Mar 072021
 

Today is the birthday (1792) of John Herschel, the son of Mary Baldwin and astronomer William Herschel https://www.bookofdaystales.com/william-herschel/  and nephew of astronomer Caroline Herschel. He studied briefly at Eton College (down the road from Slough where he was born), and at St John’s College, Cambridge where he graduated as Senior Wrangler (top mathematics undergraduate) in 1813. It was during his time as an undergraduate that he became friends with the mathematicians Charles Babbage and George Peacock. He left Cambridge in 1816 and started working with his father, building a reflecting telescope with a mirror 18 inches (460 mm) in diameter, and with a 20-foot (6.1 m) focal length. Between 1821 and 1823 he re-examined, with James South, the double stars catalogued by his father. He was one of the founders of the Royal Astronomical Society in 1820. For his work with his father, he was presented with the Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society in 1826 (which he won again in 1836), and with the Lalande Medal of the French Academy of Sciences in 1825, while in 1821 the Royal Society bestowed upon him the Copley Medal for his mathematical contributions to their Transactions. Herschel was made a Knight of the Royal Guelphic Order in 1831.

Herschel’s A preliminary discourse on the study of natural philosophy, published early in 1831 as part of Dionysius Lardner’s Cabinet cyclopædia, set out methods of scientific investigation with an orderly relationship between observation and theorizing. He described nature as being governed by laws which were difficult to discern or to state mathematically, and the highest aim of natural philosophy was understanding these laws through inductive reasoning, finding a single unifying explanation for a phenomenon. This became an authoritative statement with wide influence on science, particularly at the University of Cambridge where it inspired the student Charles Darwin with “a burning zeal” to contribute to this work.

Herschel published a catalogue of his astronomical observations in 1864, as the General Catalogue of Nebulae and Clusters, a compilation of his own work and that of his father’s, expanding on the senior Herschel’s Catalogue of Nebulae. A further complementary volume was published posthumously, as the General Catalogue of 10,300 Multiple and Double Stars.

Herschel and his wife traveled to South Africa in 1833 to catalogue the stars, nebulae, and other objects of the southern skies. This was to be a completion as well as extension of the survey of the northern heavens undertaken initially by his father William Herschel. He arrived in Cape Town on 15 January 1834 and set up a private 21 ft (6.4 m) telescope at Feldhausen at Claremont, a suburb of Cape Town. Amongst his other observations during this time was the return of Comet Halley. Herschel collaborated with Thomas Maclear, the Astronomer Royal at the Cape of Good Hope and the members of the two families became close friends. During this time, he also witnessed the Great Eruption of Eta Carinae (December 1837).

In addition to his astronomical work, however, this voyage also gave Herschel an escape from the pressures under which he found himself in London, where he was one of the most sought-after of all scientists. While in southern Africa, he engaged in a broad variety of scientific pursuits free from a sense of strong obligations to a larger scientific community. It was, he later recalled, probably the happiest time in his life.

In an extraordinary departure from astronomy, Herschel combined his talents with those of his wife, Margaret, and between 1834 and 1838 they produced 131 botanical illustrations of fine quality, showing the Cape flora. Herschel used a camera lucida to obtain accurate outlines of the specimens and gave over the artistic details to his wife. Even though their portfolio had been intended as a personal record, and despite the lack of floral dissections in the paintings, their accurate rendition makes them more valuable than many contemporary collections.

Herschel, at the same time, read widely. Intrigued by the ideas of gradual formation of landscapes set out in Charles Lyell’s Principles of Geology, he wrote to Lyell on 20 February 1836 praising the book as a work that would bring “a complete revolution in [its] subject, by altering entirely the point of view in which it must thenceforward be contemplated” and opening a way for bold speculation on “that mystery of mysteries, the replacement of extinct species by others.” Herschel himself thought catastrophic extinction and renewal “an inadequate conception of the Creator” and by analogy with other intermediate causes, “the origination of fresh species, could it ever come under our cognizance, would be found to be a natural in contradistinction to a miraculous process.

Taking a gradualist view of development and referring to evolutionary descent from a proto-language, Herschel commented:

Words are to the Anthropologist what rolled pebbles are to the Geologist – battered relics of past ages often containing within them indelible records capable of intelligent interpretation – and when we see what amount of change 2000 years has been able to produce in the languages of Greece & Italy or 1000 in those of Germany France & Spain we naturally begin to ask how long a period must have lapsed since the Chinese, the Hebrew, the Delaware & the Malesass [Malagasy] had a point in common with the German & Italian & each other – Time! Time! Time! – we must not impugn the Scripture Chronology, but we must interpret it in accordance with whatever shall appear on fair enquiry to be the truth for there cannot be two truths. And really there is scope enough: for the lives of the Patriarchs may as reasonably be extended to 5000 or 50000 years apiece as the days of Creation to as many thousand millions of years.

The document was circulated, and Charles Babbage incorporated extracts in his ninth and unofficial Bridgewater Treatise, which postulated laws set up by a divine programmer. When HMS Beagle called at Cape Town, Captain Robert FitzRoy and the budding naturalist Charles Darwin visited Herschel on 3 June 1836. Later on, Darwin would be influenced by Herschel’s writings in developing his theory advanced in The Origin of Species. In the opening lines of that work, Darwin writes that his intent is “to throw some light on the origin of species – that mystery of mysteries, as it has been called by one of our greatest philosophers,” referring to Herschel. However, Herschel ultimately rejected the theory of natural selection.

Herschel returned to England in 1838, was created a baronet, of Slough in the County of Buckingham, and published Results of Astronomical Observations made at the Cape of Good Hope in 1847. In this publication he proposed the names still used today for the seven then-known satellites of Saturn: Mimas, Enceladus, Tethys, Dione, Rhea, Titan, and Iapetus. In the same year, Herschel received his second Copley Medal from the Royal Society for this work. A few years later, in 1852, he proposed the names still used today for the four then-known satellites of Uranus: Ariel, Umbriel, Titania, and Oberon https://www.bookofdaystales.com/titania-and-oberon/ . A stone obelisk, erected in 1842 and now in the grounds of The Grove Primary School, marks the site where his 20-ft reflector once stood.

Herschel made numerous important contributions to photography. He made improvements in photographic processes, particularly in inventing the cyanotype process, which became known as blueprints, and variations, such as the chrysotype. In 1839, he made a photograph on glass, which still exists, and experimented with some color reproduction, noting that rays of different parts of the spectrum tended to impart their own color to a photographic paper. Herschel made experiments using photosensitive emulsions of vegetable juices, called phytotypes, also known as anthotypes, and published his discoveries in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London in 1842. He collaborated in the early 1840s with Henry Collen, portrait painter to Queen Victoria. Herschel originally discovered the platinum process on the basis of the light sensitivity of platinum salts, later developed by William Willis. Herschel coined the term photography in 1839. Herschel was also the first to apply the terms negative and positive to photography. Herschel discovered sodium thiosulfate to be a solvent of silver halides in 1819, and informed Talbot and Daguerre of his discovery that this “hyposulphite of soda” (“hypo”) could be used as a photographic fixer, to “fix” pictures and make them permanent, after experimentally applying it in this way in early 1839.

