Wednesday, April 30, 2014

a girl's autumn reverie

by ella wheeler wilcox

illustrations by adelaide wylde bunch

We plucked a red rose, you and I

All in the summer weather;

Sweet its perfume and rare its bloom,

Enjoyed by us together.

The rose is dead, the summer fled,

And bleak winds are complaining;

We dwell apart, but in each heart

We find the thorn remaining.

We sipped a sweet wine, you and I,

All in the summer weather.

The beaded draught we lightly quaffed
And filled the glass together.

Together we watched its rosy glow,

And saw its bubbles glitter;

Apart, alone, we only know

The lees are very bitter

We walked in sunshine, you and I,

All in the summer weather.

The very night seemed noonday bright.

When we two were together.

I wonder why with our good-by

O'er hill and vale and meadow

There fell such shade, our paths seemed laid

Forevermore in shadow.

We dreamed a sweet dream, you and I,

All in the summer weather,

Where rose and wine and warm sunshine

Were mingled in together.

We dreamed that June was with us yet,

We woke to find December.

We dreamed that we two could forget,

We woke but to remember.

"it might have been"

by ella wheeler wilcox

illustrations by adelaide wylde bunch

We will be what we could be. Do not say,

"It might have been, had not this, or that, or this."

No fate can keep us from the chosen way;

He only might who is.

We will do what we could do. Do not dream

Chance leaves a hero, all uncrowned to grieve.

I hold, all men are greatly what they seem;

He does, who could achieve.

We will climb where we could climb. Tell me not

Of adverse storms that kept thee from the height.

What eagle ever missed the peak he sought? 

He always climbs who might.

I do not like the phrase "It might have been!"

It lacks force, and life's best truths perverts:

For I believe we have, and reach, and win,

Whatever our deserts.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Selections from Samuel Johnson’s Dictionary: “C”

Edited by Dan Leo, LL.D., Assistant Professor of Remedial English Composition, Assistant Croquet Coach, Olney Community College; author of Bozzie and Dr. Sam: The Case of the Obstreperous Papist (the Olney Community College Press).

Illustrated by rhoda penmarq with the assistance of roy dismas and eddie el Greco . A “penmarq studios™” production. “The  ‘penmarq studios™’are to be commended for their many and multifarious outstanding contributions to the cultural commonweal.” – Horace P. Sternwall, author of “Night Soil” and other Stories of the Slums, the Olney Community College Press. 

to begin selections from Samuel Johnson's Dictionary, click here

for previous selection from Samuel Johnson's Dictionary, click here

to begin at the beginning of Boswell's Life of Johnson, click here

for previous chapter of Boswell's Life of Johnson, click here

Cachinnation.  A loud laughter.

Cackerel. A fish, said to make those who eat it laxative.

Cackle. To make a noise as a goose.

Cake. A kind of delicate bread.

Camelopard. An Abyssinian animal, taller than an elephant, but not so thick. He is so named, because he has a neck and head like a camel; he is spotted like a pard, but his spots are white upon a red ground. The Italians call him giaraffa. 

To Caw. To cry as the rook, raven, or crow.

Chair. A moveable seat.

Chiliaedron. A figure of a thousand sides.

Christmas. The day on which the nativity of our blessed Saviour is celebrated, by the particular service of the church.

Clownery. Ill-breeding; churlishness; rudeness; brutality.

Cotquean. A man who busies himself with women's affairs.

Crapulous. Drunken; intemperate; sick with intemperance.

Crocitation. The croaking of frogs or ravens. 

Crucigerous. Bearing the cross.

Cynanthropy. A species of madness in which men have the qualities of dogs.

Cynick. A philosopher of the snarling or currish sort; a follower of Diogenes; a rude man; a snarler; a misanthrope.

(We will resume our serialization of Boswell’s Life of Johnson next week. This project made possible in part through the sponsorship of Bob’s Bowery Bar™, at the corner of Bleecker and the Bowery:  “Warm in the winter and cool in the summer: serving fine drinks and comestibles from 7am to 4am seven days a week. Try Bob’s 'Homemade' Scrapple Sandwich, the sure cure for even the most persistent hangover!”)


Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Boswell’s Life of Johnson: 37

Edited by Dan Leo, LL.D., Assistant Professor of Johnsonian Studies; Texas Hold ‘Em Club Coach, Olney Community College; author of Bozzie and Dr. Sam: The Case of the Vice-Ridden Viscount, the Olney Community College Press.

Illustrated by rhoda penmarq for “penmarq productions unlimited™” (lettering by roy dismas).

to begin at the beginning, click here

for previous chapter, click here

Soon after this event, he wrote his Rasselas, Prince of Abyssinia; concerning the publication of which Sir John Hawkins guesses vaguely and idly, instead of having taken the trouble to inform himself with authentick precision. Not to trouble my readers with a repetition of the Knight's reveries, I have to mention, that the late Mr. Strahan the printer told me, that Johnson wrote it, that with the profits he might defray the expence of his mother's funeral, and pay some little debts which she had left.

He told Sir Joshua Reynolds that he composed it in the evenings of one week, sent it to the press in portions as it was written, and had never since read it over.

Mr. Strahan, Mr. Johnston, and Mr. Dodsley purchased it for a hundred pounds, but afterwards paid him twenty-five pounds more, when it came to a second edition. Considering the large sums which have been received for compilations, and works requiring not much more genius than compilations, we cannot but wonder at the very low price which he was content to receive for this admirable performance; which, though he had written nothing else, would have rendered his name immortal in the world of literature.

None of his writings has been so extensively diffused over Europe; for it has been translated into most, if not all, of the modern languages. This Tale, with all the charms of oriental imagery, and all the force and beauty of which the English language is capable, leads us through the most important scenes of human life, and shews us that this stage of our being is full of 'vanity and vexation of spirit.'

To those who look no further than the present life, or who maintain that human nature has not fallen from the state in which it was created, the instruction of this sublime story will be of no avail. But they who think justly, and feel with strong sensibility, will listen with eagerness and admiration to its truth and wisdom. Voltaire's Candide, written to refute the system of Optimism, which it has accomplished with brilliant success, is wonderfully similar in its plan and conduct to Johnson's Rasselas; insomuch, that I have heard Johnson say, that if they had not been published so closely one after the other that there was not time for imitation, it would have been in vain to deny that the scheme of that which came latest was taken from the other.

Though the proposition illustrated by both these works was the same, namely, that in our present state there is more evil than good, the intention of the writers was very different. Voltaire, I am afraid, meant only by wanton profaneness to obtain a sportive victory over religion, and to discredit the belief of a superintending Providence: Johnson meant, by shewing the unsatisfactory nature of things temporal, to direct the hopes of man to things eternal.

Rasselas, as was observed to me by a very accomplished lady, may be considered as a more enlarged and more deeply philosophical discourse in prose, upon the interesting truth, which in his Vanity of Human Wishes he had so successfully enforced in verse.

The fund of thinking which this work contains is such, that almost every sentence of it may furnish a subject of long meditation. I am not satisfied if a year passes without my having read it through; and at every perusal, my admiration of the mind which produced it is so highly raised, that I can scarcely believe that I had the honour of enjoying the intimacy of such a man.

I restrain myself from quoting passages from this excellent work, or even referring to them, because I should not know what to select, or rather, what to omit. I shall, however, transcribe one, as it shews how well he could state the arguments of those who believe in the appearance of departed spirits; a doctrine which it is a mistake to suppose that he himself ever positively held:

'If all your fear be of apparitions, (said the Prince,) I will promise you safety: there is no danger from the dead; he that is once buried will be seen no more.

'That the dead are seen no more, (said Imlac,) I will not undertake to maintain, against the concurrent and unvaried testimony of all ages, and of all nations. There is no people, rude or learned, among whom apparitions of the dead are not related and believed. This opinion, which prevails as far as human nature is diffused, could become universal only by its truth; those that never heard of one another, would not have agreed in a tale which nothing but experience can make credible. That it is doubted by single cavillers, can very little weaken the general evidence; and some who deny it with their tongues, confess it by their fears.'

