A Glorious Gloria Revisited
Saturday, March 26, 2011
Fifteen years ago I took my daughters Ale and Hilary and my wife Rosemary to a concert in the nearby Ryerson United Church. I had always been fascinated by Vivaldi’s Gloria
. Vivaldi wrote three, RV 588, RV589 and RV590 but the latter has been lost. The famous one, played on that occasion, was RV589. I believe it is most famous because of its brilliant beginning with what I thought until that first concert, were two trumpets playing in tandem. I was wrong as the other “trumpet” was an oboe played by Sand Dalton.
|Marc Destrubé chanelling Vivaldi, Illustration Graham Walker & Alex W-H |
Unique to that first live (for me) concert featuring the new (to me) Pacific Baroque Orchestra was that it was in association with the Elektra Women’s Choir. This meant that all the voices were women. I do believe that in most versions of that Gloria the choirs are always mixed. The Gloria was directed by the then musical director and virtuoso violinist Marc Destrubé.
What was particularly pleasant and exciting is that the Elektra Women’s Choir of the time had two red-haired sisters, Caitlin (an alto) and Phoebe (soprano) MacRae
. They sang like goddess/muses. I have seen a few more live Glorias but that first one has always been dear to my heart.
Imagine then, that today I went to Ryerson’s to a performance of that very Gloria with the Pacific Baroque Orchestra and (yes!) the Elektra Women’s Choir (alas no MacRae sisters!).
This time I took Rosemary, Hilary and her two daughters, Rebecca and Lauren. We sat up front and we were but a few feet from the harpsichordist/musical director Alex Weimann. But Marc Destrubé was up there, a mere 6ft away with his violin. Sand Dalton was not, but on oboe we had the usually most serious (my Rebecca whispered in my ear, “He smiled!”) Washington McClain. Rebecca then whispered, “That cannot be a trumpet (deftly played by Gerald Webster) it has to be a bugle.” I explained to her that it was indeed a baroque trumpet and that such instruments did not have normal valves.
The concert featured composers, certainly not what you might ever listen to on the CBC as they are hung up on Beethoven and the others of the 19th century, as Giovanni Legranzi, Jean Baptiste Lully, Johann Rosenmüller, Sigismondo d’India and another work by Antonio Vivaldi, il cimento dell'armonia e dell'inventione, op.8/2 ("La Primavera') from the Four Seasons.
Destrubé played that (particularly the ultra fast Allegro) with expertise and what seemed like effortless ease. The other best part of Primavera is the second movement Largo that features two barking dogs (Glennys Webster and Stephen Creswell, aka The Happy Bear), on violas. The sound, so directional when the group is small and one is near, was mesmerizing.
While I missed the MacRaes, soprano Margarét Ásgeirsdóttir amply made up for that loss.
I wonder where I will be in 15 years and if going to another Gloria with my granddaughters as grown girls is in my cards?
The Salt Spring Island Salon
Friday, March 25, 2011
|From left to right, your friendly blogger, Rosemary Allenbach, Rebecca Stewart (holding Black), Les Stegenga, Celia Duthie, Rosemary Waterhouse-Hayward and sitting, Nick Hunt (looking very much like English archeological artist Frederick Catherwood) and Lauren Stewart|
On Thursday I stayed but a stone’s throw from the very famous (and very expensive) Hastings House Hotel on Salt Spring Island. The restaurant at Hastings House is supposed to be one of the best in BC.
But if you add good conversation, the friendly demeanor of the owners, and throw in three lovely black cats called Black, And, Decker, it all trumps Hasting House by more than a stone’s throw and perhaps by at least a mile.
I stayed, by invitation, at the new guest house attached to Celia Duthie and her husband Nick Hunt (many say he is Duthie’s most valuable asset) sprawling property which includes an art gallery, a separate cabin that is home to Salt Spring Woodworks, purveyors of fine handmade furniture and their home.
Where else, but at a Duthie home would you find art on the wall, books (and good books) in all shelves and the latest New Yorker
on a footstool not far from a sleeping Decker?
