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03/07/2011

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If we think of pre-pubescent childhood crushes many of us probably had, then we can see how there can be a boy-girl attraction which prefigures Holy Matrimony. It is holy and pure, I think, and I'm reminded of the story of Emma, in which Mr Knightly discovers that he is madly in love with the much younger Emma who is 21 by this time, but also realises he has loved her since she was at least 13 and I have never considered that to be perverse. But there is nothing sexually perverse in Jane Austen - except the mention of a "natural child." Oh, and mention of Willoughby's seduction of a young woman, who is Col. Brandon's ward.

I've just worked out the difference. People sometime use the adjective "sexy" of their small child, which I find repellent in the extreme. They talk about "romance" when their little ones form a friendship with a child of the opposite sex, but it's somehow more crass than the way my friends and I do.

I like to see my little children form close friendships with children of both sexes and in the case of their opposite sex friends, I will often speak humourously of arranged marriages and such. But there's the difference - the ultimate goal of the sexual faculty for the Christian is Holy Matrimony, not perpetual adolescence and pre-adulthood boyfriends and girlfriends and "sexiness."

A woman who would use the word "sexy" about a pre-pubescent child, except *possibly* in a thoroughly joking way, is probably stupid. A man who would do it is probably evil.

Puberty is the line of demarcation, surely. In the little country school I attended through 9th grade, I remember somewhere around 8th grade or so hearing very poor girls talk about dropping out of school to get married when they turned...what was the age? 16 at the most, I'm sure.

What's striking about the situation in Gentian Hill is that it isn't a childhood crush, it's the real thing, and the boy is post-pubescent. And yet there is no carnality. Such a thing is pretty unlikely, I think, although I'm sure not impossible.

I read "Pilgrim's Inn" a year or so ago and liked it, but not enough to move me to read more Goudge. However this one sounds like it might be more up my alley.

For folks that like Goudge I'd highly recommend Ronald Blythe as another English writer with a similar theological/aesthetic sensibility. He too would have made a good Inkling! I've not read any of his fiction, but the three volumes of non-fiction that I've read are wonderful. He's got Lewis' literary sense (he was editor of the Penguin Classics for 20 years) and Englishness, and Wendell Berry's rural sensibility, and he writes as a believing Anglican clergyman.

The books I've read are best described as "journals" -- not exactly memoirs, but not a diary either. They include his observations of people, nature, faith and literature, and they are quite poetic and well-tuned to the turnings of both the natural seasons and the Church year. If you're at all interested, I'd start with 'Word From Wormingford,' which is the first book of a trilogy, being followed by 'Out of the Valley' and 'Borderlands.'

His most famous book is 'Akenfield,' which is quite different from the Wormingford books. It's more of an informal journalistic study of the changes in rural England in the 20th century, based largely on interviews with residents.

By the way, he's 89 and still writing!

I don't know whether you'd like Gentian Hill better or not. It's...how to say it? a more active, external drama--I mean, more things *happen* than in the Eliot family books. The virtue of courage is very important in Goudge's work, or so it seems on the basis of the three I've read, and it's maybe more so in this one.

Well, I've checked our library and we have a copy, so maybe I'll give it a go in the near future. I'm currently reading 'Barnaby Rudge' but am only about half-way through, so it may be a little while!

Your mention of Ronald Blythe rang a bell. I thought you might have mentioned him before in relation to Goudge, and you did, in the comments on my post about Pilgrim's Inn: http://lightondarkwater.typepad.com/lodw/2009/08/pilgrims-inn-by-elizabeth-goudge.html

I was about to repeat here my comment from that thread, that I had heard of Blythe in the old Common Reader catalog. I definitely need to read him.

Wendell Berry came to mind several times when I was reading the farm-life parts of GH. It's a little frustrating to write about a book like that the way I do, spending only a few hours on the job. There are all sorts of threads I'd like to follow but I have to pass up a lot of them. It crossed my mind after doing this one that I would actually like to read all her work and write a substantial study of it. This was somewhat shocking--I haven't had any desire to do anything of the sort for many years.

The point of my last comment, which I think I managed not to make, was that the Wendell-Berry-ish aspect of the book, the whole depiction of the farm and farm life and farm people, is actually worthy of a good bit of attention, and I made a conscious decision to slight it, for lack of time.

The Goudge project sounds like a good one for retirement. ;-)

I see that at the time I posted those comments on the other thread I was reading 'Wormingford.' I've since read two more. I'm glad I checked those old comments -- one of Janet's posts reminded me of that 'Amish Farm' book by Kline, which had slipped my mind.

