Friday, July 30, 2010

Deathday: Thomas Gray 1716-1771 Graveyard Poet


Thomas Gray (26 December 1716 – 30 July 1771) was an English poet, classical scholar and professor at Cambridge University.


Early life and education

Thomas Gray was born in Cornhill, London, the son of an exchange broker and a milliner. He was the fifth of 12 children and the only child in his family to survive infancy. He lived with his mother after she left his abusive father. He was educated at Eton College where his uncle was one of the masters. He recalled his schooldays as a time of great happiness, as is evident in his Ode on a Distant Prospect of Eton College. Gray was a delicate and naturally scholarly boy who spent his time reading great literature and avoiding athletics. It was probably fortunate for the young and sensitive Gray that he was able to live in his uncle’s household rather than at college. He made three close friends at Eton: Horace Walpole, son of Prime Minister Robert Walpole, Thomas Ashton, and Richard West. The four of them prided themselves on their sense of style, their sense of humour, and their appreciation of beauty.

In 1734 Gray went up to Peterhouse, Cambridge.[1] He found the curriculum dull. He wrote letters to his friends listing all the things he disliked: the masters ("mad with Pride") and the Fellows ("sleepy, drunken, dull, illiterate Things.") Supposedly he was intended for the law, but in fact he spent his time as an undergraduate reading classical and modern literature and playing Vivaldi and Scarlatti on the harpsichord for relaxation. In 1738 he accompanied his old school-friend Walpole on his Grand Tour, probably at Walpole's expense. They fell out and parted in Tuscany because Walpole wanted to attend fashionable parties and Gray wanted to visit all the antiquities. However, they were reconciled a few years later. Then, he wished his poems would become more popular.

Writing and academia

He began seriously writing poems in 1742, mainly after his close friend Richard West died. He moved to Cambridge and began a self-imposed programme of literary study, becoming one of the most learned men of his time, though he claimed to be lazy by inclination. He became a Fellow first of Peterhouse, and later of Pembroke College, Cambridge. It is said that the change of college was the result of a practical joke. Terrified of fire, he had installed a metal bar by his window on the top floor of the Burrough’s building at Peterhouse, so that in the event of a fire he could tie his sheets to it and climb to safety.

Gray spent most of his life as a scholar in Cambridge, and only later in his life did he begin travelling again. Although he was one of the least productive poets (his collected works published during his lifetime amount to fewer than 1,000 lines), he is regarded as the predominant poetic figure of the mid-18th century. In 1757, he was offered the post of Poet Laureate, which he refused.

In 1762, the Regius chair of Modern History at Cambridge, a sinecure which carried a salary of £400, fell vacant after the death of Shallet Turner, and Gray's friends lobbied the government unsuccessfully to secure the position for him. In the event, Gray lost out to Lawrence Brockett, but he secured the position in 1768 after Brockett's death.[2]

Gray was so self critical and fearful of failure that he only published thirteen poems during his lifetime and once wrote that he feared his collected works would be "mistaken for the works of a flea". Walpole said that "He never wrote anything easily but things of Humour."

Gray was also known as one of the "Graveyard poets" of the late 18th century, along with Oliver Goldsmith, William Cowper, and Christopher Smart. Gray most likely knew these men, sharing ideas about death, mortality, and the finality and sublimity of death.

"Elegy" masterpiece

It is believed that Gray wrote his masterpiece, the Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard, in the graveyard of the church in Stoke Poges, Buckinghamshire in 1750. The poem was a literary sensation when published by Robert Dodsley in February 1751 and has made a lasting contribution to English literature. Its reflective, calm and stoic tone was greatly admired, and it was pirated, imitated, quoted and translated into Latin and Greek. It is still one of the most popular and most frequently quoted poems in the English language. In 1759 during the Seven Years War, before the Battle of the Plains of Abraham, British General James Wolfe is said to have recited it to his officers, adding: "Gentlemen, I would rather have written that poem than take Quebec tomorrow". The poem's famous depiction of an "ivy-mantled tow'r" could be a reference to the early-mideval St. Laurence's Church in Upton, Slough.

