Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Sunday, January 17, 2021


 Openers:  The names of my individuals are fictitous, but the rest of my little narrative is true.  The poeple who figure in it are alive, and indeed friends of mine; and although I have altered the widow's name, I have retained its peculiarity, -- namely, that it is a male Christian name with an 's' attached to it; and the fact that it by no means a common name sharpens the little mystery -- such names as "Jacks," "Franks," and "Toms," being certainly less usual than others.

To begin then:  Mrs. de Courcy lived , at the time of my story, in a pretty little house in Bayswater.  She settled there at first with three lovely daughters, but two of them marrying, now, as in the case of the far-famed little niggers, there is only one.  Her name is "Ella," and she is a charming, as well as a beautiful girl; she has only just returned from a visit of over two years to her brother and his young wife, who are settled in America.

Ella had enjoyed her sejour in the far west enormously and having been much admired, Mrs. de Courcy feared at one time lest she should be tempted never to return; -- but she did return, and to her mother's great delight, and, as far as I know, there she is still.

One day Mrs. de Courcy said to her daughter:  "I have had such a nice letter from dear Mrs. Jacks, and she is anxious to come and see you, Ella, -- and hear all you can tell her of your wanderings.  She offers to come to luncheon the day after tomorrow.  There is a train from Croyden, (she says) which willjust bring her in time, so I have written and said, "yes!"

-- "A Double" by The Countess of Munster (Wilhelmina FitzClarence), from her collection Ghostly Tales. 1896.

First off, we should just ignore, if possible, the racism in the second paragraph.  The remainder of the book is not racist in any way, although it is definitely classist.  Common attitudes in Victorian England hopefully differ from those of today, if only by a matter of degree.

Wilhelmina Kennedy-Erskine was the illegitimate granddaughter of William IV, who became king the day before Wilhelmina's birth.  Wilhelmina's mother, Lady Augusta FitzClarence, was one of ten illegitimate children William had had with actress Dorothea Johnson, with whom he had had a twenty-year affair.  All of the surviving children of William IV were raised to the ranks of younger children of a marquess once William assumed the throne.  As a king without legitimate issue, William quarreled with his surviving sons over money and honors; his daughters, however, "proved an ornament to the court," being "pretty and lively...[making] society in a way that real princesses could not."  Wilhelmina's father died the year afternshe was born.  As a granddaughter of the king, Wilhelmina was a favorite of the king and the family often visited Windsor Castle.  Lady Augusta remarried in 1836 and became the State Housekeeper of Kensington Palace, appointed by her father.  Wilhelmina lived at Kensington until her marriage to her cousin, William FitzClarence, the second Earl of Munster, in 1855.  William FitzClarence was also a grand child of William IV; William's father (and Wilhelmina's uncle) committed suicide at age 48 and was suspected of having a mental condition and a "paranoic sense of persecution," perhaps attirbuted to hereditary polphyria.

Wilhelmina and William had nine children, three of whom died in childhood and two of whom succeeded to the title of Earl of Munster.  They lived a remarkably quiet life, Wilhelmina preferring a literary and artistic life.  She became a writer late in life, pubishing her first novel, Dorinda, in 1889, beofre she had turned 60.  Oscar Wilde praised the novel, citing the heroine as "exceedingly clever."  A second novel, A Scotch Earl, appeared in 1891 and was less successful.  Her collection of eleven stories, Ghostly Tales, contained stories that at least one review considered to be based on fact.  A number of the stories were presented in a manner to suggest that they were true, but not all the stories were supernatural or "ghostly."  "A Double," quoted above, is about a brief unexplained encounter with a doppleganger.  "The Ghost of My Dead Friend" describes just that, a visit from a friend who had died the year before.  "The Tyburn Ghost" recounts the story of a woman and her daughter who temporarily take up lodging and are visited by ghostly figure who vanishes when the two say prayers; they later learn that the apparition of of a woman who had died in the house and was buried in the cellar.  "The Bruges Ghost" is a simlar tale:  An apparition appears in a woman's bedroom, apparently of a young man who had died of consumption; he had been a Catholic and a priest was sought to lay him to rest.  "The Page Boy's Ghost" is the ghost of a young page boy (go figure) who had commmitted suicide some months before.  "Aunt Jeanne's Story" is a maudlin tale of a girl who defied her domineering parents and ran off to get married; her parents refused to acknowledge her in any way and she feels guilty for breaking one of the Commandments and defying them.  Her husband dies and she is left alone in the world, bereft.  She wonders if she would be better off commiting suicide and one night she is awakened by the face of Jesus and all becomes well.  "Only a Cat!" is a story of a woman who had a cat.  The cat goes missing.  A year later the cat comes back, half-starved and bleeding.  The cat dies.  The end.  The longest sory in the book -- fully a third of the contents -- is "The Leather Box," a convoluted story of sisterly jealousy, parental abuse, mysterious origins, lost fortunes, and a cad above all cads.  Pure Victorian melodrama, and not very well done, although a shining heroine emerges at the end.  "Saved!" (A Reminiscence) involved a young Russian prince being slowly poisoned by his stepmother, only to be rescued by a young girl staying at the same inn.  "A 'Mauvais de Quart Heure.' " tells of a woman nin rhe habit of taking pre-dawn walks and meeting up with a madman.  The final story in the book, "A Mysterious Visitor," subtitled "A Well-Authenticated Story," has the narrator meeting a courtly stranger who claims to be Satan and, in his own way, proves it.

