Provincial Letters

Far from the mad crowds of the city, Blaise Pascal passed comment on the strange behaviour of this urban contemporaries in his Provincial Letters. The connection between them and this blog is somewhat tenuous.

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Location: Grimsby, N E Lincolnshire, United Kingdom

My star sign in Superstition. And I didn't believe in reincarnation last time, either. The only thing I can't tolerate is intolerance. I am a fanatical ant-fanaticist. I am bigotted only where bigots are concerned. I am a fundamentalist atheist. I'm proud to be a product of evolution; I know it in my genes.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Posted @ 02:27The Further Adventures of Keats & Chapman IV

Before we start, I wish to note that the Keats & Chapman thing is obsessive and there are several examples out there on the net of people carrying on Flann O'Brien's tradition. Having said that, it must be recorded that O'Brien himself stressed that the cleverness (or otherwise) of the pun is not the point: the monotonous inevitability of the surrounding extraneous detail is the one and only pleasure.

So, before we move on to the main course, peruse and compare the following (I know which I prefer):

Essays should be submitted on one side of the paper only with all references cited and only blue ink used. Marks will be deducted for uses of inappropriate language.

Leading a Horse To Slaughter

Finding themselves back in London once more, Keats and Chapman took up lodgings at the Marylebone Station end of Baker Street at number 223 ("A home away from Holmes," commented Keats to the utter indifference of Chapman). Chapman, a scholar to the core, took himself off to the British Museum in search of enlightenment and entertainment; Keats, being more of a man about town, began to frequent, once again, the more exclusive of the capital's gentlemen's clubs.

Keats, rather to Chapman's chagrin and embarrassment, managed to make small fortune investing in the trade of prostitution which attracted so many of the the members of these clubs. However — being always somewhat of a romantic — Keats squandered this ill-found wealth attempting to reform a dissolute nephew. The nephew was persuaded to spend his time raising seafood for the restaurant market rather than in the self-indulgent enjoyment of the fleshpots of the city and made quite a go of it until a fungus wiped out all the crustaceans on his Devon sea-farm (a case of throwing lewd money after crab, it has been said by those who know no better).

Chapman, in that inter-temporal inexactitude, the meanwhile, became enamoured of the then nascent Marxist movement having bumped into Marx and read early drafts of Das Kapital and The Communist Manifesto in the reading room of the British Museum. Chapman was rather in awe of Marx and his friends, Friedrich Engels and Mikhail Bakunin (who was often visiting). Although Chapman's grasp of German remained naive and childlike he managed to form a small group of Marxist supporters and friends who met regularly to discuss this new development in political thought.

One evening, late in the summer of 1864, Keats announced that he was off to the races. There was, he said, an evening meeting at Epsom and one of his friends (Sir Thomas Barclay, a distant and not altogether well-regarded member of the banking family) had a filly running in the seven o'clock race. Chapman, despite enjoying the spectacle of racing, had already arranged to meet his Marxist friends for an early dinner at the Ritz. Keats, keen to recover his money and sure that his friend's horse would win, took himself off south of the Thames to watch the horses perform.

Around ten o'clock that evening, Chapman returned to their Baker Street apartments to discover Keats sitting in front of a roaring fire, wrapped in towels and drying his hair, despite the warmth of the August evening. A little surprised by this but ever conscious of proper decorum, Chapman smiled and said, simply, "Good evening?".

"Not so good, really, how was yours?" said Keats, rubbing the towels across his young, fit body (in order to give some of my readers a little pleasure).

"Not bad, rather good really. We met at the Ritz and guess who came in: Karl and Jenny, Friedrich and Mikhail," said Chapman, attempting informality.

"Did you speak?" asked Keats.

"No, I was, if I may say so, a little over-awed to see them," answered Chapman, "And your evening? Did you win a lot of money?"

"Alas," said Keats, "the weather rather took care of that."

"The weather?" said Chapman, perplexed, "It was a fine night here in town."

"Well, on Epsom Downs it was far from fine. Sir Thomas' filly likes the going firm and all looked good when they were placed under starter's orders just on seven. As they went off, the heavens opened and there was a startlingly violent thunderstorm accompanied by hailstones and sheets of driving rain. The course was waterlogged and our horse got bogged down in the mire and came in last of eight. An absolute disaster. I lost £200."

"Oh dear," said Chapman, "You mean while I watched Engels dining at the Ritz, lighting and hale slung down on Barclay's mare."

It was time for supper.


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