30 December 2009

"my panting soul"

Still does my panting soul push forward, and live in futurity, in the deep shades o'er which darkness hangs. -- I try to pierce the gloom, and find a resting-place, where my thirst of knowledge will be gratified, and my ardent affections find an object to fix them."

Mary Wollstonecraft, 120

22 December 2009

things don't change: on Wollstonecraft and Tina Fey

"Two feelings remained acute: irritation with her own sex -- the boisterous, unmeaning laughter and bickerings of 'silly females' -- and persistent alienation: 'I am an exile -- and in a new world.'" Vindication A Life of Mary Wollstonecraft 86

I kind of hate women of today. There, I said it. I liked them better in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth century when they had to fight for their individual freedom. Even though there were plenty of women then who were, by Wollstonecraft's account, "silly females' -- caring only for show in order to acquire husbands, focused only on begetting babies, not caring for others feelings save their own -- there were also those who were upset with their inferiority in society and strove, as Mary Wollstonecraft did, to change that.

Now women have been given lawful rights and education they seem not to know how to use it. They still parade in showy dress (or no dress) excentuating their physical body, neglecting their mind. We praise and veritably stalk female celebrities (twitter, anyone?), but not one among us can name a famous female scientist. I feel like women today have given up, retreated into their silicone bodies, and so have become the new creator of their own inferiority: Doctor Frankenstein and the monster in one.

There are a scant number of women today who, wittingly or no, provide a model of the true liberated female. The big one in my book is Tina Fey* and her character (that she created and embodies) on 30 ROCK. Liz Lemon (and by extension, Tina Fey) is pretty, in a non-model nerdy and quirky sort of way. And she is an in-charge woman, the boss of her employees, script writers and actors who are composed of dorky men and Liz's best friend Jenna, a platinum blonde, attention-seeking narcissist who was the lead actress of Liz's "The Girlie Show", now renamed for the incoming of a more popular (african american male) actor. Her boss Jack Donaghy is played by Alec Baldwin, a controversial figure in his own life and in the show no less. He is at once the model of the patriarchal gentleman, wielding his power over all, ruthless, exacting -- and Republican. He owns Lemon's show, like a 19th century land-owner. A corporate big-wig -- but one with a heart, who desires to take Lemon under his wing, be her mentor, improve her life. He criticizes her and uses his power to improve her. Which is a bit Pygmalion-esque mixed in with a little Emma of the Jane Austen variety. And this probably proves more than anything that things don't change. Men still have a desire to shape women to their ideal, and because of long-held social mores or gender DNA, this will probably, in my life-time at least, always be so. What makes Tina Fey's character so inspiring for me is that no matter how much Baldwin's character tries to improve her, she is, and will always be, (mostly, granted, as a vehicle for comedy) a scatter-brained, cute but never beautiful, faulty, smart, witty woman who embraces her independence. And for those of us who live in the real world, this is a relief.

An addendum -- couldn't fit this in above, but a counter-argument could be that such female models like Tina Fey's character have been around for a while: Murphy Brown, for instance. But what I see in Tina Fey is a 21st century model of an independent woman, for obviously she exists in this time period, but also she comes at a critical time, when our desire to control technology supplements our socially unacceptable desire to control others, and women, subjugating themselves on television in reality T.V. shows and home-made movies, need some models other than the Kardashians and the Girls Next Door of this world.

An addendum to this addendum: I watch, and even enjoy, both of the latter programs.

*another favorite of mine is Chelsea Handler.
Gordon, Lyndall. Vindication A Life of Mary Wollstonecraft 2005

20 December 2009

Emily Bronte died on this date 161 years ago

I am the only being whose doom
No tongue would ask, no eye would mourn;
I never caused a thought of gloom,
A smile of joy, since I was born.

In secret pleasure, secret tears,
This changeful life has slipped away,
As friendless after eighteen years,
As lone as on my natal day.

There have been times I cannot hide,
There have been times when this was drear,
When my sad soul forgot its pride
And longed for one to love me here.

But those were in the early glow
Of feelings since subdued by care;
And they have died so long ago,
I hardly now believe they were.

First melted off the hope of youth,
Then Fancy's rainbow fast withdrew;
And then experience told me truth
In mortal bosoms never grew.

'Twas grief enough to think mankind
All hollow, servile, insincere;
But worse to trust to my own mind
And find the same corruption there.
~ Emily Brontë, 17 May 1837

15 December 2009

arguments against and for women's colleges...

...in the 19th century.

