Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Monday, August 3, 2020


Openers:   My Dear Olive,

Thank you so very much for your letter and kind inquiries after my health.  I like my new doctor very much indeed. I think he understands me a good deal better than Dr. Coombs, and he has put me on quite a different treatment.  He says I am just going through a "difficult phase" at present, and if only I can hold on and not let things get on top of me for the next year or two I shall come out of it quite all right.  But I am not to have a rest cure!  It seems Dr. Coombs was all wrong about that -- of course he didn't exactly say she was wrong, it wouldn't be professional, but I could see he thought it!  Dr. Trevor says that rest-cures only "turn you in upon yourself," and that makes things worse.  He says I must get right away from myself and my feelings, so as to "sublimate" all these repressed urges and turn them into some other sort of energy.  He says it was quite all right to start with to have my dreams and subconscious betrayals analyzed, so as to know exactly what was the matter with me, but that now the time has come when I must learn to throw all these bottled-up desires outwards, and give them something to do.  He explained it all most clearly,  I said, "I suppose it is sex, doctor, isn't it?"  (of course, one gets quite used to asking things perfectly frankly, and one doesn't mind it a bit.)  And he said, well, largely, and, of course, that was a thing most people suffered from one way or another, and in these days one couldn't always take the obvious and direct way out of a condition of sex repression, because it would often be socially and economically inconvenient.  I said that with two million extra women in this country it didn't seem possible, certainly, for everyone to get married, and he smiled and said:  "My dear Miss Milsom, hald my patients come to me because they are not married -- and the other half because they are!"  We had quite a laugh about it.  He is very nice and rather good-looking, but he doesn't think it's necessary for all his patients to fall in love with him, like that odd man I went to see in Wimpole Street, who suffered so dreadfully from halitosis."

Dorothy L. Sayers with Robert Eustace, The Documents in the Case (1930)

Dorothy L. Sayers, creator of Lord Peter Wimsey, was not only one of the great sime novelists of the Twentieth Century, but also a noted Christian scholar, playright, poet, and translator of Dante and The Song of Roland.  During her brief stint in advertising, she created the slogan "It pays to advertise!"  Her work as a mystery writer divided many of the major critics of the time, but much of this can be laid to a disdain of the genre.  She had an unconventional life:  she was one of the first women to receive a degree from Oxford; she had at least two troubled love affairs, first with a man who espoused free love and then married another after she had broken with him, then with a man who confessed to being already married after he had gotten her pregnant with her only child; the child was raised as a nephew and was not revealed as her son until after Sayer's death..  The minor planet 3627 Sayers, an 11 kilometer object in the inner asteroid belt, was named for her at the suggestion of a scholar who worked with her during the last year of her life on a study of the poet Lucan.

"Robert Eustace" was the pen name of Eustace Robert Barton, an English doctor and mystery writer who first appeared in the Medical Register in 1897.  Much of his work has been in collaboration with L. T. Meade, a  popular writer of girls' stories.  Meade published over 300 books; in addition to her girls' stories Mead also wrote in "sensational" stories, historical novels, adventure, romance, and 68 mysteries -- eleven of which were with Eustace, including early classics A Master of Mysteries, The Brotherhood of Seven Kings, and The Sorceress of the Strand.  Eustace also collaborated with Edgar Jepson and Gertrude Warden.  Some of his collaborations involved providing details about medicine and scientific innovations.  For The Documents in the Case, Eustace provided the main plot, as well as medical and scientific details; the writing was done by Sayers.

The Documents in the Case was based on the famous 1922 Edith Thompson/Frederick Bywaters in which Thompson and her lover Bywater were hanged for his murder of her husband.  It later appeared that Edith Thompson was a victim of a miscarriage of justice and that she knew nothing about -- nor had she suggested -- Bywaters' killing of her husband.  In addition to this book, the case inspired fiction by E. M. Delafield (Messalina of the Suburbs), E. Tennyson Jesse (A Pin to See the Peepshow), P. D. James (The Murder Room), James Joyce (Finnegan's Wake), and "Francis Iles" (Anthony Berkeley Cox).  Agatha Christie referred to the case in her novels Crooked House and Mrs. McGinty's Dead.  Alfred Hitchcock, who was taught to dance by Edith Thompson's father and whose sister was close friends with Edith's sister, used some similarities to the case in his film Stage Fright.

