Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Dimbola Lodge Home of Julia Margaret Cameron Haunted...


An episode of Haunted History investigating Dimbola Lodge, home of nineteenth-century pioneer photographer, Julia Margaret Cameron on the Isle of Wight. About twenty minutes in length this video shows the inside of the home which is now a museum. You will see Mrs. Cameron's piano with a book on top of it which was her piano that she owned and played all the time. You will also see her upstairs bedroom as well as her numerous photographs on the wall. So, please pay close attention as you watch it. Here is your chance to visit her home on the Isle of Wight!

 Julia Margaret Cameron photographed by Oscar Gustave Rejlander in 1863 playing her Erridge Piano. Is it the same one in the video?

The white building is Dimbola Lodge, Isle of Wight, UK 

Monday, October 28, 2013

Halloween with William Blake and Henry Fuseli for the most part!

 The Wicked Fairy for 'At the Back of the North Wind' by Arthur Hughes c.1870

 The Night of Enitharmon's Joy (formerly called 'Hecate') c.1795 by William Blake, Tate Gallery

William Blake depicts Enitharmon, a female character in his mythology, or Hecate, the goddess of magic and the underworld.  She is The Triple Hecate or The Triple Goddess as represented in Celtic Mythology. The triple theme also relates to the religious aspect of the Holy Trinity: The Father, The Son, and the Holy Ghost.  Though, doubtful that is what Blake is channeling here. Hecate, ‘is triple, according to mythology; a girl and a boy hide their heads behind her back. Her left hand lies on a book of magic; her left foot is extended. She is attended by a thistle-eating ass, the mournful owl of false wisdom, the head of a crocodile and a cat-headed bat.’ 

The Nightmare 1781 Oil on canvas  by John Henry Fuseli

There are two versions of The Nightmare is one of the first paintings that comes to mind when you think Gothic or Horror. The painting depicts a woman lying down in her bedroom either asleep or in erotic orgasm as she is taken by some sort of imp as a horse  looks on in the background. The painting is one of supernatural themes and was first exhibited in public in 1782. 

The Nightmare by Henry Fuseli, 1790, Tate Gallery

The Mandrake A Charm by Henry Fuseli, 1785, Tate Gallery

So the legend goes that the Mandrake  holds mystical powers and when you pull it out and dig it out by the root it screams.Well, wouldn't you? When this painting was exhibited in 1785, a critic wrote: ‘We have frequently had occasion to admire the enthusiasm and eccentricity of this artist’s imagination; but here it is genius run mad.’ He noted how odd it was that the witch’s daughter was so fashionably dressed. (Tate Gallery)

Anyone else thinking...
Mandrake scene in Harry Potter...don't forget your earmuffs! 

The Witch and The Mandrake by Henry Fuseli, 1812, Tate Gallery
In this case The Mandrake is shown as a human female figure instead of the rooted plant! I wonder why Fuseli went that way?

The Night-Hag Visiting Lapland Witches by Henry Fuseli, 1796, Tate Gallery

According to Tate Gallery this painting was lent to the Tate by The Metropolitan Museum of Art. The Background of the painting, '
'This scene of supernatural wickedness is derived from a simile in John Milton’s Paradise Lost (1667). In the foreground, a witch squatting next to a child laid onto a stone slab is momentarily distracted by the arrival of the ‘night hag’. That figure is the horserider surrounded by a weird glow and accompanied by a pack of hounds. Witches dance wildly in the mid-ground. They are celebrating the imminent sacrifice of the child.
… About her middle round
A cry of Hell-hounds never-ceasing barked
With wide Cerberean mouths full loud, and rung
A hideous peal; yet, when they list, would creep,
If aught disturbed their noise, into her womb,
And kennel there; yet there still barked and howled
Within unseen. Far less abhorred than these
Vexed Scylla, bathing in the sea that parts
Calabria from the hoarse Trinacrian shore;
Nor uglier follow the night-hag, when, called
In secret, riding through the air she comes,
Lured with the smell of infant blood, to dance
With Lapland witches, while the labouring moon
Eclipses at their charms.
John Milton,
Paradise Lost (1667), Book II, ll.613-26:

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Author Interview with John Batchelor discussing his biography Tennyson: To strive, to seek, to find!

