31 January 2017

Teapots and Tangos (Repost from 2006)


[Originally posted 31 January 2006]
M
aybe I’m in hibernation or something; I find myself sleeping all the time this winter. I can’t seem to stay awake. But I’m up now this afternoon or evening of the last day of January, and maybe writing something here will get me going a bit. I’m not actually counting on it, however.
A winter storm rages outside, but things are calm here, and with any luck, maybe they’ll continue to be. If the electricity holds. And the supplies don’t run out.
I’ve written “winter” now twice, but by my current eight-season model of the year, we are well into the season I call Sheol, or simply, The Pit. Winter, or Christmastide, is past, and we have nothing to look forward to till Spring. Hibernation may well be a good idea.
In the news we hear of the death of Coretta Scott King, the projected elevation of Judge Samuel Alito, and the coming (or is it now over?) State of the Union speech. And we hear that Muslims are once again in an uproar over some silly thing or other—in this case, the running of a handful of cartoons by a Danish newspaper depicting the prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him). This upsets them. I used to think that southern Baptists were the most idiotic people on earth for flying into a rage over nothing at all, but I’ve got to admit, these rioting Muslims take the cake. “…what they’ve done is beyond forgiveness,” says one Abdul Qader Ibrahim, described as a Sudanese housekeeper in Jeddah. “…we demand that the Danish government make a clear and public apology for the wrongful crime,” proclaims Nafez Azzam, a leader of Islamic Jihad. “It’s a matter that touches the heart of Islam,” says Hatim Misfer, a Saudi receptionist. A Saudi college student, Ahmad Alsaeed, said that a boycott of Danish goods was necessary because without it “the Western world would not have understood how serious this issue is to Muslims.”
Okay … I can’t speak for the entire Western World here, but speaking for myself, what I get out of this is that some Muslim people, at least, have been living in a cocoon for too damn long. Wake up! There's a huge world filled with people who don’t subscribe to your beliefs, who don’t care about your notions, and who aren’t even going to notice your boycott. What most people get out of this kind of behavior is that Muslims (in general!) are weird flaky people who are likely to fly off the handle for no good reason.
The issue here is control. Who gets to determine how a historical character is presented—his self-proclaimed followers, or all of us? The instrument is censorship—the attempt to prevent somebody with a message from reaching those who wish to hear (or in this case see) it.
And as for apologies—well, for one thing, the Muslim organizers of this boycott owe one hell of an apology to the people they’ve hurt with it—people who, by the way, had nothing to do with the cartoons or those who put them out. They owe an apology to all those they’ve offended in the West for their disrespect to the most basic law of civilized discourse—freedom of speech.
Whether anybody owes these Muslims an apology is harder to say. They certainly have every right to be offended, if that pleases them. They have every right not to subscribe to the Danish paper in question, if that pleases them. But they have no right whatsoever to keep me from looking at these images, if it pleases me and the cartoonists who made them. And the crime they are committing in trying to prevent that is indeed unforgivable.

30 January 2017

Quotations of the Day


Y
ou see, for a United States President to become a dictator, he has to do only one thing: Stop following the rules. The US Court System, the Congress, and the Executive exist in a system of checks and balances, and that is supposed to keep everybody, well, in check. And balanced. But the Executive is the branch of government with multiple police and security forces, an Army, a Navy, an Air Force, Marines, and a Coast Guard. There is a rule that only the Coast Guard can carry out military-esque activities on US soil. But there is a mechanism for putting that rule aside. The President puts the rule aside. That’s it.—Greg Laden

Avarice, ambition, revenge and licentiousness would break the strongest cords of our Constitution, as a whale goes through a net.—John Adams

