This is an easy way for you to get an idea whether or not a free book may interest you. Browse the collection as it builds!

❉❉❉ HOME ❉❉❉ | ❉❉❉ MY PERSONAL BLOG ❉❉❉

Search This Blog

Friday, March 30, 2012

Insect Stories

✺     ✺     ✺     ✺     ✺
Insect Stories
by Vernon L. Kellogg

I found this absorbing. Each tale (i.e., a description of some aspect of some insect's life) is well written, and I would like to have made the time to read it in its entirety. 

The true parts of the book are those about the insect behaviour. The rest doesn't matter! 

The selected snippet is fairly graphic and those with arachnophobia may either steer clear of it – or be delighted with the outcome in this case. You'll need to read the story for that. After my wasp adventure on the other blog, maybe I should be sticking up for the tarantula.

Illustrations from other parts of the book I have included here.

✺     ✺     ✺     ✺     ✺

✺     ✺     ✺     ✺     ✺


This is the story of a fight. In the first story of this book, I said that Mary and I had seen a remarkable fight one evening at sundown on the slopes of the bare brown foothills west of the campus. It was not a battle of armies – we have seen that, too, in the little world we watch, – but a combat of gladiators, a struggle between two champions born and bred for fighting, and particularly for fighting each other. One champion was Eurypelma, the great, black, hairy, eight-legged, strong-fanged tarantula of California, and the other was Pepsis, a mighty wasp in dull-blue mail, with rusty-red wings and a poisonous javelin of a sting that might well frighten either you or me. 

Do you have any wasp in your neighborhood of the ferocity and strength and size of Pepsis? If not, you can hardly realize what a terrible creature she is. With her strong hard-cased body an inch and a half long, borne on powerful wings that expand fully three inches, and her long and strong needle-pointed sting that darts in and out like a flash and is always full of virulent poison, Pepsis is certainly queen of all the wasp amazons.

But if that is so, no less is Eurypelma greatest, most dreadful, and fiercest, and hence king, of all the spiders in this country. In South America and perhaps elsewhere in the tropics, live the fierce bird-spiders with thick legs extending three inches or more on each side of their ugly hairy bodies. Eurypelma, the California tarantula, is not quite so large as that, nor does he stalk, pounce on and kill little birds as his South American cousin is said to do, but he is nevertheless a tremendous and fear-inspiring creature among the small beasties of field and meadow.

But not all Eurypelmas are so ferocious; or at least are not ferocious all the time. There are individual differences among them. Perhaps it is a matter of age or health. Anyway, I had a pet tarantula which I kept in an open jar in my room for several weeks, and I could handle him with impunity. He would sit gently on my hand, or walk deliberately up my arm, with his eight, fixed, shining, little reddish eyes staring hard at me, and his long seven-jointed hairy legs swinging gently and rhythmically along, without a sign of hesitation or excitement. His hair was almost gray and perhaps this hoariness and general sedateness betokened a ripe old age. But his great fangs were unblunted, his supply of poison undiminished, and his skill in striking and killing his prey still perfect, as often proved at his feeding times. He is quite the largest Eurypelma I have ever seen. He measures – for I still have his body, carefully stuffed, and fastened on a block with legs all spread out – five inches from tip to tip of opposite legs.

At the same time that I had this hoary old tarantula, I had another smaller, coal-black fellow who went into a perfect ecstasy of anger and ferocity every time any one came near him. He would stand on his hind legs and paw wildly with fore legs and palpi, and lunge forward fiercely at my inquisitive pencil. I found him originally in the middle of an entry into a classroom, holding at bay an entire excited class of art students armed with mahl-sticks and paint-brushes. The students were mostly women, and I was hailed as deliverer and greatest dompteur of beasts when I scooped Eurypelma up in a bottle and walked off with him.

But this is not telling of the sundown fight that Mary and I saw together. We had been over to the sand-cut by the golf links, after mining-bees, and were coming home with a fine lot of their holes and some of the bees themselves, when Mary suddenly called to me to "see the nice tarantula."

Perhaps nice isn't the best word for him, but he certainly was an unusually imposing and fluffy-haired and fierce-looking brute of a tarantula. He had rather an owly way about him, as if he had come out from his hole too early and was dazed and half-blinded by the light. Tarantulas are night prowlers; they do all their hunting after dark, dig their holes and, indeed, carry on all the various businesses of their life in the night-time. The occasional one found walking about in daytime has made a mistake, someway, and he blunders around quite like an owl in the sunshine.

All of a sudden, while Mary and I were smiling at this too early bird of a tarantula, he went up on his hind legs in fighting attitude, and at the same instant down darted a great tarantula hawk, that is, a Pepsis wasp. Her armored body glinted cool and metallic in the red sunset light, and her great wings had a suggestive shining of dull fire about them. She checked her swoop just before reaching Eurypelma, and made a quick dart over him, and then a quick turn back, intending to catch the tarantula in the rear.

