Friday, 30 October 2015

Along with this letter comes a play



Born in Salford in 1938, Shelagh Delaney was just 18 years old and new to the world of theatre when she began to write A Taste of Honey, the play for which she is now widely known. In the blink of an eye she was the talk of the industry: by 1958, the play had been produced by Joan Littlewood’s Theatre Workshop and was winning over critics and audiences alike; the next year, it opened in the West End to similarly positive reviews. Undeterred by this instant fame, Delaney then adapted her debut for the big screen with aplomb – the resulting film premiered in 1961 and went on to win numerous awards, with Delaney still in her early twenties. All told, a remarkable entrance, made possible thanks to a sterling play and this plucky letter of introduction from Delaney to Littlewood, sent just two weeks after loading her first sheet of paper into a typewriter.

Letter taken from the More Letters of Note book. For more info and to read reviews of that book, go here. Image of Shelagh Delaney via Wikipedia.


Dear Miss Littlewood

Along with this letter comes a play, the first I have written. I wondered if you would read it through and send it back to me because no matter what sort of theatrical atrocity it might be, it isn’t valueless so far as I’m concerned.

A fortnight ago I didn’t know the theatre existed, but a young man, anxious to improve my mind, took me to the Opera House in Manchester and I came away after the performance having suddenly realised that at last, after nineteen years of life, I had discovered something that meant more to me than myself. I sat down and thought. The following day I bought a packet of paper and borrowed an unbelievable typewriter which I still have great difficulty in using. I set to and produced this little epic - don’t ask me why - I’m quite unqualified for anything like this. But at least I finished it and if, from among the markings and the typing errors and the spelling mistakes, you can gather a little sense from what I have written - or a little nonsense - I should be extremely grateful for your criticism - though I hate criticism of any kind.

I want to write for the theatre, but I know so very little about it. I know nothing, have nothing - except a willingness to learn - and intelligence.

Yours sincerely
Shelagh Delaney

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

NEW FANGLED WRITING MACHINE

Few authors have made an impact as enduring as literary icon Samuel Clemens, a man who, under his pen name, Mark Twain, wrote such classics as Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, a book which has been read by many millions of people around the world since its publication in 1884. It was ten years earlier, whilst shopping in Boston, that a curious Clemens spotted and then bought a Remington No.1, the very first “type writer” to be produced by E. Remington and Sons, released to the public that year. The first letter he wrote on his “new fangled writing machine”--which, incidentally, could only produce upper-case characters--was to his brother, Orion. Nine years after this letter was typed, Twain became the first author to deliver a typewritten manuscript to a publisher. It was his memoir, Life on the Mississippi.

Letter taken from the More Letters of Note book. For more info and to read reviews of that book, go here. Image courtesy of Vassar College; reproduced with permission of the Mark Twain Project.

Transcript follows.



Transcript
BJUYT KIOP N LKJHGFDSA:QWERTYUIOP:_-98VX5432QW RT

HA
HARTFORD, DEC. 9, 1874
DEAR BROTHER:

I AM TRYING T TO GET THE HANG OF THIS NEW F FANGLED WRITING MACHINE, BUT AM NOT MAKING A SHINING SUCCESS OF IT. HOWEVER THIS IS THE FIRST ATTEMPT I EVER HAVE MADE, & YET I PERCEIVETHAT I SHALL SOON & EASILY ACQUIRE A FINE FACILITY IN ITS USE. I SAW THE THING IN BOSTON THE OTHER DAY & WAS GREATLY TAKEN WI:TH IT. SUSIE HAS STRUCK THE KEYS ONCE OR TWICE, & NO DOUBT HAS PRINTED SOME LETTERS WHICH DO NOT BELONG WHERE SHE PUT THEM.

THE HAVING BEEN A COMPOSITOR IS LIKELY TO BE A GREAT HELP TO ME, SINCE O NE CHIEFLY NEEDS SWIFTNESS IN BANGING THE KEYS. THE MACHINE COSTS 125 DOLLARS. THE MACHINE HAS SEVERAL VIRTUES I BELIEVE IT WILL PRINT FASTER THAN I CAN WRITE. ONE MAY LEAN BACK IN HIS CHAIR & WORK IT. IT PILES AN AWFUL STACK OF WORDS ON ONE PAGE. IT DONT MUSS THINGS OR SCATTER INK BLOTS AROUND. OF COURSE IT SAVES PAPER.