The Elegy was recognised immediately for its beauty and skill. It contains many outstanding phrases which have entered the common English lexicon, either on their own or as referenced in other works. A few of these include:

"The paths of glory"
"Celestial fire"
"Some mute inglorious Milton"
"Far from the madding crowd"
"The unlettered muse"
"Kindred spirit"

Gray also wrote light verse, such as Ode on the Death of a Favourite Cat, Drowned in a Tub of Gold Fishes, a mock elegy concerning Horace Walpole's cat. After setting the scene with the couplet "What female heart can gold despise? What cat's averse to fish?", the poem moves to its multiple proverbial conclusion: "a fav'rite has no friend," "[k]now one false step is ne'er retrieved" and "nor all that glisters, gold." (Walpole later displayed the fatal china vase on a pedestal at his house in Strawberry Hill.) Gray’s surviving letters also show his sharp observation and playful sense of humour. He is also well known for his phrase,

"where ignorance is bliss, 'tis folly to be wise,"
-- Ode on a Distant Prospect of Eton College (1742)

Forms

Gray himself considered his two Pindaric odes, The Progress of Poesy and The Bard, his best works. Pindaric odes are written with great fire and passion, unlike the calmer and more reflective Horatian odes such as Ode on a distant Prospect of Eton College. The Bard tells of a wild Welsh poet cursing Edward I after the conquest of Wales and prophesying in detail the downfall of the House of Plantagenet. It is very melodramatic, and ends with the bard hurling himself to his death from the top of a mountain.

When his duties allowed, Gray travelled widely throughout Britain to places like Yorkshire, Derbyshire and Scotland in search of picturesque scenery and ancient monuments. These things were not generally valued in the early 18th century, when the popular taste ran to classical styles in architecture and literature and people liked their scenery tame and well-tended. Some people have seen Gray’s writings on this topic, and the Gothic details that appear in his Elegy and The Bard as the first foreshadowing of the Romantic movement that dominated the early 19th century, when William Wordsworth and the other Lake poets had taught people to value the picturesque, the sublime, and the Gothic. Gray combined traditional forms and poetic diction with new topics and modes of expression and may be considered as a classically focussed precursor of the romantic revival.

Gray's connection to the Romantic poets is vexed. In the prefaces to the 1800 and 1802 editions of Wordsworths' and Samuel Taylor Coleridge's Lyrical Ballads, Wordsworth singled out Gray's "Sonnet on the Death of Richard West" to exemplify what he found most objectionable in poetry, declaring it was "Gray, who was at the head of those who, by their reasonings, have attempted to widen the space of separation betwixt prose and metrical composition, and was more than any other man curiously elaborate in the structure of his own poetic diction."[3] Indeed, it was Gray who had written, in a letter to West, that "the language of the age is never the language of poetry."[4]

Death

Gray died on 30 July 1771 in Cambridge and was buried beside his mother in the churchyard of Stoke Poges, the setting for his famous Elegy. His grave can still be seen there. There is a plaque in Cornhill, marking his birthplace.

References

1.^ Thomas Gray in Venn, J. & J. A., Alumni Cantabrigienses, Cambridge University Press, 10 vols, 1922–1958.
2.^ Edmund William Gosse, Gray (London: Macmillan, 1902), p. 133 at books.google.com
3.^ Abrams, M.H. et al., The Norton Anthology of English Literature Volume 2, Fourth Edition, W. W. Norton & Company, New York, 1979, p.167
4.^ ibid.

Select Poems of Thomas GrayThe Works of Thomas Gray: Poems, Journals, and EssaysBlake's Water-Colours for the Poems of Thomas Gray: With Complete Texts

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Deathday: Cyrano de Bergerac 1619-1655 Dramatist


Savinien de Cyrano de Bergerac (6 March 1619 – 28 July 1655) was a French dramatist and duellist who is now best remembered for the many works of fiction which have been woven around his life story. In these fictional works he is featured with an overly large nose; portraits suggest that he did have a big nose, though not nearly as large as described in Edmond Rostand's play and the subsequent works about him. A statue of him stands in the town of Bergerac, Dordogne.

Life and works
It is believed that around 1640 he became the lover of Charles Coypeau d'Assoucy, a writer and musician, until around 1653, when they became engaged in a bitter rivalry. This led to Bergerac sending d'Assoucy death threats that compelled him to leave Paris. The quarrel extended to a series of satirical texts by both men.[1] Bergerac wrote Contre Soucidas (an anagram of his enemy's name) and Contre un ingrat ("Against an Ingrate"), while D’Assoucy counterattacked with Le Combat de Cyrano de Bergerac avec le singe, de Brioché au bout du Pont-Neuf ("The Battle of Cyrano de Bergerac with the Monkey of Brioché at the end of the Pont Neuf").

