The Book, Cat, & Cat Book Lovers Almanac

of historical trivia regarding books, cats, and other animals. Actually this blog has evolved so that it is described better as a blog about cats in history and culture. And we take as a theme the advice of Aldous Huxley: If you want to be a writer, get some cats. Don't forget to see the archived articles linked at the bottom of the page.

June 28, 2017

June 28, 1873

You may well have benefited from the research of Alexis Carrel  (June 28, 1873 to November 5, 1944). He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 1912 for his invention of sutures.

In an article about the care of the wounded in the war, which appeared in the periodical The World's Work (volume 33: November 1916 to April 1917), we learn of Carrel's return to his homeland during the war, and the help he rendered: " the discovery of a cheap and thoroughly practicable method for the speedy sterilization of deep wounds, an end toward which Lister started blazing the trail, but along which trail, however, comparatively little progress had been made down to a couple of years ago."

The same article gives us illumination on the popular perception of Carrel:

Up to the time of the outbreak of the war Dr. Carrel. although already known to the medical profession of the world as one of its very greatest investigators in the field of scientific surgery, was best known to the general public as the man who had grafted the leg of a black dog upon the body of a white dog so successfully that the latter was able to scratch his fleas with the claws of the transplanted member. The American Sunday papers had hailed him, because of some astonishing experiments he had conducted in the rejuvenation of old dogs and cats (he had actually turned an aged. mangy, and blear-eyed cur of the street, if not quite into a Pekingese puppy, at least into a strong, healthy canine that gulped its food, frisked when whistled to, and apparently had reasonable expectation of many years of life), as the man who was going to locate the fabled “Fountain of Perpetual Youth,” so vainly sought by Ponce de Leon, somewhere in the vicinity of the Rockefeller Institute....
Who was this French genius. Let us look at a write-up which discussed Carrel's investigation of certain Lourdes events in 1902. This is well worth reading though I must just excerpt a few highlights. We are quoting from an article by Father Stanley L. Jaki. author of Means to Message: A Treatise on Truth (1999), and winner of a 1987 Templeton prize. The subject is Alexis Carrel.

[In 1994...] the joint authors of an article in Scientific American credited Carrel with having initiated all major advances in modern surgery, including organ transplants. In the 1920s he was a chief celebrity of New York City. Important visitors vied with one another to be admitted to his labs at Rockefeller University. They wanted to see a piece of tissue from the heart of a chicken embryo which Carrel kept alive from 1922 on in a special solution. It became a journalistic cliché to claim that Dr Carrel was on his way to discovering the secret of immortality.

Carrel had a brush with immortality in another way. This happened when he witnessed at close range a miraculous cure in Lourdes. In fact, he witnessed two such cures. The second took place in 1910, when he saw the sudden restoration of the sight of an 18-month-old boy who was born blind.

By far the more famous of the two cures is, of course, the first. It took place on May 28, 1902. It is known as the Marie Bailly case. ....

We read...
[in the Scientific American article] that "Carrel was an intensely religious man." He was not. ... [A] fellow doctor, a former classmate of his... asked Carrel to take his place as the doctor in charge of a train carrying sick people to Lourdes.

Carrel was interested in Lourdes, but not because he wanted to check on the authenticity of miracles. At that time and for many years afterwards, he did not believe in miracles. He merely wanted to see at close range the fast rate of the healing of wounds reported from Lourdes.

Actually, Carrel very much hoped that nobody in that community would learn about his having gone to Lourdes. He knew that the mere rumor of it would jeopardize his career in the Medical Faculty of the University of Lyons, where at that time he was assistant professor of anatomy.

What happened was that the sudden cure of Marie Bailly became widely known in Lyons, together with the fact that Carrel was present at her cure. A newspaper published an article, implying that Carrel refused to believe in the miracle. Carrel then was forced to publish a reply which pleased nobody. He blasted the believers for taking too readily something unusual for a miracle. He also took to task those, and they were largely the members of the medical community, who refused to look at facts whenever they appeared to be miraculous.