In 1835, the New York Sun newspaper wrote a series of satiric articles that came to be known as the Great Moon Hoax, with statements falsely attributed to Herschel about his supposed discoveries of animals living on the Moon, including batlike winged humanoids.

Slough, home of William Herschel’s observatory and John’s birthplace, is not, nor ever has been, the epicenter of English cuisine.  But . . . the Horlicks factory used to be a well-known landmark as seen from the railway passing through Slough, although I am given to understand that it is under demolition at this point.  Shame.  Horlicks was my bedtime hot drink through much of my boyhood.  If you can still get it, a cup of Horlicks might make a Slough-themed recipe for today.  Or . . . you might try one of the recipes found on their website:

https://www.horlicks.co.uk/recipes/categories/baking/

Mar 062021
 

Today is Independence Day in Ghana. Independence was achieved through the Ghana Independence Act 1957, an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom that granted what was then known as the Gold Coast (and allied territories) fully responsible government within the British Commonwealth of Nations under the name Ghana. The Act received the Royal Assent on 7 February 1957 and Ghana came into being on 6 March 1957. At that time, independence within the British Commonwealth could not be attained by a dependent territory like Gold Coast without legislation passed in Westminster. The main provisions of the Act closely follow the Statute of Westminster and the Ceylon Independence Act 1947. The grant of independence to the Gold Coast was achieved by two separate legislative operations, namely, the passing of the Act and the making of the Ghana (Constitution) Order in Council 1957.

A matter that complicated the legislation was that what was to become Ghana was not a single, constitutional unit but rather four distinct areas: The Gold Coast Colony which was a Crown Colony and therefore part of Her Majesty’s dominions; the Ashanti Colony which was likewise a Crown Colony and part of Her Majesty’s dominions; the Northern Territories of the Gold Coast which was a British Protectorate and not part of Her Majesty’s dominions; and British Togoland which was a United Nations trust territory and not part of Her Majesty’s dominions. With respect to the Northern Territories, the legislation terminated the agreements with the local Chiefs on which the protectorate status was based. With respect to British Togoland, a referendum was held to determine the consent of its people to being united with the rest of what would become Ghana. With effect from when the Act entered into force all of what became Ghana became part of Her Majesty’s dominions as a single, unified dominion. The independence legislation began to take shape following the return of the Convention People’s Party to power at the Gold Coast general election of 1954. The party won 79 out of 104 seats. The Gold Coast government expressed its hope of achieving independence within the lifetime of the new assembly.

A dispute within the Gold Coast about the form of Constitution after independence was still unresolved as late as 1956. The same year the United Kingdom government publicly stated that provided it had the support of a “reasonable majority”, the United Kingdom was prepared to legislate for the Gold Coast to have independence within the British Commonwealth. The Secretary of State for the Colonies added that “full membership of the Commonwealth is, of course, a different question and is a matter for consultation between all existing members of the Commonwealth.” This distinction reflected the view that full Commonwealth membership required the consent of all Commonwealth members. Ultimately, the attainment by Ghana of full Commonwealth membership was consented to unanimously by all of the Commonwealth’s members, announced by the United Kingdom prime minister on 21 February 1956. Letters patent constituting the office of the Governor-General of Ghana and royal instructions to the Governor General were issued on 23 February 1956 and became effective on 6 March 1956. An Order in Council provided Ghana with its first constitution.

The 6 March independence date was chosen for its historical significance: On 6 March 1844, a group of chiefs in Ghana had signed a treaty with the then British governor. That treaty, which became known as the Bond, came to symbolize the sovereignty of the local government of indigenous authorities.

The national dish of Ghana is fufu, a paste made of cassava that is used as a staple accompaniment to meat and vegetable dishes throughout West Africa.  This video shows several ways to prepare fufu in a Ghanaian style:

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Mar 052021
 

Today is Saint Piran’s Day (Cornish: Gool Peran), or the Feast of Saint Piran, the national day of Cornwall. The day is named after one of the patron saints of Cornwall, Saint Piran, who is also the patron saint of tin miners. St Piran’s Day started as one of the many tinners’ holidays observed by the tin miners of Cornwall. The miners of Breage and Germoe observed St Piran’s feast day as that of their patron saint until at least 1764.

Piran’s identity is not entirely clear. He is said to have been an abbot, possibly in Perranzabuloe, in the 5th century – originally from Ireland.  Legends associated with Piran include:

  • The heathen Irish tied him to a mill-stone, rolled it over the edge of a cliff into a stormy sea, which immediately became calm, and the saint floated safely over the water to land upon the sandy beach of Perranzabuloe in Cornwall. His first disciples are said to have been a badger, a fox, and a bear.
  • He was joined at Perranzabuloe by many of his Christian converts and together they founded the Abbey of Lanpiran, with Piran as abbot.
  • St Piran ‘rediscovered’ tin-smelting (tin had been smelted in Cornwall since before the Romans’ arrival, but the methods had since been lost) when his black hearthstone, which was evidently a slab of tin-bearing ore, had the tin smelt out of it and rise to the top in the form of a white cross — hence the image of a white cross on a black background on the Cornish flag.

“St. Piran’s Day was said to be a favourite with the tinners who having a tradition that some secrets regarding the manufacture of tin were communicated to their ancestors by that saint, they leave the manufacture to shift for itself for that day, and keep it as a holiday.” There is little description of specific traditions associated with this day apart from the consumption of large amounts of alcohol and food during Perrantide, the week leading up to the 5th of March. The day following St Piran’s Day was known by many as ‘Mazey Day’, a term which has now been adopted by the revived Golowan festival in Penzance. The phrase ‘drunk as a perraner’ was used in 19th century Cornwall.

The modern observance of St Piran’s day as a national symbol of the people of Cornwall started in the late 19th and early 20th century when Celtic Revivalists sought to provide the people of Cornwall with a national day similar to those observed in other nations. Since the 1950s, the celebration has become increasingly observed and since the start of the 21st century almost every Cornish community holds some sort of celebration to mark the event. Saint Piran’s Flag is also seen flying throughout Cornwall on this day.

Cornish pasties would be ideal to celebrate this day.  You can find my recipe here — https://www.bookofdaystales.com/tin-miners-and-cornish-pasties/   You can also make Cornish clotted cream.  It is possible to buy clotted cream in some markets in the UK but it is not the same as homemade.  I used to make it all the time.  This video gives the basics, which are to place a shallow tray of heavy cream in an oven set at 80°C/175°F for about 10 to 12 hours.  The cream reduces to a buttery, creamy concoction which is perfect for topping scones and jam at tea time.

 

Feb 282021
 

Today is the second Sunday of Lent, known as Reminiscere Sunday from the introit, Reminiscere miserationum tuarum Domine, which in English can be rendered:

Remember, O Lord, Thy compassions and Thy mercies, which are from the beginning, lest at any time our enemies rule over us: deliver us O God of Israel, from all our tribulations.

I did actually pay lip service to the second Sunday in Lent some years ago, but it happened to coincide with Purim in the Jewish tradition, so it was second fiddle back then – https://www.bookofdaystales.com/purim/   This year I will pay more attention to Lent (Purim was February 25/26 this year).

