O.Wilde, Preface to 'The Picture of Dorian Gray'

The artist is the creator of beautiful things. (...)
Those who find ugly meanings in beautiful things are corrupt without being charming. This is a fault.
Those who find beautiful meanings in beautiful things are the cultivated. For these there is hope.
They are the elect to whom beautiful things mean only Beauty.
There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book. Books are well written, or badly written. That is all. (...)

No artist is ever morbid. The artist can express everything. (...)
All art is at once surface and symbol. Those who go beneath the surface do so at their peril.
Those who read the symbol do so at their peril.
It is the spectator, and not life, that art really mirrors.
Diversity of opinion about a work of art shows that the work is new, complex, and vital.
When critics disagree the artist is in accord with himself...

O. Wilde (1854-1900),
Preface to 'The Picture of Dorian Gray'

Monday, October 31, 2011

Halloween !!!

When witches go riding,                                           
and black cats are seen,
the moon laughs and whispers,
‘tis near Halloween.


May Jack-o-lanterns burning bright
Of soft and golden hue
Pierce through the future’s veil and show
What fate now holds for you.


When black cats prowl and pumpkins gleam,                   
May luck be yours on Halloween.


From ghoulies and ghosties
And long-leggedy beasties
And things that go bump in the night,
Good Lord, deliver us!
(Scottish Saying)

 A gypsy fire is on the hearth,
Sign of the carnival of mirth;
Through the dun fields and from the glade
Flash merry folk in masquerade,
For this is Hallowe'en!

(Authors unknown)

Sunday, October 30, 2011

James Nasmyth

James Hall Nasmyth, by George Bernard O'Neill
(date unknown, but author died in 1917)

1808 –1890

Scottish engineer,
inventor of the steam hammer.
Throughout his life he developed important hobbies,
such as painting, astronomy and photography.


from: ‘James Nasmyth’  
by James Nasmyth   (Chapter 18):
‘Let me turn for a time from the Foundry, the whirr of the self-acting tools, and the sound of the steam hammers, to my quieter pursuits at home. There I had much tranquil enjoyment in the company of my dear wife. I had many hobbies. Drawing was as familiar to me as language. Indeed, it was often my method of speaking. It has always been the way in which I have illustrated my thoughts. In the course of my journeys at home and abroad I made many drawings of places and objects, which were always full of interest, to me at least and they never ceased to bring up a store of happy thoughts.
Now and then I drew upon my fancy, and with pen and ink I conjured up "The Castle of Udolpho," "A Bit of Old England," "The Fairies are Out," and "Everybody for Ever." The last is crowded with thousands of figures and heads, so that it is almost impossible to condense the drawing into a small compass. To these I added "The Alchemist," "Old Mortality," "Robinson Crusoe," and a bit of English scenery, which I called "Gathering Sticks." I need not say with how much pleasure I executed these drawings in my evening hours. They were not "published", but I drew them with lithographic ink, and had them printed by Mr. Maclure. I afterwards made presents of the series to some of my most intimate friends.’

the Castle of Udolpho

The fairies are out

The Alchemist

Friday, October 28, 2011

Ann Radcliffe, the Gothic Novel

Ann Radcliffe                          


English  author
& pioneer of the Gothic novel

‘The Château into which my valet had ventured to make forcible entrance…
was one of those piles of commingled gloom and grandeur
which have so long frowned among the Apennines,
no less in fact than in the fancy
of Mrs. Radcliffe.’
                                                                                  'The Oval Portrait', by E.A. Poe

