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Posts Tagged ‘Dickens

Burning Man…

Jessica Warner’s Craze : Gin And Debauchery In An Age Of Reason contains what the author suggests is a complete list of victims of spontaneous human combustion in literature from 1798 to 1893:

  • The narrator’s father in Wieland by Charles Brockden Brown (1798)
  • William the Testy in Knickerbocker’s History Of New York by Washington Irving (1809)
  • A woman in Jacob Faithful by Captain Marryat (1834)
  • A blacksmith in Dead Souls by Nikolai Gogol (1842)
  • Sir Polloxfen Tremens in The Glenmutchkin Railway by William Edmondstoune Aytoun (1845)
  • The sailor Miguel Saveda in Redburn by Herman Melville (1849)
  • Mr Krook in Bleak House by Charles Dickens (1852-53)
  • The whisky-sodden and derelict Jimmy Flinn in Life On The Mississippi by Mark Twain (1883)
  • A character in Docteur Pascal by Emile Zola (1893)

(One admires the discipline with which Warner excludes the female cook in Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre (1847), who was merely “in a frame of mind and body threatening spontaneous combustion”…)

[TotH to Dabbler; illustration above-- from Bleak House, showing the discovery of Mr. Krook's "remains"-- via The Guardian]

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As we retreat to the other end of the thermometer, we might recall that it was on this date in 1927 that Clarence Birdseye patented “fish fingers” in the U.K.  Birdseye had already patented a range of “flash-freezing” processes and devices, inspired by his experiences as a biologist and trapper in Labrador earlier in the century.  He had noticed that while slow freezing creates ice crystals in frozen foods– crystals that, when thawed, create sogginess– meat exposed to the extremely cold temperatures in the Canadian North– frozen essentially instantly– didn’t create internal ice, and were as tasty when thawed months later as fresh.  Birdseye created quick-frozen vegetables and meats as a storable option to fresh.  But “fish fingers,” later introduced in the U.S. as “fish sticks,” were his inaugural product created expressly to be frozen.

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The best-laid plans…

 

Pierre Charles L’Enfant’s design for the U.S. Capital

Be they company towns, aimed at keeping workers close to their jobs, or national capitals, designed as civic monuments, planned cities are just that: laid out in advance and constructed from scratch.  Wired‘s collection of “Planned Cities Seen From Space” offers a glimpse of how 10 of these purpose-built cities turned out…

Walter Burley Griffin’s design for Canberra

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As we argue with our architects, we might send silly birthday greetings to Joseph Grimaldi; he was born on this date in 1778.  The most popular English entertainer of his day, Grimaldi was an actor, comedian and dancer who effectively invented the character of The Clown as today we know it.  He became so dominant on the London comic stage that harlequinade Clowns became known as “Joey”; both that nickname and the trademark whiteface make-up that Grimaldi created were, and still are, used widely by all types of clowns.  His catchphrases “Shall I?” and “Here we are again!” still get laughs in pantomimes.

Grimaldi’s memoir, edited by his fan Charles Dickens (who had, as a child, seen Grimaldi perform), was a best-seller.  The annual memorial service held for him (in February at Holy Trinity Church in the London Borough of Hackney) is attended by hundreds of clown performers from all over the world– who attend in full make-up and costume.

Grimaldi, au naturel

Grimaldi, in character

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Written by LW

December 18, 2012 at 1:01 am

Top of the Pops…

After an author has been dead for some time, it becomes increasingly difficult for his publishers to get a new book out of him each year.
- Robert Benchley

source

From the always-amusing Mental Floss, a current read on The All-Time Best-Selling Books.  The top spots are held by volumes either instructional or devotional:

