One has just been sent out as a biblical dove, has found nothing green, and slips back
into the darkness of the ark -- Kafka

Saturday, August 29, 2015

"The English Mail-Coach" by Thomas De Quincey

The English Mail-Coach is an essay by the English author Thomas De Quincey. A "three-part masterpiece" and "one of his most magnificent works,"[1] it first appeared in 1849 in Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine, in the October (Part I) and December (Parts II and III) issues.
The essay is divided into three sections:
  • Part I, "The Glory of Motion," is devoted to a lavish description of the mail coach system then in use in England, and the sensations of riding on the outside upper seats of the coaches (in the author's often opium-tinged perceptions). With many digressions (on subjects ranging from Chaucer's poetry to a comparison of the River Thames with the Mississippi), De Quincey discusses the "grandeur and power" of the mail-coach ride; prior to the invention of the railroad, the mail coach represented the ultimate in transportation, in speed and force and controlled energy. Perhaps the most memorable and frequently-cited portion of Part I is De Quincey's comparison of one veteran mail-coachman to a crocodile. The crocodile-coachman's pretty granddaughter is memorialized as "Fanny of the Bath Road."
    • The concluding portion of Part I is set apart under the subtitle "Going Down with Victory," and relates the author's sensations as the mail coaches spread news of English victories in the Napoleonic Wars across England — though simultaneously spreading grief, as women learn the fates of men lost in battle.
  • Part II, "The Vision of Sudden Death," deals in great detail with a near-accident that occurred one night while De Quincey, intoxicated with opium, was riding on an outside seat of a mail coach. The driver fell asleep and the massive coach nearly collided with a gig bearing a young couple.
  • Part III, "Dream Fugue, Founded on the Preceding Theme of Sudden Death," is devoted to De Quincey's opium dreams and reveries that elaborated on the elements of Parts I and II, the mail coaches, the near accident, national victory and grief. Beginning with a quotation from Paradise Lost and a clarion "Tumultuosissimamente", the author introduces his theme of sudden death, and relates five dreams or visions of intense and exalted emotion and radiant language.
    • I — At sea, a great English man-of-war encounters a graceful pinnace filled with young women, including one mysterious, recurring, archetypal figure from the narrator's visionary experience.
    • II — In a storm at sea, the man-of-war nearly collides with a frigate, the mysterious woman clinging among its shrouds.
    • III — At dawn, the narrator follows the woman along a beach, only to see her overwhelmed by shifting sands.
    • IV — The narrator finds himself borne with others in a "triumphal car," racing miles through the night as "restless anthems, and Te Deums reverberated from the choirs and orchestras of earth." The "secret word" — "Waterloo and Recovered Christendom!" — passes before them. The car enters an enormous cosmic cathedral; with three blasts from a Dying Trumpeter, the mysterious female reappears with a spectre of death and her "better angel," his face hidden in his wings.
    • V — With "heart-shattering music" from the "golden tubes of the organ," the cathedral is filled with re-awakened "Pomps of life." The living and the dead sing to God, and the woman enters "the gates of the golden dawn...."
  • A "Postscript" concludes the whole and provides a conceptual frame for "This little paper," the unique literary artifact that precedes it.[2]
The English Mail-Coach is one of De Quincey's endeavors at writing what he called "impassioned prose," like his Confessions of an English Opium-Eater and Suspiria de Profundis. De Quincey had originally intended The English Mail-Coach to be one part of the Suspiria.
Its literary quality and its unique nature have made The English Mail-Coach a central focus of De Quincey scholarship and criticism.

[From Wikipedia:]

From De Quincey

Still enjoying the entanglement of De Quincey's Mail Coach. Waiting for two new books to come in: Coetzee's The Good Story (pre-ordered via Kindle, coming out in late September) and a used copy of Heidegger's Hut by Adam Sharr (I came close to seeing the hut a few years ago, but didn't; this will have to do for now).