The model for the Roxane character of the Rostand play was Bergerac's cousin, who lived with his aunt, Catherine de Cyrano, at the Convent of the Daughter of the Cross, where Bergerac was tended for injuries sustained from a falling lunar beam.[2] As in the play, Bergerac did fight at the siege of Arras (1640), a battle of the Thirty Years' War between French and Spanish forces in France (though this was not the more famous final Battle of Arras, fought fourteen years later). One of his confreres in the battle was the Baron of Neuvillette, who married Cyrano's cousin. However, the play's plotline involving Roxane and Christian is almost entirely fictional — the real Cyrano did not write the Baron's love letters for him.

Cyrano was a freethinker and a pupil of Pierre Gassendi, a canon of the Catholic Church who tried to reconcile Epicurean atomism with Christianity. Cyrano's insistence on reason was rare in his time, and he would have been at home in the Enlightenment that came a century after his death.

He was injured by a falling wooden beam in 1654 while entering the house of his patron, the Duc D'Arpajon. Whether it was a deliberate attempt on his life or merely an accident is unknown. It is also inconclusive as to whether or not his death was a result of the injury, or an unspecified disease.[3] He died over a year later on July 28, 1655 aged 36. His place of death was the house of his cousin, Pierre De Cyrano, in Sannois.[4] He was buried in a Church in Sannois.


Cyrano de Bergerac in Pop Culture

Cyrano de Bergerac is a French soldier and poet who appears in several works of fiction, most notably a play by Edmond Rostand. He is a fictionalized version of the actual historical figure Hector-Savinien de Cyrano de Bergerac. Like his real-life counterpart, he has an overly large nose.

Rostand

In 1897, the French poet Edmond Rostand published a play, Cyrano de Bergerac, on the subject of Cyrano's life. This play, by far Rostand's most successful work, concentrates on Cyrano's love for the beautiful Roxane, whom he is obliged to woo on behalf of a more conventionally handsome but less articulate friend, Christian de Neuvillette.

The entire play is written in verse, in rhyming couplets of 12 syllables per line, very close to the Alexandrine format, but the verses sometimes lack a caesura. It is also meticulously researched, down to the names of the members of the Académie française and the dames précieuses glimpsed before the performance in the first scene.

The play has been translated and performed many times, and is responsible for introducing the word "panache" into the English language.[1] The two most famous English translations are those by Brian Hooker and Anthony Burgess.

The play has been adapted for cinema several times, most recently in 1990 with Gerard Depardieu in the title role. That 1990 version's dialogue is in French with subtitles written by Anthony Burgess in rhymed couplets, mirroring the form of the dialogue in the original play. The most famous film version in English is the 1950 film, with José Ferrer in the title role, a performance for which he won the Academy Award for Best Actor. In 1959, Hiroshi Inagaki wrote and directed a Japanese version, Aru kengo no shogai (Samurai Saga AKA Life of a Expert Swordsman), setting the story in 17th century Shogunate Japan and starring Toshirō Mifune as the Cyrano character "Heihachiro Komaki" and Yoko Tsukasa as the Roxanne character "Lady Ochii". Ferrer reprised the role in the 1960 French film Cyrano et d'Artagnan, directed by Abel Gance, opposite Jean-Pierre Cassel as D'Artagnan. Much later, Cassel made a cameo appearance as Cyrano de Bergerac in The Return of the Musketeers: the character was depicted as fifty-something and attempting to travel to the Moon with the aid of a balloon.


Other works

Other film interpretations of Rostand include the romantic comedies Roxanne, and The Truth About Cats & Dogs, respectively starring Steve Martin and Janeane Garofalo in the Cyrano-like roles. Cyrano Fernández (2007) is a retelling from Venezuela, set in contemporary times, in which Cyrano is disfigured but lacks the large nose.

Geraldine McCaughrean rewrote the play as a novel entitled Cyrano, which was longlisted for the Carnegie Award in 2007. In 1936, Franco Alfano composed his opera, Cyrano de Bergerac, to a libretto based on the play. David Bintley, Director of Birmingham Royal Ballet, created a ballet of the story in 2007. Most recently, David DiChiera rewrote the play as another opera entitled Cyrano, which was produced first by Michigan Opera Theater and then by the Opera Company of Philadelphia (February 2008).

The character of Cyrano also inspired a song, "Cyrano," by Italian performer Francesco Guccini about the hypocrisy, servitude to conventions, and superficialities of modern show business and political society. Savinien de Cyrano de Bergerac is one of the main characters in Philip José Farmer's Riverworld novels.

