the lives, careers, and bank accounts of many people and organizations. Rather than being a lot of fun, it turns out to be pretty scary.

This is a tale for our time, and it is definitely worth listening to. The recording is superb, and the production values of the podcast are at the standard you would expect from the BBC.

Reactions

 
Eric S.: In response to your recent letter-writer who suggested the violinist in your watercolor was off balance, I would agree. But that’s no error. I like it. Your violinist appears to be moving fast with her back leg supporting most of her weight. With her other foot in mid-air, she’s in the process of regaining her balance. The viewer senses tension, an excellent painting of kinetic energy.

Jack S.: Personally, I consider what’s happening at our southern border is indeed a crisis, and getting crisisier.

Having been born in Mexico myself, with many relatives still there, I doubt that I’m prejudiced against the illegal aliens (slap my hand!).  I’m not fond at all of how our government—through all kinds of administrations—is handling the problem well at all.  I guess Trump was better than the others, but still his leadership in this area was far from satisfactory.

Marcia D.: My two Billy Wilder Movies were Some Like It Hot and The Apartment. Saw them on TV.

Finally . . .

This week’s watercolor: Leaders of the band

Best quote of the week:

“In reality, the world have payed too great a compliment to critics, and have imagined them men of much greater profundity than they really are.” Henry Fielding (1707-1754), English novelist, essayist, satirist, playwright, poet, journal editor, and magistrate

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.

Jim

Jim Stovall
www.jprof.com

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: Billy Wilder the journalist, what happens when you rule the world, and many readers react: newsletter, May 7, 2021

Continue reading

Ambrose Bierce, Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, all in the same space: newsletter, May 21, 2021

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,374) on Friday, May 21, 2021.

One of the great commonalities of the lives of noted authors is that a great many of them over the last two centuries began professionally in the same way: they worked as journalists and very often for newspapers. There are no better teachers of writing than the environment of an active newsroom and the pressure of a deadline.

Newswriting requires the writer how to distill information and ideas into a coherent form that those who read it can understand easily. This is no natural phenomenon that occurs through genes or other unseen forces. Instead, the ability to write coherently and understandably is the product of concentration, trial and error, and, most of all, hard work.

With the demise of newspapers and newsrooms over the past two decades, I wonder where our next set of great writers will be trained. Somewhere comparable, I hope. With that thought, have a great weekend.

Under the newsletter’s hood: Last week’s newsletter was sent to 2,348 subscribers and had a 24.9 percent open rate; 4 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.


Ambrose Bierce, the cynic who disappeared

Satirist and professional cynic Ambrose Bierce left his audience in the same way that Amelia Earhart did, only 25 years earlier. He disappeared without a trace.

And like Ms. Earhart, much has been made of that disappearance — investigations, speculation, rumors, stories and even movies. The results were the same. Nothing substantial was ever found. No clues, no evidence, no witnesses, nothing.

Unlike Ms. Earhart, however, Bierce has pretty much disappeared from the American consciousness. And that’s unfortunate indeed.

Ambrose Bierce lived a life worth remembering and wrote much that should still be read and pondered.

Chief among the vast body of writing that he left behind when he vanished in Mexico in 1913 is The Devil’s Dictionary, a set of witty and cynical definitions that was compiled over 30 years of newspaper writing and published in 1906.

Here’s a sample:

Advice, n.  The smallest current coin.

Air, n.  A nutritious substance supplied by a bountiful Providence for the fattening of the poor.

Education, n.  That which discloses to the wise and disguises from the foolish their lack of understanding.

Elegy, n.  A composition in verse, in which without employing any of the methods of humor, the writer aims to produce in the reader’s mind the dampest kind of dejection.

Hog, n.  A bird remarkable for the catholicity of its appetite and serving to illustrate that of ours. Among the Mahometans and Jews, the hog is not in favor as an article of diet but is respected for the delicacy of its habits, the beauty of its plumage, and the melody of its voice. It is chiefly as a songster that the fowl is esteemed; a cage of him in full chorus has been known to draw tears from two persons at once.

Lap, n.  One of the most important organs of the female system—an admirable provision of nature for the repose of infancy, but chiefly useful in rural festivities to support plates of cold chicken and heads of adult males. The male of our species has a rudimentary lap, imperfectly developed, and in no way contributing to the animal’s substantial welfare.

Litigation, n.  A machine which you go into as a pig and come out of as a sausage.

Bierce was unrelentingly cynical and negative in his commentary and fiction, and critics complained that he lacked imagination. In his defense, he had much to be cynical about. He had spent most of the American Civil War as a soldier, beginning as an infantryman and later as a topographical officer. He participated in some of its major battles of the war including Shiloh and Chickamauga.

After the war, Bierce became one of the most prolific and influential writers and journalists of the late 19th century. His story “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” appears in hundreds of anthologies and is one of the most widely read pieces of American writing hope that or any era.

The Devil’s Dictionary, quoted above, is considered a masterpiece of wit and genius.

In 1913, Bierce told reporters that he was headed to Mexico to witness firsthand the revolution that was taking place there. He was never seen again. Some believe that he never went to Mexico nor did he intend to. Rather, he went to some remote location and committed suicide. In any event, no remains were ever found.

The Devil’s Dictionary can be found here at Project Gutenberg.

