Thursday, 25 July 2013

Agatha Brazen and the Full Moon Follies

Dearest Emily,

As the stork prepares to take flight to the ABC streets of F'laam, GiGi is thinking about ruining another children's book for your new sibling.
Otherwise Em, she might get a bit sad that you have a book, just for you- and she doesn't have one for her. Don't worry, I will still continue Dodgsoning nerdiness just for you. Perhaps though Em, it might be fun to make up some stories, all about the characters we already know? Then, as you will be such a clever big sister who knows all about reading- you could show off and help Mummy at the same time, by reading them to her! What do you think?
Let's make some up, and then you can tell me...

Agatha Brazen sat on her step in the evening sunshine musing. Agatha liked musing, it was one of her favourite pastimes. The day had been rather long getting on, what with one thing and another- in fact it could be considered a disaster, Agatha mused- if she let it be considered so.
No, she shook her head- lessons were to be learned, everything happens for a reason, so put it to bed.  The reasons would show themselves presently.

Thursday, 18 July 2013

In Summer when the days are long, perhaps you'll understand my song...

Dearest Emily,

In Summer, when the days are long,
  perhaps you'll understand my song.

In Autumn, when the leaves are brown,
  take pen and ink and write it down.

In Winter, when the fields are white,
  I sing this song for your delight-

In Spring, when woods are getting green,
  I'll try and tell you what I mean.

Humpty Dumpty's 'Song that he does not actually sing' to Alice

This week at The Bookroom, I began putting together some thoughts for my 'Tea-Time Talk' today at Dimbola. I realised that it is actually a year to the day when it all began!

It was a Thursday, in July, and the good old trustees at Dimbola were sparring. The war this time was about plans for increasing the tearoom and gift shop turnover. This is my area and committee, and our chairman put forward a fab new design and revamp centred around Lewis Carroll's 'Mad Hatter'.
Someone commented that our Julia could be the 'Queen of Hearts'! Someone else said - 'Oh no she couldn't!' Someone else said 'Oh yes she could!', and so it went on in trusty trustees style. In one ear but not quite out the other for me. Something was ringing bells...
That night I went home and read 'Alice' and then 'Through the Looking Glass' and the bells got louder.
The clues were there in Tenniel's illustrations. It was said of John Tenniel that he could see a photograph, or someone, just once, and then cariacaturise them. Well, there it was...

So, 'by Autumn when the leaves were brown, I took pen and ink and wrote it down' and 'by Winter when the fields were white, I wrote this blog for your delight!' 

And, 'In Spring, when woods were getting green, I tried to tell you what I mean!'

And this Em, was the most fun bit...

My last chapter was aimed at showing the landscape that I can see, where I walk every day, and how I perceive what Dodgson saw, which, without being here and seeing with an eye that's focussed on its prey for a view, was a tough call.

I started out with a blog-post idea, and set off plus dogs and camera to see if I could achieve my aim.

Upon my return I dug out a local war department map from 1909, to show how the landscape was parcelled up, and wrote...

'On a war department map of the time, just to the left of the Bay, is 'Plumbl'ys Hotel where Dodgson stayed for three weeks in the summer of 1864. Dodgson was known to be a keen walker- often covering 20-30 miles a day. Farringford can be seen in the middle of the map, surrounded by trees and meadows, defined by hedges and trees. Just to the bottom of the estate is a plot surrounded by woodland that Emily Tennyson ( and Tweedles Dee and Dum ) coined 'The Wilderness'.

If one takes a diagonal route up from Plumbl'ys and over the Down through the Wilderness and onwards some more- one reaches 'The Needles' and then The Needles Hotel at that time, where we know Dodgson had friends staying. That he took this route more than once is also known- as it is a walk of outstanding natural beauty, plus it means that you get a good vantage point for the Farringford Estate- and from what I have learned about Dodgson, it's highly likely he tromped around here quite a bit.
I've been convinced that this particular scenery was where Dodgson placed his story since we moved here last year- and it was the scenery that gave me my first clues. The Wilderness is mentioned in the book, and each precise Tenniel illustration sums up the woodlands and copses succinctly for me.

I photographed some views from the High Down, with tree in front depicting our modern chess-board layout. These intersected with views from the front of Farringford up towards the same view in my minds eye and I hoped I could translate my thoughts successfully.

So, I came back and ended my day with a ritual of 'colouring-in' a Tenniel. I sit looking out over the Bay as I do this. I had almost finished, when looking up at the view, and down at the illstration- there in the right hand top corner, was the very Bay I was looking at out of my window!

Thank-you Tenniel- who gave my brain its first clues, who now helped me validate my theory!'

And so we carry on Emily, one book to bed, but more and more discoveries!

Until next time- off to do my talk! Your ever-loving Grandmother, GiGi xxx

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

The Artful Dodgson

Dearest Emily,

Your Grand-mother GiGi is having a fine old time approaching our investigations of dead-people through the froth on the coffee aspect of fashion. It's just such a good way in, Em. As James Laver said- 'Clothes are the furniture of the mind made visible'. A truer word was never said, Em.
Take our 'Artful Dodgson' par example...

Quintin F. Twiss as "The Artful Dodger."

Dodgson took this photograph very early on in his photographic career. Twiss was an undergraduate at Oxford, and at the time an Amateur Actor ( this was taken a good ten years before Twiss starred in the West End Musical 'Cox and Box' along-side George du Maurier, and the 'Moray Minstrels' who included Kate, Ellen and Florence Terry.