A mixed bag indeed.  The Saturday Review felt the book to be "entertaining and dramatic" and noted editor of the supernatural Hugh Lamb felt that the book was a representative collection of Victorian ghost stories.  Douglas A. Anderson felt the stories were melodramatic and "perfectly forgettable."  I tend to agree with Anderson.  If some of these stories are, as purported, based on true events, they are presented weakly.  One would be much better off reading the books of Mrs. Catherine Crowe which had been published near a half century before -- The Night Side of Nature (1848), Light and Darkness (1856), and Ghosts and Family Legends (1858).  Ghostly Tales appeared in an age when spiritualism was taking hold and, although not claiming to be in that vein, it also did little to promote that fallacy.

The countess of Munster published only one other book, an autobiography, My Memories and Miscellanies, published in 1904, two yearss before her death.  Written only from memory -- she had stopped journal writing when a young girl -- it recounted several tales of the ghost "Green Jean," whom she and other had seen at Wemyss Castle.  "Green Jean" is just one of many such "green ladies" seen at Scottish castles, green being an unlucky color to wear at a wedding.  "Green Jean" wear a dress of green silk as she floats long the corridors of the castle.  In 2007, it was reported that she had not been seennin recent years.

The World Spinning Madly:  So that happened.  A violent takeover of the United States Capitol Building, a second impeachment of President Trump, and last-minute wrenches from the outgoing administration thrown to to make the incoming administration's work far more difficult.  Inauguration Day cannot come soon enough.

We have learned that the takeover of the Capitol Building was no fluke.  Egged on and incited by Trump, this thing had been planned well in advance.  Persons on the terrorist watch list were involved.  Arms and explosives had been stockpiled.  A knowledge of the layout of the Capitol Building was obtained through tours given by sympathizers in Congress.  A stated intention of the rioters was the assasination of public officials.  Members of Congress feared for their lives, in part because they were sheltering with other members who had supported the rioters.  One Congresswoman tweeted their location, providing updates who was where. Some members of law enforcement supported the rioters; a number of off-duty police officers joined the mob.  The president joyfully watched the whole affair live on television and refused to tke desperate calls from his congressional supporters.  People died.

This has been a stain on our country and on the presidency, one that will be hard to erase.  Trump, Rudy Giuliani, and Donald Trump, Jr. should face criminal charges.  Ted Cruz, Josh Hawley, Matt Gaetz, Jim Jordan, Mo Brooks, Marjorie Taylor Green, Lauren Boebert, Kevin McCarthy, and others whouls be called to account for their actions.  So, too, should those who are trying to minimalize the damage to their reputations at the last minute:  Mitch McConnell, Elaine Chau, Betsy DeVos, Alex Azar, and others.  All of Trumps enablers -- Mike Pompeo, Stephen Mnuchkin, Wilbur Ross, Kayleigh McEnany, Kelly Ann Conway, Pam Bondi, Christopher Miller, Sonny Perdue, Mark Meadows, Andrew Wheeler, William Barr, Mick Mulvaney, Scott Pruitt, Peter Navarro, and so many others, past and present -- should not be allowed to go unscathed.  The president's own family and his shady business interests deserve additional scrutiny.  Rocks should be turned over to expose the far-right (and far-left) hate groups for what they are.  All of those complicit in spreading disinformation about Covid-19 should be shamed, including the anti-maskers and Covid conspirators who have helped contribute to more than 330 thousand American deaths thus far.  

And the millions of Trumps supporters who were gulled into believing his lies?  And those who genuinely feel that America has passed them by?  There will always be differences of opinion in this country, but it is incumbent on the incoming administration to listen and to address the real concerns of the people, to provide a stable economy that is not trigged against the little man, to ensure opportunities exist for all, to support basics rights such as health and shelter, to be sure that none go hungry in a land of plenty, to provide a safe environment for our citizens, to be sure that every voice has a chance to be heard, to give our sitizens and generations to come clean air and clean water, to make decisions based on science and reason and not on fear or superstition, to provide an accepting environment for all to live in and grow, and to once again become a beacon of hope for the world.

