Literary Memories 22 December: George Eliot

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George Eliot

George Eliot

 

Author: George Eliot

Dates: 22 November 1819 by 22 December 1880

Nationality: English

Title of Book: Adam Bede

When Seth had once begun to urge his suit, he went on earnestly and almost hurriedly, lest Dinah should speak some decisive word before he had poured forth all the arguments he had prepared. His cheeks became flushed as he went on his mild grey eyes filled with tears, and his voice trembled as he spoke the last sentence. They had reached one of those very narrow passes between two tall stones, which performed the office of a stile in Loamshire, and Dinah paused as she turned towards Seth and said, in her tender but calm treble notes, “Seth Bede, I thank you for your love towards me, and if I could think of any man as more than a Christian brother, I think it would be you. But my heart is not free to marry. That is good for other women, and it is a great and a blessed thing to be a wife and mother; but ‘as God has distributed to every man, as the Lord hath called every man, so let him walk.’ God has called me to minister to others, not to have any joys or sorrows of my own, but to rejoice with them that do rejoice, and to weep with those that weep. He has called me to speak his word, and he has greatly owned my work. It could only be on a very clear showing that I could leave the brethren and sisters at Snowfield, who are favoured with very little of this world’s good; where the trees are few, so that a child might count them, and there’s very hard living for the poor in the winter. It has been given me to help, to comfort, and strengthen the little flock there and to call in many wanderers; and my soul is filled with these things from my rising up till my lying down. My life is too short, and God’s work is too great for me to think of making a home for myself in this world. I’ve not turned a deaf ear to your words, Seth, for when I saw as your love was given to me, I thought it might be a leading of Providence for me to change my way of life, and that we should be fellow-helpers; and I spread the matter before the Lord. But whenever I tried to fix my mind on marriage, and our living together, other thoughts always came in–the times when I’ve prayed by the sick and dying, and the happy hours I’ve had preaching, when my heart was filled with love, and the Word was given to me abundantly. And when I’ve opened the Bible for direction, I’ve always lighted on some clear word to tell me where my work lay. I believe what you say, Seth, that you would try to be a help and not a hindrance to my work; but I see that our marriage is not God’s will–He draws my heart another way. I desire to live and die without husband or children. I seem to have no room in my soul for wants and fears of my own, it has pleased God to fill my heart so full with the wants and sufferings of his poor people.”

Seth was unable to reply, and they walked on in silence. At last, as they were nearly at the yard-gate, he said, “Well, Dinah, I must seek for strength to bear it, and to endure as seeing Him who is invisible. But I feel now how weak my faith is. It seems as if, when you are gone, I could never joy in anything any more. I think it’s something passing the love of women as I feel for you, for I could be content without your marrying me if I could go and live at Snowfield and be near you. I trusted as the strong love God has given me towards you was a leading for us both; but it seems it was only meant for my trial. Perhaps I feel more for you than I ought to feel for any creature, for I often can’t help saying of you what the hymn says–

In darkest shades if she appear,

My dawning is begun;

She is my soul’s bright morning-star,

And she my rising sun.

That may be wrong, and I am to be taught better. But you wouldn’t be displeased with me if things turned out so as I could leave this country and go to live at Snowfield?”

“No, Seth; but I counsel you to wait patiently, and not lightly to leave your own country and kindred. Do nothing without the Lord’s clear bidding. It’s a bleak and barren country there, not like this land of Goshen you’ve been used to. We mustn’t be in a hurry to fix and choose our own lot; we must wait to be guided.”

Brief Biography: Mary Anne Evans better known as George Eliot was a novelist, journalist and translator. She was one of the leading writers of the Victorian era. She used a male pen name to ensure her work would be taken seriously.

Literary Memories 22 December: Beatrix Potter

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Beatrix Potter

Beatrix Potter

Author: Beatrix Potter

Dates: 28 July 1866 – 22 December 1943

Nationality: English

Title of Book: The Tale of Peter Rabbit

Then old Mrs. Rabbit took a basket and her umbrella, and went through the wood to the baker’s. She bought a loaf of brown bread and five currant buns.

