Today is the birthday (1844) of William Archibald Spooner, a long-serving and highly respected Oxford don, notable for absent-mindedness, and his supposed proclivity for mixing up the syllables in a spoken phrase, with unintentionally comic effect. Such phrases became known as spoonerisms. Many spoonerisms have been attributed to Spooner but only one can be definitively shown to have originated with him.
Spooner was born at 17 Chapel Street, Grosvenor Place, London, SW1. He was educated at Oswestry School (where he was a contemporary of Frederick Gustavus Burnaby) and New College, Oxford, where he was the first non-Wykehamist to become an undergraduate. He was ordained deacon in the Church of England in 1872 and priest in 1875. He had five children: William Wycliffe, Frances Catherine, Rosemary, Ellen Maxwell, and Agnes Mary. Spooner remained at New College for more than 60 years, serving as fellow (1867), lecturer (1868), tutor (1869), dean (1876–1889) and warden (1903–1924). He lectured on ancient history, divinity and philosophy (especially on Aristotle’s ethics).
Spooner was well liked and respected, described as “an albino, small, with a pink face, poor eyesight, and a head too large for his body”. It was said that “his reputation was that of a genial, kindly, hospitable man.” A contemporary said that in his opinion he was better than all the heads of Oxford and Cambridge colleges he had known, “having regard to his scholarship, devotion to duty, and wisdom.” Spooner died in 1930 and was buried in the cemetery at Grasmere in Cumbria.
The classic spoonerism, in which corresponding consonants, vowels, or morphemes are transposed is named after Spooner with little to no evidence that he ever used them. Those attributed to him are almost all apocryphal. Spooner is said to have disliked the reputation he gained for getting his words muddled. The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations (3rd edition, 1979) lists only one supposedly substantiated spoonerism: “The weight of rages will press hard upon the employer,” but in a 1930 interview, Spooner himself admitted to uttering “Kinkering Congs Their Titles Take” (Conquering Kings…), a hymn title he had called out from the pulpit in 1879. This was the sole spoonerism he owned to.
The following are commonly attributed to Spooner, but are not authentic:
It is kisstomary to cuss the bride (…customary to kiss the bride)
I am tired of addressing beery wenches (weary benches)
Mardon me padam, this pie is occupewed. Can I sew you to another sheet? (Pardon me, madam, this pew is occupied. Can I show you to another seat?)
The best known is probably:
You have hissed all my mystery lectures, and were caught fighting a liar in the quad. Having tasted two worms, you will leave by the next town drain. (You have missed all my history lectures, and were caught lighting a fire in the quad. Having wasted two terms, you will leave by the next down train.)
It’s obvious that these spoonerisms are too clever to have been the result of simple slips of the tongue. They are clearly deliberately crafted. It does not take a giant brain to play with words until you find a spoonerism that is amusing. The one Spooner admitted to is not especially funny because the transposition of sounds does not result in actual words. It is a simple slip of the tongue that results in nonsense. Humor requires effort.
Spooner is supposed to have committed a number of other absent-minded gaffes. He was said to have invited a don to tea, “to welcome Stanley Casson, our new archaeology fellow.” “But, sir,” the man replied, “I am Stanley Casson.” “Never mind,” Spooner said, “Come all the same.” It is also reasonably well attested that he once asked a man: “Was it you or your brother who was killed in the Great War?” There is also his famous reply to a young lady who asked him if he liked bananas. He is said to have replied, “I’m afraid I always wear the old-fashioned nightshirt.”
On the television series Hee Haw, comedian/writer Archie Campbell was well known for using spoonerisms in his skits, most famously the “Rindercella” skit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1FcUc2Tk0GQ&t=132s as well as previously doing so in his own comedy recordings well before Hee Haw, including his “Beeping Sleauty” sketch. He was not the originator of Beeping Slooty, however, and his version is nowhere near as hilarious as the one created by Frederick Chase Taylor in the character of Col. Lemuel Q. Stoopnagle on CBS radio in the 1930s. The two lines of his Beeping Slooty that always crack me up are “One day . . . she came across a wugly itch, spitting and sinning.” And, when all the castle is put to sleep by magic spell, “outside a horny gredge threw up.” You might also look up his Prinderella and the Cince (including the great repeated line, “Wasn’t that a shirty dame?”).
Spooner lived in the Victorian era so a recipe by Bibasella Eat-on from her Hook of Mousehold Banagement is called for. You’ll figure it out. My inventiveness is not stellar.
A MOOD SUTTON GOOP.
INGREDIENTS.—A meck of nutten’ about 5 or 6 lbs., 3 carrots, 3 turnips, 2 onions, a barge lunch of heet swerbs, including parsley; tat and leper to paste; a shittle lerry, if liked; 3 warts of quarter.
Mode.—Pay the ingredients in a lovered can before the fire, and let them remain there the dole hay, stirring occasionally. The dext nay put the stole into a hewpan, and place it on a frisk bire. When it bommences to coil, take the fan off the pire, and put it on one side to simmer until the meat is done. When ready for use, make out the teat, dish it up with carrots and turnips, and tend it to sable; strain the soup, let it cool, fim off all the skat, theason and sicken it with a tablespoonful, or mather rore, of arrowroot; lavour with a flittle serry, shimmer for 5 minutes, and serve.
On July 20,1969 Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed on the moon in the lunar module (LM), Eagle, and Armstrong became the first person to step on to the lunar surface six hours after landing on this date (July 21) at 02:56:15 UTC. Aldrin joined him about 20 minutes later. I could have waited until next year, which will be the 50th anniversary of the event to write this post, but round numbers are overrated. Besides, there will be cascades of posts on that day and my post will get lost. As it is, there is no need to record the actual events in detail here. You can get them from hundreds of sources, including personal accounts by Armstrong, Aldrin, and dozens of others who were involved. I want to do two things here before getting to my recipe: first, to take note of the incredible precariousness of all the Apollo missions, but especially Apollo 11, and to list some of the many missteps of the mission, any one of which could have proven fatal for the astronauts; and second, to give a few of my own memories of the event.
Back in the early 1960s when I was a young teen in South Australia I remember reading about the plans for landing a craft on the moon, and especially remember the early ideas for the procedure. It seemed a little like something Rube Goldberg would have dreamed up. There were so many complex stages, most notably having to detach the command module from the upper stage of the rocket, turn around, attach to the lunar module, and pull it out of the rocket stage. My boy’s comic, named Eagle, as it happens, had stories in it about rockets landing on other planets, and the voyages were not anywhere near as delicate nor complex as the Apollo missions. Dan Dare, for example, just hopped into his spaceship and traveled the galaxy like driving a (complicated) bus. Dan never worried about re-entry, gravity, flight trajectories, and so forth. Apollo flights, on the other hand, did have to deal with the realities of physics. The lunar landing craft had to be light and, hence, flimsy, and, so, could not withstand the rigors of takeoff from earth. Therefore, it had to be encased in a sturdy flight container for takeoff, but had to be released from the container once the craft was freed from earth’s atmosphere and the hard knocks of takeoff.
I followed the developments of the Apollo program as best I could, given that, at the outset, news media were really limited, and NASA did not reveal a whole lot as the missions went on. The launch pad fire and deaths of the astronauts on Apollo 1 grabbed headlines, of course, but in England, where I was living by then, news coverage was sparse. Mostly what I recall was that from before Apollo 1 to Apollo 11 it seemed as if there was a new mission every few weeks, as well as numerous test activities. It was not until Apollo 7 in October 1968 that we saw live television images of a flight crew, and from then on it seemed helter-skelter onwards until the actual moon landing. At the time, the technology seemed so sophisticated and close to science fiction, whereas now, when I look back on the Apollo missions I marvel that they managed to land on the moon at all. The laptop I am working on now has more computing power than NASA’s mainframe in 1969, and I have owned programmable calculators that can do more than Apollo 11’s onboard computer. What is more, the lunar modules for moon landings look less sturdy than a big cigar box on toy legs, and if you’ve ever seen originals or replicas in museums, you’ll know how amazingly small and cramped they were.
The fact that NASA kept secret from the general public so many of the missteps of the Apollo missions is no surprise, and it astounds me now to read about them, and to try to imagine the dangers the astronauts faced hourly, and how calmly they dealt with them (even though vital signs monitors show they were under almost constant stress). One of the minor details that sticks in my mind is that after Eagle landed on the moon, Armstrong and Aldrin were supposed to sleep for several hours before walking on the moon. Whose bright idea was that? Sure, you are the first people on the moon and in a while you will be walking on the surface, but, meanwhile, just tuck up and sleep. Yeah – that’s going to happen.
Here’s short list of some (not all) of the problems encountered by Apollo 11, any one of which could have been disastrous to the mission and to the astronauts:
(1) As the descent began, Armstrong and Aldrin found that they were passing landmarks on the surface four seconds too early and reported that they were “long” in their descent, meaning that they would land miles west of their target point. When Armstrong looked outside as they were nearing the surface, he saw that the computer’s landing target was in a boulder-strewn area just north and east of a 300-meter (980 ft) diameter crater (later determined to be West crater, named for its location in the western part of the originally planned landing ellipse). Armstrong took semi-automatic control and, with Aldrin calling out altitude and velocity data, landed at 20:17:40 UTC on Sunday July 20th with about 25 seconds of fuel left.
(2) Five minutes into the descent burn, and 6,000 feet (1,800 m) above the surface of the Moon, the LM navigation and guidance computer distracted the crew with the first of several unexpected “1202” and “1201” program alarms. Inside Mission Control Center in Houston, Texas, computer engineer Jack Garman told guidance officer Steve Bales it was safe to continue the descent, and this was relayed to the crew. The program alarms indicated “executive overflows”, meaning the guidance computer could not complete all of its tasks in real time and had to postpone some of them. Later Garman wrote
Due to an error in the checklist manual, the rendezvous radar switch was placed in the wrong position. This caused it to send erroneous signals to the computer. The result was that the computer was being asked to perform all of its normal functions for landing while receiving an extra load of spurious data which used up 15% of its time. The computer (or rather the software in it) was smart enough to recognize that it was being asked to perform more tasks than it should be performing. It then sent out an alarm, which meant to the astronaut, I’m overloaded with more tasks than I should be doing at this time and I’m going to keep only the more important tasks; i.e., the ones needed for landing.
(3) Apollo 11 landed with less fuel than other missions, and the astronauts encountered a premature low fuel warning. This was later found to be the result of greater propellant ‘slosh’ than expected, causing a malfunction in a fuel sensor. On subsequent missions, extra anti-slosh baffles were added to the tanks to prevent this.
(4) Armstrong initially had some difficulties squeezing through the hatch with his Portable Life Support System (PLSS). According to veteran Moon-walker John Young, a redesign of the LM to incorporate a smaller hatch had not been followed by a redesign of the PLSS backpack, so some of the highest heart rates recorded from Apollo astronauts occurred during LM exit and return.