Half a year later Carrel had to leave the Medical School. He first went to Paris, from there to Montreal, from there to the University of Chicago, and from there, via a lecture at Johns Hopkins, to the Rockefeller Institute. The Marie Bailly case became big news in France only from 1913 on, after Carrel, with the halo of the Nobel Prize around his head, returned to France for a visit.

Before taking a look at the case itself, a few words may be in order about Carrel. He came from a devout Catholic family and was educated by the Jesuits. By the time he entered the University, he no longer practiced his religion. He was a second-year medical student when the French President, Sadi Carnot, was assassinated by an anarchist in Lyons in 1894. The knife of the anarchist cut a thick artery. The President lingered on for two days and then died. At that time the suturing of a large blood vessel was still a hit-and-miss affair.

Carrel the young medical student decided to solve the problem. Six years later, already an MD and an assistant in the anatomy department, Carrel read a paper on May 12, 1902, before the Medical Society of Lyons. The paper made medical history as Carrel knew it would. Clearly, he was in that state of euphoria in which one is apt to throw caution to the wind. Two weeks later he found himself on the train that carried Marie Bailly to Lourdes.
Marie Bailly was born in 1878. Both her father, an optician, and her mother died of tuberculosis. Of her five siblings only one was free of that disease. She was twenty when she first showed symptoms of pulmonary tuberculosis. A year later she was diagnosed with tuberculous meningitis, from which she suddenly recovered when she used Lourdes water. In two more years, in 1901, she came down with tubercular peritonitis. Soon she could not retain food. In March 1902 doctors in Lyons refused to operate on her for fear that she would die on the operating table.

On May 25, 1902, she begged her friends to smuggle her onto a train that carried sick people to Lourdes. She had to be smuggled because, as a rule, such trains were forbidden to carry dying people. The train left Lyons at noon. At two o'clock next morning she was found dying. Carrel was called. He gave her morphine by the light of a kerosene lamp and stayed with her. Three hours later he diagnosed her case as tuberculous peritonitis and said half aloud that she would not arrive in Lourdes alive. The immediate diagnosis at that time largely depended on the procedure known as palpation.

In Lourdes Marie Bailly was examined by several doctors. On May 27 she insisted on being carried to the Grotto, although the doctors were afraid that she would die on the way there. Carrel himself took such a grim view of her condition that he vowed to become a monk if she reached the Grotto alive, a mere quarter of a mile from the hospital.

The rest is medical history. It is found in Dossier 54 of the Archives of the Medical Bureau of Lourdes. The Dossier contains the immediate depositions by three doctors, including Carrel, and Marie Bailly's own account, which she wrote in November and gave to Carrel, who then duly forwarded it to the Medical Bureau in Lourdes...

Carrel could not help registering that she was cured. What will you do with your life now?Carrel asked her. I will join the Sisters of Charity to spend my life caring for the sick, was the answer. The next day she boarded the train on her own, and after a 24-hour trip on hard benches, she arrived refreshed in Lyons. There she took the streetcar and went to the family home, where she had to prove that she was Marie Bailly indeed, who only five days earlier had left Lyons in a critical condition.

Carrel continued to take a great interest in her. He asked a psychiatrist to test her every two weeks, which was done for four months. She was regularly tested for traces of tuberculosis. In late November she was declared to be in good health both physically and mentally. In December she entered the novitiate in Paris. Without ever having a relapse she lived the arduous life of a Sister of Charity until 1937, when she died at the age of 58.

..... He kept going back to Lourdes so that he might see more sudden cures, more very fast healing of wounds. He hoped that this way he would gain a glimpse of a purely natural force that works miraculous healing and does so through the power of prayer, which he took for a purely natural psychic force.

The proof of this is in his famous book,
Man the Unknown, which first appeared in French in 1934 and then in English, and then in thirty other languages. There he speaks in precisely this vein of various Lourdes miracles......[
prayer, is a purely natural psychic force.]

