Negli ultimi mesi il rapporto con mia sorella si è via via incrinato fino a sfaldarsi quasi completamente. Mi si insegna che non basta amare per mantenere viva una relazione. L’amore esige azione, telefonate, messaggini, regali, sorprese, lettere, fiori, viaggi, sbronze, monolocali in affitto, fotografie, piccoli e grandi gesti di incommensurabile valore che valgono a cementare le relazioni e renderle inossidabili all’usura del tempo. Il rapporto fra me e mia sorella risente di un lungo periodo di lontananza, dovuto alla mia fuga da casa in età adolescenziale. Nostalgia e mancanza sono i sentimenti più forti che l’hanno tenuto in vita e fino a prima di qualche mese fa bastavano a guardare agli anni stati con un nodo alla gola e una fitta di malessere allo stomaco. Mi sono sempre rimproverata di non avere fatto abbastanza per evitare che molti degli espedienti negativi che ci hanno messe alla prova conseguissero nella quasi rottura di oggi, ma per riuscirvi appieno avrei dovuto rinunciare a me stessa e non l’ho fatto. Dunque la nostra relazione è giunta a una fase di stallo mediabile soltanto attraverso una lunga serie di trattative e compromessi. Negli anni mi sono messa alla prova senza badare molto agli scrupoli della mia coscienza. Meglio dire, sono cosciente di avere arrecato del male alle persone che mi hanno amato, ma non m’è parso equo il prezzo che mi è stato chiesto di pagare per restare, dunque ho lasciato, ho abbandonato, sono partita, sono sparita. Non prima di avere fatto quanto era nelle mie possibilità di fare per recuperare i rapporti. A quanti, mia sorella in testa, mi rimproverano con risentimento di essere egoista, io rispondo con serenità di esserlo. Si, io sono anche una donna egoista. Oltre che individualista e incline alla misantropia. In tempi di buonismo e millantata democrazia fra i popoli, l’egoismo è una minaccia e lo spettro che ammanta di terrore il radioso avvenire della società moderna. E’ lecito pensare che se una nave affonda, l’equipaggio tutto deve partecipare alla tragedia consacrando all’unisono la propria vita. Succede però, come nel caso della Costa Concordia, che la nave deragli dalla rotta per urtare contro uno scalino roccioso e che il capitano della nave abbandoni la nave, il proprio equipaggio, e gli ospiti della nave. Quello è molto peggio dell’egoismo, quella è vigliaccheria e negligenza. Io sono del parere che se una nave minaccia di affondare, bisogna che l’equipaggio si adoperi a metterla in salvo. Se tuttavia la nave minaccia di affondare a causa della negligenza di un solo vigliacco o di una congrega di vigliacchi, allora ritengo saggio allontanare i vigliacchi e mettere in salvo la nave. Questo io intendo per individualismo. Per questo sono accusata di egoismo. Sono egoista perchè mi pongo al di sopra di Dio, al di sopra di un capitano, un passo più avanti o più indietro rispetto alla fila dell’equipaggio. Per diffidenza, perchè non sono solita sperare, confidare, credere. Sono egoista perchè ho abbandonato la nave a causa della negligenza del capitano. Sono egoista perchè mi sono rifiutata di pagare con la vita per gli errori altrui. Mi sono sforzata di mettere in salvo quante più persone ho potuto, ma anzichè farsi salvare quelle persone hanno preferito rimanere, lasciarsi risucchiare dalle acque, affondare, morire, resuscitare, quindi rimproverarmi con rancore del coraggio che mi ci è voluto per mettermi in salvo.
La famiglia dalla quale provengo è una nave affondata negli abbissi del tempo, che tutto invecchia, consuma, deteriora, e niente cambia. Ho lottato, per mettere in salvo mia sorella, ma mia sorella non si è detta pronta a concedersi una possibilità. Per riuscirvi, avrei dovuto offrirle in cambio condizioni di vita tali da assicurarle una stabilità che in trent’anni non sono riuscita a garantire neanche a me stessa. Quello che mi aspettavo da lei è lo stesso spirito di avventura che quattordici anni fa mi ha fatto abbandonare la nave per la scialuppa, il porto franco per l’imprevisto e la sfida in mare aperto. Innumerevoli volte ho rischiato di affondare pur di tirare fuori dalle acque quanti mi hanno teso la mano boccheggiando nella tempesta. Molti adorano sguazzare nella propria disperazione, e in loro l’egocentrismo è tale da accettare il salvagente che gli viene offerto in aiuto e tirare forte perchè chiuque al loro fianco affondi in loro compagnia. Se è egoismo non lasciarsi risucchiare, sprofondare, morire, allora si, io sono responsabile di egoismo e perchè sono un’egoista individualista rivendico la libertà di morire per una giusta causa e perchè è arrivato il mio momento.
Flo, se mi stai leggendo, sappi che ti amo più di chiunque al mondo. Sappi che non è nelle mie intenzioni abbandonarti. Sappi che starò qui ad aspettarti finchè non avrai deciso di abbandonare la nave per seguirmi ovunque decideremo di andare.
Considerato uno dei migliori acquerellisti italiani di tutti i tempi, nasce a Roma l’11 maggio 1845, nella casa dove abita la famiglia, al quarto piano di Via Condotti 85.
I Roesler Franz, di origine tedesca, si erano trasferiti a Roma all’inizio del Settecento e fondarono a Roma il famoso Hotel d’Allemagne, tra Via Condotti e Piazza di Spagna. Si erano imparentati con le più antiche famiglie aristocratiche di Roma e sono perfino citati in alcuni sonetti del Belli.
L’artista studiò alle Scuole Cristiane di Trinità dei Monti e all’Accademia di San Luca.
“La sincerità fa l’artista grande” era il motto che il pittore seguiva e che accoglieva all’ingresso chi entrava nel suo studio in Via Claudio 96.
A partire dal 1878 fino al 1896 Ettore Roesler Franz si dedicò a ritrarre Roma. Quella Roma che stava scomparendo perché, nuova capitale d’Italia, veniva adeguata al suo ruolo con lavori di demolizione e ricostruzione. L’artista girava per i suoi vicoli con pennelli, cavalletto e macchina fotografica. Padrone assoluto della tecnica dell’acquerello, l’aveva eletta come migliore per raffigurare velocemente le strade, le piazze, i vicoli che venivano rapidamente smantellati e quella Roma pittoresca che troppo celermente scompariva.
Gli acquerelli che ne derivarono furono raccolti sotto il nome di “Roma pittoresca. Memorie di un’era che passa”, 120 opere che oggi testimoniano come appariva la città prima dello sventramento e della ricostruzione che la trasformarono. La collezione acquistò poi il nome, più adatto, di “Roma sparita”.
‘Il mondo non è grande abbastanza per me e un Picasso’, lasciò scritto John William Godward (1861-1922) in una nota rinvenuta nel 1922 in occasione del suo suicidio. La geometria volumetrica di certe ‘bizzarrie cubiste’, la rigida e netta scomposizione delle figure in spigoli e tangenti, devono avere indignato il pittore neoclassico al punto da spegnere in lui il desiderio di dipingere. Non oso immaginare la reazione di Godward in risposta all’Espressionismo o alle opere dell’indisciplinato ‘nipote’ Basquiat, la pecora nera della famiglia, quel drogato malato di mente. ‘Ah, i giovani. Sono finiti i tempi di una volta’.
Vero. Nel 1922 la Belle Epoque è già finita da un pezzo e la Guernica si configura come il quadro che meglio rappresenta un lungo periodo di conflitti civili culminato nella seconda guerra mondiale e destinato a durare fino ai giorni nostri.
Credo la nota di Godward interessante perchè mette in discussione molti dei principi su cui ruotano buona parte delle considerazioni sull’arte e sul concetto di bellezza. Splendor veritatis, armonia, o mera rappresentazione della realtà?
La fotografia (a esclusione di quella concettuale, surrealista e manipolata digitalmente) offre una visione della realtà scevra di finzioni e ‘artefatti’. Tuttavia la fotografia rimanda esclusivamente alla prospettiva di chi guarda all’obiettivo e scatta la foto, dunque a una visione particolareggiata della realtà. Nelle arti la realtà è un ‘fatto’ soggettivo, una ‘questione’ personale. Idealismo e soggettivismo?
Fra tutti un quadro di John William Godward mi piace particolarmente. Si intitola Sweet Nothings, ovvero Dolce far niente.
In questo quadro la realtà è un sogno. Un giardino di orchidee in fiore, fontane gorgoglianti, dolcissimi usignoli cinguettanti. Col favore degli dei, vien voglia di chiudere gli occhi e immaginarsi perduti nella tranquillità di un mattino romano, neo classico, soleggiato, all’ombra di un ciliegio, con in mano un libro e ore e ore a disposizione per scrivere, studiare, cucinare, mangiare, dipingere. Niente traffico, smog, scadenze, invasioni aliene, complotti marziani, catastrofi naturali, guerre atomiche, attentati militari. Per certi versi un paradiso e una noia. Una noia paradisiaca di improbabile realizzazione.
La realtà è che se non mi decido a darmi una mossa finirò per fare tardi a lavoro ed essere licenziata. Allora si, sarà Guernica.
Born in Lausanne in 1865, Vallotton (1865–1925) studied in Paris and became closely associated with the Nabis artists’ group, which also included Edouard Vuillard and Pierre Bonnard. Vallotton worked as an illustrator and journalist, and also wrote plays that – like his paintings – were highly provocative and critical of bourgeois conventions. He lived in Paris during the Belle Époque – a society oscillating between the poles of decadent spectacle and severe economic depression. Having risen to the ranks of the bourgeoisie through marriage, he then turned his unsparing gaze on the double standards of the Parisian bourgeoisie, the raging battle of the sexes and the new self-assurance of women. In his paintings and prints he exposes his protagonists by placing them in carefully constructed, stage-like settings.
Vallotton’s nudes and interiors depict scenes of exposure and adultery, concealed by heavy curtains and surrounded by knickknacks and cheap ornaments; his protagonists are caught up in a tightly woven net of betrayal and oppression. In stylistic terms, it is above all the artificiality of his subjects that makes his works so unsettling: still lifes characterised by fields of intense colour, empty landscapes defined by bold chiaroscuro, and portraits painted with uncustomary harshness.
In their veiled eroticism and starkly realistic style of painting, Vallotton’s nudes are surprisingly modern. For his contemporaries, Vallotton’s open depiction of the conflict between human desire and moral codes, his complex atmospheric weave of distance and proximity, often overstepped the boundaries of acceptability. He surveyed his naked models in an almost psychoanalytic manner, portraying them realistically — and sometimes unflatteringly — with a slight squint, unevenly shaped breasts or a low hairline. In 1936, the collector Hedy Hahnloser-Bühler commented upon Vallotton’s portraiture: “Nobody was keen to be dissected by that unrelenting eye, so careful not to leave any physical or moral blemish unseen.”
Ignacio Zuloaga y Zabaleta (July 26, 1870 – October 31, 1945)
Maurice Ravel, “Une Barque sur l’Ocean”, from Miroirs, 1904-1905.
Performed by Jean-Yves Thibaudet.
E’ indubbio ‘Lolita’ di Vladimir Nabokov un romanzo controverso che a oggi crea ancora sensazione e divide i lettori; tanti si rifiutano di leggerlo precludendo a se stessi la possibilità di farsene un’opinione, eventualmente apprezzarlo, eventualmente ignorarne i contenuti o disprezzarlo; quanti lo hanno letto in inglese converranno con me nel ritenerlo un capolavoro di stile in quanto a eleganza e misura. Il romanzo ha dato motivo a tanti registi di adattare la trama per il cinema, e mi sbaglierò affermando la versione di Kubrick di tutte la più denigratoria e allo stesso tempo tendenziosa; da una parte non rende giustizia al romanzo fuorviando l’opinione pubblica, penalizzando la maestria di Nabokov e riducendo l’affair Humbert-Lolita a una squallida e morbosa concupiscenza tra un degenerato in andropausa e una giovane ninfetta illibata; dall’altra personifica in Lolita la malizia dello spettatore, la malizia di colui che guarda con sospetto, avversione, disappunto, la storia d’amore tra un uomo adulto e una ragazzina civettuola. Ne risulta la trasposizione in celluloide di un pregiudizio in bianco e nero, che a mio parere va confutato soltanto attraverso la lettura del romanzo, denso in colori e ricco di sfumature.
Pomeriggio ho scoperto secondo lo studioso Wolfgang Kemp [#] Lolita trae ispirazione dalla storia d’amore fra il pittore, poeta, scrittore e critico d’arte londinese John Ruskin, e Rose La Touche, sua allieva e protagonista del romanzo Sesame and Lilies (1865). John Ruskin, molti studiosi e appassionati d’arte lo sapranno, viene ricordato principalmente per l’opera in cinque volumi Modern Painters, cui interpretazioni dell’arte e dell’architettura influenzarono in maniera determinante l’estetica vittoriana ed edoardiana. La biografia di Ruskin si contraddistingue specialmente per la vastissima produzione letteraria, i lunghi viaggi all’estero, l’impegno civile, la fondazione di una società chimerica di stampo medievale chiamata Guild of St.George, la costruzione di un museo, a Sheffield, dedicato agli operai del posto, e per l’incredibile propulsione ideale e morale che sottintende in ognuna delle iniziative da lui intraprese con grande passione e struggle, tensione e fatica. A buon ragione potremmo definire John Ruskin un eroe romantico per antonomasia.