The readings for Reminiscere Sunday are the promises to Abraham in Genesis 17, and a restatement of them in Romans 4. The bottom line is that success comes from having faith, trusting God, and being patient.  The curious part of the Genesis narrative is that Abram is promised a son, when he was 99 and his wife Sarai was 90.  Supposedly she laughed at the idea and, in consequence, her son was called Isaac, which can be read as “laughs” in Hebrew” (יִצְחָק). The point is that you will get what you have been promised if you just wait patiently.  God changes Abram’s name to Abraham and Sarai’s to Sarah after giving them the good news that their offspring will be more numerous than the stars in the sky, and a name change is always important in the Hebrew text.  In this case, the name changes have baffled scholars for centuries.  Sarai and Sarah are just dialectal variants of the same name, and Abram and Abraham are obscure etymologically, except they contain the roots “av” (אב) “father” and “ram” (רם) “high” – with the “ha” (ה) supposedly added in mark of the new covenant with God. That last bit has no justification in linguistics.

For a day that is all about remembering, you can think of recipes in two ways.  First, you can remember your favorite dish – perhaps from childhood.  Second, you can cook a favorite dish – from memory.  The latter is not too demanding.  Most of us cook from memory most of the time. For some mysterious reason, all my favorite dishes from childhood are from Argentina – milanesa, tuco, ravioli with brains, egg tortilla, dulce de leche, etc.  I have given recipes for all of them already. Instead here is a wonderful memory of my home – Doña Petrona’s cooking show. Doña Petrona was the chief celebrity cook in Argentina in the 1950s and ’60s, and her cookbook was beside the copy of Mrs Beeton in my house growing up.

Feb 252021
 

Today is the birthday (1873) of Enrico Caruso, an Italian operatic tenor who sang to great acclaim at the major opera houses of Europe and the Americas, appearing in a wide variety of roles from the Italian and French repertoires that ranged from the lyric to the dramatic. Caruso made 247 commercially released recordings from 1902 to 1920, which made him an internationally popular celebrity (well before celebrity culture was a thing).

Caruso came from a poor but not destitute background. He was born in Naples in the via Santi Giovanni e Paolo n° 7 and baptized the next day in the adjacent church of San Giovanni e Paolo. His parents originally came from Piedimonte d’Alife (now called Piedimonte Matese), in the Province of Caserta in Campania, in Southern Italy. Caruso was encouraged in his early musical ambitions by his mother, who died in 1888. To raise cash for his family, he found work as a street singer in Naples and performed at cafes and soirées.

On 15 March 1895 at the age of 22, Caruso made his professional stage debut at the Teatro Nuovo in Naples in the now-forgotten opera, L’Amico Francesco, by the amateur composer Mario Morelli. A string of further engagements in provincial opera houses followed, and he received instruction from the conductor and voice teacher Vincenzo Lombardi that improved his high notes and polished his style. During the final few years of the 19th century, Caruso performed at a succession of theaters throughout Italy until 1900, when he received a contract to sing at La Scala. His La Scala debut occurred on 26th December of that year in the part of Rodolfo in Giacomo Puccini’s La bohème with Arturo Toscanini conducting. During this pivotal phase in his career, Caruso sang in Monte Carlo, Warsaw and Buenos Aires, and, in 1899–1900, he appeared before the Tsar and the Russian aristocracy at the Mariinsky Theatre in Saint Petersburg and the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow as part of a touring company of  Italian singers.

The first major operatic role that Caruso created was Federico in Francesco Cilea’s L’arlesiana (1897). Then he was Loris in Umberto Giordano’s Fedora (1898) at the Teatro Lirico, Milan. He also created the role of Maurizio in Francesco Cilea’s Adriana Lecouvreur (1902). Puccini considered casting the young Caruso in the role of Cavaradossi in Tosca at its premiere in January 1900, but ultimately chose the older, more established Emilio De Marchi instead. Caruso appeared in the role later that year and Puccini stated that Caruso sang the part better.

Caruso took part in a grand concert at La Scala in February 1901 that Toscanini organized to mark the recent death of Giuseppe Verdi. Among those appearing with him at the concert were two other leading Italian tenors of the day, Francesco Tamagno (the creator of the protagonist’s role in Verdi’s Otello) and Giuseppe Borgatti (the creator of the protagonist’s role in Giordano’s Andrea Chénier). In December 1901, Caruso made his debut at the San Carlo Opera House in Naples in L’Elisir d’Amore to a lukewarm reception. Two weeks later he appeared as Des Grieux in Massenet’s Manon which was even more coolly received. The indifference of the audiences and harsh critical reviews in his native city upset him deeply and he vowed never to sing there again. He later said: “I will never again come to Naples to sing; it will only be to eat a plate of spaghetti”. Caruso embarked on his last series of La Scala performances in March 1902, creating the principal tenor part of Federico Loewe in Germania by Alberto Franchetti.

A month later, on 11th April, he was engaged by the Gramophone Company to make his first group of acoustic recordings in a Milan hotel room. These ten discs swiftly became best-sellers. Among other things, they helped spread Caruso’s fame throughout the English-speaking world.

The management of London’s Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, signed him for a season of appearances in eight different operas ranging from Verdi’s Aida to Mozart’s Don Giovanni. His successful debut at Covent Garden occurred on 14th May 1902, as the Duke of Mantua in Verdi’s Rigoletto. Covent Garden’s highest-paid diva, the Australian soprano Nellie Melba, partnered him as Gilda. Subsequently, they sang together often during the early 1900s.

In 1903, Caruso made his debut with the Metropolitan Opera in New York City. The gap between his London and New York engagements had been filled by a series of performances in Italy, Portugal, and South America. Caruso’s debut was in a new production of Rigoletto on 23rd November 1903. This time, Marcella Sembrich sang opposite him as Gilda. A few months later, he began his lifelong association with the Victor Talking Machine Company. He made his first US records on 1st February 1904, having signed a lucrative financial deal with Victor. Thereafter, his recording career ran in tandem with his Met career, each bolstering the other, until his death in 1921.

Caruso’s timbre darkened as he aged and, from 1916 onwards, he began adding heroic parts such as Samson, John of Leyden, and Eléazar to his repertoire. He toured Argentina, Uruguay, and Brazil in 1917, and two years later performed in Mexico City.

Dorothy Caruso noted that her husband’s health began a distinct downward spiral in late 1920 after he returned from a lengthy North American concert tour. In his biography, his son, Enrico Caruso Jr. points to an on-stage injury suffered by Caruso as the possible trigger of his fatal illness. A falling pillar in Samson and Delilah on 3rd December had hit him on the back, over the left kidney (and not on the chest as popularly reported). A few days before a performance of Pagliacci at the Met he suffered a chill and developed a cough and a “dull pain in his side.” During a performance of L’elisir d’amore by Donizetti at the Brooklyn Academy of Music on December 11th 1920, he suffered a throat hemorrhage and the performance was canceled at the end of Act 1. Following this incident, a clearly unwell Caruso gave only three more performances at the Met, the final one being as Eléazar in Halévy’s La Juive, on 24th December 1920. By Christmas Day, the pain in his side was so excruciating that he was screaming. Dorothy summoned the hotel physician, who gave Caruso some morphine and codeine and called in another doctor, Evan M. Evans. Evans brought in three other doctors and Caruso finally received a correct diagnosis: purulent pleurisy and empyema. Caruso’s health deteriorated further during the new year, lapsing into a coma and nearly dying of heart failure at one point. He experienced episodes of intense pain because of the infection and underwent seven surgical procedures to drain fluid from his chest and lungs. Caruso died on 2nd August 1921 while on his way to Rome for further surgery. He was 48.