And I have yet to mention the food. The cook happens to be Nick Hunt, who drives a tractor, climbs ladders, does windows and is a marvelous carpenter and handyman. His cooking is divine. For the first time in years I had the pleasure of eating large steamed artichokes (the dipping sauce was a mixture of mayonnaise and mustard concoted by Duthie). The main course (there was a good Pinot noir, Tio Pepe and ginger beer served) consisted of potatoes and yams baked in the oven with duck grease (sprinkled with Hunt’s favourite spice of the day, parsley), fresh steamed asparagus and a red snapper (caught that morning) smoked with oak and smothered with a parsley/béchamel sauce. Dessert, after the salad was served, consisted of bitter chocolate, Stilton and I turned down (it would have been wasted on me) a vintage port.
If all that weren't enough the other guest was the new relocated to Salt Spring, author C.C. (Chris) Humphreys who entertained us with the story of her Norwegian mother who was a spy in WWII.
Duthie always presses and pushes me to do things I really do not want to do or feel I know how to do. Last year she persuaded me to pho (ever so gently with that smile of hers) to photograph(the photo here I took during that visit)some large wooden lanterns
. I was nervous about it but in the end I discovered I was good at it (a quick amateur I was!). This time around she wanted pictures of the interior of her new guest suite. I am not into architectural interiors. But I think I managed and I will know quite soon to what extent. At this present rate, with Duthie’s gentle push I will soon become the renaissance person (at least in photography) that she and Hunt both are!
My experience in Salt Spring, thanks to Duthie and Hunt Nick was a most pleasant one. Paradoxically some might say that Salt Spring is far from culture since it is certainly not as active as Vancouver in theatre, concerts, dance, etc. But staying with Duthie and Hunt was like attending a good Parisian salon, where the food, the drink, the conversation, the scenery and the company could not have been any better.
And Zero At The Bone - With Dirks Of Melody
Thursday, March 24, 2011
|Jerome Charyn by Alex Waterhouse-Hayward|
One of my treasured delights of this week has been my reading of Jerome Charyn’s The Secret Life of Emily Dickinson.
After reading this novel that reads somewhat like an autobiography written by Dickinson in a parallel universe I wanted to do one thing (something I will do this coming Monday when I have time to visit the Vancouver Public Library
in his novel places words and expressions from Dickinson’s poems into her conversations. But the novel does not have one single example of a Dickinson poem. This intelligent technique by Charyn has thrust the imperative that I must take out a tome of Dickinson’s output.
If this was Charyn’s intention he has in the very least succeeded with me. I have never been much of reader of poetry. And there is a reason for this that is based on my poor memory. I have in later years found tools to help me remember things and I have developed a sort of photographic memory for passages in books that I may have read many years ago. This was not always the case.
I remember in Brother Edwin’s religion class at St. Ed’s in Austin that he would tell us we could have extra points if we would memorize a longish passage from the bible. He would give us a day and on the next we would stand up and recite the passage. I could never do this as memorizing anything past a few lines was an impossible chore. I recall that the absolute worst was the homework from Brother Francis (he taught American History) instructing us to memorize President Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. I suffered and managed to pass it. But it was sheer terror for me.
Poetry has thus never been my forte but in the last 20 years I have warmed up to William Carlos Williams
via (!) Ogden Nash
. Reading the stories by Borges, and then running out of them, led me to read his poems
which I do appreciate. And I happen to love the poetry of Mexican novelist, poet, diplomat and environmentalist Homero Aridjis
. His novels (with their poetic writing) helped me understand the power of using the right words and putting them in a particular order.
As far as I know Jerome Charyn, one of my favourite American novelists, does not write poetry. But in his introduction to The Secret Life of Emily Dickinson
She was the first poet I had ever read, and I was hooked and hypnotized from the start, because in her writing she broke every rule. Words had their own chain reaction, their own fire. She could stun, delight, and kill “with Dirks of Melody.” I never quite recovered from reading her. I, too, wanted to create “ [a} perfect – paralyzing Bliss,” to have my sentences explode “ like a Maelstrom, with a notch.”
It was the old maid from Amherst who lent me a little of her own courage to risk becoming a writer. “A Wounded Deer – leaps highest,” she wrote, and I wanted to leap with Emily
From Charyn’s book I found out that Dickinson was not in the habit of titling her poems. One that is mentioned is The Snake
and Dickinson objected to the publishing of this poem (one of the very few that was published while she was alive) and the fact that the publisher called it The Snake. Dickinson in Charyn's novel says, " I is not about a snake." Here it is:
A narrow fellow in the grass
You may have met him, -did you not?