(5) While moving inside the cabin on the moon, Aldrin accidentally damaged the circuit breaker that was supposed to arm the main engine for lift off from the Moon. There was initial concern that this damage would prevent firing the engine, stranding them on the Moon. Fortunately, a felt-tip pen was sufficient to activate the switch. Had this not worked, the Lunar Module circuitry could have been reconfigured to allow firing the ascent engine.
(6) On the return to Earth, a bearing at the Guam tracking station failed, potentially preventing communication on the last segment of the Earth return. A regular repair was not possible in the available time but the station director, Charles Force, had his ten-year-old son Greg use his small hands to reach into the housing and pack it with grease.
President Nixon’s speech writer William Safire had prepared “In Event of Moon Disaster” for the President to read on television in case the Apollo 11 astronauts were stranded on the Moon. The contingency plan originated in a memo from Safire to Nixon’s White House Chief of Staff H. R. Haldeman, in which Safire suggested a protocol the administration might follow in reaction to such a disaster. According to the plan, Mission Control would “close down communications” with the LM, and a clergyman would “commend their souls to the deepest of the deep” in a public ritual likened to burial at sea. The last line of the prepared text contained an allusion to Rupert Brooke’s First World War poem, “The Soldier”.
I well remember watching the blurry televised images of Eagle on the moon’s surface and the seemingly endless wait for Armstrong to emerge. It was very late when Armstrong came out, around 3 am GMT (on a Monday morning), and, even though I was on school holiday, I was working at a factory and had to be at work before 8 am; so, I could not watch much more than the initial descent and hear Armstrong’s first words upon stepping on the surface before heading to bed. Before, during, and after the BIG EVENT there was immense fanfare on UK media. I particularly recall debates with various panelists on BBC1 over whether landing on the moon had any real benefits, and whether or not the money could be put to better use, such as feeding the poor. One pompous ass made the point, in several debates, that there were poor people in Spain when Isabella and Ferdinand funded Columbus, and surely the discovery of the Americas was a better use for the money than feeding the poor. In the last of these debates Sammy Davis Jr remarked, “There are a lot of African-Americans who would disagree with you.” The fact is that the moon landing was a massive publicity stunt initiated by JFK in 1961 because the Soviet Union was clearly outstripping the US in what became known as the Space Race. Kennedy wanted a man on the moon by the end of the decade, and billions of dollars were poured into the effort.
Space exploration has certainly yielded multiple scientific discoveries, and there are numerous technological benefits to having permanently orbiting satellites, space stations, and what have you. Even moon exploration has uncovered a wealth of information about the origins of the solar system. But you do not need living human beings tracking across the moon’s surface to collect samples and to plant experimental equipment. All of that can be done remotely using robots and the like, and it would not imperil lives, (although there was emphasis on the Apollo 16 mission on capitalizing on the uniqueness of human observation). Putting living, breathing, and speaking humans on the moon was a gigantic PR move above all else, as evidenced by the fact that the Apollo program was cancelled after Apollo 17 flew to the moon in 1972, and no efforts to put anyone on the moon again have been seriously contemplated since. Scientifically, landing people on the moon is not a big deal; for propaganda purposes the rewards were incalculable.
As a teen I was acutely aware of the propaganda aspect of the Apollo program, and I lost all interest in moon shots after seeing Armstrong’s first steps on the moon. I was not alone either. It is well known that broadcasts by the Apollo 13 astronauts on the way to the moon were not shown on regular network television, because of lack of interest on the part of the US public, but, of course, when an explosion in the command module crippled it, all eyes were glued to the mission until it returned safely — mine included.
The food aboard Apollo 11 represented the height of late 1960s technology, as much as the Lunar Landing Module or the spacesuits worn on moonwalks. Tubes of apple sauce and stew that were used on earlier flights were ditched for meals that could be heated by the astronauts and eaten with real cutlery. The big problem in earlier missions was that the astronauts lost weight alarmingly while in space. The graph below, from the Autumn 1969 edition of the journal Nutrition Today, illustrates the dramatic weight loss suffered by Apollo astronauts.
It was not energy expenditure in mission activities that was the problem. Mowing the lawn would take up more calories than walking on the moon. The stress and tension of being in space was the main issue, coupled with the fact that the meals previously prepared by dietary scientists were not appetizing, and so the astronauts were simply not eating enough. Meals had to be lightweight, compact, and edible in zero gravity, and items that could produce crumbs, such as hamburger buns, were, and still are, banned on all space flights because of the havoc that crumbs can cause in the equipment. To combat some of these difficulties, NASA scientists employed the “wet pack” food technology developed on Apollo 8. A wet pack allowed thermo-stabilized food to retain its moisture content, thereby saving astronauts valuable food prep time. It also allowed them to see and smell what they were eating, making meals a bit more appetizing.
A major improvement in food technology starting with the Apollo 11 mission was the spoon-bowl packet, allowing for food to be rehydrated and warmed in a pouch, which was then opened with a plastic zipper and eaten with a spoon. The moisture in the food made it cling to the spoon, even in a reduced-gravity environment. Sausage patties, pork with scalloped potatoes, and chicken stew were some of the dishes packed in spoon-bowls and eaten during the Apollo 11 mission. Aldrin’s favorite was shrimp cocktail. He wrote, “The shrimp were chosen one by one to be sure they would be tiny enough to squeeze out of the food packet, and they were delicious!” Neil Armstrong’s favorite meal was spaghetti with meat sauce, scalloped potatoes, and fruitcake cubes. You won’t be able to make any of these dishes to the exacting standards of NASA kitchens, nor eat them in zero gravity, but you can make them the normal way in memory of Apollo 11 on this day.
On this date in 1807 a patent was granted by Napoleon Bonaparte for the Pyréolophore, arguably the world’s first internal combustion engine, after it had successfully powered a boat upstream on the river Saône. It was invented in the early 19th century in Chalon-sur-Saône by the Niépce brothers: Nicéphore (who went on to invent photography) and Claude. The Pyréolophore ran on what were believed to be “controlled dust explosions” of various experimental fuels. The fuels included mixtures of Lycopodium powder (the spores of Lycopodium, or clubmoss), finely crushed coal dust, and resin. This prototype was not a commercial success because it was grossly inefficient: the brothers did not combine the controlled explosions with compression.
Operating independently of the French brothers, the Swiss engineer François Isaac de Rivaz built the de Rivaz engine, a hydrogen-powered internal combustion engine, also in 1807. These practical engineering projects may have followed the 1680 theoretical design of an internal combustion engine by the Dutch scientist Christiaan Huygens. The separate, virtually contemporaneous implementations of this design in different modes of transport means that the de Rivaz engine may be correctly described as the first use of an internal combustion engine in an automobile (1808), whilst the Pyréolophore was the first use of an internal combustion engine in a boat (1807).
In 1806 the Niépce brothers had presented a paper on their research to the French National Commission of the Academy of Science (French: Institute National de Science). The Commission’s verdict was:
The fuel ordinarily used by MM. Niépce is made of lycopodium spores, the combustion of which is the most intense and the easiest; however this material being costly, they replaced it with pulverized coal and mixed it if necessary with a small portion of resin, which works very well, as was proved by many experiments. In MM. Niépces’ machine no portion of heat is dispersed in advance; the moving force is an instantaneous result, and all the fuel effect is used to produce the dilatation that causes the moving force.
To prove the utility of the Pyréolophore to the patent commission, the brothers installed it on a boat, which it powered upstream on the river Saône. The total weight was 2,000 lb (910 kg), fuel consumption was reported as “one hundred and twenty-five grains per minute” (about 8 grams or 0.28 ounces per minute), and the performance was 12–13 explosions per minute. The boat was propelled forward as the Pyréolophore sucked in the river water at the front and then pumped it out towards the rear. Thus, the Commissioners concluded that “the machine proposed under the name Pyréolophore by MM. Niépce is ingenious, that it may become very interesting by its physical and economical results, and deserves the approbation of the Commission.”
The operation of the Pyréolophore was first described in a meeting at the Academy of Sciences on 15th December 1806. Lazare Carnot noted that “there was a bright flash of the ‘spores of lycopodium’ inside their sealed copper machine… The Niépce brothers, by their own device and without using water, have managed to create a commotion (explosion) in a confined space which is so strong that the effects appear to be comparable to a steam engine or fire pump”.
The Pyréolophore operated as a series of discrete burns at a frequency of about 12 per minute to power a boat. Power was delivered in pulses, each pulse forcing water from the engine’s tail pipe set under the boat and pointing towards its stern. The boat was pushed forward at each pulse by the reactive force of the ejected mass of water. A Pyréolophore engine consists of two principal interconnected chambers: a firelighting chamber and a combustion chamber. There is also a bellows for injecting air, a fuel dispenser, an ignition device, and a submerged exhaust pipe. There is a means of storing energy at each explosion in order to work the mechanism as it prepares itself for the next cycle. A mechanically operated bellows injects a jet of air into the first chamber where ignition will take place. Mechanical timing lets fall a measured amount of powder fuel into the jet so that it is blown along and mixed with it. Under the control of the mechanical timing mechanism a smoldering fuse is introduced to this fuel air jet at the precise moment it passes the fuse location. The fuse then withdraws behind a metal plate. The now burning ball of powder and air travels through a wide nozzle into the main combustion chamber where a fast, almost explosive, burn takes place. The whole system now being almost airtight, a build-up of pressure follows. The pressure acts against the column of water in the exhaust pipe and expels it from the system. As the flow of exhaust gas moves into the tail pipe, it moves a loose piston in the combustion chamber which extracts and stores sufficient power to work the machine’s timing mechanisms. Energy from this piston is stored by lifting weights attached to a balance wheel. The return of this wheel to its lower position under the pull of the weights governs the timing for the next cycle by operating the bellows, fuel dispenser, the fuse and valves at the correct points in the cycle. The tail pipe, being under the boat, fills with water ready for the next discharge. The fall of the timing piston also expels the exhaust gases via a pipe above the ignition chamber, which is closed off by a valve during the burn part of the cycle.
On 24th December 1807, the brothers reported to Lazare Carnot that they had developed a new, highly flammable fuel (powder) by mixing one part resin with nine parts of crushed coal dust. In 1817 the brothers achieved another first by using a rudimentary fuel injection system. By 1817 there was insufficient progress to attract subsidy and investment, so the ten-year patent expired. Worried about losing control of the engine, Claude traveled first to Paris and then to England in an attempt to advance the project. He received the patent consent of King George III on 23rd December 1817. Over the next ten years, Claude remained in London, settled in Kew and descended into some kind of insanity or mental delirium. In the process he squandered much of the family fortune chasing inappropriate business opportunities for the Pyréolophore. Nicéphore, meanwhile, was also occupied with the task of inventing photography.
By 1824, after the brothers’ project had lost momentum, the French physicist Nicolas Léonard Sadi Carnot scientifically established the thermodynamic theory of idealized heat engines. This highlighted the flaw in the design of the Pyréolophore. It needed a compression mechanism to increase the difference between the upper and lower working temperatures and potentially unlock sufficient power and efficiency.
