Friday, November 18, 2005

From the Quote Book

I pulled out my quote book again today and found a few gleanings that I thought I'd share.

First, from Institutes of Biblical Law:

When all the world is black, no concept of black is possible, since no concept of differentiation exists. Everything being black, there is no principle of definition and description left.

One of my "textbooks" this year was Huckleberry Finn (which, I must confess, I had never read before). This quote comes from the scene in which the duke and the king are preparing for their notorious performance of Romeo and Juliet:

"[Y]ou mustn't bellow out ROMEO! that way, like a bull - you must say it soft, and sick, and languishy, so - R-o-o-meo! - that is the idea - for Juliet's a dear sweet mere child of a girl, you know, and she don't bray. . ."

Another school text was Booker T. Washington's Up From Slavery. This is one my favourite biographies of the year so far. In it, Washington tells of his struggles to provide a practical school for Black men and women in the Reconstructionist South. A fascinating read, full of Washington's solid work ethic and generous spirit. This quote describes his passion for instilling that same work ethic in his students:

The students themselves would be taught to see not only utility in labour, but beauty and dignity; would be taught, in fact, how to lift labour up from mere drudgery and toil, and would learn to love work for its own sake.

And, finally, a quote from Gods and Generals:

"We are all growing old, Colonel. The important thing is to grow old doing the right thing."

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Tea Party

It was just the three of us home, and I had promised. So we tidied the counter-tops and found the cream puffs in the freezer and put the water on to boil. Brother arranged chocolate cookies and cream puffs on a small plate whilst Moon-child and I dried the cups and saucers, her dark eyes shining with the delight of a tea party. She covered the wooden table with a lace cloth and we found a vase of dried lavender with which to decorate. Our sugar bowl was a small jar that had existed as Sir Jam Pot in a previous life; our creamer was a chipped glass that has often held small bunches of field-flowers picked by eager, grubby hands.

I turned to Brother, "Shall we listen to Christmas music?"

"Yes." He was definite.

So I found A Windam Hill Christmas and slipped it into the CD player. And we took our seats at the table. "Might I interest you in tea, sir?"

He held out the china cup, and he gripped the blue-patterned sides with a vigour that frightened me.

"And you?"

Moon-child extended her cup towards me. I poured the steaming amber liquid into it. She sipped it carefully and finally put in some ice. "May I, Allison?" Moon-child wanted to know. "May I put some ice in it?"

We sat there a long time and we said very little, but it was a time to slow down—a time to muse as we whetted our throats with a sharp brew of Earl Grey.

"Enjoying a cup of tea is. . .an island of calm you can reasonably visit in the course of your busiest day."
If Teacups Could Talk, Emily Barnes

Friday, November 04, 2005

George MacDonald: Scotland's Beloved Storyteller

I have been waiting a long time to get my hands on this biography of one my favorite authors, and I have spent the past several weeks perusing its pages—it was worth the wait. Michael Phillips, author, has done an excellent job chronicling MacDonald’s life. He has presented historical fact, mingled with his personal observations, and lengthy quotes from MacDonald’s novels, sermons, poetry, and letters (there are also black and white photographs of MacDonald, his family, and his homeland).

I have particularly enjoyed Phillips’s account of the relationship between MacDonald and his wife, Louisa.
He includes generous quotes from the letters they exchanged over the years (of which MacDonald’s son wrote: “They are very ordinary—like primroses and hedge-roses and shy violets and quiet pools of blue-bells—just ordinary.”) and these helped to cement my impression of MacDonald as not only keen thinker but a “family man” as well. In one of the many letters that the couple exchanged before their marriage, MacDonald writes:

“I have just read your letter, dearest. . . Only a week today since you went! Well, I would not have you back one hour sooner, if my heart were like to break with its longing. You have beautiful things around you, and beautiful things are creeping into your soul, and making a home for themselves there—and my wife is growing more beautiful for me. Does not He deserve thanksgiving who made male and female?”

And Phillips notes that at the bottom of one of MacDonald’s letters, Louisa wrote,

“My dear, my dearest!” and then her penmanship breaks out into little spasmodic sprays and stars of decorative feminine anguish and she continues, “O, I am an overgrown baby. . . .”

(This one quote was enough to keep me smiling for the next hour or two)

I cannot imagine a man better suited to stand as MacDonald’s biographer than Phillips. He writes with passion and honesty about his subject, and though he can be a bit heavy-handed where Calvinism is concerned (he calls 19th century Scottish Calvinism “an abused theology,” and “cruel”) the biography is truly a delight to read. Don’t hesitate to put it on your reading list.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

George MacDonald: In Real Leather

It started last evening. I thought perhaps a good night's sleep would make it go away. But no. I believe I am "stuck fer good" (as Huck Finn might put it).

I came across these beautiful volumes yesterday: leather-bound, unabridged copies of the original George MacDonald novels (and sermons and poetic works). That is real leather, mind you. You can see it for yourself here. Unfortunately they are also "real" expensive. You can read all about that here.

In my desperate search for unabridged George MacDonald novels, I also came across Johannesen Printing and Publishing. This company offers a more complete, and less costly, collection of the novels, short stories, etc., but prints them in cloth hardback (similar to the G.A. Henty books). Very pretty. But not nearly as stunning as books bound in real leather.