His notice sudden is.
The grass divides as with a comb,
A spotted shaft is seen;
And then it closes at your feet
And opens further on.
He likes a boggy acre,
A floor too cool for corn.
Yet when a child, and barefoot,
I more than once, at morn,
Have passed, I thought, a whip-lash
Unbraiding in the sun, -
When, stooping to secure it,
It wrinkled, and was gone.
Several of nature's people
I know, and they know me;
I feel for them a transport
But never met this fellow,
Attended or alone,
Without a tighter breathing,
And zero at the bone.
And from Charyn’s comment of “with Dirks of Melody”
One Joy of so much anguish
Sweet nature has for me
I shun it as I do Despair
Or dear iniquity --
Why Birds, a Summer morning
Before the Quick of Day
Should stab my ravished spirit
With Dirks of Melody
Is part of an inquiry
That will receive reply
When Flesh and Spirit sunder
In Death's Immediately –
Speeding Across Bridges With Bach's St. John Passion
Wednesday, March 23, 2011
Watching violinist Yehudi Menuhin attempt to explain the role of punk music (I believe the Dead Kennedys were playing behind) was for me an indelible moment in Menuhin’s mini series (1987) The Music of Man.
The urbane man was visibly in discomfort,
To this day there is a big divide between popular music and the “serious” classical genre. If anything this blog repeats the theme of yesterday’s on the role of culture and how we perceive social classes.
I have been on the floor (low frequency vibration!) up front at the Commodore in Vancouver listening to (with lots of ear protection) the Dead Kennedys or my local favourites, DOA, The Subhumans and Art Bergmann. Somehow this loud music and the sound of the electric (metal) guitars transport me to an era embossed in my genes, of caves, fires, wild animals and my early ancestors in animal skins. The music is primal. It is close to the same feeling I had, as an adult, when I first stood in front of an ocean. Was that walking fish also embossed in my DNA?
I no longer need to search my early history or the participation of my ancestors and how it all led me to be here now writing this. The thrill of punk is gone. None of the contemporary punk bands seem to touch the authenticity of those first ones. I am more touched by the music of the Renaissance and the Age of Enlightenment. While I enjoy the often played music of the 19th century (it seems so familiar, so comforting, sort of like the 60s jazz of Gerry Mulligan ) it is the music that preceded it (and followed it as is the music of the 20th). Baroque and in particular the early Baroque music of the 17th is what excites me now. Every time I attend a concert in Vancouver I am thrilled as more often than not, these days, the composers are unknown to me and I have never heard the music before. I feel like I am a part of the audience at a premiere. This also applies to works that are not often performed.
Many might have heard at least one live version of Bach’s St Matthew Passion,
but what of his St. John Passion?
It was last Monday that my friend Graham Walker and I sat on the fourth row at the Chan Centre to watch an electrifying performance of this work (Bach was younger and far more adventurous than when he composed his St. Matthew Passion). José Verstappen and his Early Music Vancouver
had assembled a smallish orchestra (the Portland Baroque) and two choirs (adding up to 12 singers) Capella Romana
and Les Voix Baroques
. The ensemble was directed by the legendary violinist (in our Baroque lover’s circle) Monica Huggett (whose strong forearms do not belie her power of performance) and included the tenor from Salisbury, Charles Daniels who sang (very well indeed) the lines of the evangelist John. The choir included the Vancouver baritone Tyler Duncan (he played Pontius Pilate) and the Canadian countertenor Matthew White.
White stood surrounded by five singing women, but his clear voice always seemed to penetrate from the group and stand out.
The performance was magic and Charles Daniels was what I would call a dramatic tenor. His acting and voice were superb. But it was Matthew White who had the best line where he describes the last moments of Christ on the cross with the words, “it is finished
”. He looked at us all with his glasses, and the expression on his face carried such pathos and turmoil that I was almost overcome with tears.
