Monthly Archives: May 2018

an illustration of scholarly “good manners”

 

 

scholarly good manners.jpg

 

 

Crediting any and all findings shared with the writer.

From the introduction by University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Professor Joy S. Kasson to the Penguin Classics edition of a Louisa May Alcott novel.

Note the acknowledgment in a footnote of Professor Kasson’s.

 

 

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In this regard, see my post:

 

https://dreiseronlinecom.wordpress.com/2018/05/18/a-scholarly-rip-off-the-real-identity-of-theodore-dreisers-chaplain/

 

 

— Roger W. Smith

   May 2018

from an armchair therapist: how many disputes get resolved

 

 

You’re on the outs with someone. If you were violent sorts, it could have come to blows.

You argue back and forth until you are blue in the face. A therapist or marriage counselor should have been summoned, perhaps (I wouldn’t actually advise it), but neither one of you has gotten around to it.

You reconnect haphazardly after a day or two of smoldering anger.

You start talking about something or other. You are both into it (because of a substratum of past shared experience and concerns), meaning into whatever topic of conversation happened to come up. It could be something that you started the conversation with: say, “You won’t believe what happened to me the other day.”

The other person is listening with interest. The topic engages you both.

You forget momentarily that you are both supposed to be in a temporary “state of war,” that you have been arguing, on the outs.

You never do get around to addressing the “momentous” issues that were dividing you.

You hang up the phone. You realize that you are feeling better and are experiencing a big sense of relief.

What was so important about the supposed issues? you think. We are back to being friends.

Such a relief.

It’s better to …

 

 

— Roger W. Smith

   May 2018

“A March in the Ranks Hard-Prest”

 

 

 

 

index

 

dedication

 

 

I am reaching the end of the novel Work: A Story of Experience by Louisa May Alcott, which I have been reading for a few weeks by fits and starts (as is often my pattern), carrying it everywhere with me.

What a revelation, and what a writer.

I won’t spoil the book for would be readers by telling too much of the plot. But, it starts out with a young woman trying to make her way in the world in often tough circumstances; then there is a sort of Pride and Prejudice style romantic angle involving multiple relationships; and, at the end, the Civil War has broken out, and this profoundly affects the lives of all the major characters.

There are many autobiographical elements in the story.

The final chapters, in which the Civil War has profoundly affected and changed all the characters’ lives, contains heart-rending scenes of wounded soldiers being treated in hospitals. Obviously, Alcott drew upon her own experience as a Civil War nurse.

Regarding these concluding chapters and scenes, one of Walt Whitman’s great Civil War poems comes to mind: “A March in the Ranks Hard-Prest, and the Road Unknown.”

I rank it right up there with three of Whitman’s greatest poems: “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry,” “Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking,” and “When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d.”

 

 

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A March in the Ranks Hard-Prest, and the Road Unknown

 

A march in the ranks hard-prest, and the road unknown,
A route through a heavy wood with muffled steps in the darkness,
Our army foil’d with loss severe, and the sullen remnant retreating,
Till after midnight glimmer upon us the lights of a dim-lighted building,
We come to an open space in the woods, and halt by the dim-lighted building,
’Tis a large old church at the crossing roads, now an impromptu hospital
Entering but for a minute I see a sight beyond all the pictures and poems ever made,
Shadows of deepest, deepest black, just lit by moving candles and lamps,
And by one great pitchy torch stationary with wild red flame and clouds of smoke,
By these, crowds, groups of forms vaguely I see on the floor, some in the pews laid down,
At my feet more distinctly a soldier, a mere lad, in danger of bleeding to death, (he is shot in the abdomen,)
I stanch the blood temporarily, (the youngster’s face is white as a lily,)
Then before I depart I sweep my eyes o’er the scene fain to absorb it all,
Faces, varieties, postures beyond description, most in obscurity, some of them dead,
Surgeons operating, attendants holding lights, the smell of ether, the odor of blood,
The crowd, O the crowd of the bloody forms, the yard outside also fill’d,
Some on the bare ground, some on planks or stretchers, some in the death-spasm sweating,
An occasional scream or cry, the doctor’s shouted orders or calls,
The glisten of the little steel instruments catching the glint of the torches,
These I resume as I chant, I see again the forms, I smell the odor,
Then hear outside the orders given, Fall in, my men, fall in;
But first I bend to the dying lad, his eyes open, a half-smile gives he me,
Then the eyes close, calmly close, and I speed forth to the darkness,
Resuming, marching, ever in darkness marching, on in the ranks,
The unknown road still marching.

