Another mediocre Persephone title. I wonder if I’ve reached that middling ground where the quality peters out and you’re just left with books that are better off not being revived? Another wartime story during WWII, Cressida a beautiful widow who runs a boarding house out of a gorgeous old country mansion. Characters are introduced then whisked off stage before anything of note comes of them (Felicity Brent, the red headed troublemaker whose rudeness seems to portend of something greater, but she simply vanishes off to the war and jilts her fiance). An aunt comes to stay, harrumphs about her niece Cressida toiling away in the kitchen but Cressida will not hear of employing servants, even after the war. This is a common theme of all these Persephone books– the breaking off of the ways with servants and making do on one’s own. Throughout the book, we also follow the progress of Charles Valery whose boat is sunk and who spends two weeks drifting around the Atlantic before being rescued. A head-shaking hodgepodge of a story.
I suppose it would have made more sense to have actually seen a few episodes of the TV show I was reading a book about. Midway through the book I was able to watch the first few episodes of the first season and had a deeper appreciation for what I was reading. A hilarious glimpse in the 2nd episode of Rhoda’s introduction of herself as “another person in the room” to Howard Arnell (played by Valerie Harper’s real life hubby Dick Schaal) when he only has eyes for Mary. The line was Treva Silverman’s and she went on to produce comedy gold for the show for many seasons before bumming around Europe for awhile to see the world.
The book isn’t well written, wooden sentences clunking together like a poorly built engine. I recognize the challenge the author faced from having conducted many interviews and having to let people’s words shine through your own writing. Like the women who wanted to be sure it came out that they didn’t mind being the only woman in the room, either as a writer or executive, because it “made them feel special.” The author gives us this without comment, missing her chance to point out some obvious pitfalls of women who aren’t woke.
It does provide a detailed picture of the television landscape in the early 1970s, how networks jumped on the Women’s Lib bandwagon to capture viewers and how they quickly abandoned this tact in the latter half of the decade when inflation was hitting and people wanted to lose themselves in fantasy puff pieces instead.
One thing that comes across is the rare environment the team experienced on the show– having a friendly, warm, safe space for the women writers was unusual and something they’d always struggle to recreate in future projects.
Other odds & ends: Betty White was pals with MTM and when asked to be on the show was a bit hesitant to cross the friend/work line. Betty Ford appeared on the show drunk from the White House. One woman executive had to leave her high heels outside the exec bathroom as a signal that she was in there because there was no lock on the door nor any women’s bathroom.
A mediocre Persephone title by Elizabeth Cambridge, written in 1933, dealing with the dreary wartime stiff upper lips (WW1), a doctor’s wife who’s a bit dreamy who gives up her writing to take care of a drafty huge country home and raise three inexplicable children. I suppose I’m addicted to these grey-covered Persephones but they do start to muddle together when they’re all in that tweener period between the wars and you’re always waiting for the husband to do something dumb.
Eccentric book provides the perfect format for Sophie Calle’s work, snippets from her lifetime. Those who are not familiar with her art can start with this collection, as it dabs you into the major themes and pushes you into the swirl of text and photos. Thin pink paper separates sections, photographs flutter within the pages, some photos/text printed on thicker paper, some printed on the glossy paper you’d expect. Only brief mention is given of the Address Book, my first conscious exposure to Calle’s work (although I think saw her at SFMOMA years ago); in this she finds an address book and begins to sketch a picture of the owner by calling up his friends and meeting them. In The Sleepers, she invites people to come sleep in her bed and be photographed. Because of this, a man in San Francisco years later asks her if he can sleep in his bed to get over a heartbreak; she ships him her bed instead (Josh Greene). Exquisite Pain is also in here, something I’d recently come across, record of a countdown to heartbreak (69 days until heartbreak) when she’s abandoned by her lover who was supposed to show up in India.
Another Persephone title, but this one a bit humdrum compared to the tight packages of delight I’ve been devouring. “A bit uneven” as my least favorite critical phrase would attest, but I can think of nothing closer to say. Perhaps the discord is because this is written by a man? Parts are great, clever and witty, but then parts inflate and drag and the narrator becomes the Voice of God as if in a movie, telling Felicity that yes, Oxford was a rather silly place after all. The story is mainly about Greenery Street, a quiet London street with identical townhomes that newly marrieds move into and bust out of when they start having children and don’t fit anymore. The street itself is sentient, approving or disapproving of specific tenants.