SUSIE IS GONE, NOW, & I FANCY I SHALL MAKE BETTER PROGRESS. WORKING THIS TYPE-WRITER REMINDS ME OF OLD ROBERT BUCHANAN, WHO, YOU REMEMBER, USED TO SET UP ARTICLES AT THE CASE WITHOUT PREVIOUSLY PUTTING THEM IN THE FORM OF MANUSCRIPT. I WAS LOST IN ADMIRATION OF SUCH MARVELOUS INTELLECTUAL CAPACITY.

                                  LOVE TO MOLLIE.
YOUR BROTHER,
           SAM.

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

I would like to give you your own history


Juan Gelman kisses his granddaughter Macarena Gelman on March 21, 2012.
Photo: MIGUEL ROJO/AFP/Getty Images

In 1976, shortly after a coup that saw the President of Argentina, Isabel Martínez de Perón, replaced by a military dictatorship, the life of celebrated Argentine poet Juan Gelman darkened immeasurably when his son and daughter-in-law—Marcelo, 20, and Maria Claudia, an 18-year-old expectant mother—were kidnapped, just two of approximately 30,000 people to go missing in similar circumstances under the new regime. Gelman’s subsequent investigations confirmed the worst, that both had been killed, but also that their baby had survived and had been taken in by foster parents. Gelman was desperate to meet his grandchild: this letter, written in 1995 and published in a national newspaper, was the height of his search.

Remarkably, Juan Gelman’s granddaughter, Macarena, was found in 1999. They met for the first time the next year. The Inter-American Court of Human Rights later forced Uruguay to admit publicly the crimes against Maria, Marcelo and Macarena Gelman. The above photo shows Macarena and Juan Gelman in 2012 after Uruguayan Prime Minister Jose Mujica read a statement to this effect.

Letter taken from the More Letters of Note book which can now be found on the shelves of all respectable, well-stocked bookshops. More info and reviews can be found here.

An Open Letter to My Grandson or Granddaughter

Within the next six months you will turn nineteen. You would have been born one day in October 1976 in an army concentration camp, El Pozo de Quilmes, almost certainly. A little before or a little after they assassinated your father with a shot in the head from less than a half meter's distance. He was helpless and a military detail assassinated him, perhaps the same one that kidnapped him along with your mother in Buenos Aires that 24th of August, removing them to the concentration camp known as Automotores Orletti. It functioned right there in the neighborhood of Floresta, and the military christened it "The Garden."

Your father's name was Marcelo; your mother's, Claudia. Each was twenty years old at the time, and you were six months in your mother's womb when this happened. They moved her--and you within her--to Quilmes when she was about to give birth. She must have given birth there under the eyes of some doctor/accomplice of the military dictatorship. They took you from her then, and you were placed--it usually happened like this--in the hands of some sterile couple, military or police force, or some judge or journalist friendly to police or military. There was a sinister waiting list in those days for each concentration camp; those entered on it would wait to be paired with a child born of those prisoners who gave birth and who, with few exceptions, were assassinated immediately afterward.

Thirteen years have passed since the military left the government, and nothing is known of your mother. On the other hand, in a sixty-gallon oil drum which the military filled with sand and concrete and threw into the San Fernando River your father's remains were found thirteen years after the fact. He is buried now in La Tablada. At least in his case there is that much certainty.

It is very strange for me to be speaking of my children as your parents-who-never-were. I do not know if you are a boy or a girl. I know you were born. Father Fiorello Cavalli of the Secretariat of the Vatican State assured me of that fact in February 1978. What has been your destiny since, I ask myself. Conflicting ideas keep coming to me. On the one hand I have always found repugnant the idea of your calling "Daddy" some military or police gangster who stole you, or some friend of those who assassinated your father. On the other hand I have always wished that in whatever home you may have grown up you were well brought up and educated and loved a lot. Still, I have always thought there must be some hole, or failure in the love shown you, not so much because these parents are not your biological parents--as they say--but because they would have to have some awareness of your story and how they were involved in falsifying it. I suppose that you have been lied to a lot.

