My latest book find is ‘Old World Places’ by Allan Fea, a mottled doorstop full of the author’s travels round the east of England and pictures of places long trampled in the name of progress.
The author visits the village fo Somersby in mid Lincolnshire, home to Tennyson. It mentions an “artistic representation of a fly crawling up a window-pane, the production of the youthful Tennyson”
A few pages later, “We have all heard how unsociable the Laureate was in his later years. Who is it tells the story of Tennyson and Carlyle sitting hob-a-nob, smoking for hours but never uttering a word? Unlike the damsel who under the similar embarrassing silence of her partner at last observed, “And now let us talk of something else,” one of these two geniuses remarked on parting that they had never spent so enjoyable an evening!
We may be pardoned for quoting another story about Carlyle the grumpy. A young lady, an ardent literary enthusiast, one day had the courage to try to draw the great man into conversation as he sat ruminating on his favourite seat facing the river at Chelsea. The attempt being utterly futile, the damsel lost courage and lapsed into silence which, embarrassing as it was, eached its climax when all of a sudden the old bear burst forth, “Madam, what’s the matter with your stays, that they make such a horrible creaking sound?”
But there is a sequel. By chance that evening the two principal characters of the drama not only met at a social gathering (query, did Carlyle ever unbend so far?) but were placed side by side at dinner. The quick eye of the scribe at once recognised his companion, and without other greeting he turned to her and said, “My mistake, madam, your stays are all right, it was my braces.” ”
This reminds me of a famous cartoon of a couple of Australian cattlemen, infamous for their life of solitude. One arrives at the other’s campfire, asks if he can join him.
They sit some more.
“Good night” says the newcomer.
Next morning he finds his companion gone, a note saying “Too much talking last night.”
These stories seem strange not just because of the characters, but the whole notion of silence is one that so few of us ever experience any more.
Here is the full orchestral version of John Cage’s 4’33”. Enjoy this unique performance with full orchestra.
I watched this in the hostel kitchen, with people cooking, shouting, banging, laughing, snorting, clapping their hands, chopping food, playing music, whistling, rustling plastic bags, doors slamming, etc. Like being in a large Dog’s Home.
How was it for you?