But lethargic and owly as Eurypelma had been a moment before, he was now all alertness and agility. He had to be. He was defending his life. One full fair stab of the poisoned javelin, sheathed but ready at the tip of the flexible, blue-black body hovering over him, and it would be over with Eurypelma. And he knew it. Or perhaps he didn't. But he acted as if he did. He was going to do his best not to be stabbed; that was sure. And Pepsis was going to do her best to stab; that also was quickly certain.

At the same time Pepsis knew – or anyway acted as if she did – that to be struck by one or both of those terrible vertical, poison-filled fangs was sure death. It would be like a blow from a battle-axe, with the added horror of mortal poison poured into the wound.

So Eurypelma about-faced like a flash, and Pepsis was foiled in her strategy. She flew up and a yard away, then returned to the attack. She flew about in swift circles over his head, preparatory to darting in again.

A rather amusing title these days....
But Eurypelma was ready. As she swooped viciously down, he lunged up and forward with a half-leap, half-forward fall, and came within an ace of striking the trailing blue-black abdomen with his reaching fangs. Indeed it seemed to Mary and me as if they really grazed the metallic body. But evidently they had not pierced the smooth armor. Nor had Pepsis in that breathless moment of close quarters been able to plant her lance. She whirled up, high this time but immediately back, although a little more wary evidently, for she checked her downward plunge three or four inches from the dancing champion on the ground.

And so for wild minute after minute it went on; Eurypelma always up and tip-toeing on those strong hind legs, with open, armed mouth always toward the point of attack, and Pepsis ever darting down, up, over, across, and in and out in dizzy dashes, but never quite closing.

✺     ✺     ✺     ✺     ✺

✺     ✺     ✺     ✺     ✺

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Ti-Ping Tien-Kwoh (The Taiping)

✺     ✺     ✺     ✺     ✺

The word "Ti-Ping" will be better known in the west as "T'aiping" or "Taiping".

I've departed from the way I usually introduce these books on this occasion by including a longer excerpt, but I am really taken with what can be learned about this very important group in Nineteenth Century Chinese history - those who rebelled against the Manchu overlords who had been ruling China since 1644 and were betrayed by the European colonialist powers.

It was superficially a Christian movement that could have expected support from the British against a crumbling dynasty - the Manchu interlopers from the north, yet in the end, in a ruthless game of double betrayal, the imperialists sided with those aimed at crushing them.

This is a fascinating and comprehensive account, but I decided to focus only on their view of women - or females, more accurately, as all who were not men beyond a select few had little status from the moment they were born, and were destined for lives of misery and servitude. If you have read the first section of
Wild Swans you will see its confirmation in this account.

The fine illustrations also tell their story.

✺     ✺     ✺     ✺     ✺

Ti-Ping Tien-Kwoh
by Augustus F. Lindley (1866)

by Augustus F. Lindley

Two of fifteen chapters

✺     ✺     ✺     ✺     ✺


During my intercourse with the Ti-pings, if one part of their system and organization appeared more admirable than another, it was the improved position of their women, whose status, raised from the degrading Asiatic régime, approached that of civilized nations. This improvement upon the ignorant and sensual treatment of 2,000 years affords strong evidence of the advancement of their moral character.

Although the practice of polygamy has by some war Christians been used as an argument to justify murdering the Ti-pings, I do not remember an instance in which those ultra-moral personages have endeavoured to teach the Ti-pings the difference between the law of well-beloved Abraham's time, upon which many of their religious rules are framed, and the later dispensation of the Gospel. It is, however, a great mistake to imagine that the Ti-pings are either confirmed or universal polygamists.

In the first place, as they have thrown off all the other heathen practices of their countrymen, there is no reason to suppose they would make this an exception. In the second place, I know that many who have become enlightened by the New Testament, have abandoned polygamy; while a vast number of the rest, only partially instructed, are either averse to it, or simply maintain the establishment of one principal and several inferior wives, or concubines, according to ancient custom, and as a mark of high rank. It is also a fact that in some countries a plurality of wives is rather beneficial than otherwise; and it may be that China is one of these.

But above all, however detestable we may consider polygamy, where is the Divine command against it?

The Ti-pings have abolished the horrible custom of cramping and deforming the feet of their women. But although, under their improved system, no female child is so tortured, many of their wives have the frightful "small feet;" having, with the exception of the natives of Kwang-se, some parts of Kwang-tung, and the Miau-tze, originally conformed to the crippling custom.

All children born since the earliest commencement of the Ti-ping rebellion have the natural foot. This great benefit to the women, their consequent improved appearance, and the release of the men from the tail-wearing shaven-headed badge of former slavery, form the two most conspicuous of their distinguishing habits, and cause the greatest difference and improvement in the personal appearance of the Ti-pings as compared with that of their Tartar-governed countrymen.

The much higher social position of the Ti-ping ladies over that of their unfortunate sisters included within the Manchoo domestic régime, has long been one of the brightest ornaments of their government. A plebeian Ti-ping is allowed but one wife, and to her he must be regularly married by one of the ministers. Amongst the Chiefs, marriage is a ceremony celebrated with much pomp and festivity; the poorer classes can only marry when considered worthy, and when permitted to do so by their immediate rulers. In contradistinction to the Manchoos, the marriage knot when once tied can never be unloosed; therefore, the custom of putting away a wife at pleasure, or selling her – as in vogue among the Chinese – or the proceedings of the British Court of Divorce, has not found favour in their sight.