Caruso sauce is a pasta sauce created in the 1950s in Uruguay, by Raymundo Monti of the restaurant Mario y Alberto, located at the intersection of Constituyente and Tacuarembó Streets in Montevideo. Italian-style dishes created in Montevideo and Buenos Aires continue to be extremely popular in restaurants, with Caruso sauce being an especial favorite.  It is commonly used as a sauce for cappelletti, tortellini, or ravioli, but it can also be used for spaghetti or linguine.  Basically it is a cream sauce flavored with mushrooms and ham.

Caruso Sauce

Ingredients

3 tbsp unsalted butter
1 cup button mushrooms thinly sliced
3 tbsp all purpose flour
1 cup milk
1 cup heavy cream
1 tbsp beef bouillon
3 ½ oz freshly grated Parmesan cheese
¾ cup diced smoked ham
Salt, black pepper, and freshly grated nutmeg to taste

Instructions

Melt the butter in a deep skillet over medium heat. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and most of the water has evaporated.

Stir in the flour until incorporated and it begins to turn golden. Slowly whisk in the milk, then the cream and beef bouillon. Continue to whisk until the sauce begins to thicken.

Remove from heat and stir in the Parmesan cheese and ham. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and nutmeg.

Meanwhile, cook your pasta until al dente. Drain well and mix with the hot sauce.

Feb 242021
 

Today is the birthday (1836) of Winslow Homer, Yankee maritime and landscape artist.  Homer grew up in then-rural Cambridge, Massachusetts. He was an average student, but his artistic ability was evident in his early years – nurtured by his mother who was a watercolorist.  After high school graduation, Homer pursued an apprenticeship with a Boston commercial lithographer, and his career as an illustrator lasted nearly twenty years. He contributed illustrations of Boston life and rural New England life to magazines such as Ballou’s Pictorial and Harper’s Weekly. His early works, mostly commercial wood engravings of urban and country social scenes, are characterized by clean outlines, simplified forms, dramatic contrast of light and dark, and lively figure groupings.

In 1859, Homer opened a studio in the Tenth Street Studio Building in New York City, and until 1863 he attended classes at the National Academy of Design, studying briefly with Frédéric Rondel, who taught him the basics of painting. In only about a year of self-training, Homer was producing excellent professional level work. His mother tried to raise family funds to send him to Europe for further study but instead Harper’s sent Homer to the front lines of the American Civil War (1861–1865), where he sketched battle scenes and camp life, the quiet moments as well as the chaotic ones. His initial sketches were of the camp, commanders, and army of the famous Union officer, major general George B. McClellan, at the banks of the Potomac River in October 1861.

Although the drawings did not get much attention at the time, they mark Homer’s expanding skills from illustrator to painter. Like with his urban scenes, Homer also illustrated women during wartime, and showed the effects of the war on the home front. The war work was dangerous and exhausting. Back at his studio, Homer would regain his strength and re-focus his artistic vision. He set to work on a series of war-related paintings based on his sketches, among them Sharpshooter on Picket Duty (1862), Home, Sweet Home (1863), and Prisoners from the Front (1866). He exhibited paintings of these subjects every year at the National Academy of Design from 1863 to 1866. Home, Sweet Home was shown at the National Academy to critical acclaim and quickly sold. Homer was consequently elected an Associate Academician, then a full Academician in 1865. During this time, he also continued to sell his illustrations to periodicals such as Our Young Folks and Frank Leslie’s Chimney Corner.

After the war, Homer turned his attention primarily to scenes of childhood and young women, reflecting nostalgia for simpler times, both his own and the nation as a whole. Homer was also interested in postwar subject matter that conveyed the silent tension between two communities seeking to understand their future. His oil painting A Visit from the Old Mistress (1876) shows an encounter between a group of four freed slaves and their former mistress. The formal equivalence between the standing figures suggests the balance that the nation hoped to find in the difficult years of Reconstruction. Homer composed this painting from sketches he had made while traveling through Virginia.

Before exhibiting at the National Academy of Design, Homer finally traveled to Paris in 1867 where he remained for a year. His most praised early painting, Prisoners from the Front, was on exhibit at the Exposition Universelle in Paris at the same time. He did not study formally but he practiced landscape painting while continuing to work for Harper’s, depicting scenes of Parisian life. Homer painted about a dozen small paintings during the stay. Although he arrived in France at a time of new fashions in art, Homer’s main subject for his paintings was peasant life, showing more of an alignment with the established French Barbizon school and the artist Millet than with newer artists Manet and Courbet. Though his interest in depicting natural light parallels that of the early impressionists, there is no evidence of direct influence as he was already a plein-air painter in the US.

Throughout the 1870s, Homer continued painting mostly rural or idyllic scenes of farm life, children playing, and young adults courting, including Country School (1871) and The Morning Bell (1872). In 1875, Homer quit working as a commercial illustrator and vowed to survive on his paintings and watercolors alone. Despite his excellent critical reputation, his finances continued to remain precarious. His popular 1872 painting Snap-the-Whip was exhibited at the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, as was one of his finest and most famous paintings Breezing Up (1876).

Homer started painting with watercolors on a regular basis in 1873 during a summer stay in Gloucester, Massachusetts. From the beginning, his technique was natural, fluid and confident. The critics were negative at first, “A child with an ink bottle could not have done worse.” Another critic said that Homer “made a sudden and desperate plunge into water color painting”. But his watercolors proved popular and enduring, and sold more readily, improving his financial condition considerably. They varied from highly detailed (Blackboard – 1877) to broadly impressionistic (Schooner at Sunset – 1880). Some watercolors were made as preparatory sketches for oil paintings (as for Breezing Up) and some as finished works in themselves. Thereafter, he seldom traveled without paper, brushes, and water-based paints.

Homer spent two years (1881–1882) in the English coastal village of Cullercoats in Northumberland. Many of the paintings at Cullercoats took as their subjects working men and women and their daily heroism, imbued with a solidity and sobriety which was new to Homer’s art, presaging the direction of his future work. He wrote, “The women are the working bees. Stout hardy creatures.” His works from this period are almost exclusively watercolors. His palette became constrained and sober; his paintings larger, more ambitious, and more deliberately conceived and executed. His subjects more universal and less nationalistic, more heroic by virtue of his unsentimental rendering.

Back in the U.S. in November 1882, Homer showed his English watercolors in New York. Critics noticed the change in style at once, “He is a very different Homer from the one we knew in days gone by” [his pictures] “touch a far higher plane … They are works of High Art.” Homer’s women were no longer “dolls who flaunt their millinery” but “sturdy, fearless, fit wives and mothers of men” who are fully capable of enduring the forces and vagaries of nature alongside their men.