29 January 2017

The Motor Chums and the Great Gusher: The Runt Returns


[Sketch for The Motor Chums and the Great Gusher, written 29 January 2007]
“T
here are no rising suns in the dead of night.” The Arab spoke softly, as though unable to articulate the vague notions that formed his thoughts.
“That’s so,” agreed Ned.
“But irrelevant,” snapped Harry.
“And it is not the answer to the question we asked,” observed T. Bone Lawrence. “As you may recall, O dog of the desert, we are seeking the distance to the Oasis of Gumbo.”
“Gumbo is not the answer,” said the Arab. “The answer is not here. You are the measure of the infinite. You are the one who puts in motion. You are the one who seeks. There is no answer here.”
“Gurk,” remarked the good-natured Dick, seizing the Arab playfully by the throat and shaking him vigorously like a terrier with a rat.
“Dish yeah camel stinks to high heb’n,” Ersatz added, chuckling casually as if to relieve the tension.
Heat waves shimmered before their eyes, rippling the landscape ahead of them as though seen in an ancient mirror. Sweat ran down their faces. Thirst turned their throats to sandpaper and their tongues to fur. There was no future except in the foot of space directly in front of them, and no past except the fading memories of cool drafts and ice water.
“Well, there’s one good thing, anyway,” Ned said. “We must have lost The Runt for good and all. There’s no way he could be hiding here among the camels and all.”
“You shoodn ub said dat!” shrieked Ersatz. It was an unnerving sound amongst the sand dunes. “Dat’s askin foah trubble!”
“Sambo’s right,” agreed T-Bone. “A conditional positive beats four aces any day.”
There was no sound now but the gurgling of the Arab as Dick continued grasp him by the throat. And then the chums noticed a strange development occurring. The Arab seemed to grow longer, and to shrink in bulk. Something dropped from him—and Dick found himself clutching nothing but a flimsy headscarf. The Arab had somehow slid from him! And directly below—
“It’s The Runt!” said Tom bitterly. “The goddamn Runt!”
“So he didn’t drown in the Pacific after all,” muttered Ned. “It’s a rum show, as the pirate said about the Bikini Follies.”

28 January 2017

Not Without Mustard (A Quasi-Repost)


[Notes written 28 January 1993]
Hilda Amphlette says,
Certainly his [Shakespeare’s] behaviour betrayed sundry bad lapses, for in November of this year [1594] there was issued a writ of attachment, to the Sheriff of Surrey, in which a certain William Wayte asked for sureties of the peace against William Shakspere, Francis Langley, Dorothy Soer and Ann Lee. A gay foursome!
Langley, the goldsmith, was the propri­etor of Paris Garden on Bankside near Southwark. What the trou­ble was about we do not know, but it was serious enough for Wayte to apply for legal protection.  Shakspere was by this time thir­ty-two years of age, so it was no student’s rag or youthful high spirits. In the document he is referred to as a ‘whittawer’ (a tanner of white leather).” [p. 25, Who Was Shakespeare?]
There is one curious point here. Where does she get the idea that Shakespeare was described in the document as a whittawer? The document gives no information except the names of the people involved and the legal phrases. On p. 31 of Leslie Hotson’s book about his discovery is the answer:
Accordingly in the autumn of 1556 we find him [Gardiner] buying himself into the Company of the Grey Tawyers, the dressers or workers of grey skins and leathers. We remember that John Shakespeare, the poet’s father, was called a glover or white tawyer (whittawer, whittier), a worker in white leathers.”
This comes, then, under the heading of evidence made up out of whole cloth, or maybe just ineptitude on the part of these hypothesizers.

Nashe:
As a mad Ruffian, on a time, being in danger of shipwreck by a tempest, and seeing all other at their vows and prayers, that if it would please God, of his infinite goodness, to deliver them out of that imminent danger, one would abjure this sin where unto he was addicted; an other, make satisfaction for that vio­lence he had committed: he, in a desperate jest, began thus to reconcile his soul to heaven.
O Lord, if it may seem good to thee to deliver me from this fear of untimely death, I vow before thy Throne and all thy star­ry Host, never to eat Haberdine more whilst I live.
Well, so it fell out, that the Sky cleared and the tempest ceased, and this careless wretch, that made such a mockery of prayer, ready to set foot a Land, cried out: not without Mustard, good Lord, not without Mustard: as though it had been the great­est torment in the world, to have eaten Haberdine without Mus­tard. [From Pierce Penilesse, His Supplication to the Divell, p. 171 in McKerrow’s edition, spelling modernized more or less.]