Then, too, I have wondered all these years what I would do if you were found--whether to drag you out of the home you knew; whether to speak with your adoptive parents and establish visiting rights, always on the basis of your knowing who you were and where you came from. The dilemma came up and circled around time and time again, whenever the possibility arose that the Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo had found you. I would work it out differently each time, according to your age at the moment. It would worry me that you'd be too small or not small enough to understand what had happened, to understand why your parents, whom you believed to be your parents, were not, even though you might want them to be. I was worried you would suffer a double wound that way, one that would cause structural damage to your identity as it was forming.

But now you are big. You will be capable of understanding who you are and of deciding what do to with who you are. The Grandmothers are there with their flesh-and-blood data banks that enable them to determine with scientific precision the origins of the children of the Disappeared. Your origins.

You are almost as old now as your parents were when they killed them, and soon you will be older than they got to be, they who have stayed twenty forever. They had dreams for you and for a world more suitable and habitable. I would like to talk to you about them and to have you tell me about yourself; to be able to recognize in you my own son and to let you find in me what I have of your father--both of us are his orphans. I would like to repair somehow this brutal severance or silence that has perpetrated the military dictatorship within the very flesh of my family. I would like to give you your own history, but not separate you from what you don't want to separate from. You are big now, as I said.

Marcelo and Claudia's dreams have not yet come true. Least of all for you, who were born, and who knows where and with whom you are? Perhaps you have the gray-green eyes of my son, or the chestnut-colored eyes of his wife that had a particular shine, tender and lively both. Who knows what you are like if you are a boy? Who knows what you are like if you are a girl? Maybe you'll be able to get yourself out of this mystery and into another one: a meeting with a grandfather who is waiting for you.

Friday, 23 October 2015

Do not remain nameless to yourself


Above: Richard Feynman in 1984

In 1966, nine years after gaining his Ph.D. with a dissertation titled The Self-Energy of the Scalar Nucleon, physicist Koichi Mano wrote a congratulatory letter to Richard Feynman, the man who had originally taught him at the California Institute of Technology and, more recently, joint-recipient of the Nobel Prize in Physics for his pioneering work in quantum electrodynamics. Feynman replied with an enquiry about Mano’s current job, to which Mano responded that he was “studying the Coherence theory with some applications to the propagation of electromagnetic waves through turbulent atmosphere […] a humble and down-to-earth type of problem.” Feynman responded with this letter.

Letter taken from the More Letters of Note book which is available now in all decent, sensible, and wise bookshops. More info here. Photo by Tamiko Thiel, via Wikipedia.

Dear Koichi,

I was very happy to hear from you, and that you have such a position in the Research Laboratories.

Unfortunately your letter made me unhappy for you seem to be truly sad. It seems that the influence of your teacher has been to give you a false idea of what are worthwhile problems. The worthwhile problems are the ones you can really solve or help solve, the ones you can really contribute something to. A problem is grand in science if it lies before us unsolved and we see some way for us to make some headway into it. I would advise you to take even simpler, or as you say, humbler, problems until you find some you can really solve easily, no matter how trivial. You will get the pleasure of success, and of helping your fellow man, even if it is only to answer a question in the mind of a colleague less able than you. You must not take away from yourself these pleasures because you have some erroneous idea of what is worthwhile.

You met me at the peak of my career when I seemed to you to be concerned with problems close to the gods. But at the same time I had another Ph.D. Student (Albert Hibbs) whose thesis was on how it is that the winds build up waves blowing over water in the sea. I accepted him as a student because he came to me with the problem he wanted to solve. With you I made a mistake, I gave you the problem instead of letting you find your own; and left you with a wrong idea of what is interesting or pleasant or important to work on (namely those problems you see you may do something about). I am sorry, excuse me. I hope by this letter to correct it a little.

