Author Archives: brian

mormon enigma: emma hale smith pg 102

emma’s father had died January 11, 1839.  his tombstone bore the inscription: “the body of isaac hale, the hunter, like the cover of an old book, its contents torn out and stripped of their lettering and gilding, lies here, food for worms, yet the work itself shall not be lost, and it will appear once more in a mew and beautiful edition, corrected and amended.”

that epitaph sounds familiar.  isaac hales lived (and died) in pennsylvania, right?

The body of

B. Franklin, Printer

(Like the cover of an Old Book

Its Contents torn Out

And Stript of its Lettering and Gilding)

Lies here, Food for Worms.

But the Work shall not be Lost;

For it will (as he Believ’d) Appear once More

In a New and More Elegant Edition

Revised and Corrected

By the Author.



rockets, missiles and space travel chapter 2

the unicorn climaxed the second installment

in 1672, mars happened upon giovanni cassini “who found, to his amazement, that the distance from the sun to the earth had to be more than 80 million miles (actually it is 93 million)”.  (more than) 80 million miles?  that’s like more than double any previous estimation of the difference . . . i mean, distance.

or rather,

mars approached close, gently overcoming her shyness.  mathmagician cassini, among others (astronomonics, star-gazers, electro-geologists), observed—“a truly international venture.” but after, “things had suddenly grown too large, too impressive”.  looks like kepler was right all along . . .

with the imaginable distance between glimmers in the nights sky doubled, the stars could no longer be mapped (cognitively).

1833: sir john (herschel) sails to capetown determined to systematically explore the sky; new york sun staff member, richard adams locke, reports:

a new breakthrough in magnification-technologies now allows for up-closes glimpes of the other worlds in our solar system.  descriptions to follow . . .

but the descriptions of life on mars (and the moon and saturn’s rings) was a hoax.  how did locke pull it off (i mean other than capitalizing on the desire for there to be life on other planets)?

just in case some reader might happen to see through this fallacy, several paragraphs were devoted to loose talk about microscopic reflectors, angles of incidence, properties of rays, ect., until the reader felt he could not follow anyway and was, therefore, ready to accept what he was told.

this growth of astronomical knowledge had also resulted in a literal ‘growth’ of the universe.

why would ley employ ‘scare-quotes’ around the second growth?  obviously this is not a literal growth–a physical/material growth of the universe–caused  by the observations and numbers of some creature on some little planet in some know-nothing galaxy. instead it’s a literal “growth”–the growth itself is not there, it’s in our heads.  at some point the “growth” of the universe, the more zeros ended up after the sizes and spaces of astronomical observations, surpassed the representational capacities of human systems.  between that representational space and the space beyond representation we find a limit, a threshold.

and so, “the answer of the year 1830 to the problem of space travel” is . . .

dependence on their surroundings forced them to remain at home, and the most they could hope for was to see other fish tanks and guess about there surroundings.

but dont get down, science; there still may be things to observe in the night sky . . . like a possible “walled-city” on the surface of the moon.  “it would prove a lot of things–provided only that it’s nature established.”  that’s always the tricky part, establishing nature . . .

persuasion chapter 18

“there are several odd-looking men walking about here, who, i am told, are sailors”

finally, a letter from mary:

My dear Anne,

I make no apologies for my silence, because I know how little people think of letters in such a place as Bath.

but mary must break this self-imposed silence for some important news: fredrick and louisa’s engagement is off; she’s now set to wed captian benwick.  for anne this means, as mary doesn’t fail to point out, that “this is the end, you see, of Captian Benwick’s being supposed to be an admire of” hers.  anne spends a page or so wondering how this could have happened?  how did benwick and lousia end up together?  i mean, “their minds [are] most dissimilar!”

according to mary’s letter, books brought them together—books read together during the weeks she was confined to bed after her fall.  another explanation may be the fall itself (lousia’s fall; not the other one) . . . dispositions often change after serious head-traumas.


Anne’s heart beat in spite of herself, and brought the colour into her cheeks when she thought of Captian Wentworth unshackled and free.

the letter read, anne heads out on a walk.  at the printshop window, she notices admiral croft staring at a picture . . . “I can never get by this shop without stopping.”  an image of a boat on the water always captures his attention.  but it’s not the aesthetic quality or the technical realism that draws croft in; he responds to the gap between his experiences of the sea and the reproduced image:

What queer fellows your fine painters must be, to think that any body would venture their lives in such a shapeless cockleshell as that.  And yet, here are two gentleman . . .