Flopsy, Mopsy, and Cotton-tail, who were good little bunnies, went down the lane to gather blackberries;

But Peter, who was very naughty, ran straight away to Mr. McGregor’s garden, and squeezed under the gate!

First he ate some lettuces and some French beans; and then he ate some radishes;

And then, feeling rather sick, he went to look for some parsley.

But round the end of a cucumber frame, whom should he meet but Mr. McGregor!

Brief Biography: Potter was an author, illustrator, natural scientist and conservationist. She is best known for her imaginative children’s books featuring animals. Potter was also a prize-winning breeder of Herdwick sheep.

Parnassian Moments 21 December: Giovanni Boccaccio

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Giovanni Boccaccio

Giovanni Boccaccio

Poet: Giovanni Boccaccio

Dates: 16 June 1313 – 21 December 1375

Nationality: Italian

Title of Poem: Sonnetto

Beside a fountain in a little grove
That fresh green fronds and pretty flowers did grace,
Three maidens sat and talked methinks of love.
Mid golden locks, o’ershadowing each sweet face,
For coolness was entwined a leaf-green spray,
And all the while a gentle zephyr played
Through green and golden in a tender way,
Weaving a web of sunshine and of shade.
After a while, unto the other two
One spoke, and I could hear her words: “Think you
That if our lovers were to happen by
We would all run away for very fright?”
The others answered her: “From such delight
She were a little fool who’d wish to fly!”

 

Brief Biography: Boccaccio was an author, poet and correspondent of Petrarch. He was an important Renaissance humanist poet. Boccaccio is particularly noted for his dialogue which differed from his contemporary medieval writers who often followed a formulaic model for character and plot.

Artistic Memories 19 December: Jean-Baptiste van Loo

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Jean-Baptiste van Loo

Jean-Baptiste van Loo

 

Artist: Jean-Baptiste van Loo

Dates: 14 January 1684 – 19 December 1745

Nationality: French

Title of Piece: Margaret (‘Peg’) Woffington

 

Margaret ('Peg') Woffington by Jean-Baptiste van Loo

Margaret (‘Peg’) Woffington by Jean-Baptiste van Loo

Brief Biography: Van Loo was a portrait and subject painter patronized by the Prince of Carignan. He ws a member of Académie Royale de Peinture et de Sculpture and produced many altar pieces as well as restoring the works of Francesco Primaticcio.

Literary Memories 19 December: Emily Jane Brontë

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Emily Jane Brontë

Emily Jane Brontë

 

Author: Emily Jane Brontë

Dates: 30 July 1818 – 19 December 1848

Nationality: English

Title: Wuthering Heights

Mr. Edgar’s coldness depressed me exceedingly; and all the way from the Grange I puzzled my brains how to put more heart into what he said, when I repeated it; and how to soften his refusal of even a few lines to console Isabella. I daresay she had been on the watch for me since morning: I saw her looking through the lattice as I came up the garden causeway, and I nodded to her; but she drew back, as if afraid of being observed. I entered without knocking. There never was such a dreary, dismal scene as the formerly cheerful house presented! I must confess, that if I had been in the young lady’s place, I would, at least, have swept the hearth, and wiped the tables with a duster. But she already partook of the pervading spirit of neglect which encompassed her. Her pretty face was wan and listless; her hair uncurled: some locks hanging lankly down, and some carelessly twisted round her head. Probably she had not touched her dress since yester evening. Hindley was not there. Mr. Heathcliff sat at a table, turning over some papers in his pocket-book; but he rose when I appeared, asked me how I did, quite friendly, and offered me a chair. He was the only thing there that seemed decent; and I thought he never looked better. So much had circumstances altered their positions, that he would certainly have struck a stranger as a born and bred gentleman; and his wife as a thorough little slattern! She came forward eagerly to greet me, and held out one hand to take the expected letter. I shook my head. She wouldn’t understand the hint, but followed me to a sideboard, where I went to lay my bonnet, and importuned me in a whisper to give her directly what I had brought. Heathcliff guessed the meaning of her manoeuvres, and said – ‘If you have got anything for Isabella (as no doubt you have, Nelly), give it to her. You needn’t make a secret of it: we have no secrets between us.’