Il primo incontro fra John Ruskin e Rose risale al 3 gennaio 1858, quando cioè il critico d’arte viene presentato dalla marchesa di Waterford alla benestante famiglia irlandese La Touche. Prima di raccontare l’accaduto, bisogna specificare Ruskin, ai tempi, aveva 39 anni, mentre Rose, appena 9; Ruskin è un evangelico, Rose, la famiglia La Touche, è protestante. E’ la madre di Rose a volere Ruskin in casa perchè la bambina venisse educata al disegno e alla storia dell’arte. Ruskin pare innamorarsene segretamente fin da subito sebbene aspetta il diciottesimo compleanno della bambina per chiederla in sposa alla famiglia. Perchè protestante, Rose rifiuta la proposta invitando Ruskin ad aspettare ancora tre anni; una volta compiuti i 21 anni, la ragazza potrà scegliere di propria volontà chi sposare senza dovere per questo dipendere dall’approvazione della famiglia. Trascorsi i tre anni, Ruskin si ripresenta all’attenzione di Rose, ma questa, incredibilmente, rifiuta ancora una volta il matrimonio a causa delle divergenze religiose. Fatto inaspettato, Rose muore a 27 anni -secondo alcune voci di anoressia, isteria, esaurimento nervoso, mania religiosa. Sconvolto dalla perdita e sopraffatto dal dolore, Ruskin subisce un crollo di nervi, si ammala di depressione, si dà allo spiritualismo; convinto della personificazione di Rose in Santa Orsola – rappresentata in un dipinto del pittore rinascimentale Vittore Carpaccio- Ruskin cerca da allora, e invano, di mettersi in contatto con l’amata attraverso una serie di sedute spiritiche che, come è immaginabile, lo porteranno a un ulteriore crollo di nervi e a un definitivo esaurimento nervoso.
Il quadro del pittore rinascimentale Vittore Carpaccio rappresenta l’apoteosi di Santa Orsola, secondo la leggenda vissuta tra il IV e il V secolo, santa della Chiesa Anglo-Cattolica, promessa sposa del governatore pagano Conan Meriadoc, vergine e martire. Cito da Wikipedia
Saint Ursula (“little female bear” in Latin) is a British Christian saint. Her feast day in the extraordinary form calendar of the Catholic Church is October 21. Because of the lack of definite information about the anonymous group of holy virgins who on some uncertain date were killed at Cologne, their commemoration was omitted from the Catholic calendar of saints for liturgical celebration when it was revised in 1969, but they have been kept in the Roman Martyrology.
Her legend, probably unhistorical, is that she was a Romano-British princess who, at the request of her father King Dionotus of Dumnonia in south-west England, set sail to join her future husband, the pagan Governor Conan Meriadoc of Armorica, along with 11,000 virginal handmaidens. After a miraculous storm brought them over the sea in a single day to a Gaulish port, Ursula declared that before her marriage she would undertake a pan-European pilgrimage. She headed for Rome with her followers and persuaded the Pope, Cyriacus (unknown in the pontifical records), and Sulpicius, Bishop of Ravenna, to join them. After setting out for Cologne, which was being besieged by Huns, all the virgins were beheaded in a massacre. The Huns’ leader shot Ursula dead, in about 383 (the date varies).
Interessante, a proposito di Vladimir Nabokov, questo articolo che mi è capitato leggere sul The Guardian
[#] Kemp, Wolfgang. The Desire of My Eyes: The Life and Work of John Ruskin. 1990
Quanta grazia nei Notturni di Chopin (dieci, per intero), cui temperamento sognante trae ispirazione dalle opere del compositore e pianista irlandese John Field
The nocturne is generally credited to John Field, an Irish composer and pianist, who published his first three nocturnes in 1814. These romantic character pieces are written in a somewhat melancholy style, with an expressive, dreamy melody over broken-chord accompaniment. The majority of Chopin’s nocturnes adopt a simple A-B-A form. The A part is usually in a dreamy bel canto style, whereas the B part is of a more dramatic content. In distinction of melody, wealth of harmony and originality of piano style, Chopin’s nocturnes leave Field’s far behind. The similarity of Chopin’s nocturnes to Bellini’s cavatinas (such as Casta diva from Norma) has often been noticed, though there is little evidence of direct influence in either direction.
‘We have seen the shy, serenely tender emotions which Field charged them to interpret, supplanted by strange and foreign effects. Only one genius possessed himself of this style, lending to it all the movement and ardour of which it was susceptible. Chopin, in his poetic Nocturnes, sang not only the harmonies which are the source of our most ineffable delights, but likewise the restless, agitating bewilderment to which they often give rise.’
Ho trovato un articolo molto interessante, di Joao Paulo Casaroti, University of North Dakota, che riguarda il metodo di insegnamento adottato da Chopin, il quale, al contrario di Liszt, pare, non amasse esattamente esibirsi in concerto e preferisse di gran lunga impiegare il proprio tempo in compagnia dell’alta società parigina e in lunghe sessioni di insegnamento; dice l’articolo, Chopin prediligeva suonare pianoforti Pleyel e attorniarsi di pochi ‘pupils’, allievi, che accoglieva nel proprio appartamento, in sessioni della durata di 45 minuti, un’ora, talvolta più, in cambio di 25 franchi, una cifra piuttosto alta rispetto ai 5 di media richiesti dagli altri insegnanti parigini. E’ ben noto, dice ancora l’articolo, che molti degli allievi educati da Chopin non sono diventati musicisti riconosciuti, e questo perchè in prevalenza donne, aristocratiche, a cui era proibito suonare in pubblico eccetto che nelle funzioni di beneficenza (tuttavia questo articolo dedicato alle piano women che si sono esibite in concerto tra il 1750 e il 1900, e in Europa e negli States, sembrerebbe non confermare le ipotesi avanzate dall’articolo – Yesterday’s Concert Pianists-Alphabetical).
In Chopin’s lessons, when a student played stiffly and mechanically, he would say impatiently, “Do put your whole soul into it.” He considered “feeling” the most essential quality for becoming a fine pianist. Even though Chopin often played to his students, to demonstrate an idea or purpose, he did not want them to become his imitator. He wrote to his student Delfina:
‘Music, rich, full of feeling, not soulless, is like a crystal on which the sun falls and brings forth from it a whole rainbow. And everyone may admire it for a different reason; one will enjoy the fact that the crystal has been artfully carved, another will like the red color, still another the green, while the fourth will admire the purple. And he who put his soul into the crystal is like one who has poured wine into it.
You know that I tell my pupils to play my own and others’ works as they feel them, and that I dislike it if they imitate me too much, adding nothing of their own in the interpretation.
As for myself, you know, I seldom play a thing twice in the same way. You realize that the cause is in the disposition.
People sometimes tell me reproachfully that I have been playing better, e.g., at Custine’s than at the Perthius, but they don’t understand that man is not a machine.’
via Chopin the Teacher.
Throughout his lifetime, Aivazovsky contributed over 6,000 paintings to the art world, ranging from his early landscapes of the Crimean countryside to the seascapes and coastal scenes for which he is most famous. Aivazovsky was especially effective at developing the play of light in his paintings, sometimes applying layers of color to create a transparent quality, a technique for which they are highly admired.
Although he produced many portraits and landscapes, over half of all of Aivazovsky’s paintings are realistic depictions of coastal scenes and seascapes. He is most remembered for his beautifully melodramatic renditions of the seascapes of which he painted the most. Many of his later works depict the painful heartbreak of soldiers at battle or lost at sea, with a soft celestial body taunting of hope from behind the clouds. His artistic technique centers on his ability to render the realistic shimmer of the water against the light of the subject in the painting, be it the full moon, the sunrise, or battleships in flames. Many of his paintings also illustrate his adeptness at filling the sky with light, be it the diffuse light of a full moon through fog, or the orange glow of the sun gleaming through the clouds.
In addition to being the most prolific of Russian Armenian painters, Aivazovsky founded an art school and gallery to engage and educate other artists of the day. He also and built a historical museum in his hometown on Feodosia, Crimea, in addition to beginning the first archaeological expeditions of the same region.
Today, Aivazovsky’s paintings have been auctioned off for millions of dollars and have been printed on postage stamps for Russia, Ukraine, and Armenia. Perhaps it is also to his lasting legacy that he is said to be one of the most forged of all Russian artists.
Dura la vita di noi cameriere, sia domestiche che impiegate nei luoghi di ristoro – acciacchi alla schiena, calli ai piedi, paga miserevole, ingaggio in nero; alcuni ci ritengono delle servette ammaestrate e ubbidienti, altri un buon motivo per flirtare e, in alcuni casi, praticare la sconcia e triste arte del mandrillato, dalle professioniste del settore considerata una tecnica in uso fra i maschi di rango spirituale inferiore volta ad ottenere favori sessuali in cambio di laute mance.
Qualche giorno fa mi è capitato oppormi a un cliente del ristorante dove lavoro, il quale pretendeva io rendessi omaggio al suo cane servendolo degli avanzi del padrone.
Forse umiliante, ma più clemente, la sorte delle odalische ( dal turco odalik: cameriera, domestica. Oda, stanza), accolte nell’harem ottomano di Istambul nato per volere di Maometto II, che nel 1453 conquista Costantinopoli facendone la capitale. Di recente mi è capitato leggere su Storica – National Geographic, un articolo che riguarda la struttura gerarchica alla base dell’harem ottomano realizzato all’interno del Palazzo di Topkapi, fatto costruire da Maometto II nel 1462 e ‘attivo’ fino al 1853, anno in cui il sultano Abdulmeci I trasferisce la corte in un altro palazzo (soltanto nel 1922, e con la nascita della repubblica turca, la fine del sultanato e con esso il tramonto dell’harem ottomano).
‘Il termine harem deriva dall’arabo harim, che significa luogo proibito, e la zona del Topkapi da esso occupata si presentava infatti cinta da alte mura e collegata al resto del palazzo da due porte (la Porta della Voliera e la Porta della Carrozze), presidiate di giorno dagli eunuchi neri e chiuse durante la notte.’
Il gineceo ottomano aveva a capo la Valide Sultan, ovvero la madre del sultano, che viveva nell’appartamento più grande, dopo quello del sultano stesso.
‘L’ harem era una struttura articolata formata da molti edifici, disposti tutt’intorno al cortile della Valide e al suo appartamento. La madre del sultano aveva ai suoi ordini un folto seguito, costituito principalmente dalle cameriere, le odalische, e da una capo tesoriera.
[..] nell’harem di Istambul vi erano odalische di tre tipi: le più anziane, destinate ai servizi umili; quelle acquistate da bambine, a cui venivano insegnate musica, danza, etichetta e letteratura; e infine le più belle, quelle tra i 15 e i 20 anni, che arrivavano già nell’harem con una certa formazione, spesso fornita loro dai mercanti ebrei che se le procacciavano per venderle al sultano. Tutte le odalische dovevano studiare il turco e il Corano. Esse percepivano un compenso quotidiano e ricchi doni in occasione delle feste. Le odalische più belle e più istruite potevano entrare in contatto diretto con il sovrano, servendo nei suoi alloggi e occupandosi direttamente di lui, di sua madre, delle sue favorite o dei suoi figli. Dopo nove anni tutte le domestiche, se volevano, potevano lasciare il Palazzo, ricevendo alla partenza doni e gioielli; ma se erano rimaste per più di 18 anni, ottenevano anche case e terreni oppure vitalizi. Le odalische alternavano un turno settimanale di lavoro a uno di riposo e tra di esse venivano scelte le 15-20 guardiane che di notte sorvegliavano gli appartamenti e i giardini dell’harem, sostituendo gli eunuchi neri, preposti a tale compito durante il giorno. Oltre alle odalische addette ai servizi ve ne erano altre che svolgevano compiti amministrativi legati alla gestione dell’harem, i cui ruoli replicavano quelli degli uomini nel Palazzo e a cui era demandato l’ordine nell’harem’
Clemente, ma più dolorosa e sofferta, la sorte dei portieri del palazzo, gli eunuchi
‘Gli unici uomini ammessi all’interno dell’harem erano gli eunuchi, scelti tra gli schiavi. Nell’Impero ottomano, questi ultimi, se capaci e di talento, potevano ambire a ruoli di prestigio in campo amministrativo e militare, soprattutto quelli che entravano a contatto con il sultano. Gli eunuchi erano suddivisi in ‘bianchi’ e ‘neri’. I primi, provenienti dai Balcani o dal Caucaso, svolgevano compiti amministrativi all’interno del Palazzo; mentre i secondi, originari soprattutto dell’Egitto, del Sudan e dell’Abissinia, lavoravano nell’harem. Tutti giungevano a Palazzo già castrati, in quanto tale operazione era proibita sul suolo ottomano. Il capo degli eunuchi neri godeva di grande potere, ma la storia abbonda di esempi di eunuchi semplici che hanno raggiunto posizioni di prestigio personale per aver appoggiato le trame delle ‘signore’ o delle favorite.’
tratto da Storica, National Geographic, numero 42, agosto 2012
Istanbul Image – Topkapi Palace’s roof top, Istanbul – Lonely Planet.
Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres (August 29, 1780 – January 14, 1867) was a French Neoclassical painter. Although he considered himself a painter of history in the tradition of Nicolas Poussin and Jacques-Louis David, by the end of his life it was Ingres’ portraits, both painted and drawn, that were recognized as his greatest legacy.
A man profoundly respectful of the past, he assumed the role of a guardian of academic orthodoxy against the ascendant Romantic style represented by his nemesis Eugene Delacroix. His exemplars, he once explained, were “the great masters which flourished in that century of glorious memory when Raphael set the eternal and incontestable bounds of the sublime in art … I am thus a conservator of good doctrine, and not an innovator.” Nevertheless, modern opinion has tended to regard Ingres and the other Neoclassicists of his era as embodying the Romantic spirit of his time, while his expressive distortions of form and space make him an important precursor of modern art.
A proposito di Catherine Barkley, giovani infermierine sui campi di battaglia e uomini deceduti, ho letto su BBC History Italia un articolo di Stephen Halliday che racconta di Florence Nightingale, la donna con la lanterna, passata alla storia per aver contribuito all’assistenza di centinaia di soldati inglesi feriti durante la Guerra di Crimea e per aver introdotto l’utilizzo di un diagramma polare, detto coxcomb, indispensabile nella rappresentazione statistica dei casi di morte avvenuti per malattia e ferite di guerra. Appassionata di matematica e statistica, la Nightingale appurò che le morti per malattia erano sette volte superiori a quelle provocate dalle battaglie e usò questi dati per condurre una campagna a favore di un miglioramento dell’alimentazione, dell’igiene e dell’abbigliamento per le truppe, persuadendo il governo a progettare un ospedale prefabbricato da trasportare via mare a Scutari. Rientrata in Inghilterra, la Nightingale continuò il suo lavoro e calcolò che, anche in tempi di pace, il tasso di mortalità tra soldati di sana costituzione, con un’età compresa tra i 25 e i 35 anni e che risiedevano in caserma, era il doppio di quello della popolazione civile. A sostegno delle sue teorie, la Nightingale decise di contattare la regina perchè ufficiali e delegati prendessero in considerazione i suoi studi e le statistiche trovassero reale applicazione nella cura delle malattie e nella costruzione delle strutture necessarie ad accogliere i malati.