In 1883, Homer moved to Prouts Neck, Maine (in Scarborough), and lived at his family’s estate in the remodeled carriage house 75 feet from the ocean. During the rest of the mid-1880s, Homer painted his monumental sea scenes. In Undertow (1886), depicting the dramatic rescue of two female bathers by two male lifeguards, Homer’s figures “have the weight and authority of classical figures.” In Eight Bells (1886), two sailors carefully take their bearings on deck, calmly appraising their position and by extension, their relationship with the sea; they are confident in their seamanship but respectful of the forces before them. Other notable paintings among these dramatic struggle-with-nature images are Banks Fisherman, The Gulf Stream, Rum Cay, Mending the Nets, and Searchlight on Harbor Entrance, Santiago de Cuba. Some of these he repeated as etchings.

In the winters of 1884–5, Homer ventured to warmer locations in Florida, Cuba, and the Bahamas and did a series of watercolors as part of a commission for Century Magazine. He replaced the turbulent green storm-tossed sea of Prouts Neck with the sparkling blue skies of the Caribbean and the hardy New Englanders with Black natives, further expanding his watercolor technique, subject matter, and palette. During this trip he painted Children Under a Palm Tree for Lady Blake, the Governor’s wife. His tropical stays inspired and refreshed him in much the same way as Paul Gauguin’s trips to Tahiti. Homer frequently visited Key West, Florida between 1888 and 1903. Some of his best-known works, A Norther, Key West, The Gulf Stream, Taking on Wet Provisions, and Palms in the Storm, are said to have been produced there.

In 1893, Homer painted one of his most famous “Darwinian” works, The Fox Hunt, which depicts a flock of starving crows descending on a fox slowed by deep snow. This was Homer’s largest painting, and it was immediately purchased by the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, his first painting in a major US museum collection. In Huntsman and Dogs (1891), a lone, impassive hunter, with his yelping dogs at his side, heads home after a hunt with deer skins slung over his right shoulder. Another late work, The Gulf Stream (1899), shows a black sailor adrift in a damaged boat, surrounded by sharks and an impending maelstrom.

By 1900, Homer finally reached financial stability, as his paintings fetched good prices from museums and he began to receive rents from real estate properties. He also became free of the responsibilities of caring for his father, who had died two years earlier. Homer continued producing excellent watercolors, mostly on trips to Canada and the Caribbean. Other late works include sporting scenes such as Right and Left, as well as seascapes absent of human figures, mostly of waves crashing against rocks in varying light. His late seascapes are especially valued for their dramatic and forceful expression of nature’s powers, and for their beauty and intensity.

In his last decade, he at times followed the advice he had given a student artist in 1907: “Leave rocks for your old age—they’re easy.”

Homer died in 1910 at the age of 74 in his Prouts Neck studio and was interred in the Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, Massachusetts. His painting, Shooting the Rapids, Saguenay River, remains unfinished.

I mostly think of Homer as associated with Maine, and when I think of Maine I think first of lobsters.  But there is a great deal more to Maine cuisine than lobsters, or even seafood.  Mainers are justifiably proud of their baking skills, and whoopie pies are a staple.  Here’s a video explaining why these pies are now the Maine state pie (over objections by Pennsylvania):

Jan 252021
 

Today is the birthday (1874) of William Somerset Maugham CH, English novelist, playwright, and short story writer. He was among the most popular writers of his era and reputedly the highest-paid author during the 1930s.

Maugham was the fourth of six sons born in his family. Their father, Robert Ormond Maugham, was a lawyer who handled the legal affairs of the British Embassy in Paris. Since French law declared that all children born on French soil could be conscripted for military service, his father arranged for Maugham to be born at the embassy, diplomatically considered British soil. His grandfather, another Robert, was a prominent lawyer and co-founder of the Law Society of England and Wales. His family assumed Maugham and his brothers would be lawyers. His elder brother, Viscount Maugham, did become a lawyer, enjoying a distinguished legal career and serving as Lord Chancellor from 1938 to 1939.

Maugham’s mother, Edith Mary (née Snell), contracted tuberculosis, a condition for which her physician prescribed childbirth. She had Maugham several years after the last of his three elder brothers was born. By the time Maugham was three, his older brothers were all away at boarding school. Edith’s sixth and final son died on 25 January 1882, one day after his birth. It was Maugham’s eighth birthday. Edith died of tuberculosis six days later on 31 January at the age of 41. The early death of his mother left Maugham traumatized. He kept his mother’s photograph at his bedside for the rest of his life. Two years after Edith’s death, Maugham’s father died in France of cancer.

Maugham was sent back to the UK to be cared for by his paternal uncle, Henry MacDonald Maugham, the Vicar of Whitstable, in Kent. The move was emotionally damaging, as Henry Maugham was cold and emotionally cruel. Maugham attended The King’s School, Canterbury, which was also difficult for him. He was teased for his bad English (French had been his first language) and his short stature. Maugham developed a stammer that stayed with him all his life. It was sporadic, being subject to his moods and circumstances. Miserable both at his uncle’s vicarage and at school, Maugham developed a talent for making wounding remarks to those who displeased him, which ability is sometimes reflected in Maugham’s literary characters.

At age 16, Maugham refused to continue at The King’s School. His uncle allowed him to travel to Germany, where he studied literature, philosophy and German at Heidelberg University. After Maugham’s return to Britain, his uncle found him a position in an accountant’s office. After a month Maugham gave it up and returned to Whitstable. His uncle tried to find Maugham a new profession. Maugham’s father and three older brothers were distinguished lawyers, but Maugham was not interested in this profession. He rejected a career in the Church because of his stutter. His uncle rejected the Civil Service, believing that it was no longer a career for gentlemen after a new law requiring applicants to pass an entrance examination. The local physician suggested the medical profession and Maugham’s uncle agreed.

Maugham had been writing steadily since he was 15, and wanted to be an author, but he did not tell his guardian. For the next five years, he studied medicine at St Thomas’s Hospital Medical School in Lambeth. Maugham was living in London, meeting working-class people whom he would never have met otherwise, and seeing them at a time of heightened anxiety and meaning in their lives. In maturity, he recalled the value of his experience as a medical student: “I saw how men died. I saw how they bore pain. I saw what hope looked like, fear and relief …”

Maugham kept his own lodgings, took pleasure in furnishing them, filled many notebooks with literary ideas, and continued writing nightly while at the same time studying for his medical degree. In 1897, he published his first novel, Liza of Lambeth, a tale of working-class adultery and its consequences. It drew its details from Maugham’s experiences as a medical student doing midwifery work in Lambeth (which was a slum at the time). Maugham wrote near the opening of the novel: “… it is impossible always to give the exact unexpurgated words of Liza and the other personages of the story; the reader is therefore entreated with his thoughts to piece out the necessary imperfections of the dialogue.” Liza of Lambeth‘s first print run sold out in a matter of weeks. Maugham, who had qualified as a medic, dropped medicine and embarked on his 65-year career as a writer.

The writer’s life allowed Maugham to travel and to live in places such as Spain and Capri for the next decade, but his next ten works never came close to rivaling the success of Liza. This changed in 1907 with the success of his play Lady Frederick. By the next year, he had four plays running simultaneously in London, and Punch published a cartoon of Shakespeare biting his fingernails nervously as he looked at the billboards. Maugham’s supernatural thriller, The Magician (1908), based its principal character on the well-known and somewhat disreputable Aleister Crowley. Crowley took some offence at the treatment of the protagonist, Oliver Haddo. He wrote a critique of the novel, charging Maugham with plagiarism, in a review published in Vanity Fair. Maugham survived the criticism without much damage to his reputation.

