Marianne Moore: Poetry

December 17, 2012

“He Digesteth Harde Yron” and Ostrich Eggs

Filed under: Poem Sources — by moore123 @ 3:42 pm

“The egg piously shown
        as Leda’s very own
from which Castor and Pollux hatched,
was an ostrich-egg”

 “He Digesteth Harde Yron,” Partisan Review 8 (July-August 1941), 312, ll. 30-33.

“Castor and Pollux were the offspring of Leda [the wife of the king of Sparta] and the Swan, under which disguise Jupiter had concealed himself. Leda gave birth to an egg from which sprang the twins. Helen, so famous afterwards as the cause of the Trojan war, was their sister.”

Thomas Bullfinch. The Age of Fable or the Beauties of Mythology. Vol. I. New York: Review of Reviews Company, 1914, p. 158.

Moore kept a copy of The Open Court, “a monthly magazine devoted to the science of religion, the religion of science, and the extension of the religious parliament idea,” for May, 1926 (Vol. XL, No. 5). In it she read the article by Berthold Laufer on “Ostrich Egg-Shell Cups from Mesopotamia” that described the finds from a dig in Kish, Iran, sponsored by the Field Museum (Chicago) and Oxford University. The article pictured an egg-shell cup with the following description:

“The Field Museum’s loan objects include bead necklaces of semi-precious and common stones, shell, and glass, ceramic vessels, and an especially rare ostrich egg-shell cup (pictured here). All were excavated between 1923 and 1933 at the site of the ancient city of Kish in Iraq during joint archaeological expeditions by The Field Museum and Oxford University.”

he digesteth cup kish field museum

The egg-shell cup pictured in the magazine has not been placed in a formal holder but is set in a simple three-legged brace. It appears that the cup was later fitted out with decorative pedestal and lid, as shown in this image from the collection of the Field Museum where it is identified as the same object as the one on page 260 of The Open Court.

On page 267 of the same article, Moore has underlined a passage from the following paragraph, clearly the source of the poem’s title:

“The fondness for metals has obtained for the bird the name of the ‘iron-eating ostrich.’ In 1579 Lyly wrote in his Euphues that ‘the estrich digesteth harde yron to preserve his health.’

December 6, 2012

“Love in America?” An Outtake

Filed under: Poem Sources — by moore123 @ 7:50 pm

“Love in America?”

 

“It is at the inception of any great work of art: in

Aristotle’s  contemplation of the bust

of Socrates which is animated

by what seems a glow from nearby fire.”

 

Saturday Evening Post, December 31, 1966, p. 78.

These lines were included in a draft of “Love in America?” written at the request of editor Thomas Congdon who selected that theme (miLove in America Covernus the question mark) for the New Year’s Eve issue of The Saturday Evening Post in 1966.  On the manuscript, an editor circled “Socrates” and wrote in the margin “Not Homer? Or are we missing something?” Below the question Moore wrote: “Homer.” In the context of this version, “It” refers to “Love in America.” This page survives in her archive at the Rosenbach, and because it does, it clearly was not returned to the magazine. Moore rewrote the poem; the version that appeared in late 1966 is identical to that in Complete Poems.

Love in Amrerica Rembrandt

“Aristotle with a Bust of Homer,” Metropolitan Museum of Art

In rewriting, Moore dropped the first half of her poem, including the Rembrandt passage. Had she retained it, amending Socrates to Homer, she would have reminded readers of a recent New York and very American story: the purchase by the Metropolitan Museum of Art of Rembrandt’s masterpiece, “Aristotle Contemplating the Bust of Homer” (1653) at Parke-Bernet Galleries for $2,300,000 on November 15, 1961. The Rembrandt lot had as underbidder the Cleveland Museum. The directors of both museums had long known the painting, having seen it  at the Century of Progress World’s Fair in 1933 or at Knoedler’s Galleries in New York in 1941. Owned by Alfred W. Erickson and his wife, it was sold by the latter’s estate. The competition for the painting and the enormous price became newsworthy; the New York Times ran a story on November 16, the day after the auction,  announcing that the price was the highest ever paid for any picture at a private or public sale and that the bidding lasted four minutes. More than 20,000 people had visited Parke-Bernet to view the painting  while it was on display and 2,000 attended the sale, some through closed circuit television.  The paper followed this article with another on January 7, 1962: “The Rembrandt: Battle Strategy,” describing the process by which the Met agreed to bid on the painting, The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin rushed into its January issue a lead article by curator Theodore Rousseau, touching on the painting’s use of light and its unusual qualities compared to the Met’s 31 other Rembrandts.

Moore certainly saw the cover of the Bulletin with its color illustration of the painting for she owned a copy. Not only was she likely to have seen news articles about the Rembrandt but the December 1, 1961 issue of The New Yorker lists two events for the week under “Museums and Libraries:” The Met’s “’The Stone Guest: Dialogues  between Persons and Statuary,” a showing of prints, drawings, and photographs on the colloquy between Aristotle and the bust of Homer and other encounters between people and sculpture” and, at the American Academy of Arts and Letters, “manuscripts, books, and other material by Marianne Moore in celebration of her seventy-fifth birthday.”

November 5, 2012

“The Labors of Hercules”

Filed under: Poem Sources — by moore123 @ 5:04 pm
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“to prove to the high priests of caste

that snobbishness is a stupidity,

the best side out, of age-old toadyism—

kissing the feet of the man above,

kicking the face of the man below:”

The Dial 71 (December 1921) p. 168, ll. 18-22

Moore developed these lines after reading Thinking Black: 22 Years without a Break in the Long Grass of Central Africa by Daniel Crawford (London: Morgan and Scott, 1913, or perhaps an edition from the previous year). The quoted lines are in boldface type.