Brief Biography: Brontë was a novelist and poet. She is best known for her novel Wuthering Heights. Brontë wrote under the pen name Ellis Bell.

Artistic Memories 18 December: Paul Klee

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Paul Klee

Paul Klee

 

Artist: Paul Klee

Dates: 18 December 1879 – 29 June 1940

Nationality: Swiss

Title of Piece: Before the Snow

Before the Snow by Paul Klee

Before the Snow by Paul Klee

Brief Biography: Klee was a painter. His style was individualistic with influences from surrealism, cubism, expressionism and orientalism.

Parnassian Moments 18 December: Johann Gottfried von Herder

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Johann Gottfried von Herder

Johann Gottfried von Herder

 

Poet: Johann Gottfried von Herder

Dates: 25 August 1744 – 18 December 1803

Nationality: German

Title of Poem: The Erl-King’s Daughter

Sir Olf rode fast towards Thurlston’s walls,
To meet his bride in his father’s halls.

He saw blue lights flit over the graves;
The elves came forth from their forest-caves.

They danced anear on the glossy strand,
And the Erl-King’s Daughter held out her hand.

“O, welcome, Sir Olf, to our jubilee!
Step into the circle and dance with me.”

“I dare not dance, I dare not stay;
To-morrow will be my nuptial-day.”

“Two golden spurs will I give unto thee,
And I pray thee, Sir Olf, to tarry with me.”

“I dare not tarry, I dare not delay,
To-morrow is fixed for my nuptial-day.”

“Will give thee a shirt so white and fine,
Was bleached yestreen in the new moonshine.”

“I dare not hearken to Elf or Fay;
To-morrow is fixed for my nuptial-day.”

“A measure of gold will I give unto thee,
And I pray thee, Sir Olf, to dance with me.”

“The measure of gold I will carry away,
But I dare not dance, and I dare not stay.”

“Then, since thou wilt go, even go with a blight!
A true-lover’s token I leave thee, Sir Knight.”

She lightly struck with her wand on his heart,
And he swooned and swooned from the deadly smart.

She lifted him up on his coal-black steed;
“Now hie thee away with a fatal speed!”

Then shone the moon, and howled the wolf,
And the sheen and the howl awoke Sir Olf.

He rode over mead, he rode over moor,
He rode till he rode to his own house-door.

Within sate, white as the marble, his bride,
But his gray-haired mother stood watching outside.

“My son, my son, thou art haggard and wan;
Thy brow is the brow of a dying man.”

“And haggard and wan I well may be,
For the Erl-King’s Daughter hath wounded me.”

“I pray thee, my son, dismount and bide:
There is mist on the eyes of thy pining bride.”

“O mother, I should but drop dead from my steed;
I will wander abroad for the strength I need.”

“And what shall I tell thy bride, my son,
When the morning dawns and the tiring is done?”

“O, tell my bride that I rode to the wood,
With my hound in leash and my hawk in hood.”

When morning dawned with crimson and gray,
The bride came forth in her wedding array.

They poured out mead, they poured out wine:
“Now, where is thy son, O goldmother mine?”

“My son, golddaughter, rode into the wood,
With his hounds in leash and his hawk in hood.”

Then the bride grew sick with an ominous dread,—
“O, woe is me, Sir Olf is dead.”

She drooped like a lily that feels the blast,
She drooped, and drooped, till she died at last.

They rest in the charnel side by side,
The stricken Sir Olf and his faithful bride.

But the Erl-King’s Daughter dances still,
When the moonlight sleeps on the frosted hill.

 

Brief Biography: Herder was a poet, philosopher and literary critic. He is most often associated with Enlightenment and Classicism.

Parnassian Moments 18 December: Philip Morin Freneau

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Philip Morin Freneau

Philip Morin Freneau

 

Poet: Philip Morin Freneau

Dates: 2 January 1752 – 18 December 1832

Nationality: American

Title of Poem: The Indian Burial Ground

In spite of all the learn’d have said;
I still my old opinion keep,
The posture, that we give the dead,
Points out the soul’s eternal sleep.