Charlton Ogburn Jr. indicated in his chapter on Greene’s Groats­worth of Wit that bombast didn’t have the meaning in 1592 that it has today—rather, he implied that was the case, with some com­ment to the effect that we might interpret the passage giving bombast its modern meaning, but then bombast meant to pad or fill out. (I don’t have the book currently, so I can’t give an exact quotation.) But bombast did have its modern meaning by that date, at least the noun did. (The verb never has referred to verse, but that doesn’t really mean anything here; Elizabethan writers were nothing if not experimental in their approach to the language.) Consider the following passage, attacking play­wrights, in Nashe’s introduction to Greene’s Menaphon:
But herein I cannot so fully bequeath them to folly, as their idiot Art-masters, that intrude themselves to our ears as the Alchemists of eloquence, who (mounted on the stage of arrogance) think to out-brave better pens with the swelling bombast of bragging blank verse. [III, 11; spelling modernized]
One might be cautious about all these hypotheses simply by ob­serv­ing the amount of evidence the proponents have to bend, al­ter, or otherwise explain away. On the whole, the more evidence that has to be explained away, the less likely the hypothesis.

27 January 2017

185


I
 am reminded that today is Lewis Carroll’s birthday. Rex Stout, John Lennon, Alexander Woollcott, James Thurber, and Martin Gardner are numbered among his admirers. Mark Twain once met him, describing him as the shyest adult male he had ever met except Joel Chandler Harris, the author of the Uncle Remus stories.
A photographer, inventor, mathematician, satirist, clergyman, and amateur philosopher, Lewis Carroll is best remembered as the author of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, and Through the Looking-Glass. The Hunting of the Snark (An agony in eight fits) is a favorite of mine. He is perhaps not so well remembered as the author of Sylvie and Bruno and Phantasmagoria, but I read all of them in my childhood—indeed, reread them often enough that lines from them are engraved in my memory to this day: “Down, down down—would the fall never come to an end?” “Navigation is always a difficult art, though with only one ship and one bell….” “He thought he saw an argument That proved he was the pope.” “[G]hosts have every good a right In every way to fear the light As men to fear the dark.” “And the moral of that is, the more there is of mine the less there is of yours.” “What may I do? At length I cried Tired of the painful task. The fairy quietly replied And said ‘You must not ask.’”
Lewis Carroll turned 185 today.

26 January 2017

(See How the) Good Times Roll (Away) [reposted from 2011]


[Originally posted 26 January 2011]
Like ice in a drink
Invisible ink
Or dreams in the cold light of day
The children of rock ’n’ roll
Never grow old
They just fade away.
Ron Nasty
M
y word-genie seems to have deserted me; I have virtually nothing to say, and I’ve lost whatever ability I have to say it. Still, that’s never stopped me before. Plenty of other things have, but not that.
Strange news arrives from the coast. Some armed and dangerous character is supposed to be hiding out somewhere in my mother’s neighborhood—seems he shot a cop during a routine traffic stop, got chased up highway 101, abandoned his car, took a pot-shot at another fellow out crabbing, and is now lurking somewhere among the stunted evergreenery of the sandy Oregon shoreline. That’s just perfect. My mother couldn’t get out the other day for a routine medical appointment—well, actually getting out wasn’t the problem. It’s just if she left the authorities would have let her back in, and that would have been kind of a problem.
And elsewhere clueless politician Michele Bachmann babbles about how amazing it is that all who came to America were treated alike regardless of the color of their skins, what languages they spoke, how rich or poor they were. “Once you got here, we were all the same. Isn’t that remarkable?” Yeaaaah…that’s right. Everybody came over in chains, was sold into slavery, was immediately put to work in the cotton-fields—in short, everybody who came to America was treated like crap. Is that your point? Apparently slavery didn’t count, according to Bachmann—it seems that the Founders “worked tirelessly until slavery was no more in the United States.” Who knew? Apparently Bachmann has her own private sources of history.
And riot-police crack down on mass demonstrations in Tunis, Cairo, and Alexandria. Are the forces of democracy winning? Or are they losing? And which would be a good thing? Did it really make sense for Egypt to privatize public utilities? Are the new wealthy elites really better at running things than the old bureaucrats? And what about Naomi?
Bombs in Moscow, Lahore, Karachi. Parliament opens in Kabul after a week-long stand-off with the president. President Obama delivers a State-of-the-Union address to a Congress still subdued by the recent shooting of one of their own. It is reported that troop deaths from IEDs in Afghanistan rose by sixty percent last year. Violence, craziness. No foundation.
Discouragement and depression sit beside me as I type. Emotions flicker fitfully like a defective fluorescent tube. Something my father once said comes back to me: “As you get older, things make less sense.” It’s probably neither true nor relevant, but it fits my feelings this 26th day of January in the twelve thousand eleventh year of the Holocene Era.
This is the old Rational Ranter, reporting from Sheol.