‘Florence fece buon uso del suo rapporto con la sovrana. Quando era scontenta delle reazioni dei politici e dei militari ai suoi rapporti, scriveva alla regina Vittoria e al principe Alberto e ne riceveva risposte positive. Capitò così anche in occasione della sua analisi sulle possibili conseguenze demografiche causate dallo spostamento dell’ospedale St.Thomas dal ponte di Londra alla nuova sede sulla banchina dell’Albert Embankement. Il principe Alberto infatti assicurò che il suo rapporto su questo tema ‘riceveva la massima attenzione e ogni sua comunicazione sarebbe stata un ordine’. L’incontro di Florence con Lord Panmure (ministro della guerra) portò alla creazione di una commissione reale sulla salute nell’esercito britannico. Lei sottopose i commissari a un fuoco di fila di domande sulla relazione tra il tasso di mortalità nelle caserme e fattori quali la fornitura di acqua, la rete fognaria, l’aerazione, l’alloggio e il cibo preparando grafici ‘coxcomb’ per valorizzare i suoi argomenti. La commissione nel 1863 rese noto di accettare la maggior parte delle raccomandazioni di Florence. In seguito ai provvedimenti suggeriti da lei, il tasso di mortalità diminuì del 75%.
In seguito, Florence spostò la sua attenzione sul benessere della popolazione civile. Nel 1860 partecipò al Congresso Internazionale di Statistica e presentò una relazione in cui propose un modello per raccogliere ‘statistiche ospedaliere in modo omogeneo’, convincendo i delegati a decidere che ‘lo schema di Miss Nightingale dovrebbe essere usato da tutti i governi rappresentati’. Nel 1861 propose anche che nel censimento fossero incluse domande sulle ‘persone malate o inferme nel giorno del censimento’, in modo da poter individuare, attraverso l’esame dei dati, una ‘relazione tra la salute e le condizioni abitative della popolazione’.
Nel 1858 Florence fu la prima donna a essere eletta membro della Società di Statistica.’
BBC History Italia, Stephen Halliday
Eadweard Muybridge was born Edward Muggeridge to a merchant family in Kingston upon Thames, England on April 9th 1830. Before his death in 1903, Muybridge would emigrate to America, change his name three times, come close to death and suffer brain damage in a carriage accident. Perhaps most sensationally, he would also be acquitted for the murder of Major Harry Larkyns, his wife’s lover, and the true father of his presumed son Floredo Helios Muybridge.
In fact, Muybridge enjoyed a professional life which may even have surpassed his sensational personal biography. He gained fame through adventurous and progressive landscape photography before working as a war and official government photographer; something which took him from the Lava beds of California during the Modoc War to Alaska and Central America.
Furthermore, Muybridge was instrumental in the development of instantaneous photography. To accomplish his famous motion sequence photography, Muybridge even designed his own high speed electronic shutter and electro-timer, to be used alongside a battery of up to twenty-four cameras!
While Muybridge’s motion sequences helped revolutionise still photography, the resultant photographs also punctuated the history of the motion picture. Muybridge actually came tantalisingly close to producing cinema himself with his projection device the ‘Zoöpraxiscope’. With this device, Muybridge lectured across Europe and America, using the Zoöpraxiscope to animate sequences from his motion studies.
One of the most fascinating things about Muybridge however, and something we hope to highlight here, is the relation of his body of work and working attitude to the equally astounding times in which he lived.
The 19th century, undoubtedly one of the most formative of the modern Western world, was as bent on progress, invention and innovation as Muybridge. Muybridge’s capacity for entrepreneurialism and progressive practice meant he invented photographic and moving image projection techniques which have helped build the motion picture industry we enjoy today. However, it also meant he documented some of the major events, and more subtly, the cultural and social landscape of the 19th century.
Per esempio quant’è sguaiato Artaud in questo testo ‘Eliogabalo o l’anarchico incoronato’ (1934), che l’altro giorno mi è saltato agli occhi nella camera di Federica e non ho potuto fare a meno di chiedere in prestito. E’ la prima volta che leggo Artaud in italiano
‘Se intorno al cadavere di Eliogabalo, morto senza tomba, e sgozzato dalla sua polizia nelle latrine di sangue e di escementi, intorno alla sua culla vi è un’intensa circolazione di sperma. Eliogabalo è nato in un’epoca in cui tutti fornicavano con tutti; nè si saprà mai dove e da chi fu realmente fecondata sua madre. Per un principe siriano, quale egli fu, la filiazione avviene attraverso le madri; – e, in fatto di madri, vi è intorno a questo figlio di cocchiere, appena nato, un pleiade di Giulie; – e ch’esse influiscano o no su un trono, tutte queste Giulie sono delle fiere puttane.’
‘Dall’alto delle torri costruite recentemente del suo tempio del dio pitico, egli [Eliogabalo] getta il grano e i membri virili.
Egli nutre un popolo castrato
Certo, non vi sono teorbe, tube, orchestre d’asor, in mezzo alle castrazioni che egli impone, ma che ogni volta impone come tante castrazioni personali, come se fosse egli stesso, Elagabalus, ad esser castrato. Sacchi di membri sono gettati dall’alto delle torri con la più crudele abbondanza nel giorno delle feste del dio Pizio.
Non giurerei che un’orchestra d’asor, o di nebel dalle corde stridule, dai vetri duri, non sia nascosta da qualche parte nei sotterranei delle torri a spirale, per coprire le grida dei parassiti che vengono castrati; ma a quelle grida di uomini martirizzati rispondono, quasi allo stesso tempo, le acclamazioni di un popolo festante, a cui Eliogabalo distribuisce il valore di parecchi campi di grano.
Il bene, il male, il sangue, lo sperma, i vini rosati, gli olii profumati, gli aromi più costosi creano, intorno alla generosità d’Eliogabalo, innumerevoli irrigazioni.
E la musica che esce di là trascende l’orecchio per raggiungere senza strumenti e senza orchestra lo spirito. Voglio dire che i ritornelli, gli arabeschi delle deboli orchestre non sono nulla vicino a questo flusso e riflusso, a questa marea che va e viene con strane dissonanze, dalla sua generosità alla sua crudeltà, dal suo gusto per il disordine alla ricerca di un ordine inapplicabile al mondo latino’
Aiuto, culle di sperma, piogge di membri virili, castrazioni pubbliche, lo scisma d’Irshu, lo zodiaco di Ram. Le Giulie, tutte puttane. Artaud soffriva di meningite e nevralgia, e si serviva di oppio per curare il dolore (ce n’eravamo accorti); l’opera di Artaud è delirio, spassosissimo delirio surrealista e le vicende e gli eccessi di Eliogabalo si prestato bene a soddisfare la morbosità di Artaud; il quadro sopra ‘The Roses of Heliogabalus’, del pittore olandese Lawrence Alma-Tadema, che Federica mi ha suggerito e di cui mi ha parlato, rappresenta appunto un mito secondo il quale Eliogabaldo, una sera e in occasione di un trionfale banchetto, uccise i suoi ospiti facendo cadere dal soffitto tonnellate di petali di rose.
Delle volte mi chiedo in che razza di prostrazione intellettuale deve essersi trovato Artaud per tirare fuori immagini così forti come quelle suggerite nelle sue opere. Quanto di vivo dev’esserci stato in tutto quel nervo malato strappato fuori dalle parole e chissà, curato solo attraverso la scrittura.
Ho trovato questa critica al testo, molto interessante, di Fabrizio Bandini (che io non conosco ma ringrazio per aver scritto e pubblicato online il testo)
ELIOGABALO, O L’ANARCHICO INCORONATO__________________________
Pubblicato in “Valley Life”, Anno III, n° 21 (2006)
L’Eliogabalo di Antonin Artaud è uno di quei rari libri che mostrano i simboli per come sono, nella loro essenza metafisica, e offrono squarci illuminanti sulla storia dell’uomo.
Artaud rilegge la biografia dell’imperatore romano, secondo una prospettiva metafisica assolutamente interessante, con molti punti di contatto con il pensiero tradizionalista, Guénon in primis, come nota giustamente Albino Galvano in una sua Prefazione al libro.
Eliogabalo, o l’anarchico incoronato, insomma, il dipinto di un’epoca affascinante e terribile, l’epoca dello sfacelo del grande Impero Romano, l’epoca del tracollo dell’Ordine, l’epoca della lotta fra il Femminile e il Maschile, l’epoca dell’esplodere del Caos.
Roma, oramai si era indebolita, politicamente, militarmente, e soprattutto spiritualmente.
L’antica etica, regale e nobile, che aveva forgiato l’Impero, oramai si era dissolta, e l’antica religione romana aveva aperto le porte da tempo ai culti matriarcali e tellurici dell’Asia minore.
Eliogabalo proviene proprio da quel pantano matriarcale, da Emesa, sacerdote effeminato di un culto solare posto sotto il dominio della Dea Madre, della Luna, del Femminile.
Quattro donne della sua stirpe si stagliano nella sua vita, imperiose, e forgiano letteralmente il suo destino: Giulia Domna, Giulia Mesa, Giulia Soemia e Giulia Mamea.
Sono donne forti, donne virili, donne sensuali, donne impudiche, donne prive di scrupoli, donne che fanno la storia e manipolano gli uomini, che d’altro canto appaiono deboli, passivi, invertiti ed effeminati.
Scrive Artaud: “Si può dire in proposito che Eliogabalo è stato fatto dalle donne…e che quando ha voluto pensare da sé, quando l’orgoglio del maschio frustrato dall’energia delle sue donne, delle sue madri, le quali hanno tutte fornicato con lui, ha voluto manifestarsi, si è visto cosa ne è risultato”.
La salita di Eliogabalo al trono imperiale di Roma, propiziata e voluta dalle virili e impudiche donne siriache della sua stirpe, segna uno dei punti più bassi nella decadenza dell’Impero.
Il disordine, l’anarchia, il caos, lo sconcio e la perversione travolgono tutto e tutti, senza pietà.
Roma entra nel Kali Yuga, in una atmosfera crepuscolare, da tregenda, il pantano Femminile spodesta l’ordine Maschile e virile, aprendo le porte al Caos.
La marcia di Eliogabalo sulla città eterna si assomiglia più ad un corteo dionisiaco, di falli, tori, baccanti, fanciulle ignude, ubriachi, pederasti, invertiti, e galli castrati, che ad un corteo imperiale.
Il sesso, il sangue, e l’ebbrezza, i tre segni del dionisiaco, vi dominano, scatenati.
Eliogabalo entra nella Città Eterna nell’autunno del 219.
“Davanti a lui vi è il Fallo, tirato da trecento fanciulle dai seni nudi che precedono i trecento tori, oramai intorpiditi e calmi…” scrive Artaud, “E, dietro ancora, le lettighe delle tre madri: Giulia Mesa, Giulia Soemia e Giulia Mamea…”.
Artaud paragona il suo ingresso a Roma ad un rito potente, ma invertito, dissolutore.
“Eliogabalo entra in Roma da dominatore, ma col didietro…Terminate le feste dell’incoronazione segnate da questa professione di fede pederastica…s’insedia con la nonna, la madre e la sorella di quest’ultima, la perfida Giulia Mamea, nel palazzo di Caracalla”.
Da quel giorno gli storici romani, Lampridio in testa, non fanno altro che annotare le turpitudini e le sconcezze del suo comportamento, con tono inorridito e schifato.
Artaud cita le fonti romane a man bassa e dispiega tutto il lungo elenco di scelleratezze dell’imperatore, che fa rimanere a bocca aperta.
Eliogabalo completamente succube della madre, Giulia Soemia, che non prende alcuna iniziativa di governo senza il suo consenso, mentre quella vive da meretrice e pratica ogni genere di lussuria; Eliogabalo che fa sedere la madre al Senato; Eliogabalo che istituisce un senatino delle donne; Eliogabalo che si veste da prostituta e si vende per quaranta soldi nelle strade di Roma; Eliogabalo che fa eleggere un ballerino a capo della sua guardia pretoriana; Eliogabalo che a Nicomedia si da alla più sordida depravazione, abbandonandosi con altri uomini a rapporti omosessuali attivi e passivi; Eliogabalo che sposa una vergine Vestale e profana i sacri culti romani.
E’ il trionfo del Caos, dell’anarchia, della dissoluzione.
L’Ordine decade totalmente, il Maschile si confonde con il Femminile, verso la dissoluzione completa dell’esistente, verso l’Unità originaria delle cose.
Eliogabalo, l’anarchico incoronato, anela a quell’Unità originaria delle cose, a quel Caos primordiale, secondo l’acuta interpretazione di Artaud, e per ripristinarlo spinge al massimo la via invertita della sovversione. Attore e spettatore, nello stesso tempo, di un terribile processo metastorico.
E’ troppo, Roma stessa non può più reggere.
La fine di Eliogabalo è nota: inseguito dai pretoriani venne trucidato in una latrina e gettato nel Tevere con la madre. Il suo regno era terminato. Un’altra tappa di un declino spaventoso.
L’Impero Romano non gli sopravvisse ancora a lungo.
When I go out into the countryside and see the sun and the green and everything flowering, I say to myself Yes indeed, all that belongs to me!.
Nothing makes me so happy as to observe nature and to paint what I see.
Beauty is the promise of happiness.
It is often said that my heart is too open for my own good.
I cannot now change my style, which I acquired, as you can imagine, by dint of labour.
via Henri Rousseau – ArtinthePicture.com.