Notwithstanding my high admiration of Rasselas, I will not maintain that the 'morbid melancholy' in Johnson's constitution may not, perhaps, have made life appear to him more insipid and unhappy than it generally is; for I am sure that he had less enjoyment from it than I have. Yet, whatever additional shade his own particular sensations may have thrown on his representation of life, attentive observation and close enquiry have convinced me, that there is too much of reality in the gloomy picture.

The truth, however, is, that we judge of the happiness and misery of life differently at different times, according to the state of our changeable frame. I always remember a remark made to me by a Turkish lady, educated in France, 'Ma foi, Monsieur, notre bonheur dépend de la façon que notre sang circule.'

This have I learnt from a pretty hard course of experience, and would, from sincere benevolence, impress upon all who honour this book with a perusal, that until a steady conviction is obtained, that the present life is an imperfect state, and only a passage to a better, if we comply with the divine scheme of progressive improvement;

and also that it is a part of the mysterious plan of Providence, that intellectual beings must 'be made perfect through suffering;' there will be a continual recurrence of disappointment and uneasiness.

But if we walk with hope in 'the mid-day sun' of revelation, our temper and disposition will be such, that the comforts and enjoyments in our way will be relished, while we patiently support the inconveniences and pains.

After much speculation and various reasonings, I acknowledge myself convinced of the truth of Voltaire's conclusion, 'Après tout c’est un monde passable.'

But we must not think too deeply; 'Where ignorance is bliss, 'tis folly to be wise,' is, in many respects, more than poetically just.

Let us cultivate, under the command of good principles, 'la théorie des sensations agréables;' and, as Mr. Burke once admirably counselled a grave and anxious gentleman,

'Live pleasant.'

(To be continued. This week’s episode made possible in part by a generous grant from Bob’s Bowery Bar™: “A little bit of Heaven at the corner of Bleecker and the Bowery – try our Special ‘House-Cured’ Landjäger!”)

part 38

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Boswell’s Life of Johnson: 36

Edited by Dan Leo, LL.D., Associate Professor of Unpopular Culture; Assistant Rackets Team Coach, Olney Community College; author of Bozzie and Dr. Sam: The Case of the Jolly Highwayman, the Olney Community College Press.

Illustrated by rhoda penmarq for “penmarq intercontinental fine art studios™.

to begin at the beginning, click here

for previous chapter, click here


'SIR, '

Your kindness is so great, and my claim to any particular regard from you so little, that I am at a loss how to express my sense of your favours; but I am, indeed, much pleased to be thus distinguished by you.

'I am ashamed to tell you that my Shakspeare will not be out so soon as I promised my subscribers; but I did not promise them more than I promised myself. It will, however, be published before summer.

'I have sent you a bundle of proposals, which, I think, do not profess more than I have hitherto performed. I have printed many of the plays, and have hitherto left very few passages unexplained; where I am quite at a loss, I confess my ignorance, which is seldom done by commentators.

'I am, Sir,

'Your most obliged

'And most humble servant,


'London, March 8, 1758.'

Dr. Burney has kindly favoured me with the following memorandum, which I take the liberty to insert in his own genuine easy style. I love to exhibit sketches of my illustrious friend by various eminent hands. 

Soon after this, Mr. Burney, during a visit to the capital, had an interview with him in Gough-square, where he dined and drank tea with him, and was introduced to the acquaintance of Mrs. Williams. After dinner, Mr. Johnson proposed to Mr. Burney to go up with him into his garret, which being accepted, he there found about five or six Greek folios, a deal writing-desk, and a chair and a half.

Johnson giving to his guest the entire seat, tottered himself on one with only three legs and one arm. Here he gave Mr. Burney Mrs. Williams's history, and shewed him some volumes of his Shakspeare already printed, to prove that he was in earnest. Upon Mr. Burney's opening the first volume, at the Merchant of Venice, he observed to him, that he seemed to be more severe on Warburton than Theobald.

‘O poor Tib.! (said Johnson) he was ready knocked down to my hands; Warburton stands between me and him.’

‘But, Sir, (said Mr. Burney,) you'll have Warburton upon your bones, won't you?’

