Thursday, June 30, 2016

A Bad Day for Britain

So, I've tried several times in the past week to put together a suitable post re. the English voting to pull out of Europe, but each kept sliding off into intemperate tangents. So I'd just like to make a quick note to commiserate with all the folks out there in Britain who suddenly find themselves in a country that's just committed itself to taking a wrong turn.

--John R.

Cat Report (W.June 29th)

Good to finally be back, and to meet new cats Wesley and Bellamy and Mary Meowsie (well, new since the last time I’d been there, anyway).

Just a quick note regarding the cats at mid-day yesterday.

I got to walk five out of six cats, some for as much as fifteen minutes or so. The sole exception was PIXIE. I got the leash on her and took her outside of the room, but she was so distressed I brought her back in after only a ninute or so. It didn’t help that between my giving ZIPPY his walk and trying to give PIXIE hers, some dog had marked territory all over the place right outside the cat-cages. I cleaned it up as best I could, but the cats that took walks after than all knew it was there. 

Of the cats who had walks, ZIPPY did well, and RAGGEDY ANNE did great. MISS MARY MEOWSIE proved to be an old pro at this walking thing, while MR. BELLAMY and YOUNG WELSEY both seemed to enjoy themselves — though Wesley has a tendancy to suddenly stop dead, for reasons not apparent to me, then after a wary while to start up again as good as new. Quite a few people were amused by seeing the cats walked and came up to ask questions.

After the walks came the crinkly paper. Wesley loved it, but Mr. Bellamy acted like it was the best thing ever. Miss Mary was interested but didn’t want to get too close to the boy cats. Wesley similarly wanted to keep his distance form Bellamy, eventually settling himself atop the cat-stand, so pouncing on and burrowing under paper wound up being all Bellamy’s game. Which pleased him no end. Watching him with the other cats I think he’s willing to share but likes it even better when he doesn’t have to. 

After that there was catnip all round. Again Mr. Bellamy was the most enthusiastic, followed by Wesley and Raggedy Anne. 

Mr. Bellamy did have one unusual behavior. He went several times to the communal dirt box, scratched in it furiously, then ran around both rooms several times. He finally used it near the end of my shift; all the rest had been him just playing I suppose. 

Sorry to hear that Baloo’s adoption didn’t take. Wish I could get Zippy and esp. Pixie to come out more; both are v. shy around me, esp. Pixie.

Heath issues: only thing I noticed was that the hair’s getting matted behind R.Anne’s ears. I tried combing the tangles out but she wasn’t in a mood to put up with any such foolishness on my part. She did a lot of grabbing my hand and then grooming it. That was sweet, but when I tried to pull the hand back that tended to trigger her predator instinct. She was careful not to bite or actually scratch me, but I came away with a few pinpricks. 

And that’s about it for yesterday’s socializing shift. It’s good to be back.

—John R.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Cockshut on Lewis

So, I've been reading through the latest issue of THE JOURNAL OF INKLINGS STUDIES w. great interest, starting from the back; the round-table discussion of Lindop's new biography of Wms by eight Wms scholars, who are clearly trying to get their heads around some of the revelations of said book.

The next part to seize my attention was "Lewis in Post-War Oxford" by A. O. J. Cockshut, who was a student there in the early postwar years. Cockshut has a number of interesting things to say about Oxford and Lewis's role in it during his time there. Perhaps the three most important deal first with Lord David Cecil's election to a professorship in 1948. Although Cockshut was being tutored by Cecil and viewed him as a personal friend, he felt Lewis was the more substantial of the two* and shd have gotten the post.

The second comes in Cockshut's passing judgment on 'The Great Kirk', Lewis's tutor who had trained him in logic and argumentation: 'Many [who have read SURPRISED BY JOY] will have been struck by the admiring way Lewis describes [Kirk's] perverse and stupid style of reasoning . . . Here was a man -- if we are to believe Lewis's account -- to whom it had never occurred that reason is a tool of the intellectual life, which can perform some tasks and not others' (Cockshut p. 74)

The third and perhaps more important event was the fight over whether to expand the syllabus to include works written since 1830 (i.e., all the Victorians and perhaps the early Moderns). Cockshut says Lewis sent a circular signed by himself and two other dons (who go unnamed) to everyone attending the faculty meeting held to decide the matter (chaired, we are told, by Cecil): this document urged rejection of the expansion. But the reason Lewis gave was, according to Cockshut, disingenuous to the point of being specious.

As Cockshut tells it, Lewis at the meeting argued that the Victorian age was one of the greatest in English literature, even rivaling "the great seventeenth century" (the era of Shakespeare and Milton and Donne).  ' "And that is why we should not allow undergraduates to study it. Think of the things they would have to know before they could begin to understand it." He then gave a list of background material that might occupy a professor for years'. (Cockshut p. 74). Cockshut believes that Lewis was being deliberately sophistical. 'Moreover, some would have felt that as it had already been announced that he was leaving Oxford for Cambridge, it would have been tactful to leave his colleagues to themselves in deciding their syllabus and the content of what they would have to teach' (Cockshut p. 75)'.  Cockshut's final conclusion is devastating: that at that meeting '[Lewis] was guilty of the serious offense of regaling people who were his intellectual and professional equals with sophistry' (Cockshut p. 75-76)

On the whole, an interesting piece, and one I'm glad to have had the chance to read. Even leaving aside Cockshut's opinions, he provides some new details previously unknown to me about this significant event.  I'd like to see a copy of that circular, for example, and to know who the other two who signed it with Lewis were.

--John R.
current re-reading: AND THEN THERE WERE NONE

*I think this underestimates Cecil's achievements, but pass over that for now since I've posted about  that elsewhere.