On Amazon.co.uk the other day I noticed that a big Blythe anthology, 'Aftermath,' has come out in England. I was looking up some books on the English "back to the land" movement of the 1930's and saw that Blythe had written the intro to a new edition of one of them, Adrian Bell's "Men and the Fields." I clicked on his name and the listing for 'Aftermath' came up.

This book appeals even more to me than the previous one you recommended, Mac. She definitely sounds like an author I should get to know.

Rob G, I'm also reading 'Barnaby Rudge' right now! I know that it is not one of his most popular books, but I am finding it quite good, and easier to follow than some of his books. The second half is unusually violent (for Dickens).

I don't like all of EG's books equally well. The Eliot trilogy and GH and the Scent of Water are, I think, by far the best. After those, I like The Rosemary Tree and Island Magic the best.

There's one about Charles II and Lucy Walter called The Child from the Sea that I don't like much and another called The Middle Window that's more like a typical romance only a little better.

Castle on the Hill was written during WWII and while it has glimpses of the light, it is almost unbearably sad.

Green Dolphin Street, which is the best known because there is a movie (which differs quite a bit from the book) isn't, I think, one of her best but there is a description in there of a little hidden sea cave with beautiful shells that is almost worth the price of the book and which has made me yearn for that cave ever after.

AMDG

I'm enjoying Barnaby quite a bit, Craig. Funny that we're reading it at the same time. I'm just past the point where Hugh has joined the No-Popery group. I imagine it does get violent, with the riots and all. Dickens is truly one of a kind!

Yes, you would think that one would study Dickens in two semester of B. Lit, but you would be wrong.

AMDG

Come to think of it, I didn't get Dickens in college either. I started off as an Eng. Lit. major then switched to religious studies. Even in a course called "The Development of the English Novel" we skipped from Austen to Hardy. Didn't think of it at the time, but yes, that was odd!

Oh, well we don't get Austen either, and only poems from Hardy. No Bronte. No Eliot. Lots of William Blake and race, class and gender.

AMDG

To skip Dickens in a course on the English novel, or in a 2-semester British Lit course, is pretty much a travesty. Though I can't say I'm altogether surprised.

And the race-class-gender obsession...sigh...fulmination is appropriate but then you think "why bother?"

When I think about your image of the higher worlds, I have the impression of EG using some kind of strainer and the small unimportant things fall out while the bigger, more real things are lifted up.

It also makes me think, though, that in some sense the higher worlds do exists and that somehow the true things rise and the dross gets left behind. Which I think in the case of refining is the opposite of how it works, but,hey, it's my metaphor. ;-)

AMDG

AMDG

I don't think they don't exist (in spite of what I said above about not taking the idea as fact). I think our minds aren't "physically," so to speak, capable of grasping whatever actually is the case in the greater reality. Maybe this is worth something as a guess. It sort of relates to Lewis's "further up and further in," doesn't it?

Oh, well of course. That was the first thing I thought when I read it what you said.

AMDG

I'm not really surprised to hear that Dickens is passed over in lit. courses, but it raises an interesting question: why?

I think that maybe Dickens is embarrassing to a certain kind of academic. He is so sincere, so pious, and so much in love with common men that I think he must be noxious to cynical, secular elites. (Not that literature professors are generally cynical, so far as I know.) There is a good deal of political incorrectness in Dickens, as there is in other novelists of his time -- unequivocal gender roles! blushing girls! -- but somehow Dickens is just so strong, so charming, and so level-headed that he makes that political incorrectness look awfully attractive. And while it would be possible to analyze his books along the lines of 'race, class, and gender', Dickens makes us feel that doing so is rather missing the point.

Those are my theories, anyway.

And may I take this opportunity to wish 'Adieu' and 'God bless' to Janet, whom I believe is disappearing from cyberspace for Lent?

You'll only be gone for a day at at time, Maclin, so I don't feel I need to say goodbye to you.

Oops: I should have put that previous comment on the Ash Wednesday post. So here I am, compounding my error.

Bye, Craig and everyone.

AMDG

That's a good point about Dickens, Craig. I expect the word that would be used most against him is "sentimental," and he is that at times. But at his best he's not, so that's partly (mainly?) an excuse. "Moralistic" would be another one, but that comes unconvincingly from the r-c-g-obsessive crowd, as they are far more unbalanced in that way than he is.

Dickens is 'virtuous' in a way that the r-c-g crowd is not in that the virtues he extols do not self-reflect in the way that theirs often do. You seldom get the sense in Dickens that he's patting himself on the back for his correct views.

