Woods and Streams in Delaware, [early] Winter, 1916 (Edward W. Redfield)

Will I click on the URL for twitter one day and it just won’t be there? I’ll get an error message. No such place? the mastodon I could try is an 18th century one but it is such fuss, with a bio wanted. And narrow; I meet all sorts of people on twitter, sites I like …

Dear friends and readers,

I seem to be going through yet another transition in this seeming both long and short widowhood. I’ve stopped going out as much as I once did. Of course part of the cause of this is that I can no longer drive once the sky reaches dusk, but I could go out more during the day, and I could have recourse to Uber/Lyft
and ordering cabs ahead. I don’t. Part of this the effect of self-quarantining taken well past what I understand most or many others have done. It is so peaceful; I am no longer used to enduring the agonies, anxiety as I begin to realize I am lost and panic when I find I am not at all where I meant to be. Waze recently updated itself and now it is of no use to me at all. I can’t get past “save this destination” to “go now.” I’m telling myself I shall be reading more, and I think there’s evidence that I am already.

This is a matter of telling myself what I’m not quite following. I’m telling myself I’m giving over trying to write longer books and volunteering for talks and short projects. I’m not quite following this as I volunteered to give another talk to the Every-other-week online London Trollope Society group on (as I’m calling it) Anthony Trollope’s American Civil War Christmas Stories: “The Widow’s Mite” and “The Two Generals.” As a result of doing a talk on Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin for an OLLI at AU class, I’ve thought of a course for spring 2024 that might actually attract enough people to dare to do it in public: I’d call it “Everybody’s Protest Novel” after James Baldwin’s famous scathing essay on Uncle Tom’s Cabin and Richard Wright’s Native Son. And I’d do:

Harriet Beecher Stowe, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Louisa May Alcock, “Contraband;” John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath; Joan Didion, Play it like it Lays and El Salvador by Joan Didion, and James Baldwin’s short non-fiction story, “Stranger in a Village” and novel, If Beale Street could talk

But this will be the last; after this I will stick with the new terrains I’ve carved out: Italian literature, Anglo-Indian memoirs and novels (British style fiction set in India is the longer phrase) and women writer courses. And 19th century masterpiece courses, mostly by Trollope as central and framing presence.

This means I will be alone more, and am teaching myself to accept being alone and this great loneliness since Jim died. I am tired of trying uselessly for what cannot be and what I am not sure I’d at all like. Go out with friends who ask me, but don’t chase, don’t be the one to suggest unless it is really a museum show, a play, a musical or concert you want to go to.

I do not mean to deny what joy or happiness I can feel when I’ve been out with others, spent good time with others. I knew such exhilaration and contentment when the class I had been teaching these past 9 weeks ended today.

One person had suggested we start at 1:15 to give us ourselves full time to cover all we wanted and watch film clips from the early 1990s BBC The Rector’s Wife, and the 1983 Barchester Chronicles. Eight of the nine people who have been coming steadily agreed and what a splendid class it was. I know they were enjoying it and so was I. It is so much better in person when there is a full enough class.

Yet I will not do it again until Spring 2024 since it is such a difficult thing to build a class of people coming regularly nowadays that I lose perspective, fret over how few may show up (an inappropriate response to an adult education or playful college class).

Can you understand this, gentle reader? Some new phase of calm is what I am feeling come over me, or wanting calm at long last. I discovered I lost weight when I went to Dr Wiltz a couple of weeks ago with a list of pains and complaints that he duly checked over, to tell me I am fine, just getting older yet. I’ve kept to my vow not to add sugar to anything and so I eat less.

18th century lady’s shoes

Every Friday until I run out I’m putting foremother poet blogs on Wompo — the only one. No one can bother post anything which is not about building their career. Last week it was Mary Jones, an 18t century chantress (as Johnson called her) who wrote these beautiful verses upon the death of her beloved friend, Miss Clayton; they are to her memory

Still, but for Thee, regardless might I stray,
Where gentle Charwell rolls her silent tide;
And wear at ease my span of life away,
As I was wont, when thou were at my side.

But now no more the limpid streams delight,
No more at ease unheeding do I stray;
Pleasure and Thou are vanish’d from my sight,
And life, a span! too slowly hastes away.

Yet if thy friendship lives beyond the dust,
Where all things else in peace and silence lie,
I’ll seek Thee there, among the Good and Just.
‘Mong those who living wisely — learnt to die.

And if some friend, when I’m no more, should strive
To future times my mem’ry to extend,
Let this inscription on my tomb survive,
‘Here rest the ashes of a faithful friend.’

A little while and lo! I lay me down,
To land in silence on that peaceful shore,
Where never billows beat, or tyrants frown,
Where we shall meet again, to part no more.”

Change a name and a pronoun and this connects to the way I feel about Jim, though I know I shall never meet him again, since literally he no longer exists, nor will I when I die.

This is what I have to report. This is what I have to come in the next two months. Lunch out with my friend, Alison tomorrow, two museum shows with Betty and one play (MAAN) and one musical (Into the Woods) with Betty in December. Lunch with Eleanor sometime in December: Zorba the Greek restaurant in Dupont Circle. One in person DC Trollope reading group meeting this Sunday — just outside Bethesda (Nina Balatka), and lunch with OLLI at AU SGLs one day in December. Laura and Rob with Izzy will take me out to dinner on Nov 27th as two days before my birthday. Christmas we’ll go with Rob and Laura to a good movie, and then back to their house for dinner at home and exchange of presents. I’ll tell you about these as they happen.

Now I’m evolving a reading plan for myself and I’ve begun with Italian studies (first up Grazia Deledda’s Cosima), Heroine’s books (Charlotte Gilman Perkins’s Women and Economics and Annis Pratt’s Archetypal Patterns in Women’s Fiction), back to, beginning again Valerie Martin’s marvelous The Ghost of the Mary Celeste (a ghost story!). Then as I please beloved individual authors as I feel them (Joanna Trollope a new source of comfort and strenght, Next of Kin) and literary history (Joan Hedrick’s biography of Harriet Beecher Stowe).

Leslie Manville as Sue Ryelands (she’s also in Sherwood, The Crown, was Mrs ‘arris who went to Paris)

Evenings wonderful serials — I am actually enjoying Magpie Murders on PBS, which I’ll blog about with BritBox’s Sherwood and Karen Pirie (Val McDermid’s Distant Echo, set in modern Scotland. The year of Leslie Manville! Last blogs have been on Outlander 6 (1-4 & 5-8), seasons of processing grief, time of trauma; and upon the coming retirement of Judy Woodruff.

How much this house means to me I cannot express strongly enough. My refuge, my memories (Jim all around me), my beloved cats. I vow (like poor Gwendolen Harleth in Daniel Deronda, I’ve just finished) to remain more cheerful, open to others partly by drawing boundaries.

Here is the red berry bush on one side of my house: finally it bloomed and turned out to be the sort of bush I associate with Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and beautiful middle English poetry

Late autumn, beginning my tenth year without Jim,



Izzy’s been working for a couple of months on this one so it’s time to share it.

Anna Nalick’s life and career thus far

The lyrics:

Two am, and she calls me ’cause I’m still awake
Can you help me unravel my latest mistake?
I don’t love him, winter just wasn’t my season
Yeah, we walk through the doors, so accusing their eyes
Like they have any right at all to criticize
Hypocrites, you’re all here for the very same reason

‘Cause you can’t jump the track, we’re like cars on a cable
And life’s like an hourglass glued to the table
No one can find the rewind button, girl
So cradle your head in your hands
And breathe, just breathe
Oh, breathe, just breathe

May he turn twenty-one on the base at Fort Bliss
Just today he sat down to the flask in his fist
Ain’t been sober since maybe October of last year
Here in town you can tell he’s been down for a while
But, my God, it’s so beautiful when the boy smiles
Want to hold him, maybe I’ll just sing about it

‘Cause you can’t jump the track, we’re like cars on a cable
And life’s like an hourglass glued to the table
No one can find the rewind button, boys
So cradle your head in your hands
And breathe, just breathe
Oh, breathe, just breathe

There’s a light at each end of this tunnel, you shout
‘Cause you’re just as far in as you’ll ever be out
And these mistakes you’ve made, you’ll just make them again
If you only try turning around

Two am, and I’m still awake, writing a song
If I get it all down on paper, it’s no longer
Inside of me, threatening the life it belongs to
And I feel like I’m naked in front of the crowd
‘Cause these words are my diary, screaming out loud
And I know that you’ll use them, however you want to

But you can’t jump the track, we’re like cars on a cable
And life’s like an hourglass glued to the table
No one can find the rewind button now
Yeah, sing it if you’ll understand
And breathe, just breathe
Oh, breathe, just breathe
Oh, breathe, just breathe
Oh, breathe, just breathe

She’s 38, just Izzy’s age

Posted by Ellen

Margaryta Yermolayeva — Witchy Art

Dear friends and readers,

The hard beginning of October has been long over, and we’ve had a couple of beautiful weeks: fall used to be my favorite time of year. I still love the light cool breezes, the whitish color of blue light in the morning and orangey-beige at dusk, the variegated colors of the leaves and trees and bushes, so that when I look out my window and see a receding block going downwards on both sides and in the far distance criss-crossing the street and sky yet more soft melting variety of intermingled trees. It reminds me why I quite like being alive. And I’ve put up a cheering picture: Witchy Art by Margaryta Yermolayeva.