June 27, 2017

June 27, 1918

In the Paris of the early eighteen-nineties, at the height of the Decadence, the man of the moment was the novelist, art critic, and would-be guru Joséphin Péladan, who named himself Le Sâr, after the ancient Akkadian word for “king.” He went about in a flowing white cloak, an azure jacket, a lace ruff, and an Astrakhan hat, which, in conjunction with his bushy head of hair and double-pointed beard, gave him the aspect of a Middle Eastern potentate. He was in the midst of writing a twenty-one-volume cycle of novels, titled “La Décadence Latine,” which follows the fantastical adventures of various enchanters, adepts, femmes fatales, androgynes, and other enemies of the ordinary. His bibliography also includes literary tracts, explications of Wagnerian mythology, and a self-help tome called “How One Becomes a Magus.” He let it be known that he had completed the syllabus. He informed Félix Faure, the President of the Republic, that he had the gift of “seeing and hearing at the greatest distances, useful in controlling enemy councils and suppressing espionage.” He began one lecture by saying, “People of Nîmes, I have only to pronounce a certain formula for the earth to open and swallow you all.” In 1890, he established the Order of the Catholic Rose + Croix of the Temple and the Grail, one of a number of end-of-century sects that purported to revive lost arts of magic. The peak of his fame arrived in 1892, when he launched an annual art exhibition called the Salon de la Rose + Croix, which embraced the Symbolist movement, with an emphasis on its more eldritch guises. Thousands of visitors passed through, uncertain whether they were witnessing a colossal breakthrough or a monumental joke.

This is the beginning of a New Yorker article purporting to explicate "the occult roots of modernism." The focus is Josephin Péladan (March 28, 1858 to June 27, 1918.) His play “Oedipus and the Sphinx” (1903), like his novels, is not available in English.

The thesis of the New Yorker article is that "mystics like Péladan prepared the ground for the modernist revolution of the early twentieth century."

"In the wake of two catastrophic world wars, mysticism lost its lustre."
And people forgot about Péladan.

The historical situation is misrepresented in this article we link to.

Peladan was not an influential part of the story, merely the product of forces difficult to discern beneath the public clamor. His career was a late efflorescence of the shock consequent to the advances of the natural sciences. The term "mysticism" has lost any denotative value in this context, and Pelandan helped ground into rubble such useful stepping stones. His garish ideas about psychic powers, for instance, make it harder to recover authentic possibilities. 

His type however is still around and flourishing.

June 26, 2017

June 26, 1936

Nancy Willard (June 26, 1936 to February 19, 2017) an American writer, published in various genres including children's literature. Some of her book titles:

The Nightgown of the Sullen Moon, illustrated by David McPhail, 1983.
The Marzipan Moon, illustrated by Marcia Sewall, 1981.
The Mountains of Quilt, illustrated by Tomie de Paolo, 1987.
The Tortilla Cat, illustrated by Jeanette Winter, Harcourt, 1997.

And she wrote many books for adults: poetry, criticism, novels, such as:

Skin of Grace, (University of Missouri Press), 1967.
A New Herball: Poems, 1968.
Testimony of the Invisible Man: William Carlos Williams, Francis Ponge, Rainer Maria Rilke, Pablo Neruda, 1970.
Childhood of the Magician , 1973.
The Left-handed Story: Writing and the Writing Life, University of Michigan Press, 2008.

It was only decades after she won a Newberry prize (1982) for one of her children's books
A Visit to William Blake's Inn: Poems for Innocent and Experienced Travelers, (1981),
that it was discovered a poem Nancy Willard wrote had been attributed to William Blake. This misattribution was disseminated by leading British educational authorities. Here is the text of Willard's poem, and we deviate from our usual policy of not quoting entire texts, since this is brief, and, the news value considerable.

Two Sunflowers Move into the Yellow Room

“Ah, William, we’re weary of weather,”
said the sunflowers, shining with dew.
“Our traveling habits have tired us.
Can you give us a room with a view?”

They arranged themselves at the window
and counted the steps of the sun,
and they both took root in the carpet
where the topaz tortoises run.