I have worked on innumerable problems that you would call humble, but which I enjoyed and felt very good about because I sometimes could partially succeed. For example, experiments on the coefficient of friction on highly polished surfaces, to try to learn something about how friction worked (failure). Or, how elastic properties of crystals depends on the forces between the atoms in them, or how to make electroplated metal stick to plastic objects (like radio knobs). Or, how neutrons diffuse out of Uranium. Or, the reflection of electromagnetic waves from films coating glass. The development of shock waves in explosions. The design of a neutron counter. Why some elements capture electrons from the L-orbits, but not the K-orbits. General theory of how to fold paper to make a certain type of child’s toy (called flexagons). The energy levels in the light nuclei. The theory of turbulence (I have spent several years on it without success). Plus all the “grander” problems of quantum theory.

No problem is too small or too trivial if we can really do something about it.

You say you are a nameless man. You are not to your wife and to your child. You will not long remain so to your immediate colleagues if you can answer their simple questions when they come into your office. You are not nameless to me. Do not remain nameless to yourself – it is too sad a way to be. Know your place in the world and evaluate yourself fairly, not in terms of your naïve ideals of your own youth, nor in terms of what you erroneously imagine your teacher’s ideals are.

Best of luck and happiness.
Sincerely,
Richard P. Feynman

Thursday, 22 October 2015

The Parakeet Has a Goiter


Remington Steele the parakeet is prepared for surgery at the Animal Medical Center, NYC.

The dreaded rejection letter is, more often than not, an entirely miserable experience for all concerned. To receive one is to instantly and all at once have one’s hopes dashed, confidence thinned, and mood dampened; to send the same is to knowingly rain misery down upon a stranger whose happiness will soon melt away thanks to a decision you had no choice but to make. Even worse than the rejection letter is the standard form rejection letter, a lifeless kick to the guts aimed en masse at a pool of unsuitables who are, it would seem, undeserving of a personal shove--a pre-printed shake of the head for one’s troubles. To find a standard form rejection letter of note, then, is quite a task, but not impossible, and here is the finest of examples, written and sometimes sent by Brian Doyle, current editor of the University of Portland’s Portland Magazine.

Letter taken from the More Letters of Note book--more info here. Photo by Erik Freeland/Corbis SABA.

Thank you for your lovely and thoughtful submission to the magazine, which we are afraid we are going to have to decline, for all sorts of reasons. The weather is dreary, our backs hurt, we have seen too many cats today and as you know cats are why God invented handguns, there is a sweet incoherence and self-absorption in your piece that we find alluring but we have published far too many of same in recent years mostly authored by the undersigned, did we mention the moist melancholy of the weather, our marriages are unkempt and disgruntled, our children surly and crammed to the gills with a sense of entitlement that you wonder how they will ever make their way in the world, we spent far too much money recently on silly graphic design and now must slash the storytelling budget, our insurance bills have gone up precipitously, the women’s basketball team has no rebounders, an aunt of ours needs a seventh new hip, the shimmer of hope that was the national zeitgeist looks to be nursing a whopper of a black eye, and someone left the toilet roll thing empty again, without the slightest consideration for who pays for things like that. And there were wet towels on the floor. And the parakeet has a goiter. And the dog barfed up crayons. Please feel free to send us anything you think would fit these pages, and thank you for considering our magazine for your work. It’s an honor.

--Editors

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Gentlemen, I just don’t belong here

In 1987, multi-award winning author Ursula K. Le Guin was asked to supply a blurb for Synergy: New Science Fiction, Volume 1, the first in a new four-part series of anthologies edited by George Zebrowski which intended to showcase science fiction stories from authors both established and up-and-coming. For Ursula K. Le Guin, however, the book was notable not for its stories but for its complete absence of women’s voices. She reacted by way of this brief letter.

Letter taken from the More Letters of Note book. More info here.



Transcript
John Radziewicz
Senior Editor
Harcourt Brace Jovanovich
111 5th Ave
New York NY 10003

Dear Mr Radziewicz,

I can imagine myself blurbing a book in which Brian Aldiss, predictably, sneers at my work, because then I could preen myself on my magnanimity. But I cannot imagine myself blurbing a book, the first of the series, which not only contains no writing by women, but the tone of which is so self-contentedly, exclusively male, like a club, or a locker room. That would not be magnanimity, but foolishness. Gentlemen, I just don’t belong here.