25 January 2017

Manifest Destiny [2010]


[Originally posted 25 January 2010]
I
’ve been amusing myself by leafing through some of John L. O’Sullivan’s editorials on things like westward expansion, our Indian policy, and the future of America. This is supposed to be for a section on my (still very hypothetical) Modoc War book, and has been brought to me through the courtesy of the good folk at Cornell University.
I’ve been looking for a gateway to enter into the world view of nineteenth century America as it were, and I’m thinking of using O’Sullivan for that purpose. This guy was the editor and publisher of a literary magazine called The United States Magazine and Democratic Review, which was sort of a Democratic counterpart to the Whiggish North American Review. (The latter is also available at the Cornell University site.)
The book section hasn’t exactly jelled yet, but I’m getting a better picture of my quarry, at any rate. I transcribed “Annexation” and stuck it up at Wikisource, and I’ve transcribed “Territorial Aggrandizement” and “Our Indian Policy” as well, though so far they’re just sitting on my computer.
O’Sullivan, by the way, was born on a ship off the coast of Gibraltar during the war of 1812; his mother had taken refuge there from fear of a plague on shore. (What she was doing in Gibraltar my internet sources don’t say.) He was elected to the New York legislature in his twenties, where he made himself unpopular by campaigning against the death penalty. He was a Van Buren supporter during the election of 1844—this was the free-for-all where the sitting president had been drummed out of his party and the White House really was up for grabs—and the Whigs were running Henry Clay. (One of the ironies of history is that neither Daniel Webster nor Henry Clay were ever president, though their names are remembered now much better than many of those who actually succeeded in getting the prize.) O’Sullivan ended up disappointed, of course, when James K. Polk, the first “dark horse” candidate (supposedly), somehow emerged from the melee the victor, in spite of his often-expressed lack of interest in the position. He stood behind Polk even so, but without the enthusiasm he’d shown for Van Buren.
O’Sullivan was a visionary. While his United States was bounded by the Rocky Mountains, he looked forward to a nation united by ties of wire and rail that spanned the continent from Atlantic to Pacific. “[T]he day cannot be distant,” he wrote, “which shall witness the conveyance of the representatives from Oregon and California to Washington within less time than a few years ago was devoted to a similar journey by those from Ohio; while the magnetic telegraph will enable the editors of the ‘San Francisco Union,’ the ‘Astoria Evening Post,’ or the ‘Nootka Morning News’ to set up in type the first half of the President’s Inaugural, before the echoes of the latter half shall have died away beneath the lofty porch of the Capitol, as spoken from his lips.” Yes, not only Texas, but California, Oregon, New Mexico, Chihuahua, Yucatan, Cuba, and the British provinces to the north were all to dissolve their allegiances and clamor for annexation by the United States. There would be no need for a war—indeed, nothing was less likely—rather, the natural strength of the Saxon peoples would draw settlers like magnets to these uninhabited lands. What was more natural than that, once there, they would want to join with the United States? It was practically inevitable.
Slavery was an awkward problem, true, but so was the alternative. O’Sullivan was appalled by the conditions workers in the free north faced, and felt that there might be some features of the slave system that were superior to the wage system that produced such grinding poverty. Might not slavery, if purged of such objectionable features as “the separation of families, excessive severities, subjection to the licentiousness of mastership … contain some dim undeveloped germ of that very principle of reform thus aimed at [by reformers like Charles Fourier], out of which proceeds some compensation at least for its other evils, making it the duty of true reform to cultivate and develope [sic] the good, and remove the evils?”
If slavery goes, O’Sullivan looks forward to
the ultimate disappearance of the negro race from our borders. The Spanish Indian-American populations of Mexico, Central America and South America, afford the only receptacle capable of absorbing that race whenever we shall be prepared to slough it off—to emancipate it from slavery, and (simultaneously necessary) to remove it from the midst of our own. Themselves already of mixed and confused blood, and free from the “the prejudices” which among us so insuperably forbid the social amalgamation which can alone elevate the Negro race out of a virtually servile degradation even though legally free, the regions occupied by those populations must strongly attract the black race in that direction; and as soon as the destined hour of emancipation shall arrive, will relieve the question of one of its worst difficulties, if not absolutely the greatest.
The native Americans too pose a problem.
It [i]s impossible that two systems of governments, so diverse as the Indian and American, should coexist on the same territory. All history proved this. The most rational hope of success for this race, the only one which indeed appear[s] practical on a scale commensurate with the object, [i]s to remove them, with their own consent, to a position entirely without the boundaries of the state jurisdictions, where they might assert their political sovereignty, and live and develope their true national character, under their own laws.
And their ultimate fate? O’Sullivan is optimistic, given the abilities shown by the more progressive members to survive and thrive under the new circumstances. But
Our greatest apprehensions, we must confess, before closing this paper, arise from the peculiar geographical position of the Indian territory with relation to our own. … Our population is on the broad move West. Nothing, it is evident, will now repress them this side of the Pacific. The snowy heights of the Rocky Mountains are already scaled; and we but apply the results of the past to the future, in saying that the path which has been trod by a few, will be trod by many. Now, the removed tribes are precisely in the centre of this path. From the mouth of the Platte, or the Konza, the great highway to the Oregon must run west. Whether this new tide of emigration be successful or unsuccessful, will those who compose it spare to trample on the red man? Will they suddenly become kind to him, to whom they have been unkind? Will they cease to desire the lands which their children want? Will they consent to see the nation separated by an Indian state? Will they award honors, nay, justice, to that state? Twenty years will answer these questions.
In spite of O’Sullivan’s comments on race, he doesn’t seem to have believed in it. In a very interesting piece entitled “Do the Various Races of Man Constitute a Single Species?” he suggests that race is an imaginary construct, and that racial types are simply the extremes in the continuum of human variability. He considers it quite possible that some groups are superior to others in particular abilities, but argues that the variability within a group is greater than the difference between groups.
He’s an odd character, and one I’m glad to have encountered, in spite of his curious limitations. There’s a biography out on him that I want to read, if I can get a copy. Unfortunately my local library doesn’t have it; I’ll have to resort to buying it or getting it through interlibrary loan. It does seem to me a trifle unfair that he is remembered now only for two things—his invention of the phrase “manifest destiny,” and his magazine’s motto: “The best government is that which governs least.”