Every woman in Ti-pingdom must either be married, the member of a family, or an inmate of one of the large institutions for unprotected females, existing in most of their principal cities, and superintended by proper officials; no single woman being allowed in their territory otherwise. This law is to prevent prostitution, which is punishable with death, and is one which has certainly proved very effective, for such a thing is unknown in any of the Ti-ping cities.

The stringent execution of the law has, in fact, been rather too severe, for I have seen cases where women have rushed about the streets to find new husbands directly they have received the melancholy tidings of their late beloved's decapitation by the "demon imps." It is possible these bereaved ladies may not have been on the strength of the regiment; but at all events this acting of the law was rather too exaggerated. The conduct of the Chinese lady who fanned her husband's grave to dry it previous to her early acceptance of a new lord, and so preserve a correct propriety, is more excusable than this.

Woman is by the Ti-pings recognized in her proper sphere as the companion of man; the education and development of her mind is equally well attended to; her duty to God is diligently taught, and in ordinary worship she takes her proper place; many of the women are zealous and popular teachers and expounders of the Bible; in fact, everything is done to make her worthy of the improved position she has attained by reason of the Ti-ping movement.

The institutions for unprotected women are presided over by duly appointed matrons, and are particularly organized and designed to educate and protect those young girls who lose their natural guardians, or those married women whose husbands are away upon public duty, and who have no relations to protect and support them.

Very many of the women accompany their husbands upon military expeditions; inspired with enthusiasm to share the dangers and severe hardships of the battle-field. In such cases they are generally mounted upon the Chinese ponies, donkeys, or mules, which they ride à la Duchesse de Berri. In former years they were wont to fight bravely, and could ably discharge the duties of officers, being however formed into a separate camp and only joining the men in religious observances.

The greatest physical comfort to the women is their enjoyment of natural feet and the ability to move about as they wish; though, unfortunately, it is only amongst the youngest that this prevails entirely.

It is utterly impossible to describe a more striking contrast than that presented in the walk and carriage of two women, one having the compressed, and the other natural feet; the former, even when standing still, has a very unsteady appearance, but when stumping along with the usual uncertain tottering gait, apparently in danger of rolling over at every step, the crippling custom excites the utmost disgust and the greatest commiseration for its victims. And yet this revolting exhibition is by the Chinese described as "swaying elegantly from side to side like the graceful waving of the willow tree!"

It is, probably, due to the feet – and Chinese feet are naturally very well formed – being of their natural shape, and the consequent elegance of carriage, that many of the Ti-pings' wives have been selected as the handsomest prisoners captured during the war, and that they appear in such advantageous contrast with the Imperialists.

The detestable system of slavery is totally abolished by the Ti-pings, and the abolition made effective by punishment with decapitation upon the slightest infringement of the law by male or female. The law as far as the slavery of men was concerned had no great occasion for existence, such cases being uncommon in China; but the real necessity for such an important innovation consisted in the fact that every woman was more or less a slave.

The head wives of the aristocrat and the plebeian, although not actually recognized as slaves, are still purchased by the bridal present, upon receipt of which, and never otherwise, they are handed over to their purchaser, or husband. The inferior wives are simply bought; with or without the knowledge of their family, for no equality of position is required, as they are selected according to the fancy of their future master, from relatives or slave-dealers as the case may be.

Besides those who are purchased for wives, a great proportion of the women of China become the concubines of successive masters, by whom they are sold from one to the other; many are bought for domestic slavery; but vast numbers are purchased for a life of public infamy. The establishments set apart for this purpose are immense, and contain several hundred women purchased at the tenderest ages and reared to this wretched existence.

At Hong-kong, at Shanghae, and several other places in China, buildings of this class are maintained upon the British territory, and the Hong-kong colonial government, and Shanghae municipal council, regularly tax and recognize them.

It is the common practice of the poorer Chinese to sell their female children, and when the vastness of the population, and the fact that these children are mostly purchased for immoral purposes, is considered, the consequences may easily be imagined.

At many and widely separated parts of China, I have seen comely young maidens from twelve to twenty years of age, offered for sale by their mothers, or speculators, at prices varying from six to thirty dollars, so that, as I have frequently heard the Chinese say, "You may sometimes buy a handsome girl for so many cash a catty (weight of one pound and a third) less than pork." This is the precise state of things which the Ti-pings would not tolerate amongst themselves, and which they would in time have taught all China to abhor were it not for foreign interference.

If the Ti-pings had not been interfered with, it is possible, though very improbable, they might have caused a temporary falling-off of trade, consequent upon the nullification of Lord Elgin's treaty, the usual effects of civil war, &c., and it is quite certain the residue of indemnity, as far as the Manchoos were concerned, would have been lost; but whatever might or might not have been the result, trade would not have suffered much, for the Ti-ping power would soon have been supreme.

Far nobler, then, would it have been for England to have avoided the contamination of the Manchoo alliance, and to have preserved the respect and friendship of at least a portion of the Chinese empire.