Yours truly,
(Signed)
Ursula K. Le Guin

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

I see no beauty in lopsided true love


Above: Elizabth Smart, c.1930

Elizabeth Smart was in her 20s when she first met and fell for fellow poet George Barker; despite his already being married, by 1941 she was pregnant with the first of their four children. Smart and Barker’s unorthodox relationship was a famously rocky affair due in no small part to their excessive drinking and Barker’s repeated empty promises to leave his wife, Jessica. In September of 1946, Smart left him once again, and not for the last time. This was her parting letter. Their relationship eventually waned and Smart brought up the children on her own. George Barker remarried and went on to have fifteen children by four different women.

Letter taken from More Letters of Note. More info here.

(Photo: Graham Spry / Library and Archives Canada / e003641903.)

27th September 1946

I do not think that I want to lie down in your crowded bed for bouts of therapeutic lovemaking. Loving you, I see no beauty in lopsided true love. It really is in sorrow & not anger that I say: I do not want you any more because I simply cannot bear it. It isn’t only the unfaithfulness. It’s the loneliness, the weeks and months of being alone, really cut off from you, receiving perhaps a postcard saying I fuck you as you pause for breath in fucking somebody else. It would have been better if I had married before I met you, because then you could have given me a few months of fulfilling attentions which is all, apparently, that women need, & then I could have returned to the someone who, possibly, would have cared for me. For you do not want the responsibility even of love & by this I do not mean either money or guilt.

I realize that if you had cared about me the small necessary amount you would not have left me alone with so much pain, but would have contrived to find some other way of doing what you had to. This is the depths & the final & the end of my misery & degradation & if I say goodbye to you now I will be able to keep from being bitter because I am so grateful to you for your last few moments of frankness.

Dearest George, I will NOT give up the belief in true love or if you will romantic love—IT IS possible I KNOW. I never wanted anyone since you. IT IS possible to cometh to rest in someone—but you have not evidently had enough pleasure and power. Maybe I want the middle-aged things now. I’ve had my fuck, but I’ve lost my love. My womb won’t tear me to pieces now, maybe, but my heart certainly will. Goodbye. Elizabeth.

Monday, 19 October 2015

The most extraordinary scenes


Above: British and German troops meet during the truce

On Christmas Eve of 1914, five months into World War I, something amazing happened: thousands of British and German troops on the Western Front decided to put down their weapons, rise from the trenches, and greet each other peacefully. In fact, for the next few days, close to 100,000 men, British and German, chatted, exchanged gifts, sang carols and played football. Most importantly, they were even able to bury their dead without fearing for their own safety. On the evening of December 24th, the first day of the truce, Captain ‘Jack’ Armes of the 1st Battalion North Staffordshire Regiment wrote to his wife and described this incredible occurrence. Armes did return home to his family after the war; he died in 1948.

This letter, along with 121 other fascinating pieces of correspondence, can be found in More Letters of Note, the follow-up to the bestselling Letters of Note book. More info can be found over at Books of Note.

Full transcript follows. Photo above via Wikipedia.



Transcript
24/12/14

I have just been through one of the most extraordinary scenes imaginable. To-night is Xmas Eve and I came up into the trenches this evening for my tour of duty in them. Firing was going on all the time and the enemy's machine guns were at it hard, firing at us. Then about seven the firing stopped.

I was in my dug-out reading a paper and the mail was being dished out. It was reported that the Germans had lighted their trenches up all along our front. We had been calling to one another for some time Xmas wishes and other things. I went out and they shouted "no shooting" and then somehow the scene became a peaceful one. All our men got out of their trenches and sat on the parapet, the Germans did the same, and they talked to one another in English and broken English. I got on top of the trench and talked German and asked them to sing a German Volkslied, which they did, then our men sang quite well and each side clapped and cheered the other.

I asked a German who sang a solo to sing one of Schumann's songs, so he sang The Two Grenadiers splendidly. Our men were a good audience and really enjoyed his singing.

