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Jacqueline Burrows
Published: 30 August 2021
Abstract:
At some time in the mid-1950s, fifteen pupils at Monkton Combe Junior School, near Bath, Somerset received a hand-written letter and accompanying drawing from John Masefield in response to what he calls their ‘letter of appreciation and enquiry’. In it, he explains to the boys his vision for the quinquereme described in the poem ‘Cargoes’, which was included in Ballads, his second published volume of verse.1
Published: 30 August 2021
Abstract:
In the first chapter of A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, when Stephen Dedalus is at Clongowes School, he considers a piece of graffiti seen ‘behind the door of one of the closets’ of ‘a bearded man in a Roman dress with a brick in each hand and underneath was the name of the drawing:/Balbus was building a wall’.1 Jeri Johnson in her notes for the Oxford World’s Classics edition of A Portrait glosses this as referring to ‘the boys’ Latin lessons; here, from Cicero (106–43 BC) in his Letters to Atticus, xii. 2: [Balbus] is building [new mansions for himself]: for what cares...
Published: 30 August 2021
Abstract:
Off and on, when Robert Frost’s richly allusive ‘Directive’ (1947) reminds its critics of some scenes from T. S. Eliot’s poetry, we agree that both poets fondly recall and long for landscapes that have a redemptive air about them. Neither poet is yet there, where he seeks redemptive grace, but the mood so evoked of paysage moralisé is hard to miss. If Frost’s ‘Directive’ allows his itinerant self an optative in ‘if you’ll let a guide direct you/Who only has at heart your getting lost,’ (96)1 the poet of Four Quartets speaks: ‘If you do not come too close … ’(196); ‘If you came this way,/Taking the route you would be...
Published: 30 August 2021
Abstract:
Hoping to interest Cosmopolitan editor Bailey Millard in a series of reports from the Snark voyage, Jack London wrote to him on 18 February 1906. London offered The People of the Abyss, his eyewitness account of life in London’s East End, as proof that he could ‘deliver the goods’. He mentioned the research he had done and the material he had gathered. He also maintained that he had taken ‘two-thirds of the photographs with [his] own camera’.1 London did not specify whether he had in mind the American edition of The People of the Abyss, published by the Macmillan Company (New York, 1903); the English edition, published by Isbister...
Published: 30 August 2021
Abstract:
The pageant of Christ’s ‘Trial Before Herod’ in the York Corpus Christi Cycle conflates and condenses some of the various mockeries of Jesus before Herod and Pilate as described in Matt. 27: 27–30, Mark 15: 17–20, Luke 22: 63–65; 23: 11, John 18: 22; 19: 2–3. Herod’s train (of noble courtiers or dukes, soldiers, and sons) view Christ as a ludicrous pretender to Herod’s own title of ‘King of the Jews.’ Frustrated once their taunts have failed to make Jesus respond, Herod’s first son suggests that Herod order his soldiers ‘to clothe [Jesus] in white’ (line 337).1 As explained by Clifford Davidson in his generally informative 2011 edition of the Cycle,...
Published: 30 August 2021
Abstract:
The last line of William Empson’s ‘To an Old Lady’, ‘And but in darkness is she visible’, seems to say the opposite of what he means. ‘But’, as used here, would normally mean something like ‘except’, whereas Empson wants to say ‘only’. Like a planet, his mother is visible only in darkness. ‘The bang in the last line, “but in darkness”, was meant to imply: “It’s only when you’re in real trouble that you see the old woman at her best”’.1 ‘But’, of course, runs to various senses. An archaic use of it meaning ‘only’ has literary currency in Andrew Marvell’s ‘Had we but world enough and time’ or in Francis...
John Blazina
Published: 29 August 2021
Abstract:
Early in ‘The Ring of Time’ (1956), E. B. White observes a horse guided by its trainer around a circus ring, and notes that ‘the two of them, horse and woman, seemed caught up in one of those desultory treadmills of afternoon from which there is no apparent escape’. A pun on desultory seems not to have been noticed. A desultory, in Latin, is a horse ridden by a desultor. A desultor is a horse leaper, one who leaps from horse to horse, and indeed, in the next paragraph a horse leaper enters: ‘a girl of sixteen or seventeen … stepped to the ring … and swung herself aboard’ (142)....