The book itself is an epistolary novel told in letters, statements, documents from various sources -- a popular form of fiction that began in the 18th century.  Among the many examples are Samuel Richardson's Pamela, John Cleland's Fanny Hill, Goethe's The Sorrows of Young Werther, Bram Stoker's Dracula, Wilkie Collins' The Moonstone, Dostoevsky's first novel Poor Folk, Theodore Sturgeon's Some of Your Blood, Bel Kaufman's Up the Down Staircase, Alice Walker's The Color Purple, Stephen King's Carrie, Nick Bantock's Griffin and Sabine, Max Brooks' World War Z, Jeff Kinney's Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows' The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, and Andy Weir's The Martian.

John Lewis:  A man who inspired many of us.  His autobiographical graphic novel trilogy about the Civil Rights movement March was a bestseller and garnered many awards (and was one of my favorite GNs ever).  He was a man of courage, grace, and dignity.  It's interesting to note that many Fox News viewers changed the channel during his funeral, giving the network a "precipitous decline" in ratings.  In Fairfax County, Virginia, it was announced the Robert E. Lee High School would be renamed John R. Lewis High School.

Here's a new song that impressed me:

Karens:  A recent popular theme for over-privileged, and fairly ignorant, white women is Karen(and, yes, there are male Karens).  I have a bit of trouble with this meme because one of my favorite cousins is named Karen and she is absolutely nothing like the Karen meme.  Nonetheless the Karen name has become fixed in popular culture.  The stereotypical Karen is a middle aged woman who is a "let me speak to the manager," antivaxer, racist Trumpinista who, wrongly and rudely demands her own way.  Today's Karens have a vocabulary that seems limited to the F word and little else.  They listen to Fox news.  Karens have always been with us:  before Karen it was Becky and before Becky it was Miss Ann.  (Full disclosure:  I also have a niece Becky and a cousin Ann -- both of whom are good people who I love very much.)   For a generous selection of Karens, check out Karenmeme on YouTube, but be sure the kids are out of the room lest their little earss get burned off.

Florida:  On good days I will tell people I live in the state of Florida while actually I am a permanent resident of the states of anxiety and confusion -- it is 2020, after all.  Florida.  The state where three teenagers hacked the e-mail accounts of Barack Obama and Joe Biden and others demanding money.  The state where one half is drowning in a fierce Hurricane while the half of the state is watching the easy splashdown of SpaceX.   The state where COVID19 came to play and decided to stay.  The president's adopted state because New York was too mean to him.  The state where professional guardians break the law and do not lose their license.  The state that was the second choice for the RNC convention only to lose out to the third choice, which was the first choice.  The home of Florida Man, Florida Woman, wackiness, and dumb people.

Instead of a Florida Man segment this week, I thought I'd treat to an "Only in Florida" video.  This is one of at four available on YouTube.


History:  Last night, John Oliver was spot on, as always.  If you missed the main part of the show, here it is:

Some of the Good Stuff:

Today's Poem:
In August

When August days are hot an' dry,
When burning copper is the sky,
I'd rather fish than feast or fly
In airy realms serene and high.

I'd take a suit not made for looks,
Some easily digested books,
Some flies, some lines, some bait, soime hooks,
Then I would seek some bays or brooks.

I would eschew mine every task,
In Nature's smile my soul should bask,
And I methinks no more could ask,
Except -- perhaps -- one little flask.

In case of accident, you know,
Or should the wind come on to blow,
Or I be chilled or capsized, so,
A flask would be the only go.

Then I should spend a happy time, --
A bit of sport, a bit of rhyme
(A bit of lemon, or of lime,
To make my bottle's contents prime),

When August's days are hot an' dry,
I won't sit by an' sigh or die,
I'll get my  bottle (on the sly)
And go ahead, and fish, and lie!

--Paul Laurence Dunbar

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