Rousseau, Henri, called ‘le Douanier’ (1844 – 1910), was an amateur or ‘Sunday’ painter with a direct, simple and hauntingly naive vision who painted some unusually large and complicated pictures of elaborately fanciful and pituresquely exotic subjects in a matter-of-factly pedestrian technique and strong colour. He served as a Regimental bandsman – according to his own account, in Mexico in 1861-7, which provided him with his fantastic settings – and as a Sergeant in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-1. He entered the Paris municipal Customs service (hence ‘le Douanier’), and began painting about 1880, exhibiting at the Independants from 1886. A dinner in his honour was given in Picasso’s studio in 1908, and this gesture has played its part in the transmogrification of ‘le Douanier’ into a symbol of sophisticated interest in the pseudo – Primitive and in the opening of the floodgates of both psychological and the sentimental school of writers on art. He seems to have combined a certain peasant shrewdness and bland self-esteem with gullible simplemindedness; he kept a school where he taught elocution, music, and painting, wrote two plays, got himself involved, though guiltlessly, in a trial for fraud, and finally died, it is said, as a result of a disappointment in love in pursuit of a third wife.
There are works in London (Tate, Courtauld Inst.), New York (M of MA), Paris (Louvre), Zurich, and elsewhere.
Taken from ‘Dictionary of Art & Artists’, by Peter and Linda Murray, 1959
‘The ox becomes furious if a red cloth is shown to him; but the philosopher, who speaks of colour only in a general way, begins to rave’ – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (*)
L’800, il secolo delle isterie. Ho iniziato a leggere un saggio di Goethe, Theory of Colours, del 1810, nel quale lo scrittore s’impunta, ci tiene, a smentire una teoria messa a punto da Newton nel 1704 e presentata nell’ ‘Opticks: or a treatise of the reflexions, refractions, inflexions and colours of light’, considerato un caposaldo della letteratura scientifica (che io non ho letto).
Ho un po’ di pudore a dirlo ma sono dell’opinione non si dovrebbero mai scrivere libri quando si è al picco dell’innamoramento, un po’sudati, sovraeccitati, fuori controllo e disposti persino a negare l’evidenza; Newton considera la luce un cono bianco che proiettato attraverso un prisma dà esito a sette fasci di colore puro: rosso, arancione, giallo, verde, blu, indigo, viola (se avete presente la copertina di The dark side of the Moon). Goethe ci pensa sopra, si offende prima, lo snobba (come lo snobba)
‘Along with the rest of the world I was convinced that all the colours are contained in the light; no one had ever told me anything different, and I had never found the least cause to doubt it, because I had no further interest in the subject.’ (**)
e ‘Adesso ti sistemo io’, scrive un saggio dettagliatissimo al pari di Opticks in cui intende dimostrare, punto per punto, l’incantesimo della luce, gamma pressochè infinita di sfumature che attraverso lo spettro dell’anima, consentono allo sguardo di contemplare il mondo in posa estatica, al picco di una sindrome di Stendhal, soggiogati da un sortilegio, un idillio, al culmine della Lisztomania, rapiti da un incanto che è la vita a colori. Bha. E’ chiaro i romantici non vivevano in uno squash di periferia no furniture included a due passi da una zona industriale.
Eppure questa Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 scritta da Franz Liszt nel 1847 è talmente incantevole da rapire in un sogno. Pare Liszt abbia creato incredibile ammirazione ed estasi fra i suoi fan, una manata di isterici idealisti in lista dagli analisti nel ‘900.
L’800, il secolo dell’estasi.
(*)(**) taken from Theory of Colours, by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, 1810
_______________Chapter 1.Maslova in Prison_________________
Though hundreds of thousands had done their very best to disfigure the small piece of land on which they were crowded together, by paving the ground with stones, scraping away every vestige of vegetation, cutting down the trees, turning away birds and beasts, and filling the air with the smoke of naphtha and coal, still spring was spring, even in the town.
The sun shone warm, the air was balmy; everywhere, where it did not get scraped away, the grass revived and sprang up between the paving-stones as well as on the narrow strips of lawn on the boulevards. The birches, the poplars, and the wild cherry unfolded their gummy and fragrant leaves, the limes were expanding their opening buds; crows, sparrows, and pigeons, filled with the joy of spring, were getting their nests ready; the flies were buzzing along the walls, warmed by the sunshine. All were glad, the plants, the birds, the insects, and the children. But men, grown-up men and women, did not leave off cheating and tormenting themselves and each other. It was not this spring morning men thought sacred and worthy of consideration not the beauty of God’s world, given for a joy to all creatures, this beauty which inclines the heart to peace, to harmony, and to love, but only their own devices for enslaving one another.
Thus, in the prison office of the Government town, it was not the fact that men and animals had received the grace and gladness of spring that was considered sacred and important, but that a notice, numbered and with a superscription, had come the day before, ordering that on this 28th day of April, at 9 a.m., three prisoners at present detained in the prison, a man and two women (one of these women, as the chief criminal, to be conducted separately), had to appear at Court. So now, on the 28th of April, at 8 o’clock, a jailer and soon after him a woman warder with curly grey hair, dressed in a jacket with sleeves trimmed with gold, with a blue-edged belt round her waist, and having a look of suffering on her face, came into the corridor.
“You want Maslova?” she asked, coming up to the cell with the jailer who was on duty.
The jailer, rattling the iron padlock, opened the door of the cell, from which there came a whiff of air fouler even than that in the corridor, and called out, “Maslova! to the Court,” and closed the door again.
Even into the prison yard the breeze had brought the fresh vivifying air from the fields. But in the corridor the air was laden with the germs of typhoid, the smell of sewage, putrefaction, and tar; every newcomer felt sad and dejected in it. The woman warder felt this, though she was used to bad air. She had just come in from outside, and entering the corridor, she at once became sleepy.
From inside the cell came the sound of bustle and women’s voices, and the patter of bare feet on the floor.
“Now, then, hurry up, Maslova, I say!” called out the jailer, and in a minute or two a small young woman with a very full bust came briskly out of the door and went up to the jailer. She had on a grey cloak over a white jacket and petticoat. On her feet she wore linen stockings and prison shoes, and round her head was tied a white kerchief, from under which a few locks of black hair were brushed over the forehead with evident intent. The face of the woman was of that whiteness peculiar to people who have lived long in confinement, and which puts one in mind of shoots of potatoes that spring up in a cellar. Her small broad hands and full neck, which showed from under the broad collar of her cloak, were of the same hue. Her black, sparkling eyes, one with a slight squint, appeared in striking contrast to the dull pallor of her face.
She carried herself very straight, expanding her full bosom.
With her head slightly thrown back, she stood in the corridor, looking straight into the eyes of the jailer, ready to comply with any order.
The jailer was about to lock the door when a wrinkled and severe-looking old woman put out her grey head and began speaking to Maslova. But the jailer closed the door, pushing the old woman’s head with it. A woman’s laughter was heard from the cell, and Maslova smiled, turning to the little grated opening in the cell door. The old woman pressed her face to the grating from the other side, and said, in a hoarse voice:
“Now mind, and when they begin questioning you, just repeat over the same thing, and stick to it; tell nothing that is not wanted.”
“Well, it could not be worse than it is now, anyhow; I only wish it was settled one way or another.”
“Of course, it will be settled one way or another,” said the jailer, with a superior’s self-assured witticism. “Now, then, get along! Take your places!”
“It’s difficult to imagine an attraction more likely to appeal to the Londoners of 1783 than Kempelen’s chess-playing automaton. For in addiction to being a great center for chess, London was renowned for its enthusiasm for public displays of automata and other technological marvels. The arcades of Piccadilly, the streets of St.James’s, and the squares of Mayfair were home to several remarkable exhibitions of automata and other curiosities, open daily to the paying public.”
acclamato in tutta Europa dall’alta società illuminata di fine settecento, il Turco, un automa di legno, azionato all’interno da un complesso meccanismo di ingranaggi a carica, elegantemente vestito in abiti orientali, e perfettamente in grado di giocare a scacchi autonomamente, deve la propria fortuna all’ingegno di un grande uomo di talento e ambizione, l’ungherese di nascita Wolfgang von Kempelen, ufficiale di corte presso l’imperatrice Maria Teresa d’Austria.
The Turk, dello scrittore inglese Tom Standage (tomstandage.com), racconta di questa meravigliosa invenzione d’avvio alla progettazione di macchine più sofisticate utilizzate nei decenni a seguire, durante la prima fase della rivoluzione industriale; non solo, Il Turco anticipa di secoli la possibilità di creare delle macchine in grado di un’intelligenza artificiale (questo un meraviglioso articolo che si interroga circa gli humanoid robots e le ‘proprietà cognitive’ delle macchine: The Minds of Machines | Philosophy Now.)
La progettazione di automi risale agli inizi del 1700, ancora prima al quindicesimo secolo, quando già Leonardo da Vinci crea le bozze di un progetto straordinariamente visionario, una macchina volante studiata sulle sembianze di uccelli e pipistrelli (FLYING MACHINES – Leonardo da Vinci)
Gli automi creati all’inizio del diciottesimo secolo si basavano su complicati e pesanti meccanismi simili nel funzionamento a degli orologi; alcuni di questi così straordinariamente ben fatti da essere all’origine di curiose leggende; Standage racconta di un’automa capace di suonare l’arpa e invitato alla corte del re francese Luigi XV, il quale si disse talmente estasiato dalla bravura di questi da volerne scoprire in dettaglio il meccanismo. Aperta la macchina, il re vi trovò all’interno un bambino di cinque anni.
Il Turco fu soprattutto all’origine di interessanti dibattiti che stimolarono matematici, ingegneri e pensatori a comprenderne funzionalità ed eventuali applicazioni future; a rendere l’automa affascinante era specialmente l’incredibile maestria di cui era capace nel gioco degli scacchi (ragione per cui i più scettici dubitarono del genio di Wolfgang von Kempelen assumendo a un inganno e a un segreto, mai rivelato del tutto). L’automa non era solo in grado di giocare a scacchi, ma di vincere almeno otto partite su dieci e tante furono le personalità che vi si trovarono a perdere una partita contro; fra questi Benjamin Franklin (grande appassionato di scacchi e autore del saggio ‘The Moral of Chess‘), Caterina la Grande– Imperatrice di Russia, Charles Babbage, persino Edgard Allan Poe e più tardi l’imperatore Napoleone, in quello che fu un tour di partite e spettacoli intorno all’Europa e fino in America, a cavallo tra illuminismo e romantico futurismo.
“Of all the cities of Europe, two were renowned for their enthusiasm for chess during the eighteenth century: Paris and London. Chess had been a popular pastime in coffeehouses in both cities since the beginning of the century and enjoyed a period of heightened popularity in the 1770s and 1780s, when it became extremely fashionable in high society. As the nearer of the two cities to Vienna, Paris was the logical place for the first stop on the Turk’s tour of Europe.
As the French writer Denis Diderot put it in 1761, “Paris is the place in the world, and the Café de la Régence the place in Paris where this game is played best.” The Café de la Régence was a coffeehouse founded in the 1680s, and by the 1740s it had become the most prominent haunt of chess players in the city. Well-known intellectuals who were regulars at the café over the years included the philosophers Voltaire and Jean- Jacques Rousseau, the American statesman scientist Benjamin Franklin, and even the young Napoleon Bonaparte.”
taken from ‘The Turk’ by Tom Standage, chap. three, ‘A Most Charming Contraption’
John Atkinson Grimshaw was a Leeds-born painter famous for his moonlit city scenes and landscapes. In 1861, and in the face of parental opposition, Grimshaw left his job as a clerk to pursue a career in art.
He began exhibiting in 1862 under the patronage of Leeds Philosophical and Literary Society. He retained strong links with the city throughout his life and is buried in Woodhouse cemetery.
Working in the tradition of Pre-Raphaelite art, Grimshaw demonstrated an attention to detail, matched to a remarkable skill in rendering lighting effects, which ensured his success.
By the 1880s Grimshaw had a studio in Chelsea near James Whistler who, whilst painting in a starkly different style, praised the undoubted effectiveness of his moonlit scenes.
Unlike the Pre-Raphaelite artists, Grimshaw painted the modern world, but his scenes of the docks of Liverpool and Glasgow, sharply focussed and theatrically lit, create a lyrical, romantic mood.
Grimshaw’s artistic reputation has suffered the same decline as many of his contemporaries, but there has recently been a revival of interest in his work, reflected in the major exhibition taking place at Harrogate’s Mercer Art Gallery in 2011 as part of Art in Yorkshire – supported by Tate.
via Art In Yorkshire
John Atkinson Grimshaw – The complete works.
- Atkinson Grimshaw: Painter of moonlight – picture preview (independent.co.uk)
Opera del caso #5
Neo- Impressionism has, properly speaking, little to do with Impressionism. In its purest form, as it is found in Seurat , it involves the use of Divisionism and a strict, formal composition; both were too cerebral and too consciously applied by the artist to have much relation to the fleeting color effects and the accidental, ‘snapshot’ composition of Impressionism. Neo- Impressionism was first seen in an exhibition held in 1884 in Paris by the Salon des Artistes Indipendants, where Seurat exhibited the Bathers at Asnieres (London, Tate), and in 1886 Seurat, Signac, and Pissarro all showed works based on Seurat’s theories at the last Impressionist exhibition, hence the tendency to regard the movement as an offshoot of Impressionism. According to Signac it ‘guaranteed all the benefits of luminosity , colors, and harmony by the optical mixture of pure pigments (all the colors of the prism and all their tones); by the separation of differing elements (local colors, the color of the light, and their interactions); by the balancing of these elements and their proportions (according to the laws of contrasts, of gradation, and irradiation); by the selection of a size of touch proportionate to the size of the picture.’
The theory had a strong but passing effect on Van Gogh during his years in Paris (1886-8), on Gaugain c.1886, on Toulouse-Lautrec c.1887, and on Segantini c.1891; other adherents include Maximilien Luce (1854-1926), Albert Dubois-Pillet (1846-90), and Theo van Rysselberghe (1862-1926).