By 1914, Maugham was famous, with 10 plays produced and 10 novels published. Too old to enlist when the First World War broke out, he served in France as a member of the British Red Cross’s so-called “Literary Ambulance Drivers”, a group of around 24 well-known writers, including John Dos Passos, E. E. Cummings, and Ernest Hemingway. The experience is a crucial component in the opening chapters of The Razor’s Edge, one of my favorites of his.

Of Human Bondage (1915) initially was criticized in both England and the United States; the New York World described the romantic obsession of the protagonist Philip Carey as “the sentimental servitude of a poor fool”. The influential US novelist and critic Theodore Dreiser rescued the novel, referring to it as a work of genius and comparing it to a Beethoven symphony. His review gave the book a lift, and it has never been out of print since.

Of Human Bondage is considered to have many autobiographical elements. Maugham gave Philip Carey a club foot (rather than his stammer); the vicar of Blackstable appears derived from the vicar of Whitstable; and Carey is a medic. Maugham insisted the book was more invention than fact. The close relationship between fictional and non-fictional became Maugham’s trademark. He wrote in 1938: “Fact and fiction are so intermingled in my work that now, looking back on it, I can hardly distinguish one from the other.”

Here are some typical quotes:

There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.

It’s a funny thing about life; if you refuse to accept anything but the best, you very often get it.

To acquire the habit of reading is to construct for yourself a refuge from almost all the miseries of life.

Money is like a sixth sense without which you cannot make a complete use of the other five.

Impropriety is the soul of wit.

Tradition is a guide and not a jailer.

The tragedy of love is indifference.

The important thing was to love rather than to be loved.

The love that lasts longest is the love that is never returned.

If a man hasn’t what’s necessary to make a woman love him, it’s his fault, not hers.

When you choose your friends, don’t be short-changed by choosing personality over character.

We are not the same persons this year as last; nor are those we love. It is a happy chance if we, changing, continue to love a changed person.”

The only important thing in a book is the meaning that it has for you.

I always find it more difficult to say the things I mean than the things I don’t.

This quote used to be more salient than it is nowadays, although the ignorescanti have the stupid habit of going on and on about how bad English food is, and this blog probably won’t change many minds.

If you want to eat well in England, eat three breakfasts.

I have given recipes for a “full English” and kedgeree already. Deviled kidneys were a beloved favorite at the Edwardian breakfast sideboard, and are one of my cherished dishes.  Lamb kidneys work best, but ox or pork will also serve.  Lamb kidneys need to be split in half and it is best to remove all the white tubules (although not absolutely necessary). Some cooks also soak the kidneys in milk to reduce the strong flavor, but I don’t.  Ox kidneys need to be cut into bite-sized pieces, and pig kidneys should be quartered.  You can use mushrooms in the dish or not as you please. If you do, I suggest porcini or crimini or the like (I use Asian mushrooms these days). Button mushrooms can serve if you find them to your taste.

Deviled Kidneys

Ingredients

½ lb fresh mushrooms, cut into large pieces (optional)
2 to 4 kidneys (preferably lamb)
¼ cup flour
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 ½ tsp dry English mustard
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground black pepper
6 tbsp unsalted butter, divided
Worcestershire sauce
3 tbsp beef stock
toast slices

Instructions

If you are using the mushrooms, sear them in a hot pan with 3 tablespoons of unsalted butter until nicely browned on their edges. Remove them and set aside.

Place the flour, cayenne, mustard, salt, and black pepper in a heavy brown paper bag. Add the kidneys and shake vigorously to coat thoroughly.

Heat a heavy skillet over high heat, then add 3 more tablespoons of butter. Brown the kidneys on all sides in the butter. Return the mushrooms to the pan and add a big splash of Worcestershire sauce and the stock, and shake the pan to combine all the ingredients.

Remove the kidneys and mushrooms and set them on top or beside a slice of toast. Reduce the sauce in the skillet and then pour it over the kidneys.

Serves 1 (if it is me) or 2

Jan 242021
 

On this date in 1848, James W. Marshall found gold at Sutter’s Mill in Coloma, California starting the California Gold Rush (1848–1855). The news of gold brought approximately 300,000 people to California from the rest of the United States and abroad. The sudden influx of gold into the money supply reinvigorated the US economy, and the sudden population increase allowed California to proceed rapidly to statehood, in the Compromise of 1850. The Gold Rush had severe effects on indigenous Californians and accelerated the Native American population’s decline from disease, starvation, and the California Genocide (massacres by settlers and gold hunters). By the time it ended, California had gone from a thinly populated ex-Mexican territory, to having one of its first two U.S. Senators, John C. Frémont, selected to be the first presidential nominee for the new Republican Party, in 1856.

The effects of the Gold Rush were substantial. Whole indigenous societies were attacked and pushed off their lands by the gold-seekers, called “forty-niners” (referring to 1849, the peak year for Gold Rush immigration). Outside of California, the first to arrive were from Oregon, the Sandwich Islands (Hawaii), and Latin America in late 1848. Of the approximately 300,000 people who came to California during the Gold Rush, about half arrived by sea and half came overland on the California Trail and the Gila River trail; forty-niners often faced substantial hardships on the trip. While most of the newly arrived were from the US, the gold rush attracted thousands from Latin America, Europe, Australia, and China. Agriculture and ranching expanded throughout the state to meet the needs of the settlers. San Francisco grew from a small settlement of about 200 residents in 1846 to a boomtown of about 36,000 by 1852. Roads, churches, schools, and towns were built throughout California. In 1849 a state constitution was written. The new constitution was adopted by referendum vote, and the future state’s interim first governor and legislature were chosen. In September 1850, California became a state.

At the beginning of the Gold Rush, there was no law regarding property rights in the goldfields and a system of “staking claims” was developed. Prospectors retrieved the gold from streams and riverbeds using simple techniques, such as panning. Although the mining caused great environmental harm, sophisticated methods of gold recovery were developed and later adopted around the world. New methods of transportation developed as steamships came into regular service. By 1869, railroads were built from California to the eastern United States. At its peak, technological advances reached a point where significant financing was required, increasing the proportion of gold companies to individual miners. Gold worth tens of billions of today’s US dollars was recovered, which led to great wealth for a few, though many who participated in the California Gold Rush earned little more than they had started with.

Recent scholarship confirms that merchants made far more money than miners during the Gold Rush. The wealthiest man in California during the early years of the rush was Samuel Brannan, a tireless self-promoter, shopkeeper and newspaper publisher. Brannan opened the first supply stores in Sacramento, Coloma, and other spots in the goldfields. Just as the rush began he bought up all the prospecting supplies available in San Francisco and re-sold them at a substantial profit. A businessman who went on to great success was Jacob Davis who teamed up with Levi Strauss to produce and sell studded denim overalls in San Francisco in 1853.

Some gold-seekers made a significant amount of money. On average, half the gold-seekers made a modest profit, after taking all expenses into account; economic historians have suggested that White miners were more successful than Black, Indian, or Chinese miners. However, taxes such as the California foreign miners tax passed in 1851, targeted mainly Latino miners and kept them from making as much money as Whites, who did not have any taxes imposed on them. In California most late arrivals made little or wound up losing money. Similarly, many unlucky merchants set up in settlements which disappeared, or which succumbed to one of the calamitous fires that swept the towns that sprang up.