Nothing is easy.  But we have a chance.  We can and will put fear, greed, and hatred behind us so that the last four years will never be repeated as long as our country exists.

And So It Goes...:  It's been reported that an unnamed associate of Rudy Giuliani told a former CIA officer that a pardon from President Trump would cost $2 million.  There are denials all over the place, but the former CIA officer is sticking to the story.

Two more days, folks.  Two more days...

Advice to Children:  From a chapbook, Master Truelove's Playgame:  being a pleasing entertainment for little boys and girls by which they m ay learn their letters, as soon as they can speak as they are riddles and sayings of Old Mother Goose, published in 1805 by A. Swindells, Manchester:

When the fun doth rife, you muft ger [sic] up each day.

And fall on your knees and to God humbly pray,

Then kneel to your parents their bleffing to implore,

And when you money give fome to the poor,

You hands and your face, in the next place wafh fair,

And brufh out you apparel and comb out your hair;

And with a good morning to all in in [sic] your view,

And bow to your parents and bid them adieu,

Salute every perfon to fchool as you go,

When at fchool to your mafter due reverence fhew.

Anf if you can't read, pray endeavor to fpell,

For by frequently fpelling you'll learn to read well,

Shun all the idle boys, wicked and rude,

And pray only play with thofe boys who are good,

To church you muft every funday repair,

And behave yourfelf decently while you are there,

At the clofe of the day e'er you go to your reft,

Kneel again to yout parents, and be again bleft,

And to the Almighty again humbly pray,

The he may preferve you by night and by day.

A Sea Shanty:  Now trending on Tiktok:  sea chanties!  In thaty spirit, here's Johnny Collins with "Randy Dandy Oh."

Elephant Battle:  428 years ago, King Naresuan of Thailand defeated the Crown Prince Mingyi Swa in an "Elephant Duel."  Legend calls it a duel, but it more of a battle than a formal duel.  Here's what went down.

Naresuan (or Naret) was the 18th monarch of the Ayutthaya Kingdom from 1590 to his death in 1605.  His father, King Mahathammarawachathirat had surrended his kingdom to King Bayanaung of Burma during the Burmese-Siamese War of 1563-64, and had sent his son to Burma as a royal hostage.  There, Naresuan received the best of Burmese military training, returning to Ayuttthaya, where is uncle had been seated as a vassal king, after six years.  Naresuan was named a Uparajah (crown prince) of Phitsanolok by his uncle when he was 15.  In 1583, viceroy Thada Minsaw rebelled against Nanda Bayin, who had become ing of Burma upon his father's death.  Ayutthaya was still under Burmese rule, and Nanda ordered Naresuan to aid in putting down the rebellion.  Although Naresuan received the order in February, he did not reach the Burmese border until early April, something that made Nanda suspicious of Naresuan's loyalties.  Nanda ordered his son Mingyi Swa to kill Naresuan.

When Naresuan learn of this, he gathered allies and symbolically severed the relationship of Siam and Burma and prepared for the attack of the Burmese army, marching into Burma to free about 10,000 Siamese families held captive there.  Battles and skirmishes continued over the next nine years with defeats and routs on both sides.  In 1590, Naresuan was crowned King of Ayutthaya following his father's death.  In november 1592, Nanda ordered Mingyi Swa to attack Ayutthaya again.  Naresuan prepared a battle plan that called for a strategic retreat, then a reversal against Mingyi Swa'a army.  In Jnuary, war elephants charged into the Burmese troops, scattering them.

According to legend, Naresuan spotted Mingyi Swa resting on an elephant while under a tee, and challenged hism to come forth and face him in single battle.  Mingyi Swa managed to strike Naresuan's helmet, but Naresuan felled his opponent with his lance.  Other (less romanticized) accounts had Mingyi Swa killed by a Siamese bullet.  One story had naresuan's elephant surrounded by burmesse elephants when a simamese elephant went wild and attacked Mingyi Swa' elephant, giving Naesuan (or one of his followers) the oppotunity to shoot Mingyi Swa.  Whatever happened, Naresuan escaped and his opponent was dead.

Naresuan bult a pagoda on the site to mark his victory.  Naresuan is still revered today.  during his reign, Siam was at its widest and most glorious.  January 18 is named Royal Thai Armed Forces Day to commorate the elephant battle of 1593.

Landings:  In 1911, Eugene Ely landed his plane on the USS Pennsylvania, marking the first time a plane landed on a ship.  this also marked the first use of a tailhook system.