Late last week we had frightening news: Rob, Laura’s husband, has developed a second form of cancer. From last time we knew he has a gene that makes him susceptible to cancer, and that is why he has tests twice a year; it’s been over 9 years since the last. Then Laura said it was skin (Squamous) cancer. No time was wasted and today he had an all-day operation. The cancer was in his face, and it was cut out; they then follow trails of cancer cells; when these gave out, there was said to be no cancer left, and they proceeded to do skin grafts on his face, then a face-lift, and at the close stitches by his nose and moustache. 8 hours. This is called mohs surgery, and has an excellent cure rate. Laura appears to have been in the hospital near him (with laptop to do her work) throughout and brought him home tonight. It seems no radiation will be necessary, but he goes for tests November 9th to make sure. You will appreciate how worrying this has been.

My osteoporosis is not as bad as the doctor feared, and “all” I have to do is take a prescription pill once a week, early morning, drink lots of water for 2 hours while sitting up. I too will have tests, but in 6 months time.

Two of the courses I’m taking (at Politics and Prose bookshop zoom space, on James Baldwin’s writing, on George Eliot’s Daniel Deronda) have come to an end — I’m still reading the latter with a group of friends on FB, and one day spontaneously wrote a defense of Walter Scott’s art (he is so influential on the depiction of the Jewish characters). I was asked to give a brief or short talk on Harriet Beecher Stowe’s stunning book, Uncle Tom’s Cabin in a “The Coming of the Civil War” course at OLLI at AU. It went over very well and now I’ve turned the talk into a brief essay blog explaining why it hit such an emotional nerve at the time and why it continues to elicit strong responses from readers, and I put my paper “Jane Austen and Anne Finch’s work in Manuscript and 21st century Manuscript Culture” on academia.edu and then linked it to an explanatory blog after I found I was not able to go to the EC/ASECS gathering after all. I regretted not being able to to the 40th anniversary party of OLLI at AU yesterday: again it was held into the time range when I’d have to be driving home at dusk into the dark. This is a serious disability now, for it cuts down on the small amount of real or physical social life I have. I am enjoying all the zoom classes I go to and one I teach, but know I am at the same time sadly lonely.  On Twitter.

Sometimes it seems I have such a long time ahead of me without him in the world. It’s been such a long time already. I’ve learned I can survive as long as I have my adequate income, and Izzy with me helps enormously, but still so many years perhaps to go without him.

So to tell you what has gone on with me outwardly (and inwardly), I look at what are in effect diary entries on face-book (short form entries on twitter), and can that I enjoyed for the first time two great movies: Tony Richardson’s 1960s Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner), a new superb serials (I joined Britbox!), e.g., 2022 Sherwood, an insightful serial dramatization of miners in Britain in 1984 and then 20 years later, how Thatcher succeeded in dividing and crushing them politically and personally and now they are bitter at one another and the larger society which has left them to rot — it’s on the long memories of life

Famous still of Tim Courtney running for life

Loneliness stands out as more than a brilliant film artfully, with cast famously a young Tim Courtney but also James Bolan (of Beiderbecke’s Tapes), Michael Redgrave, someone called Topsy Jane (!). I had an instinct that at the end our hero would not win the long run for the prison warden even though conventional mores would dictate this as a triumph. No, he would not be used, no matter what it cost him – partly because he knew winning would get him nothing despite vague promises. The intense depiction of poverty and class in Britain at the time; the music for Jerusalem, and the interlude of joy in sexual love at a beach — all make it fit into Angry Young Men material but also these British Social Conscience films of the 1960s. I can’t recommend this one too highly. Tony Richardson the famous director, but Alan Sillitoe wrote the story where the male lead is not a young sweet adolescent but a somewhat anti-social criminal type, and screenplay. Like Sherwood, it takes place in Nottingham; like Sherwood an ironic use of the Blake song Jerusalem.  I’ll mention Jim went to a public school where he had to play a sport, and he choose long-distance running — it does allow you solitude — escape for the time running.

The Red Bull Theater has returned to online productions (and in person at the same time: they did a dramatic reading of John Vanbrugh’s The Relapse, a witty, hard but good-natured too intelligent sequel, as it were correcting the prurient hypocritical and sentimental Love’s Last Shift by Colley Cibber, reminding me of how when Jim was 24 and I 26 we played a pair of amoral servants, he the gambling male and me the promiscuous female in just that inferior play (a great hit in the later 1690s). Here we are, 1972-73, at the Graduate Center, and I daresay it was the fall of that year:

Decades ago, when we were children — how wrinkle free is his skin, how unknowing is that smile only I know from memory. I had experienced it all right, but had no idea the complex causes, of what politics really is.  This past Monday night I sat with my copy of Vanbrugh’s play and read along. The video had a running transcript at the bottom, I could pause and re-watch, I was close up to their faces and bodies, could hear every word.

I learned that non-human animals can get very sick and die from Covid-19 too. This essay explains which animals are likeliest to get sick, the statistics on this, and which likeliest to transmit the disease to whom and get it from whom, that the supreme court might just act to protect pigs (at long last) from a short caged life. How angry I felt when the Washington Post had an editorial against allowing pigs a little enjoyable life lest it put the price of pork chops up, and someone somewhere lose a profit.

The pig is intensely relieved, feeling a puzzled gratitude

I have added the New Statesmen to my budget of subscriptions, which I hardly keep up with, but it comes in driblets each morning and so I do read it; Jim and I let our subscription lapse when we moved to Virginia as too expensive for us at that time. I am still buying books, doing things remembering that he would have appreciated this, understood that. I really felt an intense detestation of the thug woman, Liz Truss, a Thatcher without brains, enough to make me want to abjure feminism. Luckily I came across over the day Truss was still not giving in, Amia Srinivasan’s review of Andrea Dworkin’s My Name is Andrea in the LRB where both recognize the core of the subjection of woman, is male determination to control woman’s sexuality (be in charge of at least one if not more women), so felt yes, it has been of some use.

I have probably told you my winter offering, The Heroine’s Journey (a 4 week online course with 4 slender books, Atwood’s Penelopiad, Carter’s The Bloody Chamber and other adult tales, Ferrante’s Lost Daughter, and Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey), and my spring one Contemporary Italian Memoirs and Novels (an 8 week onliner, three Levi’s, Natalia’s Family Lexicon, Carlo’s Christ Stopped at Eboli, Primo’s Periodic Table, and Ferrante, My Brilliant Friend) are accepted a OLLI at Mason so I will be useful for the coming year and have much to do and to enjoy. Cross fingers the second will be accepted at for the spring 10 week online course and the first for the summer 4 week online course at OLLI at AU. I am still hoping to travel with Laura and Izzy in the later spring and July — to Leeds for a Eurovision extravaganza where I don’t have to go to this event, and to San Diego comic.con where again I need not go, but stay at a beach-house. Dreams?

OTOH, my greatest fear is I’ll lose this house (and then everything in it I value). That is partly another reason why I am thinking of curtailing all travel — and won’t go unless I truly feel I’ll have a good time and won’t know the ordeal of anguish I often do for a reward not worth it every time. I sometimes think I would kill myself if I lost this peaceful refuge.

So I conclude this diary entry: Wompo has started up Foremother Postings again, and again it is slackening off, but they have made me remember one of my foremother poets, Amy Lowell and two of her poems intense moods that speak to me:

Madonna of the Evening Flowers

All day long I have been working,
Now I am tired.
I call: “Where are you?”
But there is only the oak-tree rustling in the wind.
The house is very quiet,
The sun shines in on your books,
On your scissors and thimble just put down,
But you are not there.
Suddenly I am lonely:
Where are you?
I go about searching.

Then I see you,
Standing under a spire of pale blue larkspur,
With a basket of roses on your arm.
You are cool, like silver,
And you smile.
I think the Canterbury bells are playing little tunes.

You tell me that the peonies need spraying,
That the columbines have overrun all bounds,
That the pyrus japonica should be cut back and
You tell me these things.
But I look at you, heart of silver,
White heart-flame of polished silver,
Burning beneath the blue steeples of the larkspur,
And I long to kneel instantly at your feet,
While all about us peal the loud, sweet Te Deums of the
nbsp; Canterbury bells.

[I do work all day and late at night I do feel so desperately tired and look about me for someone, something, a book, feel the silence, long for music — and then I watch The Crown, or Outlander, or Foyle’s war where I find depths of feeling in characters to fill the emptiness of Jim’s having been devoured]

The Taxi

When I go away from you
The world beats dead
Like a slackened drum.
I call out for you against the jutted stars
And shout into the ridges of the wind.
Streets coming fast,
One after the other,
Wedge you away from me,
And the lamps of the city prick my eyes
So that I can no longer see your face.
Why should I leave you,
To wound myself upon the sharp edges of the night?

[And why should I ever go away from my memories of him, ravage myself on those knives however hidden]

Ellen about to watch the last episode of the third season of The Crown, where the two sisters, Elizabeth and Margaret confront one another after Margaret’s feeble attempt at suicide, and say they could not live without the other’s support, and must carry on both for the sake of the other …

Izzy, five years ago, at a library conference, with the patron saint of libraries, Benjamin Franklin

This is a place in Central Park, NYC, I know well: ancient rocks. I used to sit there. (Izzy put it on twitter from her trip to NYC these 6 days)

Today nine years ago Jim died. The comfort of my existence went, my friend stopped existing literally. I have learned much about people since he is gone. A fourth wall in the house I imagined myself in fell away. I have had to interact and wanted to interact and in some ways have become a better person. I learn a lot by being with kinds of people I never came into contact with all that much, some of whom know a lot more than me on this or that subject. But I’d rather have been happy with him.