24 January 2017

Staving off the Darkness [from 1983]


[Passage from a letter written 24 January 1983]
S
till depressed I guess; still down anyway. Better than last November, sure, but then I’d have to be just to stay alive. I’m sorry but I only remember Thanksgiving and all that vaguely, like the events of some evil dream. I don’t know why it is, but I lose the specifics of times of depression; brief individual scenes stand out, but without connections or context. I can recall distinctly writing down stuff on a 3x5 pad that I wanted to recall later, I think right after I talked with you on the phone but maybe that was later on—anyway, I lost the pad somewhere. The only journal entries for the period are a status entry on November 10 (which tells me only that I was depressed and probably drunk when I wrote it) and some fragmentary sentences written the night of November 25 (mostly about bus routes and a friend’s plans for her birthday). Not much to go on. Sorry.
I’ve found that depression doesn’t bother me as much if I just stay busy as hell, but the trouble with that approach is it doesn’t do any good when I run out of things to do for the moment. Collapse. Busyness only staves off the darkness; it doesn’t create light. But shit—what else is there? I’ve tried to arrange things so that I have as little unprogrammed time as possible, little time to think, you know, because all my thoughts are bad. Even my dreams have been shitty; last night I had the “lost tooth” dream again, complete with real pain. A few nights ago I was snubbed by my old friend Sigmund Freud (we’d grown up together as youths in Vienna) who instead made passes at this girl I was with (we’d met on the train coming in from Paris(?)) and babbling about this extraordinary young man he’d met who had a plan for creating a Third Reich. When I finally got his attention he insisted that he’d known all along who I was (which was more than I did) but that he hadn’t greeted me because we were such old friends that he didn’t think it was necessary. I was thinking that I was wasting my time here and that I ought to get back on the train for St. Petersburg before I missed the revolution. It was raining in Vienna anyway.
I have to admit that in cold print the dream looks bizarre rather than depressing, but it was depressing while I had it. I mean, we’d all expected such great things of Simund, and all that talent had just gone to waste.
Being depressed is a drag, though, and I’d rather be doing something else. Anything else. Everything feels so different to me when I’m down I’m always amazed that nobody else can tell that I’m depressed. Unless I tell it myself. Part of it is that I can get by on automatic pilot for so many functions, I suppose; I can get a hell of a lot done without using my mind at all. I’ve been told (I don’t know that it’s true) that when I fall asleep while talking I go on talking in complete sentences; they just stop making sense after a while I suspect that functioning while depressed is sort of like that. I don’t know.