 

— Walt Whitman

 

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I am not a literary critic, but one doesn’t have to be one to appreciate Whitman fully. He didn’t write for critics.

Is there another poem that brings the Civil War home with such harrowing clarity and force? All expressed with such remarkable concision. So much expressed with an economy of words and just the right images. To say just enough (and how much!), and nothing more.

 

 

— Roger W. Smith

    May 2018

 

 

 

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Addendum:

 

I posted the following review of Alcott’s novel on Amazon.com:

One reviewer’s comments caught my eye: “kitsch; too many good people.” This is unfair and unfounded. The book does have a Victorian quality about it, and at times verges on being overly sentimental. But it is beautifully written, and compelling. It also accurately depicts harsh realities of its time and place. Women should appreciate its insight into their concerns and the obstacles they faced then. But, bottom line (I am male), this is a brilliant novel that is worth reading for the beauty of its prose alone. I often found myself stopping to read passages over again and make note of them. Why this novel is not better known and not more widely read escapes me. It’s up there with the works of acknowledged masters.

caveat emptor

 

 

I have learned to abhor so called print on demand booksellers.

They are sort of like cockroaches. If you are looking for a book online — from Amazon.com, or a bookstore/bookseller with a web page — and, say, you enter a search term such as “Theodore Dreiser” or “Sister Carrie,” you will get far more hits than you need or want.

Many of them are for on demand publishers. For instance:

Lightning Source Inc.

Forgotten Books

Trieste Publishing

Andesite Press

I was recently fooled, as it were, by seeing the name Trieste Publishing for a bookseller. I ordered a hard to find book of essays by William Hazlitt from them.

Trieste Publishing sounded like a bona fide publishing house, not an on demand publisher.

The book arrived in no time. It was what in booksellers’ parlance is termed an ex-libris copy, an ugly photocopied book from a public library with marks and stamps on it.

Some time ago, I ordered the lengthy novel by David Graham Phillips Susan Lenox: Her Fall and Rise. It was out of print. It was sold by Indypublish.Com. It came in two volumes with a plain dark blue cover. There were no words on the cover.

The title page simply read Susan Lenox Her Rise and Fall.

They couldn’t even get that right. The novel’s title is actually Susan Lenox: Her Fall and Rise. If you read the novel, you will see that the difference in titles makes a big difference.

 

 

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Here are some more ludicrous examples.

 

The cover of Theodore Dreiser’s novel The “Genius,” published by CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform.

 

book cover, The 'Genius' (Create Space).jpg

 

I was astonished to see the cover of this edition. How could they have a portrait of Albert Einstein on the cover? Dreiser’s novel was based loosely on the life of Greenwich Village artist Everett Shinn, who in no way resembled Einstein appearance wise, and of course was from a totally different world, so to speak. The “publishers” did not bother to ascertain what the novel is about.

 

The cover of Theodore Dreiser’s novel The Financier (which is based on the life of the American financier Charles Tyson Yerkes), sold by CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform.

 

book cover, 'The Financier' (Create Space).jpg

 

 

The financier, Yerkes, died in 1905. He was active in the late nineteenth century in places such as Chicago. Dreiser knew of him. In the CreateSpace cover illustration, he is dressed in garb appropriate for Benjamin Franklin.

 

 

The cover of an edition of Theodore Dreiser’s Plays of the Natural and Supernatural, sold by CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform.

 

 

book cover, 'Plays of the Natural and Supernatural' (Create Space)

 

 

The cover of an edition of Theodore Dreiser’s play The Hand of the Potter, sold by CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform.

 

 

book cover, 'The Hand of the Potter' (Create Space).jpg

 

 

 

The illustrations look like they could have been done by Bruegel or an Italian Renaissance painter.