[taken from The Dictionary of Art and Artists by Peter and Linda Murray, Penguin,1959]
- Georges Seurat [1859-1891; Pointillism] (only10000hours.wordpress.com)
‘Witness, Heaven, how often I lie down in my bed with a wish, and even a hope, that I may never awaken again. And in the morning, when I open my eyes, I behold the sun once more, and am wretched. If I were whimsical, I might blame the weather, or an acquaintance, or some personal disappointment, for my discontented mind; and then this insupportable load of trouble would not rest entirely upon myself. But, alas! I feel it too sadly. I am alone the cause of my own woe, am I not? Truly, my own bosom contains the source of all my sorrow, as it previously contained the source of all my pleasure. Am I not the same being who once enjoyed an excess of happiness, who, at every step, saw paradise open before him, and whose heart was ever expanded toward the whole world? And this heart is now dead, no sentiment can revive it; my eyes are dry; and my senses, no more refreshed by the influence of soft tears, wither and consume my brain. I suffer much, for I have lost the only charm of life: that active, sacred power which created worlds around me, — it is no more. When I look from my window at the distant hills, and behold the morning sun breaking through the mists, and illuminating the country around, which is still wrapped in silence, whilst the soft stream winds gently through the willows, which have shed their leaves; when glorious nature displays all her beauties before me, and her wondrous prospects are ineffectual to extract one tear of joy from my withered heart, I feel that in such a moment I stand like a reprobate before heaven, hardened, insensible, and unmoved. Oftentimes do I then bend my knee to the earth, and implore God for the blessing of tears, as the desponding labourer in some scorching climate prays for the dews of heaven to moisten his parched corn.
But I feel that God does not grant sunshine or rain to our importunate entreaties. And oh, those bygone days, whose memory now torments me! why were they so fortunate? Because I then waited with patience for the blessings of the Eternal, and received his gifts with the grateful feelings of a thankful heart.’
Taken from ‘The Sorrows of Young Werther‘ by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Fernando Vicente Vanitas: Vanitas – Corazonada.
This piece represents the perpetual conflict between the Id and the Ego. The bass, repetitive, shows the selfishness of the Id constantly trying to feed its basic desires. The right hand depicts the delicacy, fragility and humanity of the Ego. At 2:14, the Id starts to seek different, darker desires. The Ego, resistant, will not so easily let the Id satisfy his evil desires and takes action against it. The battle starts. The ego keeps refusing and fights for goodness.
The battle leads to a peaceful negotiation at 3:02. The Id, sure of itself, lets the Ego get tired of exposing his meaningless arguments. The Id knows it will always win. The Ego finally runs out of arguments at 3:25. The Id shows its power by crushing the Ego. At 3:50, the Ego understood and will not fool around with the Id anymore. First theme comes back, life coming back to its old, usual routine.
Life itself is not the reality. We are the ones who put life into stones and pebbles.
Il potente fascino che esercita la fotografia è intrinseco alla morbosità di ciascuno suscettibile all’estetica del bello,romantico e decadente.Quanto più una fotografia dettagliata nelle intenzioni del fotografo,tanto più questa susciterà in noi il sospetto di un’emozione antica, legata a una remota convinzione del Sublime. Un meravigliso saggio che sto leggendo,On Photography,del 1977,della scrittrice newyorkese Susan Sontag,positive feminist,attivista politica,morta nel 2004, è altamente godibile,a mio parere,non solo per l’analisi che la Sontag fa della fotografia dal punto di vista analitico ed estetico,morale e filosofico,ma anche,se non soprattutto,per l’eleganza della prosa sottilmente provocatoria,le incredibili intuizioni frasali d’irriverenza fulminea e la ricercatezza e insieme limpidezza del vocabolario, volutamente accurato e puntiglioso.
Questo il sito in suo onore dove trovare articoli e biografia della scrittrice
Sotto una parte del testo tratto dal capitolo primo- In Plato’s Cave
Recently, photography has become almost as widely practiced an amusement as sex and dancing – which means that, like every mass art form, photography is not practiced by most people as an art. it is mainly a social rite, a defense against anxiety, and a tool of power.
Memorializing the achievement of individuals considered as members of families (as well as of other groups), is the earliest popular use of photography. For at least a century, the wedding photograph has been as much a part of the ceremony as the prescribed verbal formulas. Cameras go with family life. According to a sociological study done in France, most households have a camera, but a household with children is twice as likely to have at least one camera as a household in which there are no children. Not to take pictures of one’s children, particularly when they are small, is a sign on parental indifference, just as not turning up for one’s graduation picture is a gesture of adolescent rebellion.
Through photographs, each family constructs as portrait-chronicle of itself – a portable kit of images that bears witness to its connectedness. It hardly matters what activities are photographed so long as photographs get taken and are cherished. Photography becomes a rite of family life just when, in the industrializing counties of Europe and America, the very institution of the family starts undergoing radical surgery. At that claustrophobic unit, the nuclear family, was being carved out of a much larger family aggregate, photography came along to memorialize, to restate symbolically, the imperiled continuity and vanishing extendedness of family life. Those ghostly traces, photographs, supply the token presence of the dispersed relatives. A family’s photograph album is generally about the extended family – and, often, is all the remains of it.
As photographs give people an imaginary possession of a past that is unreal, they also help people to take possession of space in which they are insecure. Thus, photography develops in tandem with one of the most characteristic of modern activities: tourism. For the first time in history, large numbers of people regularly travel out of their habitual environments for short periods of time. It seems positively unnatural to travel for pleasure without taking a camera along. Photographs will offer indisputable evidence that the trip was made, that the program was carried out, that fun was had. Photographs document sequences of consumption carried on outside the view of family, friends, neighbors. But dependence on the camera, as the device that makes real what one is experiencing, doesn’t fade when people travel more. Taking photographs fills the same need for the cosmopolitans accumulating photograph-trophies of their boat trip up the Albert Nile or their fourteen days in China as it does for lower-middle-class vacationers taking snapshots of Eiffel Tower or Niagara Falls.
A way of certifying experience, taking photographs is also a way of refusing it – by limiting experience to a search for the photogenic, by converting experience in an image, a souvenir. Travel becomes a strategy for accumulating photographs. The very activity of taking pictures is soothing, and assuages general feelings of disorientation that are likely to be exacerbated by travel. Most tourists feel compelled to put the camera between themselves and whatever is remarkable that they encounter. Unsure of other responses, they take a picture. This gives shape to experience: stop, take a photograph, and move on. The method especially appeals to people handicapped by a ruthless work ethic – Germans, Japanese, and Americans. Using a camera appeases the anxiety which the work-driven feel about not working when they are on vacation and supposed to be having fun. They have something to do that is like a friendly imitation of work: they can take pictures.
People robbed of their past seem to make the most fervent picture takers, at home and abroad. Everyone who lives in an industrialized society is obliged gradually to give up the past, but in certain countries, such as the United States and Japan, the break with the past has been particularly traumatic. In the early 1970s, the fable of the brash American tourist of the 1950s and 1960s, rich with dollars and Babbittry, was replaced by the mystery of the group-minded Japanese tourist, newly released from his island prison by the miracle of overvalued yen, who is generally armed with two cameras, one on each hip.
Photography has become one of the principal devices for experiencing something, for giving an appearance of participation. One full-page ad shows a small group of people standing pressed together, peering out of the photograph, all but one looking stunned, excited, upset. The one who wears a different expression holds a camera to his eye; he seems self-possessed, is almost smiling. While the others are passive, clearly alarmed spectators, having a camera has transformed one person into something active, a voyeur: only he has mastered the situation. What do these people see? We don’t know. And it doesn’t matter. It is an Event: something worth seeing – and therefore worth photographing. The ad copy, whit letters across the dark lower third of the photograph like news coming over a teletype machine, consists of just six words: “. . . Prague . . . Woodstock . . . Vietnam . . . Sapporo . . . Londonderry . . . LEICA.” Crushed hopes, youth antics, colonial wars, and winter sports are alike – are equalized by the camera. Taking photographs has set up a chronic voyeuristic relation to the world which levels the meaning of all events.
A photograph is not just the result of an encounter between an event and a photographer; picture-taking is an event in itself, and one with ever more peremptory rights – to interfere with, to invade, or to ignore whatever is going on. Our very sense of situation is now articulated by the camera’s interventions. The omnipresence of cameras persuasively suggests that time consists of interesting events, events worth photographing. This, in turn, makes it easy to feel that any event, once underway, and whatever its moral character, should be allowed to complete itself – so that something else can be brought into the world, the photograph. After the event has ended, the picture will still exist, conferring on the event a kind of immortality (and importance) it would never otherwise have enjoyed. While real people are out there killing themselves or other real people, the photographer stays behind his or her camera, creating a tiny element of another world: the images-world that bids to outlast us all.
Photographing is essentially an act of non-intervention. Part of the horror of such memorable coups of contemporary photojournalism as the pictures of a Vietramese bonze reaching for the gasoline can, of a Begnali guerrilla in the act of bayoneting a trussed-up collaborator, comes from the awareness of how plausible it has become, in situations where the photographer has the choice between a photograph and a life, to choose the photograph. The person who intervenes cannot record; the person who is recording cannot intervene. Dziga Vertov’s great film, Man with a Movie Camera (1929), gives the ideal image of the photographer as someone in perpetual movement, someone moving through a panorama of disparate events with such agility and speed that any intervention is out of question. Hitchcock’s Rear Window (1954) gives the complementary image: the photographer played by James Stewart has an intensified relation to one event, through his camera, precisely because he has a broken leg. And is confined to a wheelchair; being temporarily immobilized prevents him from acting on what he sees, and makes it even more important to take pictures. Even if incompatible with intervention in a physical sense, using a camera is still a form of participation. Although the camera in an observation station, the act of photographing is more that passive observing. Like sexual voyeurism, it is a way of at least tacitly, often explicitly, encouraging whatever is going on to keep on happening. To take a picture is to have n interest in things as they are, in the status quo remaining unchanged (at least for as long as it takes to get a “good” picture), to be in complicity with whatever makes a subject interesting, worth photographing – including, when that is the interest, another person’s pain or misfortune.
The industrialization of photography permitted its rapid absorption into rational-that is, bureaucratic-ways of running society.No longer toy images, photographs became part of the general furniture of the environment – touchstones and confirmations of that reductive approach to reality which is considered realistic. Photographs were enrolled in the service of important institution of control,notably the family and the police, as symbolic objects and as pieces of information.Thus, in the bureaucratic cataloguing of the world,many important documents are not valid unless they have,affixed to them,a photograph-token of the citizen’s face.
The “realistic” view of the world compatible with bureaucracy redefines knowledge- as techniques and information. Photographs are valued because they give information. They tell one what there is; they make an inventory. To spies, meteorologists, coroners, archeologists, and other information professionals,their value is inestimable. But in the situation in which most people use photographs,the value as information is of the same order as fiction. The information that photographs can give starts to seem very important at that moment in cultural history when everyone is thought to have a right to something called news. Photographs were seen as a way of giving information to people who do not take easily to reading. The Daily News still calls itself “New York’s Picture Newspaper”, its bid for populist identity. At the opposite end of the scale, Le Monde, a newspaper designed for skilled, well-informed readers, runs no photography at all. The presumption is that, for such readers, a photograph could only illustrate the analysis contained in n article.
A new sense of the notion of information has been constructed around the photographic image. The photograph is a thin slice of space as well as time. In a world ruled by photographic images, all borders (“framing”) seem arbitrary. Anything can be separated, can be made discontinuous, from anything else all that is necessary is to frame the subject differently ( Conversely,anything can be made adjacent to anything else. Photography reinforces a nominalist view of social reality as consisting of small units of an apparently infinite number- as the number of photographs that could be taken of anything is unlimited. Through photographs, the world becomes a series of unrelated, freestanding particles; and history, past and present, a set of anecdotes and faits divers. The camera makes reality atomic, manageable, and opaque. It is a view of the world which denies interconnectedness, continuity, but which confers on each moment the character of a mystery. Any photograph has multiple meanings, indeed, to see something in the form of a photograph is to encounter a potential object of fascination. The ultimate wisdom of the photograph image is to say: “There is surface. Now think- or rather feel, intuit- what is beyond it, what the reality must be like if it looks this way.” Photographs, which cannot themselves explain anything, are inexhaustible invitations to deduction, speculation, and fantasy.
Photography implies that we know about the world if we accept it as camera records it. But this is the opposite of understanding, which starts from not accepting the world as it looks. All possibility of understanding is rooted in the ability to say no. Strictly speaking, one never understands anything from a photograph. Of course, photographs fill in blanks in our mental pictures of the present and the past: for example, Jacob Riis’s images of New York squalor in the 1880s are sharply instructive to those unaware that urban poverty in late-nineteenth- century America was really that Dickensian. Nevertheless, the camera’s rendering of reality must always hide more than it discloses. As Brecht points out, a photograph of the Krupp works reveals virtually nothing about that organization. In contrast to the amorous relation, which is based on how it functions. And functioning takes place in time, and must be explained in time. Only that which narrates can make us understand.
The limit of photographic knowledge of the world is that, while it can goad conscience, it can, finally, never be ethical or political knowledge. The knowledge gained through still photographs will always be some kind of sentimentalism, whenever cynical or humanist. It will be a knowledge at bargains prices- a semblance of knowledge, a semblance of wisdom; as the act of taking pictures is a semblance of appropriation, a semblance of rape. The very muteness of what is, hypothetically, comprehensive in photographs is what constitute their attraction and provocativeness. The omnipresence of photographs has an incalculable effect on our ethical sensibility. By furnishing this already crowded world whit a duplicate one of images, photography makes us feel that the world is more available than it really is.
Needing to ha reality confirmed and experience enhanced by photographs is an aesthetic consumerism to which everyone is now addicted. Industrial societies turn their citizens into image-junkies; it is the most irresistible form of mental pollution. Poignant longings for beauty, for an end to probing below the surface, for a redemption and celebration of the body of the world- all these elements of erotic feeling are affirmed in the pleasure we take in photographs. But other, less liberating feelings are expressed as well. It would not be wrong to speak of people having a compulsion to photograph: to turn experience itself into a way of seeing. Ultimately, having an experience becomes identical with taking a photograph of it, and participating in a public event comes more and more equivalent to looking at it in photographed form. That most logical of nineteenth-century aesthetes, Mallarmè, said that everything in the world exists in order to end in a book. Today everything exists to end in a photograph.
Taken from “On Photography”by Susan Sontag,1977
Jacob August Riis (May 3, 1849 – May 26, 1914),Danish American social reformer, “muckraking” journalist and social documentary photographer (New York based photographer)
Intervistatore Anonimo:Secondo un sondaggio della nostra redazione-“Qual’è il romanzo a cui siete maggiormente affezionati?”(sondaggio a cui solo un Utente Misterioso ha dato risposta)-è emerso “Resurrezione” in testa alla classifica.