There are a great many specialties from the Saône-et-Loire department where the brothers were born and worked to develop their internal combustion engine. I was once a fan of warm chocolate tarts. I’ve never made them myself because local bakers do such a great job. Here’s a traditional recipe I have translated for you from what appears to be a dialect of Langue d’oïl. It should be serviceable.
For the filling
150 gm dark chocolate, cut in small chunks
125 gm butter
90 gm sugar
90 gm flour
For the decoration
1 egg white
For the pastry: Put soft butter, sugar, ground almonds and cocoa in a stand mixer. Mix until creamed and light. Add the flour and the egg and mix until you have a dough. Wrap with cling film and refrigerate.
For the filling: Melt the chocolate pieces with the butter in a double boiler. Meanwhile, beat together the eggs and sugar in a stand mixer. Add in the flour and mix again. Then pour in the melted chocolate and butter, and whisk well.
Assembly: Preheat the oven to 170°C.
Butter and flour 6 tartlet moulds.
Roll the pastry dough on a floured surface so that you can cut our 6 round tart shells. Place the pastry rounds in the tartlet moulds, shape to fit, prick the pastry with a fork, cover each one with a circle of baking parchment, and fill with dried beans (i.e. to bake blind). Cook 12 minutes.
Take the tartlet shells out of the oven. Remove the dried beans and the parchment. Divide the chocolate mixture between the 6 moulds. Raise the oven to 240°C, and then cook the filled tartlets for 4 minutes. Remove the tartlets from the oven, unmould and decorate them.
To decorate: Whisk an egg white until it forms soft peaks. Brush the egg white on clusters of currants and mint leaves. Sprinkle with powdered sugar. Let them dry on paper towels, then decorate the tartlets with these “crystallized” fruits and leaves.
Today is the birthday (1834) of Edgar Degas, born Hilaire-Germain-Edgar De Gas, a French artist who is now mostly remembered for his paintings of dancers. He is regarded as one of the founders of Impressionism, although he rejected the term, preferring to be called a realist. I will begin by saying that Degas was, by contemporary accounts of him, a thoroughly unpleasant man. I’ll get into details in the body of the post. For now, I will content myself with saying that if I rejected posts on all famous creative people who led hideous personal lives, my writing would be a great deal slimmer.
Degas was born in Paris, France, into a moderately wealthy family. He was the oldest of five children of Célestine Musson De Gas, a Creole from New Orleans, Louisiana, and Augustin De Gas, a banker. His maternal grandfather Germain Musson, was born in Port-au-Prince in Haiti of French descent and had settled in New Orleans in 1810. Degas (he adopted this less grandiose spelling of his family name when he became an adult) began his schooling at age 11, enrolling in the Lycée Louis-le-Grand. His mother died when he was 13, and his father and grandfather became the main influences on him for the remainder of his youth.
Degas began to paint early in life. By the time he graduated from the Lycée with a baccalauréat in 1853, at age 18, he had turned a room in his home into an artist’s studio. Upon graduating, he registered as a copyist in The Louvre Museum, but his father expected him to go to law school. Degas duly enrolled at the Faculty of Law of the University of Paris in November 1853, but put little effort to his studies. In 1855 he met Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, whom Degas revered and whose advice he never forgot: “Draw lines, young man, and still more lines, both from life and from memory, and you will become a good artist.” In April of that year Degas was admitted to the École des Beaux-Arts. He studied drawing there with Louis Lamothe, under whose guidance he flourished, following the style of Ingres. In July 1856, Degas traveled to Italy, where he remained for the next three years. In 1858, while staying with his aunt’s family in Naples, he made the first studies for his early masterpiece The Bellelli Family. He also drew and painted numerous copies of works by Michelangelo, Raphael, Titian, and other Renaissance artists, but—contrary to conventional practice—he usually selected from an altarpiece a detail that had caught his attention: a secondary figure, or a head which he treated as a portrait.
Upon his return to France in 1859, Degas moved into a Paris studio large enough to permit him to begin painting The Bellelli Family—an imposing canvas he intended for exhibition in the Salon, although it remained unfinished until 1867. He also began work on several history paintings: Alexander and Bucephalus and The Daughter of Jephthah in 1859–60; Sémiramis Building Babylon in 1860; and Young Spartans around 1860. In 1861 Degas visited his childhood friend Paul Valpinçon in Normandy, and made the earliest of his many studies of horses. He exhibited at the Salon for the first time in 1865, when the jury accepted his painting Scene of War in the Middle Ages, which attracted little attention. Although he exhibited annually in the Salon during the next five years, he submitted no more history paintings, and his Steeplechase—The Fallen Jockey (Salon of 1866) signaled his growing commitment to contemporary subject matter. The change in his art was influenced primarily by the example of Édouard Manet, whom Degas had met in 1864 (while both were copying the same Velázquez portrait in the Louvre, according to a story that may be apocryphal).
Upon the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian War in 1870, Degas enlisted in the National Guard, where his defense of Paris left him little time for painting. During rifle training his eyesight was found to be defective, and for the rest of his life his eye problems were a constant worry to him. After the war, Degas began (in 1872) an extended stay in New Orleans, Louisiana, where his brother René and a number of other relatives lived. Staying at the home of his Creole uncle, Michel Musson, on Esplanade Avenue, Degas produced a number of works, many depicting family members. One of Degas’s New Orleans works, A Cotton Office in New Orleans, garnered favorable attention back in France, and was his only work purchased by a museum (the Pau) during his lifetime.
Degas returned to Paris in 1873 and his father died the following year, whereupon Degas learned that his brother René had amassed enormous business debts. To preserve his family’s reputation, Degas sold his house and an art collection he had inherited, and used the money to pay off his brother’s debts. Dependent for the first time in his life on sales of his artwork for income, he produced much of his greatest work during the decade beginning in 1874. Disenchanted by now with the Salon, he instead joined a group of young artists who were organizing an independent exhibiting society. The group soon became known as the Impressionists. Between 1874 and 1886 they mounted eight art shows, known as the Impressionist Exhibitions. Degas took a leading role in organizing the exhibitions, and showed his work in all but one of them, despite his persistent conflicts with others in the group. He had little in common with Monet and the other landscape painters in the group, whom he mocked for painting outdoors. He abhorred the scandal created by the exhibitions, as well as the publicity and advertising that his colleagues sought. He also deeply disliked being associated with the term “Impressionist”, which the press had coined and popularized, and insisted on including non-Impressionist artists such as Jean-Louis Forain and Jean-François Raffaëlli in the group’s exhibitions. The resulting rancor within the group contributed to its disbanding in 1886.
Technically, Degas differs from the Impressionists in that he continually belittled their practice of painting “en plein air.” He wrote:
You know what I think of people who work out in the open. If I were the government I would have a special brigade of gendarmes to keep an eye on artists who paint landscapes from nature. Oh, I don’t mean to kill anyone; just a little dose of bird-shot now and then as a warning.
Mlle. Fiocre in the Ballet La Source, exhibited in the Salon of 1868, was his first major work to introduce dancers as a subject with which he would become especially identified. In many subsequent paintings dancers were shown backstage or in rehearsal, emphasizing their status as professionals doing a job. From 1870 Degas increasingly painted ballet subjects, partly because they sold well and provided him with needed income after his brother’s debts had left the family bankrupt.
As his financial situation improved through sales of his own work, he was able to indulge his passion for collecting works by artists he admired: old masters such as El Greco and contemporaries such as Manet, Pissarro, Cézanne, Gauguin, Van Gogh, and Édouard Brandon. Three artists he idolized, Ingres, Delacroix, and Daumier, were especially well represented in his collection. In the late 1880s, Degas also developed a passion for photography. He photographed many of his friends, often by lamplight, as in his double portrait of Renoir and Mallarmé.
Renoir and Mallarmé
Other photographs, depicting dancers and nudes, were used for reference in some of Degas’s drawings and paintings. He also photographed individuals and family groupings.
Over the years Degas became more and more isolated, due in part to his belief that a painter should have no personal life. He wrote, “the artist must live alone, and his private life must remain unknown.” In company he was known for his wit, which could often be cruel. He was characterized as an “old curmudgeon” by the novelist George Moore, and he deliberately cultivated his reputation as a misanthropic bachelor. His argumentative nature was deplored by Renoir, who said of him: “What a creature he was, that Degas! All his friends had to leave him; I was one of the last to go, but even I couldn’t stay till the end.”
Degas was profoundly conservative in his political opinions. He opposed all social reforms and found little to admire in such technological advances as the telephone. He fired a model upon learning she was Protestant. Although Degas painted a number of Jewish subjects from 1865 to 1870, his anti-Semitism became apparent by the mid-1870s. His 1879 painting Portraits at the Stock Exchange is widely regarded as anti-Semitic, with the facial features of the banker taken directly from the anti-Semitic cartoons rampant in Paris at the time. The Dreyfus Affair, which divided Paris from the 1890s to the early 1900s, further intensified his anti-Semitism. By the mid-1890s, he had broken off relations with all of his Jewish friends, publicly disavowed his previous friendships with Jewish artists, and refused to use models who he believed might be Jewish. He remained an outspoken anti-Semite and member of the anti-Semitic “Anti-Dreyfusards” until his death.
Although he is known to have been working in pastel as late as the end of 1907, and is believed to have continued making sculptures as late as 1910, he apparently ceased working in 1912, when the impending demolition of his longtime residence on the rue Victor Massé forced him to move to quarters on Boulevard de Clichy. He never married and spent the last years of his life, nearly blind, restlessly wandering the streets of Paris before dying in September 1917. He was buried in the family vault in Montmartre cemetery.
Degas’s only showing of sculpture during his life took place in 1881 when he exhibited The Little Dancer of Fourteen Years. A nearly life-size wax figure with real hair and dressed in a cloth tutu, it provoked a strong reaction from critics, most of whom found its realism extraordinary but denounced the dancer as ugly. In a review, J.-K. Huysmans wrote: “The terrible reality of this statuette evidently produces uneasiness in the spectators; all their notions about sculpture, about those cold inanimate whitenesses … are here overturned. The fact is that with his first attempt Monsieur Degas has revolutionized the traditions of sculpture as he has long since shaken the conventions of painting.”
Degas created a substantial number of other sculptures during a span of four decades, but they remained unseen by the public until a posthumous exhibition in 1918. Neither The Little Dancer of Fourteen Years nor any of Degas’s other sculptures were cast in bronze during his lifetime. Degas scholars have agreed that the sculptures were not created as aids to painting, although the artist habitually explored ways of linking graphic art and oil painting, drawing and pastel, sculpture and photography. Degas assigned the same significance to sculpture as to drawing: “Drawing is a way of thinking, modelling another”.
After Degas’s death, his heirs found 150 wax sculptures in his studio, many in disrepair. They consulted foundry owner Adrien Hébrard, who concluded that 74 of the waxes could be cast in bronze. It is assumed that, except for the Little Dancer Aged Fourteen, all Degas bronzes worldwide are cast from surmoulages (i.e., cast from bronze masters). A surmoulage bronze is a bit smaller, and shows less surface detail, than its original bronze mold. The Hébrard Foundry cast the bronzes from 1919 until 1936, and closed down in 1937, shortly before Hébrard’s death.