Now for the darkest despotism in all slavery; I mean, the ex-slave ruling the ex-lord with an iron rod. And all this according to that most ancient of sayings passed along in whispers from one bondsman to another: “If thou art an anvil, be patient, 0 slave my brother; but if thou art a hammer, strike hard!” One such exclave, called “The Python,” ultimately lorded it over our huge caravan, and instead of being abashed at his slave blood, he was precious proud of it: “0 white man, you are proud of your descent, but I am proud of my ascent, was his idea. Coleridge it was who wrote of ” the pride that apes humility,” and our friend ” The Python ” had it, for if not pride of race it was pride of place. But make it a rule never, oh! never to argue with such a fellow—if you fight with a sweep you cannot blacken him, but he may blacken you. Tantalising though he often was and worthy a well-merited wigging, there he stood, head and shoulders above them all, a go-ahead boss just “up from slavery.” He did not cringe to us, and did not mind running risks with his bread-and-butter. Wise, too, with a corrosive sort of wisdom, some things he said were a clever echo of Epictetus (and who by the by was he, if not a slave ?). Even Horace would pardon me for calling him eloquent. (Horace, too, who was he if not a slave’s son ?) Yet this man finally became as tame as a friendly mastiff, although all the time a snob to his fellows. And a slave snob, remember, is king of all the snobs; proves it, too, by kissing the feet of the man above him on the social ladder, while he kicks the other who is below him. Himself a slave by purchase and with a commercial instinct quite in accord with the best traditions of Bihe, he would sell his own father and mother for an old song. Q.E.D.: The Romans were right, “As many slaves, so many enemies “—bad slavery makes a bad slave. (p. 50)

Daniel Crawford about 1915

Daniel Crawford (1870-1926 )was a Scottish missionary to Zaire. Feeling called to Africa, in March 1889 Crawford set off as an independent missionary associated with the Plymouth Brethren of Scotland and England and spent the rest of his life in Katanga (modern Shaba, in southeast Zaire). After some months working with others, he struck out alone and settled among the Nyamwezi. With headquarters on Lake Mweru, he itinerated constantly, preaching and setting up local schools, aiming simply at literacy in the local language. Crawford’s spent two years  (1913-15) pleading the cause of African missions in Europe and the United States. He was a brilliant linguist and by 1926 had completed the translation of the whole Bible into Luba. This and other languages he learned by living as the sole European among Africans, thus learning to “think black,” an attitude that made him something of an exception among missionaries of that era.

–adapted from Andrew C. Ross, Dictionary of African Christian Biography, online

Moore and Pound, 1917

Filed under: Poem Sources — by moore123 @ 3:24 pm
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Moore’s tribute to Ezra Pound, unpublished until 1979 when it appeared in The Marianne Moore Newsletter  (III, 2, pp. 5-8) now appears in the Schulman edition of The Poems of Marianne Moore, p. 79. Much of the poem, as documented in the MMN, drew on Moore’s reading of Blast at the Library of Congress in March, 1915. Here, with thanks to the Modernist Journals Project (Brown and the University of Tulsa), are the pages of Blast from which Moore made notes. They are pages 22, 23, 48, 49 and the front cover. Page 48 contains Pound’s “Epitaphs” including the one on Li Po to which she referred as “Poor Li Po” and 49 includes “Meditatio,” which she salutes as “Good Meditatio.” Click on the pages to enlarge them.

September 29, 2012

Guido Bruno

Note: Since this piece appeared on line, I received a note from Arnold I. Kisch, Guido Bruno’s nephew, who published the following book about his uncle:  The Romantic Ghost of Greenwich Village: Guido Bruno in His Garret. Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang, 1976.

The book is out of print but WorldCat lists it in 36 American research libraries and another 15 elsewhere.  Google Books reports the existence of the book but in a “no preview” format which means that there is no direct online access to it.

From his “Garret” at 58 Washington Square South, the colorful Villageois Guido Bruno published the periodicals Bruno’s Weekly, Bruno’s Bohemia, Bruno’s Monthly, Greenwich Village and a series of chapbooks, all sold for a few cents, from about 1913 to about 1917. Moore visited his studio on her fabled trip to New York in December, 1915 (see SL, pp. 111-112); she came away with Alfred Kreymborg’s Mushrooms, copies of the Weekly, and tickets to the Thimble Theater. Bruno included her short poems “Holes Bored in a Workbag by the Scissors” and “Apropos of Mice” in his Weekly in October, 1916. Moore might have found Bruno the self-promoter, courter of the intersection of free speech and indiscretion, less than likeable, but she could not have missed his impact on the Village and beyond. He had been, and in spirit continued to be, part of the place she moved to when she first had a choice in 1918: 14 St. Luke’s Place, Greenwich Village.

Bruno busied himself about the Village, holding art openings for Clara Tice and other in his garret, managing Charles Edison’s Thimble Theatre on Fifth Avenue, across from the Brevort Hotel, planning for publications rather than statues as monuments to American composers like Stephen Foster. His devotion to Djuna Barns led to his publishing her chapbook, The Book of Repulsive Women: 8 Rhythms and 5 Drawings in 1915. Other chapbooks featured work by Kreymborg, Oscar Wilde, Sadakichi Hartmann, and Hubert Crackanthorpe.

Fire destroyed his garret in 1916, taking with it a 68-page manuscript by G. B. Shaw, but Bruno continued to ply his literary and “anarchist” interests, mounting Strindberg plays at the Thimble, raising funds of $25,000 to free Emma Goldman from prison, contributing to Pearson’s Magazine along with Floyd Dell and Upton Sinclair. Such was his fame that mention of him turns up in papers widespread as the Appleton (Wisconsin) Post Crescent, The San Antonio Light, and The Corning (N. Y.) Evening Leader in addition to many mentions in the New York papers. As Maurice Zolotof wrote in the New York Times in 1939, Bruno broke down the insularity of the Village and, through his publications, made its citizens self-conscious.

He also made them aware of him. Charles Sumner’s vice squad brought him up on charges for publishing Kreymborg’s Edna: A Girl of the Streets, meant as a commentary on the evils of prostitution. Frank Harris, editor of Pearson’s Magazine and himself notorious for sexual explicitness, testified that the book had not titillated him. Sumner confiscated 350 copies of the book and 150 advertising flyers, but did not have Bruno arrested. Bruno, however, claimed bankruptcy in 1917 when he sued Sumner for $100,000 damages.

By that time, America was at war in Europe and the Villiage that Bruno celebrated had begun to change. In 1919, he wrote a piece later published in his Adventures in American Bookshops (1922):

The fad of false Bohemia in Greenwich Village has passed. The purple and orange brand of tearooms and of so-called gift shops where art lovers and artistic people from the Bronx and Flatbush assembled, have gone out of existence. The designers and manufacturers of astounding atrocities who called themselves “modern artists” have disappeared. True there are a few short-haired women left, who parade the streets in their unusual clothes, but they, too, will soon move to other parts of the city with the return of the soldiers, and will reassume their real calling in life.

False Bohemia, indeed. The original Guido Bruno, Kurt Josef Kisch, was born in Mlada Boleslav, Bohemia, on October 15, 1884. His father, the distinguished Rabbi Alexander Kisch, served a congregation in that town from 1881-1886 before returning to Prague; a professor with a doctorate from the University of Breslau, Rabbi Kisch later taught such literary luminaries as Max Brod and Franz Werfel.