A couple of characters in modern works are based on Cyrano, although not named as such. Robert Heinlein's Glory Road features a cameo appearance by such a figure. The Swordmaster in Alain Ayrole's and Jean-Luc Masbou's French comic book De cape et de crocs portrays a colorful gentleman living on the Moon, at ease either with a sword or with a sonnet, and using both to silence those foolish enough to mock his prominent nose!

In 1995, the award-winning Scottish novelist A. L. (Alison) Kennedy featured a newly-revived Cyrano in her novel 'So I am glad'. The heroine finds him entering her life where she is under stress as a radio 'voice'. We are left unsure whether Cyrano has returned to live with her as her lover for a time or is a figment of her imagination. In any case, she is engaged by the vitality of his character, his revisiting the events of his life and his unorthodoxy and adventures in modern Glasgow.

In 1998, James L. Carcioppolo wrote and published The Lost Sonnets of Cyrano de Bergerac. The book fictionalizes a dying Cyrano writing a sequence of sonnets in an attempt to come to terms with his conflicted life. It portrays a Cyrano very close to the historical personage without diminishing his love for freedom and individuality.


References

1.^ Addyman, Ishbel, Cyrano: The Life and Legend of Cyrano de Bergerac, (Simon & Schuster Ltd, 2008), ISBN 0743286197
2.^ [1]
3.^ Afterword to Cyrano de Bergerac’s The Other World - by Don Webb
4.^ www.cyranodebergerac.fr.
Addyman, Ishbel (2008). Cyrano: The Life and Legend of Cyrano De Bergerac, Simon & Schuster Ltd.



Cyrano de Bergerac: by Edmund Rostand translated by Anthony Burgess (Applause Books)Cyrano de BergeracCyrano de Bergerac

Monday, July 26, 2010

Deathday: John Wilmot 1647-1680 Poet & Playwright


John Wilmot, 2nd Earl of Rochester (April 1, 1647 – July 26, 1680) was an English nobleman, a friend of King Charles II, and the writer of much satirical and bawdy poetry.


Rochester was born in Ditchley, Oxfordshire, and educated at Wadham College, Oxford. Having carried out the Grand Tour, he became the toast of the Restoration court and a patron of the arts. He married an heiress, Elizabeth Malet, but had many mistresses, including the actress Elizabeth Barry. Shortly before his death, he had a theistic change of heart, largely thanks to the influence of Bishop Gilbert Burnet. This "conversion" has been strongly disputed.

Rochester's most famous verse concerned King Charles II, his great friend. In reply to his jest that:

"He never said a foolish thing, nor ever did a wise one,"

Charles is reputed to have said:

"That is true -- for my words are my own, but my actions are those of my ministers."


Rochester's mother was a Parliamentarian by descent and inclined to Puritanism for possibly expedient reasons. His father Henry Wilmot, a hard-drinking Royalist from Anglo-Irish stock, had been created Earl of Rochester in 1652 for military services to Charles II during his exile under the Commonwealth; he died abroad in 1658, two years before the restoration of the monarchy in England.

At twelve Rochester matriculated at Wadham College, Oxford, and there, it is said, "grew debauched." At fourteen he was conferred with the degree of M.A. by the Edward Hyde, Earl of Clarendon, who was Chancellor to the University and Rochester's uncle. After a tour of France and Italy, Rochester returned to London, where he was to grace the Restoration Court. Courage in sea-battle against the Dutch made him a hero.

In 1667 he married Elizabeth Malet, a witty heiress whom he had attempted to abduct two years earlier. Pepys describes the event in his diary, 28 May 1665: "Thence to my Lady Sandwich's, where, to my shame, I had not been a great while before. Here, upon my telling her a story of my Lord Rochester's running away on Friday night last with Mrs Mallet, the great beauty and fortune of the North, who had supped at Whitehall with Mrs Stewart, and was going home to her lodgings with her grandfather, my Lord Haly, by coach; and was at Charing Cross seized on by both horse and footmen, and forcibly taken from him, and put into a coach with six horses, and two women provided to receive her, and carried away. Upon immediate pursuit, my Lord of Rochester (for whom the King had spoke to the lady often, but with no success) was taken at Uxbridge; but the lady is not yet heard of, and the King mighty angry and the Lord sent to the Tower."