     The situation here contemplated exposes a dreadful ulcer, lurking far down in the depths of human nature. It is not that men generally are summoned to face such awful trials. But potentially, and in shadowy outline, such a trial is moving subterraneously in perhaps all men's natures -- muttering under ground in one world, to be realized perhaps in some other. Upon the secret mirror of our dreams such a trial is darkly projected at intervals, perhaps, to every one of us. That dream, so familiar to childhood, of meeting a lion, and, from languishing prostration in hope and vital energy, that constant sequel of lying down before him, publishes the secret frailty of human nature -- reveals its deep-seated Pariah falsehood to itself -- records its abysmal treachery. Perhaps not one of us escapes that dream; perhaps, as by some sorrowful doom of man, that dream repeats for every one of us, through every generation, the original temptation in Eden. Every one of us, in this dream, has a bait offered to the infirm places of his own individual will; once again a snare is made ready for leading him into captivity to a luxury of ruin; again, as in aboriginal Paradise, the man falls from innocence; once again, by infinite iteration, the ancient Earth groans to God, through her secret caves, over the weakness of her child; "Nature, from her seat, sighing through all her works," again "gives signs of woe that all is lost;" and again the counter sigh is repeated to the sorrowing heavens of the endless rebellion against God. Many people think that one man, the patriarch of our race, could not in his single person execute this rebellion for all his race. Perhaps they are wrong. But, even if not, perhaps in the world of dreams every one of us ratifies for himself the original act. Our English rite of "Confirmation," by which, in years of awakened reason, we take upon us the engagements contracted for us in our slumbering infancy, -- how sublime a rite is that! The little postern gate, through which the baby in its cradle had been silently placed for a time within the glory of God's countenance, suddenly rises to the clouds as a triumphal arch, through which, with banners displayed and martial pomps, we make our second entry as crusading soldiers militant for God, by personal choice and by sacramental oath. Each man says in effect -- "Lo! I rebaptize myself; and that which once was sworn on my behalf, now I swear for myself." Even so in dreams, perhaps, under some secret conflict of the midnight sleeper, lighted up to the consciousness at the time, but darkened to the memory as soon as all is finished, each several child of our mysterious race completes for himself the aboriginal fall. 

The New Blue

The inversion therapy (I think) will help you make the connection: orange and blue.


The Orange Men

Maybe a mix of a Blue Man and an Easter Island head (a more distant perspective might help)? Anyway, only semi-interesting pic I've taken thus far on the way to school (2015 - 2016 has begun).


Sunday, August 23, 2015

Heart @ The Hollywood Bowl

I'm a Bowl fan more than a Heart fan, but still it was a good gig and it's nice to see two old girls (sisters to boot) still kickin' it.















Saturday, August 22, 2015

The Mail Coach


Mr. Palmer and the English Mail Coach

Mail Coach

In Great Britain, the mail coach or post coach was a horse-drawn carriage that carried mail deliveries, from 1784. In Ireland, the first mail coach began service from Dublin in 1789. The coach was drawn by four horses and had seating for four passengers inside. Further passengers were later allowed to sit outside with the driver. The mail was held in a box to the rear, where a Royal Mail post office guard stood.

The mail coach was faster than the stage coach as it only stopped for delivery of mail and generally not for the comfort of the passengers. They were slowly phased out during the 1840s and 1850s, their role being replaced by trains as the railway network expanded.

History in Britain

The postal delivery service in Britain had existed in the same form for about 150 years - from its introduction in 1635, mounted carriers had ridden between "posts" where the postmaster would remove the letters for the local area before handing the remaining letters and any additions to the next rider. The riders were frequent targets for robbers, and the system was inefficient.[1]

John Palmer, a theatre owner from Bath, believed that the coach service he had previously run for transporting actors and materials between theatres could be utilised for a countrywide mail delivery service, so in 1782, he suggested to the Post Office in London that they take up the idea. He met resistance from officials who believed that the existing system could not be improved, but eventually the Chancellor of the Exchequer, William Pitt, allowed him to carry out an experimental run between Bristol and London. Under the old system the journey had taken up to 38 hours. The coach, funded by Palmer, left Bristol at 4pm on 2 August 1784 and arrived in London just 16 hours later.[1]

Impressed by the trial run, Pitt authorised the creation of new routes. By the end of 1785 there were services from London to Norwich, Liverpool, Leeds, Dover, Portsmouth, Poole, Exeter, Gloucester, Worcester, Holyhead and Carlisle. A service to Edinburgh was added the next year and Palmer was rewarded by being made Surveyor and Comptroller General of the Post Office.[1]

Initially the coach, horses and driver were all supplied by contractors. There was strong competition for the contracts as they provided a fixed regular income on top of which the companies could charge fares for the passengers. By the beginning of the 19th century the Post Office had their own fleet of coaches with black and scarlet livery.[2] The early coaches were poorly built, but in 1787 the Post Office adopted John Besant's improved and patented design, after which Besant, with his partner John Vidler, enjoyed a monopoly on the supply of coaches, and a virtual monopoly on their upkeep and servicing.[1]

The mail coaches continued unchallenged until the 1830s but the development of railways spelt the end for the service. The first rail delivery between Liverpool and Manchester took place on 11 November 1830. By the early 1840s other rail lines had been constructed and many London-based mail coaches were starting to be withdrawn from service; the final service from London (to Norwich) was shut down in 1846. Regional mail coaches continued into the 1850s, but these too were eventually replaced by rail services.

[From Wikipedia:]