We follow a couple, Felicity and Ian, who fall into the loving arms of Greenery Street and thus can proceed with their marriage, Felicity spending too much money and Ian not earning enough. The improvements made to the home cost them a pretty penny and they went into debt, Felicity sells her grandmother’s pearls to put a dent into it and Ian sells his father’s watch. They have servant troubles, of course, and Felicity’s sister almost runs off with another man except her husband. Ian and Felicity go away for the weekend and intend to dismiss their maid for drinking their whisky, via letter, while they’re gone. Ian’s letter “was defamatory, inaccurate, impolite, reckless, actionable, ungrammatical and vitriolic, all to the last possible degree. Occasionally a spurt of vicious humour gave an added tang to its philippic periods. It did not stop short of repetition, which, as the greatest masters have taught us, is one of the most powerful forms of emphasis. It employed both the alternative spellings of the word ‘whisky.'”
I was curious about Prelude, the story hand printed and stitched by VW on the Hogarth Press in 1918. It nestles up nicely to At the Bay (1922), where the story is continued, and which is one of my favorite KM stories. Prelude deals with the family moving from town to the countryside, mother Linda languid and not caring too much about the whereabouts or activities of her daughters. In fact, at the beginning, she jokes of jettisoning them, leaving them behind, because there’s not room in the cart for the two youngest. “A strange little laugh flew from her lips, she leaned back against the buttoned leather cushions and shut her eyes, her lips trembling with laughter.” This fits nicely with her attitude toward her infant son in At the Bay where she tells him coldly, “I don’t like babies.”
In Prelude Linda reveals her delicacy, that she may die at any moment, “I have had three great lumps of children already…” And she wavers between love and hatred of her husband: “For all her love and respect and admiration she hated him… It had never been so plain to her as it was at this moment. There were all her feelings for him, sharp and defined, one as true as the other. And there was this other, this hatred, just as real as the rest. She could have done her feelings up in packets and given them to Stanley. She longed to hand him that last one, for a surprise. She could see his eyes as he opened that… She hugged her folded arms and began to laugh silently. How absurd life was– it was laughable, simply laughable. And why this mania of hers to keep alive at all? For it really was a mania, she though, mocking and laughing.”
Another interesting dip into Sophie Calle’s work, this one part of the Hasselblad Award from 2010. She layers her photos with text, or vice versa. I find the words more interesting than the photos, but as she says, everything originated with photos; she was living in a photographer’s house in Northern California and decided to take up photography, returned to Paris to take a class, showed up once and then never to another class after the teacher took them up to the Eiffel Tower to shoot, Calle realizing she didn’t need this type of teaching.
The autobiography she wrote for Victor Hasselblad is just a few sentences but she conveys the complexity of being single and without children, the freedom and absolute delight in not having them. “I sigh, ‘Poor things…’ ” as a couple with child walk by. This is fitting because Victor was able to fund the award she got since he had no heirs.
Pliny the Elder has some interesting observations about the world in first century AD. This is a simplified version of his work, and I bopped around to various sections finding bits of interest instead of reading cover to cover.
Re: wine in Book XIV. Here we find proof that wine was combined with water.
- Homer states that Maronean wine was mixed with water in the proportion of 1:20 (Iliad, XI 639 and Odyssey, X, 235).
- Mucianus discovered on a recent visit to Thrace that it is the practice to mix this wine with water in the proportion of 1:8, and that it is dark in colour, has a bouquet, and improves with age.
Women were not allowed to drink wine; a husband was acquitted of murdering his wife for drinking from a large jar of wine. Overindulging in wine leads to all sorts of trouble, like telling the truth (in vino veritas).
There’s a whole section on hangovers: “Even in the most favorable circumstances, the intoxicated never see the sunrise and so shorten their lives. This is the reason for pale faces, hanging jowls, sore eyes and trembling hands that spill the contents of full vessels; this the reason for swift retribution consisting of horrendous nightmares and for restless lust and pleasure in excess. The morning after, the breath reeks of the wine-jar and everything is forgotten – the memory is dead. This is what people call ‘enjoying life;’ but while other men daily lose their yesterdays, these people also lose their tomorrows.”
Book XX is about drugs obtained from the garden. He suggests that onions provide a cure for poor vision through tears caused by their smell; “even more effective is the application of some onion-juice to the eyes.” Hmm, no thanks. The praises of cabbage are sung briefly. There are several other sections on medicines made from plants and trees, magic, incantations, benefits of sex and asses’ milk. Oysters “are extremely good for bad colds.”