We will quote a report on this scandal in the librarian's world:
For more than a decade pupils have been taught "Two Sunflowers Move into the Yellow Room" was the work of William Blake, the radical 19th century English poet and painter.
But research by Thomas Pitchford, a librarian at Hitchin Boys School, has discovered that it was written by Nancy Willard, a 20th century American poet and novelist.
Somehow her work, which appeared in the 1981 anthology “A visit to William Blake’s Inn”, has been attributed to Blake - even though the Willard book won the Newbery Medal, America’s highest award for children’s literature.
What Mr Pitchford describes as a “sizeable” blunder appears to have been accepted by the Times Educational Supplement, one OFSTED inspector and two eminent American organisations, the National Council of Teachers of English and the International Reading Association.
The error, according to Mr Pitchford’s detective work, appears to have started in 2001 on the Oracle Education Foundation’s website where a group of students attributed Ms Willard’s homage to Blake to the poet himself.
Thanks to the power of the internet the misinterpretation became accepted wisdom, being reproduced in aids for teachers.
“In less than ten years a simple, rather innocent and easily fixable error has evolved into school policy and good practice simply due to the blind acceptance of quick and easy “research”,” Mr Pitchford has written in his blog, the libraryspider.....

David Millward is the journalist who wrote the above. I may just point out that the book A Visit to William Blake's Inn is not an anthology. And the picture of Blake accompanying Millward's article is mislabeled, though the journalist did not write the caption. And you should visit the website:

June 25, 2017

June 25, 1923

Nicholas Mosley (June 25, 1923 to February 28, 2017) British writer, has had movies made from his novels.

Impossible Object (1968), which one critic likened to a crossword puzzle and which was filmed by John Frankenheimer as Story of a Love Story (1973), was shortlisted for the first Booker prize, in 1969. A later novel, Hopeful Monsters, the fifth part of the Catastrophe Practice series, became the Whitbread book of the year in 1990.

His Guardian obituary continues:

In the 50s ...[Nicholas Mosley] entered a religious phase influenced by Father Raymond Raynes, superior of the Anglican Community of the Resurrection. In 1961 he wrote a biography of Raynes. He followed it with Experience and Religion: A Lay Essay in Theology (1964). Although he did not use the title, in 1966 he succeeded to the Ravensdale barony on the death of his aunt Irene.

Mosley's essays and nonfiction will perhaps last longer than his fiction. Though this is hardly the level of paradox to which Nicholas Mosley pointed when he wrote -

"[H]ow often this experiment [Schrodinger's Cat] is trotted out by apologists for paradox!" But apologist for paradox is one way to describe the biography for which Mosley may be best remembered, that of his father, Oswald Mosley, who founded the British Union of Fascists. 

In 1938 it was only from newspaper headlines that Nicholas learned of his father’s remarriage, one reading: Hitler Was Sir Oswald’s Best Man. Oswald and Diana had married in Germany in Joseph Goebbels’s house two years previously, but had kept it secret even after the birth of their first son, Alexander. Nicholas chose to tell friends at Eton that it was a press invention. To his father he wrote that he was upset at the secrecy. “I am longing to have a talk with you about what you feel about Mummy and Diana.” ....

In 1940 Oswald and Diana were arrested and interned, and their children, including the newborn Max, were separated from them. Oswald had been expounding his belief that, if left alone, Hitler would ignore Britain and concentrate on defeating the Soviet Union. His son recalled that, at the time, he thought his father “a politician less lunatic than most”. But few others in Britain agreed, many viewing Oswald’s utterances as treasonable. In the Rifle Brigade, later during the second world war, on being introduced, Nicholas was often greeted: “Not any relation of that bastard?”...

Nicholas was demobbed early as he had a scholarship awaiting him from Balliol. He decided to read philosophy, but was disappointed to find that in Oxford in the 40s philosophy was historical, meaning Descartes, Hume and Kant. He stayed at Oxford for just a year, feeling that he would have to work things out for himself. There he courted Rosemary Salmond, who was “someone who seemed to be in tune with my feeling that it was the world that was half over the edge, but that she and I might be able to hang on by my fingertips”....