23 January 2017

Sir Clyomon Meets Subtle Shift


[scene ii of Sir Clyomon and Sir Clamydes, my modern-spelling edition, based on the quarto as given in the Malone Society reprint, with notes adapted from Bullen and Dyce. The original author is unknown, though I like to think that Edward de Vere (perhaps assisted by one of the authors he supported) might be responsible. In the notes below B is Bullen, D Dyce, and Q the quarto. Scene ii was finished 23 January 2007.]
Enter Sir Clyomon, Knight of the golden Shield, son to the King of Denmark, booted.  Subtle Shift, the Vice, within, also booted.*
Clyomon
Come on good fellow, follow me, that I may understand
Of whence thou art, thus traveling here in a foreign land;
Come, why dost thou not leave loitering there and follow after me?
Subtle Shift
[within] Ah, I am in and’t shall please you!
Clyomon
In! why, where art thou in?
Subtle Shift
Faith, in a dirty ditch with a wanion,† so berayed‡ as it’s pity to see.
Clyomon
Well, I see thou art a merry companion, I shall like better of thy company:
But, I pray thee, come away.
Subtle Shift
[within] If I get out one of my legs, as fast as I may.
Ha lo! ah my buttock! the very foundation thereof doth break;
Ha lo! once again, I am as fast as though I had frozen here a week.
Here let him flip unto the stage backwards, as though he had pulled his leg out of the mire, one boot off, and then rise up to run in again.
Clyomon
Why how now! whither runn’st thou? art thou foolish in thy mind?
Subtle Shift
But to fetch one of my legs and’t shall please, that I have left in the mire behind.
Clyomon
One of thy legs! why, look, man, both thy legs thou hast!
It is but one of thy boots thou hast lost, thy labor thou dost wast.
Subtle Shift
But one of my boots! Jesu, I had such a wrench with the fall,
That, I assure, I did think one of my legs had gone withal.
Clyomon
Well, let that pass, and tell me what thou art, and what is thy name,
And from whence thou cam’st, and whither thy journey thou dost frame,
That I have met thee by the way, thus traveling in this sort.
Subtle Shift
What you have requested, and’t shall please, I am able to report,
What I am by my nature each wight shall perceive
That frequenteth my company by the learning I have:
I am the son of Apollo, and from his high seat I came;
But whither I go, it skills§ not, for Knowledge is my name,
And whoso hath knowledge, what needs he to care
Which way the wind blow, his way to prepare?
Clyomon
And art thou Knowledge?  Of troth, I am glad that I have met with thee.
Subtle Shift
I am Knowledge, and have as good skill in a woman as any man whatsoever he be,
For this I am certain of, let me but lie with her all night,
And I’ll tell you in the morning whether she is maid, wife, or sprite;
And as for other matters, speaking of languishes or any other thing,
I am able to serve, and’t shall please, and’t were great Alexander the King.
Clyomon
Of troth, then, for thy excellency, I will thee gladly entertain,
If in case that with me thou wilt promise to remain.
Subtle Shift
Nay, and’t shall please ye, I am like to a woman, say nay, and take it:
When a gentleman proffers entertainment, I were a fool to forsake it.
Clyomon
Well, Knowledge, then sith thou art content my servant to be,
And endued with noble qualities thy personage I see,
Thou having perfect knowledge how thyself to behave,
I will send thee of mine errand; but haste thither, I crave,
For here I will stay thy coming again.
Subtle Shift
Declare your pleasure, sir, and whither I shall go, and then the case is plain.
Clyomon
Nay, of no great importance, but being here in Suavia
And near unto the court, I would have thee to take thy way
Thither with all speed, because I would hear
If any shows or triumphs be towards, else would I not come there;
For only upon feats of arms is all my delight.
Subtle Shift
[aside] If I had known so much before, serve that serve will, I would have served no martial knight.—
Well, sir, to accomplish your will, to the court I will hie,
And what news is there stirring, bring word by and by.
Clyomon
Do so, good Knowledge, and here in place thy coming I will stay,
For nothing doth delight me more than to hear of martial play.
[Exit Subtle Shift.