Another Elizabeth Berridge book delivered up from ILL (thanks University of Oregon!), this one published in 1964 and thus streaked with modern horrors such as pharmaceuticals and televisions. Louise leaves her husband, Max, and storms off with a suitcase to her elderly aunts’ home where she grew up. There she finds them unsurprised to see her and she’s welcomed into the fold of Aunt Rosa and Aunt Seraphina along with their faithful housekeeper, Gibby.
It’s rather a stupid tale. Louise is summoned to the solicitor’s office in London where she finds an unexpected income of £750 from oil shares her father left, along with a letter that was scheduled to reach her at age 30. In the letter, she learns that her grandfather committed suicide, and she starts to pick apart at the ancient mystery. Turns out that he shot himself a few months after a young woman was found murdered nearby, mostly because he was ashamed of having seen it via telescope? Another more capable aunt arrives, albeit in a wheelchair, and takes control of the house, installs a TV. Max comes and scoops her up after the aunts call him for the rescue.
Elizabeth Berridge’s 1949 war novel has minor victories of capturing perfectly the grind and terror of entering the work force for the first time. She follows three girls, Laura, Fiona, and Helen, on their first day working for the Bank of England. Helen bursts into tears at the dreary prospect of what awaits her for years and years. She ends up escaping first, giving notice after only a year’s service, to move in with a man and start working as a journalist.
Fiona is the artist who also struggles to deal with the staid reality of life at the bank, especially when they’re evacuated to the countryside and must live in huts with other employees, the bank work being deemed “essential” to the war effort. She spends her money on canvases and oil, and escapes the dull work of the bank through sketching. She eventually vaults out the window and runs away, intending to head to America where her father and stepmother await, but she winds up back at the bank after a week of wandering, resolute to save her money and be able to depart for real some day.
Laura is wooed by John but finds him cold hearted when she expects sympathy after her parents die in a London bombing. Instead she finds comfort in his friend Max’s arms, and marries the schoolmaster, producing daughter Ursula. There’s no great wind-up to the tale, just that Fiona’s gone, Helen’s somewhat happy, and Laura is a bit bored as a housewife in the country.
Got the book via ILL, thank you Minneapolis Public Library!
I like Maggie Nelson’s work. This is her 2007 memoir about 2005 the cold case murder trial for her aunt Jane’s 1969 killing. She spent five years working on a book of poems about her aunt’s murder, all while a detective in Michigan was working on the cold case, unbeknownst to her. This memoir is an exploration of grief, understanding violence against women, uncovering things deeply buried.
“How does one measure the loss of anyone? Is measurement a necessary part of grief? Is a life less grievable if its prospects for the future… don’t appear bright?”
During the trial, she has drinks with an old friend and walks home to the rented home her mom waits in after a stop by the railroad tracks to lay down and listen to the quiet world. “For as long as I can remember, this has been one of my favorite feelings. To be alone in public, wandering at night, or lying close to the earth, anonymous, invisible, floating… To make your claim on public space even as you feel yourself disappearing into its largesse, into its sublimity. To practice for death by feeling completely empty, but somehow still alive. It’s a sensation that people have tried, in various times and places, to keep women from feeling. Many still try. You’ve been told a million times that to be alone and female and in public late at night is to court disaster, so it’s impossible to know if you’re being bold and free or stupid and self-destructive.”
She finds comfort in the arms of the same lovers I do: Schopenhauer, Winnicott, and various literary lions. Winnicott’s quote, “Fear of breakdown is the fear of a breakdown that has already been experienced,” was solace for Nelson (shoe’s already dropped!) until she realized that it’s not that breakdowns don’t recur but that the fear of the past may cause its repetition.
As someone who doesn’t eat meat and doesn’t spend a lot of time preparing elaborate meals, I still found this slim volume of chatter plus recipes engaging reading. It reminded me tremendously of M.F.K. Fisher’s work, lyrical writing describing mouth-watering meals to someone who will never make them (nor care to eat all those beef-chicken-egg-veal-laden dishes). These kitchen essays were first published in a collected volume in 1922.
There’s lots of odd mixtures, something that foodies with a historical bent will slurp up gratefully. She suggests mixing salad with whipped cream, for example. There’s also some fairly Herculean effort required, which is all smoothed over by her silky words making it seem so easy! “Clarify 1 lb. butter. When cold beat to a cream, ad 12 oz. sugar, 1 lb. potato flour (sieved), 4 whole eggs and the yolks of 2, the zest of 1 lemon. Beat the whole mass for 1 hour, when it should form bubbles.” Right. An hour of beating something by hand. These were the days when electric appliances were absent from the kitchen.