More on Dunsany as a characte

Having just received an interesting comment on an earlier post (the one about S. T. Joshi's novel THE ASSAULTS OF CHAOS), I thought I'd repost it here so it didn't just disappear into the ether:

 Rat said...
You may be amused to know (if you don’t already) that there was once a Japanese video game company called Sacnoth (, named in honour of just what it sounds like, which produced, among various other titles, a game called “Koudelka” which featured a young Edward Plunkett (the game was set in 1898 in Aberystwyth) as one of its three primary protagonists. Also featured were Roger Bacon, Madame Blavatsky, and the magic cauldron from the Mabinogion. A very unusual little piece of work, to say the least. Not to say that it was very good, or that it has aged well, but it’s worth looking up on YouTube, at least.

I had known there was such a company, but not that they had released a videogame in which Dunsany himself was a character; thanks for sharing.

Of the games known to me, the one in which Dunsany most prominently features was MYTHOS, Chaosium's ccg of the Cthulhu Mythos. Even there he's a minor character, one of the author allies that characters can bring into the game via the Europe expansion.

And speaking of Lovecraft-as-a-character, just today I found there's another novel out in which he features as a character: THE BROKEN HOURS by Jacqueline Baker.  More on this one later, perhaps.

--John R
current reading: THE JOURNAL OF INKLINGS STUDIES (latest issue)

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Keeping it close to his chest . . .

So, I'm currently reading on what I think must be the best kept secret of the last few years in Tolkien studies: Raymond Edwards' new [2014] biography of Tolkien. This came out a while ago (2014) and seems to have sunk without a trace, despite being, so far at least, the best Tolkien biography since Carpenter. I saw a favorable mention on Wayne & Christina's site, but it didn't really register for me till a friend recommended it last week (thanks, Bill).

I'll hold off discussing the book as a whole until I've had time to finish it, but I was amused by the short final chapter on the films, which has every sign of being added at the publisher's behest (and of having been written before the final HOBBIT film was out). While admitting he's "not a fan" of the LotR films, aside from the first one, his criticisms are generally well-stated and restrained, until he gets to the part where he memorably describes Lee Pace's Thranduil as "distressingly reminiscent of Caligula as he might have been played by David Bowie in his cross-dressing phase".  He concludes of the HOBBIT films as a whole "not as bad as it might be, and the dragon is splendid" (p.288)

More on this one later.

--John R.
current reading: TOLKIEN by Raymond Edwards, roundtable discussion of the Lindop Ch.Wms. biography in the newest issue of THE JOURNAL OF INKLINGS STUDIES (p.127-166).

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Inquiries while at Marquette

So, having received some queries re. various points in the manuscripts since I was last here, I brought along a short list of things to look up if I had time. In case anyone else out there might be interested in the same points, I thought I'd post the results.

#1. Andrew F. queried a line in THE HOBBIT (Chapter IV, second paragraph), where the published text reads

'a crooked way and a lonely and a long'

Checking the manuscript page of this passage (Ms. 1/1/3), I find it seems to have originally read

a crooked way and a lonely way and long
   before being changed to
a crooked way and a lonely and long  *

In the typescripts (TS 1/1/54 and TS 1/1/35) this is changed to

'It was a hard path and a dangerous path, a crooked way
and a lonely and a long.'

Both typescripts have the exact same reading, which seems to confirm that Tolkien wanted it this way. I noticed this while putting together MR. BAGGINS and consider it one of several cases in THE HOBBIT where Tolkien choses an evocative slightly nonstandard usage (in this case, an elliptical ending) for effect.

#2 through #5 come from Andrew McC via comments on my blog (cf. the entry for Feb. 15th).
One query concerns Hama, the other three all pertain to Pippin's meeting with Gwinhir [Bergil]

#2 The Ale of Hama. (VIII.236 & 264).
In the manuscript, the passage in question falls on the last sheet of Marq. 3/7/8. ('This is not the House of Eorl'), and reads

            and the ale    ale
of Hama and all who fell

The illegible word lacks a descender and hence cannot be 'birg' (A.McC.'s suggestion, which I found ingenious). Whatever it is, it begins (probably) and ends (definitely) with an ascender and is about four letters long. One possibility is hard, though that seems a little unsatisfactory.

#3 of the Nine; Pippin & Gwinhir #1 (MT II.026).
A.McC. suggests that the illegible word in the following passage might be Band:

of whom ^your lord  Boromir was one,
of the of the Nine I should say

The question mark here is in the original (pencilled over the word), but 'ring' seems fairly clear, if indiscreet of Pippin to mention.

#4 balled fists? Pippin vs. Gwinhir #2 (MT II.027)
Come on good ferret, bite if you like. and he made for   up his fists

Pencilled over the illegible word: 'bent?'
That more or less looks right but doesn't make sense. Whatever the word, its first letter is an ascender (and thus 'b' is possible). Its last letter is an ascender. There's no ascender in the middle (thus it's not 'balled', A.McC's suggestion). There's no descender at all (thus it's not 'put' or something along that line). Consider me stumped as to this one.

#5 But do not speak so darkly; Pippin vs. Gwinhir #3.
MT II.028.   HME.VIII.285 (& .293, Nt26).
Here the illegible passage comprises the last three words of the fifth line and the first word of the sixth line.

while the sun still shines.   and light

The first illegible word looks like Stands but is slightly longer.
The second illegible word is about three or four letters long.
Of the two words between, one is definitely and and the other probably light
So think we're a little closer on this one but not there yet.

Hope this helps.

--John R.

*the details are slightly more complicated; I can provide them if anyone's interested