Rochester's life is divided between domesticity in the country and a riotous existence at Court, where he was renowned for drunkenness, vivacious conversation, and "extravagant frolics" as part of the Merry Gang (as Andrew Marvell called them) who flourished for about fifteen years after 1665. As well as Wilmot they included Henry Jermyn, Charles Sackville, Earl of Dorset , John Sheffield, Earl of Mulgrave, Henry Killigrew, Sir Charles Sedley, the playwrights William Wycherley and George Etherege, and George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham.

In banishment from Court for a scurrilous lampoon on Charles II, Rochester set up as "Doctor Bendo," a physician skilled in treating barrenness; his practice was, it is said, "not without success." He was deeply involved with the theatre and was himself the model for the witty and poetry-reciting rake Dorimant in Etherege's The Man of Mode (1676). According to an often repeated anecdote, his coaching of his mistress Elizabeth Barry began her career as the greatest actress of the Restoration stage. Modern scholars, however, have little faith in this story, which was first told much later.

Rochester, as Samuel Johnson remarked, "blazed out his youth and health in lavish voluptuousness." At the age of thirty-three, as Rochester lay dying — from syphilis, it is assumed — his mother had him attended by her religious associates; a deathbed renunciation of atheism was published and promulgated as the conversion of a prodigal. This became legendary, reappearing in numerous pious tracts over the next two centuries.

Rochester's own writings were at once admired and infamous. Posthumous printings of his play Sodom, or the Quintessence of Debauchery gave rise to prosecutions for obscenity, and were destroyed. On 16 December 2004 a copy of Sodom (characterized as the world's first known piece of printed pornography) was sold by Sotheby's for £45,600. During his lifetime, his songs and satires were known mainly from anonymous broadsheets and manuscript circulation; most of Rochester's poetry was not published under his name until after his death.

Rochester has not lacked distinguished admirers. Defoe quoted him widely and often. Tennyson would recite from him with fervour. Voltaire admired Rochester's satire for 'energy and fire' and translated some lines into French to 'display the shining imagination his lordship only could boast.' Goethe could quote Rochester in English, and cited his lines to epitomise the intensely 'mournful region' he encountered in English poetry. William Hazlitt judged that 'his verses cut and sparkle like diamonds,' while 'his contempt for everything that others respect almost amounts to sublimity.'

The film, The Libertine, based on the play by Stephen Jeffreys, was first shown at the 2004 Toronto Film Festival and thereafter was released in the U.S. It chronicles Rochester's life, with Johnny Depp as Rochester, Samantha Morton as Elizabeth Barry, John Malkovich as King Charles II, and Rosamund Pike as Elizabeth Malet.


The Complete PoemsJohn Wilmot 2nd Earl of Rochester, circa 1675 Giclee Poster Print by Jacob Huysmans, 18x24A Profane Wit: The Life of John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Mary Cecilia Rogers Found Floating in the Hudson 1841


Mary Cecilia Rogers, also known as the "Beautiful Cigar Girl," was a 19th-century murder victim whose story became a national sensation and was fictionalized most notably by Edgar Allan Poe as "The Mystery of Marie Rogêt" (1842).


Background

Mary Rogers was probably born in 1820 in Lyme, Connecticut, though her birth records have not survived.[1] Her father died in a steamboat explosion when she was 17 and she took a job as a clerk in a tobacco shop owned by John Anderson in New York City.[2] Anderson paid her a generous wage in part because her physical attractiveness brought in many customers. One customer wrote that he spent an entire afternoon at the store only to exchange "teasing glances" with her. Another admirer published a poem in the New York Herald referring to her heaven-like smile and her star-like eyes.[3] Some of her customers included notable literary figures James Fenimore Cooper, Washington Irving, and Fitz-Greene Halleck.[4]

First disappearance

On October 5, 1838, the New York Sun reported that "Miss Mary Cecilia Rogers" had disappeared from her home.[2] Her mother Phoebe said she found a suicide note which the local coroner analyzed and said revealed a "fixed and unalterable determination to destroy herself".[5] The next day, however, the Times and Commercial Intelligence reported that the disappearance was a hoax and that Rogers only went to visit a friend in Brooklyn.[2] The Sun had previously run a story known as the Great Moon Hoax in 1835, causing a stir.[6] Some suggested this return was actually the hoax, evidenced by Rogers's failure to return to work immediately. When she finally resumed working at the tobacco shop, one newspaper suggested the whole event was a publicity stunt overseen by Anderson.[7]


Murder

On July 25, 1841, Rogers told her fiancé Daniel Payne that she would be visiting her aunt and other family members.[8] Three days later, on July 28, police found her body floating in the Hudson River in Hoboken, New Jersey.[9] Referred to as the "Beautiful Cigar Girl", the mystery of her death was sensationalized in newspapers and received national attention. The details surrounding the case suggested she was murdered. Months later, the inquest still ongoing, her fiancé was found dead, an act of suicide. By his side, a remorseful note and an empty bottle of poison were found.