But there was something else that I noticed. I have often written here of my love of driving (as fast as the law permits) on freeways at night (and in particular in the covered freeway thoroughfare in Seattle) while listening to (very loud) what I call bridge-driving music like the Clash’s London Calling
or the Oscar Peterson Trio with Milt Jackson version of Nat Adderley’s Work Song.
I must add here that Bach’s Coros
from his St. John Passion, as directed by Monica Huggett (loud and fast) also qualify and this has given me a further insight into why I like that wonderful music of the 17th and 18th century. I am sure that in spite of the pain behind his eyes, Menuhin must have known this, too.
La Educación De Mis Nietas
Tuesday, March 22, 2011
Audrey Hepburn plays the shy awkward chaffeur’s daughter in Sabrina
and after a stint in Paris not only learns to deftly crack eggs with one hand but becomes lovely, sophisticated and educated. The other Hepburn, Katherine always seemed to play an equally sophisticated and educated young woman. It doesn’t take too much insight into my preference for women of that ilk, like Grace Kelly and Eva Marie Saint. I like class and sophistication.
When I was around 21 I had an educated and sophisticated girlfriend in Buenos Aires. Her name was Susy. She took me to the opera at the Teatro Colón and expected me to go in a suit. It was in the middle of a Buenos Aires summer and the only suit I owned was a Botany Bay suit I had purchased in a Hart Schaffner & Marx store in Austin, Texas some years before. It was 100% wool and I sweltered at Prokofiev’s The Fiery Angel
. Some months later we were both riding a suburban train and I was on the window seat on the right hand side of the train. We were both reading a book. Someone showed up who knew Susy and she introduced me to the person. Without putting down the book that I was holding in my left had I crossed under it with my right hand to shake hands. Within a week I had not only been accused of having no manners but I was summarily dumped for a much older violinist of the Teatro Colón orchestra.
In spite of my Argentine Navy short hair cut I did have manners of sorts. My mother had trained me into the art and often would tell me, “Hay tan poca gente fina como nosotros.” This translates to something like, “There is a dearth of sophisticated/well-mannered people like us.”
In fact in Spanish “ser educado”
to be educated emphasizes not the level of learning of a person as much as that person’s manners. An ill mannered person would be “mal educado”
and a person lacking those niceties would be “le falta educación
” or is lacking in manners.
Where possible I learned at home to act like a gentleman and I remember sometime in my teens reading, “A lady is a woman that makes a man feel [and act?] like a gentleman.”
What would my mother’s opinion have been to read as I have about a Washington State girl of 13 (precisely my granddaughter Rebecca’s age) sent a nude self-portrait (taken with a camera phone,or is that a phone camera?) to her new would-be boyfriend? What would she have said when the boy forwarded the picture to a female friend who then “viraled” it with some short but choice texting involving the word slut?
As a little boy if I ever had the audacity to touch any of my food with my hands (and in particular chicken) my father would, with the flick of his wrist, hit me on the top of my head with the flat of his knife. To this day when I eat chicken with my hands I get a terrible itching in my nose!
When I had arrived to Buenos Aires in my most early 20s, I was invited to dine at the house of my godmother and first cousin, Inecita O’Reilly Kuker. She was a widow who had recently married a wealthy widower. She had four children, and he had four. Since most of them were either teenagers or older they had all invited their friends. They all sat at a table as long as some of that regal Masterpiece Theatre kind. We all had finger bowls at our place settings and when I sat down there was absolute silence. Everybody was staring at me. When I picked up my soup spoon (and apparently I did this quite well) the silence was replaced by sighs of relief. It seemed I was “educado
”. I had passed muster. By dessert time I was shocked to see how the widower’s (Mr. Kuker) daughters ate their oranges and bananas. They used a fork and knife to peel both fruits and never ever touched either of them.
Of late I have been observing both my granddaughters and in particular when they have soup in our home. Rosemary has purchased these extremely fresh saltines from the Canadian Super Store that are individually wrapped in cellophane. I have watched in horror as both smash the unopened packages with their fists and then empty the contents into the soup. I try to explain that this is rude. I try to explain that the back and forth tasting of soup and crackers is far more interesting and inviting than eating the "menjunje"
“or sloppy mixture of their soup bowl. But they don’t listen to me and I suspect that Rebecca does this just to rile me. She even has told me that everybody does this at the White Spot (neither my first cousin Inecita nor this blogger would ever go to such a place!) even their father. Their mother, Hilary (my daughter) has added that a stress in the importance of manners is in decline.