There's so many interesting clues here Emily. Dodgson had been invited to a social gathering at Twiss'es. So, he looked at the expressive character in front of him, and asked to photograph him.
Dressing him first in a sailor suit, and then as one of his favourite author's character's Dickens 'Artful Dodger', he art-directed, styled and did the post-production and marketing- by promising a set of prints that evening- dashing round to Rymans the printers- getting them to agree to deal with the sale of the photographs.
Which he succeeded in, and by the time the party was started, Dodgson's proofs were on display with a note of where they could be bought. Twenty-five prints were purchased that night.

Dodgson the entrepreneur as well.

He had 'bet on a good horse'. Twiss became a part of the circles in which Dodgson very much desired to move in. Du Maurier became a friend, as did the Terry family. Dodgson felt a useful part in the bohemian backstage culture, as friend and confidante to the actors, their attentive critic and supporter.

More-over he drew his own aesthetic from the theatrical world he admired. He gathered costume for his photographic shoots- which he continued to stage and style himself from an increasing store in his 'dressing up box'. 

Dodgson was perhaps somewhat surprising to report- rather sartorially obsessed. His own peculiar style  meant always wearing a clerics coat ( whatever the weather ) a Top-hat, grey or black gloves, a walking cane, and gladstone bag filled with games and inventions for train journeys. He wore his hair long for the fashion of the day. He never dressed for dinner- wearing what he had put on that morning.

Dodgson as a young Don at Oxford with Alice Liddell- a 'Carte de Visite'

Returning to the context of my critical lens Emily- this just suits rather well as a way to look in.

Going back to a previous post- when I was feeling all of a stutter about the notion of attempting a PhD, and disgraced myself humungously in my first soujourn into academise. Dear D.B.H was all out-of-shape and my lovely Prof. Bob suggesting I have a little re-think.

Well, I'm encouraged dear Em, Bob took my title and put it forwards as a suggested topic for workshops at Dimbola, and has a speaker already in the academic field who works within the subject!

Hurrah! Onwards and sideways...

Let's give the wonderful original that was James Lavers the last word. Here is 'Lavers Law';

Indecent 10 years before its time
Shameless 5 years before its time
Outré (Daring) 1 year before its time
Smart 'Current Fashion'
Dowdy 1 year after its time
Hideous 10 years after its time
Ridiculous 20 years after its time
Amusing 30 years after its time
Quaint 50 years after its time
Charming 70 years after its time
Romantic 100 years after its time
Beautiful 150 years after its time

So, Emily, here's to a 'Beautiful Study!


Your ever-loving Grand-Mother,

GiGi xxx

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Jour frabellais! Calleau! Callai!


Il brilgue: les roves lubricilleux
Se gyrent en vrillant dans le guave,
Enmimes sont les gougebosquex,
Et le momerade horsgrave.

Garde-toi du Jaseroque, mon fils!
La guele qui mord; la griffe qui prend!
Garde-toi de l'oiseau Jube, evite
Le frumieux Band-a-prend.

Son glaive vorpal en main il va-
T-a la recherche du fauve manscant;
Puis arrive a l'arbre Te-Te,
Il y reste, refleshissant.

Pendant qu'il pense, tout uffuse
Le Jaseroque, a l'ouil flambant,
Vient siblant par le bois tullegais,
Et burbule en venant.

Un deux, un deux, par le milieu,
Le glaive vorpal fait pat-a-pan!
La bete defaite, avec sa tete,
Il rentre gallomphant.

As-tu tue, Le Jaseroque?
Viens a mon couer, fils raonnais!
O jour frabellais! Calleau! Callai!
Il cortule dans sa joie.

Il brilgue: les roves lubricilleux
Se gyrent en vrillant dans le guave,
Enmimes sont les gougebosquex,
Et le momerade horsgrave.

Frank L. Warrin in the New Yorker, Jan 10 1931

Dearest Em (yes, I know I didn't put in all the accents- but can't figure out how to do that on blogger)

The Jabberwocky in French- naturellement- well how reductio-absurdum is that ma petite chou-fleur! 

Fancy translating nonsense words into French nonsense- however- 'tis interesting how it still seems like nonsense that sounds like something you somehow understand...

Well that my dear girl is a proper Red Queen way of looking at it- 'If you ca'n't think of the word in English, say it in French'- if ever I saw one!

I found it in the appendixes at the back of Florence Becker Lennon's 'Lewis Carroll' published in 1947.

Another nerdy Carrollian bit of absurdity in real-life gleaned from her was that in the province of Hunan in China in 1932, the Alice books were banned on account of the talking creatures...
 Says the warlord, 'Bears,loins and other beasts cannot use a human language, and to attribute to them such a power is an insult to the human race'. 

Gracious me, what did Lewis Carroll kick off with his tales?

Becker-Lennon states too that 'In spite of the numerous translations of Alice's Adventures and of Jabberwocky, the rest of Through the Looking-Glass has resisted all attempts at translation, perhaps because of the difficult word plays.

...Until 1966 Em, when Aliciae Per Speculum Transitus came out- translated into Latin by Mr C.L. Carruthers. I know its true- because I have a copy Em.

It sits happily next to Alicia in Terra Mirabili, and Fabula de Jemima Anate-Aquatica by Beatricis Potter don't you know. So GiGi is not alone in her nerdiness Emily- there are more out there...

In all tongue-in cheek seriousness my girl, it tickles me pink- that someone not only made the decision to translate nonsense into another language- even Latin, but took the trouble to do the work- and to publish it! Well, even if it's only for me- and they aren't being snapped up all over the world- thank-you Frank L.Warrin, and C.L Carruthers, and Jonathon Musgrave (Potter.)

Saluto vos absurdo!

A tout-a-l'heure Emily,

Your ever-loving Grand-Mother GiGius xxxx