✺     ✺     ✺     ✺     ✺

✺     ✺     ✺     ✺     ✺

Monday, March 26, 2012

Pencillings by the Way

✺     ✺     ✺     ✺     ✺

Another travel book by those Britons who had the time and money to do so. There are no illustrations (which disappointed me, with a title like "Pencillings", but most of the journey has its charm.)

One unpleasant description (amongst several) but a revealing reminder about the seamier side of life and gender iniquities was the one I included below. I hesitate to dwell on what else women in lunatic asylums had to face beside this horror.... 

"Disturbing' may be clichéd, but it's all to accurate.

✺     ✺     ✺     ✺     ✺

Pencillings by the Way
by N. Parker Willis (1860)

The first ten (of 75) chapters of letters. Very readable. But please take a moment to read the snippet below that.

✺     ✺     ✺     ✺     ✺

On our return we passed near an island, upon which stands a single building--an insane hospital. I was not very curious to enter it, but the gondolier assured us that it was a common visit for strangers, and we consented to go in.
We were received by the keeper, who went through the horrid scene like a regular cicerone, giving us a cold and rapid history of every patient that arrested our attention.

The men's apartment was the first, and I should never have supposed them insane. They were all silent, and either read or slept like the inmates of common hospitals.
We came to a side door, and as it opened, the confusion of a hundred tongues burst through, and we were introduced into the apartment for women.

The noise was deafening. After traversing a short gallery, we entered a large hall, containing perhaps fifty females. There was a simultaneous smoothing back of the hair and prinking of the dress through the room. These the keeper said, were the well-behaved patients, and more innocent and happy-looking people I never saw. If to be happy is to be wise, I should believe with the mad philosopher, that the world and the lunatic should change names. One large, fine-looking woman took upon herself to do the honors of the place, and came forward with a graceful curtesy and a smile of condescension and begged the ladies to take off their bonnets, and offered me a chair.

Even with her closely-shaven head and coarse flannel dress, she seemed a lady. The keeper did not know her history. Her attentions were occasionally interrupted by a stolen glance at the keeper, and a shrinking in of the shoulders, like a child that had been whipped. One handsome and perfectly healthy-looking girl of eighteen, walked up and down the hall, with her arms folded, and a sweet smile on her face, apparently lost in pleasing thought, and taking no notice of us.

Only one was in bed, and her face might have been a conception of Michael Angelo for horror. Her hair was uncut, and fell over her eyes, her tongue hung from her mouth, her eyes were sunken and restless, and the deadly pallor over features drawn into the intensest look of mental agony, completing a picture that made my heart sick. Her bed was clean, and she was as well cared for as she could be, apparently.

We mounted a flight of stairs to the cells. Here were confined those who were violent and ungovernable. The mingled sounds that came through the gratings as we passed were terrific. Laughter of a demoniac wildness, moans, complaints in every language, screams--every sound that could express impatience and fear and suffering saluted our ears.

The keeper opened most of the cells and went in, rousing occasionally one that was asleep, and insisting that all should appear at the grate. I remonstrated of course, against such a piece of barbarity, but he said he did it for all strangers, and took no notice of our pity. The cells were small, just large enough for a bed, upon the post of which hung a small coarse cloth bag, containing two or three loaves of the coarsest bread. There was no other furniture. The beds were bags of straw, without sheets or pillows, and each had a coarse piece of matting for a covering.

I expressed some horror at the miserable provision made for their comfort, but was told that they broke and injured themselves with any loose furniture, and were so reckless in their habits, that it was impossible to give them any other bedding than straw, which was changed every day. I observed that each patient had a wisp of long straw tied up in a bundle, given them, as the keeper said, to employ their hands and amuse them.

The wooden blind before one of the gratings was removed, and a girl flew to it with the ferocity of a tiger, thrust her hands at us through the bars, and threw her bread out into the passage, with a look of violent and uncontrolled anger such as I never saw. She was tall and very fine-looking. In another cell lay a poor creature, with her face dreadfully torn, and her hands tied strongly behind her. She was tossing about restlessly upon her straw, and muttering to herself indistinctly.

The man said she tore her face and bosom whenever she could get her hands free, and was his worst patient. In the last cell was a girl of eleven or twelve years, who began to cry piteously the moment the bolt was drawn. She was in bed, and uncovered her head very unwillingly, and evidently expected to be whipped.

There was another range of cells above, but we had seen enough, and were glad to get out upon the calm Lagune. There could scarcely be a stronger contrast than between those two islands lying side by side--the first the very picture of regularity and happiness, and the last a refuge for distraction and misery. The feeling of gratitude to God for reason after such a scene is irresistible.

✺     ✺     ✺     ✺     ✺

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Voltaire: A Sketch of his Life and Works

✺     ✺     ✺     ✺     ✺

I guess if Rousseau is the yin of French eighteenth-century philosophy, the Voltaire must be the yang. Unafraid to tear down the castles of prejudice, he doesn't always offer to build the new ones. My view anyway. This selection is far from complete, but it's representative.