I hope it is all a phase and that my mother will, from wherever she is now, utter, “Hay tan poca gente fina como nosotros,” including both my granddaughters in her rarified list.
Why Do I Blog? A Sobering Recapitulation
Monday, March 21, 2011
|Alex in much simpler times in his youth |
I have been blogging since January 2006 and I have written (by my internal search engine count) four “Why do I blog?” blogs. I have chosen not to reprise (although I probably will without actively knowing so) those previous four blogs today Monday. Today Monday (but in actuality today Friday, March 26) I knew that I would be going to Saltspring Island on Wednesday March 24 to give a slide lecture to the island’s garden club. I was much too busy (or should I write and fake it?), preparing for Wednesday to write a blog for today. By Tuesday I knew that I would not be writing any until Friday when I would (and I did) come back. Which accounts for this one, at least.
There is one big change from my approach to blogging since I first started. In that year first year (2006) I fully equated a blog to an actual written diary in which I would write about what I wanted to write on that day’s events, that day and before midnight. I failed a few times when I had server problems or computer down times. By the time Rosemary, Rebecca (my now much older granddaughter of my two, the other one is called Lauren) and I went of vacations to Argentina, Uruguay, Mexico or I traveled, on my own to Texas I relied on the technique of either writing blogs that I thought I would write and storing them online as drafts or I stored possible photographs to illustrate them on line pictures sites like Photobucket. I would then rely on internet cafes for computer access. In some of the hotels we stayed in Mexico they had computer rooms for guests. I always seemed to manage.
Of late (perhaps the last two years) when I have had computer problems (mostly issues with Blogger) or differences of opinion (on how to pay) with my Net Nation domain hosting (where they would pull the plug on my web page and ancillary blog) I would post blogs for the days missed. As far as I can tell I am not missing one day.
I could lazily say that this blog will take the place not only for today Monday but for the rest of the week. But I still have my standards. That would simply not do. I will try to be up to date by this Sunday.
In the last couple of years I have been trying to be more careful about what pictures I post of my daughters and I check and make sure I do not disclose where they go to school, etc. Rebecca, who is now 13, objected in the past when I would reveal such secrets that she might have a boyfriend or mention her performance in school. I see now that she was right so I make sure before I post something that it would pass muster with her. In short I am a bit more secretive of family goings on.
Perhaps the one issue that haunts me a couple of times per year is when I get an email from some person mentioned or (most often) featured in a blog who tells me, ”Alex, I really love those pictures you took of me back then and even though you have cropped them to reveal a lot less that I showed I would like you to remove that day’s post. I am now in a serious job as a dental assistant (or similar job) and I would not want anybody to know about my past life.”
I have two solutions to the above quandary. The first one is to remove the person’s surname or perhaps remove one (and only one if there are more) of the pictures. The second solution is to inform the person that my blog is like my personal written diary and I should not be expected to cross out passages or tear out pages from it. If this second solution does not work I tell the person to hire a lawyer. Touch wood, I have been free of litigation problems until now. There have been a few blogs that before I have posted them I have consulted with my friend, a prominent Vancouver lawyer. Up until now his advice has been, “Don’t worry about this one.” Here
are two blogs I passed by my lawyer friend before I posted.
As I read the terrible comment letters (the on line ones) to local (Vancouver) dailies or even to the more national Globe & Mail
I feel no regret in never having been tempted to allow comments to my blogs.
One person was able to find my email address through other means and sent me an extensive complaint on how bullfights were not fights at all, when I praised a couple of classical and superb Spanish bullfighters I had seen in my youth. The purpose of my original blog was to compare Canadian ballerina Evelyn Hart to Manolete and how both would have been labeled fenómenos
by the Spanish press.
About half a year ago Blogger inserted in my blog program something called Stats. I have never been interested in finding out how many hits I had per day. But I made the mistake of looking into these stats one day and I was overwhelmed by the level of information. I knew what percentage of those who read or say my blog used this or that operating computer system or from what country they were based. The stats gave me hits for the now, the day, the week and the month. The stats also revealed what search engines where used, And worst of all I found out that many of the hits came from image searches which even when random (such as women over 50) would hit on a semi nude portrait I had posted in the past and it appeared right next to images of Helen Mirren!