* sd] B; “Enter Sir Clyomon Knight of the Golden Sheeld, sonne to the King of Denmarke, with subtill Shift the Vice, booted.” Q.  The dialog necessitates the changes in stage directions.  “‘The Vice’—equivalent in this stage-direction to ‘the buffoon’—was a prominent character in the early Moral Plays…” D.  “Sir Clyomon and Shift are “booted” (in their riding-boots) as they are going on a journey.” B

wanion] D B; woman Q.  With a wanion = with a curse, with a murrain. D, B.

berayed] befouled.

§ skills] It skills not = it matters not.

‖ languishes] A corruption of languages.

¶ say nay, and take it] A proverbial expression.  Faire de guedon guedon.  To mince or simper it; to be nice, quaint, scrupulous of receiving what inwardly is longed for; to say nay and take it, as men say maids do.”—Cotgrave.  (Cf. Richard III., iii. 7:—“Play the maid’s part,—still answer nay, and take it.”)

⁂ towards] in preparation, at hand.

sd] D B; Q has Subtle Shift exit at the end of his last speech.
 

22 January 2017

Edward Fox and the Drayton-Borrowe Affair


[From the introduction to Captain Jack and the Paper Man; this section was finished 22 January 1995]
T
o Edward Fox the war made at least one difference; it gave him a new name. For the rest of his life he was known as Modoc Fox. His employer, too, was apparently pleased with his work. When the paper did a series on corruption in the Indian Agencies the next year, it sent Fox to help cover the affair. Though the main work was done by Ralph Meeker, whose father would later be a victim in the Ute uprising in Colorado, Fox observed, and later testified to, various irregularities at the Red Cloud and Spotted Tail agencies. While there he met and interviewed Red Cloud himself. When Fox left the Herald some years later, it was to go into business for himself on Wall Street. An inheritance eventually enabled him to return to England.
It was while he was in England, in 1892, that Fox broke the story of the Drayton affair, a scandal that shook New York society. If there was a New York nobility, the Astors were its first family. No hint of scandal touched them until Charlotte Augusta, the daughter of William Astor, maintained a friendship with Hallett Alsop Borrowe, while she was married to James Coleman Drayton.
Whatever the exact nature of their relationship, it was more than Drayton could stand, and while both men were in England, he challenged Borrowe to a duel. In need of seconds, Borrowe applied to a friend from Texas, who in turn referred him to Fox.
Fox was reluctant to become involved, but on realizing the news value of the story, decided he might as well have a front row seat. Armed with a letter of introduction to celebrated duelist Harry Vane Milbank, who was to act as Borrowe’s other second, he accompanied the young man to Paris to meet with Drayton’s seconds.
Drayton had chosen as seconds two Frenchmen who knew him only slightly, and knew nothing of the case.  When they learned the background from Fox and Milbank they were concerned—not because the case was as insubstantial as an opium dream, but because Drayton had not taken action at once, and because he had apparently accepted monetary compensation from the Astors for keeping quiet.
The matter was thereupon referred to a “Jury of Honor.” At least, the seconds all agreed that it should be referred to such a body. Drayton would have nothing to do with it. “He has inflicted upon me the most grievous injury which one man can inflict upon another; and the instant I found him upon territory where satisfaction could be claimed without scandal and without legal restriction, I sought it at his hands,” he wrote. “I do not propose to enter upon quibble and argument before any man or body of men on these points.”
Milbank and Fox coolly replied that they had placed the facts of the case “before two of the highest authorities in France … and they have decided that the course of action that we have taken was perfectly justifiable, as they claimed that too long a time had elapsed since the first cause of offence had been given, and that, coupled with the fact that the injured party had accepted and enjoyed an annual monetary consideration, debarred him from any reparation under the code of honor on the part of Mr. Borrowe.”
