07 October 2011

A Guide to Dorothy Sayers II

Yesterday I began a review of the allusions that Dorothy Sayer introduced in her plan for a hypothetical poem. These are references drawn largely from British history of the late 19th and early 20th century.

Her point was that these references will become obscure over time, just as the various references of medival Italy now seem quite obscure to us.

The passage of time has proven her right in this. I've decided to see if I can say something about every one of her references, just as if these were for the annotations of a real poem.

Continuing then:

Spencer – presumably Herbert Spencer (1820-1903), the systematic philosopher who coined the expression “survival of the fittest,” and whose work inspired others to coin the expression “Social Darwinism.”

Spenser – probably Edmund Spenser (1552-1599) a Tudor-era poet, and an advocate of a scorched-earth policy toward the Irish.

Lord Castlereagh – (1769 – 1822), Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs from 1812 until his suicide in  1822. As one might expect, he acquired a lot of enemies during that period. The poet Shelley wrote, in “The Masque of Anarchy”: “I met Murder on the way/ He had a face like Castlereagh….”

Lord Castlerosse – Probably refers to the courtesy title of Valentine Browne (1891 – 1943) the first member of the British aristocracy ever to write a newspaper gossip column.

Lawrence [of Arabia] --  T.E. Lawrence (1888 – 1935), British officer who served as liaison to anti-Ottoman Arab forces, at a time when the Ottoman Empire was allied with Germany and Austrio-Hungary.

[D.H.] Lawrence – (1885 – 1930) – novelist and poet. No less an authority than E.M. Forster called this Lawrence “the greatest imaginative novelist of our generation.”

“Butcher” Heydrich (1904-1942)—head of Hitler’s Gestapo early on in the Second World War, killed by Czechoslovak resistance fighters in May 1942.

W.G. Grace (1848 – 1915), a physician and cricketer. A legend in the world of cricket, he is said to have made more money there than in the practice of medicine, an astonishing fact in those innocent pre-TV years.

Grace Darling (1815-1842), the daughter of a lighthouse keeper, she earned renown for her efforts at saving 13 of the victims of the wreck of the SS Forfarshire in 1838. This was a paddle-wheel driven steamship..

Captain of the Jarvis Bay – Sayers seems to have gotten the spelling of the ship’s name wrong, but Fogarty Fegen (1891-1940) was the captain of an armed merchantman Jervis Bay, sunk by a German battleship in 1940. A memorable poem was made out of the incident, “The Jervis Bay Goes Down.”

The Sisters of Haworth  -- an allusive phrase for the Bronte sisters – Charlotte, Emily, and Ann,  who lived at Haworth parsonage.

The Woodcutter of Hawarden – William Ewart Gladstone (1809-1898) – Hawarden was Gladstone’s estate – he was prime minister four separate times, essentially alternating with Benjamin Disraeli through the second half of the 19th century.

The Ladies of Llangollen, Lady Eleanor Butler (1739 – 1829)  and Miss Sarah Ponsonby (1755-1832)  founders of a literary circle in Wales in the late 18th century.

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Knowledge is warranted belief -- it is the body of belief that we build up because, while living in this world, we've developed good reasons for believing it. What we know, then, is what works -- and it is, necessarily, what has worked for us, each of us individually, as a first approximation. For my other blog, on the struggles for control in the corporate suites, see www.proxypartisans.blogspot.com.