A few years ago I persuaded the then Vancouver weather gal, Tamara Taggart to pose (clothed) with her new husband in their bed. I had been assigned by Vancouver Magazine
to take her portrait. My blog is called Tamara Taggart In Bed
. This blog is found (hit on) every day as I see it in my personal stats. I also see pictures of my granddaughters when there are image searches for Alice in Wonderland, Lewis Carol and (scary) Sally Mann. It tells me that sex really rules the world and that I do well to not accept comments. There are many nuts out there with lots of time in their hands.
But all in all I don’t think I have changed the look or the feel of my blog. One possible change might be that my blogs are longer. This is because like those nuts who write nasty comments to newspaper on line sites I have lots of time in my hands. And this blog, of this I am absolutely sure, helps to keep me from becoming one of them..
Why do I Blog ?
Why Do I Blog? II
Why Do I Blog? III
Why Do I Blog? IV
Currer Bell, Emily Dickinson, Jane Eyrë & Jerome Charyn
Sunday, March 20, 2011
Until but a few days ago the name Emily Dickinson would have lead to little synapse activity in my brain. I might have retrieved that fact that Dickinson was an American poet from the 19th century who was some sort of proto- feminist. I also knew that she was from a New England state. Another synapse would have led to the botanical information section of my brain to the following:
. ‘Emily Dickinson’ Lachman IRA/1987
Plant 32 in. (81.5c,) dia., 20 in. (51cm) high. Leaf 7 by 4 in. (18 by 10cm), veins 6, medium green, light yellowish white margin, ovate, flat. Scape 28 in.(71cm), foliated, straight. Flower medium, funnel-shaped, lavender, fragrant flowers during average period. Fertile.
. ‘Neat Splash’ hybrid x H
The Genus Hosta- Giboshi Zoku, W. George Schmid, Timber Press, 1991
Among the thousands of species and cultivar hostas there are only two “literary” ones. One is Emily Dickinson and the other Hosta
‘Robert Frost’ which I happen to have and it is a very beautiful. Except for the name H. ‘Emily Dickinson’ is not a standout. Now I realize that not only should I have known better but that H. ‘Emily Dickinson’ is just about perfect.
|Currer Bell circa 2010|
My adventure into the life and poems of Emily Dickinson began a few months ago when I found out that one of my favourite American novelists, Jerome Charyn
had written a novel (which reads like an autobiography) called The Secret Life of Emily Dickinson
, W.W. Norton & Company, 2010. In many of the reviews Charyn was lambasted for daring to write in the “voice” of a woman, and famous American woman at that. There was a vigorous defense of the novel in the April 2010 New York Review of Books
by no less a reviewer than Joyce Carol Oates (on a momentary sabbatical from her novel writing).
I was finally able to find the book at the Vancouver Public Library and I brought it home to my nightly delight. From the first pages Charyn nailed down the New England state to Massachusetts and Dickinson’s town to Amherst.
A couple of days later when I went to the main branch of the Vancouver Public Library with my wife and granddaughter Lauren I spotted Turning Point Co-Artistic Director and trombonist Jeremy Berkman sitting outside the Blenz coffee shop with a homespun-looking elderly couple and a young boy. The young boy was Berkman’s son and the couple was Berkman’s parents. They asked me what I was reading. I told them I was returning a wonderful thriller called The Vaults
by Toby Ball and that I had begun to read Jerome Charyn’s novel a famous American female poet. Berkman’s mother asked me,” Would that be Emily Dickinson? We are from Amherst, Mass and we know Dickinson’s house well.” She then began to give me the details of the house and the name of the street. I then told them of the controversy behind the novel and that that American woman who writes novels all of the time had written a spirited review. Mrs. Berkman enquired, “Would that be Joyce Carol Oates?” I answered yes and pointed out that Oates is supposed to give a lecture at the library in the next few months.