 

 

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It’s disturbing, to me, to see books being marketed by firms that have entirely no knowledge of books or their content. A related problem which concerns me is that such sellers clutter up the online market for books, so that one can’t find which editions are in print that are worth purchasing.

 

 

— Roger W. Smith

   May 2018

empathy II

 

 

“Lisha, ain’t you got no heart? can you remember what Hepsey told us, and call them poor, long-sufferin’ creeters names? Can you think of them wretched wives sold from their husbands; them children as dear as ourn tore from their mothers; and old folks kep slavin eighty long, hard years with no pay, no help, no pity, when they git past work? Lisha Wilkins, look at that, and say no ef you darst!”

 

— Louisa May Alcott, Work: A Story of Experience, Chapter Sixteen (“Mustered In”)

 

 

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No doubt some carping reader/critic would not hesitate to ridicule such sentiments today. Perhaps for being too saccharine or weepy.

But true empathy begins with both clear eyed observation of injustices large and small, and PITY. Something in short supply that is often looked upon as being not to the point. By heartless, callous, haughty individuals who think that to show pity amounts to weakness and that to be “above” such sentiments shows they are emotionally or morally superior.

 

 

— posted by Roger W. Smith

   May 2018

my refuge

 

 

“She was not happy, … and when life looked dark and barren without, she went away into that inner world of deep feeling, high thought, and earnest aspiration; which is a never-failing refuge to those whose experience has built within them

‘The nunnery of a chaste heart and quiet mind.’ ”

(The passage concludes, as above, with a paraphrase of Richard Herrick’s poem “To Lucasta, Going to the Wars.”)

 

— Louisa May Alcott, Work: A Story of Experience

 

 

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Beautiful words. Beautiful thoughts.

They express what I myself always do when depressed, and am now doing (which is why the words seem so to speak to me).

Someone has let me down.

I retreat to that inner world and it sustains me. Now and always.

I always have my books. Writing. Solitary pursuits of the mind.

Others may scoff and invent baseless caricatures of a Silas Marner.

Cruelty becomes them.

 

 

— Roger W. Smith

    May 26, 2018

Scotch marriage record of my ancestors (my Smith grandfather’s great-grandparents)

 

 

John Gilchrist-Agnes Christie marriage record.jpg

 

 

I am one fourth Scotch through my paternal grandfather Thomas Gordon Smith (1885-1967).

Posted here is the marriage record of my grandfather’s great-grandparents on his paternal grandmother’s side.

My grandfather’s great-grandfather on his paternal grandmother’s side was John Gilchrist of Scotland. John Gilchrist married my grandfather’s great-grandmother Agnes Christie. Their daughter Jane (Gilchrist) Smith (my grandfather’s paternal grandmother) emigrated to the United States in 1872.

The marriage of John Gilchrist and Agnes Christie took place in Paisley, Scotland in 1833. “MC” on the marriage record stands for Middle Church. Middle Church describes the area around a parish and also the religious denomination associated with that area. The couple were Presbyterian.

If any family member ever goes to Scotland, they might want to check out Paisley. The newlyweds John and Agnes lived on North Croft Street in Paisley in the late 1830. They later moved to Niddry Street in Paisley, where they were living as recorded in the 1841 Scotch census.

Paisley is where their daughter Jane, my grandfather’s maternal grandmother, was born in December 1834. She died in Boston, Massachusetts in 1907.

Paisley was at one time famous for its weaving and textile industries. Prior to emigrating, Jane (Gilchrist) Smith, my grandfather’s maternal grandmother, was employed as a “winder of cotton.”

Jane’s father John Gilchrist, whose marriage record is posted here, is described as a blacksmith in early records and later as a “boilermaker journeyman.” He was born 1811 to 1815 (a range of years deduced from ages shown on later records). The year 1811 is likely. There was a John Gilcrhis [sic] baptized to a John Gilcrhis and Jean Cameron on 1 Dec 1811 in Paisley (Abbey). This is probably my ancestor.

 

— Roger W. Smith

    May 2018

 

 

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See also my post:

 

“Jane (Gilchrist) Smith (1834-1907)”

https://rogersgleanings.com/2016/04/02/jane-gilchrist-smith-1834-1907/