✺     ✺     ✺     ✺     ✺

Voltaire: A Sketch of his Life and Works
by G. W. Foote and J. M. Wheeler (1891)

He would be a bold person who should attempt to say something entirely new on Voltaire. His life has often been written, and many are the disquisitions on his character and influence. This little book, which at the bicentenary of his birth I offer as a Freethinker’s tribute to the memory of the great liberator, has no other pretension than that of being a compilation seeking to display in brief compass something of the man’s work and influence. But it has its own point of view. It is as a Freethinker, a reformer, and an apostle of reason and universal toleration that I esteem Voltaire, and I have considered him mainly under this aspect. For the sketch of the salient points of his career I am indebted to many sources, including Condorcet, Duvernet, Desnoisterres, Parton, Espinasse, Collins, and Saintsbury, to whom the reader, desirous of fuller information, is referred. Mr. John Morley’s able work and Col. Hamley’s sketch may also be recommended.

That we are this year celebrating the bicentenary of Voltaire’s birth should remind us of how far our age has advanced from his, and also of how much we owe to our predecessors. The spread of democracy and the advance of science which distinguish our time both owe very-much to the brilliant iconoclasts of the last century, of whom Voltaire was the chief. In judging the work of the laughing sage of France we must remember that in his day the feudal laws still obtained in France, and a man might be clapped in prison for life without any trial. The poor were held to be born into the world for the service of the rich, and it was their duty to be subject to their masters, not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward. Justice was as easily bought as jewels. The Church was omnipotent and freethought a crime. If Voltaire’s influence is no longer what it was, it is because he has altered that. We can no longer keenly feel the evils against which he contended. His work is, however, by no means fully accomplished. While any remnant of superstition, intolerance, and oppression remains, his unremitting warfare against l’infâme should be an inspiration to all who are fighting for the liberation and progress of humanity.

✺     ✺     ✺     ✺     ✺

Download here:

Voltaire: A Sketch of his Life and Works by G. W. Foote and J. M. Wheeler

✺     ✺     ✺     ✺     ✺

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Bacon and Shakspere (Shakespeare)

✺     ✺     ✺     ✺     ✺

What can I say about this? That I think it's a crock? Well yes, I do, but it's interesting that they were out to get Shakespeare long before the modern era. There are so many objections one could raise to the arguments put, but I'll just leave it as an historical document that has value in that regard. When the charge is that he could not write, I don't mean figuratively; I mean literally. The book claims he was unable to write at all.

✺     ✺     ✺     ✺     ✺

Bacon and Shakspere
by William Henry Burr (1886)

The writing of a 'illiterate' that is produced in evidence:

"Will signatures"

Bacon having begun to produce plays for Shakspere’s theater before 1590, the authorship of which was afterward assumed by the actor and proprietor, it became necessary also to avoid being publicly known as a writer of sonnets. Therefore, in view of the circulation and ultimate publication of this poem, he facetiously disguised the identity of the writer by calling himself “Will.” Three years later he dedicated a published poem to his young friend Southampton under the name of “William Shakespeare,” and again another in 1594. But the “Sonnets” were not published until 1609, when Essex had been dead eight years, and his widow had been married six years to a third husband. It would never do for the Solicitor-General to be known as the author of such a poem; so when it came out in print it was dedicated to “Mr. W. H.” by “T. T.,” and no one until a few years ago ever seems to have suspected that Bacon wrote the poem, nor, so far as we are aware, has any one ever suspected until July 31, 1883, that “W. H.” was the accomplished and famous Earl of Essex.

The young widow Sidney was the only daughter of the Queen’s principal secretary, Sir Francis Walsingham, for whom Bacon drafted an important state paper in 1588 on the conduct of the government toward Papists and Dissenters. And that Bacon was intimate with the Secretary’s daughter, aye, even one of her lovers, appears from many of the Sonnets addressed to her. He describes her playing on the harpsichord, envies the keys “that nimbly leap to kiss her hand,” and says:

“Since saucy jacks so happy are in this, Give them thy fingers, me thy lips to kiss.”

And from other passages it is quite evident that he had often kissed her.

No fact has been found incompatible with Bacon’s authorship of the “Sonnets.” The following line might seem to indicate a writer past the age of 29:

“Although she knows my days are past the best.”

But in 1599, when Shakspere was only 35, this very verse was published as his in the “Passionate Pilgrim,” where Sonnet 138 appears as number one.

But again, we have a letter written in 1592 by Bacon to his uncle, Lord Treasurer Burleigh, in which he says:

“I wax somewhat ancient; one and thirty years is a great deal of sand in the hour-glass.”

At the age of 31 he thinks himself “somewhat ancient” two years earlier he apprehends that forty winters will entirely deface the youthful Earl’s beauty; and to the lovely young widow he says: “My days are past the best.”

This misconception therefore, whether pretended or real, becomes a strong proof of Bacon’s authorship.

✺     ✺     ✺     ✺     ✺

✺     ✺     ✺     ✺     ✺

Doesticks, What He Says

✺     ✺     ✺     ✺     ✺

Ah... DOESTICKS! What can I say? If you read excerpt below from the preface, the wit and humour of this book shines through. In the modern age, Doesticks would have got along very well with the Monty Python gang. You'll either love him or hate him, I suspect.

