Friday, February 25, 2011

Verses Writ with a Diamond

In her Imprisonment at Woodstock, these verses she wrote with her diamond in a glass window:

Much suspected by me,
Nothing proved be.
Quod Elizabeth the prisoner.

Friday, February 11, 2011

"And, behold, here cometh a chariot of men..."

Who cou'd have expected, that the Nile might have waters richer than the Potomack?

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Hollow House, part 2

or, the Concluding Part, of the foregoing.

"People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public..."
Adam Smith, Wealth of Nations

I have call'd on the Professors of physic; I have no hesitation, when the bloody Inevitable looms over my people. But I am the exception; the most of my neighbors are now afflict'd by that Rottenness, Pilamania.

There are now scores of Pills, each coat'd with a slight Layer of sugar, so that it may rest easily on a tender Tongue. The Tablet, bone-white, of the size of a baby's digit, usually has enscrib'd upon its surface some inscrutable pink Writing; no doubt part of the Apothecary's arcane Arts.

I met Teuffeldreck's beloved Apothecary just yesterday, as I was requir'd to visit town for a most distressing Complaint. I found that, seemingly without connexion to my comestibles, my Buttocks had begun to erupt most fearfully.

I had ignor'd the Problem, and done my best to ignore the complications attendant upon such Issue, in polite Society; that is, I found myself treating my Gas as a kind of Bastard, an offspring unbidden, unwant'd, that I tried my best to pass off as another's Child, all the while nursing a secret, eager Pride. I cou'd stand the grimaces of my serving-People , and the mutters & wafting Paws of Mme. Bainton; but I knew that the End was near, when dear Ned Bearskin ask'd me, Epaph, have ye consum'd the Bear-fat? Or have you been hoodoo'd again, by King Bettie?

This was warning enough, so I took myself to the Dispensary, under the guise of asking for my Wife(which I thought an able disguise). I question'd the counter-man:

-If one was to be unduly troubl'd by wind, what might one do?
-Sir, perhaps eat earlier? For it troubles me mightily to take a meal and then lie abed, and my wife says that I stench up the bed awfully in such cases...
-Yes, yes; but if 'twere more than just a passing fancy - if it appear'd almost as a gaining occupation?
-Sir, there can be no such permanent Flatulence, for it fades, and passes, easy as it comes!
-I tell you, you must needs offer me a Remedy!

And here I slapp'd the counter, with a most grievous Consequence. The Apothecary, reclus'd in a hidden room, leapt forth. "Are ye distemper'd, sir? Are ye troubl'd by the complaint? Dearth of lusty tales? Need ye more Concentration?

He wink'd most lasciviously at me, as tho' I myself were the object of these suggestions, rather than the subject. I told him that I had no such issues, but Issues of a much different kind, that troubl'd me. He grinn'd at me, his leering lip split by a sore, "but surely - sire, - you wou'd find yourself better equipp'd to tackle the Day with a clearer head?"

-I know not what you mean, sirrah. I want only a remedy for my Wife, who is taken to bed with Wind.
-Taken to bed, ma-hah! (here he snuffed at his wrist, and appear'd to lick his cuff, which I believe held the remnants of his sup;)
-She is! I must needs help her!
-You can help her, Sire, by adjusting yr diseas'd Temper! Plainly, you have not flux'd yrself enough of that most perilous bile...

Here he gestur'd me over, but I refus'd, at which time he made various grunting Insinuations, about the wandering Uterus, and the necessity of periodically riding a See-saw, and of mucus collecting in the Brain, because not expell'd via the nostril.

I made neither head nor tail of it, but it was his haggling manner, that most attract'd my attention. He would let himself run riot, and then most disconcertingly quell his tongue, so that I found myself finishing his sentences in my Mind, most uncouth tho' they were. Even the counter-man, who had ample chance to tire of this Hectoring, listen'd rapt, as the Apothecary dispens'd wisdom on:
-the perils of self-abuse;
-inattention, as a valuable trait;
-inattention, as a disgusting canker that must needs medicative adjustment;
-bile, the lava that most overheats the heart;
-creativity, alloy of tar-bile & inattention (ergo, Tho. Jefferson, Geo. Washington, Col. Parke)
-women, a kind of cosmic bile - the primeval ether given appealing shape, so as to encourage unification with it, which we avoid at our peril.