1. The Bible (6.7 billion copies)

2. Quotations from Chairman Mao, Mao Tse-Tung (900 million)

3. The Qur’an (800 million)

4. Xinhua Zidian (400 million — a Chinese dictionary, first published in 1953)

5. The Book of Common Prayer, Thomas Cranmer

6. Pilgrim’s Progress, John Bunyan

7. Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, John Foxe

8. The Book of Mormon, Joseph J. Smith, Jr.

But two works of fiction round out the Top Ten:

9. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, J.K. Rowling (107 million — UK title was …and the Philosopher’s Stone)

10. And Then There Were None, Agatha Christie (100 million)

Read the full list (and find links to top lists of videos, games, and albums) at  The All-Time Best-Selling Books… dive more deeply into the rankings at Wikipedia– which observes:  “This is an incomplete list, which may never be able to satisfy particular standards for completeness.”  To put it politely:  note, e.g., that Tale of Two Cities and Tolkein’s work probably belong in MF’s Top Ten… Still, it’s fun…

“Classic.” A book which people praise and don’t read.
– Mark Twain

As we turn the page, we might recall that it was on this date in 1593 that poet and playwright (Shakespeare’s nearest rival) Christopher Marlowe was killed in a tavern brawl.  Marlowe reputedly supplemented his income as a spy; in any case, he ran afoul of Queen Elizabeth’s government when, earlier in the month, his roommate, playwright Thomas Kyd was grilled by authorities.  Kyd  insisted that the “heretical” papers found in his room belonged to Marlowe, who was subsequently arrested, but was able to use his connections to arrange bail.  While out Marlowe became involved in a fight– ostensibly over a tavern bill, but believed by many to have been a set-up– and was stabbed to death.

The 1585 portrait discovered at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, in 1953, believed to be of the 21-year-old Christopher Marlowe.  The inscribed motto is “QVOD ME NVTRIT ME DESTRVIT,” “that which nourishes me destroys me.”  Indeed.  (source)

 

We might note too that (as the Library of Congress recalls) it was on this date in 1868 that Commander in Chief John A. Logan of the Grand Army of the Republic issued General Order Number 11 designating May 30 as a day “for the purpose of strewing with flowers or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village, and hamlet churchyard in the land.”

The first national celebration of the holiday took place on that day at Arlington National Cemetery, where both Confederate and Union soldiers were buried. Originally known as Decoration Day, at the turn of the century it was designated “Memorial Day.”

It’s a Bard! it’s a plain (Jane)! It’s…

Literary Action Figures!  Shakespeare, Ms. Austen, plus Oscar Wilde, Edgar Allan Poe, and Charles Dickens

Order now, and as a special bonus receive:

(TotH to Brainpickings)

As we save up our allowance, we might recall that it was on this date in 1881 that Charles Darwin published The Formation of Vegetable Mould Through the Action of Worms-- the work he considered a more important accomplishment than The Origin of Species (1859).

source

What’s in a name?…

Mr. and Mrs. Mantalini in Ralph Nickleby’s Office (source: Charles Dickens Page)

From Paul Toutonghi, a list of businessmen’s names from Dickens– the absolute master of the onomatopoeic insult:

Nickleby

Hawk

Squeers

Gride

Quilp

Gradgrind

Tigg

Pecksniff

Heep

Smallweed

Krook

Merdle

Flintwich

Casby

Fledgeby

Wegg

Hexam

Next?  Perhaps lawyers?   (Jaggers, Vholes, Tulkinghorn, Grewgious, Grimwig… )

As we thank our forebears for our family names, we might recall that it was on this date in 1817 that the New York Stock Exchange came in out of the cold.  The origin of the Exchange dated back to May 17, 1792, when the Buttonwood Agreement was signed by 24 stock brokers outside of 68 Wall Street (under a buttonwood tree). Then, on March 8, 1817, the organization drafted a constitution, renamed itself the “New York Stock & Exchange Board,” and moved into a rented room down the road at 40 Wall Street.  (Today, the trading floor– one the NYSE’s several exchanges– is at 11 Wall Street.)

Traders at work under the buttonwood tree

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