‘No, Sir; he'll not come out: he'll only growl in his den.’

‘But you think, Sir, that Warburton is a superiour critick to Theobald?’ 

"O, Sir, he'd make two-and-fifty Theobalds, cut into slices! The worst of Warburton is, that he has a rage for saying something, when there's nothing to be said.’

Mr. Burney then asked him whether he had seen the letter which Warburton had written in answer to a pamphlet addressed "To the most impudent Man alive." He answered in the negative.

Mr. Burney asked him then if he had seen Warburton's book against Bolingbroke's Philosophy?

"No, Sir, I have never read Bolingbroke's impiety, and therefore am not interested about its confutation."'

On the fifteenth of April he began a new periodical paper, entitled The Idler, which came out every Saturday in a weekly news-paper, called The Universal Chronicle, or Weekly Gazette, published by Newbery. 

The Idler is evidently the work of the same mind which produced The Rambler, but has less body and more spirit. It has more variety of real life, and greater facility of language. He describes the miseries of idleness, with the lively sensations of one who has felt them; and in his private memorandums while engaged in it, we find:

'This year I hope to learn diligence.'

Many of these excellent essays were written as hastily as an ordinary letter. Mr. Langton remembers Johnson, when on a visit at Oxford, asking him one evening how long it was till the post went out; and on being told about half an hour, he exclaimed, 'then we shall do very well.'

He upon this instantly sat down and finished an Idler, which it was necessary should be in London the next day.

Mr. Langton having signified a wish to read it, 'Sir, (said he) you shall not do more than I have done myself.'

He then folded it up and sent it off.

Yet there are in The Idler several papers which shew as much profundity of thought, and labour of language, as any of this great man's writings. In this series of essays he exhibits admirable instances of grave humour, of which he had an uncommon share. Nor on some occasions has he repressed that power of sophistry which he possessed in so eminent a degree. 

In No. 11, he treats with the utmost contempt the opinion that our mental faculties depend, in some degree, upon the weather; an opinion, which they who have never experienced its truth are not to be envied; and of which he himself could not but be sensible, as the effects of weather upon him were very visible. Yet thus he declaims:

'Surely, nothing is more reproachful to a being endowed with reason, than to resign its powers to the influence of the air, and live in dependence on the weather and the wind for the only blessings which nature has put into our power, tranquillity and benevolence. This distinction of seasons is produced only by imagination operating on luxury. To temperance, every day is bright; and every hour is propitious to diligence.

He that shall resolutely excite his faculties, or exert his virtues, will soon make himself superiour to the seasons; and may set at defiance the morning mist and the evening damp, the blasts of the east, and the clouds of the south.'

'I think the Romans call it Stoicism.'

Alas! it is too certain, that where the frame has delicate fibres, and there is a fine sensibility, such influences of the air are irresistible. He might as well have bid defiance to the ague, the palsy, and all other bodily disorders, Such boasting of the mind is false elevation.

His unqualified ridicule of rhetorical gesture or action is not, surely, a test of truth; yet we cannot help admiring how well it is adapted to produce the effect which he wished. 

'Neither the judges of our laws, nor the representatives of our people, would be much affected by laboured gesticulation, or believe any man the more because he rolled his eyes, or puffed his cheeks, or spread abroad his arms, or stamped the ground, or thumped his breast; or turned his eyes sometimes to the ceiling, and sometimes to the floor.'

In 1759, in the month of January, his mother died at the great age of ninety, an event which deeply affected him; not that 'his mind had acquired no firmness by the contemplation of mortality;' but that his reverential affection for her was not abated by years, as indeed he retained all his tender feelings even to the latest period of his life.

I have been told that he regretted much his not having gone to visit his mother for several years, previous to her death. But he was constantly engaged in literary labours which confined him to London; and though he had not the comfort of seeing his aged parent, he contributed liberally to her support.

(To be continued. This week’s episode brought to you by Bob’s Bowery Bar™, at the corner of Bleecker and the Bowery: “Try Bob’s Passover Special “Cellar-Fermented ‘Vintage Port Wine’, guaranteed ‘kosher’!”)

part 37