✺     ✺     ✺     ✺     ✺


Doesticks, What He Says

by Q. K. Philander Doesticks (1856)

Doesticks and his friends

Novel writing is out of the question. I have tried that, but met with serious difficulties. I couldn't keep my hero of the same nation--in the first chapter I made him a Spaniard; two pages afterward he was an English nobleman; in the fourth chapter an Oriental juggler, balancing a bamboo ladder on his nose, and making a fig-tree grow out of the calf of his leg--and so on, successively, an Italian image-seller, a Dutch burgomaster, a South American Indian, and a Mississippi steamboat pilot.

I had as much difficulty in permanently locating the country of my fictitious favorite, as the Know-Nothing party of New York in the late election had, in determining the nativity of their candidate for Governor, whose chances of election were fair while he was thought to be an American, but who was finally defeated on the ground that he was a Hindoo, and owned stock in the car of Juggernaut.
Poetry has been overdone; the gentle art has culminated in a recent "Spasmodic Tragedy," and in the sublime effusions of K. N. PEPPER, ESQ., whose matchless lays have won for him undying fame, and the admiration of several; and who so outruns competition that there is nothing left to be done in that direction.

In the play-writing vein, I have also failed; not from any lack of merit in my drama, as the manager solemnly assured me, but because he had not the menagerie requisite to its proper representation. Improving upon the hint offered by the managers of the "Thespian Wigwam," who have added an elephant and a circus company to their company of "gifted artists," I had introduced into my play a rhinoceros, a lioness, two hyenas, a team of "two-forty" reindeers, a couple of ostriches, and a muley-cow,--and even then there was but a slight obstacle--the manager might have procured the animals, but he was afraid the cow would quarrel with the rhinoceros, and so disturb the harmony of his establishment.

But this book, Philander, it will be impossible to class as strictly either classic, scientific, historical, humorous, or descriptive. Fantastic and extravagant it will be in many things; but we will do our best to make it agreeable to the palate of the public. I promise everything, like all book-makers, and I shall afterwards perform what is convenient, following the same reliable precedent.

✺     ✺     ✺     ✺     ✺

Your download site 

Friday, March 23, 2012


✺     ✺     ✺     ✺     ✺

I have to admit, you do need a little stamina for this tome, but it does contain some interesting chapters, especially if you are interested in music, literature and/or art. There are good reasons for including it, as you can see from the contents page. Mr Huneker does have a commendable vocabulary. Read the last three sentences of the extract at least....

✺     ✺     ✺     ✺     ✺



by James Huneker (1917)

✺     ✺     ✺     ✺     ✺

But artistic prose, chiselled prose, is a negligible quantity nowadays. It was all very well in the more spacious times of linkboys, sedan-chairs, and bag-wigs, but with the typist cutting one's phrases into angular fragments, with the soil at our heels saturated in slang, what hope is there for assonance, variety in rhythm, and the sonorous cadences of prose? Write "naturally," we are told. Properly speaking, there is no such thing as a "natural style." Even Newman, master of the pellucid, effortless phrase, confesses to laborious days of correction, and he wrote with the idea uppermost and with no thought of style, so-called. Abraham Lincoln nourished his lonely soul on the Bible and Bunyan. He is a writer of simple yet elevated prose, without parallel in our native literature other than Emerson. Hawthorne and Poe wrote in the key of classic prose; while Walt Whitman's jigsaw jingle is the ultimate deliquescence of prose form. For practical every-day needs the eighteenth-century prose men are the best to follow. But the Bible is the Golden Book of English prose.

Quintilian wrote: "We cannot even speak except in longs and shorts, and longs and shorts are the material of feet." All personal prose should go to a tune of its own. The curious are recommended to the monumental work of George Saintsbury, A History of English Prose Rhythm. Prose may be anything else, but it must not be bad blank verse. "Numerous" as to rhythms, but with no hint of balance, in the metrical sense; without rhythm it is not prose at all. Professor Oliver Elton has set this forth with admirable lucidity in his English Prose Numbers. He also analyses a page from The Golden Bowl of Henry James, discovering new beauties of phrasing and subtle cadences in the prose of this writer. Professor Saintsbury's study is the authoritative one among its fellows. Walter Pater's essay on Style is honeycombed with involutions and preciosity. When On the Art of Writing, by Arthur Quiller-Couch, appeared we followed Hazlitt's advice and reread an old book, English Composition, by Professor Barrett Wendell, and with more pleasure and profit than followed the later perusal of the Cornish novelist's lectures. He warns against jargon. But the seven arts, science, society, medicine, politics, religion, have each their jargon. Not music-criticism, not baseball, are so painfully "jargonised" as metaphysics. Jargon is the fly in the ointment of every critic. Even the worthy fellow of Jesus College, Sir Arthur himself, does not altogether escape it. On page 23 of his Inaugural Address he speaks of "loose, discinct talk." "Discinct" is good, but "ungirded" is better because it is not obsolete, and it is more sonorous and Saxon. On page 42 we stumble against "suppeditate" and gnash our teeth. After finishing the book the timid neophyte will be apt to lay the flattering unction to his soul that he is a born stylist, like the surprised Mr. Jourdain, who spoke prose so many years without knowing it.

