Sunday, November 02, 2014

Jemmy Downes's Irish wife

Alton Locke continues his journey from the Dean's castle, probably in Lincoln or Peterborough to Covent Garden where we are introduced to another character, a villain. An Irish lady trying to convince him to re-join a 'sweater's den'. I would really wonder how many other 19th Century novels would include an Irish character. I don't really mind that she is trying to trick Locke. Kingsley is very clever to give her a complete sympathetic overview.

She recognises Locke as a tailor according to his gait. I'm not sure about this but I am fairly sure tailors worked cross-legged. She then gives a marvellous speech to him to convince him to join her:

“Och then, it's I can show ye the flower o' work, I can. Bedad, there's a shop I know of where ye'll earn – bedad, if ye're the ninth part of a man, let alone a handy young fellow like the looks of you – och, ye'll earn thirty shillings the week, in the very least – an' beautiful lodgings; - och thin, just come and see 'em – as chape as mother's milk! Come along thin – och, it's the beauty ye are – just the nate figure for a tailor.”

Jemmy Downes worked with Locke until the owner died and the owner's son decides to close the shop and let all the workers work from home. He then opens up competition so that only the worker who promises the lowest price will get the work. Unfortunately his wife was pregnant and he had no choice but to open up his own sweat shop – and a dire dungeon it turns out to be. If anyone is the villain it is Jemmy, not his wife. As a Belfastman myself I can still hear the Irish lilt in her voice but 'bedad' is a complete unknown to me, this would obviously be a gem of a book for a linguistic detective.

Saturday, November 01, 2014

Letter to Horace Field from Charles Kingsley

 I opened the book of Kingsley's letters at random to find this wonderful letter. It is worthwhile that you should read something written 147 years ago advising a writer to read Darwin. Field's book is called 'Heroism, or, God our Father, omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent'. Also advising him to avoid sounding like he is proposing medieval superstition. 

To Horace Field, Esq.

EVERSLEY, November 3, 1867

I have just read a book of yours called 'Heroism', sent to me last April but mislaid. Pray excuse my seeming rudeness in not having before acknowledged it.
I have been not only surprised, but deeply touched with much of it. It re-echoes much which I have felt and thought about the mystery of life; here and there there is (it seems to me) great wisdom and insight, and everywhere honesty and original thought and speech. I regret much that you have used the Swedenborgian nomenclature, and even spelling. Conjugial for conjugal, though allowed for a few latin examples, is a pedantry on Swedenborg's part, which must not be followed, save for those who wish to make themselves answerable in the world's eyes for all his peculiarities. So of 'angels' and 'devils' – quite agreeing with your general meaning, and of 'heaven' and 'hell'. I must say that in the dense ignorance and stupidity with which we are just now surrounded, you had better not use these words as you do, without previous definition, or you will be supposed to be a mere supporter of the very popular superstitions of the medieval church, with which you exactly do not agree. But of your belief in a special providence of a perpetual education by men by evil as well as good, by small things as well as great, I cannot speak too highly. If I did not believe that, I could believe nothing; and your book is delightful to me, because I find one other man in England who does believe it. The explanation that you give goes for little with me. It is as good as any other Iever heard perhaps better; but what comforts me is the recognition of the fact by one pious man, who yet believes in physical science and political economy.
If I were to advise you – it would be, read and study Darwin. In him you wll find a justification for much which you have said – and an explanation – without troubling your mind with merely medieval devils (who have no ground of existence in any facts known to me), of much which you have said.
I would very much like to hear from you, and beg you to forgive the seeming neglect of my not having acknowledged your book until now.