I return'd most dissatisfied. Judging by his disquisition, I assum'd that Mrs. T. would soon discuss with him the dirty books my servants had been passing about, and that soon, he wou'd call at my house, pushing bottles of herbed Honey, & Dates rubb'd in the Waters of the James Flu., as a Panacea for dissolution. For, in such a world, where men candy the pills & dole them as Treats, will the Placebo be mistook for the Panacea.

At night, Mme. Bainton lay with me, reading the penultimate volume of some feminine epic - the disordering of the Curtains by the villainous Miss Mopsley results in, etc., or, the True & disordering Tale of a Poor innocent Handsome Braggart, betray'd by various Harpies who, etc. She is as obscure to me as the far side of the Mountain.

-Epaph, did you visit today the Apothecary?
-Aye (I was at this time translating Propertius into hexameters - a proposition less pleasing, certainly, than pentameter, but one assign'd me by some Freak of will). I ask'd & receiv'd.
-Well, I trust we shall have a calm and pleasing night. Oh, Lord save us - what is that Stench!

Hollow House, part 1

Or, the Lure of Pornography; & sundry Comments relating.

"Do you think I meant country matters?"
Shakespeare, Hamlet, III.2

A little Scum of dirty snow; a blasting, whorish wind. Only the slow erection of the Sun cou'd remind us, that soon enough He will stand upright and the leaves bustle again in the trees.

In this season when Persephone carts from her wormy home, Love most frequent visits the Bainton estate. Altho' servants will never exhaust their internecine intrigues, and the burghers and townsmen have fill'd my Ears to the brimming with tales of wintry Scandal, SPRING gives a new tenor & Complexion to the general Flux of emotion. The longer day will rejuvenate the trees; the increased heat will clot the skies with clouds; the grey, ice salt dust will disappear, and the streams fill again, beneath the burst of rain-storms.

But often enough the rain makes for a swampy mire, too. Yest., around four o' the clock, I had ensconc'd myself in the Publick House, attending to correspondence, doodling my tepid imitations of Lucian onto spare pages, et other such nonsense. In the midst of such dawdling repast, I saw enter thro' the door a grievous Couple, the Teuffeldrecks.

Herr T., more commonly Manfred, has been an invaluable Conduit between my fields & the bartering Lines of Norfolk. He keeps a pretty accounting House, uptown of myself, where the rooms are filled with Ledgers, thick & heavy as slabs of granite. His fasitidious habits extend to his quills, which he arranges in various orders (length of feather, thickness of point, speckle of feather, etc.), and sharpens their points every night before returning to his Rooms, back of his business.

There waits for him, Olga. She & I have manag'd a most remarkable peace these past months, & I fully intend to maintain the amity. Thus shall I present my tale without adornment, or comment:

The family T. sat at my Table, Manfred draped at Olga's elbow, despite having a good eight inches above her.

"Well, Epaph," she said, "I see you are busy as ever." She waved her knobby fingers that so emetically remind one of pigs' feet.

"Aye, I have much in the way of corrections to be made here. I apologize that I cannot better amuse refined palates such as yrs." Here, Manfred winced. I am sorry for that now.

"T'would take no refin'd palate for this fare, Epaph. Merely a sturdy Stomach, for when you start spouting your bile." Her lips, rippled like the curdlings of Cheese, jiggl'd in triumph. I had no appettite for this pinioning.

"Ah, ah - Tell me, Epaph, sir - Ah, do you find your Goodman Stubb well?" Manfred pluck'd at his snuffy nose with a stiff cloth. "I haven't chance to speak to him on the Market Days, but I repine most for his company, in this winter." Olga cast a rheumy eye on this comment, blinking with bovine scorn.

"Stubb keeps himself well. It is not Stubb that occupies my thoughts before sleep; 'tis his loutish cousin, Lester Jacob. I have hired him out for these next two years, & his sole industry has been corrupting the ears of my maids. Always & ever I stumble on him, hand buried in a petticoat, himself grumbling lascivious at an innocent ear."

"Oh I'm sure they are not so innocent as you say. Certainly you wou'd have taught them to know something of the world."

The thousand injuries of this beefy matron I could bear no longer. "Aye, worldly enough are they. But I only wish he would not spend himself on such pregnable women - I have trouble enough without children. I do wonder why he speaks of those pornographies so much."

I had said this in passing, but the report from her lips was as if I had skinn'd her back with my Buck-knife. "Why, indecent writings! Speaking of such a thing! We must needs send him away - for Physic!"