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Archive for the ‘Major Authors’ Category

I looked up from my writing,

   And gave a start to see,

As if rapt in my inditing,

   The moon’s full gaze on me.

 

Her meditative misty head

   Was spectral in its air,

And I involuntarily said,

   ‘What are you doing there?’

 

‘Oh, I’ve been scanning pond and hole

   And waterway hereabout

For the body of one with a sunken soul

   Who has put his life-light out.

 

‘Did you hear his frenzied tattle?

   It was sorrow for his son

Who is slain in brutish battle,

   Though he has injured none.

 

‘And now I am curious to look

   Into the blinkered mind

Of one who wants to write a book

   In a world of such a kind.’

 

Her temper overwrought me,

   And I edged to shun her view,

For I felt assured she thought me

   One who should drown him too.

 

                ~ Thomas Hardy

 

A. L. Leroy, 1827

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In the works of Virginia Woolf, puddles often represent a metaphorical chasm between significance and anonymity, solidity and vagueness, reality and illusion.  Frequently her protagonists, upon confronting a puddle, find themselves unable to cross, thereby remaining – like Woolf – locked in the debilitating delusions of their mind.

On this day in 1941, the tormented Woolf succumbed to her manic depression, filled the pockets of her overcoat with stones, and walked into the River Ouse and drowned.  As a tribute, some of Woolf’s literary puddles are presented here.

 

Some cleavage of the dark there must have been, some channel in the depths of obscurity through which light enough issued […].  The mystic, the visionary, walking the beach on a fine night, stirring a puddle, looking at a stone, asking themselves “What am I,” “What is this?” […]. 

~ To the Lighthouse (1927)

 

“There is the puddle,” said Rhoda, “and I cannot cross it.  I hear the rush of the great grindstone within an inch of my head.  Its wind roars in my face.  All palpable forms of life have failed me.  Unless I can stretch and touch something hard, I shall be blown down the eternal corridors for ever.”

~ The Waves (1931)

 

There was the moment of the puddle in the path; when for no reason I could discover, everything suddenly became unreal; I was suspended; I could not step across the puddle; I tried to touch something . . . the whole world became unreal.

~ “A Sketch of the Past” (1939)

 

I wished to add some remarks to this, on the mystical side of this solitude; how it is not oneself but something in the universe that one’s left with.  It is this that is frightening [and] exciting in the midst of my profound gloom, depression, boredom, whatever it is…. Life is, soberly [and] accurately, the oddest affair; has in it the essence of reality.  I used to feel this as a child – couldn’t step across a puddle once I remember, for thinking, how strange – what am I?

    ~ Diary 3, as quoted in The Flight of the Mind: Virginia Woolf’s Art and Manic-Depressive Illness by Thomas C. Caramagno

 

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There were days when she was very happy without knowing why. She was happy to be alive and breathing, when her whole being seemed to be one with the sunlight, the color, the odors, the luxuriant warmth of some perfect Southern day.  She liked then to wander alone into strange and unfamiliar places.  She discovered many a sunny, sleepy corner, fashioned to dream in.  And she found it good to dream and to be alone and unmolested. 

There were days when she was unhappy, she did not know why,—when it did not seem worth while to be glad or sorry, to be alive or dead; when life appeared to her like a grotesque pandemonium and humanity like worms struggling blindly toward inevitable annihilation. She could not work on such a day, nor weave fancies to stir her pulses and warm her blood.

 

~ From The Awakening by Kate Chopin, born on this day in 1850

 

"A Willing Captive" by Frederick Stuart Church, 1888

“A Willing Captive” by Frederick Stuart Church, 1888

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Art, especially the stage, is an area where it is impossible to walk without stumbling.  There are in store for you many unsuccessful days and whole unsuccessful seasons: there will be great misunderstandings and deep disappointments…you must be prepared for all this, expect it and nevertheless, stubbornly, fanatically follow your own way.

 

~ Anton Chekhov, born on this day in 1860

 

Osip Braz, 1898

Portrait of Anton Chekhov by Osip Braz, 1898

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Romance, who loves to nod and sing,

With drowsy head and folded wing,

Among the green leaves as they shake

Far down within some shadowy lake,

To me a painted paroquet

Hath been—a most familiar bird—

Taught me my alphabet to say—

To lisp my very earliest word

While in the wild wood I did lie,

A child—with a most knowing eye.

Of late, eternal Condor years

So shake the very Heaven on high

With tumult as they thunder by,

I have no time for idle cares

Through gazing on the unquiet sky.

And when an hour with calmer wings

Its down upon my spirit flings—

That little time with lyre and rhyme

To while away—forbidden things!

My heart would feel to be a crime

Unless it trembled with the strings.

 

                        ~ Edgar Allan Poe, born on this day in 1809

 

"Un Rêve d'Amour" by Franceso Vinea, 1895 (photo by JoJan)

“Un Rêve d’Amour” by Franceso Vinea, 1895 (photo by JoJan)

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There is perhaps no branch of work amongst the arts so free at the present time as that of the writing of fiction. There are no official prohibitions, no embarrassing or hampering limitations, no oppressive restraints.  Subject and method of treatment are both free.  A writer is under no special obligation, no preliminary guarantee; he may choose his own subject and treat it in his own way.  In fact, his duty to the public—to the State—appears to be nil. What one might call the cosmic police do not trouble him at all.  Under these conditions, hitherto kept possible by the self-respect of authors, a branch of the art of authorship has arisen and gone on perfecting itself in mechanical excellence, until it has become an important factor of the life of the nation.  Today if the supply of fiction were to be suddenly withdrawn the effect would be felt almost as much as the failure of the supply of breadstuffs.

 

~ From “The Censorship of Fiction” by Bram Stoker, born on this day in 1847

 

Bram Stoker, circa 1906

Bram Stoker, circa 1906

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Even the sun-clouds this morning cannot manage such skirts.

Nor the woman in the ambulance

Whose red heart blooms through her coat so astoundingly –

 

A gift, a love gift

Utterly unasked for

By a sky

 

Palely and flamily

Igniting its carbon monoxides, by eyes

Dulled to a halt under bowlers.

 

O my god, what am I

That these late mouths should cry open

In a forest of frost, in a dawn of cornflowers.

 

                                                  ~ Sylvia Plath, born on this day in 1932

 

"Oriental Poppies" by Laura Muntz Lyall (1860-1930)

“Oriental Poppies” by Laura Muntz Lyall (1860-1930)

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