Little is known about Ann Radcliffe's life as she never appeared in public. Christina Rossetti attempted to write a biography about her life, but she had to abandon it for lack of information. And, unfortunately, there are no images available of Ann Radcliffe. The one you see on this page is just a stock image circulating on the internet.
Even if other writers had preceded her in writing Gothic novels, she is considered the founder of Gothic literature as she was the one that legitimized that genre thanks to her technique
Throughout her life, Ann Radcliffe published six novels and a book of poetry. In these works her style is romantic for her vivid descriptions of landscapes and of long travel scenes, yet it is mingled with numerous Gothic elements, such as her settings and  her use of the supernatural. Moreover, in her stories she always gives a final revelation of inexplicable phenomena. It was just this method of ‘explained Gothicism’ that helped the Gothic novel achieve respectability in the 1790s.
One of his most famous novels is ‘The Mysteries of Udolpho’ (probably the best example of Gothic romance), later parodied by Jane Austen in ‘Northanger Abbey’.
Set in 1584 in southern France and northern Italy, this story is full of physical and psychological terror; of remote and terrifying buidings; of seemingly supernatural events; with a bad and scheming villain (an Italian brigand!); and with a poor, orphaned and persecuted heroine suffering imprisonment in the castle Udolpho.  
Castle Udolpho by James Nasmyth,
from Mrs. Radcliffe's 1794 edition

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

E.A. Poe, quotations

Edgar Allan Poe            


American author, poet, editor
and literary critic

I became insane, with long intervals of horrible sanity.

I have great faith in fools; self-confidence my friends call it.

Science has not yet taught us if madness is or is not the sublimity of the intelligence.

Stupidity is a talent for misconception.

All that we see or seem is but a dream within a dream.

The ninety and nine are with dreams, content but the hope of the world made new, is the hundredth man who is grimly bent on making those dreams come true.

Those who dream by day are cognizant of many things that escape those who dream only at night.

Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there, wondering, fearing, doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before.

That pleasure which is at once the most pure, the most elevating and the most intense, is derived, I maintain, from the contemplation of the beautiful.

Beauty of whatever kind, in its supreme development, invariably excites the sensitive soul to tears.

The death of a beautiful woman, is unquestionably the most poetical topic in the world.

The boundaries which divide Life from Death are at best shadowy and vague. Who shall say where the one ends, and where the other begins?

With me poetry has not been a purpose, but a passion.

There is an eloquence in true enthusiasm.

Words have no power to impress the mind without the exquisite horror of their reality.

Poetry is the rhythmical creation of beauty in words.

The true genius shudders at incompleteness - and usually prefers silence to saying something which is not everything it should be.

Were I called on to define, very briefly, the term Art, I should call it 'the reproduction of what the Senses perceive in Nature through the veil of the soul.' The mere imitation, however accurate, of what is in Nature, entitles no man to the sacred name of 'Artist.'

I wish I could write as mysterious as a cat.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Thomas Sully

Thomas Sully in 1869

Thomas Sully                        

1783 - 1872

Famous English-born
American portrait painter

‘The portrait… was that of a young girl.
It was a mere head and shoulders… much in the style of the favourite heads of Sully.
The arms, the bosom, and even the ends of the radiant hair,
melted imperceptibly into the vague yet deep shadow
  which formed the background of the whole.’

                                        ‘The Oval Portrait’, E.A. Poe

'Self-portrait of the artist painting his wife'
(Sarah Annis Sully),
oil on canvas, ca. 1810

'A life study of the Marquis de Lafayette'
oil on canvas, ca. 1824-1825

Portrait of Andrew Jackson
7th President of the United States (1829-1837)
used for the United States' $ 20 dollar bill
from 1828 onward