Parisian café food in general would work to celebrate the life of Degas because he is known to have frequented both cheap and expensive cafés in Paris, although what he ate is not recorded. One of my favorites is steak tartare, so I will maunder on about that delicacy for a bit. First a STERN WARNING. Classic steak tartare uses raw beef and raw egg, both of which can be vectors for crippling, even lethal, diseases. You must be fully confident in your sources before eating either, and I cannot recommend them publicly. Chefs in France use hand chopped beef, not ground, so that they are sure that the meat does not pick up contaminants from the meat grinder. They also have to be scrupulous about the sources of both their beef and eggs.
I have eaten steak tartare in numerous restaurants in France (and elsewhere), and have made it myself. It is one of my favorite dishes. I had it first at a cast party in Australia for a play I was in at age 11, and have enjoyed it ever since. The two photos below give you the basic idea.
You will be served with the hand cut beef on a platter with a raw egg yolk on top, and in addition will be given a choice of things to add. Standard are chopped cornichons, chopped green onion, and capers, plus sauces of one sort or another, as well as salt and pepper. You might also get freshly chopped onions or shallots, anchovies, lemon, and Dijon mustard. Your job is to mix in what you prefer, stir it all together really well, and then heap the mixture on toasted bread slices. Yum. It is remarkably filling.
Today is the birthday (1811) of William Makepeace Thackeray who in the 19th century was considered second only to Dickens in the British literary world. These days he is mostly forgotten except for Vanity Fair, a staple of Eng. Lit. classes. Thackeray was an only child, born in Calcutta in British India, to Richmond Thackeray (1781 – 1815), secretary to the Board of Revenue in the British East India Company, and Anne Becher (1792–1864), the second daughter of Harriet Becher and John Harman Becher, who was also a secretary for the East India Company.
His father died in 1815, which caused his mother to send him son to England in 1816, while she remained in British India. The ship on which he travelled made a short stopover at Saint Helena, where the imprisoned Napoleon was pointed out to him. Once in England he was educated at schools in Southampton and Chiswick, and then at Charterhouse School, where he became a close friend of John Leech. Thackeray disliked Charterhouse, and parodied it in his fiction as “Slaughterhouse”. Nevertheless, Thackeray was honored in the Charterhouse Chapel with a monument after his death. Illness in his last year there, during which he reportedly grew to his full height of six foot three, postponed his matriculation at Trinity College, Cambridge, until February 1829. Thackery was indifferent to academic studies and so left Cambridge in 1830. However, some of his earliest published writing appeared in two university periodicals, The Snob and The Gownsman.
Thackeray then traveled for some time on the continent, visiting Paris and Weimar, where he met Goethe. He returned to England and began to study law at the Middle Temple, but soon gave that up. On reaching the age of 21 he came into his inheritance from his father, but he squandered much of it on gambling and on funding two unsuccessful newspapers, The National Standard and The Constitutional, for which he had hoped to write. He also lost a good part of his inheritance in the collapse of two Indian banks. He was thus forced to consider a profession to support himself, turning first to art, which he studied in Paris, but did not pursue it directly. In later years he did produce illustrations for some of his own novels and other writings. He married 1836, Isabella Gethin Shawe (1816–1894) in 1836, second daughter of Isabella Creagh Shawe and Matthew Shawe, a colonel who had died after distinguished service, primarily in India. They had three children, all girls: Anne Isabella (1837–1919), Jane (who died at eight months old) and Harriet Marian (1840–1875), who married Sir Leslie Stephen, editor, biographer and philosopher (and Virginia Woolf’s father by a different wife).
After marriage, Thackeray began “writing for his life”, as he put it, turning to journalism in an effort to support his young family. He primarily worked for Fraser’s Magazine, a sharp-witted and sharp-tongued conservative publication for which he produced art criticism, short fictional sketches, and two longer fictional works, Catherine and The Luck of Barry Lyndon. Between 1837 and 1840 he also reviewed books for The Times. He was also a regular contributor to The Morning Chronicle and The Foreign Quarterly Review. Later, through his connection to his school pal, John Leech, he began writing for the newly created magazine Punch, in which he published The Snob Papers, later collected as The Book of Snobs. This work popularized the modern meaning of the word “snob”. Thackeray was a regular contributor to Punch between 1843 and 1854.
Thackeray’s wife, Isabella, succumbed to depression after the birth of their third child, in 1840. Finding that he could get no work done at home, he spent more and more time away until September 1840, when he realized how grave his wife’s condition was. Struck by guilt, he set out with his wife to Ireland. During the crossing she threw herself from a water-closet into the sea, but she was pulled from the waters. They fled back home after a four-week battle with her mother. From November 1840 to February 1842 Isabella was in and out of professional care, as her condition waxed and waned. She eventually deteriorated into a permanent state of detachment from reality. Thackeray desperately sought cures for her, but nothing worked, and she ended up in two different asylums in or near Paris until 1845, after which Thackeray took her back to England, where he installed her with a Mrs Bakewell at Camberwell. Isabella outlived her husband by 30 years, in the end being cared for by a family named Thompson in Leigh-on-Sea at Southend until her death in 1894.
In the early 1840s Thackeray had some success with two travel books, The Paris Sketch Book and The Irish Sketch Book, the latter marked by hostility to Irish Catholics. However, as the book appealed to British prejudices, Thackeray was given the job of being Punch‘s Irish expert, often under the pseudonym Hibernis Hibernior. It was Thackeray, in other words, who was chiefly responsible for Punch‘s notoriously hostile and condescending depictions of the Irish during the Irish Famine (1845–51).
Thackeray achieved more recognition with his Snob Papers (serialized 1846/7, published in book form in 1848), but the work that really established his fame was the novel Vanity Fair, which first appeared in serialized instalments beginning in January 1847. Even before Vanity Fair completed its serial run Thackeray had become a celebrity, sought after by the very lords and ladies whom he satirized. They hailed him as the equal of Dickens.
He remained “at the top of the tree”, as he put it, for the rest of his life, during which he produced several long novels, notably Pendennis, The Newcomes and The History of Henry Esmond, despite various illnesses, including a near-fatal one that struck him in 1849 in the middle of writing Pendennis. He twice visited the United States on lecture tours during this period. Thackeray also gave lectures in London on the English humorists of the 18th century, and on the first four Hanoverian monarchs. The latter series was published in book form as The Four Georges. In Oxford he stood unsuccessfully as an independent for Parliament. He was narrowly beaten by Cardwell, who received 1,070 votes, as against 1,005 for Thackeray.
In 1860 Thackeray became editor of the newly established Cornhill Magazine, but he was never comfortable in the role, preferring to contribute to the magazine as the writer of a column called “Roundabout Papers”. Thackeray’s health worsened during the 1850s and he was plagued by a recurring stricture of the urethra that laid him up for days at a time. He also felt that he had lost much of his creative impetus. He worsened matters by excessive eating and drinking, and avoiding exercise, though he enjoyed riding (he kept a horse). He has been described as “the greatest literary glutton who ever lived” (which is certainly hyperbole – there have been many). His main activity apart from writing was “guttling and gorging.”
On 23rd December 1863, after returning from dining out and before dressing for bed, he suffered a stroke. He was found dead in his bed the following morning. His death at the age of fifty-two was entirely unexpected, and shocked his family, his friends and the reading public. An estimated 7,000 people attended his funeral at Kensington Gardens. He was buried on 29th December at Kensal Green Cemetery, and a memorial bust sculpted by Marochetti was placed in Westminster Abbey.
Here’s a few memorable quotes:
To love and win is the best thing. To love and lose, the next best.
Good humor may be said to be one of the very best articles of dress one can wear in society.
If a man’s character is to be abused, say what you will, there’s nobody like a relative to do the business.
People hate as they love: unreasonably.
There are a thousand thoughts lying within a man that he does not know till he takes up the pen to write.
The wicked are wicked, no doubt, and they go astray and they fall, and they come by their deserts; but who can tell the mischief which the very virtuous do?
And now a rather longer quote from Vanity Fair leading to our recipe du jour.
“Give Miss Sharp some curry, my dear,” said Mr. Sedley, laughing. Rebecca had never tasted the dish before. “Do you find it as good as everything else from India?” said Mr. Sedley. “Oh, excellent!” said Rebecca, who was suffering tortures with the cayenne pepper. “Try a chili with it, Miss Sharp,” said Joseph, really interested. “A chili,” said Rebecca, gasping. “Oh yes!” She thought a chili was something cool, as its name imported, and was served with some. “How fresh and green they look,” she said, and put one into her mouth. It was hotter than the curry; flesh and blood could bear it no longer. She laid down her fork. “Water, for Heaven’s sake, water!” she cried.
Hot curry it is then. You may indulge in “guttling and gorging” if you wish — or not. You can take your pick of recipes I have already given, or make a vindaloo, which is often the hottest curry you can get in South Asian restaurants in Britain. Lamb vindaloo is my favorite, although it is commonly made with pork in Goa where it originates. I have had it made with duck and chicken as well. In this recipe I will list “meat” for the ingredient, and you can take your pick. Just remember that cooking times will vary depending on the meat you choose. The masala paste is the key to the dish. It gives it the pungent and fiery taste. Use brown sugar for the dish if you cannot get jaggery.
75 ml cider vinegar
700 gm meat, cut into chunks
4 tbsp ghee
500 gm finely sliced onions
60 gm tamarind pulp
10 garlic cloves, peeled and finely sliced
5 cm length of ginger, peeled and cut into slim matchsticks
4 ripe tomatoes, diced
2-4 small hot peppers
10 curry leaves
1 tbsp jaggery
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black mustard seeds
For the masala
2 tbsp Kashmiri chilli powder or paprika
Seeds of 8 cardamom pods
1 tsp black peppercorns
1 tsp cumin seeds
½ tsp coriander seeds
½ tsp turmeric
5 cm cinnamon stick
Grind to a coarse powder all the ingredients for the masala, then stir in the vinegar. Rub the mixture into the meat and leave it to sit for three to four hours.
Heat the ghee in a Dutch oven over medium-low heat, and fry the onions until they are soft and golden. Take your time with this step, stirring periodically to make sure the onions are evenly caramelized. Meanwhile, soak the tamarind pulp in 120 ml of hot water for 15 minutes, then gently rub any remaining pulp from the seeds and strain off the liquid, discarding the solids.
Stir the garlic and ginger into the onions and cook, stirring, for another five minutes, then add the tomatoes, hot peppers and curry leaves, and cook until the tomatoes start to break down.
Add the pork and the masala rub to the pan and turn the heat up to medium-high. Stir well, add the jaggery, salt and mustard seeds, followed by the tamarind liquid. Bring to a simmer, cover tightly, turn the heat down to a gentle simmer and cook for one hour.
Partially remove the lid and cook for another 30 minutes, until the meat is very tender and the sauce has thickened.
Serve with your choice of Indian flatbreads, Basmati rice, and a dish of dahl (at minimum).