Here is the obituary I wrote the morning after he died

To mark this day here’s a diary entry (from a letter I write to a friend daily — usually early morning)

A glade in the Sheep Meadow

Now every Sunday I take one of these fosamax (brand name) pills for the osteoporosis.  I am then supposed to sit or stand up for 2 hours and drink 6-8 oz of water. After which I can eat my breakfast or do whatever I do normally. It’s awkward but this is what the doctor ordered.  The tests this past week showed that I don’t need injections or other supplements than the Caltrate-D and folic acid pill I already take daily. Dr Wiltz said that in another year I’d have the same tests and see where we are.

Izzy happened upon the zoo in Central Park:  she is looking down at a Bear going for a walk

I still get those pains in my chest — and now they come unexpectedly at any time of the day. I don’t take the pills for them (2 different bottles) most of the time because the pain is like a sore pain, and most of the time goes away quickly.   The pills are super strong

This is Izzy’s view from the new Whitney museum — I’ve never been there; it happened after Jim died and the one visit I took to the city since I suffered so trying to go places, including the park, the theater, I had a small heart attack when I got home. So I won’t go again unless I go with a friend. It’s too much for me.

I love to talk about books and love to read or to listen to others talk about them.  It does not at all get in the way of my enjoyment; it enrichens it  I don’t worry that this prejudices me or anyone else: it is probably the basis of English literature study. I have no understanding of spoiler warnings.   Only if it’s a mystery and at the end I am truly supposed to be surprised do I not like to be told what is going to happen  In fact often I’ll read the wikipedia article or something else to see if I want to read it; or if it’s an upsetting tragic or melodrama in some way book that affects me, I like to read what’s coming so as not to suffer too much anxiety.  Those that are too strong, I don’t read — Outlander has a lot of bad things that happen but our hero, heroine and other beloved characters usually win out or are happy for some other reason by the end.

For me to write a long piece I’d have to give up blogging. The trouble here is that I love (I admit) the gratification of readership and people saying they enjoyed what I wrote. I’ve now written about8 or 9 books, and produced editions of 5.  Of these 2 have been published as regular books, and 1 as an edition.  Most of the rest are on my website.  High scholarship, the translations, and some others have a readership but it took a long time for me to accomplish these.  It required really taking myself out of circulation.  I didn’t mind as long as I had Jim. But take these 5 days (Izzy away in NYC) I am alone and lonely but for my company on the Net. So that’s why I say when I can no longer go out and teach I’ll write these longer books again.  It is hard to be autistic, to be snubbed, not to be able to interact with others intuitively, to say things others find embarrassing or unacceptable for reasons I can’t understand. I’ve never made a friend in this neighborhood I’ve been able to sustain — and I have tried.

Although I say I’ll go back to Poldark and now accompany my writing with Outlander — finally or really — I don’t care if these are despised by the established literati.  It’s what I love: Historical romance and historical fiction.  (I cannot write the biography I am capable of because the son will not cooperate, I would need to travel and also socially interact with all sorts of people. I never realized to what extent a biography depends on social and traveling skills as I do now consciously.) Yes because historical romance and fiction are escapist & high literary imaginative achievements.  They come out of other books.  And also because I can identity with the heroines as I cannot with many contemporary heroines.  I could instead write on Trollope or try a sequel or post-text out of Austen or another beloved set of books.

I’m getting myself to drink water.

Izzy is walking in Highline Park and this is what she sees through her cell phone camera

This past Friday I sat next to a woman in the Films Moral, Political, Social, Aesthetic class I’m taking again. Every other term the teacher does it — usually brilliant artful films, that often I’ve never seen — though sometimes I have. When the class was over we had this conversation:

She expressed her displeasure with the hybrid form. She said she may not be there next week, remarking: “there is nothing I’m getting that I would not get at home.” She got to talk to me! What she said interested me because it showed how differently she thinks about these classes than I do. She told me some interesting information about Italy at the time of the film we had discussed in class (The Bicycle Thief). Why not speak up? She seemed to think that would be too much like a “little lecture.” I said you could keep it short. She didn’t have that much, only that she had lived in Italy for 10 years, recognized the neighborhoods the film occurred in and could tell whether class ironies were going on and where. I said when I am a SGL (teacher at OLLI at AU) I love such contributions. She was not convinced — I said she would have informed us. She appeared not to care in the least for my opinion. Did not seem to hear it.

Then I said to her comment that in person is not worth it to her, that in a class I taught in person I know within a few minutes who has not understood the text — remember I’m a literature teacher. That I couldn’t have told that on zoom. Therefore I became so much more effective a teacher because I could respond to that — I meant I see my task as improving understanding of books. Her reply startled me: well, you see why I prefer zoom. In other words, she would not want me to know she didn’t understand. So what does she come to classes for? Not out of any respect for the teacher’s discipline or training.

This woman didn’t value the social experience either.  She said she was getting nothing more from coming to the class than she gets from zoom.  I quite agree that the social space upstairs has few people in it nowadays but that’s because the people seem not to value it. Covid is not going away; they’ve been vaccinated to the hilt and yet they don’t come. I wish someone would explain to me what neurotypicals get out of social experience? Jim used to say much of the social experience we have here in the US is dysfunctional if you thought it was for making friends.

A small mammal, one of the earlier ones from which this human race sprung

I am following and enjoying Izzy’s trip with her by following the pictures she puts on twitter.

Stay for me there, I will not fail
To meet thee in that hollow vale.
And think not much of my delay;
I am already on the way,
And follow thee with all the speed
Desire can make, or sorrows breed.
Each minute is a short degree,
And every hour a step towards thee.
At night when I betake to rest,
Next morn I rise nearer my west …
— Henry King, after the death of his “matchless friend,” his beloved wife

Those who are left are different people trying to lead the same lives … (Winston Graham, Warleggan)

Autumn from Window — idealized image by Barbara Pommerenke


I don’t know who painted the painting this is an image from

“Is not this a true autumn day? Just the still melancholy that I love – that makes life and nature harmonise. The birds are consulting about their migrations, the trees are putting on the hectic or the pallid hues of decay, and begin to strew the ground, that one’s very footsteps may not disturb the repose of earth and air, while they give us a scent that is a perfect anodyne to the restless spirit. Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns.”
―George Eliot in a letter (Oct. 1, 1841)

The reality is it poured heavily and intensely last night but not enough to cause floods massive enough to wash away the neighborhood (as a hurricane has just done in Cuba and then in Florida), and today the air was filled with wet moisture and it rained lightly and then a bit heavier on and off all day, and tomorrow we are promised pouring rain once again, but nowhere near hurricane strength …. Oct 1, 2022

Dear friends,

Once again I must live through October 3rd (it would have been Jim’s birthday, now it’s his birthdate, 1948), October 6th (the day we met, 1967, and the day we married precisely a year later, 1968), and October 9th (the day or evening he died, between 9:05 and 9:10, me with my arms around him, 2013). He stopped talking to us on October 8th. Since that last grim October day, some years I have been at a conference, for early October is academic conference time across the US; not this year, but

I will no longer go to any JASNA conferences after the way they rejected us transparently (having registered almost immediately it took the organizers several weeks to drop us to the lowest rung of who might get in) during registration four years ago now, causing Izzy to cancel her membership for good (I wrote about this elsewhere, useless to repeat it); and now this year I’m not having any luck reaching the virtual forms of the sessions (live-streaming) so the money paid is the last dime the AGMs will have from me.

I was going to go to the annual EC/ASECS, where the sessions are to be held at Winterthur museum, the hotel is a drive away (Wilmington, Delaware), and two night time things also a drive — I can no longer drive at night. I remembered that Jim said the one time before the EC/ASECS held the conference there, the drive is hellish and twisting so we took an AMTRAC and then he rented a car. I was foolish enough to try to go with an untrustworthy (I half knew this) friend, a man who turned out also to be cunningly false, and without telling you the uncomfortable several week’s details, I finally told him to go by himself directly there, cancelled the hotel reservation, too embarrassed to be there while he would be (it being a small group you see), and not wanting any scenes, having told him never email, text or phone me again. I will hope to go next year, if they have it in a place where the sessions and hotel are the same building, and in a readily accessible place.

So here I am alone at night remembering. The Facebook software not knowing what was the content I wrote on FB on this day 2015, reminded me (they do this) of what I sent that day, and invited me “to share” this on my timeline. I did; the material contained a link to a blog I wrote that night: this was written before Trump campaigned and then won the election to the US through gerrymandering and the peculiar injustice of the electoral college (he did not win the popular vote) at which I turned the Sylvia I blog over to politics wholly: you will see how Jim and I resolved issues over the years together, with me admitting that most of the time one might say he won, but he got me to accede to what he wanted with terms set up I could endure. You will also see what he looked like the year before his body developed esophageal cancer.

And what he looked like the month we met, October 1967, in front of the Leeds terraced house we were living in together that first week: above is a mature man, below is a boy:


Before I tell my readers here, how & something of why I am for this term and probably the foreseeable future online for all but three classes, and living most of my life online still, when I was hoping to go out regularly to teach in both places, lest you think I am more cheerless than I am. My mood (though near tears somehow) resembles Austen’s when she wrote

My day’s journey has been pleasanter in every respect than I expected. I have been very little crowded and by no means unhappy — Jane Austen, Letters (24 Oct 1798).