✺     ✺     ✺     ✺     ✺

Your download site 

✺     ✺     ✺     ✺     ✺


✺     ✺     ✺     ✺     ✺

"Each to her own taste, as the old lady said when she kissed the cow." In accordance with my intent that you may meet up with the offbeat or the unexpected here, Marion Zimmer Bradley offers you a checklist of obviously thoroughly researched homosexual literature. The fact that it emerged as early as 1960 gives it a 'timeslice' historical quality.

✺     ✺     ✺     ✺     ✺



by Marion Zimmer Bradley (1960)

✺     ✺     ✺     ✺     ✺

We are unalterably opposed to most censorship – but after wading through almost a hundred books whose only excuse for existence is to provide phony “thrills” for people too inhibited, too ignorant or too fearful to provide their own, well – we think wistfully of some self-imposed standards of taste.

We also realize, flatly and realistically, that too much license in this stuff is going to bring on a wave of public reaction which may impose a sure-enough censorship – making the standards of the 1940s and 1950s look liberal.

Now obviously the field of homosexual literature is going to place a certain emphasis on the sexual problems of humanity which will be quantitatively greater than that of – say – the Western novel, or the detective story. Sex alone has not been made an excuse for consigning any novel to the trashbin. If the treatment is honest, the characters even remotely believable and the purpose of the book seems reasonably genuine, then the quantity of sex is purely a matter for the author’s discretion; and be it much, as in the works of March Hastings, Artemis Smith or Henry Miller, or little, as in Iris Murdoch’s delicate and subtle THE BELL, or Shirley Jackson’s THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE, – we give the book judgment only on its merits as a book.

However, in self-defense, we have had to find a way to dispose of the more repetitive rubbish. Allowing for differences in taste, and granting that many people like their books well-spiced, if there is a reasonably well-written story along with the sex we have called it “Evening waster” – on the grounds that it may very well provide pleasant entertainment for anyone not a hopeless prude. But if the story is just a peg on which to hang up a lot of poorly written, gamy erotic episodes, with no literary value, and just evasive enough to keep the printer out of jail, then we have given it short shrift with the abbreviation “scv” – which cryptic letters are editorial shorthand for “Short Course in Voyeurism” – and have been the basis of a lot of jokes in the tedious business of passing reviews around the editorial staff (The junior and senior editors live a thousand miles apart and have never met; the others who occasionally contribute reviews are scattered from Alabama to Oregon.). So we have to have some fun in the endless correspondence – and “scv” books are fair game.

Regrettably, we are well aware that some people are going to use this designation in precisely the opposite fashion than we intended – go through the list picking out the sexy books and carefully avoiding the others. Well – we shan’t spoil your fun. Each to her own taste, as the old lady said when she kissed the cow.

✺     ✺     ✺     ✺     ✺

Your download site 

✺     ✺     ✺     ✺     ✺

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Return of Tarzan

✺     ✺     ✺     ✺     ✺

I include novels here only when there is a particular curiosity value in them. This one has it, to my mind at least... the remarkably sophisticated King of the Apes. It is a slightly longer than usual excerpt, but I included a fair taste of it because it is unlikely that people have read the original version of any of the Tarzan stories.

✺     ✺     ✺     ✺     ✺

Return of Tarzan
by Edgar Rice Burroughs (1913)

✺     ✺     ✺     ✺     ✺

Tarzan's thoughts drifted from the past to the future. He tried to look forward with pleasurable sensations to his return to the jungle of his birth and boyhood; the cruel, fierce jungle in which he had spent twenty of his twenty-two years. But who or what of all the myriad jungle life would there be to welcome his return? Not one. Only Tantor, the elephant, could he call friend. The others would hunt him or flee from him as had been their way in the past.

Not even the apes of his own tribe would extend the hand of fellowship to him.

If civilization had done nothing else for Tarzan of the Apes, it had to some extent taught him to crave the society of his own kind, and to feel with genuine pleasure the congenial warmth of companionship. And in the same ratio had it made any other life distasteful to him. It was difficult to imagine a world without a friend--without a living thing who spoke the new tongues which Tarzan had learned to love so well. And so it was that Tarzan looked with little relish upon the future he had mapped out for himself.

As he sat musing over his cigarette his eyes fell upon a mirror before him, and in it he saw reflected a table at which four men sat at cards. Presently one of them rose to leave, and then another approached, and Tarzan could see that he courteously offered to fill the vacant chair, that the game might not be interrupted. He was the smaller of the two whom Tarzan had seen whispering just outside the smoking-room.

It was this fact that aroused a faint spark of interest in Tarzan, and so as he speculated upon the future he watched in the mirror the reflection of the players at the table behind him. Aside from the man who had but just entered the game Tarzan knew the name of but one of the other players. It was he who sat opposite the new player, Count Raoul de Coude, whom an over-attentive steward had pointed out as one of the celebrities of the passage, describing him as a man high in the official family of the French minister of war.