Roy the intrepid reader (he is to reading books what Joyce Carol Oates is to writing them) who haunts the atrium of the Vancouver Public Library was sitting nearby. After I introduced him to the Berkman’s he said, “I am reading Russian magic realism but that book you have there (The Vaults) sounds interesting. Let me see it.” He read the first page and was as hooked to The Vaults as I had been. In the end I gave the book to him with the promise that he would return it the next day. Roy would never disappoint.
Saturday morning Rosemary told me we were going to a special advance screening of the new Jane Eyre
at the Park on Sunday morning. That struck a bell.In Charyn’s novel I had already read this:
“I felt it a misfortune that I was so little, so pale pale and had features so irregular and so marked.” So said Jane Eyre, who was as plain and little as a certain Emily Dickinson. I wondered if she had a scalp as red as mine. No matter. There was a controversy that raged around the book. Was its author, Currer Bell, a woman or a man? Not a soul could say.
Currer Bell? Who would that be?
On this day, August 24, 1847 Charlotte Brontë sent her manuscript of Jane Eyre to her eventual publisher, Smith, Elder and Co., in London. Her accompanying note shows her maintaining her pseudonym, though perhaps just barely:
I now send you per rail a MS entitled Jane Eyre, a novel in three volumes, by Currer Bell. I find I cannot prepay the carriage of the parcel, as money for that purpose is not received at the small station-house where it is left. If, when you acknowledge the receipt of the MS, you would have the goodness to mention the amount charged on delivery, I will immediately transmit it in postage stamps. It is better in future to address Mr Currer Bell, under cover to Miss Bronté, Haworth, Bradford, Yorkshire, as there is a risk of letters otherwise directed not reaching me at present....
Today In Literature
In Charyn's novel Emily Dickinson befriends a visiting scholar from Princeton, Brainard Rowe:
He [Brainard Rowe] discovers my Newfoundland sitting with that ferocious loyalty of his near the door of Johnson Chapel.
“Carlo, my dog.”
Brainard laughs as I knew he would. Rochester had a Newfoundland like mine, a huge blur of black and white hair, but his name was Pilot. Carlo was a pointer in Jayne Eyre; he belonged to that monkish minister, St. John Rivers, who rescued Jayne from starvation and wanted her to accompany him to India as his missionary wife in a loveless marriage.
And Brainard addresses me in a language that went way beyond Brother [Austin Dickinson] and Gould [a scholar friend of Austin’s and would-be suitor of Emily’s who wanted to make her his missionary wife].
“Miss Emily Eyre,” says he. “Why didn’t you name your dog Pilot, after Rochester’s faithful Newfoundland?”
“Because, Rivers is much closer to my own temperament, Sir, willing to sacrifice himself to some abstract religion that could be about God or the Devil disguised as art.”
“Are you a sacrificer, too?’
“Much more so, than St. John Rivers.”
By the time I saw Cary Fukunaga’s Jane Eyre
(Mia Wasikowska is superb as Jane as is Michael Fassbender as Rochester) I was seeing Eyre as not only Jane, but as a feisty Currer Bell and equally feisty Emily Dickinson.
Then my daughter Ale called from Lillooet to tell Rosemary that she had spotted at least 30 robins on her property. We used to have robins in our garden but every time they would establish a nest in our Hawthorn, crows would destroy it and eat the eggs. Rosemary was sad to admit that we no longer have robins. And there is this:
Part II: Nature
The robin is the one
That interrupts the morn
With hurried, few, express reports
When March is scarcely on.
The robin is the one
That overflows the noon
With her cherubic quantity,
An April but begun.
The robin is the one
That speechless from her nest
Submits that home and certainty
And sanctity are best.
And further there is this:
Charlotte Bronte's Grave
All overgrown by cunning moss,
All interspersed with weed,
The little cage of 'Currer Bell,'
In quiet Haworth laid.
This bird, observing others,
When frosts too sharp became,
Retire to other latitudes,
Quietly did the same,
But differed in returning;
Since Yorkshire hills are green,
Yet not in all the nests I meet
Can nightingale be seen.
Gathered from many wanderings,
Gethsemane can tell
Through what transporting anguish
She reached the asphodel!
Soft fall the sounds of Eden
Upon her puzzled ear;
Oh, what an afternoon for heaven,
When 'Bronte' entered there.