Thursday, June 30, 2011

ramble: research books bought & read, June 2011

The non-fiction/classics I bought this month came from three places: the used book store, where I traded in a bunch of books from classes a while back that I preferred never to see again, ugh; the mail-order bookshop that sells cheap remaindered books (I suppose? I don't really know how it works); and the bargain book sections of local bookstores.

I am, quite obviously, a bargain hunter, even more so this month than usual, because I have flung myself back into collecting fashion dolls, and the Stuff budget has had to adjust accordingly. This is ostensibly a good thing, since I hardly have room for more books, and dolls can perch on things and in corners. However, I'm still buying the same number of books, really, just cheaper ones. I outwit even myself.

Conversely, I didn't read very many research books this month. I've been reading fiction again instead, mostly the few Georgette Heyer Regency/Georgian novels I hadn't read before because I've been saving them, but they are too awesome and I can't save them forever.

So:

Monday, June 27, 2011

inspiration: portrait of Wilhelmine Encke by Anna Dorothea Therbusch

PORTRAIT OF WILHELMINE ENCKE, SINCE 1794 COUNTESS WILHELMINE VON LICHTENAU, MISTRESS OF FREDERICK WILLIAM II OF PRUSSIA*


-- Anna Dorothea Therbusch (1776)
[via Wikimedia here]

*whew

Friday, June 24, 2011

inspiration: "Fairy-Land" by Edgar Allan Poe

FAIRY-LAND

Dim vales—and shadowy floods—
And cloudy-looking woods,
Whose forms we can't discover
For the tears that drip all over!
Huge moons there wax and wane—
Again—again—again—
Every moment of the night—
Forever changing places—
And they put out the star-light
With the breath from their pale faces.
About twelve by the moon-dial,
One more filmy than the rest
(A kind which, upon trial,
They have found to be the best)
Comes down—still down—and down,
With its centre on the crown
Of a mountain's eminence,
While its wide circumference
In easy drapery falls
Over hamlets, over halls,
Wherever they may be—
O'er the strange woods—o'er the sea—
Over spirits on the wing—
Over every drowsy thing—
And buries them up quite
In a labyrinth of light—
And then, how deep!—O, deep!
Is the passion of their sleep.
In the morning they arise,
And their moony covering
Is soaring in the skies,
With the tempests as they toss,
Like—almost anything—
Or a yellow Albatross.
They use that moon no more
For the same end as before—
Videlicet, a tent—
Which I think extravagant:
Its atomies, however,
Into a shower dissever,
Of which those butterflies
Of Earth, who seek the skies,
And so come down again,
(Never-contented things!)
Have brought a specimen
Upon their quivering wings.

-- Edgar Allan Poe (1829)
[via Wikisource here]

Friday, June 17, 2011

inspiration: "Hermaphroditus" by Algernon Charles Swinburne

HERMAPHRODITUS

I

Lift up thy lips, turn round, look back for love,
   Blind love that comes by night and casts out rest;
   Of all things tired thy lips look weariest,
Save the long smile that they are wearied of.
Ah sweet, albeit no love be sweet enough,
   Choose of two loves and cleave unto the best;
   Two loves at either blossom of thy breast
Strive until one be under and one above.
Their breath is fire upon the amorous air,
   Fire in thine eyes and where thy lips suspire:
And whosoever hath seen thee, being so fair,
   Two things turn all his life and blood to fire;
A strong desire begot on great despair,
   A great despair cast out by strong desire.

II

Where between sleep and life some brief space is,
   With love like gold bound round about the head,
   Sex to sweet sex with lips and limbs is wed,
Turning the fruitful feud of hers and his
To the waste wedlock of a sterile kiss;
   Yet from them something like as fire is shed
   That shall not be assuaged till death be dead,
Though neither life nor sleep can find out this.
Love made himself of flesh that perisheth
   A pleasure-house for all the loves his kin;
But on the one side sat a man like death,
   And on the other a woman sat like sin.
So with veiled eyes and sobs between his breath
   Love turned himself and would not enter in.

III

Love, is it love or sleep or shadow or light
   That lies between thine eyelids and thine eyes?
   Like a flower laid upon a flower it lies,
Or like the night's dew laid upon the night.
Love stands upon thy left hand and thy right,
   Yet by no sunset and by no moonrise
   Shall make thee man and ease a woman's sighs,
Or make thee woman for a man's delight.
To what strange end hath some strange god made fair
   The double blossom of two fruitless flowers?
Hid love in all the folds of all thy hair,
   Fed thee on summers, watered thee with showers,
Given all the gold that all the seasons wear
   To thee that art a thing of barren hours?