Young Kurt sailed for New York in 1906 aboard the Dalmatia. He arrived on December 20, a medical student bound for Chicago probably to study with his uncle, Dr. William Mislaf (or Mitzlaff), who was an ear and eye specialist on North Clark Street. He married Ragna Pauluda, recently of Norway, about 1909, and practiced medicine on Cass Street in Detroit, where he was named Curt Joseph Kirch by the 1910 census taker. Soon, this “Kirch” publishes a 21-page essay, “Der Holländisch-Deutsche zweig der Familie Washington und einige Washington-Dokuments” in the 1912 Jahrbuch Der Deutsche-amerikanischen Historischen Gesellschaft Von Illinois, (Vol. 12, Chicago, 1913). Largely a list of Washington family relatives with Dutch-German connections, the essay includes a letter from Martha Washington about a proposal for a Washington Monument. At about the same time, Curtis J. Kirch appears as editor of The Lantern: A Publication of Discarded Truth and Rejected Fiction. A Chicago product, it was edited with Milton Fuessle from January to July, 1913.

The migration from Kisch to Kirch to Guido Bruno was complete by the time the man reached Greenwich Village. His final name derived from the first names of his two brothers. Guido Kisch (1889-1985), was a professor of legal history at the University of Leipzig, Hebrew Union College in New York, and Basel University. Bruno Kisch (1890-1966) was a cardiologist who studied at the University of Cologne and worked at Yeshiva University in New York, studied the electron microscope at Yale, and retired to Bad Nauheim, Germany. Guido Bruno, however, never forgot his original name: his World War I draft registration card bears the following: Name—Guido Bruno; legal name—Josef Kurt Kisch, all in his own handwriting.

Post-Village, Bruno wrote for Pearson’s Magazine and continued to publish his own work, notably Adventures in American Bookshops, Antique Stores, and Auction Houses (Detroit: Douglas Bookshop, 1922). This work bears evidence of the experienced bookman; it describes antiquarian booksellers and their shops in Chicago, Detroit, New York and Boston with understanding. Back in his garret days, he demonstrated the heart of a bookman with an exhibition of European and American bookplates, supplemented by his talk on the romance of the bookplate. He owned the Union Square Bookshop at 30 E. 14th Street in New York in 1929 when he was underbidder to Dr. A.S.W. Rosenbach’s $2,500 for Articles of Agreement: Made and Concluded . . . . Philadelphia: Benjamin Franklin, 1733.

Bruno gradually moved out of range of  the Village, first to Pelham Manor in Westchester County, then to Lower Merion, Pennsylvania where his adopted daughter, Eleanore, owned the American Autograph Shop in Marion Station. He became a naturalized American citizen in 1928 and registered for the World War II draft. The New York Times reported on January 27, 1943:

Bruno, Guido. Author, publisher, editor, journalist and historian [died s]uddenly, aged 58, at his daughter’s home in Merion, PA., leaving his widow, Ragna Bruno; daughter, Eleanore, and [her] son, Ragnar. Interment private.

August 29, 2012

“Flints, Not Flowers” Meredith, Keats

Filed under: Poem Sources — by moore123 @ 8:18 pm

Meredith

Moore composed “Flints, Not Flowers” (see Schulman, pp. 49 and 403) before she left Carlisle in 1916. The manuscript makes clear with asterisks that the title comes from The Letters of George Meredith , New York: Scribner’s, 1912, Vol. 1, p 45 where Meredith writes to his friend Augustus Jessup: “[My poems] may not please you, but I think you will admit that they have a truth condensed in them. They are flints perhaps, and not flowers. Well, I think of publishing a volume of Poems in the beginning of ’62, and I will bring as many flowers to it as I can.”

Another pair of asterisks connects the lines

How far more cunningly than Keats has placed

His toy, that poor hack

Flung you up as he walked round

to another letter  on page 280 in the same volume to Admiral Frederick Maxse: “As for me, I fear I am again condemned to trot round my circle, like an old horse at a well, everlastingly pulling up the same buckets full of a similar fluid. I may be precipitated abroad by incapacity to continue writing; and once or twice the case has looked like it, though I have recovered in a middling fashion: but not to do the work I call good—rather the character of work one is glad to leave behind, however glad to have accomplished.” Here, Meredith bemoans the quality of his work and finds himself hesitant to publish a volume of poems, having had so little success thus far in his career.

While no mystery surrounds the sources of the Meredith quotations,  Keats’s “toy” remains problematic. There seems to be but one appearance of

Keats

the word “toy” in all of Keats:

XXXVII

“I thought you guess’d, foretold, or prophesied,

That’s Majesty was in a raving fit?”

“He dreams,” said Hum, “or I have ever lied,

That he is tearing you, sir, bit by bit.”

“He’s not asleep, and you have little wit,”

Replied the page: “that little buzzing noise,

Whate’er your palmistry may make of it,

Comes from a play-thing of the Emperor’s choice,

From a Man-Tiger-Organ, prettiest of his toys.”

 

This stanza from Keats’s unfinished (and unsuccessful) fantasy “The Cap and Bells” tempts a connection for any reader of Moore’s 1964 “Tippoo’s Tiger” about the same toy.

August 6, 2012

“Like Bertran Dobell” and Thomas Traherne

Filed under: Poem Sources — by moore123 @ 3:18 pm
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Traherne, 1906

Moore’s library contains two volumes of poems by Thomas Traherne. The first is Poetical Works of Thomas Traherne, . . . now first published from the original manuscripts, ed. by Bertram Dobell, with a memoir of the author … Second Edition, London, Pub. by the editor, 1906. The second, Centuries of Meditations by Thomas Traherne (1636?-1674) now first printed from the author’s manuscript. Edited by Bertram Dobell. London. Published by the Editor, 77 Charing Cross Road, W.C., 1908, has the inscription: “Marianne Craig Moore March 13, 1909.”

In a short poem written by April, 1915, Moore saluted Traherne’s editor; “Like Bertram Dobell, you Achieve Distinction by Disclaiming It. [sic]” is the manuscript version of the title (See Schulman’s edition of Poems, p. 63, for the printed version). Dobell had the good fortune to come upon Traherne’s manuscripts, previously credited to Henry Vaughan, but unpublished. An antiquarian bookseller and scholar housed in London’s famous bookish street,  Dobell came to Moore’s notice when he published an article on “The Earliest Poems of Robert Browning” in The Cornhill Magazine for January, 1914 (Moore makes a note of this article in a small ring notebook containing alphabetical entries of writiers and writing). While we cannot be sure that she actually read this piece before she wrote the poem, we do know that she already owned Centuries of Meditations edited by Dobell.