Suddenly Tarzan's attention was riveted upon the picture in the glass. The other swarthy plotter had entered, and was standing behind the count's chair. Tarzan saw him turn and glance furtively about the room, but his eyes did not rest for a sufficient time upon the mirror to note the reflection of Tarzan's watchful eyes. Stealthily the man withdrew something from his pocket. Tarzan could not discern what the object was, for the man's hand covered it.

Slowly the hand approached the count, and then, very deftly, the thing that was in it was transferred to the count's pocket. The man remained standing where he could watch the Frenchman's cards. Tarzan was puzzled, but he was all attention now, nor did he permit another detail of the incident to escape him.

The play went on for some ten minutes after this, until the count won a considerable wager from him who had last joined the game, and then Tarzan saw the fellow back of the count's chair nod his head to his confederate. Instantly the player arose and pointed a finger at the count.

"Had I known that monsieur was a professional card sharp I had not been so ready to be drawn into the game," he said.

Instantly the count and the two other players were upon their feet.

De Coude's face went white.

"What do you mean, sir?" he cried. "Do you know to whom you speak?"

"I know that I speak, for the last time, to one who cheats at cards," replied the fellow.

The count leaned across the table, and struck the man full in the mouth with his open palm, and then the others closed in between them.

"There is some mistake, sir," cried one of the other players. "Why, this is Count de Coude, of France." "If I am mistaken," said the accuser, "I shall gladly apologize; but before I do so first let monsieur le count explain the extra cards which I saw him drop into his side pocket."

And then the man whom Tarzan had seen drop them there turned to sneak from the room, but to his annoyance he found the exit barred by a tall, gray-eyed stranger.

"Pardon," said the man brusquely, attempting to pass to one side.

"Wait," said Tarzan.

"But why, monsieur?" exclaimed the other petulantly. "Permit me to pass, monsieur."

"Wait," said Tarzan. "I think that there is a matter in here that you may doubtless be able to explain."

The fellow had lost his temper by this time, and with a low oath seized Tarzan to push him to one side. The ape-man but smiled as he twisted the big fellow about and, grasping him by the collar of his coat, escorted him back to the table, struggling, cursing, and striking in futile remonstrance. It was Nikolas Rokoff's first experience with the muscles that had brought their savage owner victorious through encounters with Numa, the lion, and Terkoz, the great bull ape.

The man who had accused De Coude, and the two others who had been playing, stood looking expectantly at the count. Several other passengers had drawn toward the scene of the altercation, and all awaited the denouement.

"The fellow is crazy," said the count. "Gentlemen, I implore that one of you search me."

"The accusation is ridiculous." This from one of the players.

"You have but to slip your hand in the count's coat pocket and you will see that the accusation is quite serious," insisted the accuser. And then, as the others still hesitated to do so: "Come, I shall do it myself if no other will," and he stepped forward toward the count.

"No, monsieur," said De Coude. "I will submit to a search only at the hands of a gentleman."

"It is unnecessary to search the count. The cards are in his pocket. I myself saw them placed there."

All turned in surprise toward this new speaker, to behold a very well-built young man urging a resisting captive toward them by the scruff of his neck.

"It is a conspiracy," cried De Coude angrily. "There are no cards in my coat," and with that he ran his hand into his pocket. As he did so tense silence reigned in the little group. The count went dead white, and then very slowly he withdrew his hand, and in it were three cards.

He looked at them in mute and horrified surprise, and slowly the red of mortification suffused his face. Expressions of pity and contempt tinged the features of those who looked on at the death of a man's honor.

"It is a conspiracy, monsieur." It was the gray-eyed stranger who spoke. "Gentlemen," he continued, "monsieur le count did not know that those cards were in his pocket. They were placed there without his knowledge as he sat at play. From where I sat in that chair yonder I saw the reflection of it all in the mirror before me. This person whom I just intercepted in an effort to escape placed the cards in the count's pocket."

De Coude had glanced from Tarzan to the man in his grasp.

"MON DIEU, Nikolas!" he cried. "You?"

Then he turned to his accuser, and eyed him intently for a moment.

"And you, monsieur, I did not recognize you without your beard. It quite disguises you, Paulvitch. I see it all now. It is quite clear, gentlemen."

"What shall we do with them, monsieur?" asked Tarzan. "Turn them over to the captain?"

"No, my friend," said the count hastily. "It is a personal matter, and I beg that you will let it drop. It is sufficient that I have been exonerated from the charge. The less we have to do with such fellows, the better. But, monsieur, how can I thank you for the great kindness you have done me? Permit me to offer you my card, and should the time come when I may serve you, remember that I am yours to command."

Tarzan had released Rokoff, who, with his confederate, Paulvitch, had hastened from the smoking-room. Just as he was leaving, Rokoff turned to Tarzan. "Monsieur will have ample opportunity to regret his interference in the affairs of others."

Tarzan smiled, and then, bowing to the count, handed him his own card.

The count read:


✺     ✺     ✺     ✺     ✺

Your download site 

✺     ✺     ✺     ✺     ✺