Showing posts from June, 2017

Vasari's Lives of the Artists Chapter VIII: Lorenzo Ghiberti.

Lorenzo Ghiberti is the eighth artist in my abridged version of Vasari's Lives of the Artists, which means I'm about a quarter of the way through, though there are some very lengthy chapters ahead! As, I'm afraid to say, with all the other artists so far, Ghiberti was new to me, and now I'd say he was a new favourite.
The Life of Lorenzo Ghiberti, Sculptor [c. 1381 - 1455]
"There is no doubt that in every city, those individuals whose talents achieve some fame among their fellow man become, in most instances, a holy light of inspiration for many others, both those who are born after them as well as those who live in their own age, and they also receive infinite praise and extraordinary rewards during their own lifetime. There is nothing which more arouses men's minds or causes them to consider less burdensome the disciple of their studies than the prospect of honour and profit that is later to be derived from the exercise of their talents, for these benefits ma…

The Selfish Giant by Oscar Wilde.

The Selfish Giant is a children's story by Oscar Wilde first published in The Happy Prince and Other Tales in 1888. It's very short and simple: whilst the Selfish Giant of the title is visiting his friend the Cornish Ogre, children love to play in his beautiful garden: "It was a large lovely garden, with soft green grass. Here and there over the grass stood beautiful flowers like stars, and there were twelve peach-trees that in the spring-time broke out into delicate blossoms of pink and pearl, and in the autumn bore rich fruit.  The birds sat on the trees and sang so sweetly that the children used to stop their games in order to listen to them.  'How happy we are here!' they cried to each other." One day, however, the giant returns and is furious to see the children have been in his garden. So, he puts up a sign: "Trespassers will be prosecuted" and the children no longer have anywhere to play.
But, something strange occurs: as winter passes and sp…

The Vicar of Wakefield by Oliver Goldsmith.

Over the past fortnight I've been reading books that I've been meaning to read for several years, and my latest is The Vicar of Wakefield by Oliver Goldsmith (1766). I've had this novel on my list for ages, at least three years and probably more, and have no reason at all as to why it's taken so long! 
The beginning rather reflects Goldsmith's earlier essay Old Maids and Bachelors(1760), in which he stated, "I behold an old bachelor in the most contemptible light, as an animal that lives upon the common stock, without contributing his share; he is a beast of prey, and the laws should make use of as many stratagems, and as much force to drive the reluctant savage into the toils, as the Indians when they hunt the rhinoceros. The mob should be permitted to halloo after him, boys might play tricks on him with impunity, every well-bred company should laugh at him, and if, when he turned sixty, he offered to make love, his mistress might spit in his face, or, what …

Top Ten Books Read So Far in 2017.

We're almost at the half-way point of the year (can you believe it?!) and, appropriately this week's Top Ten Tuesday is Best Books You've Read In 2017 So Far. Here's my list:
1. The Brontës by Juliet Barker (2010).

In December 2016 the BBC aired To Walk Invisibleby Sally Wainwright, a dramatisation of the lives of the Brontës. I adored it and when I learned it had used Juliet Barker's biography as reference (Wainwright referred to the biography as her "bible") I knew I had to read it. So, in January I began and I could not put it down, reading well over 100 pages a night and going to bed at 8 o' clock to do so! It's the best biography I've ever read, and so far the best read of 2017.

2. The Natural History of Selborne by Gilbert White (1789).

This is a natural history book, an account of the flora and fauna of Selborne in Hampshire. White shares not only the natural details of his area but also his love and enthusiasm for the subject. It'…

Praise of Folly by Desiderius Erasmus.

Praise of FollyThe Praise of Folly, or In Praise of Folly (Lof der Zotheid) is a long essay by Desiderius Erasmus of Rotterdam first published in 1511, and said to be written in just a week in 1508. It's addressed to his friend Sir Thomas More, a councillor to Henry VIII and  Lord High Chancellor of England from 1529 to 1532, and the author of Utopia(1516). It was written in Latin under the title Moriae Encomium - literally 'The Praise of Folly'.
More and Erasmus had spent that week together and, as Erasmus explains in the preface, that week had largely inspired the essay. He goes on, "... I decided to amuse myself with praise of folly. What sort of goddess Athene put that notion into your head, you may well ask. In the first place, it was your own family name of More, which is as near to the Greek work for folly, moria, as you are far from it in fact, and everyone agrees that you couldn't be father removed. Then I had an idea that no one would think so well of …

Monkey by Wu Ch'êng-ên.

Monkey: A Folk-Tale of China is an abridged translation of Wu Ch'êng-ên's Journey to the West (西游记). Monkey was translated by Arthur Waley and published in 1942, winning the James Tait Black Memorial Prize in that year, but Journey to the West is far older, written in the 16th Century (Ch'êng-ên lived from 1505 - 1580) during the Ming Dynasty (1368 - 1644).
The novel begins with the birth of Monkey: "There was a rock that since the creation of the world had been worked upon by the pure essences of Heaven and the fine savours of Earth, the vigour of sunshine and the grace of moonlight, till at last it became magically pregnant and one day split open, giving birth to a stone egg, about as big as a playing ball. Fructified by the wind it developed into a stone monkey, complete with every organ and limb. At once this monkey learned to climb and run; but its first act was to make a bow towards each of the four quarters. As it did so, a steely light darted from the monkey&#…

Rumpel-Stilts-kin by Jakob and Wilhelm Grimm.

Rumpel-Stilts-kin, more commonly known as Rumplestiltskin, is a fairy tale by The Brothers Grimm first published in Children's and Household Tales (Kinder- und Hausmärchen) in 1812 as Rumpelstilzchen. However, research by Sara Graça da Silva and Jamshid J. Tehrani would suggest the tale is far older than that, having roots as far back as 6,000 years ago. They write of Rumplestiltskin and Beauty and the Beast that they were -
"... first written down in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. While some researchers claim that both storylines have antecedents in Greek and Roman mythology, our reconstructions suggest that they originated significantly earlier. Both tales can be securely traced back to the emergence of the major western Indo-European subfamilies as distinct lineages between 2500 and 6000 years ago, and may have even been present in the last common ancestor of Western Indo-European languages." 6,000 years ago was 4,000 B.C., about the end of the Neolithic Ag…

Chapters XLI - XLIII of The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens.

Two months have passed since the last instalment of The Pickwick Papers and, in June 1837, the country was saddened at the death of William IV on 20th June. He had been King of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and King of Hanover from 26th June 1830, and he was in fact the final king of the House of Hanover. The final monarch of Hanover would be Queen Victoria, whose coronation was on the 28th June 1837 (she would be followed by Edward VII, the first monarch of the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha). Queen Victoria recorded the death of William IV, her uncle, in her diary: "I was awoke at 6 o'clock by Mamma, who told me the Archbishop of Canterbury and Lord Conyngham were here and wished to see me. I got out of bed and went into my sitting-room (only in my dressing gown) and alone, and saw them. Lord Conyngham then acquainted me that my poor Uncle, the King, was no more, and had expired at 12 minutes past 2 this morning, and consequently that I am Queen." Ju…

A Midsummer Night's Dream illustrated by W. Heath Robinson and Arthur Rackham.

It's summer solstice, and to celebrate the arrival of summer I thought I'd share some of my favourite illustrations of William Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream(1600). It's usually the case that I prefer colour illustrations, but for this play the black and white illustrations really adds something to the magic. Here they are....
𝕎. ℍeath ℝobinson (1914)

𝔸rthur  ℝackham (1908)