'Gypsy Maiden',
watercolor on paper, ca. 1839

'Cinderella at the kitchen fire',

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

E.A. Poe, Life

Edgar Allan Poe

1809 – 1849

American author, poet, editor
and literary critic

·        1809  Edgar Allan Poe, of Ulster origins, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, on January 19.  His parents, Elizabeth Arnold Hopkins and David Poe, Jr. were both itinerant actors. He was their second child and was probably named after a character in William Shakespeare's King Lear, a play his parents were performing in 1809. E.A. Poe had an elder brother, William Henry Leonard, and a younger sister, Rosalie.
·        1810 - His father abandoned their family.
·        1811 - His mother died from consumption (pulmonary tuberculosis).
Edgar was taken in by his godfather, John Allan, from whom he got his second name.  John Allan was an elderly successful Scottish merchant of Richmond, Virginia, who dealt in a variety of goods such as tobacco, cloth, wheat, tombstones and… slaves. He alternately spoiled and aggressively disciplined his foster son. John and Frances Allan never formally adopted him.
·        1815 - the Allan family sailed to Britain.
Poe attended the grammar school in Irvine, Scotland (where John Allan was born), for a short period.
·        1816 - then the family moved to London where Edgar continued his studies. The greatest English writers and poets had an important influence on his sensibility.
·        1820 -  At the age of 11, E.A. Poe moved back with the Allans to Richmond, Virginia.
·         1826 – Back to the USA,  Poe might have had a love affair with Sarah Elmira Royster [1810-1888] before he registered at the one-year-old University of Virginia in February to study languages.
During his short stay at University he did not distinguish himself academically, but he acquired a reputation as an athlete and bon viveur. He lost touch with Sarah Royster and also became estranged from his foster father because of his gambling debts. As a matter of fact, his gambling debts forced him to leave his studies after only eight months.
·        1827 - He decided to go to Boston where he sustained himself there working at times as a clerk and newspaper writer.  At some point he started using the pseudonym Henri Le Rennet. His decision to move to another town was also due to the fact that he was not feeling welcome in Richmond, especially because his sweetheart Sarah Royster had married Alexander Shelton, a man who collected a great wealth thanks to the transportation industry.
Unable to support himself, Poe enlisted in the United States Army as a private. Using the name "Edgar A. Perry", he claimed he was 22 years old (but he was 18 at the time!).  He first served at Fort Independence in Boston Harbor for five dollars a month.
That same year he released his first book, an anonymous 40-page collection of poems entitled Tamerlane and Other Poems. The book didn’t receive any attention.
Later Poe’s regiment was sent to South Carolina, he was promoted "artificer" and his monthly pay doubled.  But after serving for two years in the army, Poe sought to end his five-year enlistment earlier. He revealed his real name, real age and circumstances to his commanding officer, Lieutenant Howard.
Lieutenant Howard helped Poe be discharged and reconcile with the Allan family. Actually Poe’s relationship with John Allan was very bad in these years.
·        1829 – in February Frances Allan died and Poe visited the day after her funeral. Perhaps softened by his wife's death, John Allan agreed to support Poe's attempt to be discharged. He wanted to give his stepson another possibility and made his best to fix an appointment for him for a position at the West Point Military Academy.
In this period he moved back to Baltimore for a time, and stayed with his widowed aunt Maria Clemm, her daughter, Virginia Eliza Clemm (Poe's first cousin), his brother Henry, and his invalid grandmother Elizabeth Poe.  Here he published his second book, Al Aaraaf, Tamerlane and Minor Poems.
·        1830 -  Thanks to John Allan’s interest, he entered the West Point Military Academy, but unfortunately he was dishonorably discharged the following year for the intentional neglect of duties. 
In October John Allan married his second wife, Louisa Patterson, and Poe parted ways with the Allans. As a matter of facts, the new marriage, and the bitter quarrels with Poe about his failure as an officer's cadet at West Point, finally led the foster father to disowning Poe.
·        1831 - He left for New York in February and released a third volume of poems, simply titled Poems. The book was financed with help from his fellow cadets at West Point.
After his brother's death in August, and considering the facts that his godfather’s second marriage had killed his hopes of becoming Allan’s heir and that he had already published three volumes of verse without great critical acclaim, E.A. Poe began more earnest attempts to start his career as a writer. He thus decided to turn to journalism and prose. It was a quite hard financial period for him and he soon realized it was a difficult time in American publishing to emerge as a writer. Publishers, in fact, often pirated copies of British works rather than paying for new works by Americans. But in this situation he managed to place a few stories with a Philadelphia publication and began work on his only drama, Politian.