The story, heavily covered by the press, also emphasized the ineptitude and corruption in the city's watchmen system of law enforcement.[10] At the time, New York City's population of 320,000 was served by an archaic force, consisting of one night watch, one hundred city marshals, thirty-one constables, and fifty-one police officers.[11]

The popular theory was that Rogers was a victim of gang violence.[12] In November 1842, Frederica Loss came forward and swore that Rogers's death was the result of a failed abortion attempt. Police refused to believe her story and the case remained unsolved.[8] Interest in the story waned nine weeks later when the press picked up on a different murder.[13]


In fiction

Rogers' story was fictionalized most notably by Edgar Allan Poe as "The Mystery of Marie Rogêt" (1842). The action of the story was relocated to Paris and the victim's body found in the Seine.[12] Poe presented the story as a sequel to "The Murders in the Rue Morgue" (1841), commonly considered the first modern detective story, and included its main character C. Auguste Dupin. As Poe wrote in a letter: "under the pretense of showing how Dupin... unravelled the mystery of Marie's assassination, I, in fact, enter into a very rigorous analysis of the real tragedy in New York."[14] In the story, Dupin suggests several possible solutions but never actually names the murderer.[15]


References

1.^ Stashower, Daniel (2006). The Beautiful Cigar Girl. New York: PenguinBooks. pp. 20. ISBN 052594981X.
2.^ Sova, Dawn B. (2001). Edgar Allan Poe: A to Z (Paperback ed. ed.). New York: Checkmark Books. pp. 212. ISBN 081604161X.
3.^ Stashower, Daniel (2006). The Beautiful Cigar Girl. New York: PenguinBooks. pp. 22. ISBN 052594981X.
4.^ McNamara, Joseph. The Justice Story: True Tales of Murder, Mystery, Mayhem. Sports Publishing LLC, 2000: 99. ISBN 1582612854
5.^ Stashower, Daniel (2006). The Beautiful Cigar Girl. New York: PenguinBooks. pp. 22–23. ISBN 052594981X.
6.^ Maliszewski, Paul. "Paper Moon", Wilson Quarterly. Winter 2005. p. 26
7.^ Stashower, Daniel (2006). The Beautiful Cigar Girl. New York: PenguinBooks. pp. 23. ISBN 052594981X.
8.^ Sova, Dawn B. (2001). Edgar Allan Poe: A to Z (Paperback ed. ed.). New York: Checkmark Books. pp. 213. ISBN 081604161X.
9.^ Thomas, Dwight & David K. Jackson (1987). The Poe Log: A Documentary Life of Edgar Allan Poe 1809-1849. New York: G. K. Hall & Co. pp. 336–337. ISBN 0783814011.
10.^ Lardner, James, and Thomas Reppetto (2000). NYPD: A City and Its Police. Owl Books. pp. 18–21.
11.^ Lankevich, George L. (1998). American Metropolis: A History of New York City. NYU Press. pp. 84–85. ISBN 0814751865.
12.^ Silverman, Kenneth (1991). Edgar A. Poe: Mournful and Never-Ending Remembrance (Paperback ed. ed.). New York: Harper Perennial. pp. 205. ISBN 0060923318.
13.^ Nelson, Randy F. The Almanac of American Letters. Los Altos, California: William Kaufmann, Inc., 1981: 183. ISBN 086576008X
14.^ Rosenheim, Shawn James (1997). The Cryptographic Imagination: Secret Writing from Edgar Poe to the Internet. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. pp. 68–69. ISBN 9780801853326.
15.^ Meyers, Jeffrey (1992). Edgar Allan Poe: His Life and Legacy (Paperback ed. ed.). New York: Cooper Square Press. pp. 135. ISBN 0815410387.