Domhnall Mitchell
Published: 29 August 2021
Abstract:
In the standard three-volume edition of The Letters of Emily Dickinson (1958) edited by Thomas H. Johnson and Theodora Ward, there is only one recorded letter to Alfred Norcross (1815–1888), younger brother of the poet’s mother, Emily Norcross Dickinson.1 Her death on 14 November 1882 is the occasion of the message (which is dated ‘early 1883?’ by her editors), but Alfred is nowhere mentioned by name—instead, the letter is addressed to ‘Mother’s Brother’, and reads in part2:
Philip Williamson
Published: 29 August 2021
Abstract:
On 19 May 1940, as British and French armies were in full retreat before the German blitzkrieg, Winston Churchill made his first broadcast as prime minister. He ended with what became one of the most famous passages in his speeches, a rousing paragraph which referred to a church festival and quoted from a religious text. The broadcast address has often been printed in collections of Churchill’s speeches, and the passage is frequently anthologized and quoted, in whole or in part. In the most commonly published version, this final paragraph reads:
Haruki Takebe
Published: 29 August 2021
Abstract:
Different versions of a text sometimes reveal a hitherto unnoted but crucial point for its interpretation: this is the case even in contemporary literature. Martin Amis’s Time’s Arrow, or the Nature of the Offence was first published by Jonathan Cape in September 1991. A month later, an American edition of the novel, with some small but significant revisions, was released by Harmony Books. Most of these changes were purely formal. British words such as ‘lorry’1 and ‘pushchairs’ (JC 41) were replaced by their American equivalents, ‘truck’2 and ‘strollers’ (HB 33), and spellings were Americanized, the title of the HB edition becoming Time’s Arrow, or the Nature of the Offense....
Published: 27 August 2021
Abstract:
Critics have long speculated and disagreed over the identity of the anonymous Time Traveller in Wells’s The Time Machine (1895). Martin T. Willis argues that Thomas Edison was the most likely inspiration, but also admits that there is no general consensus as to the Time Traveller’s identity.1 Willis identifies three schools of thought, as it were, ‘those who see the Time Traveller as a poor example of the late Victorian scientist, those who view him as a scientific Everyman, and those who find him a reflection either of Wells himself or of some mythic precedent’.2 There is no doubt that Wells’s iconic novella grew out of a rich panoply of...
Published: 27 August 2021
Abstract:
What distinguishes the five stanzas that comprise T. S. Eliot’s East Coker IV is their elliptical narrative of a patient being treated by a ‘wounded surgeon’, attended to by a ‘dying nurse’, in a hospital ‘Endowed by [a] ruined millionaire’.1 What besets the patient is fever, twice mentioned in ‘the enigma of the fever chart’ (line154), and ‘The fever sings in mental wires’ (line 166). While commentators have noticed the heavily allegorical Christian cast of characters here, or a symbolic rendering of ‘life’s fitful fever’,2 the poet is keen to suggest that this is no ordinary fever. The ‘enigma’ of the clinical chart is that the fever not only resists...
Published: 27 August 2021
Abstract:
The creation of expansive, annotated, pedigrees was a stock-in-trade of Victorian biography. One of the most industrious practitioners was George Aitken, whose fulsome pursuit of very distant family history for his 1889 Life of Richard Steele drew criticism even in his own day.1 Perhaps mindful of perceived excess, for his next biography, that of Dr John Arbuthnot, Aitken limited ancestry to several pages of text, a family pedigree, and a five-page appendix of genealogical notes.2 The author’s labours, however, had been expansive and painstaking, and the Life was the first scholarly attempt to establish an accurate Arbuthnot genealogy. The original scholarly biographical sketch, produced by Leslie Stephen for the very...