"Nothing would induce me to be associated with such a project. A college [for women] would mean the loss of tender home bloom of womanliness which is a more precious thing than any proficiency in knowledge." Charlotte Yonge

"It is a rare thing to meet with a lady who does not suffer from headaches, langour [sic], hysteria or some illness showing a want of stamina. Dullness is not healthy, and the lives of ladies, it must be confessed, are exceedingly dull." Emily Davies


quotes: Brandon, Ruth. Governess: The Lives and Times of the Real Jane Eyres. Waller & Company, New York: 2008.

portrait: an idyllic Victorian couple

10 December 2009

letters between literary lovers

84, Charing Cross Road is a non-fiction book of a series of letters written by a New Yorker Helene Hanff and a famous book sellers in London on Charing Cross Road (a street infamous for its many bookstores) called Marks & Company. Letters between the shop and Helene span for 20 years. Frank Doel, one of the clerks of the London store, quickly became her sole correspondent, and although they never met, their relationship through letters developed into very much a tender, perhaps even romantic nature. Reading these letters written before the time of text messages, e-mail, even Internet, is truly refreshing; when letters took days, even weeks to arrive, and the anticipatory touch of the envelope of a letter brought a sensation more wonderful than even the words within. Let the following letters -- originally written on typewriter -- speak for themselves. Here are my favourites, beginning with Helene's first letter to the now famous (although now extinct) bookstore:

[All double spaces in the letters written below are, in the book, only one space and a tab over]

14 East 95th St.
New York City
October 5, 1949

Marks & Co.
84, Charing Cross Road
London, W.C. 2

Your ad in the Saturday Review of Literature says that you specialize in out-of-print books. The phrase "Antiquarian booksellers" scares me somewhat, as I equate "antique" with expensive. I am a poor writer with an antiquarian taste in books and all the things I want are impossible to get over here except in very expensive rare edition, or in Barnes & Nobles grimy, marked-up schoolboy copies.

I enclose a list of my most pressing problems. If you have clean second hand copies of any of the books on the list, for no more than $5.00 each, will you consider this a purchase order and send them to me?

Very truly yours,

Helene Hanff
(Miss) Helene Hanff

Two months later, after a series of correspondence between Helene and the shop, including a transaction of books, Helene writes:

14 East 95th St.
New York City
December 8, 1949

Sir [Frank Doel]:

(It feels witless to keep writing "Gentlemen" when the same solitary soul is obviously taking care of everything for me.)

Savage Landor arrived safely...I do love secondhand books that open to the page some previous owner read oftenest. The day Hazlitt came he opened to "I hate to read new books," and I hollered "Comrade!" to whoever owned it before me.

I enclose a dollar which Brian (British boy friend of Kay upstairs) says will cover the /8/ I owe you, you forgot to translate.

Now then. Brian told me you are all rationed to 2 ounces of meat per family per week and one egg per person per month and I am simply appalled. He has a catalogue from a British firm here which flies food from Denmark to his mother, so I am sending a small Christmas present to Marks & Co. I hope there will be enough to go round, he says the Charing Cross Road bookshops are "all quite small."

I'm sending it c/o you, FPD, whoever you are.


Helene Hanff

Reply letter from Frank to Helene:

20th December, 1949

Miss Helene Hanff
14 East 95th Street
New York 28, New York

Dear Miss Hanff,

Just a note to let you know that your gift parcel arrived safely today and the contents have been shared out between the staff. Mr. Marks and and Mr. Cohen insisted that we divide it up among ourselves and not include "the bosses." I should just like to add that everything in the parcel was something that we either never see or can only be had through black market. It was extremely kind and generous of you to think of us in this way and we are all extremely grateful.

We all wish to express our thanks and send our greetings and best wishes for 1950.

Yours faithfully,

Frank Doel

It seems three months passes before the next letter, sent by Helene. I love this letter for Helene's brazen outspokenness and flirty wit:

14th East 95th St.

March 25, 1950

Frank Doel, what are you DOING over there, you are not doing ANYthing, you are just sitting AROUND.

Where is Leigh Hunt? Where is the Oxford Verse? Where is the Vulgate and dear goofy John Henry, I thought they'd be such nice uplifting reading for Lent and NOTHING do you send me.

you[sic] leave me sitting here writing long margin notes in library books that don't belong to me, some day they'll find out I did it and take my library card away.

I have made arrangements with the Easter bunny to bring you an Egg, he will get over there and find you have died of Inertia.

I require a book of love poems with spring coming on. No Keats or Shelley, send me poets who can make love without slobbering -- Wyatt or Jonson or somebody, use your own judgement. Just a nice book preferably small enough to stick in a slacks pocket and take to Central Park.