I did find the only vegan recipe in the book, which gave me some ideas. Her potato salad boils waxy potatoes in their skins, then peeled while warm, cut thickly, and pour 1 TB vinegar with 2 TB stock gradually over the potatoes so they can absorb it. Then add oil, salt, pepper, and a small finely-chopped onion, let stand for an hour.
A sample morsel of her engaging prose:
Breakfast is the most difficult meal of the day, whether from its social or its culinary aspect. Many of us feel like that man who, meeting a bore, said, ‘If you have got anything to say to me I wish you would kindly say it to somebody else.’ Our reluctant consciousness, but newly returned from a dream world, shrinks from all but the gentlest contacts. ‘Praise me not to much,’ as Odysseus said to Diomed, ‘neither find fault with me at all,’ and the greetings of melancholics and dissatisfied individuals can, like the cry of the curlew in Miss Barlow’s Irish idyll, set our whole mental landscape into a minor key for the rest of the day.
I read a lot of books last year. 286, to be exact, a 33% increase over last year. If my reading project was a startup looking for investors, this up and to the right chart would guarantee a unicorn horn’s worth of funding. In 2013 I ditched my office job and my consumption of books skyrocketed accordingly. Freelance work agrees very, very well with me.
My most gluttonous month was December, binging on 47 books, taking full advantage of the fact that work for clients dries up considerably the last few weeks of the year. I read over 25% of the entire year’s worth of books post-election as I retreated inward to absorb the shock.
Of the books consumed, 78% were by women writers, 22% by males. This skews slightly more than last year’s 77% women writers. I was surprised to find that 58% of the books were non-fiction, 42% fiction, especially as I am wallowing heavily in mid-20th century British fiction as the only solace I’ve found post-election. Since 11/8/16, this ratio has flipped and I’ve read 56% fiction.
Top Picks of 2016
It’s not easy to sift through almost 300 books to figure out which were the best. After several failed starts, I just closed my eyes and went down the list and tried to remember if the book sparked joy or not (note: Marie Kondo’s book will not be on this list although I did read it).
Newly discovered author: Dorothy Whipple has become a life raft for me as I read 13 of her largely forgotten books. If I had to pick favorites: Greenbanks, The Priory, They Knew Mr. Knight, and High Wages. There is something deeply comforting about the world of mid-20th century Britain that appeals to me when our world seems to be falling apart. These are distinctly middle-brow books and I make no apologies for this.
Epic work: Dorothy Richardson’s 13 book Pilgrimage is a delightful bog of female stream-of-consciousness to get lost in. I read the 13 books across four volumes last summer. My favorites of the bunch were The Tunnel, Oberland, Dawn’s Left Hand, and Clear Horizon.
Short story collections
- Miss Grief and Other Stories by Constance Fenimore Woolson. “Strong writing, highly recommended.”
- Tell it to a Stranger: Stories from the 1940s by Elizabeth Berridge- “upstanding British tales that lead you through strange twists and jerks and gaps.”
- Like Life – Lorrie Moore’s 1990 collection of short stories does not disappoint.
- American Salvage by Bonnie Jo Campbell from 2009. “Quiet, disturbing tales of life in Michigan, hard women and hard men, metal-workers, junkyard workers, meth-heads, marginal living.”
- The Sea, The Sea by Iris Murdoch… Beautiful, haunting, magical “love” story by an awesome writer.
- Mrs. Stevens Hears the Mermaids Singing by May Sarton.
- On the Shores of Darkness, There Is Light by Cordelia Strube. “Holy hell, another Canadian woman who can write the boots off a snake. “
- So Big. “Holy fuck, Edna Ferber. Why is the entire English-speaking world not reading her books and worshiping her for the fantastic fiction she wrote? When I finished reading this minutes ago, I actually held it in the air and shook it.”
- Inferno (A Poet’s Novel) by Eileen Myles. “Nearly ever page is filled with inspiration.”
- The End of the Story by Lydia Davis. “Utterly graceful and mesmerizing writing, she weaves a tale of love, breakup, and loss while more importantly showing us how to put together the bones of a novel.”
- I Love Dick by Chris Kraus. “I could write a book about reading this book.”
- The Home-Maker by Dorothy Canfield; “Spectacular book from 1924 about a woman whose talents are concentrated on raising three children and housekeeping for a husband who barely makes enough money.”
- The Old Man And Me by Elaine Dundy: “wonderfully weird and compelling story.”
- Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life by Ruth Franklin. I’m including this bio instead of listing every single thing by Shirley Jackson that I ended up reading because of this bio. (Hint: Jackson is terrific)
- Katherine Mansfield: A Secret Life by Claire Tomalin. “A lovely biography of a writer on whom we’ve all more or less turned our backs on this century.”
- Zelda by Nancy Milford. “Amazing and heartbreaking biography of Zelda (Sayre) Fitzgerald’s creative and unusual life, pub’d in 1970.”
- The Carlyles at Home by Thea Holme. “Engaging and delightful book about Jane and Thomas Carlyle based mostly on letters that witty Jane penned through her life. I never had much interest in Carlyle until reading this; perhaps great men are sometimes better reached via a more oblique angle.”
- Skating to Antarctica by Jenny Diski – Hermione Lee called this “a typically uncategorizable mixture of travel journal, childhood memoir, and Melvillean meditation on whiteness and oblivion.”
- M Train by Patti Smith. Especially good for a re-read after seeing her at the Nourse Theater.
- Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates. “As good as everyone says it is.”
- I Blame Dennis Hopper by Illeana Douglas. “So much fun to read.”
- An American Childhood. “I am firmly under the spell of Annie Dillard’s magical way with words.”
- In Our Time: Memoir of a Revolution by Susan Brownmiller. “This is the best book I’ve read on the Second Wave.”
- The Worst Journey in the World by Apsley Cherry-Garrard who wrote this a decade after returning to England after three years in Antarctica between 1910-1913 on the Terra Nova expedition, Scott’s last.
- Travels with Myself and Another by Martha Gellhorn. “By far some of the best travel writing I’ve read.”
- Tent Folk of the Far North by Esther Blenda Nordstrom. “A book about the summer she was appointed by the Swedish government as teacher to the Lapp people in Swedish Lapland.”
- Around the World in Seventy-Two Days and Other Writings by Nellie Bly.
- Fear of Falling: The Inner Life of the Middle Class . Barbara Ehrenreich’s book charting the shift in consciousness of the middle class is eerily spot-on reading for someone trying desperately to understand what went wrong in the 2016 election.
- The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York. Robert Caro’s massive biography of Robert Moses was published in 1974 after seven years of research, interviewing over 500 people, and writing.
- Ravens in Winter. I couldn’t wait to get back home to finish this real-life detective story by “sociobiologist” Bernd Heinrich, who seeks to discover why ravens share their finds of large meat carcasses instead of gorging on them by themselves.
- We’ll Call You If We Need You: Experiences of Women Working Construction. I never imagined I’d love a book so much about women trying to break into the construction industry. Susan Eisenberg interviewed 30 women about their experiences as the first women in their union locals in the five trades: carpenters, electricians, ironworkers, painters, and plumbers.
- The Sixth Extinction by Elizabeth Kolbert. An entertaining and informative look at diminishing species due to human involvement.
Classics rediscovered and appreciated:
- Toni Morrison‘s The Bluest Eye and Beloved. “Holy shit.”
- Anything I could get my hands on by Louisa May Alcott, including Little Women
- O Pioneers! and My Ántonia by Willa Cather
Books to raise your blood pressure:
It’s true. I actually mention my blood pressure rising in these reviews.
- American Girls: Social Media and the Secret Lives of Teenagers by Nancy Jo Sales. A must-read for anyone alive in the 21st century.
- Media Control: The Spectacular Achievements of Propaganda by Noam Chomsky
- Medieval Writings on Secular Women
Others of note
- The Art of Cruelty: A Reckoning by Maggie Nelson
- The Buddhist by Dodie Bellamy
- Honey on the Moon. Maude Hutchins’ weird and dark book sticks with me.
- Turn, Magic Wheel by Dawn Powell. “So many great characters in this, including the city of New York, always present, pulsating, provoking.”
- The Cosmopolitans by Sarah Schulman.
- Suspended Sentences by Patrick Modiano. “I was absolutely crushed by the first novella, Afterimage.”
This is a terrible book. I sped through 600 pages out of curiosity, looking to articulate exactly why I hated it.
Long-winded, interminable descriptions. The boy needs an editor. Someone to shape this lumpy sack of clay into a slenderized version that has the necessary tension that makes us want to turn the pages.
Cardboard characters. I think I was 500 pages into the book before I met a single character I cared about, which ended up being the radical hippie, Alice.