What can we draw from this interwoven if unclear picture? The poem address a “you” who is like Dobell in his editor’s modesty and like the speaker

Dobell 1842-1914

in his “selfprotectiveness.”  The “you” suggests the modest Traherne who never published his poems (and probably not the Browning who suppressed the two poems Dobell rediscovered).  A further note: Moore’s poem  praises silence in support of “selfprotectiveness.” In a notebook maintained in the 1920s, she copied out from his Poetical Works the first 27 lines of Traherne’s “Silence,” beginning:

A QUIET silent person may possess

All that is great or high in Blessedness.
The inward work is the supreme for all
The other were occasioned by the fall.

It would be pleasing to think that when in London in 1911, Moore made her way to 77 Charing Cross Road and met the modest Dobell himself.  It would be interesting to know for certain whether Moore meant to honor Traherne as well as his editor.

June 2, 2012

“Then the Ermine” and Katherine Anne Porter

“Then the Ermine,” Poetry 81 (October 1952) 55-56.

 

On January 1, 1957, Katherine Anne Porter wrote to thank Moore for a copy of Like a Bulwark, her new book that contained “Then the Ermine,” a

G. P. Lynes, 1932

poem which Porter said gave her “a special kind of personal feeling.” (Isabel Bailey, ed. Letters of Katherine Anne Porter, Atlantic Monthly Press, 1994, p. 519)­

Porter  refers to the lines:

So let the palisandre settee express

Change, “ebony violet,”

Master Corbo in full dress.

Porter’s apartment held an antique settee, upholstered in purple velvet. After Moore paid Porter a visit, Porter wrote to her on 27 November 1951 (A.L.S., Moore papers, Rosenbach), recalling how Moore looked  seated on the settee: “on the heliotrope velvet, that palissandre will never look so well again . . . .” Porter’s papers at the University of Maryland contain a manuscript of the finished poem.

Porter lived in Paris for four years beginning in 1933. That year, Harrison of Paris published her French Song-Book, an elegant slim volume designed by Monroe Wheeler, one of her, and Moore’s, best friends. The Song-Book covered early French music and provided original French texts, Porter’s translations, and the songs’ notation.  Moore, who surely knew about the book, no doubt forged a connection between Porter’s French efforts and her own. Moore’s lines about the crow

Master Corbo in full dress

And shepherdess

at once—exhilarating hoarse crow note

and dignity with intimacy

refer to La Fontaine’s second fable in Book I, “The Fox and the Crow,” which Moore was, in 1951, in the process of translating. In brief, a crow held a piece of cheese that the fox wanted. “Ah, superb Sir Ebony, well met. / How black! who else boasts your metallic jet” the fox said, and praised the crow’s “warbling.” “All aglow, Master Crow tried to run a few scales. / Risking trills and intervals, / Dropping the prize as his huge beak sang false.” (Marianne Moore. The Fables of La Fontaine, Viking, 1952, pp 14-15.)

But “shepherdess?” It is tempting to associate Porter’s French song “Shepherdess, Be Kind,” a charming poem containing a reference to a bird.  But

Louis XV Bergère Chairs

the purple-black settee is upholstered in the color of the crow and made in the shape of une bergère, ordinarily a shepherdess, but in terms of furniture, a French armchair from the same period as the settee, late Eighteenth Century.

Porter’s settee now adorns the Katherine Anne Porter room at the University of Maryland.  If Moore is right to call it palissandre, it is made from a Madagascar wood by that name. At Maryland, it is called an “eighteenth-century Louis XV fruitwood sofa.” Sadly, its purple upholstery had to be replaced some years after this poem appeared, having been adversely affected by a cat.

Palissandre Settee

Palissandre Settee

April 27, 2012

“The Jerboa” and Dr. Ditmars

Filed under: Poem Sources — by moore123 @ 10:29 am

“[The jerboa] launching

As if on wings, from its match-thin hind legs”

“The Jerboa” Hound and Horn 7 (October-December 1932) 108-113, ll 117-118.

Moore offers a note to these lines, citing a highly respected source. Raymond L. Ditmars (1876-1942) served as curator of the New York Zoological Garden (The Bronx Zoo) for many years. Originally a herpetologist, he worked with mammals, insects, and other animals, building the zoo’s collection. His Animals I Have Known (available at archive.org) describes various collecting trips, including one to Africa. There, he encountered the “Yellow Wind” outside Algiers, a violent sandstorm of the kind that jerboas routinely survive. [Amid tumultuous, blinding sand storms . . . ] it would seem as if all types of life would abandon such areas, but this is not the case. There are remarkable forms of adaptation. There are little rats called jerboas which run on long hind-legs as thin as a match. The forelimbs are mere tiny hands. They are fleet and coloured like the sand. They have a long balancing tail, with decorative pad of black and white fur at the tip. This tip is, in fact, more than decorative, as the pad is like a little snow-shoe to keep the end from sinking in the sand. The tail is carried in upward curve when the creatures run. When they stop it is rested on the ground so that the whole body is little tripod. The feet have furry pads to prevent their becoming imbedded in the soft sand. I kept one for several years, not giving it a drop of water. It fed on dry corn and loved stems of dry grass. The only moisture it had came from occasional bits of greens, of which it was not over fond.

–Raymond L. Ditmars. Strange Animals I Have Known. New York: Blue Ribbon Press, 1931, pp 274-75

April 25, 2012

Invitation to Friends of MM

Welcome to a blog on Moore’s poetry.  Please comment and join the conversation. –Pat Willis

A New Column

Moore Poet-Scholars

It has been a tradition at conferences on Marianne Moore to feature poets who acknowledge an affinity with her and her work. Jeredith Merrin is one of them who has just published a new book, Owling, winner of the Grayson Books Chapbook Award for 2016.  It is her fourth collection of poetry. I asked her to begin this series with some remarks about her work’s connection to Moore’s:

owling.Moore is inimitable.  But my new chapbook , OWLING, is indebted to Moore’s both outward- and inward-looking poetry

To write it, I took Moore-like notes on individual species of owls (19 different species); and in some lyrics I do use quotations.  Also, as Moore readers will note, I use syllabics when the occasion seems to call for them. I never knew where an individual species would take me (in subject matter or in form), so a pleasure of composing this little parliament of owls was that I was surprised each time—which I hope means that the reader will find these poems surprising.  They move from natural history to Marilyn Monroe, to Alzheimer’s, to The National Book Award, to Blue Whales, to. . . .

A poet-friend who e-mailed just today called my owl poems “capaciously swervy” (a phrase which might describe “Peter” or “An Octopus”)!