The Mysterious Death of Mary Rogers: Sex and Culture in Nineteenth-Century New York (Studies in the History of Sexuality)The Beautiful Cigar Girl: Mary Rogers, Edgar Allan Poe, and the Invention of MurderThe Mystery of Mary Rogers (Treasury of Victorian Murder (Graphic Novels))

Friday, July 23, 2010

Deathday: D.W. Griffith 1875-1948 Director "The Avenging Conscience"


David Llewelyn Wark Griffith (January 22, 1875 – July 23, 1948) was a premier pioneering American film director. He is best known as the director of the controversial and groundbreaking 1915 film The Birth of a Nation and the subsequent film Intolerance (1916).

Griffith's film The Birth of a Nation made pioneering use of advanced camera and narrative techniques, and its immense popularity set the stage for the dominance of the feature-length film. However, it also proved extremely controversial at the time and ever since for its negative depiction of Black Americans and their supporters, and its positive portrayal of slavery and the Ku Klux Klan. Griffith responded to his critics with his next film, Intolerance, intended to show the dangers of prejudiced thought and behavior. The film was not the financial success that its predecessor had been, but was received warmly by critics. Several of his later films were also successful, but high production, promotional, and roadshow costs often made his ventures commercial failures. However, he is generally considered one of the most important figures of early cinema.


The Avenging Conscience: or "Thou Shalt Not Kill" (1914) is a drama film directed by D. W. Griffith. The film is based on the Edgar Allan Poe short stories "The Tell-Tale Heart" and "Annabel Lee."

Cast

Henry B. Walthall as The nephew
Blanche Sweet as His sweetheart
Spottiswoode Aitken as The uncle
George Siegmann as The Italian
Ralph Lewis as The detective
Mae Marsh as The maid
Robert Harron as The grocery boy



D.W. Griffith - Years of Discovery 1909-1913D.W. Griffith: An American LifeD.W. Griffith and the Origins of American Narrative Film: THE EARLY YEARS AT BIOGRAPHGriffith Masterworks (The Birth of a Nation / Intolerance / Broken Blossoms / Orphans of the Storm / Biograph Shorts 1909-1913)Griffith Masterworks 2 (Way Down East / D.W. Griffith: Father of Film / The Avenging Conscience / Abraham Lincoln / The Struggle / Sally of the Sawdust)

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Scopes Trial Verdict Delivered 1925


The Scopes Trial—formally known as The State of Tennessee vs. Scopes and informally known as the Scopes Monkey Trial—was an American legal case in 1925 in which high school biology teacher John Scopes was accused of violating the state's Butler Act which made it unlawful to teach evolution.

After eight days of trial, it took the jury only nine minutes to deliberate. Scopes was found guilty on July 21 and ordered to pay a US$100 fine (approximately $1,228 in 2010 when adjusted from 1925 for inflation). Raulston imposed the fine before Scopes was given an opportunity to say anything about why the court should not impose punishment upon him and after Neal brought the error to the judge's attention the defendant spoke for the first and only time in court:

"Your honor, I feel that I have been convicted of violating an unjust statute. I will continue in the future, as I have in the past, to oppose this law in any way I can. Any other action would be in violation of my ideal of academic freedom — that is, to teach the truth as guaranteed in our constitution, of personal and religious freedom. I think the fine is unjust (World's Most Famous Court Trial 313)."


Scopes (above) was found guilty, but the verdict was overturned on a technicality and he was never punished. The trial drew intense national publicity, as national reporters flocked to the small town of Dayton, to cover the big-name lawyers representing each side. William Jennings Bryan (top photo right), three time presidential candidate for the Democrats argued for the prosecution, while Clarence Darrow (top photo left), the famed defense attorney, spoke for Scopes. The trial saw modernists, who said religion was consistent with evolution, against Fundamentalists who said the Word of God as revealed in the Bible trumped all human knowledge. The trial was thus both a religious or theological contest, and a trial on the veracity of modern science regarding the creation-evolution controversy. The teaching of science and evolution expanded, as Fundamentalist efforts to use state laws to reverse the trend had failed in the court of public opinion.


Humor

Anticipating that Scopes would be found guilty, the press fitted the defendant for martyrdom and created an onslaught of ridicule. Time's initial coverage of the trial focused on Dayton as "the fantastic cross between a circus and a holy war." Life adorned its masthead with monkeys reading books and proclaimed, "the whole matter is something to laugh about." Hosts of cartoonists added their own portrayals to the attack (the greatest collection of cartoons available would be the 14 reprinted in L. Sprague de Camp's The Great Monkey Trial). Both Literary Digest and the popular humor magazine Life (1890–1930) ran compilations of jokes and humorous observations garnered from newspapers around the country.