Over the past few days I’ve had some lovely letters from real friends, today I was on the phone twice (!) with two girlfriends who live in DC and we made plans to meet soon, a third friend I had happy time with lunching at a Greek restaurant at Dupont Circle has proposed a zoom together, tomorrow at 6 pm Izzy and I will have our monthly face-time with Thao (electricity holding up — fingers crossed). Tonight I enjoyed (not sure that is the correct word) — was fully absorbed watching Ingmar Bergmann’s The Seventh Seal, the first time I’ve seen it in decades, as part of an excellent course in “Movies, political, moral, aesthetic,” where I am one of those attending in person at OLLI at AU.

I’m as thorough going an atheist as anyone is likely to meet, and I do not think I’d find life easier were I to believe in any god or supernatural. It would have to be a hideously malevolent as the burning of that woman in the film — and that did happen and horrible tortures and deaths are happening in many countries. The film shows how much worse religious beliefs and practices make life for many. It’s so allegorical – I was interested to watch how consistent the allegory is with medieval art and texts as the austere noble knight (Chaucer), his earthy squire, the young wife and husband as circus performers (Renaissance theater). For the first time I understood what the famous image of Death and the Knight playing chess is about: it’s the story of the film, a kind of bet. If the knight wins, death takes no one on the spot; the duration of the game gives him time to go on a last journey; if he loses, he dies immediately, and those around him

The next morning the day dawns brightly and we see our young couple and baby hasten off before anything untoward could happen.

This season I’m finally reveling in Outlander, the sixth season, re-watching The Crown (for the sake of the queen’s story, I tell myself). I watch and re-watch Foyle’s War, each time more deeply moved, feel good at the ending as our “friends,” Foyle, Sam, sometimes with Milner or Foyle’s son, drive away … I have all three as DVDs with lots of features (which I sometimes enjoy as much as the episodes).

I am so chuffed my review-essay of the Cambridge Edition of the Complete Poems of Anne Finch has just been published in the Intelligencer. Soon I will write a blog about it, and put it online at academia.edu.

And I read away, these past weeks the profound brilliant James Baldwin (for an excellent and yes online Politics & Prose class) one of the greatest voices in American literature in the 20th century and of the African diaspora itself. I have said the last two years now I feel my outward character has changed to be more able to understand and even feel some ordinary sense of peace, security, and be able to read affirmative books and learn from them (I’m on my fourth Joanna Trollope — I come away having learnt a healthy lesson or outlook from her books), while drawing sustenance from the quietly bleak ambivalent — even in a Jane Austen sequel, Catherine Schine’s The Three Weissmans of Westport, a true updating of Austen’s Sense and Sensibility

This enraptured review must be by a friend of Schine’s: The humor is the grimace and witticisms and irony (as in Austen’s book); the daughters are step-daughters who don’t love nor forgive the unforgivable stepfather who utterly betrays his wife (the Mrs Dashwood character) and left them for a character who shares a Lucy Steele personality with another character who pretends to be pregnant to get the Edward character to marry her. Like other sequels, she has in mind actors and actresses from different movies; Gemma Jones for Mrs Weissman-Dashwood, Hattie Morahan for Annie-Elinor, Robert Swann for Brandon (he keeps that name), Gregg Wise (though unlike his usual persona and the Willoughby of Emma Thompson’s S&S, the utterly untrustworthy and cad-like Willoughby (he too keeps the name) of Schine’s novel. Her novel ends with Annie-Elinor and Brandon character forming a quiet supportive friendship. I loved that.

The 2008 version of that journey from Sussex to Devonshire: I never tire it seems of Austen


So what happened with my I’m beginning to think misguided attempts to teach in person. Only 9 registered for the course at OLLI at AU; hitherto all my Trollope courses regularly began with over 30 and ended with about 22. I went online, lost one person that way but added 4, 3 of whom come from further away and had told me they would have taken the course had it been online. I was shooting myself in the foot. 13 registered for the OLLI at Mason Barsetshire Then & Now or the Two Trollopes (Joanna and Tony), but only 6 showed up. I was devastated and saw the summer disaster that occurred in OLLI at AU when I tried Christa Wolf (she is too difficult for most readers I now know — as hard as George Eliot without the reputation to bring people in for self-improvement and self-esteem) this summer — it’s not enough to sustain a class over a number of weeks. I’m told this is the average number who show up in person (6); 4 came from the spectacularly enjoyable good class I did in person on The Woman in White and Mary Reilly for the 6 week summer course at OLLI at Mason. I’m also told that the over-riding factor is convenience.

So I must accept that what compels me to enjoy in person contact so much (truly perceiving what’s happening within students vis-a-vis a book) cannot motivate people in the class. Who among them is widowed in my way? For many what they got in person that they valued they feel they get via zoom. I have again misunderstood the nature of a social experience and the attitude of the people towards it. As I age, I admit also that driving even during the day is not as easy, and I myself as a member of the class find online delightful when the teachers and level of class are wonderful.

It’s not inappropriate to write of this on this first night of the coming week of remembering Jim since I turned to the OLLIs as a way of building an acceptable life for myself without him literally with me. So now I have had to change again: the pandemic itself has transformed the public world. I used to wish more people understood that life can be full and rewarding online; so here’s another instance of that fable, careful what you wish for, for you may get it.

My two cats and I have grown closer still. I find it so touching when as I prepare to go out (I do go out), whatever it be, getting dressed (shoes), putting stuff in my handbag, getting together stuff to take out with me, and especially when I either turn off my computer or put on a face mask, they both get up from wherever they are in my room and start heading for the door. It’s the awareness of me, and the desire to cooperate with me that moves me. Cats are sensitive, affectionate, communicative animals and they and I understand one another in all sorts of ways. At this point too Ian has bonded with Izzy, and stays a lot with her in her room: this is the result of the pandemic and her working from home remotely 2 days a week.

Ian sitting up for Laura

Clarycat on Jim’s lap — both photos taken before Jim died, say 2012 (like the photo of Jim above), the two cats are are about 2-3 years old

I close tonight with the lines Jim wrote for the top of the urn in which his ashes remain, which urn sits on my mantelpiece along side a photo of him, his reading glasses & ancient Anglican Book of Common Prayer; the DVD the funeral company made of photos across his life; a toy sheep Laura bought from the shop at Stonehenge that summer the 4 of us spent 3 weeks together in England, and a small stuffed Penguin Izzy added to the collection from her and my visit one summer to Sussex to go to a Charlotte Smith conference together (I could not have gotten there w/o her).

Jim’s play on Rupert Brooke’s famous lines: If I should die,/think only this of me:/That there’s a corner of a foreign mantelpiece that is for a while England.

Ellen, still his faithful wife

Summer’s End

Emma Haworth — The Last Day of Summer

Friends and readers,

Of course the intense heat is not over: the last 3-4 days here in Virginia were and the next 3-4 promise to be, intensely hot by noon and remain very warm until later in the night. Humid, sticky. But sunlight is barely peeking over the horizon at 6 am and the sky is darkened by 8:20 pm, fall activities will begin within 2 weeks (public schools and colleges have begun the fall semester), and the feel is of summer coming to an end.

Since I last wrote Laura and Rob went on a vacation they apparently enjoyed spectacularly: DisneyWorld in Florida for 8-9 days and nights, where they stayed in a very nearby resort as Disneyfied as the park inside the gates. They seemed to spend the early days in Star War and other science fiction and recent Disney fantasies, only recording the traditional characters (Mickey Mouse, Snow White, the dwarves &c) at my prompting.  Then Laura’s many photographs in a sense telling about their trip day-by-day began to include the traditional matter: every day a parade, every night fireworks, mouse-ears everywhere. A gilt statue of Walt Disney and Mickey Mouse.  A church like set of gilded windows telling the story of Snow White and the 7 dwarves.   The magic kingdom castle (an icon).  One shop with a wall of EARS. They ate out beautifully, swam, saw beautiful sunsets and sunrises; photographed themselves having fun (including old-fashioned roller coaster rides from the 1970s, ie., through the Dwarves’ Mines). One of my favorites of her photos she subtitled: Rob doing his impression of relaxing, where he did seem to be working at lounging poolside on a chair. Both looked comfortable and happy. Here are two where you can see them very well:

Rob in a space ship

Here they are furthest left — she’s in a grey outfit; it’s part of a cruise ride

Most important the atmosphere and behavior of everyone who works at Disney is impeccably benign, eager to help you have a good time. The place, experience and environs (hotels and inns and pools just outside the gates) offer a continually seductive highly controlled invitation to return to your childhood.  One example:  the garbage is removed via chutes in the dead of night so customers cannot see it being done or who does this work. And you have paid a great deal for this.

I did a couple more activities I’d been yearning to: I went with MaryLee to Wolf Trap to see EmmyLou Harris and Mary Chapin Carpenter. She emailed me again to say after all let’s meet for coffee, and when I arrived I could see she is still under the strong grip of bereftness (Roger, her husband died less than 4 months ago now), and thought to myself, maybe she would be willing to do something different than her usual as getting outside of herself: I proposed these two folk singers at Wolf Trap. To my surprise and happiness, she got up and went over to a computer, so excited was she at the idea to look at the show because she knew/liked the singers; what held her back was the fear she couldn’t drive us there (as she didn’t know the way) and worse, how would we get back with the enormous crowd in the parking light and the darkness. Were it not for two daughters, we would not have gone. Her daughter Katy, encouraged her to dare and said ML sure could do the driving — so MaryLee phoned me and as Izzy was walking out the door to go to work, I dragged her back and she helped me buy two lawn seats. Later Ellen, another daughter, was encouraging her to have a good time, and it was Izzy who downloaded the confirmation paper which got us the tickets at Will Call, a booth, when we got there.

