Thursday, February 18, 2010

To My Followers- Both of You

Dear Friends,
This blog will fall silent for a week or more, as Ruth Raven's mastectomy looms ever nearer.  Hetty must now assume the role of comforter, and devote herself entirely to the needs of her attached friend.  I offered RR the services of my worthy sailor friend Poole when the time comes: he is something of an expert at knocking folk unconscious with a belaying pin, and is much in demand with ships' surgeons whenever amputations are called for- much more effective, to my mind, than rum.  To my astonishment, RR, speaking as usual across the chasm of History, informs me that neither recourse will be necessary. What fortitude must women of the 21st Century possess!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Hetty and the Guinea Pigs

Hetty: Remind me again. Why did I buy cavies from a sailor in the market of Rio de Janeiro?

Ruth Raven: Everyone who has read these words from George Eliot's Adam Bede will either get a lovely warm glow or reach for the sick bucket.
'There are various orders of beauty, causing men to make fools of
themselves in various styles, from the desperate to the sheepish; but
there is one order of beauty which seems made to turn the heads not only
of men, but of all intelligent mammals, even of women. It is a beauty
like that of kittens, or very small downy ducks making gentle rippling
noises with their soft bills, or babies just beginning to toddle and
to engage in conscious mischief--a beauty with which you can never be
angry, but that you feel ready to crush for inability to comprehend the
state of mind into which it throws you. Hetty Sorrel's was that sort
of beauty.'
As we clever modern people know, there is a dark side to all this. Oh, there is. There just is. The implication is that Hetty, just like the cute little animals, has zilch concept of morality.

Hetty: I feel an attack of the megrims coming on.

Ruth Raven: I know, but stay with me. In George Eliot's last book, Daniel Deronda, she uses a beautiful phrase to describe the sort of goodness that desperately flawed human beings could still aspire to- 'a region in which the affections are clad with knowledge'. It seemed to me that one way you could start clothing your affections with knowledge was to have guinea pigs crapping in your pockets for a while- a sort of preparation for motherhood, if you like. You see, even soft furry animals have their dark side.

Hetty: Was George Eliot a Methodist, like my cousin Dinah?

Ruth Raven: Nope.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

A Subject of Some Delicacy

Readers of Hetty, or, To Hell with Adam Bede by Ruth Raven (available from will doubtless be curious as to the libertine watches mentioned therein.  Hetty would not wish to sully her well-mannered blog with the dreaded words adult content, so the example shown here is one of the mildest of the genre. My old friend Mrs Fagin explains them thus, in the chapter called 'The Triumph of Eros over Time':
The are called libertine watches, but that does not make the owners of 'em libertines, at least not all of them. In Switzerland, where folk have a very passion fro watches, people give them out to the bride's maids at weddings, to signify that the time is fast ticking away until their own marriage bed. Among rich people they make pretty birthday gifts, for putting a bawdy scene inside a watch is like defiance to Old Father Time himself, who, if he exists, would rather see a death's head with worms crawling out of the eye sockets than a lusty couple at the baby-making business.'

And that, my dear readers, is as saucy as this blog gets.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Poms and Queen Victoria

My friend Ruth Raven has a touch of the megrims today.  The reason?

'Towards the end of Hetty, or, To Hell with Adam Bede (available from one of the characters propounds a never-before-aired theory concerning the origin of the Australian slang expression Pom, meaning a British immigrant. Now, I have always been suspicious of the two traditional explanations that (1) POM stands for Prisoner of Her Majesty (What would be the point of this gibe when nearly everyone was?) or that (2) newly arrived immigrants could be identified by pomegranate-like rednessof their complexions (If so, why is it never mentioned in the literature?). I have always suspected a link with a perfectly ordinary and well-known word- that is, Pom, meaning what it always has done, a Pomeranian dog.  Recently I discovered that Queen Victoria not only loved the creatures- she was a notable breeder of them, at one point owning more than thirty, and she was partlyresponsible for miniaturising the breed.  Bonsai Poms.  I am indebted to this information to The Free Library's article The Royal History of the Pomeranian Breed.

'Alas, even Homer nods, or, in my case, Noddy nods.  It turns out that Queen Victoria did not acquire her first Pom until 1888- a good twenty years after my character expresses his displeasure with the pampered lapdogs in human form, quite useless for rounding up sheep and cattle, then arriving in the Colonies.  I stand by my theory about Poms: it was, however, the wrong character expressing it at the wrong date.  I shall leave his comment intact as a warning to others of how easy it is to go astray- if any historian, amateur or otherwise, would like to take up the search for the first contemporary mention of the word Pom in its Australian sense, I suggest that he or she start combing the newspapers of the late 1880s.  Good luck!'