Then Pope and I walked across and held a conversation with the German officer in command.

One of his men introduced us properly, he asked my name and then presented me to his officer. I gave the latter permission to bury some German dead who are lying in between us, and we agreed to have no shooting until 12 midnight to-morrow. We talked together, 10 or more Germans gathered round. I was almost in their lines within a yard or so. We saluted each other, he thanked me for permission to bury his dead, and we fixed up how many men were to do it, and that otherwise both sides must remain in their trenches.

Then we wished one another goodnight and a good night's rest, and a happy Xmas and parted with a salute. I got back to the trench. The Germans sang Die Wacht Am Rhein it sounded well. Then our men sang quite well Christians Awake, it sounded so well, and with a goodnight we all got back into our trenches. It was a curious scene, a lovely moonlit night, the German trenches with small lights on them, and the men on both sides gathered in groups on the parapets.

At times we heard the guns in the distance and an occasional rifle shot. I can hear them now, but about us is absolute quiet. I allowed one or two men to go out and meet a German or two half way. They exchanged cigars, a smoke and talked. The officer I spoke to hopes we shall do the same on New Year's Day, I said "yes, if I am here". I felt I must sit down and write the story of this Xmas Eve before I went to lie down. Of course no precautions are relaxed, but I think they mean to play the game. All the same, I think I shall be awake all night so as to be on the safe side. It is weird to think that to-morrow night we shall be at it hard again. If one gets through this show it will be an Xmas time to live in one's memory. The German who sang had a really fine voice.

Am just off for a walk around the trenches to see all is well. Goodnight.

Xmas Day.

We had an absolutely quiet night in front of us though just to our right and left there was sniping going on. In my trenches and in those of the enemy opposite to us were only nice big fires blazing and occasional songs and conversation. This morning at the Reveille the Germans sent out parties to bury their dead. Our men went out to help, and then we all on both sides met in the middle, and in groups began to talk and exchange gifts of tobacco, etc. All this morning we have been fraternising, singing songs. I have been within a yard in fact to their trenches, have spoken to and exchanged greetings with a Colonel, Staff Officers and several Company Officers. All were very nice and we fixed up that the men should not go near their opponents trenches, but remain about midway between the lines. The whole thing is extraordinary. The men were all so natural and friendly. Several photos were taken, a group of German officers, a German officer and myself, and a group of British and German soldiers.

The Germans are Saxons, a good looking lot, only wishing for peace in a manly way, and they seem in no way at their last gasp. I was astonished at the easy way in which our men and theirs got on with each other.

We have just knocked off for dinner, and have arranged to meet again afterwards until dusk when we go in again and have [illegible] until 9pm, when War begins again. I wonder who will start the shooting! They say "Fire in the air and we will", and such things, but of course it will start and tomorrow we shall be at it hard killing one another. It is an extraordinary state of affairs which allows of a "Peace Day". I have never seen men so pleased to have a day off as both sides.

Their opera singer is going to give us a song or two tonight and perhaps I may give them one. Try and imagine two lines of trenches in peace, only 50 yards apart, the men of either side have never seen each other except perhaps a head now and again, and have never been outside in front of their trenches. Then suddenly one day men stream out and nest in friendly talk in the middle. One fellow, a married man, wanted so much a photo of Betty and Nancy in bed, which I had, and I gave him it as I had two: It seems he showed it all round, as several Germans told me afterwards about it. He gave me a photo of himself and family taken the other day which he had just got.

Well must finish now so as to get this off to-day. Have just finished dinner. Pork chop. Plum pudding. Mince pies. Ginger, and bottle of Wine and a cigar, and have drunk to all at home and especially to you my darling one. Must go outside now to supervise the meetings of the men and the Germans.

Will try and write more in a day or two. Keep this letter carefully and send copies to all. I think they will be interested. It did feel funny walking over alone towards the enemy's trenches to meet someone half-way, and then to arrange a Xmas peace. It will be a thing to remember all one's life.

Kiss the babies and give them my love. Write me a long letter and tell me all the news. I hope the photos come out all-right. Probably you will see them in some paper.