On the way there I had a print-out from Map-quest which I kept reading aloud and there were my pictorial memories; on the way back MaryLee programmed her google maps but we couldn’t “her” to talk so I interpreted from the map as ML drove and I had my pictorial memories (even in the dark) of leaving Wolf Trap … I could picture both ways as we went. That’s essential for me in finding my way: I must be able to picture as I go.

EmmyLou Harris recently (she is in her 70s if she’s a day)

Mary Chapin Carpenter

The experience at Wolf Trap itself. We very much enjoyed a picnic supper: she made delicious sandwiches, I brought wine, and macaroni salad (I left behind the paper plates I had bought especially for the picnic!); we were on the upper part of the lawn, in our lawn chairs, between two trees against the fence. A learning expedition we said. Then the musical performance. Harris was working hard, meant well, but somehow did not connect with the audience. Her breathy delivery made her lyrics hard to understand but over the hour and 10 minutes she performed she won me over. This morning I heard her on my ipad and think she would have done better to sing more simply to us. Then a duet with Carpenter (good feeling) and, to conclude, the second half, Carpenter’s hour and one-half were just superlative. Carpenter made contact, her talk was piquant and interesting, she and her band made music, the deeply familiar ones I love and new ones — very often very melodic. She saved the most rousing and satiric famous early ones for last.

Out under the skies later at night amid a good-natured crowd (all cooperative, helping one another) just so rejuvenating. We saw two men helping a third disabled man to settle himself: I spied a woman with a young baby coping. We talked of memories. We watched people — central to the experience is the crowd and it was very crowded, and very few masks. The courageous part was coming home, for we had to get out of the parking lot (30 minute wait) and then be sure and take the right turns, with only google maps (and my memory picturing the roads) to guide us in the dark. Got home at midnight. She too said she had not been out so late for a very long time. But we did it.

Remember Joe to Pip in Great Expectations? Wot larks!

So I’ve been to a beach, saw two live plays, Midsummer Night’s Dream (a summer frolic) and Red Velvet, and now a concert at Wolf Trap under the invisible stars.

By no means am I wrong not to trust to myself to find anything by myself — and try to go to the coming EC/ASECS with a friend (Tony his name). If he does not show up, this time I will bow out too (though I will do the paper on studying Anne Finch and Jane Austen through their manuscripts). I spent one hour and 10 minutes of getting lost trying to find a restaurant, with Waze, with map-quest print-out, with memory, all to no avail. Very bad stress. Finally, phoned Lins, NY patient friend who said I was 3-4 minutes away and on phone gave me directions: the restaurant was buried inside a mall. What happened: the updating of Waze has made it impossible for me to use. It corrects the addresses I put in, so it took me to the wrong address. It gives me more choices and I can no longer figure out how to get to go when the button say “go later (save). My friend was generous, kind, waited all that time and we had a lovely (salmon w/salad for me) lunch & good talk. It’s also a lesson on the risk of trying to fly internationally using a package tour — there will be no Izzy there to help me through the rows of computers. People in my Aspergers group advised paying for Global Entry and/or TSA Pre-check but I wonder if they will enable me to bypass the especially puzzling computers …


My new walkable-in (though with bunion cushions) ECCO sandals from Comfort One shoe shop in Old Towne …

If you had ever told me, I would photograph my feet in shoes and put the photo on the Net, I would have thought you mad.

When I returned from Toronto, my feet were in bad shape, bleeding around the toes, bunions very sore, cracking skin. On the advice of my friend, Betty, I bought from Amazon (I tried Walgreens’ but their website is impossible) Tea Tree Oil (Hot Soak), and have been soaking my feet for 20 minutes each night. But I knew it’s time to get shoes I can walk in also if I’m to teach in person, and go out a bit more. She also told me about ECCO sandals: she was wearing a pair. I found them in Comfort Shoes in Old Towne, unfortunately a long walk from my car to near the Potomac. A very nice clerk who helped me order a second pair from their warehouse, and then, since I was so far down, I walked on to Potomac (two short blocks) and stood by the water at long last. Walked all the way back slowly. I am not doing as well in the heat as I once did, and was glad to get to my car, get home, shower and stay in the air-conditioned house for 3 days afterward.

I’ve not neglected museums this summer — due to my friend, Betty. I went with her to see two much advertised & praised (?) exhibits at the National Gallery. Spare yourself the trip. One is supposed to be about the icon of Woman in White as related to Wilkie Collins’s famous novel and Whistler; what it is actually about is Whistler and a model-mistress he painted in white several times; anything that relates (19th century pictures of women in white) are thrown in. The argument (doesn’t hold) is how important the mistress-model was/is. A blow up of Frederick Walker’s well known illustration for Collins’s novel is in one of the rooms.

No where is there any mention of how wearing white was an upper class luxury; how hard it was to clean white garments; nor is there any frankness on the prostitution involved. The other called Doubles consists of the curator having dragged together lots of things he and/or she have imposed the idea of doubles on (similar objects painted by different painters) and makes little sense even of the term.

The cafeteria continues to be very poor (hardly anything there and what is is wretched). A result of curators thinking they are the artists and plucking works out the curators thought exemplified a theme or idea which was jejeune or not so. I dislike a lot of recent art — it seems flat paintings on walls won’t do. The exhibits had a lot of films, interactive kinds of things.

Curators are becoming bolder. Dropping “controls” like setting the works up chronologically or by author provides some measure of distance and lets the artists’ works belong to a really there schematics. If the curator is smart and the theme is really there (or school of painting say), it can be enlightening but they are no longer content for that. Plus for me I don’t like modern abstract art, I like realism.

I am still reading and thinking about Wilkie Collins! (a superb book on Wilkie Collins, Jenny Taylor Bourne’s In the Secret Theater of Home). and have now watched the 5 part 2016 BBC Moonstone and the 1996 singleton: both very good. It is very hard to film this book whose surface is made up of characters who do very little and are supposed to amuse us as satires of types of people, with a new type in the detective Mr Cuff; but whose underlying story is put off until near the end of the novel, with unexplained suicides, angry crippled people, and silent stereotypical Indians (orientalism) along the way. The hero, Mr Franklin Blake disappears early on and is brought back at the very end. Both productions kept him on stage by the use of flashbacks remembered by him and Betteridge, who in 2016 is a close companion-friend. The part is realized very appealingly by Leo Wringer:

Leo Wringer as Gabriel Betteridge

With Lisa Cole as his effective daughter, Penelope (she steals scenes with her vital presence)

The only performances that came near theirs in the 1996 film were Greg Wise as Franklin Blake and Anthony Sher as Cuff.

So of course I’ve been reading away too, watching serial and other movies at night, blogging some, a few old friends wrote (Jim Dring who has helped me with Poldark) and new (an Iranian woman now on my listserv with information about Jane Austen in Farsi) and I answered.

I’ve had a provisional acceptance for a course I’ll teaching at OLLI at AU (and a modified shorter one at OLLI at Mason). This tells you what I’ve been reading the last several weeks on and off.

There is apparently a film adaptation

Contemporary Italian Novels & memoirs

In this course we’ll read a group of Italian works with a view to understanding the culture, history and politics of Italy over the last hundred years or so. We’ll begin with a novella by Grazia Deledda (one of a few women to have won the Nobel Prize), Cosima (1937) depicting the early pre-World Wars world of Sicily as we watch a young girl mature. Then a historical novel by Giuseppe di Lampedusa, The Leopard (1957, much respected best seller, filmed to acclaim — Burt Lancaster still remembered for his role), set in Palermo, 1860-1910 depicting the risorgimento from a prince’s POV. Then Natalia Ginzburg’s memoir, The Family Lexicon (1963, also much respected woman writer and book) depicting a Northern family (Turin , Rome) during and after WW2. Primo Levi’s Periodic Table, brilliant memoir drawing on chemistry (1984), autobiography as history too. Last Elena Ferrante’s My Brilliant Friend (2012), first of 4 volume masterpiece Neapolitan Quartet. We’ll do some poetry (Salvatore Quasimodo, also won Nobel, and Elsa Morante in pdf forms)

I’ve not decided which will be the fifth book — or if I should just have four. In the 8 week OLLI at Mason I will drop Deledda and replace The Leopard with Christ Stopped at Eboli by Carlo Levi (1947), a memoir of his time in exile during WW2 because I’ve discovered The Leopard is fascist, and what I loved so long ago in the Italian in the English is a Scott-like historical novel. Christ Stopped at Eboli is brilliantly philosophic and about the hard lives of peasants in Italy before, then, since by a radical writer. (I am substituting the Lampeda at AU lest the woman who did an Italian-Jewish writing course there a couple of years ago now think I’m imitating her — I’m not as her talk was wholly conservative and non-interpretative. I hesitated over Cosima, but it is short, easy and the woman won the Nobel Prize and it seems a shame to omit it (the AU people said I could have an 11th week).

Natalia Ginzburg’s Family Lexicon: 3X she and her children’s lives were in serious danger, rescued at great personal risk by friends. During her time in exile with Leone, she writes 3 pages where she packs the whole of the feel of Carlo Levi’s Christ Stopped at Eboli

For those who don’t know it, the poetry of Quasimodo is superb (I have a translation by Allan Mandelbaum), e.g., And suddenly it’s evening

Ognuno sta solo sul cuor della terra
trafitto da un raggio di sole:
Ed e subito sera.