True, and his virtues tend not to be those most in favor today.

I sometimes think self-congratulation is the mainspring of r-c-g thinking. That would be overstating it, but it sure is a strong presence.

"his virtues tend not to be those most in favor today"

Absolutely.

The self-congratulating nature of today's progressivism carries over, I'd say, from its earlier manifestations in such things as radical Abolitionism and Wilsonian Progressivism. Basically, it's the heir of meddlesome Yankee Puritan do-gooding, but divested of its religious content.

Self-righteousness has a pretty lengthy history. But there is something different about progressive self-righteousness. I guess it's the oft-noted characteristic that it doesn't necessarily have much to do with self per se--it's a matter of having the right opinions more than actually doing or being anything. As in giving yourself points for generosity to the poor because you're a Democrat.

oh my goodness...i just discovered an old book of Gentian Hill at book sale...in our library...i read a few pages and fell in love with its gentle sweet poetic words...i shall begin reading this evening...and let you know how it goes!
xoxo EdenClare

Hope you enjoy it.

Those who like E. Goudge should take a look at Ronald Blythe, the English writer/diarist set to turn 90 this year. He too is Inkling-esque: he's got Lewis's knowledge of literature and poetry combined with a good eye for nature, a great feel for people and personalities, and a winsome spirituality. His writing exhibits intelligence, wit, and goodheartedness in a way that's hard to come by these days. His most famous book is "Akenfield," but that's more of a journalistic work, featuring interviews with rural Englanders. Instead I'd recommend "Word From Wormingford" as a starting place.

You've recommended him before, and he does sound good. Maybe I'll actually take your recommendation before too long--I'm at least getting to the point of recognizing his name.:-)

I am greatly indebted to EdenClare for bringing this post to my attention. Maclin, I intend to read this book when I can get hold of a copy. The themes! They are very much where I'm at right now in my meditations, particuarly the bits about farming and "masculine-feminine duality at the heart of things."

I think you'll like it. And btw if you scroll up to the beginning of the comments, you'll see that this is not your first reading of the post (if that's what you meant). Likewise, I see I don't have to search very far to refresh my memory about Rob's previous recommendation of Blythe.

"I see I don't have to search very far to refresh my memory about Rob's previous recommendation of Blythe."

Ha! And in the same words almost! Hard to believe that's only a year ago. I vaguely remember writing something like it but I had no idea when it was.

I meant bringing it back to my attention, but it's just amazing to me that when I first saw this I was interested, but now I'm Really Keen!

Got a fascinating book by Blythe out of the library in order to give it a look-over and see if I wanted to buy it. It's called 'Divine Landscapes,' and is a sort of pilgrimage in words to various places in England that have a strong Christian connection of one sort or another: martyrdom sites of both Catholics and Protestants, the villages of George Herbert, John Bunyan, and J.M. Neale, abodes and parishes of various medieval saints, etc. Extremely well-written, with loads of literary and historical allusions, the text is accompanied by many nicely done b&w photos of the various sites. Anyone interested in Christian England would probably find it fascinating.

That does sound great. I just checked several local libraries and, alas, did not turn it up.

I've just ordered a copy of GH from Amazon.

"I just checked several local libraries and, alas, did not turn it up."

I was rather surprised that our library here had a copy. Having said that, there seem to be quite a few cheap copies on www.bookfinder.com.

Hmmm, very tempting.

I discovered a wonderful site, http://www.worldcat.org/ , that let’s you find the libraries in your city/state/country that have a book you’re looking for. A quick way to find out if something can be gotten via an interlibrary loan.

I read a good article over the weekend about Charles Causley. He was a Cornish poet. I can't put a link to the article up, because the magazine, Slightly Foxed, doesn't put any of its content online. But I looked up and found the poem it ends with - Eden Rock. I tried to put that here, but both times I posted, nothing happened. So here is a link to the poem being read aloud by Causley - the last two lines, as written on the page, are his comment, not part of the poem.

http://www.poetryarchive.org/poetryarchive/singlePoem.do?poemId=127

That's a great poem--thank you. I'm not sure that I've ever even heard Causley's name. At most it's very vaguely familiar. I see there are some other poems of his at that site, which I will check out.

On the other hand I'm very sure I've heard the name "Eden Rock" before, although I can't think where. I want to say it's some commercial context....

Thanks, Marianne. I had heard of WorldCat, from my wife, who's in library school. But somehow I'd gotten the idea that one had to be a Professional Librarian (tm) to understand it.

I'm pretty sure that Sally has mentioned him here before. I know that she's written about him on her blog.

AMDG

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