Overwhelmingly, the butt of these jokes was the prosecution and those aligned with it: Bryan, the city of Dayton, the state of Tennessee, and the entire South, as well as fundamentalist Christians and anti-evolutionists. Rare exceptions were found in the Southern press, where the fact that Darrow had saved Leopold and Loeb from the death penalty continued to be a source of ugly humor. The most widespread form of this ridicule was directed at the inhabitants of Tennessee. Life described Tennessee as "not up to date in its attitude to such things as evolution." Time related Bryan's arrival in town with the disparaging comment, "The populace, Bryan's to a moron, yowled a welcome."

Attacks on Bryan were frequent and acidic: Life awarded him its "Brass Medal of the Fourth Class," for having "successfully demonstrated by the alchemy of ignorance hot air may be transmuted into gold, and that the Bible is infallibly inspired except where it differs with him on the question of wine, women, and wealth." Papers across the country routinely dismissed the efforts of both sides in the trial, while the European press reacted to the entire affair with amused condescension.

Famously vituperative attacks came from journalist H. L. Mencken, whose syndicated columns from Dayton for the Baltimore Sun drew vivid caricatures of the "backward" local populace, referring to the people of Rhea county as "Babbits," "morons," "peasants," "hill-billies," "yaps" and "yokels." He chastised the "degraded nonsense which country preachers are ramming and hammering into yokel skulls." The nicest thing Mencken managed to say about the community was that "The Klan has never got a foothold here, though it rages everywhere else in Tennessee." Mencken attempted to perpetuate a hoax, distributing flyers for the "Rev. Elmer Chubb," but the claims that Chubb would drink poison and preach in lost languages were ignored as commonplace by the people of Dayton and only the Commonweal bit. Mencken's most venomous assault was his withering obituary of Bryan, "In Memoriam: W.J.B," in which Mencken became one of the few people ever to accuse Bryan of insincerity. Years later Mencken did question whether dismissing Bryan "as a quack pure and unadulterated" was "really just," but the damage could hardly be undone. Mencken's columns made the Dayton citizens irate and drew general fire from the Southern press. After Raulston ruled against the admission of scientific testimony, Mencken left Dayton, declaring in his last dispatch "All that remains of the great cause of the State of Tennessee against the infidel Scopes is the formal business of bumping off the defendant." Consequently, the journalist missed Darrow's cross-examination of Bryan on Monday.


Stage and film

The play Inherit the Wind (1955), by Jerome Lawrence and Robert Edwin Lee was loosely based on this trial. The play turned Darrow and Bryan into characters named Henry Drummond and Matthew Harrison Brady. In its preface ("disclaimer") the play claims to be both unbiased and not based on any actual event. The play was made into a 1960 film directed by Stanley Kramer, with Spencer Tracy and Fredric March as Drummond and Brady. There have also been a trio of television versions, with Melvyn Douglas and Ed Begley in 1965, Jason Robards and Kirk Douglas in 1988, and Jack Lemmon and George C. Scott in 1999. The Scopes trial did not appear in the Encyclopædia Britannica until 1957, when its inclusion was spurred by the successful run of Inherit the Wind on Broadway, which was mentioned in the citation. It was not until the 1960s that the Scopes trial began to be mentioned in the history textbooks of American high schools and colleges, usually as an example of the conflict between fundamentalists and modernists, and often in sections that also talked about the rise of the Ku Klux Klan in the South.

Since 1987, the city of Dayton has staged a reenactment of the trial using the original transcripts, performing it in the same courtroom in which the trial took place. The annual event occurs during Dayton's Scopes Trial festival with several performances showing over the weekend. In 2007, Bryan College, the institute founded in memory of Bryan, purchased the rights to the production and made a filmed version for DVD release using the same performers entitled "Inherit the Truth" in an attempt to clear up any misunderstandings regarding the trial due to Inherit the Wind.

In September 2009 and October 2009 Alleged, a movie based upon an original screenplay about the trial, was filmed in the living history Crossroads Village in Genesee County, Michigan. Brian Dennehy will portray Clarence Darrow and Fred Thompson will play William Jennings Bryan.

Summer for the Gods: The Scopes Trial and America's Continuing Debate Over Science and ReligionThe Scopes Trial: A Brief History with Documents (The Bedford Series in History and Culture)Monkey Business: True Story of the Scopes Trial