I watched 3 of the 4 part serial with Lindsay Duncan as Anna Bouverie (a rewriting of Trollope’s much put-upon Mary Crawley) and she was so riveted she wanted to see the fourth — in a row (too much for me)

Reading for my course coming up: the Two Trollopes: his Last Chronicle what a masterpiece, for London Society group: CYFH? — how beautiful the description of Swiss tour, and how true the characters feel. This time I see more emphatic that Kate Vavasour is a lesbian. Yesterday finished Joanna Trollope’s Rector’s Wife: a strong intelligent second phase feminist novel– about independence, living your own life (you are a boat in your right). Even in this sequel form. I can’t recommend it too highly. I’m a third into her The Choir and am seeing how astute it is about church politics (and very Trollopian in Anthony’s way).

I am surprising myself by liking her sequel, Sense and Sensibility very much, and also (not quite as much) Catherine The Three Weissmans of Westport (Connecticut): my mood is more tolerant than I once was and I am more able to bear other people’s cheerfulness so can accept such books better. I’ve thought about sequels:

It’s in the interplay between the originating book and this one that the pleasure, insight and compelling interest forward lies. I spent a couple of hours yesterday quite literally seeing how Trollope’s book parallels Austen’s — from acquaintance with three of the other 6 written during that year (see below). Six known and successful authors were asked to rewrite one of Austen’s books, and one can see the influence in choices of book for each from the kind of book the modern author is known for

It’s common to review such books, but most of the time you get either condemnation, praise (usually contentless, too vague), sometimes a literal retelling of a few contents in the new book, not what are the pleasures of sequels, and why it is so hard to please generally. For JT’s book I think she read Austen’s book from the same angle and in the same light I do (as does Schine) — other sequels I’ve detested I now realize did not. For JT the central event of the book occurs when at the end of volume 1 Lucy forces on Elinor the knowledge of Lucy’s long term engagement to Elinor; I still remember how moved I was reading Volume 2, Chapter 1, Elinor’s agon and vigil . JT has the revelation also as the last chapter of Volume 1, and the vigil as powerful and 1st volume of Volume 2. She takes equally seriously the humiliation of Marianne in a London public assembly — makes it occur in a fashionable church wedding.

There is also more than a whiff of memory of some of the film adaptations and I can see the 2008 actors in a number of the roles (JT’s Willoughby is the same arrogant, self-centered crude male as in that movie), hear their voices, with the 1981 Brandon taken for this book, and lingering memories of the Thompson/Ang movie Again my taste is cohering with Trollope’s. Schrine has Greg Wise as Willoughby in mind (boyish) for her Willoughby character.

Yet I placed my files notes under Joanna Trollope, not Austen because this book comes out of her oeuvre, and I see several attitudes of hers in her non-sequel and other sequel (2 Anthony Trollope) books. So you probably also have to like the new author’s presence, vision and style too — I strongly felt Trollope’s Other People’s Children left me with a healthier attitude towards life the way The Rector’s Wife does.

A ferocious hate-filled attempt on Rushdie’s life almost succeeded this month …

Put together another list for another course for Spring 2024: Anglo-Indian Novels, also Take Two. No one can do such books nowadays without Salmon Rushie, and I’ve discovered I don’t care for his novels. I’ve tried them before: it has something to do with his sense of humor, magic realism (not realistic at all), and that his fiction recalls Sterne’s Tristram Shandy, which never amused me at all. But I do like his essays; so the list would be J Farrell, The Siege of Krisnapur, Markandaya, The Nowhere Man, Rushdie: Imaginary Homelands (a book of essays, columns, life writing) and Jhumpa Lahiri, The Lowlands … Had lovely lunch (pizza) with Sugra at Dupont Circle two Saturdays ago: she was the teacher at the history of India course online I took in June.

And I’ll keep reading my non-fiction outside sources and movie watching. I have two 18th century epistolary novels partly set in India and hope to get to them soon: Eliza Fay’s Original Letters from India, ed, introd E. M. Forster (!), and Phebe Gibbes, Hartley House, Calcutta. Both by women. I believe Emily Eden in virago Up Country, about her time in India, early 19th century.

Listening to Eliot’s Daniel Deronda read by Nadia May in my car: I am finding how much I dislike the heroine (!) and that her egoistic traits and coldness remind me of Grandcourt (so marriage to him is a kind of poetic justice), but am so moved by narrator’s continually enlarging commentary. This for 3 different groups, all of them “doing DD” this fall (FB group, OLLI at AU and best of all Maria Frawley’s class at Politics and Prose).


Do you want an image of a picture I’ve liked in the last 24 hours? On twitter: evening in the countryside ~ a young woman muses quietly as she sits modestly in the train, pet dog at her side. She holds a ribboned gift; maybe it’s for a meeting with the person in the car which we can see through the large window (Andrea Kowch, ‘Reunion’). Pensive and melancholy as if she’s remembering something fondly and sadly. The gift is what she is going to give someone. The person may be in the car & car catching up to the train as it comes into the station. I am very touched by details of the sweater, a print dress, her hat, dog, the seat covers, car in glimmering countryside. Early 20th century:

So there you are summer’s end. The last of the flowering bushes finally bloomed


Izzy, me, Thao, Jeff with baby William in the carrier, just to the side of a man-made beach along a harbour walk by Lake Ontario

So one evening while we walked along the shoreline of Lake Ontario (where the part of Torono is located where our friends live), Thao asked a passerby to take this photo of us: left to right, Izzy, me. Thao, Jeff and baby William. Along this long slender park area, there are many things to do in the evening. A tall ship takes passengers for rides, and other ferries and party kind of boats fill with people. Out & indoor cafes, taverns, British style pubs, concerts, “cottage” chairs to sit on, and at the end a beach called a fake beach because it is wholly man-made, but it has the water, the sand and all the things needed for sitting and playing by a beach. So we were standing between where the shoreline ends and the beach begins.

Be sure and remember your traveling experience and let it direct who you vote for next. Choose progressive people who will vote for gov’t regulation and fund consumer protection agencies and bureaus

Dear friends and readers,

So we are back safely home, and we did have a good time, both when we were with our friends, and when we went off on our alone to explore Toronto a little further afield than central downtown where our friends live in a very tall hotel-like (to my eyes) apartment building (they are on the 59th floor and there are several more floors above them) from which they can see from their front room (three walls of which are very strong glass) much of Toronto nearby, the airport from far, other islands in the blue, closer to (imaginary hand) the iconic CN building — kind of Eiffel Tower exhibit for tourists. A block and a half way is a long harbor street we walked across on two different evenings (see above).

We arrived later Tuesday afternoon and just rested in our two guest rooms (“suites” they were called) in the apartment building and talked and stay with Jeff and Thao and ate with them on the (to me) scary balcony. Here you see us on a couch and to the back some of the glass walls — Thao is holding the present of 6 stretchies for William

Good conversation.

In a hard fought many hour match we watched Coco Gauff beat out a Russian woman who had had an important win recently

Wednesday: The day included 5 hours at tennis tournament. Train ride revealed the suburbs — which looked very suburb-like, complete with expected malls and communities of different income levels. Once there, remarkable and absorbing matches between women athletes – a couple very famous. After we left, Serena Williams herself came to that court. She lost but then she’s about to retire. Evening we walked all around Toronto cultural and sport centers and blocks: theaters, arenas, iconic tower, restaurants, central cultural places, people all about in yellow chairs (a friendly social atmosphere), also versions of London East End, an aquarium, another beautiful park along the lake. Sat on high terrace (our friends’ apartment on 59th floor) had dinner again there, yummy take out, sky a rainbow, just gorgeous view of city and lake spreading hues of blue … My feet quivered and I felt raddled because the fear was so strong but I sat there in order not to interrupt the good time …

Inside the museum, many of the walls reminded me of churches

Thursday: In the morning we took the train to the Royal Ontario Museum, which in the mode of modern museums did not emphasize elite art (paintings on walls or sculptures) but rather mirrored the way people once lived in their houses (furnished rooms of the elite in Europe) and in different wings all the kinds of artefacts and household stuff people have needed and made over the centuries across the globe. Cultures was what we saw. Museum caters to children and families and the second floor was given up mostly to dinosaur exhibits (one video showed how they are factory made; you don’t need a degree to be hired). I thought of Cary Grant as the dinosaur curator in the wonderfully witty comedy with Katherine Hepburn, Bringing up Baby (one of them has adopted a baby tiger as I recall). In the afternoon with Thao and baby William in his carriage, we walked to another part of central Toronto and saw the university (beautiful campus) and hospitals (where Jeff works as a physician and where Thao used to work, also as a physician). I was very tired by this time but we did try to go to the aquarium too (Thao left to return to Ten York), but once there we discovered three different lines, a crowd of families and what seemed a poor excuse for an aquarium (small, commercialized) and so returned home too.

The harbor front

Each of the three nights we bought different take-out (ordered it, walked there and back, had it in cafes). This last night was the one were we got to a man-made beach. Early the following morning we were in a cab before 6 am headed back to Toronto-Pearson airport for a 10:30 flight to Washington, DC.


