Saturday, March 31, 2012

John Donne

Poet John Donne died on March 31st, 1631.  Dubbed a metaphysical poet, by Samuel Johnson, his influence is recognized by Walter Scott in his “The Dramatic Works of John Dryden”, in which Donne is mentioned numerous times.

‘Although Dryden's residence at the university was prolonged to the unusual space of nearly seven years, we do not find that he
distinguished himself during that time by any poetical prolusions
excepting a few lines prefixed to a work, entitled, "Sion and Parnassus;  or Epigrams on several Texts of the Old and New Testament," published in  1650, by John Hoddesdon. Mr. Malone conjectures that our poet would  have contributed to the academic collection of verses, entitled, "Oliva  Pacis," and published in 1654, on the peace between England and Holland, had not his father's death interfered at that period. It is probable, we
lose but little by the disappearance of any occasional verses which may have been produced by Dryden at this time. The elegy on Lord Hastings, the lines prefixed to "Sion and Parnassus," and some complimentary stanzas which occur in a letter to his cousin Honor Driden, would have been enough to assure us, even without his own testimony, that
Cowley was the darling of his youth; and that he imitated his points of wit, and quirks of epigram, with a similar contempt for the propriety of their application. From these poems, we learn enough to be grateful, that Dryden was born at a later period in his century; for had not the road to fame been altered in consequence of the Restoration, his extensive information and acute ingenuity would probably have betrayed the author of the "Ode to St. Cecilia," and the father of English poetical harmony, into rivalling the metaphysical pindarics of Donne and Cowley.’

Friday, March 30, 2012

Cold Days

‘Monday 30 March 1663

Up betimes and found my weather-glass sunk again just to the same position which it was last night before I had any fire made in my chamber, which had made it rise in two hours time above half a degree…’

Samuel Pepys used a weather-glass, as he records in his diary, which was largely developed within the century Pepys lived in (17th).  By Walter Scott’s time, the term thermometer, first introduced in 1624, was in common use.  Scott commented on the temperature more than once in his journal, including this entry:

January 15 [1826]--Like yesterday, a hard frost. Thermometer at 10; water in
my dressing-room frozen to flint; yet I had a fine walk yesterday, the
sun dancing delightfully on "grim Nature's visage hoar."

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Feast of Saint Catherine of Sienna

"For Heaven's sake, blaspheme not!" said the girl, with an expression of fear.--"God pardon us both! I meant no harm. I speak of our blessed Saint Catherine of Sienna!--may God forgive me that I spoke so lightly, and made you do a great sin and a great blasphemy. This was her nunnery, in which there were twelve nuns and an abbess. My aunt was the abbess, till the heretics turned all adrift.

It is surely good advice not to blaspheme, as the girl in Sir Walter Scott’s “The Abbot” cautions, especially on the Feast of Saint Catherine of Sienna. Catherine is a Doctor of Unity in the Catholic faith, having helped to bring the Papacy back to Rome, after a century in France.  Catherine died at the young age of 33, on March 29, 1380.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Katherine Lee Bates

American Katherine Lee Bates is most famous as the graduate of Wellesley College who wrote the words to the song “America the Beautiful”.  She was also a poet, who enjoyed, among others, Sir Walter Scott. 

According to the online bio of Ms. Bates from Spinner Publications, ‘…By the time she was eleven years old, she was a precocious, erudite child whose favorite writers were Charles Dickens, Sir Walter Scott, Louisa May, and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow….’

And in the author’s own “Home Studies” she writes glowingly on a topic near and dear to Scott’s own heart; dogs.

‘Sigurd was but mildly interested when we told him that in George Eliot's novels there were over fifty dogs, ranging all the way from pug to mastiff, nor did he care greatly for Dickens' dogs, not even blundering, ill-favored, clumsy, "bullet-headed" Diogenes, Florence Dombey's comforter, nor the bandy leader of Jerry's dancing troupe, who, because of a lost half-penny, had to grind out Old Hundred on the barrel-organ while his companions devoured their supper--and his; but Scott's dogs, from fleet Lufra of The Lady of the Lake to the Dandy Dinmonts of Guy Mannering,--"There's auld Pepper and auld Mustard, and young Pepper and young Mustard, and little Pepper and little Mustard"--made him blink and prick up his ears. Thus encouraged, I would tell him of Sir Walter's love for all his home dogs and most of all for the tall stag-hound Maida…’

Katherine Lee Bates died on March 28, 1929.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Mary of Burgundy

"Messires," said Crevecoeur, "the Duke ought in justice to have the
first of my wares, as the Seigneur takes his toll before open market
begins. But tell me, are your news of a sad or a pleasant complexion?"
The person whom he particularly addressed was a lively looking man,
with an eye of great vivacity, which was corrected by an expression
of reflection and gravity about the mouth and upper lip--the whole
physiognomy marking a man who saw and judged rapidly, but was sage and
slow in forming resolutions or in expressing opinions. This was the
famous Knight of Hainault, son of Collara, or Nicolas de l'Elite, known
in history, and amongst historians, by the venerable name of Philip de
Comines, at this time close to the person of Duke Charles the Bold, and
one of his most esteemed counsellors. He answered Crevecoeur's question
concerning the complexion of the news of which he and his companion, the
Baron D'Hymbercourt, were the depositaries.

[D'Hymbercourt, or Imbercourt, was put to death by the inhabitants
of Ghent, with the Chancellor of Burgundy, in the year 1477. Mary of
Burgundy, daughter of Charles the Bold, appeared in mourning in the
marketplace, and with tears besought the life of her servants from her
insurgent subjects, but in vain. S.]

Tearful Mary of Burgundy was the daughter of Charles the Bold, a major character in Walter Scott’s “Quentin Durward”, from which the text/note above come.  Mary married a Habsburg, Archduke Maximilian of Austria, but died five years later after a fall from a horse.  Mary was 25 when she died, on March 27th, 1482.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Kidney Stones

From Pepys Diary:

Monday 26 March 1660

This day it is two years since it pleased God that I was cut of the stone at Mrs. Turner’s in Salisbury Court. And did resolve while I live to keep it a festival, as I did the last year at my house, and for ever to have Mrs. Turner and her company with me. But now it pleases God that I am where I am and so prevented to do it openly; only within my soul I can and do rejoice, and bless God, being at this time blessed be his holy name, in as good health as ever I was in my life. This morning I rose early, and went about making of an establishment of the whole Fleet, and a list of all the ships, with the number of men and guns: About an hour after that, we had a meeting of the principal commanders and seamen, to proportion out the number of these things. After that to dinner, there being very many commanders on board. All the afternoon very many orders were made, till I was very weary. At night Mr. Sheply and W. Howe came and brought some bottles of wine and some things to eat in my cabin, where we were very merry, remembering the day of being cut for the stone. Captain Cuttance came afterwards and sat drinking a bottle of wine till eleven, a kindness he do not usually do the greatest officer in the ship. After that to bed.

Samuel Pepys had much to celebrate, with his kidney stones removed.  Connection to Sir Walter Scott?  No less an authority than the Journal of the American Medical Association has published speculation in this regard.  In “Kidney Stones: Medical and Surgical Management”, doctor George Dunea states that: ‘Kidney Stones is an elegant book of over 1100 pages about an ancient disease, which was already known to Hippocrates. Montaigne thought stone disease was "a noble and dignified malady [that] attacked the great for preference." Samuel Pepys suffered from recurrent urinary calculi, and so may have Sir Walter Scott when he gloomily predicted that his making blood might soon lead to making earth….’