Lev Tolstoj:Bhe,sono soddisfatto,spasiba.
Intervistatore Anonimo:Vorrebbe parlarcene per favore?
Lev Tolstoj: Con piacere.A quei tempi ero poco più che sessantenne e trascorrevo le mie giornate in casa,nella mia tenuta,Jasnaja Poljana(dal russo Radura Serena),dove sono nato e cresciuto.Correva il 1889,e ricordo di un pomeriggio d’autunno che il televisore smise di funzionare.Tutto a un tratto.E’ chiaro mi preoccupai di chiamare il tecnico (il quale disse sarebbe arrivato quanto prima).Lei capisce,avendo,da quel momento, tempo a mia disposizione,pensai bene di iniziare a scrivere il romanzo
Intervistatore Anonimo:Il tecnico si fece mai vivo?
Lev Tolstoj: Si,dopo dieci anni.
Intervistatore Anonimo: Dunque,se capisco bene,lei ha impiegato dieci anni per scrivere Resurrezione..
Lev Tolstoj: Esatto.Dieci anni.
Intervistatore Anonimo: Vorrebbe raccontare ai nostri lettori la trama?
Lev Tolstoj: Dunque,Resurrezione prende spunto da una storia realmente accaduta raccontatami da un mio caro amico,il compagno Koni,il quale mi riferì della condanna a quattro mesi di reclusione, per furto,di una ragazzina orfana appena sedicenne ospite da parenti. Pare la ragazzina fosse stata sedotta da un componente della famiglia,ingravidata, e poi,a causa di questo,cacciata via di casa. La ragazzina,rimasta sola,inizierà ad arrangiarsi come è possibile in condizioni di miseria,fino a prostituirsi e commettere un furto; presentatasi alla corte di giustizia,la ragazzina vedrà fra la giuria proprio quel mascalzone che era stato responsabile della sua misera e del suo abbandono. Mortificato dai risentimenti,l’uomo deciderà di sposarla,sebbene la ragazzina dovrà prima scontare quattro mesi di prigionia e si ammalerà di tifo da lì a pochi mesi,fino a morire.
Intervistatore Anonimo: Dunque è questa la storia di Katusha Maslova ,la protagonista del suo romanzo.
Lev Tolstoj: Si,esatto.
Intervistatore Anonimo:Corre voce lei sia stato accusato di avere sedotto una cameriera in casa di una sua zia e che questa cameriera,a causa delle sue avance,sia stata licenziata.Di lei non si ebbero mai più notizie.
Lev Tolstoj: Lei come fa a sapere di questo gossip?
Intervistatore Anonimo: E’ quello che dicono i giornali scandalistici di tutto il mondo; ci sono documentazioni al riguardo.
Lev Tolstoj: Ebbene si,lo ammetto,è vero.
Intervistatore Anonimo: Si dice anche lei abbia avuto un affair con una contadina sposata,da cui è nato un bambino-che lei non ha voluto riconoscere.
Lev Tolstoj: Si,ammetto anche questo.
Intervistatore Anonimo: Dunque lei starebbe confermando di essere uno sporcaccione?
Lev Tolstoj: Questo non è corretto. Diciamo soltanto non ho mai disdegnato la compagnia delle donne.
Intervistatore Anonimo:Sarebbe allora per riscattarsi del senso di colpa che lei avrebbe scritto Resurrezione
Lev Tolstoj: Lo ammetto,diciamo pure ho scritto Resurrezione per riscattarmi del senso di colpa,ma nel mio libro cerco di affrontare anche altre tematiche..
Intervistatore Anonimo: Per esempio?
Lev Tolstoj: Per esempio la quanto tentata tanto mancata emancipazione dei contadini, i soprusi dei proprietari terrieri ai loro danni,l’ingiustizia sociale,la corruzione dell’apparato giudiziario
Intervistatore Anonimo: E lei per riscattarsi di questo senso di colpa non trova di meglio da fare che sfoderare il buonismo e pietismo cristiano,e per farlo,si permette persino di scomodare Gesù Cristo in persona citandone il sermone (Il Discorso della Montagna)agli apostoli? Non le pare patetico appellarsi all’amore fraterno e alla redenzione per scagionarsi di un’accusa di cui,lei per primo e ipocritamente,rimprovera l’immoralità?
Lev Tolstoj: Il Discorso della Montagna mi pare funzionale al fine del romanzo ,senza contare ho soltanto preso spunto dall’esempio cattolico. Mi pare puntare il dito,accusare il prossimo dei peccati di cui la Chiesa in persona si è sempre macchiata,è tradizione quanto mai antica che risale alle origini stesse dell’istituzione cristiana.
Intervistatore Anonimo: Lei predica bene e razzola male.Non vorrà dirmi di essere stato anche l’amante di Anna Karenina!
Lev Tolstoj: No,questo mai. Anna Karenina era una nobildonna. E anche qualora avessi sedotto Anna,nessuno si sarebbe permesso mai di ridurre in miseria una nobildonna. Soltanto la servitù…
Intervistatore Anonimo: Soltanto la servitù,la povera gente,è costretta a pagare il prezzo più alto delle ingiustizie sociali
Lev Tolstoj: Questo è giusto quello di cui parlo nel mio libro.
Intervistatore Anonimo: Lei è proprio un paraculo,sa?
Lev Tolstoj: Mi perdoni,ma è stata lei a chiedermi un’intervista..Bisognerebbe chiedere a quell’unico Utente Misterioso perché di tutti i libri possibili e immaginabili abbia scelto proprio Resurrezione.
Intervistatore Anonimo: Immagino per il senso di solidarietà che l’Utente Misterioso prova nei confronti di Katjusha e perché al di là della sua proverbiale bacchettonaggine,Resurrezione rimane un capolavoro,insieme con Anna Karenina,della letteratura russa.
Lev Tolstoj: Meno male. C’è altro che vuole chiedermi?
Intervistatore Anonimo: Più che una domanda,ho da farle una raccomandazione. In una seconda vita,si ricordi di chiedere al tecnico di accorciare i tempi di pronto soccorso. 480 pagine di lettura, e quasi mille nel caso di Anna Karenina,mi sembrano uno sforzo più che sovraumano da sostenere per qualsiasi lettore a lei affezionato.
(Sotto una parte del libro,capitolo 53,in cui Nekhludoff-alter ego di Tolstoj,chiamato alla corte per giudicare Katusha-si imbatte in un gruppo di detenuti in carcere,costretti a una punizione severa a causa di una mancata convalida del passaporto.Interessante,a questo proposito,ricordare il romanzo “Memorie dalla casa dei morti“,di Fëdor Mikhailovič Dostoevskij, nel quale lo scrittore racconta del periodo di prigionia in Siberia e,come Tolstoj,fa riferimento Al discorso della Montagna di rimando alla carità cristiana. Del 1973 Arcipelago Gulag,di Aleksandr Solženicyn,libro in tre tomi nel quale lo scrittore racconta dei Gulag-campi di lavoro forzato in cui venivano detenuti i criminali e,principalmente,gli oppositori politici,i dissidenti dell’Unione Sovietica )
CHAPTER LIII. VICTIMS OF GOVERNMENT
Passing back along the broad corridor (it was dinner time, and the cell doors were open), among the men dressed in their light yellow cloaks, short, wide trousers, and prison shoes, who were looking eagerly at him, Nekhludoff felt a strange mixture of sympathy for them, and horror and perplexity at the conduct of those who put and kept them here, and, besides, he felt, he knew not why, ashamed of himself calmly examining it all.
In one of the corridors, some one ran, clattering with his shoes, in at the door of a cell. Several men came out from here, and stood in Nekhludoff’s way, bowing to him.
“Please, your honour (we don’t know what to call you), get our affair settled somehow.”
“I am not an official. I know nothing about it.”
“Well, anyhow, you come from outside; tell somebody–one of the authorities, if need be,” said an indignant voice. “Show some pity on us, as a human being. Here we are suffering the second month for nothing.”
“What do you mean? Why?” said Nekhludoff.
“Why? We ourselves don’t know why, but are sitting here the second month.”
“Yes, it’s quite true, and it is owing to an accident,” said the inspector. “These people were taken up because they had no passports, and ought to have been sent back to their native government; but the prison there is burnt, and the local authorities have written, asking us not to send them on. So we have sent all the other passportless people to their different governments, but are keeping these.”
“What! For no other reason than that?” Nekhludoff exclaimed, stopping at the door.
A crowd of about forty men, all dressed in prison clothes, surrounded him and the assistant, and several began talking at once. The assistant stopped them.
“Let some one of you speak.”
A tall, good-looking peasant, a stone-mason, of about fifty, stepped out from the rest. He told Nekhludoff that all of them had been ordered back to their homes and were now being kept in prison because they had no passports, yet they had passports which were only a fortnight overdue. The same thing had happened every year; they had many times omitted to renew their passports till they were overdue, and nobody had ever said anything; but this year they had been taken up and were being kept in prison the second month, as if they were criminals.
“We are all masons, and belong to the same artel. We are told that the prison in our government is burnt, but this is not our fault. Do help us.”
Nekhludoff listened, but hardly understood what the good-looking old man was saying, because his attention was riveted to a large, dark-grey, many-legged louse that was creeping along the good-looking man’s cheek.
“How’s that? Is it possible for such a reason?” Nekhludoff said, turning to the assistant.
“Yes, they should have been sent off and taken back to their homes,” calmly said the assistant, “but they seem to have been forgotten or something.”
Before the assistant had finished, a small, nervous man, also in prison dress, came out of the crowd, and, strangely contorting his mouth, began to say that they were being ill-used for nothing.
“Worse than dogs,” he began.
“Now, now; not too much of this. Hold your tongue, or you know–”
“What do I know?” screamed the little man, desperately. “What is our crime?”
“Silence!” shouted the assistant, and the little man was silent.
“But what is the meaning of all this?” Nekhludoff thought to himself as he came out of the cell, while a hundred eyes were fixed upon him through the openings of the cell doors and from the prisoners that met him, making him feel as if he were running the gauntlet.
“Is it really possible that perfectly innocent people are kept here?” Nekhludoff uttered when they left the corridor.
“What would you have us do? They lie so. To hear them talk they are all of them innocent,” said the inspector’s assistant. “But it does happen that some are really imprisoned for nothing.”
“Well, these have done nothing.”
“Yes, we must admit it. Still, the people are fearfully spoilt. There are such types–desperate fellows, with whom one has to look sharp. To-day two of that sort had to be punished.”
“Flogged with a birch-rod, by order.”
“But corporal punishment is abolished.”
“Not for such as are deprived of their rights. They are still liable to it.”
Nekhludoff thought of what he had seen the day before while waiting in the hall, and now understood that the punishment was then being inflicted, and the mixed feeling of curiosity, depression, perplexity, and moral nausea, that grew into physical sickness, took hold of him more strongly than ever before.
Without listening to the inspector’s assistant, or looking round, he hurriedly left the corridor, and went to the office. The inspector was in the office, occupied with other business, and had forgotten to send for Doukhova. He only remembered his promise to have her called when Nekhludoff entered the office.
“Sit down, please. I’ll send for her at once,” said the inspector.
Taken from Resurrection by Lev Tolstoj
Some time erst there was a man who had accumulated debts, and his case was straitened upon him so that he left his people and family and went forth in distraction, and he ceased not wandering on at random till he came after a time to a city tall of walls and firm of foundations. He entered it in a state of despondency and despair, harried by hunger and worn with the weariness of his way. As he passed through one of the main streets, he saw a company of the great going along, so he followed them till they reached a house like to a royal palace. He entered with them, and they stayed not faring forward till they came in presence of a person seated at the upper end of a saloon, a man of the most dignified and majestic aspect, surrounded by pages and eunuchs, as he were of the sons of the wazirs. When he saw the visitors, he rose to greet them and received them with honor, but the poor man aforesaid was confounded at his own boldness when beholding the goodliness of the place and the crowd of servants and attendants, so drawing back in perplexity and fear for his life, sat down apart in a place afar off, where none should see him.
Now it chanced that whilst he was sitting, behold, in came a man with four sporting dogs, whereon were various kinds of raw silk and brocade and wearing round their necks collars of gold with chains of silver, and tied up each dog in a place set privy for him. After which he went out and presently returned with four dishes of gold, full of rich meats, which he set severally before the dogs, one for each. Then he went away and left them, whilst the poor man began to eye the food for stress of hunger, and longed to go up to one of the dogs and eat with him. But fear of them withheld him. Presently, one of the dogs looked at him and Allah Almighty inspired the dog with a knowledge of his case, so he drew back from the platter and signed to the man, who came and ate till he was filled. Then he would have withdrawn, but the dog again signed to him to take for himself the dish and what food was left in it, and pushed it toward him with his forepaw. So the man took the dish and leaving the house, went his way, and none followed him.
Then he journeyed to another city, where he sold the dish and buying with the price a stock in trade, returned to his own town. There he sold his goods and paid his debts, and he throve and became affluent and rose to perfect prosperity. He abode in his own land, but after some years had passed he said to himself, “Needs must I repair to the city of the owner of the dish, and carry him a fit and handsome present and pay him the money value of that which his dog bestowed upon me.” So he took the price of the dish and a suitable gift, and setting out, journeyed day and night till he came to that city. He entered it and sought the place where the man lived, but he found there naught save ruins moldering in row and croak of crow, and house and home desolate and all conditions in changed state. At this, his heart and soul were troubled, and he repeated the saying of him who saith:
“Void are the private rooms of treasury.
As void were hearts of fear and piety.
Changed is the wady, nor are its gazelles
Those fawns, nor sand hills those I wont to see.”
Now when the man saw these moldering ruins and witnessed what the hand of time had manifestly done with the place, leaving but traces of the substantial things that erewhiles had been, a little reflection made it needless for him to inquire of the case, so he turned away. Presently, seeing a wretched man, in a plight which made him shudder and feel goose skin, and which would have moved the very rock to ruth, he said to him: “Ho, thou! What have time and fortune done with the lord of this place? Where are his lovely faces, his shining full moons and splendid stars? And what is the cause of the ruin that is come upon his abode, so that nothing save the walls thereof remain?” Quoth the other: “He is the miserable thou seest mourning that which hath left him naked. But knowest thou not the words of the Apostle (whom Allah bless and keep!), wherein is a lesson to him who will learn by it and a warning to whoso will be warned thereby and guided in the right way, ‘Verily it is the way of Allah Almighty to raise up nothing of this world, except He cast it down again’?