The human and environmental costs of the Gold Rush were substantial. Native Americans, dependent on traditional hunting, gathering and agriculture, became the victims of starvation and disease, as gravel, silt and toxic chemicals from prospecting operations killed fish and destroyed habitats. The surge in the mining population also resulted in the disappearance of game and food gathering locales as gold camps and other settlements were built amidst them. Later farming spread to supply the settlers’ camps, taking more land away from the Native Americans. In some areas, systematic attacks against Native Americans in or near mining districts occurred. Various conflicts were fought between indigenous people and settlers. Miners often saw Native Americans as impediments to their mining activities. Ed Allen, interpretive lead for Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park, reported that there were times when miners would kill up to 50 or more Native Americans in one day. Historian Benjamin Madley recorded the numbers of killings of California Indians between 1846 and 1873 and estimated that during this period at least 9,400 to 16,000 California Indians were killed by non-Indians, mostly occurring in more than 370 massacres.

Flapjacks were a great staple of California mining camps leading to them often being referred to as 49er flapjacks.  They are a cross between English pancakes (crepes) and US breakfast pancakes – somewhat resembling Scandinavian pancakes.

49er Flapjacks

Ingredients

1 tsp dry yeast
2 cups milk
1 ½ tbsp melted butter
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1½ tbsp sugar
1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
½ tsp salt
½ tsp vanilla extract

Instructions

The night before you wish to make the pancakes, warm the milk in a small saucepan to about body heat.  Remove from the heat and dissolve in the yeast. Let the mixture stand 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine the salt, sugar, and flour in a large mixing bowl. Add the melted butter to the milk mixture. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and mix until fully combined. Let the dough stand at room temperature for 1 hour, then beat down with a wooden spoon to deflate. Cover with a cloth and let stand overnight in the refrigerator or at room temperature.

In the morning, deflate the mix again and whisk in the beaten eggs and vanilla. At this point it should be a runny batter that can spread easily.

Heat a well-greased, heavy, 12 inch skillet over medium high heat. Make one large flapjack at a time by lifting the skillet off the heat while you pour ½ cup of batter, tilt the pan to cover the bottom surface completely. The top surface will bubble a little as the bottom cooks Wait until all the top bubbles burst and the top itself is not moist.  Flip and cook until golden.

Flapjacks can be served as part of a full breakfast or on their own with your choice of accompaniments – syrup, fruit, preserves, etc.

Jan 232021
 

Today is the birthday (1783) of Marie-Henri Beyle, better known by his pen name Stendhal, a 19th-century French writer, known for the novels Le Rouge et le Noir and La Chartreuse de Parme. He is highly regarded for the acute analysis of his characters’ psychology and considered one of the early and foremost practitioners of realism.

Stendahl was born in Grenoble, Isère, and had an unhappy childhood. His mother died when he was 7, and he found his father, a barrister, unbearable (he actually called him “unimaginative”). In 1799 he left for Paris, ostensibly to prepare for the entrance examination to the École Polytechnique, but in reality to escape from Grenoble and from paternal rule.

The military and theatrical worlds of the First French Empire were a revelation to Stendhal. His secret ambition on arriving in Paris was to become a successful playwright, but some highly placed relatives of his, the Darus, obtained an appointment for him as second lieutenant in the French military forces stationed in Italy. He was named an auditor with the Conseil d’État on 3rd August 1810, and thereafter took part in the French administration and in the Napoleonic wars in Italy. He travelled extensively in Germany and was part of Napoleon’s army in the 1812 invasion of Russia. Stendhal witnessed the burning of Moscow from just outside the city. He was appointed Commissioner of War Supplies and sent to Smolensk to prepare provisions for the returning army. He crossed the Berezina River by finding a usable ford rather than the overwhelmed pontoon bridge, which probably saved his life and those of his companions. He arrived in Paris in 1813, largely unaware of the general fiasco that the retreat had become. Stendhal became known, during the Russian campaign, for keeping his wits about him, and maintaining his clear-headedness. He also maintained his daily routine, shaving each day during the retreat from Moscow.

After the 1814 Treaty of Fontainebleau, he left for Italy, where he settled in Milan. He formed a particular attachment to Italy, where he spent much of the remainder of his career, serving as French consul at Trieste and Civitavecchia. His novel The Charterhouse of Parma, written in 52 days, is set in Italy, which he considered a more sincere and passionate country than Restoration France. An aside in that novel, referring to a character who contemplates suicide after being jilted, speaks about his attitude towards his home country: “To make this course of action clear to my French readers, I must explain that in Italy, a country very far away from us, people are still driven to despair by love.”

Stendhal identified with the nascent liberalism and his time in Italy convinced him that Romanticism was essentially the literary counterpart of liberalism in politics. When Stendhal was appointed to a consular post in Trieste in 1830, Metternich refused his exequatur on account of Stendhal’s liberalism and anti-clericalism.

Stendhal was a dandy and wit about town in Paris, as well as an obsessive womanizer. However, his genuine empathy towards women is evident in his books; Simone de Beauvoir spoke highly of him in The Second Sex. One of his early works is On Love, a rational analysis of romantic passion that was based on his unrequited love for Mathilde, Countess Dembowska, whom he met while living at Milan. This fusion of, and tension between, clear-headed analysis and romantic feeling is typical of Stendhal’s great novels.

In On Love Stendhal speaks of “birth of love” in which the love object is ‘crystallized’ in the mind, as being a process similar or analogous to a trip to Rome. In the analogy, the city of Bologna represents indifference and Rome represents perfect love:

Stendhal’s depiction of “crystallization” in the process of falling in love.

When we are in Bologna, we are entirely indifferent; we are not concerned to admire in any particular way the person with whom we shall perhaps one day be madly in love; even less is our imagination inclined to overrate their worth. In a word, in Bologna “crystallization” has not yet begun. When the journey begins, love departs. One leaves Bologna, climbs the Apennines, and takes the road to Rome. The departure, according to Stendhal, has nothing to do with one’s will; it is an instinctive moment. This transformative process actuates in terms of four steps along a journey:

    Admiration – one marvels at the qualities of the loved one.

    Acknowledgement – one acknowledges the pleasantness of having gained the loved one’s interest.

    Hope – one envisions gaining the love of the loved one.

    Delight – one delights in overrating the beauty and merit of the person whose love one hopes to win.

This journey or crystallization process (shown above) was detailed by Stendhal on the back of a playing card while speaking to Madame Gherardi, during his trip to the Salzburg salt mine.

Hippolyte Taine considered the psychological portraits of Stendhal’s characters to be “real, because they are complex, many-sided, particular and original, like living human beings.” Émile Zola concurred with Taine’s assessment of Stendhal’s skills as a “psychologist”, and although emphatic in his praise of Stendhal’s psychological accuracy and rejection of convention, he deplored the various implausibilities of the novels and Stendhal’s clear authorial intervention.

Friedrich Nietzsche refers to Stendhal as “France’s last great psychologist” in Beyond Good and Evil (1886). He also mentions Stendhal in the Twilight of the Idols (1889) during a discussion of Dostoevsky as a psychologist, saying that encountering Dostoevsky was “the most beautiful accident of my life, more so than even my discovery of Stendhal.”