I thought OWLING might be of particular interest to those who are teaching Moore poems and to those who are interested in the study of Literature and Environment (I’m a member of ASLE).

Jeredith can be reached at merrin.1@osu.edu and she is available for readings and classes. OWLING: www.Graysonbooks.com. There is an author page at https://www.amazon.com/Owling-Jeredith-Merrin/dp/0996280979.

Navigation

*Index to Posts,” a new page on right-hand column, lists posts to date. Use the search box to bring up a post.

REGULARLY UPDATED: “Marianne’s Garden” explores the flora that appear in Moore’s poems. “Book of Days” offers information on friends and events that played supportive roles on Moore’s writing life. CLICK on these titles in the RIGHT-HAND COLUMN.

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March 29, 2012

“Dress and Kindred Subjects” I

Demonstrating her interest in fashion, Moore wrote an essay on “Dress and Kindred Subjects, a kind of  list by one who “[deplores] digressions from dignity and behavior in dress.” ( Women’s Wear Daily, February 17, 1965, pp 4-5.)  Were she to read this blog, she might be annoyed to find that pictorial images make bold to illustrate her superb verbal images. But as years pass, some readers will not easily call to mind why “Sandals require a thin White Rock fairy to wear them,” or how a suit by Ben Zuckerman looks, “roomy but snug.” Here, then, are some of the images imaged.

The White Rock Fairy

White Rock Beverages, known for their sparkling water, from the White Rock Products Corp.  located in Waukesha, Wisconsin.

ψ ψ ψ

Military cape with “Chinese straight-up collar”

ψ ψ ψ

The Borsalino Hat

 

Borsalino hats have been manufactured in Alessandria, Italy since 1857. Giuseppe Borsalino, the Company founder, developed from a 14 year old boy working in a hat factory to one of the most important Italian industrialists of the nineteenth century. When Giuseppe Borsalino died in 1900, his business employed almost one thousand workers and had an annual production of one million hats.

The Borsalino hat factory continues to be located in Alessandria. In 1986 it moved to a modern suburban location. The underlying style and craftsmanship that have symbolized Borsalino Hats since its founding remain unchanged.

 ψ ψ ψ

The Stetson

 

Buffalo Bill in a Stetson

“In 1865, with $100 in his pocket, John B. Stetson rented a small room, bought the tools he needed and $10 worth of fur; and the John B. Stetson Hat Company was born. A year later the “Hat of the West” or the now famous “Boss of the Plains” hat was born

“Stetson hats are the most well known hats in the world. Wherever and whenever hats are discussed, Stetson will be recognized with distinction.

“Stetson is the standard in hats, the essence of the spirit of the West and an icon of everyday American lifestyle.” (From the Stetson Company website)

ψ ψ ψ

Ben Zuckerman

For I Magnan in Vogue, 15 August 1963

Romanian born fashion designer

ψ ψ ψ

My Fair Lady’s Evolution


Julie Andrews as Eliza Doolittle, Unreformed

And as Eliza, Transformed, from the Broadway Production, 1956

My Fair Lady, by Lerner and Lowe, tells of the transformation of Eliza Doolittle from humble flower seller to elegant lady

ψ ψ ψ

Madame Mensendieck

Bess Mensendieck Teaching Body Mechanics

An American physician, Bess Mensendieck (1864–1957) worked in Vienna to establish schools to teach exercises that would improve women’s posture

ψ ψ ψ

Fashion in the First Empire

First Empire Fashion

Napoleon strove to improve fashion after he became Emperor of France in 1804. His wife, Josephine, became a model of the new style.

ψ ψ ψ

Empress Eugénie

Empress Eugénie Mounted

Eugénie de Montijo (5 May 1826 – 11 July 1920), Spanish born wife of Napoleon III and  the last empress of France

March 14, 2012

Hercules in “The Paper Nautilus”

Filed under: Poem Sources — by moore123 @ 4:58 pm
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“as Hercules, bitten / by a crab loyal to the hydra, / was hindered to succeed”

“The Paper Nautilus” Kenyon Review 2 (Summer 1940) 287-88.

Moore’s familiarity with Greek myth dated to her childhood. While we do not know precisely what books she saw as a young girl, the following work is contemporary to the period. The telling of the second labor of Hercules, the conquering of the Hydra, sometimes includes mention of the crab that nipped at Hercules’ legs during the fight; it occurs in this telling.

Getty

On his return to Argos to report the successful termination of his first task, Hercules was told to repair to the marshes of Hydra of Lema, where lurked a seven-headed serpent, the Lema. Hydra, and put an end to its career of rapacity, for this snake devoured man and beast. Armed with a great sword, Hercules succeeded in cutting off one of the seven heads; but he had nosooner done so, than, to his dismay, he saw seven other heads suddenly spring from the bleeding stump. To prevent a repetition of this unpleasant miracle, Hercules bade his friend Iolaus, who had accompanied him thither to view his prowess, take a lighted brand and sear the wounds as soon as inflicted. Thanks to this wise plan, the monster was finally slain, although a friendly crab sent by Juno to defend Hydra continually pinched Hercules’ feet. The hero, angry at this intervention, crushed the crab, which, however, received its reward, for the Queen of Heaven placed it in the sky as the constellation of Cancer (the Crab). The country was thus freed from its long state of thraldom; but, before leaving the scene of his second labor, Hercules dipped his arrows in the Hydra’s venomous blood, knowing well that any wound they inflicted, however slight, would be sure to prove fatal.

–Hélène Adeline Guerber, Myths of Greece and Rome: narrated with special reference to literature and art. New York: American Book Company, 1893, pp. 175-76.

March 11, 2012

Henry and Barbara Church, Wallace Stevens

While Moore and Wallace Stevens had interacted in print and perhaps from some distance at literary events, their relationship deepened at the

Mt. Holyoke, 1943

Entretiens de Pontigny, a symposium hosted by Mount Holyoke College and presided over by Jean Wahl in 1943. Moore’s talk resulted in “Feeling and Precision,” Stevens’ in “The Figure of the Youth as Virile Poet.” At that gathering, Moore met Stevens’ good friends Henry Hall Church (1880-1947)and his wife Barbara S. Church (1879-1960), caught for the duration of World War II in New York without access to their Le Corbusier-designed estate outside Paris.