When John Batchelor's latest biography, 'Tennyson: To strive, to seek, to find' came out in hardcover in the United Kingdom last year, I bought it immediately! I read it cover-to-cover and then reviewed it on Amazon UK. After exchanging emails he agreed to answer my questions!
 UK hardcover

Alfred Lord Tennyson, Queen Victoria's favourite poet, commanded a wider readership than any other of his time. His ascendancy was neither the triumph of pure genius nor an accident of history:he skilfully crafted his own career and his relationships with his audience. Fame and recognition came, lavishly and in abundance, but the hunger for more never left him. Like many successful Victorians, he was a provincial determined to make good in the capital while retaining his regional strengths. One of eleven children, he remained close to his extended family and never lost his Lincolnshire accent.Resolving never to be anything except 'a poet', he wore his hair long, smoked incessantly and sported a cloak and wide-brimmed Spanish hat.

Tennyson ranged widely in his poetry, turning his interests in geology, evolution and Arthurian legend into verse, but much of his work relates to his personal life. The tragic loss of Arthur Hallam, a brilliant friend and fellow Apostle at Cambridge, fed into some of his most successful and best-known poems. It took Tennyson seventeen years to complete his great elegy for Hallam, In Memoriam, a work which established his fame and secured his appointment as Poet Laureate. 

The poet who wrote The Lady of Shalott and The Charge of the Light Brigade has become a permanent part of our culture. This enjoyable and thoughtful new biography shows him as a Romantic as well as a Victorian, exploring both the poems and Tennyson's attempts at play writing, as well as the pressures of his age and the personal relationships that made the man. 

“John Batchelor's biography should stand, in years to come, as the most advisable entry point into this most inscrutable of poets.” (The Spectator)
“This is a perceptive biography, admirably identifying the social origins of Tennyson’s spiritual torments.” (The Sunday TImes (London))

“This is a biography for everybody interested in poetry. Any evening devoted to Tennyson would express the whole wonderful, vivid world of the English language.” (Antonia Fraser)

“John Batchelor’s book is acute in its examination of Tennyson’s character and his importance for Victorian culture.” (The Times Literary Supplement)  

 John Batchelor
 John Batchelor is Emeritus Professor from Newcastle University. Formerly Joseph Cowen Professor of English Literature at Newcastle, he was also a visiting Professor of the University of Lancaster and previously a Fellow of New College Oxford. His books include biographies of John Ruskin, monographs on the work of Virginia Woolf and H.G. Wells, and a study of the Edwardian novel. His book Lady Trevelyan and the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, is a lively biography of Pauline Trevelyan, who established a salon of the arts at Wallington, Northumberland. John Batchelor was until recently an editor (English and American literature) of the literary periodical Modern Language Review and general editor of the Yearbook of English Studies.

Thank you, Mr. Batchelor for your generosity and time answering my questions and agreeing to let me interview you in this way. It is a distinct honor to welcome John Batchelor to Kimberly Eve Musings of a Writer.  I hope you all enjoy reading this interview covering his latest biography on 'Tennyson: to strive, to seek, to find' and a bit on John Ruskin and Lady Trevelyan as well! 

  1. Was there an aspect of Tennyson’s life that you found most difficult to research and write about?
There were two things which were particularly problematic.  I had to work into the period and into the Tennyson family several generations back in order to have a sense to my own satisfaction of quite why the household of George Clayton Tennyson, the poet’s clergyman father, was as dysfunctional and messed up as it clearly was.  I think part of the answer is that Tennyson’s father was an exception. Previous generations of Tennysons had been hard working and upwardly mobile local Lincolnshire people with absolute confidence in wealth and property. Tennyson’s grandfather lived by the standards of these people and was bewildered by his oldest son (Tennyson’s father) who was a questioning, rebellious, brilliant young man.  Grandfather Tennyson simply could not understand his son so he effectively disinherited him, with  tragic consequences (George  Clayton Tennyson died of drink while Tennyson was still an undergraduate at Cambridge).  

The second problem was over his sexuality.  After his death his family efficiently destroyed  a great many of his papers relating to his early life (including any relating to Rosa Baring, his first love) so there is not much evidence.  I thought about this historically and contextually; what was the behaviour of his close circle of young friends and contemporaries at Cambridge?   These young men were a privileged elite, they lived with a sense of entitlement, the relaxed morals of the Regency were still in force.  Tennyson was a self-indulgent personality in other ways (with drink, particularly);  it is reasonable to suppose that he had casual experience with young  women as his friends did.  As for  the possibility that his relationship with Arthur Hallam was homosexual; I think that if he did have such feelings for Arthur he did not understand them and certainly didn’t act on them.  