With that the matter rested for the moment, and Borrowe, Milbank, and Drayton returned to New York—all travelling aboard the same ship. The evening before Borrowe left, he told Fox that if there was any danger of a garbled version of the story appearing in the papers, he was to publish the complete correspondence over the proposed duel, the object being to protect Borrowe against any charge of cowardice.
Fox did so. When reporters began digging up the facts of the case, Fox placed the entire correspondence in the hands of a reporter for the New York Sun, which published it in full 18 March 1892. It made an immense sensation, and experts in the American code of honor expressed the opinion that Drayton should have shot Borrowe at once, without any nonsense about a duel. Others observed that Drayton seemed to have been unfortunate in his choice of seconds.
Public opinion ran against Borrowe. When he learned the situation upon his arrival in New York, Borrowe immediately charged, through Milbank, that Fox had released the documents without his knowledge. Soon he and Milbank were on their way back to England, this time to challenge Fox to a duel.
On 17 April 1892 Borrowe wrote Fox the obligatory insulting letter, saying, among other things, “As a second you are a lamentable failure, Mr. Fox. Perhaps as a principal you might be a success. Personally I doubt this, because in my opinion a man who is untrue to others is untrue to himself, and he who has not the courage of his own opinions has not the courage to combat the opinions of others.”
The duel occurred 23 April in Belgium. Borrowe and Fox took two shots at each other at twelve paces, neither injuring the other, though a bullet came close enough to put a hole in Fox's coat. While the Sun reporter who covered the affair in London thought that the duel might have settled the question of Borrowe’s courage (“that of Fox has never been doubted” he observed parenthetically), others hinted that it was a put-up job. An anonymous Southern duelist was quoted as saying, “I do not believe that either man meant to shoot the other.”
Whether or no, the participants took their leave of each other without reconciliation, and Fox’s part in this pointless affair was ended. Charlotte Augusta divorced Drayton, charging desertion from “cruel suspicions as to her marital fidelity.”  Both subsequently remarried, though Charlotte was cut out of her father’s will.  Borrowe was with the Rough Riders in the Spanish American War.
Though he had escaped death this time, Fox did not have much longer to live. Death caught up with him in Australia, where he had gone late in 1894, to represent the West Australian Exploring and Finance Corporation. On 3 March 1895 he went sailing with a small party on the Swan River near Perth. The yacht abruptly capsized, and four members of the party, Edward Fox among them, were drowned. A red granite obelisk marks his grave in the East Perth cemetery.

Sources:

Fox and Indian Agencies investigation:
Fox, 17 August, New York Herald, 27 August 1874
Fox, 24 August 1874, New York Herald, 6 September 1874
Oliver Knight, Following the Indian Wars, pp. 196-7

Fox and the Drayton-Borrowe Affair:
“Cannot Have a Duel,” New York Sun, 18 March 1892
“Drayton and Borrowe,” New York Sun, 19 March 1892
“How They Came to the Sun,” New York Sun, 31 March 1892
“Borrowe’s Friend Milbank,” New York Times, 1 April 1892
“Borrowe and Fox Meet,” New York Sun, 24 April 1892
“Grinning Over That Duel,” New York Sun, 25 April 1892
“Fox and Borrowe ‘Fight,’” New York Times, 25 April 1892
“Edward Fox’s Statement,” New York Sun, 26 April 1892
“Major H. A. Borrowe Dies at 58 Years,” New York Times, 23 May 1921
Harvey O’Connor, The Astors (New York, 1941), pp. 209-228
John D. Gates, The Astor Family (New York, 1981), pp. 84-87
David Sinclair, Dynasty: The Astors and Their Times (New York, 1984), pp. 196-198
Of the last three accounts, only O’Connor mentions Fox by name; both he and Sinclair misidentify Fox as Drayton’s second, not Borrowe’s. Gates, in his brief account, leaves Fox out altogether.

Fox’s death:
“Edward (‘Modoc’) Fox Drowned,” New York Herald, 19 March 1895
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