Not so the ancients of these lands –
The Indian, when from life releas’d
Again is seated with his friends,
And shares gain the joyous feast.

His imag’d birds, and painted bowl,
And ven’son, for a journey dress’d,
Bespeak the nature of the soul,
Activity, that knows no rest.

His bow, for action ready bent,
And arrows, with a head of stone,
Can only mean that life is spent,
And not the finer essence gone.

Thou, stranger, that shalt come this way.
No fraud upon the dead commit –
Observe the swelling turf, and say
They do not lie, but here they sit.

Here still lofty rock remains,
On which the curious eye may trace,
(Now wasted, half, by wearing rains)
The fancies of a older race.

Here still an aged elm aspires,
Beneath whose far — projecting shade
(And which the shepherd still admires
The children of the forest play’d!

There oft a restless Indian queen
(Pale Shebah, with her braided hair)
And many a barbarous form is seen
To chide the man that lingers there.

By midnight moons, o’er moistening dews,
In habit for the chase array’d,
The hunter still the deer pursues,
The hunter and the deer, a shade!

And long shall timorous fancy see
The painted chief, and pointed spear,
And reason’s self shall bow the knee
To shadows and delusions here.

 

Brief Biography: Often called the Poet of the American Revolution Philip Freneau was also a sea captain and newspaper editor. Hi poem ‘The House of the Night’ is one of the first romantic poems to be written and published in America. Freneau may not be as well-known as his contemporary American poets but he is noted for introducing themes and images that later writers became famous for.

Literary Memories 17 December: Dorothy Leigh Sayers

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Dorothy Leigh Sayers

Dorothy Leigh Sayers

 

Author: Dorothy Leigh Sayers

Dates: 13 June 1893 – 17 December 1957

Nationality: English

Title of Book: Gaudy Night

Memory peopled the quad with moving figures. Students sauntering in pairs. Students dashing to lectures, their gowns hitched hurriedly over light summer frocks, the wind jerking their flat caps into the absurd likeness of so many jesters’ cockscombs. Bicycles stacked in the porter’s lodge, their carriers piled with books and gowns twisted about their handlebars. A grizzled woman don crossing the turf with vague eyes, her thoughts riveted upon aspects of sixteenth-century philosophy, her sleeves floating, her shoulders cocked to the academic angle that automatically compensated the backward drag of the pleated poplin. Two male commoners in search of a coach, bareheaded, hands in their trousers-pockets, talking loudly about boats. The Warden – grey and stately – and the Dean –  stocky, brisk, bird-like, a Lesser Repoll – in animated conference under the archway leading to the Old Quadrangle.  Tall spikes of delphinium against the grey, quaveringly blue-like flames, if flame were ever so blue. The college cat, preoccupied and remote, stalking with tail erect in the direction of the buttery.

It was all so long ago; so closely encompassed and complete; so cut off as by swords from the bitter years that lay between. Could one face it now? What would those women say to her, to Harriet Vane, who had taken her First in English and gone to London to write mystery fiction, to live with a man who was not married to her, and to be tried for his murder amid a roar of notoriety? That was not the kind of career that Shrewsbury expected of its old students.

Brief Biography: Sayers was a crime novelist, poet and playwright. She was considered to be one of the queens of crime fiction along with Agatha Christie and is most famous for her novels and short stories featuring Lord Peter Wimsey.

Classical Memories 17 December: Domenico Cimarosa

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Domenico Cimarosa

Domenico Cimarosa

 

Composer: Domenico Cimarosa

Dates: 17 December 1749 – 11 January 1801

Nationality: Italian

Title of Piece: Piano Concerto in B-flat major

Brief Biography: Cimarosa was an operatic composer of the Neopolitan School, and over his lifetime wrote over eighty operas including Il matrimonio segreto. During the French Republic’s occupation of Naples he joined the liberal party and on return of Bourbons he was imprsoned on political grounds. Upon his death it was said he had been poisoned by his enemies, which unfounded by an inquest. However he was composing until his death and his final opera Artemizia remained unfinished.

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