2.  What part of Tennyson’s life surprised you most and why?  

I was surprised by the contradictoriness of so much of the story. He became a national figure and a Lord, but retained his Lincolnshire accent and with it a whole set of decidedly provincial attitudes.  As a young man he supported an insurrection in Spain but later backed the brutal repression of a radical uprising in Jamaica.  His personal treatment of women could be a bit patriarchal, but he thought deeply about women’s role in the world and wrote vividly about education and political equality for women. He was the best lyricist of his age yet devoted a surprising amount of time and energy to writing clunky historical dramas.  

He was loving towards the dead, callous with the living: in memory of his friend Arthur Hallam (who died aged 22) he wrote his masterpiece, In Memoriam,  which is intensely sensitive and passionate, yet loyal friends  of his  young manhood (like Edward Fitzgerald and James Spedding)  found themselves distanced by him in later life.  

               3.   After writing ‘To Strive To Seek To Find,’ did your perspective of Tennyson or opinion of him change at all?

Yes, a lot; indeed, almost entirely.  I had thought of him as having what E.D.H.Johnson called the ‘alien vision’ of a Romantic genius in a materialist society. But as I explored the groups to which he belonged, the ambitions that he had, his resolute social climbing and the determination with which he turned himself into a national monument (with his Shakespearean-style  history plays and his Arthurian narrative poems) I saw him differently.  He was a Romantic, and retained his lyricism and his visionary gifts to the end;  but his Romanticism  was effectively tempered and geared to the taste and preferences of the age.

               4.  Having written biographies on John Ruskin and Lady Trevelyan, what made you choose Alfred Lord Tennyson? I find it very   interesting that Tennyson knew both Ruskin and Trevelyan and you’ve written about all three of them!  

I worked on Ruskin because I was deeply interested in the relationship between the arts and society, and the linked collision between religion and science, which engaged intelligent Victorians. Ruskin’s work brought art, architecture, religion and science together into a series of works which have a uniting impulse, which is to enable humans to live happily.  This was a tormented man who believed in happiness for others but never found it in his own life.  His writings stimulated the works of the Pre-Raphaelite painters, and Tennyson in turn found in some of those paintings rich stimulus for his poetry. Additionally, Tennyson and Ruskin in their different ways invoked the past and the natural world to balance the vulgarity of industrial Britain.  Lady Trevelyan was the most loyal and intelligent of Ruskin’s women disciples; she was expert in a number of exciting contemporary fields, including geology, and she loved the company of highly intelligent men.  Newcastle university library, where I work, has an excellent archive of her papers,  and she lived in Northumberland, 25 miles from Newcastle, in a great country house, Wallington, which she redesigned on  broadly Pre-Raphaelite principles  with help from Ruskin. 

Historically, Tennyson was a giant of the age, a figure on the scale of Dickens and Darwin. Tennyson’s poetry  had interested me ever since I was an undergraduate and I had always enjoyed giving courses of lectures on him for students, so in a way this book harvested all that I had thought about Tennyson over a long period.  I was also able to feed into it the thinking about Victorian society that had been stimulated by the two previous biographies.

5.           What are you currently working on?

I‘ve recently written an essay on Kipling’s poetry and I am planning a new critical biography of Kipling, stresses the writings  and then exploring his work within the context of his life. This will involve travelling to India, where I have never been, and I look forward to it.

6.           Could you talk a bit about your writing process and your research when writing a biography?

I like to go back to primary sources, and in the case of Tennyson there is a great deal of archive material to consult.  There are important collections of Tennyson papers in Harvard and Yale, and in the library of Trinity College, Cambridge; but the greatest wealth of papers is in two archives in Lincoln; the county archives and, especially,  the Tennyson Research Centre, which is a lovely place in which to work. I also spent a good amount of time visiting the places connected with Tennyson and his family in Lincolnshire. I like to have a firm view of the story, the chronology and the personality of the central figure before getting into it properly. Jacques in As You Like It speaks of the seven ages of man; to me there are nine  (I am not quite sure why)!  Each of my biographies so far has started as nine separate section headings with  detailed notes and a narrative of some 8 to 10 thousands words; these then become  the foundation on which I can build.  