Saccharine-induced loopy unbelievable happy endings tied with a giant red bow. What a miracle that Faye (the mother who walked out on her son) winds up at the bedside of her father (who had abandoned a separate family in Norway before having Faye). How perfect that the judge from 1968 was also the judge in charge of the 2011 case against Faye. And of course Periwinkle (Samuel’s editor) ends up being Sebastian from 1968. Perhaps the most unbelievable tie-up at the end is when Samuel asks Bethany for a place to stay for awhile in NYC and she hands over the keys to her 8 bedroom apartment.
Books like this make me mad because it showcases the downward trajectory of publishing standards. The fact that this is mentioned as a great book, and even whispered as “DFW-esque,” is a tragedy. There is nothing clever here, no good writing, only a monkey doing donuts in the empty cul-de-sac of an abandoned suburb. We clap because we’re surprised that a monkey can do this.
Perhaps this should be called The Genitals of Boswell instead of The Heart. I’d forgotten that Jamie Boswell was such a distasteful horny cad/ spoiled trustfund kid and that Samuel Johnson was an idiotic misogynist (“a woman’s preaching like a dog walking on hind legs… not done well but surprised to find it done at all”). Thank god for this distillation of his six volume diary into one, although perhaps the editor Mark Harris only wanted to include his racier bits, through which I have developed an antipathy towards Bos. This book covers the 12 years between 1762 and 1774, beginning with Bos as a 22 year old who matures under our very eyes, the result perhaps of rubbing elbows with so many illustrious men like Johnson, Rousseau, Voltaire? He ends by settling down in Scotland, marrying, and practicing law, all while continuing the journal and grabbing bits for the Life of Johnson (and the Hebrides journal) he’d later publish.
On his liaisons with prostitutes
“I had now been some time in town without female sport. I determined to have nothing to do with whores as my health was of great consequence to me… I was really unhappy for want of women. I picked up a girl in the Strand; went into a court with intention to enjoy her in armour. But she had none. I toyed with her. She wondered at my size, and said if I ever took a girl’s maidenhead, I would make her squeak.” A few days later, he’s entertaining lewd thoughts in church: “what a curious, inconsistent thing is the mind of man! In the midst of divine service I was laying plans for having women, and yet I had the most sincere feelings of religion.”
He then lays his plans to entrap an actress, woos her for a few weeks, loans her money, has several missed opportunities for consummation but the actress’s landlady or brother approaches, then lies to a friend and says he’s married and that he’s bringing his wife to the inn. They eventually have a night of it at the inn, and a few days later his old friend Gonorrhea is back. He storms into the actress’s house and accuses her of giving it to him, then writes a letter demanding his loaned guineas back. This is his third bout with it, and he’s lain low for weeks recovering; his doctor bleeds him as part of the treatment. Then he’s up and about, a few weeks later taking to prostitutes again, for the first time with “armour” (protection?) which he “found but a dull satisfaction. She who submitted to my lusty embraces was a young Shropshire girl, only seventeen, very well-looked, her name Elizabeth Parker. Poor being, she has a sad time of it!” After this he’s gathering up “little girls” for rendezvous all the time, “dipping his machine in the Canal,” and “gaining entrance.” He dresses up like a miscreant and attends to various prostitutes sometimes trying not to pay them. Someone steals his handkerchief (“I was shocked to think that I had been intimately united with a low, abandoned, perjured, pilfering creature”). Walking home, he’s tapped on the shoulder by a “fine fresh lass” who he went home with, excusing his behavior since she was already an abandoned woman. All of these liaisons are carefully detailed, and surprise surprise, a bastard son is born who later dies when he’s in Utrecht. There, a doctor convinces him that once you’re used to having sex then it’s necessary, otherwise “retention will influence the brain.”
While he’s hatching his plans for sex, he’s busy nosing into drawing rooms of the upper class, scouting out potential widows to have assignations with, and plotting on how to get a commission to the Guards because he doesn’t want to study law. He calmly takes his allowance of £200 a year and saunters around town.
“I do think the keeping of a journal a very excellent scheme if judiciously executed.” Later, he determines to show respect to the journal, to “never set down the mere common trifling occurrences of life, but say nothing at all, except when I have something worth while.” Hilariously, his next entry is “I just read, eat, drank, and walked.”
“I had sitten up all night to journalize. As usual I felt myself immediately bettered by it.”
Odds and ends
- Another word found appropriate for our time: rhodomontade (or rodomontade) – bragging speech, a vain boasting or bluster.
- Sometimes there are clever bits: “I got up as dreary as a dromedary…”
- One of his dress suits is a “suit of flowered velvet of five colours” which I wish desperately for a photo of.