Published: 27 August 2021
Abstract:
On 3 October 1888, Gerard Manley Hopkins wrote a letter to his friend Robert Bridges asking his opinion about a sonnet he had written at the request of Father Francis Goldie—
Published: 24 August 2021
Abstract:
The following list consists of over one hundred new (and in one case corrected) attributions of authorship of anonymous, pseudonymous, or incompletely signed letters, articles, poems, obituaries, drawings, reviews, and staff notes appearing in the Gentleman’s Magazine (hereafter GM) during the years 1815–17, when John Nichols and his son John Bowyer Nichols co-edited the magazine and assumed the mantle of its fictitious conductor, “Sylvanus Urban.” It thus constitutes the latest instalment in my ongoing efforts to supplement my Attributions of Authorship in the Gentleman’s Magazine, 1731–1868: An Electronic Union List (Charlottesville, VA: Bibliographical Society of the University of Virginia, 2003), http://bsuva.org/bsuva/gm2 (accessed 22 March 2020).
Published: 24 August 2021
Abstract:
Oscar Wilde often reused epigrams or even longer passages that had already been published in his earlier works. Although this practice may be explained in part by his simultaneously working on multiple drafts, with the result that he lost track of which material was new and which was old,1 he was also aware that he had a tendency to self-plagiarise—during the Queensberry libel trial he was cross-examined on his Phrases and Philosophies for the Use of the Young and noted that ‘several of them have appeared in my plays’.2 He kept pages of his epigrams in draft form,3 and must have referred back to them while writing. Epigrams may...
Published: 23 August 2021
Abstract:
The principal source for Tennyson’s ‘Locksley Hall’ (written in the late 1830s, and published in 1842) was William Jones’s 1774 translation of the Arabic ode collection the Moâllakát, and the poem also draws on works by Horace, Dante, Shakespeare, Carlyle, Goethe, and Byron.1 However, the influence of the last two of these authors may well have been greater than has been supposed, and Dickens’s Oliver Twist can be plausibly added to the list of sources.
J D Alsop
Published: 23 August 2021
Abstract:
Dr John Simpson (1819–1859), surgeon of HMS Plover, crossed the Isthmus of Panama in November 1851 and subsequently criticized, as grossly exaggerated, the account in Household Words (1852) of a hazardous recent crossing by a group of distinguished British travellers.
William Baker, Andrew Thompson
Published: 23 August 2021
Abstract:
George Henry Lewes’s (1817–1878) reading of Cymbeline in his extensively annotated copy of Charles Knight’s 12 volume edition of Shakspere, the second edition of which was published between 1842 and 1844 and is now at the Folger Shakespeare Library, Washington, D.C., is of considerable interest.1Cymbeline is among the eleven plays in the First Folio described as ‘Tragedies’, although today it is characterized as a ‘romance’, and was extremely popular on the nineteenth-century stage. For Hazlitt, ‘of all Shakespeare’s women she [Innogen] is perhaps the most tender and the most artless’, and for Anna Jameson, Innogen is ‘the most perfect’.2 Knight’s eighth volume contains the text annotated by Lewes....
William Baker, Andrew Thompson
Published: 23 August 2021
Abstract:
George Henry Lewes’s (1817–1878) extensively annotated copy of the twelve-volume The Comedies, Histories, Tragedies, and Poems of William Shakspere, edited by Charles Knight (2nd edition, 1842–1844) and published by Knight, is now at the Folger Library, Washington, DC.1 What follows is a record of selective Lewes annotations on four of the comedies contained in the first three volumes of his copy, with a brief discussion of patterns in his Shakespearian marginalia for this group of plays.2 Lewes’s innumerable marginal linings and underscoring, however, are too numerous to include in their totality in this account. Lewes’s annotations constitute unpublished primary material, are a resource for the study of reading Shakespeare...
Rajalekshmi Krishnakumar, Nandini Ramesh Sankar
Published: 23 August 2021
Abstract:
Scholars of J. H. Prynne have so far offered no context or clarification for the dedication for Kazoo Dreamboats; or, On What There Is (2011). The dedication reads: ‘FOR THE JINLING PATRIOTS’.1 The rare dedicatory notes in Prynne’s formidable corpus tend to allude in the usual manner to friends and poetic influences—Charles Olson, Peter Riley, and Ed Dorn, for instance—though many of these dedications disappeared when the original chapbooks entered the larger collections (all titled Poems) that established Prynne’s reputation beyond the Cambridge poetry scene. The dedication to ‘the Jinling Patriots’ is therefore unusually obscure in its meaning and relevance. We present two distinct but related readings the dedication: the...