Ford Madox Ford, in The English Novel, asserts that to Diderot and Stendhal “the Novel owes its next great step forward…At that point it became suddenly evident that the Novel as such was capable of being regarded as a means of profoundly serious and many-sided discussion and therefore as a medium of profoundly serious investigation into the human case.”

Erich Auerbach considers modern “serious realism” to have begun with Stendhal and Balzac.[24] In Mimesis, he remarks of a scene in The Red and the Black that “it would be almost incomprehensible without a most accurate and detailed knowledge of the political situation, the social stratification, and the economic circumstances of a perfectly definite historical moment, namely, that in which France found itself just before the July Revolution.”

In Auerbach’s view, in Stendhal’s novels “characters, attitudes, and relationships of the dramatis personæ, then, are very closely connected with contemporary historical circumstances; contemporary political and social conditions are woven into the action in a manner more detailed and more real than had been exhibited in any earlier novel, and indeed in any works of literary art except those expressly purporting to be politico-satirical tracts.”

Simone de Beauvoir uses Stendhal as an example of a feminist author. In The Second Sex de Beauvoir writes “Stendhal never describes his heroines as a function of his heroes: he provides them with their own destinies.” She furthermore points out that it “is remarkable that Stendhal is both so profoundly romantic and so decidedly feminist; feminists are usually rational minds that adopt a universal point of view in all things; but it is not only in the name of freedom in general but also in the name of individual happiness that Stendhal calls for women’s emancipation.” Yet, Beauvoir criticizes Stendhal for, although wanting a woman to be his equal, her only destiny he envisions for her remains a man.

Some quotes:

Love is a well from which we can drink only as much as we have put in, and the stars that shine from it are only our eyes looking in.

One can acquire everything in solitude except character.

Life is very short, and it ought not to be spent crawling at the feet of miserable scoundrels.

Only great minds can afford a simple style.

All religions are founded on the fear of the many and the cleverness of the few.

Beauty is nothing other than the promise of happiness.

Almost all our misfortunes in life come from the wrong notions we have about the things that happen to us.

To describe happiness is to diminish it.

Stendhal suffered miserable physical disabilities in his final years as he continued to produce some of his most famous work. As he noted in his journal, he was taking iodide of potassium and quicksilver to treat his syphilis, resulting in swollen armpits, difficulty swallowing, pains in his shrunken testicles, sleeplessness, giddiness, roaring in the ears, racing pulse and “tremors so bad he could scarcely hold a fork or a pen”. Modern medicine has shown that his health problems were more attributable to his treatment than to his syphilis.

Stendhal’s birthplace, Grenoble, is well known for Sauce Grenobloise, typically used to sauce fish.  It is the delightful mix of lemon and capers but with additions – tons of butter, parsley, chunks of lemon, and croutons. This video is typical.

 

 

Jan 192021
 

Today is the birthday (1775) of André-Marie Ampère, a French physicist and mathematician who was one of the founders of the science of classical electromagnetism, which he referred to as “electrodynamics”. He is also the inventor of numerous applications, such as the solenoid (a term coined by him) and the electrical telegraph. Ampère was a member of the French Academy of Sciences and professor at the École polytechnique and the Collège de France. The SI unit of measurement of electric current, the ampere, is named after him. His name is also one of the 72 names inscribed on the Eiffel Tower.

Ampère was born to Jean-Jacques Ampère, a prosperous businessman, and Jeanne Antoinette Desutières-Sarcey Ampère, during the height of the French Enlightenment. He spent his childhood and adolescence at the family property at Poleymieux-au-Mont-d’Or near Lyon. Jean-Jacques Ampère was an admirer of the philosophy of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, whose theories of education (as outlined in his treatise Émile) were the basis of Ampère’s education. Rousseau believed that young boys should avoid formal schooling and pursue instead an “education direct from nature.” Ampère’s father actualized this ideal by allowing his son to educate himself within the walls of his well-stocked library. In addition, Ampère used his access to the latest books to begin teaching himself advanced mathematics at age 12. In later life Ampère claimed that he knew as much about mathematics and science when he was eighteen as he ever knew, but as a polymath, his reading embraced history, travels, poetry, philosophy, and the natural sciences. The French Revolution that began during his youth was influential: Ampère’s father was called into public service by the new revolutionary government, becoming a justice of the peace in a small town near Lyon. When the Jacobin faction seized control of the Revolutionary government in 1792, his father resisted the new political tides, and he was guillotined on 24 November 1793, as part of the Jacobin purges of the period.

in July 1803, Ampère moved to Paris, where he began a tutoring post at the new École Polytechnique in 1804. Despite his lack of formal qualifications, Ampère was appointed a professor of mathematics at the school in 1809. As well as holding positions at this school until 1828, in 1819 and 1820 Ampère offered courses in philosophy and astronomy, respectively, at the University of Paris, and in 1824 he was elected to the prestigious chair in experimental physics at the Collège de France. In 1814 Ampère was invited to join the class of mathematicians in the new Institut Impérial, the umbrella under which the reformed state Academy of Sciences would sit.

In September 1820, Ampère’s friend and eventual eulogist François Arago showed the members of the French Academy of Sciences the surprising discovery of Danish physicist Hans Christian Ørsted that a magnetic needle is deflected by an adjacent electric current. Ampère began developing a mathematical and physical theory to understand the relationship between electricity and magnetism. Furthering Ørsted’s experimental work, Ampère showed that two parallel wires carrying electric currents attract or repel each other, depending on whether the currents flow in the same or opposite directions, respectively – this laid the foundation of electrodynamics. He also applied mathematics in generalizing physical laws from these experimental results. The most important of these was the principle that came to be called Ampère’s law, which states that the mutual action of two lengths of current-carrying wire is proportional to their lengths and to the intensities of their currents. Ampère also applied this same principle to magnetism, showing the harmony between his law and French physicist Charles Augustin de Coulomb’s law of magnetic action. Ampère’s devotion to, and skill with, experimental techniques anchored his science within the emerging fields of experimental physics.

Ampère also provided a physical understanding of the electromagnetic relationship, theorizing the existence of an “electrodynamic molecule” (the forerunner of the idea of the electron) that served as the component element of both electricity and magnetism. Using this physical explanation of electromagnetic motion, Ampère developed a physical account of electromagnetic phenomena that was both empirically demonstrable and mathematically predictive. In 1827 Ampère published his magnum opus, Mémoire sur la théorie mathématique des phénomènes électrodynamiques uniquement déduite de l’experience (Memoir on the Mathematical Theory of Electrodynamic Phenomena, Uniquely Deduced from Experience), the work that coined the name of his new science, electrodynamics, and became known ever after as its founding treatise.

In 1827 Ampère was elected a Foreign Member of the Royal Society and in 1828, a foreign member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Science.

Ampère was from the general region of Lyon, and “Lyonnaise” refers to cooking traditions and practices centering on the area around Lyon. In the 16th century, Catherine de Medici brought cooks from Florence to her court in Lyon and they prepared dishes combining the agricultural products from the regions of France with their own culinary expertise. Now “Lyonnaise” is a semi-formal appellation. Sauce Lyonnaise, for example, involves a demi-glace, vinegar, and onions.  This video explains the appellation more fully and shows the making of veal cutlets Lyonnaise.