 

The Prolific Reader. Kill the Quarterback is listed there along with some other great mysteries.https://theprolificreader.com/mystery”


When Dashiell Hammett stopped being a detective and became a writer

Lillian Hellman, playwright, novelist, and long-time friend and companion to Dashiell Hammett, tells the story about when Dashiell Hammett left the Pinkerton Detective Agency and turned himself into a writer.

Hammett had served in the U.S. Army during World War I but had spent most of his service time in the hospital. He was one of the many who contracted Spanish flu and later tuberculosis. After the war, Hammett with back to his pre-war job as an operative for the Pinkerton Detective Agency in San Francisco.

Hammitt wasn’t much of a traveler, but he had expressed an interest occasionally in going to Australia. One of the agency’s clients was an insurance company that hit insured a shipment of gold from Australia. Before the ship docked in San Francisco, he radioed ahead that the gold was missing.

The ship was covered with Pinkerton detectives once it arrived in port, but no gold was found. The people who ran Pinkerton were convinced the gold was still on board, and they assigned Hammett to travel on the ship back to Australia. A few hours before the ship sailed, Hammett was aboard looking for the gold. He had happily packed his bags and was looking forward to free passage to the place he had always wanted to see.

In a last-ditch effort to find the gold, Hammett climbed to the top of one of the ship’s smokestacks and had a look around. He then looked down the stack and saw the gold. He shouted down to a fellow detective, “I found the gold. They moved it here.”

As Hellman writes:

He said that as the words came out of his mouth, he said to himself, “You haven’t sense enough even to be a detective. Why couldn’t you have discovered the gold one day out to sea?” He fished out the gold, took it back to the Pinkerton office, and resigned that afternoon.

(Lillian Hellman in a 1965 article about Hammett in the New York Review of Books. A subscription may be required.)

 

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 Lazarushttp://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 Howehttp://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.

Reactions

 
Vic C.: Jim, in reference to the French and Indian War, I wonder if that is still being included in curricula today.  Some 30 years ago, I was teaching a course in Excel and wanted to show what happens when text extends beyond a cell width.  I asked the students, who seemed to be in their early twenties, to type the first few words of the Gettysburg Address.  Even with prompts, they couldn’t. 
I changed it to “Mary had a little lamb” and that worked.  Later, when I read some of the class reviews, it was clearly stated that I had made them feel stupid.  It took me a long time to realize that they had never been taught that in school.  I think I was especially upset about that because I was, quite frankly, a lousy history student, but I certainly remembered the lesson about Lincoln’s speech, though I didn’t really appreciate its content until I was much older. 
I am reminded that my father once told me that he was also bad at history.  (This from a guy who did the NY Times crossword in ink.)  He said that he could only remember a few dates: 1066, the Battle of Hastings; 1215, the signing of the Magna Carta; 1588, the Spanish Armada.  To that, I added Washington’s birth year, 1732.  Now, the reason for the last was that 1.732 is the square root of 3.  And here’s one for you.  Do you remember (circa 1957, when I learned it) ST DAPIACL?  I found a somewhat obscure reference for it at: The Naysayer (thenaysayer82765.blogspot.com)  Interestingly, there is a type in the note calling it a ‘pneumonic’ device.  Maybe it helped him breathe better.
Phyllis P.: Thanks for the poetry list. I was a practitioner of the lost art of poetry memorization, and there are some old favorites here. Some Emily Dickenson, perhaps? And more Shakespeare.
Elizabeth F.: Great issue! Enjoyed it all from the Big Apple to larger-than-life Axis Sally et al is a great leap!  Thanks!
Jennifer S.: What a fascinating exploration of the origins of the term “The Big Apple”! I had always assumed that the nickname hearkened back to an agricultural past, but, of course, you know the old chestnut about what happens when we assume. Teased by your summary, I clicked over to read Popova’s essay, and I found the story behind the slang delightful — as delightful as a 1 lb.-5 oz. apple! She concludes, ” beginning a new life in New York City has remained a wager of the biggest existential apple,” and although I have not personally felt the lure of that wager, I recognize the power it has wielded in our culture, and which it still wields! (Witness _Hamilton_’s, “In New York you can be a new man”!) Thanks for an intriguing insight into the term. I will have to use this as a trivia question in one of my future quizzes! 
 
 

Finally . . .

This week’s watercolor: The percussionist

Best quote of the week:

“Would you convey my compliments to the purist who reads your proofs and tell him or her that I write in a sort of broken-down patois which is something like the way a Swiss waiter talks, and that when I split an infinitive, God damn it, I split it so it will stay split, and when I interrupt the velvety smoothness of my more or less literate syntax with a few sudden words of barroom vernacular, this is done with the eyes wide open and the mind relaxed but attentive. The method may not be perfect, but it is all I have. I think your proofreader is kindly attempting to steady me on my feet, but much as I appreciate the solicitude, I am really able to steer a fairly clear course, provided I get both sidewalks and the street between. Raymond Chandler (1888-1959),  Letter to the editor of The Atlantic Monthly, Jan. 18, 1947 | Letters of Note (Vol. 1)

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.

Jim

Jim Stovall
www.jprof.com

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: Axis Sally, the broadcasting voice that worked for the other side