Well, don't just sit there! Go find it! I swear I don't know how that shop keeps going.

These two letters (the last I will post) are from and to Cecily Farr, a female shop assistant of Marks & Co. I find them charming, and a bit heartbreaking really:

84, Charing Cross Road
London, W.C. 2

7th April, 1950

Dear Miss Hanff,

Please don't let Frank know I'm writing this but every time I send you a bill I've been dying to slip in a little note and he might not think it quite proper of me. That sounds stuffy and he's not, he's quite nice really, very nice in fact, it's just that he does rather look on you as his private correspondent as all your letters and parcels are addressed to him. But I just thought I would write to you on my own.

We all love your letters and try to imagine what you must look like. I've decided you're young and very sophisticated and smart-looking. Old Mr. Martin thinks you must be quite studious-looking in spite of your wonderful sense of humor. Why don't you send us a snapshot? We should love to have it.

If you're curious about Frank, he's in his late thirties, quite nice-looking, married to a very sweet Irish girl, I believe she's his second wife.

Everyone was so grateful for the parcel. My little ones (girl 5, boy 4) were in Heaven -- with the raisins and egg I was actually able to make them a cake!

I do hope you don't mind my writing. Please don't mention it when you write to Frank.

With best wishes,

Cecily Farr

P.S. I shall put my home address on the back of this in case you should ever want anything sent you from London.


14 East 95th St.

April 10, 1950

Dear Cecily --

And a very bad cess to Old Mr. Martin, tell him I'm so unstudious I never even went to college. I just happen to have peculiar taste in books, thanks to a Cambridge professor named Quiller-Couch, known as Q, whom I fell over in a library when I was 17. And I'm about as smart-looking as a Broadway panhandler. I live in moth-eaten sweaters and wool slacks, they don't give us any heat here in the daytime. It's a 5-story brownstone and all the other tenants go out to work at 9 A.M. and don't come home till 6 -- and why should the landlord heat the building for one small script-reader/writer working at home on the ground floor?

Poor frank, I give him such a hard time. I'm always bawling him out for something. I'm only teasing, but I know he'll take me seriously. I keep trying to puncture that proper British reserve, if he gets ulcers I did it.

Please write and tell me about London, I live for the day when I step off the boat-train and feel its dirty sidewalks under my feet. I want to walk up Berkeley Square and down Wimpole Street and stand in St. Paul's where John Donne preached and sit on the step Elizabeth sat on when she refused to enter the Tower, and like that. A newspaper man I know, who was stationed in London during the war, says tourists go to England with preconceived notions, so they always find exactly what they go looking for. I told him I'd go looking for the England of English literature, and he said:

"Then it's there."

Regards --

Helene Hanff

Helene's aspiration to visit London came true over 20 years after this last letter -- finally able to make enough money to pay for the journey -- but by then Frank had died of appendicitis and the shop as it was during her years of correspondence was abandoned.

There is a movie version of 84, Charing Cross Road, starring Anthony Hopkins as Frank, Anne Bancroff as Helene, and Judi Dench -- in her first film -- as Frank's wife.


Hanff, Helene. 84, Charing Cross Road. Grossman Publishers, New York: 1970.

02 December 2009

hypocrisy is good, m'kay

Freedom is a solid good, that requires to be treated with reverence and respect. -- Mary Wollstonecraft

The British National Party (BNP) are known for their fascist principles, the prominent being that they don't believe anyone but full blooded English people should live in Britain. They were founded in 1982 and have since refused any applicant in their party that were non-white until this year when finally their party was seen by the law as discriminatory. Now they are allowing their first non-white member, a Sikh who, however, does not believe in racial integration in Britain, and believes that Islam (a religion not his own) is based solely on "deception, fraud, and surprise attack." Non-white by look, yes, but not exactly uniquely ethnically-minded to those already in the party. The BNP were recently featured on a show called Question Time, where audience members ask political leaders questions which they then obliquely answer in a manner that positively benefits their public appearance.

The BNP have never been asked to feature on this show because of their ideals. But in the name of "democracy" they were allowed to guest for the first time since the show's first broadcast in 1979. Although Nick Griffin, the leader of the BNP (who has on numerous occasions stated that he does not believe the Holocaust occurred), was soundly ridiculed by most of the public and other representative parties on the show, it is thought that after he appeared, some people who were not aware of the BNP before now look favourably on them.

I'm going to be frank. I don't think the BNP should have been allowed to feature on this show. Some say that it would have been non-democratic to NOT allow them on this show. I can't see any good reason for letting them on now when they never have been before. They have the rudimentary features of modern day Hitler and Stalin. Whatever issues they may promote that are not anti-humanity -- whatever they may be, I haven't yet heard -- I still do not think the BNP should be given a voice. I think it is right -- even democratic -- to stifle their voices.