...[At] the end of Oswald’s life, when he had Parkinson’s disease and had finally quit politics, ...[he and his son] were reconciled. A week before his death in 1980, he decided his son should be his biographer, with access to all the Mosley papers. Nicholas knew that his father believed he would tell the truth as he saw it. The two volumes of biography were published as The Rules of the Game (1982) and Beyond the Pale (1983). Following Oswald’s death, Nicholas also inherited his baronetcy.

Nicholas Mosley...somehow...seemed to have found a way to admire and love him as a father, without sharing his views or excusing his faults.

June 24, 2017

June 24, 1961

Rebecca Solnit (June 24, 1961) prolific writer on cutting edge popular culture: author of, among other books, Wanderlust, A Book of Migrations, A Field Guide to Getting Lost, the NBCC award-winning River of Shadows and A Paradise20 Built In Hell. A contributing editor to Harper’s, she writes regularly for the London Review of Books and the Los Angeles Times.

Solnit also creates that popular culture--her 2014 book Men Explain Things to Me launched the term "mansplaining", and Solnit's position as a cultural icon, according to a recent Elle interview. This lengthy article is the basis of our points below, except that this essay does not mention Solnit's 2016 Christmas present to her friends:

"My "Christmas gift to all of you (and my first cat-video post ever)! It has EVERYTHING for EVERYBODY!" 

The video is about a guy bathing his orange tabby cat:
Guy Rapping About Giving His Cat a Bath Will Fulfill Your Cat Rap Needs for 2016

Our excerpts are from an interview conducted by Keziah Weir.

The title essay of Men Explain Things is based on an encounter Solnit had with an older man at his Aspen house party in 2003; he expounds at great length to her about a recent biography of Eadweard Muybridge, the pioneering stop-motion photographer famous for his image series of a horse galloping—talking over her friend's efforts to tell him that Solnit herself had written the book. "I like incidents of that sort," Solnit writes, "when forces that are usually so sneaky and hard to point out slither out of the grass and are as obvious as, say, an anaconda that's eaten a cow.".....

..... Men Explain Things... [contains] her trenchant take on FBI whistle-blower Coleen Rowley, who issued pre-9/11 warnings about Al Qaeda and was ignored by her mostly male colleagues.
The best part of her broader acclaim, Solnit says, is that it affords her more time to write. .... And the book that followed Men Explain Things was quintessential old-school Solnit: The Encyclopedia of Trouble and Spaciousness, a sprawling, 300-plus-page collection of essays about everything from cannibalistic Arctic polar bears to atomic explosions in Japan.....

It was in the early aughts that Solnit started to add overtly political essays to her repertoire, writing predominantly for smaller lefty publications. "I give this to the Bush era," she says, explaining how she wanted to address the "incredible despair around me as the war in Iraq broke out." The specific catalyst came during a banner week in 2003: First, New York University convened a panel that brought together neurologist Oliver Sacks, historian Simon Schama, artist Chuck Close, and Solnit to talk about Eadweard Muybridge, that mansplained subject of her then-upcoming book, River of Shadows: Eadweard Muybridge and the Technological Wild West (which would go on to win a Guggenheim Award). Her book Wanderlust was an answer on Jeopardy ("For $1,200, this impulse to travel is the title of Rebecca Solnit's book"). And she met Susan Sontag, at a New York Institute for the Humanities lunch. Afterward, Sontag invited Solnit to her apartment, and over hard-boiled eggs with pepper flakes in the famous critic's kitchen, Sontag asked for Solnit's input on a speech she was writing to honor a figure in Israel's anti-occupation movement. ...

Hope in the Dark: Untold Histories, Wild Possibilities, [is] her 2004 exploration of a concept that would become synonymous with the campaign of America's first black president— and which Solnit made available for free as an e-book the morning after Donald Trump's election. (It's since been downloaded 31,500-plus times.) "Here, in this book," she writes, "I want to propose a new vision of how change happens; I want to count a few of the victories that get overlooked….I want to start over, with an imagination adequate to the possibilities and the strangeness and the dangers on this earth in this moment." The pointillist essays in Hope in the Dark unpack a dizzying array of sociopolitical movements, showing how we got from the raising of the Berlin Wall to its dismantling in just 31 years; from a tiny group of "original activists" in London's nascent abolitionist crusade in 1785 to its flowering a quarter-century later in the U.S.; from the 1930s extinction of overhunted wolves in Yellowstone National Park to their return in 1995. "We are not who we were not very long ago," she writes.