persuasion chapter 17

“. . . i fear its lessons are not in the elevated style you descibe”

the last time anne lived in bath was as a depressed and sullen teenager, alone at school, immediately after the death of her mother.  these (dead) memories which still haunt partially account for anne’s cold reception of her second stay at bath.  there was, however, one bright-spot from that (dead) past: a miss hamilton, now mrs smith, “had been useful and good to [anne] in a way which had considerably lessened her misery, and could never be remembered with indifference”.

situations appear to be reversed: now, anne is more-or-less content; mrs smith is widowed, with numerous health problems, struggling to obtain basic necessities.  but even give these circumstances, anne believes mrs smith “had moments only of languor and depression, to hours of occupation and enjoyment” due not only to fortitude and resignation, but further to an “elasticity of mind, that disposition to be comforted, that power to turning readily from [beyond?] evil to good” .

sir walter nearly loses it when he finds that anne has been visiting mrs smith, grounding his opposition to the connection by opposing her physical location within the city (which, of course, also locates her class position):

“Westgate-buildings!” said he; “and who is Miss Anne Elliot to be visiting Westgate buildings? — A Mrs Smith?  A Widow Mrs Smith, — and who is her husband?  One of the five thousand Mr Smiths whose names are to be met with every where.”

to sir walter’s outburst, anne offers no reply.

she left it to himself to recollect, that Mrs Smith was not the only widow in Bath between thirty and forty, with little to live on, and no sirname of dignity.

i wonder if during sir walter’s recollection he realized that the ration between those resident of bath he considers worth visiting and those like mrs smith seems inversely proportional to the relation between mrs smith’s moments of depression and her hours of enjoyment.

persuasion chapter 16

it was a reference to the future, which anne, after a little observation, felt she must submit to.

sir walter seems surprised by anne’s look,

‘less thin in her person, her cheeks; her skin, her complexion, greatly improved—clearer, fresher. had she been using anything in particular! ‘no, nothing at all.’  ‘ha! he was surprised by that . . . you cannot be better than well.’

interesting how what seems as a question ends in exclamation.  and the quotations here, which are not separated by paragraph breaks according to the speaker, inhabit a kind of middle zone between what was said and who is speaking.  further, the position of the narrator becomes unclear.

but, can you be better than well?  remember that the early discussions of the looks of mrs clay focused on her plainness . . .  a plainness compounded by freckles.  in sir walter’s view, her looks have greatly improved due to a manufactured influence:

I should recommend Gowland, the constant use of Gowland, during the spring months.   Mrs Clay has been using it at my recommendation, and see what it has done for her.  You see how it has carried away her freckles?

according to the ninth footnote in persuasion,

Gowland’s lotion was evidently an established treatment by then, since Chapman quotes an advertisement in the Bath Chronicle of the period for ‘Mrs Vincent’s Gowland lotion’.

of course, “it did not appear to Anne that the freckles were all that lessened”.

persuasion chapter 15

it had originated in misapprehension entirely

bath—kellynch hall, uppercross, capt wentworth and the musgroves have all disappeared . . . but that nothing still exerts a ghostly presence.  those memories shared by anne and those who have read the previous chapters are not mentioned explicitly; sir walter and elizabeth “had no inclination to listen” to anne’s reflections being much to busy talking about the new furniture and how “every body was wanting to visit them”.  sir walter, elizabeth and lady russel love it in bath while anne “anticipat[es] an imprisonment of many months”.

there is, however, one feature of bath not to sir walter’s liking: “the worst of Bath was, the number of its plain women”.  sir walter estimates that you see only one pretty face “followed by thirst, or five and thirty frights”.

persuasion chapters 13 and 14

“a new sort of way this, for a young fellow to be making love, by breaking his mistress’s head!”

two days after returning from lyme, two days after the accident, anne must leave uppercross.  lady russell arrival reminds anne of her move to bath; buried under the concerns of uppercross, “she had lately lost thought even of her father and her sister and Bath.”  i too, as a reader, am guilty of forgetting about of the (im)pending move to bath . . . but, in my defense, “scenes [in the book] had passed in Uppercross, which made it precious.”

anne, accompanied by lady russell, spends one last (informal) dinner at the musgroves.  mary and charles have just returned with news from lyme: louisa is slowly recovering and captain benwick has, in the opinion of charles, a serious crush on anne.  mary strongly disagrees.  possibly because mary has a crush on captain benwick?  when describing her time at lyme, mary absentmindedly mentions getting “books from the library and chang[ing] them so often.”  and, don’t forget, captain benwick’s “head is full of books.”  could mary’s sudden interest in a variety of books stem from an even stronger interest in captain benwick?

the dinner party is not quite up to lady russell’s standards:

“i hope i shall remember, in the future,” said Lady Russell as soon as they were seated in the carriage, “not to call at Uppercross in the Christmas holidays.”

. . .  i hope i shall remember, in the future, as well.