Archive for October 4, 2021

Page Seventeen II: The Klumps

Posted in FILM, literature, Painting with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 4, 2021 by dcairns

But while the Americans were pussyfooting around the English language trying to invent new ways of describing an old deed, the British had few (if any) qualms and certainly had no particular ethical problems about assassination.

In these assassinations of princes and statesmen, there is nothing to excite our wonder: important changes often depend on their deaths; and, from the eminence on which they stand, they are peculiarly exposed to the aim of every artist who happens to be possessed by the craving for scenical effect. But there is another class of assassinations, which has prevailed from the early period of the seventeenth century, that really does surprise me; I mean the assassination of philosophers. For, gentlemen, it is a fact, that every philosopher of eminence for the last two centuries has either been murdered, or, at the very least, been very near it; insomuch, that if a man call himself a philosopher, and never had his life attempted, rest assured there is nothing in him; and against Locke’s philosophy in particular, I think it an unanswerable objection, (if we needed any) that, although he carried his throat about with him in this world for seventy-two years, no man ever condescended to cut it. As these cases of philosophers are not much known, and are generally good and well composed in their circumstances, I shall here read an excursus on the subject, chiefly by way of showing my own learning.

The true and detailed story of how the young Dowager Empress managed to defeat the Regency Council in her struggle for power is unknown to us. We do, however, know the result. Tzu Hsi won and one of her first edicts which ushered in her 47-year rule of China read:

You know what it is to be born alone, baby tortoise!

He remembered how, ten months or possibly ten years ago, he had encountered a box turtle in a forest clearing, and had shouted at it: “They went that-away!” The turtle’s rigidly comical face, fixed in a caricature of startled disapproval, had seemed to point up some truth or other. Brian had hunkered down on the moss and laughed uproariously, until he observed that some of the laughter was weeping.

I am still not clear how I got here. There are no turtles. There is no bay.

This afternoon I bought a marked-down bird book with plates by John Gould (1804-1881). There’s a handsome picture of two oyster-catchers. ‘At running, diving and swimming they are unrivalled, while their vigilance is greatly appreciated by the other birds of the shore,’ says the book. The newer bird books have hundreds of posh pictures, the proficiency of the artists is dazzling. But the birds all looks as if they’d been done from photographs. Certainly there were no such bird pictures before the camera came into use. Gould’s birds are beautiful but modestly done and he seems to have looked at each one carefully and long. His eagle owl, Bubo bubo, is all ferocity but without malice. Dangling from his beak is a dead rabbit who looks exactly like Peter Rabbit without the blue jacket. Bubo bubo’s dreadful amber eyes say simply, ‘It has fallen to me to do this. It is my lot.’ His fierce woolly owl-babies huddle before him waiting for their dinner.

Terminate with Extreme Prejudice: An exposé of the assassination game, its killers and their paymasters by Richard Belfield; On Murder Considered as one of the Fine Arts by Thomas DeQuincey; The Autobiography of Henry Pu Yi: The Last Manchu edited by Paul Kramer; Baby Tortoise by D.H. Lawrence, from The Faber Book of Beasts edited by Paul Muldoon; The Music Master of Babylon by Edgar Pangborn, from The Mammoth Book of Science Fiction Volume One, edited by David G. Hartwell; Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut; Turtle Diary by Russell Hoban.