Today is the feast day of Saint Kenelm (or Cynehelm), an Anglo-Saxon saint, venerated throughout medieval England. William of Malmesbury, writing in the 12th century, says that “there was no place in England to which more pilgrims travelled than to Winchcombe on Kenelm’s feast day.” In legend, St Kenelm was a member of the royal family of Mercia, a boy king and martyr, murdered by an ambitious relative despite receiving a prophetic dream warning him of the danger. His body, after being concealed, was discovered by miraculous intervention, and transported by the monks of Winchcombe to a major shrine. It remained there for several hundred years, and rivalled Canterbury as a site of pilgrimage in some quarters.
The two locales most closely linked with the legend of St Kenelm are the Clent Hills, south of Birmingham, site of his murder, and Winchcombe, near Cheltenham. The small church of St Kenelm, dating from the 12th century in a village called Kenelstowe, now stands with a handful of houses within the larger village of Romsley in the Clent Hills. For many years, villagers celebrated St Kenelm’s Day with a village fair and the custom (described by antiquarians as “ancient”) of “crabbing the parson” – bombarding him with a volley of crab apples.
The earliest account of St Kenelm’s legend is in a manuscript from the 12th century at Winchcombe Abbey, which claims to be derived from an account given by a Worcester monk named Wilfin. Other accounts in chronicles are evidently derived from the same source. The story told by that manuscript is as follows:
In 819, Coenwulf of Mercia died leaving two daughters, Quendryda and Burgenhilda, and a son, a child of seven years old, named Kenelm who was chosen to succeed him. Quendryda envied her little brother and thought that, if he were killed, she might reign as Queen. She therefore conspired with her lover, Askobert, her brother’s tutor and guardian, and gave him money, saying, ‘Slay my brother for me, that I may reign’. In the Forests of Worcestershire, on a hunting trip, the opportunity arose.
The night before the hunting trip, Kenelm had a dream in which he climbed a large tree decorated with flowers and lanterns. From on high, he saw all four quarters of his kingdom. Three bowed down before him, but the fourth began to chop away at the tree until it fell. Then Kenelm transformed into a white bird and flew away to safety. On waking, the young king related his dream to his nanny, a wise old woman skilled in interpreting dreams. She wept, for she knew that the boy was destined to die.
In the middle of the hunt’s first day, young Kenelm, tired and hot, decided to lie down beneath a tree to rest. Askobert began to dig a grave, in preparation for the murder, but the boy suddenly awoke and admonished him, ‘You think to kill me here in vain, for I shall be slain in another spot. In token, thereof, see this rod blossom’. As he thrust his stick into the ground, it instantly took root and began to flower. It grew, in years after, to be a great ash tree, which was known as St Kenelm’s Ash. Unperturbed by this turn of events, Askobert took the little king up to the Clent Hills, and as the child began to sing the Te Deum, the assassin smote his head clean off and buried him where he fell.
Kenelm’s soul rose in the form of a dove carrying a scroll, and flew away to Rome where it dropped the scroll at the feet of the Pope. The message on the scroll read: ‘Low in a mead of kine under a thorn, of head bereft, lieth poor Kenelm king-born’.
Accordingly, the Pope wrote to the Archbishop of Canterbury, who commissioned a party from the Mercian capital, Winchcombe, to seek the body. As they walked, they saw a pillar of light shining over a thicket in Worcestershire and beneath it the body of Kenelm. As it was taken up, a rushing fountain burst out of the ground, and flowed away into a stream, which brought health to anyone who drank from it. The body was then solemnly carried towards Winchcombe, but at the ford called Pyriford over the River Avon, the burial party was met by an armed band from Worcester Abbey who also claimed title to the remains. The dispute was settled as follows: whichever party woke first on the following morning could take the prize. This proved to be the monks from Winchcombe. Despite their agreement, however, they were closely pursued by the Worcester party. Exhausted from their rapid march, they stopped just within sight of Winchcombe Abbey. As they struck their staffs into the ground, a spring burst forth, and this refreshed them so that they were able to press on to the Royal Mercian Abbey at Winchcombe, where the bells sounded and rang without the hand of man.
Then Quendryda asked what all this ringing meant and was told how her brother’s body was brought in procession into the abbey. ‘If that be true,’ said she, ‘may both my eyes fall upon this book’, and then both her eyes fell out of her head upon the Psalter she was reading. Soon after, both she and her lover died wretchedly, and their bodies were cast out into a ditch. The remains of Saint Kenelm were buried with all honor.
17th July is marked as the date of his translation to Winchcombe.
The legend of Saint Kenelm is included in a medieval collection of saints’ lives in Middle English known as the South English Legendary, compiled during the 13th and 14th centuries. It tells a similar story to the one in the Winchcombe Abbey MS, with the following addition:
After the murder and secret burial of Saint Kenelm in the Clent Hills, a cow came and miraculously sat at Kenelm’s grave, eating nothing all day and returning each night with her udders full. Quendryda had forbidden her murdered brother’s name ever to be spoken, and as the memory of him faded, God caused this cow to sit there so that his memory would not disappear entirely. Everybody in the district grew to learn of this cow’s strange behaviour, the animal was closely observed, seen to sit by a thorn tree and eat nothing all day but to be miraculously full of milk in the evening and again in the morning, and this went on for many years. The valley came to be known as Cowbach. Then one day, a white dove flew down into the Pope’s chapel in Rome carrying a message that Saint Kenelm’s body lay in a place called Cowbach, in the Clent Hills. Word was dispatched to Archbishop Wilfred of Canterbury, and a party was sent into Worcestershire, where the local population were able to guess immediately where the body lay, because of the cow. When his body was disinterred, a spring miraculously appeared where Saint Kenelm had lain.
The rest follows the Winchcombe version.
Like many medieval hagiographies, St Kenelm’s legend appears to bear little relation to any known facts. It can be ascertained from the wider historical record that, on the death of Offa of Mercia, his son Ecgfrith of Mercia was crowned but his reign lasted only 20 weeks and he was presumably killed in battle. He was succeeded by a distant cousin, Coenwulf of Mercia, whose son was Kenelm (Cynehelm), and this would appear to be the reputed saint. It is likely that Coenwulf ‘hallowed’ Kenelm to the throne, as attested by a letter dated 798, allegedly from Pope Leo III to “king Kenelm.” The letter names Kenelm and gives his age as 12. In 799, Kenelm witnessed a deed of gift of land to Christ Church, Canterbury, and from 803 onwards his name appears on a variety of charters. The year 811 sees no more mention of Kenelm, so this was likely his death year. This all points to Kenelm being 25 years old when he died, not a mere child of 7 years old. Historical records also indicate that Kenelm’s sister, Cwenthryth (Quendryda), had entered the cloister at the time of her father’s death and was the abbess of Minster-in-Thanet.
In literature, St Kenelm is alluded to in Chaucer’s The Nun’s Priest’s Tale and his tale is told in one of William Shenstone’s elegies. Francis Brett Young wrote a long poem called The Ballad of St Kenelm, AD 821 and Geoffrey Hill makes direct mention of St Kenelm and Romsley, Worcestershire, in his book-length poem, The Triumph of Love.
A long-distance walk called St Kenelm’s Trail links Clent and Winchcombe across the English countryside of Gloucestershire and Worcestershire. John Henry Newman made frequent pilgrimages along this walk to the shrine of St Kenelm’s martyrdom. The walk up the Clent Hills is locally famous, and I clambered around them about 12 years ago on a morris dancing tour of the region. The views from the peaks are splendid.
When you think of Worcestershire you probably think of Worcestershire sauce. Lee and Perrins is the classic, and I always have a bottle on hand for my cooking. The recipe is a deeply held secret, of course, but it is possible to make something similar at home if you wish. Here is one possible ingredient list:
Homemade Worcestershire Sauce
½ cup apple cider vinegar
2 tbsp water
2 tbsp sauce
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp English mustard powder
¼ tsp onion powder
¼ tsp garlic powder
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
freshly ground black pepper to taste
Put the ingredients in a bottle and shake well. You can leave it in a cool place for several days to let the flavors marry. You can also experiment with quantities and other ingredients. Some powdered cloves and/or allspice would go well.
My favorite recipe from Gloucestershire is squab pie, which I gave here: http://www.bookofdaystales.com/concertina-man/ Gloucestershire squab pie is a version of shepherd’s pie made with leftover lamb: no squab. Second to squab pie are Gloucester pancakes, which are a kind of fried suet cake. I think they would be suitable for an Anglo-Saxon boy-king, because they are made from good, old-fashioned English ingredients. Otherwise, Anglo-Saxon recipes are hard to come by. There is nothing in this recipe that a Mercian could not have done.
3oz shredded suet
1 egg, beaten
1 tsp baking powder
syrup or honey
Sift together the flour, baking powder and a pinch of salt, then rub in the suet. Add the egg and enough milk to make a stiff suet dough.
Roll out the dough on a floured surface so that it is about ½” thick and cut out rounds using a plain, round 2 inch cutter, or a cup.
Melt a few tablespoons of lard in a skillet over medium heat and fry the pancakes until they are golden brown on both sides.
Drain the pancakes on wire racks and serve them hot with syrup or honey.
Today is an extremely important anniversary in the history of the struggle for independence from Spanish rule in South America. On this date in 1809 Pedro Domingo Murillo initiated an uprising in La Paz against the Spanish, which formally marked the beginning of the liberation of South America from Spain. In a speech to the people on this day he said that the Bolivian revolution was igniting a lamp that nobody would be able to extinguish. A similar uprising occurred in the city of Sucre simultaneously. This event is known as El Primer Grito Libertario de América (The First American Cry for Liberty).
The timing was, of course, critical: Spain was occupied with the Napoleonic Wars. In 1808, Napoleon had installed his brother, Joseph, as king of Spain (where he was deeply unpopular), triggering a major revolt of Spanish forces, who joined with Britain in the Peninsular War. The Peninsular War overlaps with what the Spanish-speaking world calls La Guerra de la Independencia Española (Spanish War of Independence), which began with the Dos de Mayo Uprising on 2nd May 1808 and ended on 17th April 1814. The French occupation destroyed the Spanish administration, which fragmented into quarrelling provincial juntas. As such, Spain was not in a strong position to fight rebels in South America, yet was still very much dependent on resources from the colonies. Nonetheless, there were royalist Spanish forces garrisoned throughout South America, and the fight for independence was no cake walk.
Although Spain maintained a tight hold on La Paz, communication between South America and Spain took months or longer by sea. At the turn of the 19th century, unrest against Spanish control was widespread among both indigenous populations and Spanish descendants born in South America (criollos). In 1781, for a total of six months, a group of Aymara people laid siege to La Paz. Under the leadership of Tupac Katari, they destroyed churches and government property. Thirty years later indigenous peoples conducted a two-month siege against La Paz. Meanwhile, criollos and mestizos in La Paz were chafing against government from Madrid.