And now I come to what might be of real interest, our times traveling or in airports. This is what counts, what is important. Most trips people don’t tell much about these experiences as if they are what is to be forgotten. The mere bookends to a trip: but I met an Irish man from Cork while at Toronto Pearson around noon:he had left Dublin on Tuesday morning, expecting/hoping to be in Columbus, Ohio by Wednesday afternoon. He was telling me this on Friday afternoon. Each time a plane was cancelled, he had to find another, or delayed, he didn’t make his connection. A woman and husband deemed “overbook” were told they should contact the airlines if they wanted refunds (everyone knows they will get nothing) when she said she’d drive it but she had spent the money for renting a car on this fare. Another woman also told she is “overbook” looked so miserable and then sat down. She was told if someone doesn’t show up, she can take that seat. Someone did not show up, and I saw her on the plane. This woman was treated as Izzy and I were recently when we tried to go on a boat-ride around DC with an Aspergers group: the boat deliberately overbooked; people encouraged not to buy tickets before, but those with tickets let on first. The aim to fill every space no matter how this inconveniences and exploits the customers.

Toronto-Pearson Airport on a typical day

Let’s take a step back and I invite you my reader to read an essay called “The Boss Will See You Now” in the New York Review of Books by Zephyr Teachout. Airport misery is created by the airlines with a view of making as much profit as possible, at the same time as underfunded, understaffed, underpaid people are coercing everyone through mazes where you must give up vital information about yourself if you are to continue to the next step nearer “your” plane.

It’s not COVID, but that Covid exacerbated the fundamental conditions the airlines set up so as to make as much profit as possible, criss-crossed by a vast surveillance system (you cannot go past either way without, e.g. having your photo taken and revealing information about yourself which can be used to discover other information). What you must keep your eye on is how little the gov’t or these corporations concern themselves with any customers, except the group as a whole (and keeping the plane minimally from falling out of the sky). What got me is all of them took this dreadful treatment silently and politely. I thought of people taken away to concentration camps where they did not know they would be killed. There was an overt bully in charge of customs at Toronto-Pearson, I admit that. Izzy and I got on our (delayed) plane because I kicked up a big fuss when we arrived at the Gate (among the first people to get there, after it was changed twice) and after we paid for economy premium. In true NYC style I wanted to know why we didn’t have assigned seats and I wanted them now; I objected to his explanations, parsed his sentences, and kept hammering on the main point, offered money and he actually went over to the computer, and put us on the plane.

Basically in the areas of surveillance, it’s yet worse: you are treated as if it’s perfectly fine to talk at you as a suspicious person with no civil rights. So don’t kick up any fusses or parse anyone’s sentences.

What a mirror of the public world of powerful groups today. Right in front of our very eyes, and how rare people describe what the ordeal consists of or tell why it actually exists. This is the backdrop to the loss of democracy we are seeing around the world: as private industry, large corporations and gov’ts work to deprive one of ordinary decent civil life, they create the docile desperate population needed to fill autocratic govts.

In all the complaints I’ve read, I have yet to come across anyone saying describing what happens, what causes many crises and why it needs hours to get through registering, and customs. So here it is: the traveler is confronted with rows of computer machines she must navigate. There are no instructions. Often the machine is not working perfectly. . And the airline has a skeleton staff to help hundreds of people. Why? For the same reason you are once again packed into planes in the smallest possible seats, the most people in a plane possible. To make more money. To get to our boarding passes, have have documents passed and then the gate to the plane to Toronto, we had to chase a woman to help us twice. Then we had to get through a second row of machines before security. Once past this part, the situation is in reverse—now you must get out of this space where in US places it’s understood normal civil rights don’t count. And more rows of machines: this time spying on you: you must take a photo; you must supply information on where you are going and why. Surveillance. These are vast surveillance systems collecting information on everyone who goes through, and the authorities can stop anyone they want.  Izzy and I were not among those random checked arriving and it is our understanding there are no random tests leaving. And our plane was not delayed or cancelled—this is when you despair.

I find it so strange that no one recounts why airports are fraught experiences.

Why did I begin with Teachout? It’s crucial to recognize the analogy here with “Just in Time” buying of essential products for health by for-profit medicine. To recognize that the cameras, and fogged out lack of information surrounding truck-drivers, Amazon employees, Uber and Lyft drivers, and endless working and middle class jobs put people in a similar helpless position against “the bosses.” I tried to buy some needed summer clothes two nights ago using a catalogue and discovered that not just a few, but hardly any of the clothing the catalogue claimed it had in a warehouse, it actually had. Once you ordered an item, if they could, they’d have it for you in 6 weeks.

Unions can try to fight for decent conditions, higher wages, other forms of benefits for airport employees, and other kinds of employment with the employees work together in similar jobs, but in the airport all the consumer has is gov’t regulation (according to the GOP horrifying) and consumer protection agencies, bureaus and explicit laws and rules promulgated by agencies. No one should be traveling 5 days and nights to get somewhere where he paid to travel 24 hours.


Thao is just Izzy’s age; she came to George Mason University one summer to complete her BS (from the University of Toronto, one of its colleges). She was mostly alone and lacked a car, and emerged as a good student in my class. She came to my office and I began to drive her places, help her out, and we became friends. And then Izzy began to come with us: we all remember a happy afternoon together, which included seeing The City of Your Final Destination. This must’ve happened more than 15 years ago. We kept the friendship up over the years, and recently we have been face-timing once a month while she waited for her and Jeff’s first baby to arrive. I truly wanted to visit her, and Izzy was so comfortable with them. I saw her so relaxed on the balcony chatting away, and but for her I would not have begun to see all we did in Toronto. She had the spirit and the technical know-how — you need that on their subway. We needed a time away, it was so good to escape the ceaseless intense heat of the northern Virginia, Washington DC, southern Maryland area.

I had two delightful books with me: Anthony Trollope’s Last Chronicle of Barset and Joanna Trollope’s post-text to Austen’s Sense and Sensibility (the Austen book one of my very favorite of all texts). I had nothing else to type to, to watch, and could not fritter away time. I read in peace in our room. I tried to read at the airports but discovered I could not. Izzy had her cell phone (what a remarkable gadget) and her ipad and watched programs to enjoy the solitary and quieter times.

Maud Lewis, Three Black Cats (they are us too).

We did miss our cats, and I know they missed us, and we were glad to come home to them. I missed the fourth of Elaine Showalter’s wonderful series of classes on Difficult Women, Take Two, but was able to watch the recording last night. I miss my home and am eager to return to it as soon as a trip is done.

If you need to do research, if there is some place you so long to go and experience before you die, you might agree to yourself it’s worth it to experience this kind of abusive treatment. (I have said nothing of how crowded the planes are, how small the seats &c&c) — if you cannot get there by automobile, train, bus, or boat. But think many times.

And beyond that vote for people who want gov’t regulation, who want to protect our individual civil and other rights, who don’t want a world of helpless people treated as cogs for the economic exploitation of the few and powerful. Be sure and remember your experience and let it direct who you vote for.


Dear friends and readers,

Before Izzy and I set off for our two day and three night visit to Thao and Jeff and baby William, Izzy recorded this song: The Lumineers’ Agenda:

Wikipedia will tell you all about the group.

Here are the lyrics:

When you left this town, with your windows down
And the wilderness inside
Let the exits pass, all the tar and glass
‘Til the road and sky align
The strangers in this town
They raise you up just to cut you down
Oh Angela it’s a long time coming
And your Volvo lights lit up green and white
With the cities on the signs
But you held your course to some distant war
In the corners of your mind
From the second time around
The only love I ever found
Oh Angela it’s a long time coming
Home at last
Were you safe and warm in your coat of arms
With your fingers in a fist
Did you hear the notes, all those static codes
In the radio abyss?
Strangers in this town
They raise you up just to cut you down
Oh Angela it’s a long time coming in
Oh Angela spent your whole life running away
Home at last
Home at last
Vacancy, hotel room, lost in me, lost in you
Angela, on my knees, I belong, I believe
Home at last
Home at last
Home at last


High or Mid-summer

Beloved Clarycat in a sun puddle  — she stays near me, is with me day & night

Voters in Kansas overwhelmingly voted to reject an amendment to their constitution that would have stripped protections for abortion rights: this despite the wording of the question which made yes into no, & absolute lying texts about which vote was which. This in a state where GOP in charge, a so-called Red state


Dear friends and readers,

We’ve reached August, and it’s ferociously hot outside — 90F and high humidity so it feels like 107F. The heat exhausts me this year; so too my cats. One day they frightened me by not eating for what seemed 24+ hours, but what they wanted was a new brand — and they were hot because I had been gone for hours and put the air-conditioning up so as to save money. It’s also Laura’s 9th anniversary — married 9 years ago, together with him 18.

Laura and Rob — they’ve taken one vacation this summer and are about to take another (the first they went to a beach place for a week)

On my political blog I’ve been keeping track of the news from a general POV, but here as to inflation and the power of uncontrolled monopoly capitalism what is happening is felt directly by all of us now and it hurts. I pay on average every couple of weeks over $300 for food; my cleaning bills are well over $40 when Izzy goes out to work; $200 a month at least for the air-conditioning that makes living endurable. It now costs $25 to fill up my car (small). At the same time I was told by my financial advisor the literal amounts my investments are worth went down 10%; I have to pay Schwab hefty fees for taking care of what in detail I don’t understand. I am wondering if the advisor and consultant are paying as much attention to my portfolio as they once did.

I am among millions of people being squeezed. Corporate profits are soaring because they put prices up; they are doing all they can to stop legislation from helping people and dealing with climate change. Their power goes back to Citizens United where it was decided corporations are people and free speech= money. (The way fetuses are people but women it seems have no rights.)