Published: 21 August 2021
Abstract:
Four hitherto unpublished letters now at the British Library Manuscripts Department reveal an unnoted association between George Henry Lewes (1817–1878) and Thomas James Serle (1798–1889).1 Lewes who was just twenty-four years old, when he wrote the first of these letters, was already known in some influential London literary circles.2 London theatres often used translated French plays, and one of Lewes’s assets both in the theatre and as a periodical contributor was his fluency in French, a language he knew from attending boarding-school in Jersey.3 Thomas James Serle is today an obscure Victorian figure. As Actor-Manager of Covent Garden in 1838–39, he worked closely with Macready and others at Drury...
Published: 21 August 2021
Abstract:
ONE OF THE PIECES particularly admired by initial readers of Matthew Arnold’s first volumes of poetry was ‘The Sick King in Bokhara’ (1849). ‘[M]ost pleasing to the ordinary mind’, said The Times on 4 November 1853;1 ‘one of the wisest, most simple, and most genial of the poems’,2 added Fraser’s Magazine the following year. The story on which the poem—probably written in 1847 or 1848?3—is based is told in Alexander Burnes’s Travels into Bokhara (1834).4 It concerns the King of Bokhara who tries, generously, to overturn the death penalty handed down to a strict Muslim who had in some way violated the law. But the guilty man...
Andrew Thompson
Published: 21 August 2021
Abstract:
In George Eliot’s holograph notebook in the Bodleian Library in Oxford (MS. Don. G. 8) containing material gathered while researching her Italian novel Romola set at the end of the fifteenth century in Florence, there appears a seemingly incongruous entry: ‘Instead of carrier-pigeons the electric telegraph’.1 This note is preceded by a short list of books on the history of Venice in the Middle Ages, and followed by a quotation from one of these sources together with two more entries from Edward Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. The notebook was in use between January 1862 and late 1864, and some of these entries can be closely related to...
Lucy Powell
Published: 21 August 2021
Abstract:
The criminal slang, or cant, that Fielding deploys in his first and least lauded work of prose fiction casts new light on the dates that he readied it for publication, and on two possible effects he may have been attempting to generate in it. Ronald Paulson follows the critical consensus by estimating that Fielding ‘presumably drafts’ Jonathan Wild in 1740, two years before Robert Walpole retired from office and three before it was first published in the Miscellanies.1 The timing of Jonathan Wild’s composition has coloured its critical reception. The equivalence between the ‘great man’, thief-taker Wild, with Walpole, the corrupt prime minister, which was so fruitfully exploited by...
Michaela Vance
Published: 21 August 2021
Abstract:
This note calls attention to previously unnoticed additional exchanges between the eidolon of The Old Maid, Mary Singleton, and that of The Connoisseur, Mr Town.1 The first three parts of the ‘paper war’ that the two periodicals were part of in 1755 are well-documented2: The Connoisseur attacked The Old Maid on the basis of the opinions of its explicitly gendered eidolon, and Singleton, in turn, replied that Mr Town must be afraid of the competition.3The Connoisseur replied with a note in which Singleton’s (fictional) niece Julia appears to corroborate Mr Town’s claims of her aunt’s alleged hypocrisy.4 That is where the paper war supposedly ended, and the two periodicals proceeded to edit out the exchanges in the collection volumes of each. However, a fourth, previously unnoted, attack on The Old Maid can be found in an annual compilation of The London Magazine, where a reprint of The Craftsman addresses The Old Maid in a similar dream framework. It is this exchange that I wish to draw attention to here.
Published: 21 August 2021
Abstract:
As far as a large proportion of the history-reading public is concerned, Thomas Becket was murdered in Canterbury Cathedral in 1170 after King Henry II had euphemistically ordered his assassination with the words, ‘Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest?’ It is well known among scholars that the only contemporary record of the king’s words (Edward Grim’s monastic chronicle) reports them as follows: ‘What miserable drones and traitors have I nourished and promoted in my household, who allow their lord to be treated with such shameful contempt by a base-born clerk?’1 Early modern chroniclers stuck quite closely to this wording, with Raphael Holinshed recording the outburst in the hearty vernacular: ‘In what miserable state am I, that can not be in rest within mine owne realme, by...