·        1833 – In October the Baltimore Saturday Visitor awarded Poe a prize for his short story "MS. Found in a Bottle". The story brought him to the attention of a Baltimorean of considerable means, Mr J.P. Kennedy. He helped Poe place some of his stories, and introduced him to the editor of the periodical Southern Literary Messenger in Richmond, Mr Thomas W. White.
·        1835 – in August Poe became assistant editor of the Southern Literary Messenger,  but was discharged within a few weeks for being caught drunk by Mr White. 
In the same year he went to live with his aunt, Maria Clemm in Baltimore and soon after he secretly married her daughter, his thirteen-year-old cousin Virginia (she was listed on the marriage certificate as being 21).  He was reinstated by White as a staff writer and critic after promising good behavior and remained at the Messenger until January 1837. During this period Poe’s financial situation got better. He published several poems, book reviews, critiques, and stories in that paper. After resigning the conduct of the Messenger, Poe began to ponder the idea of establishing a literary journal of his own. But he realized there were a lot of financial difficulties.
·        1836 - In May 16 he had a second wedding ceremony, in public, in Richmond with Virginia Clemm.
·        1838 -  The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket was published and widely reviewed. 
1839 - In the summer Poe became assistant editor of Burton's Gentleman's Magazine. He published numerous articles, stories, and reviews, enhancing his reputation as a trenchant critic that he had established at the Southern Literary Messenger. Poe left Burton's after about a year.
Mr Burton sold his magazine to G.R. Graham and the periodical was then merged with the Atkinson’s Casket to become Graham’s Magazine.
[G.R. Graham decided to hire Poe in order to offer him financial support about his plans concerning a prospective literary journal).
The collection Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque was published in two volumes, though he made little money off of it and it received mixed reviews.  
He worked on various papers, and became editor of the Southern Daily Messanger. But his drinking habits cost him that job after only a year.
·        1840 - in June Poe bought an advertising space in Philadelphia's Saturday Evening Post to publish a prospectus announcing he was planning to produce his own journal, The Penn (the title is for Pennsylvania where it  would have been based, later renamed The Stylus). But the establishment of his magazine remained only a dream as he died before it could be produced.
·        1842 - In January Virginia showed the first signs of consumption. She only partially recovered and, as a consequence, Poe began to drink more heavily under the stress of her illness.
He left Graham's and, around this time, he tried to get a position in the Tyler administration as a member of the Whig Party. He hoped to be appointed to the Custom House in Philadelphia. But Poe, claiming to be sick, failed to show up for a political meeting. His friends believed he was drunk, and all positions were filled by others.
He returned to New York, where he worked briefly at the Evening Mirror.
·        1845 -  =  annus mirabilis for Poe :
in January his poem "The Raven" appeared in the Evening Mirror and became a popular sensation; he became editor and sole owner of The Broadway Journal and  a new volume of tales was published.
Unfortunately Poe’s worries about Virginia’s health affected his unstable temperament, and financial worries and his alcoholism unbalanced him farther.
In this period he alienated himself from other writers by publicly accusing Henry Wadsworth Longfellow of plagiarism.
·        1846 - The Broadway Journal failed. Poe moved to a cottage in the Fordham section of The Bronx, New York. That home is known today as the "Poe Cottage".
·        1847 - Virginia died there on January 30.   
·        1848 - Increasingly unstable after his wife's death, Poe attempted to court the poet Sarah Helen Whitman [1803-1878], but their engagement failed. Whitman's mother intervened and did much to derail their relationship because of Poe's drinking and erratic behavior.
Poe then returned to Richmond and resumed a relationship with his childhood sweetheart, Sarah Elmira Royster. He pressed her to marry him, but she was hesitant and the marriage never took place.
·        1849 – Edgar Allan Poe died on October 7. He was found on the streets of Baltimore delirious and was taken to Hospital. Unfortunately he was never coherent long enough to explain how he came to be in his bad condition and why he was wearing clothes that were not his own. The actual cause of his death is still a mystery.

Monday, October 03, 2011


"I love fall! Fall is exciting.
It's apples and cider.
It's an airborne spider.
It's pumpkins in bins.
It's burrs on dog's chins.
It's wind blowing leaves.
It's chilly red knees.
It's nuts on the ground.
It's a crisp dry sound.
It's green leaves turning
And the smell of them burning.
It's clouds in the sky.
It's fall. That's why...
I love fall."

                                                    Author Unknown

"Come said the wind to
the leaves one day,
Come o're the meadows
and we will play.
Put on your dresses
scarlet and gold,
For summer is gone
and the days grow cold."

                                          A Children's Song of the 1880's