Henry came from the  Arm & Hammer Baking Soda family (in 1934 he inherited $90 million—in today’s dollars) and became a philanthropist, supporting little magazines such as Mesures edited in Paris by Jean Paulhan and acquiring modern art. Barbara, born in Wurtzburg, Bavaria, to a wealthy family, became a New York personage in her own right after Henry’s sudden death in 1947. At about that time, Stevens decided that Barbara Church and Moore should spend time together, as each had suffered a bereavement, Moore’s mother having died in July, 1947.  In the early 1950s, Stevens thought that Moore should take a break from her translation La Fontaine’s fables and go to Europe with Barbara.

Moore tactfully refused and, according to Robin Schultze, wrote “The Web One Weaves of Italy” to offer her reasons (The Web of Friendship: Marianne Moore and Wallace Stevens, p. 216).

Pictured here, the Mesures group, meeting at the Church home in Ville d’Avray outside Paris; from left to right, are Sylvia Beach, Barbara Church, Vladimir Nabokov (standing behind her), Adrienne Monnier, Germaine Paulhan, Henry Church, Henri Michaux, Michel Leiris, and (standing behind him) Jean Paulhan.

Le Corbusier designed the Church house in Ville d’Avray

February 15, 2012

“Masks” and Egyptian Vultures

“Egyptian vultures, clean as cherubim, / All ivory and jet”

“Masks,” Contemporary Verse 1.1 (January 1916), 6.  Later “A Fool, A Foul Thing, A Distressful Lunatic” in Observations, 1924, greatly revised.

Moore submitted her poem about three maligned birds to Harper’s in January, 1915, and published it a year later in Contemporary Verse. This version, “Masks” differs in its first half from the Observations “A Fool, A Foul Thing, A Distressful Lunatic,” but the passage about Egyptian vultures remains unchanged.

Moore found the passage on the vultures in a weekly she seems to have read regularly, The Living Age.  Published in Boston, it brought  together full articles from other magazines. “A Naturalist in North America” was reprinted from Nineteenth Century and After, the British journal. Here is the passage in question, bold face added:

Meantime those Griffons had taken alarm: a covey of vultures, huge birds, as big as swans and far wider of pinion, took wing silently, casting

Egyptian Vulture

reproachful glances over their shoulders as they swept out and up, a sight which drew cries of wonder and delight from the stupid Arabs above. Twenty times did these great and reverend-looking creatures pass and repass beneath the eyes of the solitary cragsman. Their anxieties drew other birds into their orbits. A pair of Black Kites flickered and whinnied above them: they may have had young in some neighboring cleft, for the tail of a lizard stuck out beyond the bill of the mother-bird and wriggled as she flew. A Red Kite, handsomer, more agile, and with more deeply cleft tail, came to see and to protest in shriller tones. So did a couple of Ravens hoarsely, and a Peregrine imperatively. This last, being spitefully minded, was for knocking the kites about had they not avoided his stoops with graceful ease; one beard the clash of penfeathers in contact overhead. As if these were insufficient, Egyptian Vultures, clean as cherubim, all ivory and jet, swung slowly in rings above the tangle of crossing, diving aud crying birds, and grandly did these latecomers contrast now with the blue sky, and now with the smoke-gray of the wlld-ollve covert across the glen.

-–H. M. Wallis, “A Naturalist in North Africa.” Living Age,  LXVI (January 16, 1915), 162.

Henry Marriage Wallis (1854-1941) was a British corn and seed merchant who wrote novels and verse and contributed to magazines articles on many subjects, including travel and natural history, often under the pseudonym Ashton Hilliers.  Ornithology was his favorite subject, particularly the birds of Algeria and Morocco. A correspondent of Charles Darwin, he often spent part of the winter in North Africa and there recorded many discoveries among its birds.

January 26, 2012

Gustavus Adolphus and George Washington

“Washington and Gustavus

Adolphus, forgive our decay.” (ll. 14-15)

“A Carriage from Sweden,” The Nation 158 (March 11, 1944) 311.

Written in 1943, this complex, wartime poem salutes Sweden’s seventeenth-century king and America’s eighteenth-century founding president as

Gustavus Adolphus

a pair. While Americans readily recognize Washington’s deeds and qualities, (“father of his country,” “the American Cincinnatus,” “first in war, first in peace, first in the hearts of his countrymen”) his parallel with Sweden’s king is less obvious. Gustavus Adolphus has been called “the founder of modern warfare,” “the protector of Protestantism,” “the lion of the north.” He came to the throne at seventeen in 1611 and died in battle in 1632. As ruler, he reformed Sweden’s government by establishing four estates (nobles, clergy, burghers, and peasants) in the Riksdag (Diet), thus promoting unity within the groups; he fostered secondary and university education; he promoted the Swedish economy through immigration and infusion of foreign capital. As a military leader, he reformed the conduct of wars through the use of light artillery and coordination of military branches during battle. As a Protestant king, he opposed the Catholic League and preserved German Protestantism from the ravages of the Counter-Reformation. In short, he brought Sweden into the modern era.

“[F]orgive our decay” contrasts the world of 1943 with that of 1632 and 1781. In 1632, Gustavus Adolphus refused to compromise his principles and died fighting in Battle of Lützen, a turning point in the Thirty Years’ War in favor of his side, a Protestant victory.  In 1781, George Washington, who refused to compromise or give up even during the long siege at Valley Forge, received the

George Washington

surrender of British General Cornwallis at Yorktown, the site of the final battle of the Revolutionary War.  But “our decay” in 1943 may refer to the tensions created by Sweden’s neutrality during World War II which led the country to provide aid to both Axis and Allied powers, a position maintained in 1943 although later revised to refuse contributions to the Axis cause and to support the Allies. And if this position represents Sweden’s “decay,” perhaps the thinking, in 1943, about post-war recriminations against Germany suggested to Moore the kind of compromises that followed World War I and set the stage for the next war.

January 19, 2012

Jacob Abbott, Children’s Book Author

Jacob Abbott

Jacob Abbott (1803-1879) graduated from Bowdoin College, pursued ministerial studies at Andover-Newton, taught mathematics at Amherst, and founded the Mount Vernon School for girls in Boston. He was the author of more than 180 books for young people. His many series included three from which copies survive in Moore’s library: the Rollo books about a young boy with a feisty personality and enough naughtiness to give his parents ample opportunity for correction; The Franconia Stories, about a brother and sister schooled by their mother; and Historical Biographies. Considered among the first serious books for children, Abbott’s works offered language adult enough to foster intellectual inquiry and development along with examples of stout moral rectitude.

Moore’s published comments on Abbott’s books suggest that she had internalized some of their elements. For example, in reviewing George Moore’s Conversations in Ebury Street she wrote: “[Moore’s writing recalls] some of Jacob Abbott’s most dramatically lifelike colloquies. . . .” (Complete Prose, 103); and when asked “What books did most to shape your vocational attitude and your philosophy of life?” she replied: “Beechnut, Grimkie, Florence and John and the Rollo books, by Jacob Abbott.” (Complete Prose, 670).