Izzy and my visit to Thao and Jeff and baby William is next week! we will glimpse something of Toronto for two days. This necessitated filling out forms, and after all there is random testing on top of vaccination required at the airport. Doubtless what should be done but the whole situation — uncertain with virus morphing continually — is again a choice pushed on us by continual inadequate reactions and now cutting funding. If this had been the situation when I broached the idea I would not have gone through with it. And I’m told airports (Toronto-Pearson one of these) are madhouses with long delays. Of course not to worry the airlines are making any less money; the situation is that way because they’ve set it up to make sure they still make large profits while Covid is still scaring people, and others have decided they will not be as exploited as they were before the pandemic and not gone back to work at these terrible airport hangers. I’m always nervous about trips but I do want to go and see this young woman and so does Izzy.

Midsummer — planted hydrangeas doing well — a lovely white and blue flower

More news of this happier sort is my teaching is over and went very well. I had small classes, and it’s becoming obvious that in fact the population of the two OLLIs do not value the social contact as much as I had supposed and prefer online classes for convenience. I could attract a much larger class if I went online or (shudders) did a hybrid. I’ve now watched a hybrid while I was on campus: the teacher sits in front of a desk with a screen behind him or her of him or herself very large; in the room most of the seats were empty and perhaps 5 people literally there; to the side, a whole bunch in the gallery of tiles formation, many of them resolutely in black boxes (unseen). I am told if I’m home in a hybrid class I will no longer see the gallery, but just the teacher across the screen. Yuk. My habit for zooms is always to keep my view gallery view, including when I’ve given a talk.

I admit myself I’m attending two wonderful classes from Politics and Prose online: Elaine Showalter is just so insightful and well-informed on four women writers, and Helen Hooper can conduct a class discussion very well — at Politics and Prose just about everyone turns the camera on (as opposed to OLLI at Mason where just about everyone turns it off — I am an exception to that). I couldn’t come to the one in the evening. And my beloved London Society Trollope group comes from London. I admit my favorite of the novels of the two P&P classes has been Elizabeth Taylor’s Mrs Palfrey at the Claremont (not my first time reading it) and I enjoyed mightily the recent movie by Dan Ireland (with Joan Plowright and Rupert Friend and Anna Massey and David Lang, who died during filming — it is a book and film about aging people and dying) even if it sentmentalised the book (which is not over-sad given what it shows about typical old age — loneliness is a central problem)

Anna Massey as Mrs Arbuthnot, what’s left of the usual cruel woman of Taylor’s books is more softened yet to the point we love her …

Nevertheless, as a teacher there is no comparison between teaching online and in person. Going in person is good for my mental health; also I find that when I’m in a zoom I can’t tell if the people are understanding the text; an example of this is I taught Christa Wolf’s Cassandra to a group at OLLI at Mason online and because a few people were talking, and two of them seem to have understood some things better than me I thought as a whole it had gone well. I go in person this summer for the same text, and within minutes I can see over 2/3s (a small class) were lost, so I ignored what I had and began by going over the overall story line of her trip to Greece (part of the book) — which they missed and it made a difference. Eyes lit up. You can get 4 way talk. I don’t use power-point and I show clips from movies only at the end of a course — after we’ve finished a book. Education comes from the talk with one another after reading excellent books. So I’ll hold out another term to remain in person, and only if the Trollope classes truly shrink will I return to online next spring (maybe).

I also finished my review of the Cambridge Complete Works of Anne Finch, and after three revisions, it’s accepted! What a relief. I feel relatively free. As I’ve said I am going to give a paper on the difference of studying an author through manuscripts than in printed books, with my two examples Jane Austen and Anne Finch, but for this I’ve done all the reading and thinking now and can draw on many blogs and reviews of editions of Austen’s manuscripts (also new Cambridge editions).

Elena (Lenu) and Raffaelle (Lila) don’t want to be lost to one another

So pleasing myself without regard for any commitments: tonight I watched the last episode of the second season of the film adaptation of Ferrante’s Neapolitan Quartet (The Story of a New Name). It’s superb. Tomorrow night I’ll go on to the third season (Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay) and begin summarizing them towards a good blog: here is a fine review talking of why the series is so brilliant — the minute-by-minute intricate intimate kind of tracing of the girls’ experiences over a lifetime. I spent the last week and a half mesmerized by the five extant Persuasion movies and wrote a good blog (it includes a review of the latest 2022 adaptation). I’ve turned to new beloved books: Italian in William Weaver’s excellent translation, Bassanio’s The Heron, with Ferrante in the Italian as I go through the film episodes is a new one I’ve not mentioned. I devoured Joanna Trollope’s Other People’s Children; Angela Carter’s strange The Bloody Chamber and Other Tales (for Showalter’s course I admit).

I subscribed to the online edition of the New Statesman. Jim and I used to love it; it was our first subscription. Then during the 1980s we dropped it as costing us too much then, but here I am going to get it again as a digital edition. It is wonderfully intelligent and genuinely pro-labor.

I will remember Jim this way too

As to online (delightful commitments) my Trollope&Peers list we really talked in detail and openly, usefully about The Small House at Allingham; I am learning why The Eustace Diamonds is so popular (it is vigorous entertainment, very funny in its sardonic uses of dramatic irony over Wilkie Collins kinds of stories except Trollope tells you up front who did what so it’s more fun), and we return to E.M. Forster next week. The FB TWWRN book just now is Bowen’s remarkably evasive The House in Paris, and for once for a little while friendly and revealing talk with one another on Janeites discussing what we learn from Austen’s characters in her books. (Next up for me is Joanna Trollpe’s Sense and Sensibility – her method is the same as her ancestor and Austen, only less ironic).

Shall I confide here that Elaine Showalter said she’d like to take my course this fall at OLLI at AU (the two Trollopes) if she can get transportation — well I was that chuffed …

No summer should go by without at least one strong dose of Shakespeare and happily I saw an absorbing and enjoyable Midsummer Night’s Dream performed by the Folger Shakespeare Company at the National Building Museum (A Summer Frolic and Community Event)

One afternoon I spent with two OLLI girlfriends in a sumptuous (truly beautiful, therapeutic gardens all around) terrace room talking. Twice I’ve gone out with Betty from OLLI at AU to plays and lunch in DC (actually the food pretty bad in the famous place but good in an unknown one in Chinatown); twice out to a movie and lunch and twice home here for a movie I play on my TV with Panorea. So much for social life. Panorea and I have begun to dream of a trip next summer using Road Scholar to go island hopping in the Mediterranean or to Greece (Athens, then Crete — like Christa Wolf did in her Cassandra book).

On the theme of long-term worries, the weather itself — the fires I watched start up spontaneously in London when they had several days of 104F weather made me begin to cry — I am that attached; but also the fires here in the US destroying vast acres of houses, flooding Kentucky where everything one has is lost terrify me. This too could happen to my house and its irreplaceable treasures.

Kentucky flooding — lives lost too

London on fire — you’d think it was California

This is summer too nowadays —

and it is the saddest one I’ve known since the first summer Jim died. I don’t know why but maybe it is settling in he’s never coming back … and all that means. I like my new life insofar as the teaching is concerned, the friends I now have, my sense of self-dependence but all pales besides how bereft I really am

That concludes this evening, gentle reader, all might want to hear (and that decorum in public allows me to tell you), so I end on a summer image from a beautiful painting, early 20th century, Russian woman painter where I didn’t manage to take down her name


Connie and her cat. I’ve been remembering a touching episode in Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (1970s) where George Smiley (Alec Guiness) visits Connie, a retired M15 spy and her cat. He is there to gather information and then leaves. It so struck me then as inexplicably moving; today I would just delete the word “inexplicably.”

I was told the actress was Kathy Burke, and I remember her as a wonderful Honor in the 1997 BBC Tom Jones. But when I went to hunt the video out (if possible), I discovered Connie’s companion is not a cat, but a dog named Flush, that Beryl Reid played the role, and that I am not alone in thinking this 7 minutes among the finest in that long ago Tinker Tailor:

Maybe I knew it was prophetic? that would someday be my fate.  How could I? I didn’t have cats for companion-pets then — my one experience, with a dog, ended in tragedy for her and remorse ever after for me.  I can’t retrieve what happened, make it better, and it never bears thinking about.  I like to tell myself I am making up for my lack today with the way I behave with my cats.

What prompted this:  Yesterday we had a good time with Collins’s Woman in White but only 6 showed and one of these will not be there next week (going to visit her brother’s house on the beach). One of the 3 missing had said she would miss this week but be sure and be back next. Online I’d have had 25, many in black boxes with names in white letters across the black box. I cannot help wondering how many of those presences in black boxes were even paying attention. I am told it’s not only fear of Covid, and summer activities, but that it is inconvenient to come in. Many people just can’t be bothered & will chose 2 online over 1 in person. So much for relying on these teaching assignments — meaningful only for a very few besides myself is the truth.

While there I watched the other class there, a hybrid briefly. Three in person in a big room, the rest online. The teacher sits at a desk, behind her a large screen which is sent to zoom, to the side, at an angle toward a corner near the ceiling a wide screen with people in tiles or as black boxes.  My first response: how awful this is for that teacher.  7/28/2022: Now I am told the people online can only see the teacher large on the screen.  Nothing else.  Worse and worse. So for me there will be either in person or online. No inbetween.

Today I am here with my cats — a reading day, not unpleasant, I am not unhappy, and, as Jane Austen once remarked, very little crowded, and do love to read about and poems by Anne Finch. Soon I’ll write that paper.  I feel tempted to sign Miss Sylvia Drake.  I did think I was a variant on Sayers’ heroine of medieval court love dissertation writing (she can’t get herself to do it and then to have done) once upon a time.

Ellen —