IV

Yea, love, I see; it is not love but fear.
   Nay, sweet, it is not fear but love, I know;
   Or wherefore should thy body's blossom blow
So sweetly, or thine eyelids leave so clear
Thy gracious eyes that never made a tear—
   Though for their love our tears like blood should flow,
   Though love and life and death should come and go,
So dreadful, so desirable, so dear?
Yea, sweet, I know; I saw in what swift wise
   Beneath the woman's and the water's kiss
   Thy moist limbs melted into Salmacis,
And the large light turned tender in thine eyes,
And all thy boy's breath softened into sighs;
   But Love being blind, how should he know of this?

Au Musée du Louvre, Mars 1863.

-- Algernon Charles Swinburne, Poems & Ballads (First Series, 1866; 1917 edition)
[read the whole book here]

A photo of the very sculpture of Hermaphroditus that inspired Swinburne is below (and is possibly NSFW)

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Monday, June 6, 2011

inspiration: "Lines Inscribed Upon a Cup Formed From a Skull" by Lord Byron

LINES INSCRIBED UPON A CUP FORMED FROM A SKULL

Start not—nor deem my spirit fled:
In me behold the only skull,
From which, unlike a living head,
Whatever flows is never dull.

I lived, I loved, I quaff’d, like thee:
I died: let earth my bones resign;
Fill up—thou canst not injure me;
The worm hath fouler lips than thine.

Better to hold the sparkling grape,
Than nurse the earth-worm’s slimy brood;
And circle in the goblet’s shape
The drink of Gods, than reptile’s food.

Where once my wit, perchance, hath shone,
In aid of others’ let me shine;
And when, alas! our brains are gone,
What nobler substitute than wine?

Quaff while thou canst: another race,
When thou and thine, like me, are sped,
May rescue thee from earth’s embrace,
And rhyme and revel with the dead.

Why not? since through life’s little day
Our heads such sad effects produce;
Redeem’d from worms and wasting clay,
This chance is theirs, to be of use.

-- George Gordon, Lord Byron (1808)
[via Wikisource here]

Friday, June 3, 2011

ramble: Eliza Haywood, remarkable 18th-century author

Eliza Haywood (c. 1693-1756) was one of the first English novelists. Yet she is not at all as well known as the male authors who followed her, those who wrote what are widely considered some of the first English novels--for example, Samuel Richardson's Pamela (1740) and Clarissa (1748), or Henry Fielding's Tom Jones (1749). In fact,
"William B. Warner has argued that Richardson and Fielding set out rather consciously to disavow, absorb yet erase, and obliterate their female predecessors, including Haywood, whose work is essential to the history of the novel. Feminist critics including Margaret Doody, Jane Spencer, and Ros Ballaster give her credit for initiating major forms of the novel [and] key character types." (Oxford DNB)
Haywood's earliest novels are perhaps best classed as 'amatory fiction'--sexy, daring tales of adventure in the bedroom and the streets--which is perhaps another reason why they have not until recently received as much attention, acclaim, or study as the more formal, serious novels by her male contemporaries. However, she wrote in many genres, crafting plays, poetry, literary criticism, political essays and conduct books as well as novels. She even translated a number of works from the continent, and founded several periodicals aimed at an educated female audience. With all these ventures, it is not surprise that her tone ranged widely, too. For example, by the 1750s, her books were more moralistic and domestic, and rather less titillating, in tone.

