Friday, May 25, 2012

"A sadder hue then the powder of Venice glass"

Sorry about the nonexistent blogging lately; I have been slightly more active on tumblr, but a combination of post-thesis work and lassitude and the thought of a few substantive posts I've been putting off writing have combined to keep things very quiet. (A rule of thumb is that quotes offered w/o comment go there unless they are about Coleridge's drug use.) This is not a substantive post, just a few snippets of early modern science. First, I stumbled upon a piece on the "solar microscope" ca. 1816; the list it ends with is particularly worthwhile if one likes lists:

Another good bit (apart from the food-related one) is on the breeding habits of lice:

And the crystallization of salts reminded me of the bit in Browne's Pseudodoxia Epidemica on whether all crystals are forms of ice. I am not sure anyone will find this bit as charming as I did, but it is of lexicographical interest ("the stillicidous dependencies of ice"!), and then solidity-the-concept is one of my very oldest obsessions (I even wrote a dreadful term paper my freshman year on Locke and solidity...):
Pliny is positive in this Opinion: Crystallus fit gelu vehementius concreto: [...] Neither doth there any thing properly conglaciate but water, or watery humidity; for the determination of quick-silver is properly fixation, that of milk coagulation, and that of oyl and unctuous bodies, only incrassation [...]

[...] Ice although it seemeth as transparent and compact as Crystal, yet is it short in either; for its atoms are not concreted into continuity, which doth diminish its translucency; it is also full of spumes and bubbles, which may abate its gravity. And therefore waters frozen in Pans, and open Glasses, after their dissolution do commonly leave a froth and spume upon them, which are caused by the airy parts diffused in the congealable mixture which uniting themselves and finding no passage at the surface, do elevate the mass, and make the liquor take up a greater place then before: as may be observed in Glasses filled with water, which being frozen, will seem to swell above the brim.

[...] As for colour, although Crystal in his pellucid body seems to have none at all, yet in its reduction into powder, it hath a vail and shadow of blew; and in its courser pieces, is of a sadder hue then the powder of Venice glass; and this complexion it will maintain although it long endure the fire. [...]

that continuity of parts is the cause of perspicuity, it is made perspicuous by two ways of experiment. That is, either in effecting transparency in those bodies which were not so before, or at least far short of the additional degree: So Snow becomes transparent upon liquation, so Horns and Bodies resolvable into continued parts or gelly. The like is observable in oyled paper, wherein the interstitial divisions being continuated by the accession of oyl, it becometh more transparent, and admits the visible rayes with less umbrosity. Or else the same is effected by rendering those bodies opacous, which were before pellucid and perspicuous.

So Glass which was before diaphanous, being by powder reduced into multiplicity of superficies, becomes an opacous body, and will not transmit the light. So it is in Crystal powdered, and so it is also before; for if it be made hot in a crucible, and presently projected upon water, it will grow dim, and abate its diaphanity; for the water entering the body, begets a division of parts, and a termination of Atoms united before unto continuity.

The ground of this Opinion might be, first the conclusions of some men from experience; for as much as Crystal is found sometimes in rocks, and in some places not much unlike the stirrious[14] or stillicidious dependencies of Ice. Which notwithstanding may happen either in places which have been forsaken or left bare by the earth, or may be petrifications, or Mineral indurations, like other gemms, proceeding from percolations of the earth disposed unto such concretions.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Red Cheshire, Red Plenty

1. T.S. Eliot ordering cheese (full passage here, incl. arguably juicier bits, quoted from the excellent Eliot chapter in The Pound Era; includes notes about "jugged hare" (I cannot abide cheese and do not usually come upon these assortments, but as of late last year I know what Kenner is talking about)):
With the side of his knife blade he commenced tapping the circumference of the cheese, rotating it, his head cocked in a listening posture. It is not possible to swear that he was listening. He then tapped the inner walls of the crater. He then dug about with the point of his knife amid the fragments contained by the crater. He then said, “Rather past its prime. I am afraid I cannot recommend it.” [...]

The Stilton vanished. After awing silence the cheese board arrived, an assortment of some half-dozen, a few of them identifiably cheeses only in context. One resembled sponge cake spattered with chocolate sauce. Another, a pockmarked toadstool-yellow, exuded green flecks. Analysis and comparison: he took up again his knife, and each of these candidates he tapped, he prodded, he sounded. At length he segregated a ruddy specimen. “That is a rather fine Red Cheshire … which you might enjoy.”
Have come to realize that "flecks" is one of my very favorite words; I attribute this to the part of my sensibility that is inherited from the fat boy in Dickens.

2. Yeats attempts to eat spaghetti, recounted by Richard Aldington (via Calista):
William Butler Yeats and his wife once dined with me at my hotel in Rapallo. Spaghetti was served, and a long thin lock of Yeats’s hair got into the corner of his mouth, while the rest of us watched in silent awe his efforts to swallow a bit of his own hair instead of the pasta. Giving up this hopeless task, in dudgeon he suddenly turned to me and said in a deep voice: ‘How do you account for Ezra?
3. Edward Gorey's literary tastes are like mine. (But it seems Zeitgeisty to like Browne -- perhaps because of Rings of Saturn? though in my case the actual stimulus was the epigraph to Styron's Lie Down in Darkness -- and Twitter has lately thrown up more links to Basil Bunting than one would expect absent a Trend of some sort...)

4. Crooked Timber is doing an event on Spufford's Red Plenty. (See here for previous local coverage.)

Saturday, May 5, 2012

"He also liked to lick tree sap"

On the dietary habits of the Romantic poets (really, just read the entire thing):
Wordsworth paid scant attention to gustatory matters [...] He did, however, accept edible gifts from admirers, and was once given an entire calf’s head. [...]

Two decades of opium addiction wreaked havoc on Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s digestion (one of its chief side-effects was an awful, binding constipation). Subject to frequent and recurring “bowel attacks” that made him “weep and sweat and moan and scream,” he was off solid food for weeks at a time, and accordingly ate a lot of broth. He even dabbled in vegetarianism for a while, but believed it gave him insomnia. When he was well, Coleridge loved to go out to dinner [...] he could also be a handful. At one dinner party, encouraged by the host, he smashed a window and several wine glasses, and started pitching the cutlery at the tumblers. Coleridge particularly loved apple dumplings.

[...] Lord Byron, scarred by being a “fat school-boy,” had transformed himself into a “leguminous-eating Ascetic” by the time he went up to Cambridge in 1805. But the fat wanted him, and he spent his entire life dieting, caught up in a vomitous cycle of binge and purge, fasting all week and then gorging himself on “a pint of bucelles [Portuguese wine] and fish.” [...] Byron rarely accepted dinner invitations and claimed to be especially repulsed by the sight of women eating [...]
Elsewhere: Jonathon Green on gin-talk, includes revelation that "Piss quick – either from its resemblance to urine or its possible micturative effects – is gin mixed with marmalade topped up with boiling water."

Blogging has been light partly because of impending defense on Wednesday and partly because I have been warding off anxiety by taking on as much work as I can find. (I have between ten and thirteen projects "on the go" at the moment; one paper just finished and arxived...) After the defense I shall have a fairly untrammeled summer; the only pre-move travel is a trip to NYC and Princeton ca. June 9-14.