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

Sunday, February 7, 2016

William Drummond (Hawthornden) [1585 - 1649]

William Drummond (13 December 1585 – 4 December 1649), called "of Hawthornden", was a Scottish poet.

Works

Drummond's most important works are the Cypresse Grove and the poems. The Cypresse Grove exhibits great wealth of illustration, and an extraordinary command of musical English. It is an essay on the folly of the fear of death. "This globe of the earth," says he, "which seemeth huge to us, in respect of the universe, and compared with that wide pavilion of heaven; is less than little, of no sensible quantity, and but as a point." This is one of Drummond's favourite moods; and he uses constantly in his poems such phrases as "the All," "this great All." Even in such of his poems as may be called more distinctively Christian, this philosophic conception is at work.[4]

A noteworthy feature in Drummond's poetry, as in that of his courtier contemporaries Aytoun, Lord Stirling and others, is that it manifests no characteristic Scottish element, but owes its birth and inspiration rather to the English and Italian masters. Drummond was essentially a follower of Spenser, but, amid all his sensuousness, and even in those lines most conspicuously beautiful, there is a dash of melancholy thoughtfulness - a tendency deepened by the death of his first love, Mary Cunningham. Drummond was called "the Scottish Petrarch"; and his sonnets, which are the expression of a genuine passion, stand far above most of the contemporary Petrarcan imitations. A remarkable burlesque poem Polemo Middinia inter Vitarvam et Nebernam (printed anonymously in 1684) has been persistently, and with good reason, ascribed to him. It is a mock-heroic tale, in macaronic Latin enriched with Scottish Gaelic expressions, of a country feud on the Fife lands of his old friends the Cunninghams.


[From Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Drummond_of_Hawthornden]


We spoke of death. . .

Excerpt from Boswell's journal (trip to the Hebrides with Samuel Johnson):

We spoke of death. Dr. Johnson on this subject observed, that the boastings of some men, as to dying easily, were idle talk, proceeding from partial views. I mentioned Hawthornden's Cypress Grove, where it is said that the world is a mere show; and that it is unreasonable for a man to wish to continue in the show-room, after he has seen it. Let him go cheerfully out, and give place to other spectators. JOHNSON. 'Yes, sir, if he is sure he is to be well, after he goes out of it. But if he is to grow blind after he goes out of the show-room, and never to see any thing again; or if he does not know whither he is to go next, a man will not go cheerfully out of a show-room. No wise man will be contented to die, if he thinks he is to go into a state of punishment. Nay, no wise man will be contented to die, if he thinks he is to fall into annihilation: for however unhappy any man's existence may be, he yet would rather have it, than not exist at all. No; there is no rational principle by which a man can die contented, but a trust in the mercy of God, through the merits of Jesus Christ.' This short sermon, delivered with an earnest tone, in a boat upon the sea, which was perfectly calm, on a day appropriated to religious worship, while every one listened with an air of satisfaction, had a most pleasing effect upon my mind.

Bolsa Chica State Beach

Still fighting a bad cold, but I couldn't sleep and I had to get out and walk. Read some (Boswell and Johnson in the Hebrides) at the Sunset Beach Starbucks. Walked for a short while along the beach. Seems a marathon was going on.

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Saturday, February 6, 2016

Samuel Johnson (1709 - 1784)

Samuel Johnson (18 September 1709 [O.S. 7 September] – 13 December 1784), often referred to as Dr Johnson, was an English writer who made lasting contributions to English literature as a poet, essayist, moralist, literary critic, biographer, editor and lexicographer. Johnson was a devout Anglican and committed Tory, and has been described as "arguably the most distinguished man of letters in English history".[1] He is also the subject of "the most famous single biographical work in the whole of literature," James Boswell's Life of Samuel Johnson.[2]

Born in Lichfield, Staffordshire, Johnson attended Pembroke College, Oxford for just over a year, before his lack of funds forced him to leave. After working as a teacher he moved to London, where he began to write for The Gentleman's Magazine. His early works include the biography Life of Mr Richard Savage, the poems London and The Vanity of Human Wishes, and the play Irene.