Fortunately, Haywood's oeuvre has indeed experienced a renaissance in the past few decades, and many of her books are back in print. And they are most worthy of our attention. Not only are they well-crafted, entertaining, exciting stories, but they give us insight into the lives, tastes, ideals, and social structures of the 18th-century woman. She was certainly well-known and well-read in her day: she and the earlier women authors Aphra Behn (1640-1689) and Delarivier Manley (c. 1670-1724) were known by the mid-18th century as the 'Fair Triumvirate of Wit.' Haywood was truly
"a professional woman author--she lived by her pen, as the saying goes--writing popular fiction, and it was very popular." (Introduction, The History of Miss Betsy Thoughtless, 7)
Haywood's books are the sort of thing that the grandmothers and mothers of Regency women may have read, and perhaps passed down to (or hid from) their daughters. They are the precursors to the novels of such Regency and Victorian luminaries as Jane Austen, Fanny Burney, Mary Shelley, George Eliot, Elizabeth Gaskell, and the Brontë sisters.
"As Christopher Flint remarked, 'Haywood, more than any other eighteenth-century writer ... bridges the fictional narratives of Behn or Defoe and the works of Burney and Austen' (Family Fictions, 219)." (Oxford DNB)
Love in Excess; or, the Fatal Inquiry, published in three parts in 1719-1720, was Haywood's first novel. It draws influence from French romances and develops those themes into a romp filled with vibrant, surprising characters. The protagonist is D'Elmont, a gentleman who is in fact fairly gentlemanly, and numerous women, all quite remarkable--Amena, Alovisa, Melantha, Ciamara, Camilla, Violetta and the superior Melliora--through whom Haywood explores conceptions of feminine and sexual identity. These ladies and their suitors go through a host of adventures, misadventures, affairs, and intrigues that are both charmingly fun... and cleverly complex.
"[B]luntly, it is a bodice ripper. It is also an emotionally charged soap opera of brutal ambition, adulterous passion, and abuses of power. Again, it is a cautionary young-adult novel tracing the love-lives of impressionable young women in a violent, male-dominated world. ... Any novelist would kill to write a novel with such broad appeal." (Introduction, Love in Excess, 23)
The History of Miss Betsy Thoughtless, published in 1751, is quite a different novel. It follows the not-too-subtly-named heroine through wayward girlhood, problematic marriage, and finally wise(r) maturity. It is a fiction that is also a conduct manual for girls pondering their own marriages--but it is also entertaining in its way, with multiple plotlines and an ensemble cast of characters who are mere types on the surface but actually illuminate the nature of those types. And, read critically, it also serves as a cautionary tale:
"the story of an intelligent, independent, wilful woman discovering the full force of the disciplining, transforming forces that create the subdued woman for whom society's gendered commands become willed behaviour." (Oxford DNB)
Haywood's Fantomina: or, Love in a Maze (1725), a novella, is rather more ambiguous than either of these two novels, and in its interplay of adventure and didacticism it is, I think, the most interesting example of her fiction. Its heroine decides to try living like those other, scandalous women do, and puts on a series of disguises in order to do so (wealthy courtesan, country maid, recent widow). She finds pleasure but also learns unpleasant lessons, as when she seduces her lover in each of her disguises and receives his letters to each persona, all of which plainly illustrates his cheating ways. There is a moral of sorts to the story, and yet the ambiguities remain; it is a fascinating portrait of the contradictory standards women were socially expected to live up to. Fantomina exemplifies Haywood's belief that
"the most interesting and instructive stories occur when passion is intensified sufficiently to overcome prudence." (Introduction, Fantomina and Other Works, 16)
Haywood herself is almost as much of an enigma as Fantomina (indeed, "female authorship was widely considered to be the literary equivalent of prostitution" [Introduction, Fantomina and Other Works, 9]). There is not a great deal known about her life, at least not in comparison with her contemporaries Fielding and Richardson; the most widely disseminated tidbit about her is that she was mocked by Alexander Pope in his Dunciad (1728). But we must remember that
"[t]hough we now know little about the private woman behind [her] conspicuous success, our ignorance is not proof of her obscurity. ... Haywood was solidly enmeshed in the literary scene of her day." (Introduction, Love in Excess, 8)
She was born in Shropshire, married early (her maiden name was Eliza Fowler) and widowed probably by 1719/20, then lived with the poet Richard Savage, by whom she had a child. Beginning in 1724, she lived with William Hatchett, a bookseller and playwright, and had a son with him. She was an actress as well as author: her career on the stage began in 1715. While she began to write fiction in 1719, she continued to act for another two decades. Haywood was a vigorous and brilliant women whose prolific output in all kinds of literary and dramatic fields is incredible. She was active in other ways, too: she participated strenuously in politics, to the point of being brought in for questioning over her statements. She was a truly remarkable woman whose experimental and unconventional life and works are well worth reading as precedents of and precursors to the women authors, and women readers, of the later 18th and the 19th century.

Sources:
-- Paula R. Backscheider, 'Haywood, Eliza (1693?–1756),' Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford University Press, 2004); online edn, Sept 2010. [link]
-- Eliza Haywood, Fantomina and Other Works, ed. Alexander Pettit, Margaret Case Croskery, and Anna C. Patchias (Broadview Press, 2004). [link]
-- Eliza Haywood, The History of Miss Betsy Thoughtless, ed. Christine Blouch (Broadview Press, 1998). [link]
-- Eliza Haywood, Love in Excess, ed. David Oakleaf (Broadview Press, 2000); 2nd edn. [link]
-- Haywood's Wikipedia page [link] has a list of her major works and a list of resources, including a modern biography.

[This was a guest post for Lesley-Anne McLeod's Regency blog; many thanks to her for that opportunity, and for allowing me to repost it here at home. Thanks go to her, too, for finding the images.]