Fast forward to 2021.  This most expensive aircraft carier ever built, the USS Gerald R. Ford (costing $13.28 billion), cannot launch fighter jets due to a flawed electronic catapault and catch system that keeps breaking.  The problem has been onging for three years and has not yet been resolved.  **sigh**

Speedster Bragging:  My grandson Mark ran his first ultramarathon yestereday and came in 7th place, running the 32 miles in 5 hours 40 minutes.  We could not be there because of the Covid quarantine but the rst of the family was cheering him on.  Neither of our daughters had cell service during the race, but we got a post-run update from our granddaughter Amy:  "We're doing great.  Mark finished and can barely hold a sp.oon in his hand.  Erin and I really have to pee.  Kaylee woke up in time for Mark's last lap.  Bink [Christina] fell asleep standing up.  AJ [Jessamyn] dropped my white yeard on the ground.  We all had trouble doing math.  I choked on wind."  It was cold.  That afternoon Mark ate a Marie Callender pot pie, a bag of chips, and two broccoli stuffed chicken breasts.

Yay for Mark!  And yay for the fam in supporting him, although they only made five large signs cheering him on and had to repeat some signs over the eight laps!

Florida Man:

  • Florida Man Sean Hynes is being sued in small claims court for not paying on a $100 bet on the presidential election.  Hynes refuses to acept the election results.  He lives in the state of Florida, which is also the state of denial, evidently.
  • Delusional thinking seems to be trend among the recent Florida Men.  Samuel Camargo, alleged (and self-admitted) Capitol Hill insurrectionist has bragged about acing his FBI interview.  "I believe I have been cleared," he wrote just before being charged with multiple federal crimes.  If convicted he faces up to 25 years in proson.
  • Both sides of the political spectrum have had their Florida Man days.  Daniel Baker has been arrested for plotting to attack pro-Trump protesters at the State Capitol in Tallahassee.  Baker has been described as anti-Trump, anti-government, anti-white supremicist, and anti-police.  
  • Florida Man Stan Smith says that he was fired by Florida Company Daniels Manufacturing Corporation after he released a letter to the media that company president sent all employees with their recent paystubs.  The letter stated that if Joe Biden won the election, the company could begin permanent layoffs beginning in late 2020 or early 2021.  Daniels denies that the letter was an attempt to inf;uence the votes of his employees.
  • Florida Woman and fired data scientist Rebekah Jones said that she will surrender to an arrest warrant issued for her.  Jones had claimed she was fired because she would not manipulate coronavirus data to support Governor Ron DeSantis' argument for lifting coronavirus restrictions.  Jones had been accused of sending a group e-mail in November telling people to speak up before another 17,000 Floridians were killed.  jones denied sending the e-mail, but police raided her home on December 7 to investigate the e-mail and seized her computer.  On January 16, a judge ordered the police to release Jones' computer because no crime was being invesitgated.  The following day an arrest warrant was issued on an unrelated charge.  Police evidently found items that had been downloaded on her computer that should not be there, although the specifics have not been communicated to Jones.  Jones also said that an agent had told her lawyer that additional charges may be filed is she spoke out against the police.
  • An unnamed and "apparently intoxicated" Florida Man has been arrested for stealing a Tiki Hut boat off the Florida keys.  The boat doubled as a bar, authorities said, adding "Don't drink and boat."
  • Keeping abreast of the latest Florida woman news, Miami police are looking for a topless woman who attacked a shirtless man in a downtown elevator.  The woman used her foot to keep the elevator car door open while she attacked the man.  The incident, which was not reported, was caught on film.  Plice are trying to figure out what the heck happened and why.

Quote:  My mother used to say, "The older you get, the better you get.  Unless you're a banana." --Betty White, who turned 99 yesterday

Good News:
  • Instead of charging a woman with shjoplifting, a police officer buys $250 worth of groceries for hungry family
  • Dwayne Johnson gives $30,000 truck to man who took him in when The Rock was a homeless teenager
  • Arkansas doctor forgives $650,000 in medical debt for cancer patients to kick off the new year
  • Lone capitol police officer lures rioters away from congressional offices, likely saving lives
  • Girl donates all her birthday money to homeless man who found and returned her grandmother's wallet
  • St. Vincent de Paul charity staff organize a funeral for an 82-year-old man who died on the street

Today's Poem:

I never did like "Now take care, dear!"
I never did.  I never did.
I never did want "Hold my hand";
I never did.  I never did.
I never did much of "Not up there, dear!"
It's no good saying it.
They don't understand.

-- A. A. Milne, born this day in 1882

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