Monthly Archives: May 2007

Mrs. Fenwick goes to California and back

There’s something charming and, well, quaint I suppose in the formal communications of a vanished era. I found this bit of correspondence in a box of stuff in the barn at Horton Landing, and dimly remember that I bought it in a box of junk store miscellany. Customer service has done a lot of serious backsliding in 53 years…
Mrs. Fenwick's trip
The itinerary is full of eye-openers too:
Mrs. Fenwick's trip
Mrs. Fenwick's trip
Mrs. Fenwick's trip

Only just a bit creepy

I bought this portrait years ago, and it’s been reposing in the barn at Horton Landing (where I’ve been busily cleaning and organizing for the last few days):
the Gold Locket portrait
I know very little about its subject, but presume that she died before it was done –such memorials were common in Nova Scotia parlours in the late 19th century. Attached to the lower corner is a photograph that I can’t squeeze any more out of than this:
attached to the Gold Locket portrait
You can fill in the rest of the story…

Clerical wit

Most of the biblical allusions one sees on license plates are sanctimonious, sentimental, or just plain soppy, but here’s one that giveth hope, quoted to me by the Rev. George Dole:


…which probably not all of you will parse as 2 Kings 9:20. Getting the sturdy old King James out from its hiding place in the barn to decode, here’s what it says:

the driving is like the driving of Jehu the son of Nimshi, for he driveth furiously

Besides being the soul of wit, George also has the distinction of having been a runner in the race (6 May 1954) in which Roger Bannister first broke 4 minutes.

Barchester Towers rediscovered

In preparation for an impending visit to a high school classmate who is an Episcopal priest, I bought Trollope’s Barchester Towers, which I’ve read several times but not recently. It’s a delight of well-drawn characters and sly invective, of which I might quote any number of passages. Here’s one, describing Mrs. Stanhope, to give something of the flavo[u]r:

The structure of her attire was always elaborate, and yet never over laboured. She was rich in apparel, but not bedizened with finery; her ornaments were costly, rare, and such as could not fail to attract notice, but they did not look as though worn with that purpose. She well knew the great architectural secret of decorating her construction, and never descended to constructing a decoration. But when we have said that Mrs. Stanhope knew how to dress, and used her knowledge daily, we have said it all. Other purpose in life she had none. (pg. 63)

Oh well, just one more quote:

There is, perhaps, no greater hardship at present inflicted on mankind in civilised and free countries, than the necessity of listening to sermons. No one but a preaching clergyman has, in these realms, the power of compelling an audience to sit silent, and be tormented. No one but a preaching clergyman can revel in platitudes, truisms, and untruisms, and yet receive as his undisputed privilege, the same respectful demeanour as though words of impassioned eloquence, or persuasive logic, fell from his lips. Let a professor of law or physic find his place in a lecture-room, and there pour forth jejune words and useless empty phrases, and he will pour them forth to empty benches. Let a barrister attempt to talk without talking well, and he will talk but seldom. A judge’s charge need be listened to per force by none but the jury, prisoner, and gaoler. A member of Parliament can be coughed down or counted out. Town-councillors can be tabooed. But no one can rid himself of the preaching clergyman. (pp 46-47)

On the current reading list

The June Harper’s arrived yesterday and is, well, fierce. I’m very glad that I subscribed a few months ago, though I feel a bit flayed by Garret Keizer’s “Climate, Class and Claptrap”:

If I sound bitter it is partly because I have been vouchsafed a glimpse of the new carbon-trading world order in the New England villages where I have lived, taught, and buried the dead for close to thirty years, and where any egress from one’s house now risks collision with an eco-fluent carpetbagger. Apparently, this place that has never had much use to the larger world beyond that of hosting a new prison or a solid-waste dump turns out to be an ideal location for an industrial “wind farm,” ideal mostly because the people are too few and too poor to offer much in the way of resistance… (pg 10)

There’s also an absolutely essential article by Sallie Tisdale: “Chemo World: Surviving the cancer unit” that tells me more than I would have thought myself comfortable with knowing about chemotherapy and cytotoxic drugs. It’s right up there with Atul Gawande’s “The Way We Age Now” from last week’s New Yorker as a must-read, especially for those of us who notice that we and others around us are somehow older than we used to be…