“If thou question of the cause of this accident, indeed it is no wonder, considering the chances and changes of Fortune. I was the lord of this place and I builded it and founded it and owned it, and I was the proud possessor of its full moons lucent and its circumstance resplendent and its damsels radiant and its garniture magnificent, but Time turned and did away from me wealth and servants and took from me what it had lent (not given), and brought upon me calamities which it held in store hidden. But there must needs be some reason for this thy question, so tell it me and leave wondering.”
Thereupon the man who had waxed wealthy, being sore concerned, told him the whole story, and added: “I have brought thee a present, such as souls desire, and the price of thy dish of gold which I took; for it was the cause of my affluence after poverty, and of the replenishment of my dwelling place after desolation, and of the dispersion of my trouble and straitness.” But the man shook his head and weeping and groaning and complaining of his lot, answered: “Ho, thou! Methinks thou art mad, for this is not the way of a man of sense. How should a dog of mine make generous gift to thee of a dish of gold and I meanly take back the price of what a dog gave? This were indeed a strange thing! Were I in extremest unease and misery, by Allah, I would not accept of thee aught- no, not the worth of a nail paring! So return whence thou camest in health and safety.” Whereupon the merchant kissed his feet and taking leave of him, returned whence he came, praising him and reciting this couplet:
“Men and dogs together are all gone by,
So peace be with all of them, dogs and men!”
And Allah is All-knowing!
Taken from Arabian Nights
Sir Richard Burton, translator-1850
About Rudolph Ernst:http://rudolphernst.blogspot.com/
There was great excitement in Smyrna, especially among the boys. Barlow’s Great American Circus in its triumphal progress from State to State was close at hand, and immense yellow posters announcing its arrival were liberally displayed on fences and barns, while smaller bills were put up in the post office, the hotel, and the principal stores, and distributed from house to house.
It was the largest circus that had ever visited Smyrna. At least a dozen elephants marched with ponderous steps in its preliminary procession, while clowns, acrobats, giants, dwarfs, fat women, cannibals, and hairy savages from Thibet and Madagascar, were among the strange wonders which were to be seen at each performance for the small sum of fifty cents, children half price.
For weeks the young people had been looking forward to the advent of this marvelous aggregation of curiosities, and the country papers from farther east had given glowing accounts of the great show, which was emphatically pronounced greater and more gorgeous than in any previous year. But it may be as well to reproduce, in part, the description given in the posters:
BARLOW’S GREAT NORTH AMERICAN CIRCUS.
give two grand performances, AT SMYRNA On the afternoon and evening of May 18th.
Never in all its history has this Unparalleled show embraced
a greater variety of attractions, or included a
Rope walkers, Trapeze Artists, and Star Performers,
In addition to a colossal menagerie, comprising Elephants,
Tigers, Lions, Leopards, and other wild animals in great variety.
All this and far more, including a hundred DARING ACTS,
Can be seen for the trifling sum of Fifty cents; Children half price.
COME ONE! COME ALL!
Two boys paused to read this notice, pasted with illustrative pictures of elephants and circus performers on the high board fence near Stoddard’s grocery store. They were Dan Clark and Christopher Watson, called Kit for short.
“Shall you go to the circus, Dan?” asked Kit.
“I would like to, but you know, Kit, I have no money to spare.”
“Don’t let that interfere,” said Kit, kindly.
“Here is half a dollar. That will take you in.
“You’re a tip-top fellow, Kit. But I don’t think I ought to take it. I don’t know when I shall be able to return it.”
“Who asked you to return it? I meant it as a gift.”
“You’re a true friend, Kit,” said Dan, earnestly.
“I don’t know as I ought to take it, but I will anyhow. You know I only get my board and a dollar a week from Farmer Clifford, and that I give to my mother.”
“I wish you had a better place, Dan.”
“So do I; but perhaps it is as well as I can do at my age. All boys are not born to good luck as you are.”
“Am I born to good luck? I don’t know.”
“Isn’t your uncle Stephen the richest man in Smyrna?”
“I suppose he is; but that doesn’t make me rich.”
“Isn’t he your guardian?”
“Yes; but it doesn’t follow because there is a guardian there is a fortune.”
“I hope there is.” “I am going to tell you something in confidence, Dan. Uncle Stephen has lately been dropping a good many hints about the necessity of being economical, and that I may have my own way to make in the world. What do you think it means?”
“Have you been extravagant?”
“Not that I am aware of. I have been at an expensive “Boarding school”with my cousin Ralph, and I have dressed well, and had a fair amount of spending money.”
“Have you spent any more than Ralph?”
“No; not so much, for I will tell you in confidence that he has been playing pool and cards for money, of course without the knowledge of the principal. I know also that this last term, besides spending his pocket money he ran up bills, which his father had to pay, to the amount of fifty dollars or more.”
“How did your uncle like it?”
“I don’t know. Ralph and his father had a private interview, but he got the money. I believe his mother took his part.”
“Why don’t you ask your uncle just how you stand?”
“I have thought of it. If I am to inherit a fortune I should like to know it. If I have my own way to make I want to know that also, so that I can begin to prepare for it.”
“Would you feel bad if you found out that you were a poor boy–like me, for instance?”
“I suppose I should just at first, but I should try to make the best of it in the end.”
“Well, I hope you won’t have occasion to buckle down to hard work. When do you go back to school?”
“The next term begins next Monday.”
“And it is now Wednesday. You will be able to see the circus at any rate. It is to arrive to-night.”
“Suppose we go round to the lot to-morrow morning. We can see them putting up the tents.”
“All right! I’ll meet you at nine o’clock.”
“They were about to separate when another boy, of about the same age and size, came up.
“It’s time for dinner, Kit,” he said; “mother’ll be angry if you are late.”
“Very well! I’ll go home with you. Good morning, Dan.”
“Good morning, Kit. Good morning, Ralph.”
Ralph mumbled out “Morning,” but did not deign to look at Dan.
“I wonder you associate with that boy, Kit,” he said.
“Why?” inquired Kit, rather defiantly.
“Because he’s only a farm laborer.”
“>“Does that hurt him?”
“I don’t care to associate with such a low class.”
“Daniel Webster worked on a farm when he was a boy.”
“Dan Clark isn’t a Webster.”
“We don’t know what he will turn out to be.”
“I don’t consider him fit for me to associate with,” said Ralph.
“It may be different in your case.”
“Why should it be different in my case?” asked Kit, suspiciously.
“Oh, no offense at all, but your circumstances and social position are likely to be different from mine.”
“Are they? That’s just what I should like to find out.”
“My father says so, and as you are under his guardianship he ought to know.”
“Yes, he ought to know, but he has never told me.”
“He has told me, but I am not at liberty to say anything,” said Ralph, looking mysterious.
“I think I ought to be the first to be told,” said Kit, not unreasonably.
“You will be told soon. There is one thing I can tell you, however. You are not to go back to boarding school on Monday.”
Kit paused in the street, and gazed at his companion in surprise.
“Are you going back?” he asked.
“Yes; I’m going to keep on till I am ready for college.”
“And what is to be done with me?” Ralph shrugged his shoulders.
“I am not at liberty to tell you,” he answered.
“I shall ask my uncle this very day.”
“Just as you please.”
Kit walked on in silence. His mind was busy with thoughts of the change in his prospects. He did not know what was coming, but he was anxious. It was likely to be a turning point in his life, and he was apprehensive that the information soon to be imparted to him would not be of an agreeable nature.
Taken from”The Young Acrobat of the Great North American Circus“
by Horatio Alger Jr.(13 January 1832 – 18 July 1899)
Risale al 1748 un romanzo di John Cleland (scrittore inglese nato nel 1709),stampato a Londra da Thomas Parker per volere dell’editore Ralph Griffiths(sotto lo pseudonimo di G. Fenton),che valse allo scrittore,allo stampatore e all’editore,un mandato d’arresto con l’accusa di oscenità.Il libro,”Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure“,conosciuto anche come “Fanny Hill”,fece scalpore e scandalo per i contenuti espliciti in riferimento alla vita sessuale di Miss Fanny Hill,nobildonna londinese che racconta dei propri amanti e delle scorribande sessuali che vivacizzano lo scenario dell’allora società inglese,a quei tempi in pieno boom industriale.
John Cleland,figlio dello scrittore e ufficiale delle armi William Cleland,scrisse il romanzo durante un periodo di prigionia durato un anno e incorso per truffa.Una prima parte del romanzo venne pubblicata nel novembre del 1748,una seconda appena nel febbraio del 1749.
Accusato di oscenità,John Cleland smentì la paternità del romanzo e il libro venne ritirato;benchè ne fu vietata la pubblicazione,il romanzo venne comunque stampato in edizioni pirata e arricchito di nuovi e aggiuntivi episodi di richiamo all’omosessualità e alla sodomia.A seguito di questo,John Cleland scrisse una nuova versione del romanzo,nel marzo del 1750,omessa dei contenuti scandalistici,ma il libro venne comunque e nuovamente bannato e la vendita proibita.
Ciò nonostante,il libro continuò a essere pubblicato segretamente e arricchito di illustrazioni;la versione francese,contiene quelle del famoso pittore e illustratore Édouard-Henri Avril,meglio conosciuto come Paul Avril(1843-1928).
A seguire una parte del libro,la quinta
And why should I here suppress the delight I received from this amiable creature, in remarking each artless look, each motion of pure undissembled nature, betrayed by his wanton eyes; or shewing, transparently, the glow and suffusion of blood through his fresh, clear skin, whilst even his sturdy rustic pressures wanted not their peculiar charm? Oh! but, say you, this was a young fellow of too low a rank of life to deserve so great a display. May be so: but was my condition, strictly consider’d one jot more exalted? or, had I really been much above him, did not his capacity of giving such exquisite pleasure sufficiently raise and ennoble him, to me, at least? Let who would, for me, cherish, respect, and reward the painter’s, the statuary’s, the musician’s arts, in proportion to delight taken in them: but at my age, and with my taste for pleasure, a taste strongly constitutional to me, the talent of pleasing, with which nature has endowed a handsome person, form’d to me the greatest of all merits; compared to which, the vulgar prejudices in favor of titles, dignities, honors, and the like, held a very low rank indeed. Nor perhaps would the beauties of the body be so much affected to be held cheap, were they, in their nature, to be bought and delivered. But for me, whose natural philosophy all resided in the favorite center of sense, and who was rul’d by its powerful instinct in taking pleasure by its right handle, I could scarce have made a choice more to my purpose.
Mr. H . . .’s loftier qualifications of birth, fortune and sense laid me under a sort of subjection and constraint that were far from making harmony in the concert of love, nor had he, perhaps, thought me worth softening that superiority to; but, with this lad, I was more on that level which love delights in.
We may say what we please, but those we can be the easiest and freest with are ever those we like, not to say love, the best.
With this stripling, all whose art of love was the action of it, I could, without check of awe or restraint, give a loose to joy, and execute every scheme of dalliance my fond fancy might put me on, in which he was, in every sense, a most exquisite companion. And now my great pleasure lay in humoring all the petulances, all the wanton frolic of a raw novice just fleshed, and keen on the burning scent of his game, but unbroken to the sport: and, to carry on the figure, who could better TREAD THE WOOD than he, or stand fairer for the HEART OF THE HUNT?
He advanc’d then to my bed-side, and whilst he faltered out his message, I could observe his color rise, and his eyes lighten with joy, in seeing me in a situation as favorable to his loosest wishes as if he had bespoke the play.
I smiled, and put out my hand towards him, which he kneeled down to (a politeness taught him by love alone, that great master of it) and greedily kiss’d. After exchanging a few confused questions and answers, I ask’d him if he would come to bed to me, for the little time I could venture to detain him. This was just asking a person, dying with hunger, to feast upon the dish on earth the most to his palate. Accordingly, without further reflection, his cloaths were off in an instant; when, blushing still more at his new liberty, he got under the bed-cloaths I held up to receive him, and was now in bed with a woman for the first time in his life.
Here began the usual tender preliminaries, as delicious, perhaps, as the crowning act of enjoyment itself; which they often beget an impatience of, that makes pleasure destructive of itself, by hurrying on the final period, and closing that scene of bliss, in which the actors are generally too well pleas’d with their parts not to wish them an eternity of duration.
When we had sufficiently graduated our advances towards the main point, by toying, kissing, clipping, feeling my breasts, now round and plump, feeling that part of me I might call a furnace-mouth, from the prodigious intense heat his fiery touches had rekindled there, my young sportsman, embolden’d by every freedom he could wish, wantonly takes my hand, and carries it to that enormous machine of his, that stood with a stiffness! a hardness! an upward bent of erection! and which, together with its bottom dependence, the inestimable bulge of lady’s jewels, formed a grand show out of goods indeed! Then its dimensions, mocking either grasp or span, almost renew’d my terrors.
I could not conceive how, or by what means I could take, or put such a bulk out of sight. I stroked it gently, on which the mutinous rogue seemed to swell, and gather a new degree of fierceness and insolence; so that finding it grew not to be trifled with any longer, I prepar’d for rubbers in good earnest.