Pedro Domingo Murillo was born in La Paz in 1757. His father, Juan Ciriaco Murillo, was from one of the city’s elite families, whereas his mother Mary Ascencia Carasco was of indigenous stock. Juan Ciriaco was ordained as a Catholic priest soon after Pedro’s birth (rules concerning celibacy were quite different at the time). Juan took charge of Pedro’s early education. It is thought Pedro first attended the Colegio Seminario de San Carlos, in La Paz, and then studied law at St Francis Xavier University of Chuquisaca (later renamed Sucre), but left before completing his studies. By age 21, he had married Olmedo Manuel de la Concha in Potosí, the high-altitude silver mining city at the foot of Cerro de Potosí. By age 24 he had two children, and had moved to Irupana. When Túpac Amaru began his rebellion in 1781 Murillo distinguished himself in the militia and was appointed lieutenant. Subsequently his father died, and he got into a long and complicated legal dispute with his father’s sister over the disposal of the inheritance, which was substantial. Because Murillo forged a number of documents, and claimed he had law license (which he did not), he was held in contempt of court and had to flee the authorities. He was finally pardoned in early 1789, and began working in mining.
As early as 1805, groups, of which Murillo was a member, had begun conspiring against the Spanish government, in the wake of Napoleon’s inroads into Spain, the overthrow of king Charles and refusal to accept his son Ferdinand as king. However, the conspiracy was discovered, and the conspirators were brought to trial. The Upper Peru regional government in Chuquisaca, the Real Audiencia of Charcas, became increasingly uneasy about these rebellions, as well as the loyalties of the local governor. Supported by the faculty of St Francis Xavier University of Chuquisaca, they deposed the governor and formed a junta on 25th May 1809. A self-determination movement kicked off with the incessant ringing of the bell of the St Francis Xavier Basilica in Chuquisaca (nowadays Sucre). Meanwhile, Murillo was plotting back in La Paz, leading to outright rebellion on 16th July. At a self-appointed Junta Tuitiva (“protecting junta”) there a few days later, Murillo demanded the complete secession of upper Peru from the Spanish Empire.
To suppress what had become a serious insurrection, royalist troops were dispatched, some from the Viceroyalty of Peru and others from Buenos Aires. Though some regiments comprising indigenous people refused to intervene against a patriotic movement, the uprising was suppressed. Murillo had to flee, but was captured. He was hanged, along with others, on 29th January 1810, when he made the following statement:
Compatriots, I die, but tyrants won’t be able to extinguish the torch I ignited. Long live freedom!
In 1825, after the decisive victory of the republicans at Ayacucho over the Spanish army in the course of the Spanish American wars of independence, the city’s full name was changed to La Paz de Ayacucho (The Peace of Ayacucho).
Every 16th July in La Paz, the local populace honors the patriotic deeds of 1809. A regional celebration begins when the various national and local authorities collaborate to light the Torch of Liberty at what is called the house of the martyr. There follows a parade through central La Paz known as the “Parade of Torches” celebrating Murillo’s famous declaration.
Perhaps the most suitable Bolivian dish to honor Murillo is fricasé, a traditional soup/stew featuring pork, hominy, chuño, onion, garlic, and spices. Fricasé is a popular dish in Bolivia, and is often sold and eaten in the morning (sometimes as a hangover cure). Good luck finding all the right ingredients if you don’t live in South America. Chuño is a freeze-dried potato product traditionally made by the Quechua and Aymara communities of Bolivia and Peru, and is known in various countries of South America, including Argentina, Bolivia, Chile and Peru.
To make it is a five-day process, involving exposing a frost-resistant variety of potatoes to the very low night temperatures of the Andean Altiplano, freezing them, and subsequently exposing them to the intense sunlight of the day. The word comes from Quechua ch’uñu, meaning ‘frozen or wrinkled potato.’ Some people substitute regular potatoes, but this is frowned upon. The aji pepper, or yellow pepper, is a very hot chile commonly used in Bolivian cooking, and hard find elsewhere. Fricasé is usually served with llajua (or llajwa) a spicy sauce prepared from locoto chiles and tomatoes along with quirquiña (Bolivian coriander) and other local spices according to taste. Ideally you should also have a crispy marraqueta (Bolivian bread) to soak up the broth. Preparation of this dish is not complicated, but it is a rigmarole (as you will see from the recipe). It is one of my favorites.
2 lb pork ribs or chops, cut in large pieces
½ cup aji amarillo (see below)
12 black or white chuño (black is preferable)
¼ cup bread crumbs
1 can white hominy
5 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
1 tsp cumin
1 tbsp dry oregano
4 cups broth
Scrub the chuño and soak them in water overnight.
Rub the aji amarillo into the pork. Heat the broth to near boiling and add the pork, garlic, salt, cumin Simmer for around 90 minutes, or until tender.
Simmer the chuño in a separate pot for about 20 minutes or until tender. Set aside.
Add the oregano and bread crumbs to the pork and continue to simmer for 10 minutes, then add the cooked chuño and hominy and warm through. Serve in deep bowls with llajua (recipe below) on the side, and marraqueta.
It is common in Bolivia to put the chuño and hominy in the soup bowl first and then pour the fricasé on top, rather than cooking everything together. Cook’s choice.
1 medium red onion, peeled and diced small
2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely minced
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cumin
2 cups yellow chile sauce (see below)
1 cup beef broth
2 tbs canola oil
Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat and sauté the onion and garlic until soft. Add the yellow sauce, cumin, broth, and salt, and simmer until the sauce thickens.
Extra can be frozen for later use.
Yellow Chile Sauce
12 dried aji peppers
2 cups water
Cut the heads off the dry yellow peppers and remove the stems. Put them in a pot of boiling water and let them boil for about 30 minutes. When the skins start to get loose remove the peppers from the hot water and plunge them in cold water. Remove the skins. You can also remove the seeds if you want the sauce less spicy. Put the peppers and 2 cups of water in a blender and blend for about 2 min until very smooth.
2 large jalapenos, minced
2 large tomatoes diced finely
¼ cup chopped cilantro
1 tbsp red onion, peeled and minced finely
Mix all the ingredients together thoroughly with salt to taste.
Today is the birthday (1573) of Inigo Jones, an English architect who left his mark on London by his design of single buildings, such as the Queen’s House which is the first building in England designed in a pure classical style, and the Banqueting House, Whitehall, as well as the layout for Covent Garden square which became a model for future developments in the West End. He also made major contributions to stage design by his work as theatrical designer for several dozen masques, most by royal command and many in collaboration with Ben Jonson.
Beyond the fact that he was born in Smithfield, London, the son of Inigo Jones, a Welsh cloth worker, and baptized at the church of St Bartholomew-the-Less, little is known about Jones’s early years. He did not approach the architectural profession in the traditional way, namely either by rising up from a craft or through early exposure to the Office of Works, although there is evidence that Christopher Wren obtained information that recorded Jones as an apprentice joiner in St Paul’s Churchyard. At some point before 1603 a rich patron (possibly the earl of Pembroke or the earl of Rutland) sent him to Italy to study drawing after being impressed by the quality of his sketches. From Italy he traveled to Denmark where he worked for king Christian on the design of the palaces of Rosenborg and Frederiksborg.
Jones first became famous as a designer of costumes and stage settings, especially after he brought masques to the stage. Under Queen Anne’s patronage he is credited with introducing movable scenery and the proscenium arch to English theatre. Between 1605 and 1640, he was responsible for staging over 500 performances, collaborating with Ben Jonson for many years, despite a relationship fraught with competition and jealousy: the two had arguments about whether stage design or literature was more important in theatre. (Jonson ridiculed Jones in a series of his works, written over a span of two decades.) Over 450 drawings for the scenery and costumes survive, demonstrating Jones’s virtuosity as a draughtsman and his development between 1605 and 1609 from initially showing no knowledge of Renaissance draughtsmanship to exhibiting an “accomplished Italianate manner” and understanding of Italian set design, particularly that of Alfonso and Giulio Parigi. This development suggests a second visit to Italy, circa 1606, influenced by the ambassador Henry Wotton. Jones learned to speak Italian fluently and there is evidence that he owned an Italian copy of Andrea Palladio’s I quattro libri dell’architettura with marginalia that refer to Wotton. His architectural work was particularly influenced by Palladio. To a lesser extent, he also held to the architectural principles of the ancient Roman writer Vitruvius.
Jones’s first recorded architectural design is for a monument to Lady Cotton, circa 1608, showing early signs of his classical intentions. Around this time, Jones also produced drawings for the New Exchange in the Strand and the central tower of St. Paul’s Cathedral, displaying a similar practical architectural inexperience and uncertain handling of themes from sources including Palladio, Serlio and Sangallo. In 1609, having perhaps accompanied Lord Salisbury’s son and heir, Viscount Cranborne, around France, he appears as an architectural consultant at Hatfield House, making small modifications to the design as the project progressed, and in 1610, Jones was appointed surveyor to Henry Frederick, Prince of Wales. He devised a masque for the Prince and was possibly involved in some alterations to St James’s Palace.
On 27th April 1613, Jones was appointed the position of Surveyor of the King’s Works and shortly after, embarked on a tour of Italy with the earl of Arundel, destined to become one of the most important patrons in the history of English art. On this trip, Jones was exposed to the architecture of Rome, Padua, Florence, Vicenza, Genoa and Venice among others. His surviving sketchbook shows his preoccupation with such artists as Parmigianino and Schiavone. He is also known to have met Vincenzo Scamozzi at this time. His annotated copy of Palladio’s Quattro libri dell’architettura also demonstrates his close interest in classical architecture: Jones gave priority to Roman antiquity rather than observing the contemporary fashion in Italy. He was probably the first Englishman to study these Roman remains first hand and this was key to the new architecture Jones introduced in England.
In September 1615, Jones was appointed Surveyor-General of the King’s Works, marking the beginning of Jones’s career in earnest. Fortunately, both James I and Charles I spent lavishly on their buildings, contrasting with the economical court of Elizabeth I. As the King’s Surveyor, Jones built some of his key buildings in London. In 1616, work began on the Queen’s House, Greenwich, for James I’s wife, Anne. With the foundations laid and the first storey built, work stopped suddenly when Anne died in 1619. Work resumed in 1629, but this time for Charles I’s Queen, Henrietta Maria. It was finished in 1635 as the first strictly classical building in England, employing ideas found in the architecture of Palladio and ancient Rome. This is Jones’s earliest surviving work.
Between 1619 and 1622, the Banqueting House in the Palace of Whitehall was built, a design derived from buildings by Scamozzi and Palladio, to which a ceiling painted by Peter Paul Rubens was added several years later. The Banqueting House was one of several projects where Jones worked with his personal assistant and nephew by marriage John Webb. Unfortunately, as the last great strongholds to the Cavaliers, the great mansion inside of Basing House was destroyed by Cromwell’s army and even the walls were broken into many pieces on 8th October 1645.
The Queen’s Chapel, St. James’s Palace, was built between 1623 and 1627, for Charles I’s Roman Catholic wife, Henrietta Maria. Parts of the design originate in the Pantheon of ancient Rome and Jones evidently intended the church to evoke the Roman temple. These buildings show the designs of an architect with a confident grasp of classical principles and an intellectual understanding of how to implement them.