Rollo in Paris

The books that remain in her library at the Rosenbach Museum & Library are:

From the Rollo Series:

Rollo in Paris. NY: Mershon, 1858

From the Franconia Stories:

Beechnut. NY: Harper’s, 1878

Rudolphus. NY: Harper and Brothers, 1852

The entire series of the Florence Stories:

The English Channel.  NY: Sheldon, 1868

Excursion to the Orkney Islands.  NY: Sheldon, 1868

Florence and John.  NY: Sheldon, 1869

Florence’s return.  NY: Sheldon,1869

Grimkie. NY: Sheldon, 1868

Visit to the Isle of Wight. NY:  Sheldon, 1869

From the Historical Biographies Series:

History of Alexander the Great. NY: Harpers, 1870

History of Cyrus the Great. NY: Harper and Brothers, 1850

Histories of Xerxes the Great. NY: Harper and Brothers, 1854.

The texts of Abbott’s books are available online through googlebooks, archives.org, and Project Gutenberg.

January 15, 2012

“Melchior Vulpius”

“Melchoir Vulpius,” Atlantic Monthly 201 (January 1958), 59.

Choir at Cologne Cathedral singing the anthem “Now God Be Praised in Heav’n Above” in German

Moore attended the Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church while she lived in Brooklyn. She made notes from a Sunday church bulletin for June 30, 1957 which contained an anthem by Melchior Vulpius, a German composer (c. 1560?-1615). She copied the text of the anthem into a notebook, placing the second verse first, followed by the first and third, thus:

Now God be praised for conquering faith,

Which feareth neither pain nor death,

But trusting God, rejoicing saith,

Hallelujah!

Now God be praised in heaven above

Praised be He for His great love,

Wherein all creatures live and move,

Hallelujah!

His grace defends us from all ill;

His Christ shall be our leader still

Till heaven and earth shall do His will,

Hallelujah!

According to a notebook (for which she used a 1956 calendar), Moore also consulted Baker’s Biographical Dictionary of Musicians, probably the fourth edition (New York: G. Schirmer, 1940) which contains an entry on Melchior Vulpius on page 1144, giving several elements she noted: born in Wasungen, died at Weimar where he was a cantor from 1596, published two books of Cantiones sacrae as well as Lateinische Hochzeitstücke or the “wedding-hymns to Latin words” of the poem.

For an interpretation of the poem, please see Kirby Olson’s website:

http://lutheransurrealism.blogspot.com/2009/09/melchior-vulpius-by-marianne-moore.html

December 6, 2011

MM Meets Sappho

Filed under: Marianne Moore,Resources — by moore123 @ 3:35 pm
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Moore writes to her family on 28 February, 1909, that she has attended a Bryn Mawr lecture on Sappho by Kirby Flower Smith (Rosenbach). She

Kirby Flower Smith

adds that she had been a bit “scared” to be introduced to him but that he was “a pansy—looked expectant” (pansy, here, a term of approval).  Smith (1862-1918) was a professor of Latin and Greek at Johns Hopkins, a specialist in the work of Tibullus. According to an obituary by Gordon J. Laing (The Classical Journal , Vol. 14, No. 9 [Jun., 1919], pp. 567-569). Smith was as good a philologist as the best of them but he never lost sight of the “summum bonum of classical studies, the life and literature of Greece and Rome.”

In 1908, Smith had delivered the annual address at the meeting of the Classical Association of Middle States and Maryland on “The Legend of Sappho and Phaon” (Records of the Past Exploration Society, 1908, Vol. 7, p. 164). It is highly likely that he spoke on the same topic at Bryn Mawr ten months later. In his lecture, Smith detailed the various stories attached to Sappho and Phaon, ending with his own version. He probably made reference to Alexander Pope’s rendering of Ovid on Sappho and Phaon, as evidenced from his take on Ovid’s Heroides:

As the name indicates, the Heroides are a collection of letters supposedly written by famous women of poetry or mythology to their husbands or lovers. In three cases (Paris to Helen, Leander to Hero, Acontius to Cydippe) we have the man’s letter to the woman and her reply.

The Heroides fully deserved the enthusiasm with which they were greeted. Here for the first time we meet with one of the most striking features of Ovid’s maturer genius. This is his marvellous ability to analyze, understand, and sympathize with all the subtler phases and cross-currents of feminine character and impulse, and his consummate skill in bringing them home to the reader through the woman herself.

The Heroides have always been popular, and to this day have lost but little of their intrinsic interest. They were a favorite with Boccaccio, the main source of Chaucer’s Legend of Good Women, the model of Drayton’s Heroical Epistles. The much disputed letter of Sappho to Phaon, which lives for us in the translation of Pope, is—perhaps for that very reason—the best known.

—Kirby Flower Smith. “The Poet Ovid,” in Martial, the Epigrammatist and Other Essays. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins Press, 1920, pp 60-61.

To what poetic use did Moore put this experience? Hard to tell, except to note that in May, she requested for a graduation present “Wharton’s Sappho” (SL 71). In full, that is  Sappho, Memoir, Text, Selected Renderings, and a Literal Translation by Henry Thornton Wharton (New York; London : J. Lane, 1907).

November 23, 2011

“Pedantic Literalist” and a “Paper Muslin Ghost”

“Prince Rupert’s drop, paper muslin ghost”

“Pedantic Literalist,” line 1.

Moore published “Pedantic Literalist” in The Egoist for June 1, 1916 (See Schulze 211) and Bryher and H. D. placed it first in Poems, 1921. Paper muslin is a glazed cotton fabric said by most online dictionaries to be “used for linings, etc.” There is a reference to a ballet skirt made of “pink paper muslin” as well as an article in St. Nicholas Magazine on how to make a cabana for bathing-suit-changing  out of it and an umbrella (tie  9-foot strips of paper muslin to the edges and hang it from a tree).  But “paper muslin ghost” occurs in a popular verse found, among other sources, in the Yale University College Courant for January 28, 1871, p. 43. Perhaps unsavory by today’s standard, the verse had a long life among favorites for children.

The Unlucky Lovers

Fanny Foo-Foo was a Japanese girl,

A child of the great Tycoon;

She wore her head bald, and her clothes were made

Half petticoat, half pantaloon;

Her face was the color of lemon peel,

And the shape of a table spoon.