After nine years of work, Johnson's A Dictionary of the English Language was published In 1755. It had a far-reaching effect on Modern English and has been described as "one of the greatest single achievements of scholarship".[3] This work brought Johnson popularity and success. Until the completion of the Oxford English Dictionary 150 years later, Johnson's was viewed as the pre-eminent British dictionary.[4] His later works included essays, an influential annotated edition of The Plays of William Shakespeare, and the widely read tale The History of Rasselas, Prince of Abissinia. In 1763, he befriended James Boswell, with whom he later travelled to Scotland; Johnson described their travels in A Journey to the Western Islands of Scotland. Towards the end of his life, he produced the massive and influential Lives of the Most Eminent English Poets, a collection of biographies and evaluations of 17th- and 18th-century poets.

Johnson was a tall and robust man. His odd gestures and tics were disconcerting to some on first meeting him. Boswell's Life, along with other biographies, documented Johnson's behaviour and mannerisms in such detail that they have informed the posthumous diagnosis of Tourette syndrome,[5] a condition not defined or diagnosed in the 18th century. After a series of illnesses, he died on the evening of 13 December 1784, and was buried in Westminster Abbey. In the years following his death, Johnson began to be recognised as having had a lasting effect on literary criticism, and he was claimed by some to be the only truly great critic of English literature.


[Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samuel_Johnson]

James Boswell (1740 - 1795)

Picked up (downloaded) Boswell's account of B & J's trip to the Hebrides (thought it might be fun to read before I go to Scotland in the summer -- nothing certain yet, and I certainly don't know if I'll have the chance to travel so far afield). Enjoying the read thus far.

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James Boswell, 9th Laird of Auchinleck (/ˈbɒzˌwɛl, -wəl/; 29 October 1740 – 19 May 1795), was a Scottish biographer and diarist, born in Edinburgh. He is best known for the biography he wrote of one of his contemporaries, the English literary figure Samuel Johnson, which the modern Johnsonian critic Harold Bloom has claimed is the greatest biography written in the English language.

Boswell's surname has passed into the English language as a term (Boswell, Boswellian, Boswellism) for a constant companion and observer, especially one who records those observations in print. In A Scandal in Bohemia, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's character Sherlock Holmes affectionately says of Dr. Watson, who narrates the tales, "I am lost without my Boswell."

[From Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Boswell]

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Theodor Storm (1817 - 1888)

Got a few Kindle dollars for Xmas and, per usual, I was like a kid in a candy store. Loaded up on some favorites (e.g., preordered Frisch's Montauk -- release date is the end of March) and some older authors I've been planning to get to, e.g., Theodor Storm. Enjoyed his "The Rider on the White Horse" (the great story came through even with a cheap edition), and have started "Immensee" (I believe this was a freebie). Very little else available in English.

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Hans Theodor Woldsen Storm (14 September 1817 – 4 July 1888), commonly known as Theodor Storm, was a German writer.

Life

Storm was born in the small town of Husum, on the west coast of Schleswig, then a formally independent duchy ruled by the king of Denmark.[1] His parents were the lawyer Johann Casimir Storm (1790-1874) and Lucie Storm, née Woldsen (1797-1879).

Storm went to school in Husum and Lübeck and studied law in Kiel and Berlin.[1] While still a law student in Kiel he published a first volume of verse together with the brothers Tycho and Theodor Mommsen (1843).

From 1843 until his admission was revoked by Danish authorities in 1852, he worked as a lawyer in his home town of Husum. In 1853 Storm moved to Potsdam, moving on to Heiligenstadt in Thuringia in 1856. He returned to Husum in 1865 after Schleswig had come under Prussian rule and became a district magistrate ("Landvogt"). In 1880 Storm moved to Hademarschen, where he spent the last years of his life writing, and died of cancer at the age of 70.[1]

Storm was married twice, first to Konstanze Esmarch, who died in 1864, and then to Dorothea Jensen.


Work

Storm was one of the most important authors of 19th-century German Literary realism. He wrote a number of stories, poems and novellas. His two best-known works are the novellas Immensee (1849) and Der Schimmelreiter ("The Rider on the White Horse"), first published in April 1888 in the Deutsche Rundschau. Other published works include a volume of his poems (1852), the novella Pole Poppenspäler (1874) and the novella Aquis submersus (1877).


[From Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theodor_Storm]