'Tennyson: To strive, to seek, to find' by John Batchelor is out now in UK and Europe available at Amazon UK
 US hardcover. Cover portrait by G.F. Watts
 The US hardcover edition comes out this December available at Amazon

Author website at Newcastle University, John Batchelor 

Friday, October 18, 2013

Edgar Allan Poe's Terror of the Soul: The exhibit at The Morgan: October 4, 2013 through January 26, 2014

Terror of the Soul comes from a phrase Poe wrote in his preface to Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque and is the name of the Edgar Allan Poe exhibit currently running at The Morgan in Manhattan, New York.  This is a true Poe exhibit. Here you will not find letters, painting portraits, from his wife, Virginia Poe or fellow authoress, Frances Osgood. There was a mention of Poe’s friend and enemy Griswold in a letter but it is strictly a male dominated exhibit.  For instance, within the two rooms are featured framed on the wall Poe’s handwritten works Annabel Lee and The Bells, one of the earliest printings of ‘The Raven’, three copies of Tamerlane, his earliest published work, the first printing of The Cask of Amontillado. Some lesser known works such as A Reviewer Reviewed which is a never-before-exhibited piece he wrote under a pseudonym and his annotated copy of his last published book, Eureka are here.

Let’s get to some of my favorite pieces…

 Now, I could have sworn that I read in one of the magazine exhibit mentions that Edgar Allan Poe's coffin was going to be included in this exhibit. I believe it was in his museum in Baltimore but there was no coffin, here! The Gothic lover in me was intrigued and fascinated at the same time to have an opportunity to cast my eyes upon such an item. In fact, I was tempted to title this review, "Damn, No Coffin!"  There was under glass a wood fragment with Poe's faded signature on it, supposedly from his coffin featured in this exhibit along with a bust of Poe in the corner of the room.  The bulk of this first room shared space with a smaller exhibit of J.D. Salinger letters, so I walked into the larger red walled room featured above...Here was Utopia...to the right side of this photo was a recent portrait of Poe that was featured by the artist on a stamp. Not a nineteenth-century painting and the only painting included it was beautiful to behold. For me, the highlight were the daguerreotypes featured and the author letters under glass...but I'll get there! 

Edgar Allan Poe color portrait by Michael J. Deas (1956) and (2008), The Morgan Library, NYC

You will find three daguerreotypes included in this exhibit. Two are my favorites and are just really fascinating for different reasons. One image of Poe’s face represents Terror of the Soul; this is the “Ultima Thule” daguerreotype. It was made four days after Poe took an overdose of laudanum which is looked upon as an attempt to take his life. Matthew Brady was believed to be the photographer but it is a myth which some believe not to be true.  As is the case with Edgar Allan Poe, not every aspect of his life is proven. 

 Daguerreotype of Edgar Allan Poe by Masury & Hartshorn, [Providence, Rhode Island, November 1848]
Purchased by Pierpont Morgan, 1909

The second daguerreotype was a beautiful smaller image of Poe in a black leather case. William Pratt opened the Virginia Sky Light Daguerrean Gallery in Richmond in 1846, seven years after the daguerreotype was introduced to the United States. According to Pratt, Poe never fulfilled a promise he once made to pose for him until they bumped into each other on a sidewalk in front of his gallery in mid-September 1849. Poe said he was not suitably dressed but was coaxed upstairs and photographed. The image shows a man, as disheveled as he claimed to be, with a haggard face betraying his emotional condition. Poe died in Baltimore three weeks later. Pratt held a patent on a daguerreotype coloring process, used to impart flesh tone to Poe’s face and hand. 

  William Pratt (1822-1893).  Daguerreotype portrait of Edgar Allan Poe. Daguerreotype photograph, (10 x 7.5 cm.) Richmond, Virginia: Pratt's Gallery, September 1849, The Morgan Library, NYC

An interesting section of the wall housed framed photographs of some of Poe’s fellow admirers such as:  Oscar Wilde, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Walt Whitman and even George Bernard Shaw!  Also, autographed manuscripts are displayed under glass: Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1885), Oscar Wilde’s, ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’ 1896), Sir Arthur Conan-Doyle’s, ‘The Hound of the Baskervilles.  

      Sir Arthur Conan Doyle                                                                                                                                                               Oscar Wilde

Autograph Manuscript of Oscar Wilde's 'Dorian Gray'

Robert Louis Stevenson's 'Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde' Autograph Manuscript

My favorite Conan-Doyle story, 'Hound of the Baskervilles' Autograph Manuscript
 An interesting engraving found on the wall of Edgar Allan Poe by Thomas B. Welch and Adam B. Walter, 1844, from Graham's Magazine 27, February 1845. 
Edgar Allan Poe said of this steel engraving, 'It scarcely resembles me at all!'

 The highlight might have been Poe's handwritten poem, Annabel Lee

A book review of The Ghost Ship by Kate Mosse

New York Times  bestselling author Kate Mosse returns with  The Ghost Ship , a sweeping historical epic of adventure on the high seas. The B...