A handsome young chap was Johnny Hi-Hi,

And he wore paper muslin clothes;

His glossy black hair on the top of his head

In the form of a shoe brush rose,

His eyes slanted downward, as if some chap

Had savagely pulled his nose.

Fanny Foo-Foo loved Johnny Hi-Hi,

And when, in the usual style,

He popped, she blushed such a deep orange tinge,

You’d have thought she’d too much bile,

If it hadn’t been for her slant-eyed glance

And her charming wide mouth smile.

And oft in the bliss of their new born love,

Did these little pagans stray

All around in spots, enjoying themselves

In a strictly Japanese way:

She howling a song to a one string lute,

On which she thought she could play.

Often he’d climb to a high ladder’s top,

And quietly there repose,

As he stood on his head and fanned himself

While she balanced him on her nose,

Or else she would get in a pickle tub,

And be kicked round on his toes.

The course of true love, even in Japan,

Often runs extremely rough,

And the fierce Tycoon, when he heard of this,

Used Japanese oaths so tough

That his courtiers’ hair would have stood on end

If only they’d had enough.

So the Tycoon buckled on both his swords,

In his pistol placed a wad,

And went out to hunt for the truant pair,

With his nerves braced by a “tod,”

He found them enjoying their guileless selves

On top of a lightning rod.

Sternly he ordered the gentle Foo-Foo

To “come down out of that there!”

And he told Hi-Hi to go to a place—

I won’t say precisely where.

Then he dragged off his child, whose spasms evinced

Unusually wild despair.

But the Tycoon, alas! was badly fooled,

Despite his paternal pains,

For John, with a toothpick, let all the blood

Out of his jugular veins;

While with a back somersault on to the floor

Foo-Foo battered out her brains.

They buried them both in the Tycoon’s lot,

Right under a dogwood tree,

Where they could list to the nightingale and

The buzz of the bumble-bee;

And where the mosquito’s sorrowful chant

Maddens the restless flea.

And often at night, when the Tycoon’s wife

Slumbered as sound as a post,

His almond shaped eyeballs looked on a sight

That scared him to death almost—

‘Twas a bald headed spectre flitting about

With a paper muslin ghost.

November 9, 2011

George Bernard Shaw, “Prize Bird,” J. B. Kerfoot

Moors submitted her poem “To Bernard Shaw: A Prize Bird” to The Egoist on 8 June 1915 where it was published the following 2 August. The following December, during a trip to New York, she met J. B. Kerfoot, a literary critic who had recently published in Life a paragraph lauding Others Magazine and its “revolutionary” poetry (see Selected Letters, 108-09). During this meeting, she told Kerfoot how she liked “his review of Shaw  (ptomaine and caviar)”, a reference to Kerfoot’s August 29, 1914 piece in the magazine. While Kerfoot’s review may or may not be a source for the “prize bird,” it does mention chicken and egg, and it clearly is the source of “ptomaine and caviar.” The article in full:

Shaw’s Last

JUST as there are tricks in all trades, so there are prides that go with all predicaments. This is one of Nature’s compensations. We could not get along otherwise. And the peculiar and persistent pride that belongs to people who find themselves in the predicament of having children to bring up, is that they arrogantly believe themselves to be better posted on the proper methods of parental procedure than are the only people who have the least chance of knowing anything about the matter—namely, the childless.

Of course to all unbiased observers the fallacy of their position is obvious. Those who marry young and have large families are so busy learning the practical lesson of how children treat parents, that they have neither leisure nor strength left for considering the more abstract question of their own ideal attitude as the supposed controllers of the situation. Whereas any observant celibate with a decently widespread and reasonably intimate acquaintance among the married must have a singularly non-deductive mental make-up if he docs not end by becoming something of an expert on hypothetical parenthood.

Some day, no doubt, matters will be so arranged that all children will be eugenically born of intellectually celibate couples and will be properly trained by married bachelors and old-maid mothers who are conscious of no relation to them. But for the present we are unfortunately faced by a complete deadlock wherein parents continue to furnish terrible examples to leisured lookers-on, but are estopped by that very pride which saves them from despair from profiting by the wisdom they induce in the unwed. And this being the case, one can not conscientiously recommend George Bernard Shaw’s latest volume—Misalliance, the Dark Lady of the Sonnets, and Fanny’s First Play; with a Treatise on Parents and Children” (Brentano’s, $1.-25)—except to such readers as have ceased to be children without becoming fathers or mothers, and to those others who have ceased to be, engrossedly, fathers and mothers without as yet becoming children for the second time.

The present volume contains a typical variety of prefaces and plays. And, as with the chicken and the egg, so, as between the Shaw play and the Shaw preface, the matter of critical precedence has never been satisfactorily settled. Is the preface an exegesis of the play? Or is the play an exemplification of the preface? We can not tell. But—again as with the chicken and the egg—it doesn’t matter, since both, just as they are, lend themselves to so many uses. Beginners generally scramble Shaw’s prefaces. Many professionals poach them. And Americans are only gradually learning that they are delicious just eaten from the shell with a little salt. As for the plays, they are usually roasted. But smothering makes them succulent, and they are sometimes served “supreme”. In the new volume, “Misalliance” deals with “the family” and rings the changes in the familiar Shavian comedy manner upon the unmasking of the hypocrisies and apparent mutual ignorances so carefully maintained between the generations. It was written in 1910 and has never been produced. In other words, it is in process of being “smothered” and will doubtless come out tender and spring-chicken-like some time during the next decade. “Fanny’s First Play” we all know. The treatise on “Parents and Children” is a commentary that runs amusingly amuck through the themes dealt with in both of these. As for “The Dark Lady of the Sonnets”, it is a skit written for and produced at a National Theatre project benefit in 1910, and beyond the pleasing conceit of showing us Shakespeare in the act of gleaning some of his most celebrated phrases from the unconscious lips of those around him, is here little more than a hook from which is hung a delightful Shakespearean essay.

Certain disqualifications for enjoying this book have already been hinted at, but a further word of warning is possibly needed. Shaw is ptomaine to the literal-minded. To the intellectual eclectic his writings are caviar—incidentally a food, but primarily an appetizer. One heralds the publication of a new book of his, therefore, not so much with general urgings to partake as by way of a special notification that he is in season.  

J. B. Kerfoot.  Life, Vol. 64, No. 1660, August 29, 1914, p. 308.

John Barrett Kerfoot, 1865-1920, was born in Chicago, attended Columbia University, and became Life’s literary editor in 1900. He was close to his contemporary, Alfred Stieglitz, and spent his career in NewYork. At left is a caricature of Kerfoot by Marius de Zayas made in 1910 from the collection at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

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