Song of the Day: Red House Painters, “Michigan”

One of the most haunting, joyous songs by the Red House Painters. This live version, slower than the album version and slightly less rock and roll, or at least, rock and roll later than in the album version, captures the quiet ecstasy of a relationship. The line, “September, a time of in between/ a lazy month of nothing,” always makes me think of the slide into fall, and the ease in the effort in loving.


Commonplace: Alfred Lord Tennyson, “To Christopher North”

“You did late review my lays,

Crusty Christopher;

You did mingle blame and praise,

Rusty Christopher.


When I learnt from whom it came,

I forgave you all the blame,

Musty Christopher;

I could not forgive the praise,

Fusty Christopher.”

~ Alfred Lord Tennyson, “To Christopher North,” 1832. For those not in the know, Christopher North is the editorial voice for Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine in the 1830s, and it’s the often pseudonym for John Wilson. They, of course, reviewed Tennyson’s early work. I decided when indexing the magazine for the Periodical Poetry Index that when I turn to a life of crime, I’m going by Christopher North for spite. Poetry publication was not done systematically in the early days of Blackwood’s.

Commonplace: Maria Edgeworth, Belinda

“‘Belinda, notwithstanding all this, observe, I’m determined to retain Clarence Hervey among the number of my public worshippers during my life–which you know cannot last long. After I am gone, my dear, he’ll be all your own, and of that I give you joy. Posthumous fame is a silly thing, but posthumous jealousy is detestable.'”

– the delightful Lady Delacour in Maria Edgeworth’s Belinda

Downton Abbey Rap

A student in my Jane Austen and her contemporaries class posted this to the class blog, and besides the hilarity of a rap about BBC/ITV heritage film, it actually does a brilliant job of blending chap hop with social commentary. After all, our consumption of costume drama is directly tied to our 21st century position. As the song says, we’re not likely to die of consumption (tuberculosis), among other ills of the previous centuries. Yet, we consume these texts in a kind of fantasy like way of wanting to relive the past without the inconveniences. A student in another class this week asked me which wave of feminism I liked better, and I replied as a 19th century British lit scholar, I’m most interested in the first wave. But, I’m exceedingly glad to be living in the 21st century 3rd to 4th wave of feminism and have the luxury to be able to vote, work, and make active choices about my life.

Commonplace: Virginia Woolf, “Jane Austen,” The Common Reader

“And what effect would all this have had upon the six novels that Jane Austen did not write? She would not have written of crime, of passion, or of adventure. She would not have been rushed by the importunity of publishers or the flattery of friends into slovenliness or insincerity. But she would have known more. Her sense of security would have been shaken. Her comedy would have suffered. She would have trusted less (this is already perceptible in Persuasion) to dialogue and more to reflection to give us a knowledge of her characters. Those marvellous little speeches which sum up, in a few minutes’ chatter, all that we need in order to know an Admiral Croft or a Mrs. Musgrove for ever, that shorthand, hit-or-miss method which contains chapters of analysis and psychology, would have become too crude to hold all that she now perceived of the complexity of human nature. She would have devised a method, clear and composed as ever, but deeper and more suggestive, for conveying not only what people say, but what they leave unsaid; not only what they are, but what life is. She would have stood farther away from her characters, and seen them more as a group, less as individuals. Her satire, while it played less incessantly, would have been more stringent and severe. She would have been the forerunner of Henry James and of Proust — but enough. Vain are these speculations: the most perfect artist among women, the writer whose books are immortal, died ‘just as she was beginning to feel confidence in her own success’.”

~ Virginia Woolf, “Jane Austen,” The Common Reader