Literary Forbears of Arthur Machen

Extollager

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RLS continues, deservingly, to get attention:

Masterpiece: Robert Louis Stevenson's 'Treasure Island' - WSJ.com

The focus in this article is on Treasure Island, upon which Machen didn't, so far as I remember, comment anywhere; but I wonder if he wouldn't have perceived in it that quality of "ecstasy" that he expounds in Hieroglyphics. Treasure Island is a great adventure story, but it has more going for it than a sequence of suspenseful episodes like the siege of the fort. For example, it has uncanny Blind Pew tapping along.
 

Extollager

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Activating this thread again... there has been published a new biography of Sir Thos. Browne. Here's a brief review from The Independent:


The Adventures of Sir Thomas Browne in the 21st Century by Hugh Aldersey-Williams, book review: Genial, thorough look at a beautiful mind
Consider this list of words: medical, carnal, electricity, amphibious, biped, migrant, follicle, polarity, botanist, hallucination. I could go on, at length. Sir Thomas Browne of Norwich (1605-1682) – doctor, writer, scientist, philosopher – coined 784 words and fixed the modern usage of more than 1,600 more. In keeping with his outlook, Browne’s lexical novelties tend to be handy, precise and irreplaceable, rooted in observation but not without an aura of mystery.

The author of Religio Medici and Urne-Buriall, who quietly practised his healing art in Norwich for 45 years, thought and wrote while England shook with civil strife. Browne has never lacked literary admirers for what Hugh Aldersey-Williams calls “his civility, his tolerance, his good humour, his wit, and his sheer style”. Beyond the illustrious fans he cites – from Virginia Woolf to WG Sebald – I recall an interview at his book-stacked home in Milan with the legendary Italian polymath, Roberto Calasso. It turned out that Calasso had written his PhD thesis on Browne.

Rather than echo the many tributes that hail Browne’s hyper-imaginative fusion of “baroque prose” with “scientific investigation”, Aldersey-Williams has written the sort of book the good doctor might himself applaud. Not a conventional biography, this genial, generous but tough-minded excursion through its subject’s life and afterlife explores 10 topics that inspired or troubled Browne. From “physic” (medicine) to tolerance, faith to melancholy, Aldersey-Williams salutes but also interrogates an ever-fertile mind.

Aldersey-Williams backs Browne’s quest for an open-minded middle way between blind faith and reductive materialism; the secularity of Richard Dawkins gets short shrift. But he knows that his sceptical, humane hero could stumble. He puts critical stress on the Bury St Edmunds witch trial which, in 1662, summoned Dr Browne as an expert witness. “Equivocal to a fault”, he failed to state outright that two accused old women had not practised witchcraft. Both were hanged.

Aldersey-Williams has fewer doubts about the doctor’s achievements. From archaeological fieldwork to the psychological aspects of illness, the serene physician strode far ahead of his time. In his hero’s footsteps, the disciple takes us on his own scientific journeys, from a quest for five-fold patterns in nature to a hunt for Norfolk funerary urns. Aldersey-Williams relishes Browne’s plentiful contradictions: “He is curious, he is fallible, he is doomy, he is hopeful”. Above all, the book celebrates his bracing embrace of “uncertainty”; his taste for the anomalous rather than the incontrovertible. Both of those adjectives we also owe to Browne.
 

BAYLOR

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RLS continues, deservingly, to get attention:

Masterpiece: Robert Louis Stevenson's 'Treasure Island' - WSJ.com

The focus in this article is on Treasure Island, upon which Machen didn't, so far as I remember, comment anywhere; but I wonder if he wouldn't have perceived in it that quality of "ecstasy" that he expounds in Hieroglyphics. Treasure Island is a great adventure story, but it has more going for it than a sequence of suspenseful episodes like the siege of the fort. For example, it has uncanny Blind Pew tapping along.


The Three Impostors?

For some reason this book pops into my head when I think Treasure Island. Treasure Islands Billy Bones pursued by Blind Pew and his Henchmen is mirrored a bit by the man in spectacles who drops the coin in The Three Impostors.
 
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Extollager

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My friend Nick Kalfas has drawn my attention to Edmund Gosse's book on Coventry Patmore, which may be read at archive.org. I mean to get to this little book quite soon and to say something about it here.

Full text of "Coventry Patmore"

I say a bit about Patmore in messages 1, 7, 8, 10, 19, 20, and 22 above.
 

Extollager

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I'm activating this thread for discussion of any aspect thereof, but with Sir Thomas Browne particularly in mind. I hope to start posting occasionally on his writing before long. A stimulus to that plan has been the reading of William Vaughan's Samuel Palmer: Shadows on the Wall -- which seems to me an excellent book, the one you should make sure your public library and university library own on the artist (b. 1805).
 

BAYLOR

There Are Always new Things to Learn.
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I'm activating this thread for discussion of any aspect thereof, but with Sir Thomas Browne particularly in mind. I hope to start posting occasionally on his writing before long. A stimulus to that plan has been the reading of William Vaughan's Samuel Palmer: Shadows on the Wall -- which seems to me an excellent book, the one you should make sure your public library and university library own on the artist (b. 1805).

A marvelous and unsettling picture. :unsure:
 

hitmouse

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Good find. The RCP is worth a visit in its own right. Beautiful 1960s building with a great standing exhibition of old medical kit and a marvellous old library (if it is open) plus it is a short walk from Baker Street or Oxford Circus.
If you like that sort of thing, head over to Lincoln's Inn Fields for the extraordinary Sir John Soanes museum, and the Hunterian Museum in the Royal College of Surgeons.
 

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