Winifred Liu
Published: 21 August 2021
Abstract:
On Sunday, 21 December 1817, Keats wrote to his brothers Tom and George about his visit to London’s Theatre Royal, Drury Lane:
Published: 21 August 2021
Abstract:
The Physician’s Tale, which retells a version of the story of Virginia, opens by announcing its source in the Roman history of Livy:
A S G Edwards
Published: 21 August 2021
Abstract:
Henry VII died on 21 April 1509. Among the commemorations of his death was an English poem of fifty-six lines in seven 8-line ballade stanzas, that survives in both manuscript and print forms without attribution.1 It is possible that the poem may have been originally intended for display as a titulus over Henry’s tomb.2 In such a context authorial identification may not have been felt to be appropriate. The editors of the poem suggest that ‘there is a strong similarity in style and tone to the known work of Stephen Hawes’.3 No evidence is presented to support this view. But aspects of the text raise the possibility that Hawes...
Anne McKim
Published: 21 August 2021
Abstract:
Until very recently, the History of Bianca Capello, the earliest known English translation of Celio Malespini’s influential Italian story of Bianca Capello (1548–1587), mistress and later consort of Francesco de Medici, Grand Duke of Florence, has been attributed to the novelist Charlotte Lennox.1 It first appeared in Lennox’s short-lived periodical, TheLady’s Museum, in 1760, published in three parts (Nos 5–7), and prefaced by the claim that it had been submitted by the patently fictitious Offaria Cellini.2
James H Kane
Published: 21 August 2021
Abstract:
In the decades following the Norman Conquest of England, scribes working in the scriptorium at Christ Church, Canterbury entered a series of annals in the right-hand margin of an Easter table preserved in London, British Library, Cotton Caligula A. xv.1 Originally filled with computistical data for the years 988–1193 (fols 132v–138r), the table was later extended to accommodate the period from 1194 to 1268 (fols 138v–139r).2 Thirty-seven Old English annals provide a sporadic chronological record extending from 988 to 1109, together with what David Dumville describes as ‘two important outliers’ for the years 925 and 1130.3 These entries are followed by a set of Latin annals terminating with a...
Rob Marland
Published: 21 August 2021
Abstract:
Oscar Wilde’s 1882 tour of North America took the young lecturer on decorative art from New York to San Francisco and scores of cities in between. Lincoln, Nebraska was just another stop on the itinerary, but one that has been of special interest to Wilde’s biographers. This is chiefly because of Wilde’s visit to the Nebraska State Penitentiary, which has often been framed as prefiguring Wilde’s own stint behind bars after his 1895 conviction for ‘gross indecency’ (Richard Ellmann, in particular, was quick to identify any possible ‘tragic prolepsis’ in Wilde’s life). While perusing the cells at Lincoln Wilde spotted a copy of Dante’s Divine Comedy, and remarked that it was...
Published: 21 August 2021
Abstract:
Did Chaucer write the ‘Proverbe of Chaucer’?1 Presented in the Riverside Chaucer as the last of Geoffrey Chaucer’s short poems—a promotion from its position as the last of the ‘Short Poems of Doubtful Authorship’ in F. N. Robinson’s edition, and ‘very doubtful indeed’—this eight-line cross-rhymed ditty has attracted doubts as to authorship when it has attracted any attention at all.2 In the most substantial critical discussion, George B. Pace reassesses the poem’s textual tradition while concluding that Chaucerian authorship is ‘probably unprovable’.3 Previous debate about the authorship of Proverbs centred on the un-Chaucerian rhyme 5 compas/7 embrace, which ignores inflectional -e in the infinitive...
Published: 20 August 2021
Abstract:
Richard Barry, 7th Earl of Barrymore, was travelling with his Berkshire militia on 3 March 1793, when his notorious life as a gambler, turfman, and ‘theatric manic’ was cut short.1 Having larked it over lunch with the landlady at a public house near Folkstone, the earl climbed into his carriage intending to smoke a pipe, when his gun, resting by the leg of his valet, slipped and misfired. The earl, known ubiquitously today as ‘Hellgate’ Barrymore, died a short time later from a horrific head injury, his grotesque disfigurement scarring the recollections of those who attended him.