Slipping then a pillow under me, that I might give him the fairest play, I guided officiously with my hand this furious battering ram, whose ruby head, presenting nearest the resemblance of a heart, I applied to its proper mark, which lay as finely elevated as we could wish; my hips being borne up, and my thighs at their utmost extension, the gleamy warmth that shot from it made him feel that he was at the mouth of the indraught, and driving foreright, the powerfully divided lips of that pleasure-thirsty channel receiv’d him. He hesitated a little; then, settled well in the passage, he makes his way up the straits of it, with a difficulty nothing more than pleasing, widening as he went, so as to distend and smooth each soft furrow: our pleasure increasing deliciously, in proportion as our points of mutual touch increas’d in that so vital part of me in which I had now taken him, all indriven, and completely sheathed; and which, crammed as it was, stretched, splitting ripe, gave it so gratefully strait an accommodation! so strict a fold! a suction so fierce! that gave and took unutterable delight. We had now reach’d the closest point of union; but when he backened to come on the fiercer, as if I had been actuated by a fear of losing him, in the height of my fury I twisted my legs round his naked loins, the flesh of which, so firm, so springy to the touch, quiver’d again under the pressure; and now I had him every way encircled and begirt; and having drawn him home to me, I kept him fast there, as if I had sought to unite bodies with him at that point. This bred a pause of action, a pleasure stop, whilst that delicate glutton, my nethermouth, as full as it could hold, kept palating, with exquisite relish, the morsel that so deliciously ingorged it. But nature could not long endure a pleasure that so highly provoked without satisfying it: pursuing then its darling end, the battery recommenc’d with redoubled exertion; nor lay I inactive on my side, but encountering him with all the impetuosity of motion but encountering him with all the impetuosity of motion I was mistress of. The downy cloth of our meeting mounts was now of real use to break the violence of the tilt; and soon, too soon indeed! the highwrought agitation, the sweet urgency of this to-and-fro friction, raised the titillation on me to its height; so that finding myself on the point of going, and loath to leave the tender partner of my joys behind me, I employed all the forwarding motions and arts my experience suggested to me, to promote his keeping me company to our journey’s end. I not only then tighten’d the pleasure-girth round my restless inmate by a secret spring of friction and compression that obeys the will in those parts, but stole my hand softly to that store bag of nature’s prime sweets, which is so pleasingly attach’d to its conduit pipe, from which we receive them; there feeling, and most gently indeed, squeezing those tender globular reservoirs; the magic touch took instant effect, quicken’d, and brought on upon the spur the symptoms of that sweet agony, the melting moment of dissolution, when pleasure dies by pleasure, and the mysterious engine of it overcomes the titillation it has rais’d in those parts, by plying them with the stream of a warm liquid that is itself the highest of all titillations, and which they thirstily express and draw in like the hotnatured leach, which to cool itself, tenaciously attracts all the moisture within its sphere of exsuction. Chiming then to me, with exquisite consent, as I melted away, his oily balsamic injection, mixing deliciously with the sluices in flow from me, sheath’d and blunted all the stings of pleasure, it flung us into an extasy that extended us fainting, breathless, entranced. Thus we lay, whilst a voluptuous languor possest, and still maintain’d us motionless and fast locked in one another’s arms. Alas! that these delights should be no longer-lived! for now the point of pleasure, unedged by enjoyment, and all the brisk sensations flatten’d upon us, resigned us up to the cool cares of insipid life. Disengaging myself then from his embrace, I made him sensible of the reasons there were for his present leaving me; on which, though reluctantly, he put on his cloaths with as little expedition, however, as he could help, wantonly interrupting himself, between whiles, with kisses, touches and embraces I could not refuse myself to. Yet he happily return’d to his master before he was missed; but, at taking leave, I forc’d him (for he had sentiments enough to refuse it) to receive money enough to buy a silver watch, that great article of subaltern finery, which he at length accepted of, as a remembrance he was carefully to preserve of my affections.
And here, Madam, I ought, perhaps, to make you an apology for this minute detail of things, that dwelt so strongly upon my memory, after so deep an impression: but, besides that this intrigue bred one great revolution in my life, which historical truth requires I should not sink from you, may I not presume that so exalted a pleasure ought not to be ungratefully forgotten, or suppress’d by me, because I found it in a character in low life; where, by the bye, it is oftener met with, purer, and more unsophisticate, that among the false, ridiculous refinements with which the great suffer themselves to be so grossly cheated by their pride: the great! than whom there exist few amongst those they call the vulgar, who are more ignorant of, or who cultivate less, the art of living than they do; they, I say, who for ever mistake things the most foreign of the nature of pleasure itself; whose capital favourite object is enjoyment of beauty, wherever that rare invaluable gift is found, without distinction of birth, or station.
As love never had, so now revenge had no longer any share in my commerce with this handsome youth. The sole pleasures of enjoyment were now the link I held to him by: for though nature had done such great matters for him in his outward form, and especially in that superb piece of furniture she had so liberally enrich’d him with; though he was thus qualify’d to give the senses their richest feast, still there was something more wanting to create in me, and constitute the passion of love. Yet Will had very good qualities too; gentle, tractable, and, above all, grateful; close, and secret, even to a fault: he spoke, at any time, very little, but made it up emphatically with action; and, to do him justice, he never gave me the least reason to complain, either of any tendency to encroach upon me for the liberties I allow’d him, or of his indiscretion in blabbing them. There is, then, a fatality in love, or have loved him I must; for he was really a treasure, a bit for the BONNE BOUCHE of a duchess; and, to say the truth, my liking for him was so extreme, that it was distinguishing very nicely to deny that I loved him.
My happiness, however, with him did not last long, but found an end from my own imprudent neglect. After having taken even superfluous precautions against a discovery, our success in repeated meetings embolden’d me to omit the barely necessary ones. About a month after our first intercourse, one fatal morning (the season Mr. H . . . rarely or never visited me in) I was in my closet, where my toilet stood, in nothing but my shift, a bed gown and under-petticoat. Will was with me, and both ever too well disposed to baulk an opportunity. For my part, a warm whim, a wanton toy had just taken me, and I had challeng’d my man to execute it on the spot, who hesitated not to comply with my humour: I was set in the arm-chair, my shift and petticoat up, my thighs wide spread and mounted over the arms of the chair, presenting the fairest mark to Will’s drawn weapon, which he stood in act to plunge into me; when, having neglected to secure the chamber door, and that of the closet standing a-jar, Mr. H . . . stole in upon us before either of us was aware, and saw us precisely in these convicting attitudes.
I gave a great scream, and drop’d my petticoat: the thunder-struck lad stood trembling and pale, waiting his sentence of death. Mr. H . . . looked sometimes at one, sometimes at the other, with a mixture of indignation and scorn; and, without saying a word, turn’d upon his heel and went out.
As confused as I was, I heard him very distinctly turn the key, and lock the chamber-door upon us, so that there was no escape but through the dining-room, where he himself was walking about with distempered strides, stamping in a great chafe, and doubtless debating what he would do with us.
In the mean time, poor William was frightened out of his senses, and, as much need as I had of spirits to support myself, I was obliged to employ them all to keep his a little up. The misfortune I had now brought upon him, endear’d him the more to me, and I could have joyfully suffered any punishment he had not shared in. I water’d, plentifully, with my tears, the face of the frightened youth, who sat, not having strength to stand, as cold and as lifeless as a statue.
Presently Mr. H . . . comes in to us again, and made us go before him into the dining-room, trembling and dreading the issue. Mr. H . . . sat down on a chair whilst we stood like criminals under examination; and beginning with me, ask’d me, with an even firm tone of voice, neither soft nor severe, but cruelly indifferent, what I could say for myself, for having abused him in so unworthy a manner, with his own servant too, and how he had deserv’d this of me?
Without adding to the guilt of my infidelity that of an audacious defence of it, in the old style of a common kept Miss, my answer was modest, and often interrupted by my tears, in substance as follows: that I never had a single thought of wronging him (which was true), till I had seen him taking the last liberties with my servant-wench (here he colour’d prodigiously), and that my resentment at that, which I was over-awed from giving vent to by complaints, or explanations with him, had driven me to a course that I did not pretend to justify; but that as to the young man, he was entirely faultless; for that, in the view of making him the instrument of my revenge, I had down-right seduced him to what he had done; and therefore hoped, whatever he determined about me, he would distinguish between the guilty and the innocent; and that, for the rest, I was entirely at his mercy.
Mr. H . . ., on hearing what I said, hung his head a little; but instantly recovering himself, he said to me, as near as I can retain, to the following purpose:
“Madam, I owe shame to myself, and confess you have fairly turn’d the tables upon me. It is not with one of your cast of breeding and sentiments that I should enter into a discussion of the very great difference of the provocations: be it sufficient that I allow you so much reason on your side, as to have changed my resolutions, in consideration of what you reproach me with; and I own, too, that your clearing that rascal there, is fair and honest in you. Renew with you I cannot: the affront is too gross. I give you a week’s warning to go out of these lodgings; whatever I have given you, remains to you; and as I never intend to see you more, the landlord will pay you fifty pieces on my account, with which, and every debt paid, I hope you will own I do not leave you in a worse condition than what I took you up in, or than you deserve of me. Blame yourself only that it is no better.” Then, without giving me time to reply, he address’d himself to the young fellow:
“For you, spark, I shall, for your father’s sake, take care of you: the town is no place for such an easy fool as thou art; and to-morrow you shall set out, under the charge of one of my men, well recommended, in my name, to your father, not to let you return and be spoil’d here.”
At these words he went out, after my vainly attempting to stop him by throwing myself at his feet. He shook me off, though he seemed greatly mov’d too, and took Will away with him, who, I dare swear, thought himself very cheaply off.
I was now once more a-drift, and left upon my own hands, by a gentleman whom I certainly did not deserve. And all the letters, arts, friends’ entreaties that I employed within the week of grace in my lodging, could never win on him so much as to see me again. He had irrevocably pornounc’d my doom, and submission to it was my only part. Soon after he married a lady of birth and fortune, to whom, I have heard, he prov’d an irreproachable husband.
As for poor Will, he was immediately sent down to the country to his father, who was an easy farmer, where he was not four months before and inn-keeper’s buxom young widow, with a very good stock, both in money and trade, fancy’d, and perhaps pre-acquainted with his secret excellencies, marry’d him: and I am sure there was, at least, one good foundation for their living happily together.
Though I should have been charm’d to see him before he went, such measures were taken, by Mr. H . . .’s orders, that it was impossible; otherwise I should certainly have endeavour’d to detain him in town, and would have spared neither offers nor expence to have procured myself the satisfaction of keeping him with me. He had such powerful holds upon my inclinations as were not easily to be shaken off, or replaced; as to my heart, it was quite out of the question: glad, however, I was from my soul, that nothing worse, and as things turn’d out, probably nothing better could have happened to him.
As to Mr. H . . ., though views of conveniency made me, at first, exert myself to regain his affection, I was giddy and thoughtless enough to be much easier reconcil’d to my failure than I ought to have been; but as I never had lov’d him, and his leaving me gave me a sort of liberty that I had often long’d for, I was soon comforted; and flattering myself that the stock of youth and beauty I was going into trade with could hardly fail of procuring me a maintenance, I saw myself under a necessity of trying my fortune with them, rather, with pleasure and gaiety, than with the least idea of despondency.
In the mean time, several of my acquaintances among the sisterhood, who had soon got wind of my misfortune, flocked to insult me with their malicious consolations. Most of them had long envied me the affluence and splendour I had been maintain’d in; and though there was scarce one of them that did not at least deserve to be in my case, and would probably, sooner or later, come to it, it was equally easy to remark, even in their affected pity, their secret pleasure at seeing me thus disgrac’d and discarded, and their secret grief that it was no worse with me. Unaccountable malice of the human heart! and which is not confin’d to the class of life they were of.
But as the time approached for me to come to some resolution how to dispose of myself, and I was considering round where to shift my quarters to, Mrs. Cole, a middleaged discreet sort of woman, who had been brought into my acquaintance by one at the Misses that visited me, upon learning my situation, came to offer her cordial advice and service to me; and as I had always taken to her more than to any of my female acquaintances, I listened the easier to her proposals. And, as it happened, I could not have put myself into worse, or into better hands in all London: into worse, because keeping a house of conveniency, there were no lengths in lewdness she would not advise me to go, in compliance with her customers; no schemes of pleasure, or even unbounded debauchery, she did not take even a delight in promoting: into a better, because nobody having had more experience of the wicked part of the town than she had, was fitter to advise and guard one against the worst dangers of our profession; and what was rare to be met with in those of her’s, she contented herself with a moderate living profit upon her industry and good offices, and had nothing of their greedy rapacious turn. She was really too a gentlewoman born and bred, but through a train of accidents reduc’d to this course, which she pursued, partly through necessity, partly through choice, as never woman delighted more in encouraging a brisk circulation of trade for the sake of the trade itself, or better understood all the mysteries and refinements of it, than she did; so that she was consummately at the top of her profession, and dealt only with customers of distinction: to answer the demands of whom she kept a competent number of her daughters in constant recruit (so she call’d those whom by her means, and through her tuition and instructions, succeeded very well in the world).
This useful gentlewoman upon whose protection I now threw myself, having her reasons of state, respecting Mr. H . . ., for not appearing too much in the thing herself, sent a friend of her’s, on the day appointed for my removal, to conduct me to my new lodgings at a brushmaker’s in R*** street, Covent Garden, the very next door to her own house, where she had no conveniences to lodge me herself: lodgings that, by having been for several successions tenanted by ladies of pleasure, the landlord of them was familiarized to their ways; and provided the rent was duly paid, every thing else was as easy and commodious as one could desire.
The fifty guineas promis’d me by Mr. H . . ., at his parting with me, having been duly paid me, all my cloaths and moveables chested up, which were at least of two hundred pound’s value, I had them convey’d into a coach, where I soon followed them, after taking a civil leave of the landlord and his family, with whom I had never liv’d in a degree of familiarity enough to regret the removal; but still, the very circumstance of its being a removal drew tears from me. I left, too, a letter of thanks for Mr. H . . ., from whom I concluded myself, as I really was, irretrievably separated.
My maid I had discharged the day before, not only because I had her of Mr. H . . ., but that I suspected her of having some how or other been the occasion of his discovering me, in revenge, perhaps, for my not having trusted her with him.
We soon got to my lodgings, which, though not so handsomely furnish’d nor so showy as those I left, were to the full as convenient, and at half price, though on the first floor. My trunks were safely landed, and stow’d in my apartments, where my neighbour, and now gouvernante, Mrs. Cole, was ready with my landlord to receive me, to whom she took care to set me out in the most favourable light, that of one from whom there was the clearest reason to expect the regular payment of his rent: all the cardinal virtues attributed to me would not have had half the weight of that recommendation alone.
I was now settled in lodgings of my own, abandon’d to my own conduct, and turned loose upon the town, to sink or swim, as I could manage with the current of it; and what were the consequences, together with the number of adventures which befell me in the exercise of my new profession, will compose the matter of another letter: for surely it is high time to put a period to this.