When I reach Solnit at home in San Francisco the week after the election, she's the one who seems to need an injection of hope. "This is a massive disruption and crisis, and a lot of things could come of it," she says. "The scary thing is, a lot of what comes of it is up to us."

...In her thirties, Solnit tells me, she and her brother were chatting about how much they both liked to run in Golden Gate Park. He ran only on back trails, he told her, so he could avoid seeing any cars. She was shocked—she ran only on the main road, because she was afraid of lurking men. This, to her, is perhaps one of the most profound and unsettling differences between men and women: the former's propensity for violence, often against the latter...."Part of what I've tried to fight in my feminism is these stories that are exculpatory".... "If it's white men, they had mental health issues." Obviously some do, she continues, but the automatic assumption "avoids discussing how most violence, of every kind, is largely perpetrated by men," she says. "Mental illness, whether depression or psychosis, just disinhibits men. They follow patterns that are built into the culture."

..... The Golden Gate Park story stopped me cold, for one, echoing as it does the famous Margaret Atwood line: "Men are afraid women will laugh at them. Women are afraid men will kill them."...

Solnit describes her younger self as "a weird, rejected, battered kid." Growing up in a middle-class suburb of San Francisco, she was the sole daughter in a "superviolent, misogynistic" family of four children, she says. Her father, Al, was a county planner with a scathing temper: "One summer evening when I was about nine," she writes in A Field Guide, "my father came home late and found a forgotten glass of chocolate milk gone sour on the kitchen counter. Waste enraged him, and since I was the principal drinker of chocolate milk, he rushed into my room, flicked the light on, and dashed it in my face as I slept." ....

Solnit took the GED at 15 and enrolled the following year at the local College of Marin, where she happened upon a pamphlet about study-abroad programs—which offered her a way to extricate herself from both her family and a "creepy older boyfriend." She landed on Paris, in part because she'd become entranced by Romanesque art, but also because she was toying with becoming a model: She was tall and skinny, and thanks to her mother's job at a talent agency, she'd appeared as an extra in several movies (the best known of which was the Invasion of the Body Snatchers). At age 17, armed with a year of basic French, cash she'd saved from a job at a used-book store, and a semester's worth of tuition that comprised her college fund, Solnit enrolled at the American University in Paris. After a few shoots with small-time photographers, she abandoned the modeling plan: "The men in my family did a lot of body shaming, with my father the leader of the pack. It would've been difficult to be judged constantly." Her love of art stuck, however.

When—after a year and a half of full-time, scholarship-funded study—she returned to California, Solnit transferred to San Francisco State and soon moved into the studio apartment she'd rent for the next quarter century. After graduating in 1981, she enrolled in the journalism master's program at Berkeley while also working at MoMA San Francisco for the then-high wage of $7 an hour.

Although Solnit, as she says, "looked like a punk rocker and still was not the greatest communicator with people I regarded as grown-ups," she was given the task of researching and writing about major works of art for the museum's fiftieth-anniversary catalogue. When she finished at Berkeley at 23, Solnit was hired almost immediately as a full-time critic by Artweek magazine on the strength of her work at MoMA. She was officially a writer.

And we are better for it. This article we excerpt above is from the March 2017 issue of ELLE.  It is titled "The Philosopher Queen: Rebecca Solnit." The link is above; my purpose was not to convey its bigger picture, and you should read it.

June 23, 2017

June 23, 1935

Nikolai Tolstoy (June 23, 1935), is the English born son of a Russian immigrant. They are very distantly related to Leo. Describing his own connection, at that remove, from his father's homeland Nikolai Tolstoy wrote:

.... I think I was the most affected by those melancholy and evocative Russian homes where my elders, for the most part people of great charm and eccentricity, lived surrounded by the relics – ikons, Easter eggs, portraits of Tsar and Tsaritsa, family photographs, and émigré newspapers – of that mysterious, far-off land of wolves,boyars, and snow-forests of Ivan Bilibin's famous illustrations to Russian fairy-tales. Somewhere there was a real Russian land to which we all belonged, but it was shut away over distant seas and space of years.