Yours, Jake

Friday, 16 October 2015

Give women the vote



It wasn’t until the Representation of the People (Equal Franchise) Act in 1928 that women in the UK were finally given the same voting rights as men. Campaigners had been pushing for such a development for decades, however, progress had been far too slow for some. In 1903, a small group of frustrated activists, headed by Emmeline Pankhurst, broke away from the Suffragists and chose to attack the system more aggressively by smashing windows, burning down buildings, chaining themselves to Buckingham Palace, and spending time in prison, all in an effort to be heard. One of these “suffragettes,” Emily Davison, was even killed when she stepped in front of King George V’s horse at the Epsom Derby. On February 26th, 1913, with the protests as forceful as ever, the following letter appeared in the Daily Telegraph, written by a suffragist named Bertha Brewster.

This letter, along with 121 other fascinating pieces of correspondence, can be found in More Letters of Note, the follow-up to the bestselling Letters of Note book. More info here.

(Source: More Letters of Note; Image: Annie Kenney and Christabel Pankhurst in 1908, via Wikipedia.)

Sir,

Everyone seems to agree upon the necessity of putting a stop to Suffragist outrages; but no one seems certain how to do so. There are two, and only two, ways in which this can be done. Both will be effectual.

1. Kill every woman in the United Kingdom.
2. Give women the vote.

Yours truly,
Bertha Brewster

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

A nightmare continued into broad daylight



In September of 1857, James Russell Lowell, then editor of the newly-launched Atlantic Monthly, approached Henry David Thoreau and asked him to write for the publication. Although reluctant at first, some months later Thoreau submitted Chesuncook, a written account of his 1853 trip to Maine that was to be published in the magazine in three parts. It was in the second of those installments that Thoreau noticed the absence of a sentence deemed problematic by the editor. Livid, he quickly sent this letter.

No record exists of an apology, or indeed a reply of any sort, from Lowell, and a correction was never printed. Thoreau wrote two more letters to Lowell, the last in October of that year; in both he demanded overdue payment of $198 from Atlantic Monthly. Thoreau subsequently refused to work with the magazine with Lowell at the helm.

{Source: The Correspondence of Thoreau; Image: Henry Thoreau in 1861, via Wikipedia.)

Transcript
Concord June 22d 1858.

Dear Sir,

When I received the proof of that portion of my story printed in the July number of your magazine, I was surprised to find that the sentence—"It is as immortal as I am, and perchance will go to as high a heaven, there to tower above me still."—(which comes directly after the words "heals my cuts," page 230, tenth line from the top,) have been crossed out, and it occurred to me that, after all, it was of some consequence that I should see the proofs; supposing, of course, that my "Stet" &c in the margin would be respected, as I perceive that it was in other cases of comparatively little importance to me. However, I have just noticed that that sentence was, in a very mean and cowardly manner, omitted. I hardly need to say that this is a liberty which I will not permit to be taken with my MS. The editor has, in this case, no more right to omit a sentiment than to insert one, or put words into my mouth. I do not ask anybody to adopt my opinions, but I do expect that when they ask for them to print, they will print them, or obtain my consent to their alteration or omission. I should not read many books if I thought that they had been thus expurgated. I feel this treatment to be an insult, though not intended as such, for it is to presume that I can be hired to suppress my opinions.

I do not mean to charge you with this omission, for I cannot believe that you knew anything about it, but there must be a responsible editor somewhere, and you, to whom I entrusted my MS. are the only party that I know in this matter. I therefore write to ask if you sanction this omission, and if there are any other sentiments to be omitted in the remainder of my article. If you do not sanction it—or whether you do or not—will you do me the justice to print that sentence, as an omitted one, indicating its place, in the August number?

I am not willing to be associated in any way, unnecessarily, with parties who will confess themselves so bigoted & timid as this implies. I could excuse a man who was afraid of an uplifted fist, but if one habitually manifests fear at the utterance of a sincere thought, I must think that his life is a kind of nightmare continued into broad daylight. It is hard to conceive of one so completely derivative. Is this the avowed character of the Atlantic Monthly? I should like an early reply.

Yrs truly,
Henry D. Thoreau