Published: 20 August 2021
Abstract:
It might seem that the combined respectability and anonymity of the authorial attribution ‘A Presbyter of the United Church of England and Ireland’ would have led to its frequent use, but an author search of WorldCat for this phrase yields only thirteen results. It is even more remarkable that twelve of these examples are various editions of the same work, Selections from the Old and New Versions of the Psalms of David.1 Given the vagaries of cataloguing, there may well have been other volumes issued with such a clerical mask, since even the British Library’s copy of the 1819 first edition of this work does not show up among these thirteen...
Published: 20 August 2021
Abstract:
The influence of Edmund Spenser’s romance epic upon Nathaniel Hawthorne’s life, tales, sketches, and novels is well attested. We know that The Faerie Queene was the first book that the boy Hawthorne purchased with his own money and that the adult Hawthorne would read Spenser aloud to his wife, Sophia Peabody, and to his children.1 Hawthorne called his daughter Una, the name of Spenser’s allegorical figure of Truth and the heroine of Book One of Spenser’s poem.2 Moreover, Hawthorne was not only good friends with the lawyer George Stillman Hillard, who prepared the first American edition of Spenser’s epic, but may also have written an approbatory literary review of Hillard’s...
Published: 20 August 2021
Abstract:
Following the critical and commercial failure of Men and Women, Robert Browning seems to have taken a lengthy break from the business of writing poetry, occupying himself by dabbling in drawing and clay-modelling. There is, however, evidence of a return to poetic activity during the winter of 1859–60, a winter the Brownings spent at Rome to help Elizabeth convalesce after she had been ‘dangerously ill’ the previous summer.1 In a letter of 18 May 1860, Elizabeth noted that Robert was working on a ‘long poem’ that she had not seen, and on a number of ‘shorter lyrics’, which she declared ‘worthy of him’.2 These poems were, no doubt, intended...
Lynn Forest-Hill
Published: 13 August 2021
Abstract:
The name of the hero in this late twelfth or early thirteenth-century Anglo-Norman chanson de geste appears to have originated in tenth-century Provence, coming to prominence by way of Cluniac crusading propaganda. In the form ‘Beuve’, a bishop of Marseilles c. 869 had borne this name,1 but as the name of a saint it emerges rather later, in historical records of incursions by Muslims from al-Andalus in Spain into Provence and northern Italy during the ninth and tenth centuries.2 They plundered the countryside and attacked Christian pilgrims en route to Rome, but responses by local lords were inconsistent3 until Hugh d’Arles led an alliance of Christian landowners including Boeve...
Keith Briggs
Published: 13 August 2021
Abstract:
Sherborne Lane is situated in the City of London, 100 metres south-east of the Bank. In his analysis of the medieval forms of the name of this lane, typified by Shitteborwelane 1272/3, Ekwall suggested the existence of a jocular term shiteburgh for a privy.1 Thus a humble outhouse had been dignified by the application of the word burgh, normally designating castles or towns.2 Ekwall explained the subsequent development of the name as partly due to textual misreading of -burue as -burne ‘stream’, or simple spoken confusion of these words, and with euphemistic substitution of the first element.3
Abstract:
In the second paragraph, a sentence erroneously appeared as “The history is compiled from both manuscript and print sources, including the Vulgate, Caxton’s print of the Polychronicon, the Canterbury Tales, Mandeville’s Travels, a Holy Cross Legend, de Worde’s print Information for pilgrims unto the holy londe, Peter of Poitiers’s Compendium historiae in genealogia Christi, Gower’s Confessio Amantis, a translation of Jacques Legrand’s Book of Good Manners, and Mandeville’s Travels.” This should have read “The history is compiled from both manuscript and print sources, including the Vulgate, Caxton’s print of the Polychronicon, the Canterbury Tales, a Holy Cross Legend, de Worde’s print Information for pilgrims unto the holy londe, Peter of Poitiers’s Compendium historiae in genealogia Christi, Gower’s Confessio Amantis, a translation of Jacques Legrand’s Book of Good Manners, and Mandeville’s Travels.”
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