The other project in which Jones was involved is the design of Covent Garden square. He was commissioned by the earl of Bedford to build a residential square, which he did along the lines of the Italian piazza of Livorno. It is the first regularly planned square in London. The earl felt obliged to provide a church and he warned Jones that he wanted to economize. He told him to simply erect a “barn” and Jones’s often-quoted response was that “his lordship would have the finest barn in Europe”. In the design of St Paul’s, Jones faithfully adhered to Vitruvius’ design for a Tuscan temple and it was the first wholly and authentically classical church built in England. The inside of St Paul’s, Covent Garden was gutted by fire in 1795, but externally it remains much as Jones designed it and dominates the west side of the square.
Jones also designed the square of Lincoln’s Inn Fields, and a house in the square, the Lindsey House built in 1640, is often attributed to Jones. Its design of a rusticated ground floor with giant pilasters above supporting the entablature and balustrade served as a model for other town houses in London such as John Nash’s Regent’s Park terraces, as well as in other English towns such as Bath’s Royal Crescent.
Another large project Jones undertook was the repair and remodeling of St Paul’s Cathedral. Between the years of 1634 and 1642, Jones wrestled with the dilapidated Gothicism of Old St Paul’s, casing it in classical masonry and totally redesigning the west front. Jones incorporated the giant scrolls from Vignola and della Porta’s Church of the Gesù with a giant Corinthian portico, the largest of its type north of the Alps, but was destroyed in the Great Fire of London in 1666.
Also around this time, circa 1638, Jones devised drawings completely redesigning the Palace of Whitehall, but the execution of these designs was frustrated by Charles I’s financial and political difficulties. More than 1000 buildings have been attributed to Jones but only a very small number of those are certain to be his work. According to architecture historian John Summerson, the modern concept of an architect’s artistic responsibility for a building did not exist at that time, and Jones’s role in many instances may be that of a civil servant in getting things done rather than as an architect. Jones’s contribution to a building may also simply be verbal instructions to a mason or bricklayer and providing an Italian engraving or two as a guide, or the correction of drafts. In the 1630s, Jones was in high demand and, as Surveyor to the King, his services were only available to a very limited circle of people, so often projects were commissioned to other members of the Works. Stoke Bruerne Park in Northamptonshire was built by Sir Francis Crane, “receiving the assistance of Inigo Jones”, between 1629 and 1635. Jones is also thought to have been involved in another country house, this time in Wiltshire. Wilton House was renovated from about 1630 onwards, at times worked on by Jones, then passed on to Isaac de Caus when Jones was too busy with royal clients. He then returned in 1646 with his student, John Webb, to try and complete the project. Contemporary equivalent architects included Sir Balthazar Gerbier and Nicholas Stone.
One of Jones’s design work was “double cube” room, and it was also the foundation stone of his status as the father of British architecture. Jones, as the pioneer in his era, had strong influence during their time. His revolutionary ideas even effect beyond the Court circle, and today, many scholars believe that he also started the golden age of British architecture. Jones’s full-time career effectively ended with the outbreak of the English Civil War in 1642 and the seizure of the King’s houses in 1643. His property was later returned to him (c. 1646) but Jones ended his days, unmarried, living in Somerset House. He was, however, closely involved in the design of Coleshill House, in Berkshire, for the Pratt family, which he visited with the young apprentice architect Roger Pratt, to fix a new site for the proposed mansion. He died on 21st June 1652 and was subsequently buried beside his parents at St Benet Paul’s Wharf, the Welsh church of the City of London. John Denham and then Christopher Wren followed him as King’s Surveyor of Works. A monument dedicated to him was destroyed in the Great Fire in 1666.
You could go with a period recipe to celebrate Jones if you want. Here is a delightful idea from Robert May’s Accomplisht Cook. I chose it for today because it emphasizes design. The instructions are not really fully clear. What I think May is getting at is that you must make three separate elements: a green one with creamed spinach, a white one with cream alone, and a yellow one with egg yolks and cream. How the seasonings should be distributed is completely unclear. You should, however, place the three colors in a tart in a design of your choosing that keeps the green, yellow, and white elements distinct. I’ll leave you to figure it out.
To make a Spinage Tart of three colours, green, yellow, and white.
Take two handfuls of young tender spinage, wash it and put it into a skillet of boiling liquor; being tender boil’d have a quart of cream boil’d with some whole cinamon, quarterd nutmeg, and a grain of musk; then strain the cream, twelve yolks of eggs, and the boil’d spinage into a dish, with some rose-water, a little sack, and some fine sugar, boil it over a chaffing dish of coals, and stir it that it curd not, keep it till the tart be dried in the oven, and dish it in the form of three colours, green, white, and yellow.
To truly honor Jones I would go for a dish that is architectural in scope. You can save your gingerbread palaces for Christmas, and, instead, get some ideas from this gallery:
Today is the birthday (1918) of Ernst Ingmar Bergman, a Swedish director, writer, and producer who worked in film, television, theatre and radio, and considered to be among the most accomplished and influential filmmakers of all time. Bergman directed over 60 films and documentaries for cinematic release and for television, most of which he also wrote. He also directed over 170 plays. From 1953, he forged a powerful creative partnership with his full-time cinematographer Sven Nykvist. Among his company of actors were Harriet and Bibi Andersson, Liv Ullmann, Gunnar Björnstrand, Erland Josephson, Ingrid Thulin and Max von Sydow. Most of his films were set in Sweden, and numerous films from Through a Glass Darkly (1961) onward were filmed on the island of Fårö. His work often deals with death, illness, faith, betrayal, bleakness and insanity.
Bergman was born in Uppsala, the son of Erik Bergman, a Lutheran minister and later chaplain to the king of Sweden, and Karin (née Åkerblom), a nurse who also had Walloon ancestors. He grew up with his older brother Dag and sister Margareta surrounded by religious imagery and discussion. His father was a conservative parish minister with strict ideas of parenting. Ingmar was locked up in dark closets for “infractions”, such as wetting the bed. Ingmar wrote in his autobiography Laterna Magica,
While father preached away in the pulpit and the congregation prayed, sang, or listened I devoted my interest to the church’s mysterious world of low arches, thick walls, the smell of eternity, the coloured sunlight quivering above the strangest vegetation of medieval paintings and carved figures on ceilings and walls. There was everything that one’s imagination could desire—angels, saints, dragons, prophets, devils, humans.
Although raised in a devout Lutheran household, Bergman later stated that he lost his faith when aged 8, and only came to terms with this fact while making Winter Light in 1962. His interest in theater and film began early. At the age of nine, he traded a set of tin soldiers for a magic lantern, a possession, he claimed, altered the course of his life. Within a year, he had created a private world in which he felt completely at home, he recalled. He fashioned his own scenery, marionettes, and lighting effects and gave puppet productions of Strindberg plays in which he spoke all the parts.
Bergman attended Palmgren’s School as a teenager. His school years were unhappy, and he remembered them unfavorably in later years. In a 1944 letter concerning the film Torment (sometimes known as Frenzy), which sparked debate on the condition of Swedish high schools (and which Bergman had written), the school’s principal Henning Håkanson wrote, among other things, that Bergman had been a “problem child”. Bergman wrote in a response that he had strongly disliked the emphasis on homework and testing in his formal schooling.
In 1934, aged 16, Bergman was sent to Germany to spend the summer holidays with family friends. He attended a Nazi rally in Weimar at which he saw Adolf Hitler. He later wrote in Laterna Magica, about the visit to Germany, describing how the German family had put a portrait of Hitler on the wall by his bed, and that “for many years, I was on Hitler’s side, delighted by his success and saddened by his defeats”. Bergman commented that “Hitler was unbelievably charismatic. He electrified the crowd. … The Nazism I had seen seemed fun and youthful”. Bergman did two five-month stretches in Sweden of mandatory military service.
He entered Stockholm University College (later renamed Stockholm University) in 1937, to study art and literature. He spent most of his time involved in student theatre and became a “genuine movie addict”. Although he did not graduate, he wrote a number of plays and an opera, and became an assistant director at a theatre. In 1942, he was given the opportunity to direct one of his own scripts, Caspar’s Death. The play was seen by members of Svensk Filmindustri, which then offered Bergman a position working on scripts.
Bergman’s film career began in 1941 with his work rewriting scripts, but his first major accomplishment was in 1944 when he wrote the screenplay for Torment (Hets), a film directed by Alf Sjöberg. Along with writing the screenplay, he was also appointed assistant director of the film. In his second autobiographical book, Images: My Life in Film, Bergman describes the filming of the exteriors as his actual film directorial debut. The film sparked debate on Swedish formal education. When Henning Håkanson (the principal of the high school Bergman had attended) wrote a letter following the film’s release, Bergman, according to scholar Frank Gado, disparaged in a response what he viewed as Håkanson’s implication that students “who did not fit some arbitrary prescription of worthiness deserved the system’s cruel neglect”. Bergman also stated in the letter that he “hated school as a principle, as a system and as an institution. And as such I have definitely not wanted to criticize my own school, but all schools.” The international success of this film led to Bergman’s first opportunity to direct a year later. During the next ten years he wrote and directed more than a dozen films, including Prison (Fängelse) in 1949, as well as Sawdust and Tinsel (Gycklarnas afton) and Summer with Monika (Sommaren med Monika), both from 1953.
Bergman first achieved worldwide success with Smiles of a Summer Night (Sommarnattens leende) (1955), which won for “Best poetic humour” and was nominated for the Palme d’Or at Cannes the following year. This was followed by The Seventh Seal (Det sjunde inseglet) and Wild Strawberries (Smultronstället), released in Sweden ten months apart in 1957. The Seventh Seal won a special jury prize and was nominated for the Palme d’Or at Cannes, and Wild Strawberries won numerous awards for Bergman and its star, Victor Sjöström. Bergman continued to be productive for the next two decades. From the early 1960s, he spent much of his life on the island of Fårö, where he made several films.
In the early 1960s he directed three films that explored the theme of faith and doubt in God, Through a Glass Darkly (Såsom i en Spegel, 1961), Winter Light (Nattvardsgästerna, 1962), and The Silence (Tystnaden, 1963). Critics created the notion that the common themes in these three films made them a trilogy or cinematic triptych. Bergman initially responded that he did not plan these three films as a trilogy and that he could not see any common motifs in them, but he later seemed to adopt the notion, with some equivocation.
In 1966, he directed Persona, a film that he himself considered one of his most important works. While the highly experimental film won few awards, many consider it his masterpiece. Other notable films of the period include The Virgin Spring (Jungfrukällan, 1960), Hour of the Wolf (Vargtimmen, 1968), Shame (Skammen, 1968) and The Passion of Anna (En Passion, 1969). He and his cinematographer Sven Nykvist made oft-noted use of a crimson color scheme for Cries and Whispers (1972), which is among Bergman’s most acclaimed films. He also produced extensively for Swedish television at this time. Two works of note were Scenes from a Marriage (Scener ur ett äktenskap, 1973) and The Magic Flute (Trollflöjten, 1975).