His mother remarried, (Patrick O'Brian), and so Nikolai's youth was also formed by a connection with the novelist many consider

....the greatest British novelist of the twentieth century. The fifteen volumes of the series set in the Royal Navy of the beginning of the nineteenth century and featuring Aubrey and Maturin have been hailed as 'the best historical novels ever written' by the New York Times. 

Tolstoy later wrote O'Brian's biography, Patrick O'Brian: The Making of the Novelist (2004), and we learn from his Google Books blurb:

This volume will tell the story of O'Brian's life up to his decision to move to Collioure in the South of France. His oppressed childhood, his precocious writing success, his first marriage, divorce and name change are all dealt with. Along the way Tolstoy reveals the seeds of inspiration that one day would lead to comparisons with Jane Austen and even Homer. Nikolai Tolstoy was O'Brian's stepson and knew him better than any other person. His acquaintanceship with him lasted forty-five years during most of O'Brian's marriage to Mary Tolstoy, Nikolai's mother. Tolstoy stayed with the couple regularly at their French home and was a frequent correspondent with the reclusive and secretive author, discovering facets of his character and creative genius that he showed to no one else. Tolstoy was the sole beneficiary of his stepfather's will and is one of the Trustees of O'Brian's estate. He has unique access to letters, notebooks and photographs, which will appear in this book. As such, this will be the definitive biography of one of our literary geniuses

The context Tolstoy created in this volume includes a quote:

And know another mark of the lion, it is that he sleeps with open eyes; and know that this signifies the Son of St. Mary; in his death waking, when, dying, he kills death."

At several removes, we can only be intrigued by this glimpse of a world unlike our own.

June 22, 2017

June 22, 1928

A. B. Frost (January 17, 1851 to June 22, 1928), was an American illustrator and famous in his time. A contemporary wrote

YOUNG A.B. FROST got his start in Philadelphia at fifteen years of age, employed by an engraver. He then studied and worked as a lithographer (a bad one according to himself) for the next five years. He started his career as an illustrator when his friend William J. Clarke introduced him to his brother, the humorist Charles Heber Clarke, who wrote under the name “Max Adeler” and employed Frost to illustrate Out of the Hurly-Burly (1874). The book was a smashing success. Still, Henry Cuyler Bunner in an article titled ‘A.B. Frost’ in Harper’s Magazine for October 1892, wrote of the illustrations

It is hard to see in those coarse woodcuts, that look as if they were carved with a penknife, the touch of Mr. Frost’s firm and facile hand. Those who know his work today must find it difficult to realize that these rough productions represented a positive superiority to the efforts of other young men of his day and generation; yet they did, and the fact was immediately recognized. But as we look at those cuts today, it seems as if that engraver could have killed any genius that ever lived.

THE NEXT YEAR. A.B. Frost (full name Arthur Burdett Frost,...) was working in New York on The Graphic, and in 1876 made his first drawings for Harper & Brothers. H.C. Bunner who edited the humorous weekly in the years 1877-96 described how he had “seen one modest “comic” redrawn, wholly or in part, five several times, to get just the proper effect — the effect that made you remember that picture as you would have remembered it if the thing had really happened; if you had stood on the very ground and seen it all with your own eyes.”

And here we see some examples of the humor of A. B. Frost.

The titles are hard to read: here they are in order:

The Pang
The Flight Through the Hall
Startled Ones
The Beginning of the End
Curtain -- Requiescat in Pace

Of course, the joke is that a cat has been burned. Somehow that it was almost two hundred years ago, appealing to different sensibilities, makes it easier for me. And of course much that passes for humor today in cat videos is as bad. Point being, the drawing above strikes me as clever.  And the ending pun is okay. On the other hand, are we thinking that the cat in the last panel is dead?  That would be different.