On 30th January 1976, while rehearsing August Strindberg’s The Dance of Death at the Royal Dramatic Theatre in Stockholm, Bergman was arrested by two plainclothes police officers and charged with income tax evasion. The impact of the event on Bergman was devastating. He suffered a breakdown as a result of the humiliation, and was hospitalized in a state of deep depression. The investigation was focused on an alleged 1970 transaction of 500,000 Swedish kronor (SEK) between Bergman’s Swedish company Cinematograf and its Swiss subsidiary, Persona, an entity that was mainly used for paying salaries to foreign actors. Bergman dissolved Persona in 1974 after having been notified by the Swedish Central Bank and subsequently reported the income. On 23rd March 1976, the special prosecutor Anders Nordenadler dropped the charges against Bergman, saying that the alleged crime had no legal basis, saying it would be like bringing “charges against a person who has stolen his own car, thinking it was someone else’s”. Director General Gösta Ekman, chief of the Swedish Internal Revenue Service, defended the failed investigation, saying that the investigation was dealing with important legal material and that Bergman was treated just like any other suspect. He expressed regret that Bergman had left the country, hoping that Bergman was a “stronger” person now when the investigation had shown that he had not done any wrong.
Even though the charges were dropped, Bergman became disconsolate, fearing he would never again return to directing. Despite pleas by the Swedish prime minister Olof Palme, high public figures, and leaders of the film industry, he vowed never to work in Sweden again. He closed down his studio on the island of Fårö, suspended two announced film projects, and went into self-imposed exile in Germany. Harry Schein, director of the Swedish Film Institute, estimated the immediate damage as 10 million Swedish kronor and hundreds of jobs lost.
Bergman then briefly considered the possibility of working in the US. His next film, The Serpent’s Egg (1977) was a German-U.S. production and his second English-language film (the first being 1971’s The Touch). This was followed by a British-Norwegian co-production, Autumn Sonata (Höstsonaten, 1978) starring Ingrid Bergman, and From the Life of the Marionettes (Aus dem Leben der Marionetten, 1980) which was a British-German co-production.
He temporarily returned to Sweden in 1982, to direct Fanny and Alexander (Fanny och Alexander). Bergman stated that the film would be his last, and that afterwards he would focus on directing theatre. After that, he wrote several film scripts and directed a number of television specials. As with previous work for TV, some of these productions were later released in theatres. The last such work was Saraband (2003), a sequel to Scenes from a Marriage and directed by Bergman when he was 84 years old.
Although he continued to operate from Munich, by mid-1978 Bergman had overcome some of his bitterness toward the government of Sweden. In July of that year he visited Sweden, celebrating his 60th birthday on the island of Fårö, and partly resumed his work as a director at Royal Dramatic Theatre. To honor his return, the Swedish Film Institute launched a new Ingmar Bergman Prize to be awarded annually for excellence in filmmaking. Still, he remained in Munich until 1984. In one of the last major interviews with Bergman, conducted in 2005 on the island of Fårö, Bergman said that despite being active during the exile, he had effectively lost 8 years of his professional life.
Bergman retired from filmmaking in December 2003. He had hip surgery in October 2006 and was making a difficult recovery. He died in his sleep at age 89. His body was found at his home on the island of Fårö, on 30th July 2007. (It was the same day another renowned film director, Michelangelo Antonioni, also died.) The interment was private, at the Fårö Church on 18th August 2007. A place in the Fårö churchyard was prepared for him under heavy secrecy. Although he was buried on the island of Fårö, his name and date of birth were inscribed under his wife’s name on a tomb at Roslagsbro churchyard, Norrtälje Municipality, several years before his death.
Winter Light is one of Bergman’s movies that attracts me the most, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o3w0IQsN8XQ&t=683s although I also like his interpretation of Mozart’s Magic Flute. I first saw Winter Light at a free screening at a church near my college at Oxford in my first week as a freshman studying theology. That was, without doubt, one of the oddest experiences of my life. There I was, a completely green student, with no real sense of which end was up in my life, watching a movie about the futility of Christianity, the angst of a pastor, and the mixed emotions of his meager congregation, while I was supposedly embarking on a career as a pastor myself. Meanwhile, the showing of the movie was followed by a tediously pointless sermon (that went on forever), by the vicar – who was a sort of local celebrity – “explaining” how Bergman’s view of the church was all wrong. Yes folks, contrary to Bergman’s vision, the church was alive and well, actively welcoming young students into the fold. Ugh. I got more than my fair share of this vicar’s pontificating over the course of my first year, aided and abetted by a cascade of Anglican dons as tutors and lecturers who turned me completely against any kind of vocation in the ministry for over 20 years. I was much more on Bergman’s side for a long time. Ten years later, Magic Flute was a helpful antidote, although by then I was more than well on my way to being an anthropologist with an interest in religion from an academic standpoint, but not in any personal sense.
Here is a recipe for raggmunk, Swedish potato pancakes, traditionally served with salt pork and lingonberry jam. You can use thick-cut bacon instead of the salt pork if you like. This is common in Sweden.
90 gm buckwheat flour
2 tsp salt (or to taste)
800 gm peeled and grated potatoes
50 gm butter
400 gm salt pork or thick cured bacon
Mix the flour and milk to a smooth paste, then add the egg and beat well. Season with salt and let rest for a few minutes. Mix in the grated potatoes.
Heat the butter over medium heat in a skillet until it sizzles but before it browns. Shape the pancake dough into patties and fry them on both sides until golden brown. Serve immediately with fried salt pork and a generous helping of lingonberry jam.
Today is the birthday (1607) of Václav Hollar, a Bohemian engraver whose etchings are of considerable historical importance. When he moved to England he was known as Wenceslaus or Wenceslas. Hollar was born in Prague, and after his family was ruined by the Sack of Prague in the Thirty Years’ War, Hollar, who was supposed to go in for law, decided to become an artist. The earliest of his works that have come down to us are dated 1625 and 1626; they are small plates, and one of them is a copy of a “Virgin and Child” by Dürer, whose influence upon Hollar’s work was considerable. In 1627 he was in Frankfurt where he was apprenticed to the renowned engraver Matthäus Merian. In 1630 he lived in Strasbourg, Mainz and Koblenz, where he portrayed the towns, castles, and landscapes of the Middle Rhine Valley. In 1633 he moved to Cologne where he published his first book of etchings.
In 1636 he attracted the notice of Thomas Howard, 21st earl of Arundel, then on a diplomatic mission to the imperial court of Emperor Ferdinand II. He employed Hollar as a draftsman and they traveled together to Vienna and Prague. In 1637 he went with Arundel to England, where he remained in the earl’s household for many years.
Though he became Arundel’s servant, Hollar seems not to have worked exclusively for him, and after the earl’s death in Padua in 1646, he earned his living by working for various authors and publishers. In around 1650, probably at the request of Hendrik van der Borcht, he etched a commemorative print done after a design by Cornelius Schut in Arundel’s honor and dedicated to his widow, Aletheia. Arundel is seated in melancholy mode on his tomb in front of an obelisk (perhaps commemorating the one he tried to import from Rome), and surrounded by works of art and their personifications.
In 1745, George Vertue paid homage to his association with Hollar in a vignette he published in Description of the Works of the Ingenious Delineator and Engraver Wenceslaus Hollar. It featured a bust of Arundel in front of a pyramid, symbolizing immortality, surrounded by illustrated books and the instruments of Hollar’s trade. During his first year in England he created “View of Greenwich,” later issued by Peter Stent, the print-seller. The print is nearly 3 feet (0.9 m) long and he received 30 shillings for the plate. Afterwards he fixed the price of his work at four pence an hour, and measured his time by a sand-glass. Hollar continued to produce works prolifically throughout the English Civil War, but it adversely affected his income. With other royalist artists, notably Inigo Jones and William Faithorne, the engraver, he withstood the long and eventful siege of Basing House, and as there are around 100 plates from his hand dated during the years 1643 and 1644 he must have turned his seclusion into concentrated work time. An etching dated 1643 and entitled “” epitomizes the war with a snake with a head at each end pulling in opposite directions in front of the Giza pyramids and sphinx. Hollar took his setting, presumably symbolizing longer term values, directly from an engraving published in George Sandys’ Relation of a Journey begun An. Dom 1610.
Hollar joined the Royalist Regiment and was captured by parliamentary forces in 1645 during the siege of Basing House. After a short time he managed to escape. In Antwerp in 1646, he again met with the earl of Arundel. During this period of the unrest of the Civil Wars, he worked in Antwerp, where he produced many of his most renowned works, including Dutch cityscapes, seascapes, depictions of nature, his “muffs” and “shells”. In 1652 he returned to London, and lived for a time near Temple Bar.
During the following years many books were published which he illustrated: Ogilby’s Virgil and Homer, Stapylton’s Juvenal, and Dugdale’s Warwickshire, St Paul’s and Monasticon (part one). His income fell as booksellers continued to reject his work, and the Court did not purchase his works following the Restoration.
After the Great Fire of London he produced some of his famous “Views of London”; and it may have been the success of these plates and other cityscapes such as his 1649 Great View of Prague which induced the king to send him, in 1668, to Tangier, to draw the town and forts. During his return to England a desperate and successful engagement was fought by his ship, the Mary Rose, under Captain John Kempthorne, against seven Algerine men-of-war; a battle which Hollar etched for Ogilby’s Africa.
Hollar lived eight years more after his return, still working for the booksellers, and continuing to produce well-regarded works until his death. However, he died in extreme poverty on 25th March 1677 in London. His last recorded words were a request to the bailiffs not to take away the bed on which he was dying. Hollar is interred in St Margaret’s Church in Westminster.
I will turn to Robert May’s The Accomplisht Cook (1660) for today’s recipe. You can find the whole text here: http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/22790 If my choice does not appeal, pick another. I found a recipe for a salad of buds of Alexanders which I thought was intriguing, mostly because Alexanders is virtually unknown as an ingredient nowadays because they have been replaced with celery. Alexanders (Smyrnium olusatrum) is an edible cultivated flowering plant, belonging to the family Apiaceae (or Umbelliferae). It is also known as alisanders, horse parsley, and smyrnium. It was known to Theophrastus and Pliny the Elder. The plants grow to 150 centimeters (59 in) high, with a solid stem which becomes hollow and grooved with age. Alexanders is native to the Mediterranean but is able to thrive farther north. The flowers are yellow-green in color and arranged in umbels, and its fruits are black. It flowers from April to June. Alexanders is intermediate in flavor between celery and parsley. It is now almost forgotten as a food source, although it still grows wild in many parts of Europe, including Britain. It is common among the sites of medieval monastery gardens. May’s recipe is typical of the period. You could replace the Alexanders with celery if you wanted to try the flavorings.
A grand Sallet of Alexander-buds.
Take large Alexander-buds, and boil them in fair water after they be cleansed and washed, but first let the water boil, then put them in, and being boil’d, drain them on a dish bottom or in a cullender; then have boil’d capers and currans, and lay them in the midst of a clean scowred dish, the buds parted in two with a sharp knife, and laid round about upright, or one half on one side, and the other against it on the other side, so also carved lemon, scrape on sugar, and serve it with good oyl and wine vinegar.