Democracy dictates that everyone should be given free say, but how is it correct to allow a repressive faction to participate in our democratic society when their actions nullify the purpose of democracy? This is what is wrong with our world, among many other things: we are afraid of being hypocrites. We are afraid of looking bad. In order to save face, we refuse to take a stand on something most of us believe is wrong.

There are no definitives in this world, although we like to pretend they exist, in order to make us feel safe, in order to not have to think too strongly about a complex, contradictory issue. Democracy is roughly translated as allowing others to say what they wish and believe what they will. This definition is too simple by far, but if we are to believe that it's foundation is such, then why can't we also believe that in a democracy that allows such free-will, we should also be given the right to denounce and even lawfully chastise those who use their rights in an unnatural manner? Even if that means we are seen as hypocrites? For even though a law was passed this year prohibiting racial segregation within the BNP, so far the only non-white member to be admitted to the party still shares the parties racial principles. In this case, both literally and morally, looks differ from actual intent.

Humans are gullible by nature, and what happened in the time of Hitler's reign was our gullibility used to its full advantage. We don't have to be taken advantage again. And if we are hypocrites for saying that the BNP should not be allowed to spew its propaganda on live television, or be given a prominent voice in Parliament, then maybe we will share the brunt of public denunciation, but then maybe we stop something that has the potential to become destructive against that democracy that we promote with such steadfast pride.

01 December 2009

today, and yesteryear

I wake at 10:00, and listen to BBC radio (Coldplay comes on), and play poker online before I get dressed in my black pants, white collared shirt, black vest, pin-on bow-tie. I read Lauren Bacall's autobiography on the bus. Once off, I get a snack at Rite Aid, drop off some books at the library across the street, and walk furiously to the theatre to get there the hour and half before the performance begins.

Once there, I sign in with the manager, put my coat in the coat room, sign up for two performances of A Musical Christmas Carol, sit in the meeting, get assigned upstairs, disregard the woman whose pissed because I've been assigned the left Mezzanine level, even though "she always works that section."

I stand outside the theatre door for 30 minutes, make sure no patrons come in before we open the theatre doors. I direct people to their seats. I tell a patron that she can't bring in an open drink in the nicest tone I can, but she still tells me that I'm stupid.

I watch the beginning of the Rockettes performance, waiting for an applause section to take late comers to their seats. I run downstairs and get my snack out of my purse that I have stashed in one of the fancy closed cupboards of which on top there are some lamps to light the foyer.

I rush downstairs to eat near the coat room where I am allowed to eat. I rush back upstairs and watch the rest of the show. During intermission I make sure no one brings in open drinks. Watch second half of show....

Well, all the while I'm doing these things that I've been doing since I was in high school, I think -- what am I doing here? I like the theatre, I even still get something out of it, but all the same, I wonder how it is I am in the same place I was five years ago.


01 dec 08

woke at 9:40

40's, sunny

bought stamps, picked up reading from school

watched Top Gear while eating meatball sub from Pret A Manger [I really miss those]

Read Hardy along South Bank

The Eye and Big Ben from Waterloo Bridge

Top: Edward Hopper "New York Movie"

28 November 2009

tea for 2

28 nov 08

woke at 3:00 [pm]

early 50's

watched Doctor Who

read Hardy [for which I had to give a presentation, urrrrghhhh Hardy!]

where Stacey and I had lunch outside of Cambridge

27 November 2009

the last supper

27 nov 08


woke at 12:00

went to Oedipus starring Ralph Fiennes

Chips at local fish and chips shop


Friends and I reenacting The Last Supper, during our last supper together in '06

25 November 2009

25 nov 08

25 nov 08

woke at 1:00 [pm]

cool, early 40's, cloudy


tea at caffe nero

night class -- movie, Festival of Britain

School building in '06, view from my dorm bedroom

24 nov 08, London

24 nov 08

lower 40's, cloudy/rainy

woke at 12:00

opened bank account

went to class -- Bleak House discussed

Autumn at Cambridge University (where I traveled with Stacey and a former professor, the latter of whom was teaching a class there).

23 November 2009



woke at 8:00

Stacey left for America at 9:00

Sunny/rainy, cold, 40's



Once Stacey leaves, my time in London becomes a bit depressing. Fail a paper and return home to America.

It is hard to explain how a time can be so bad, and yet so great at the same time. That's what it was like in London. My first time there, in '06, when I was a study abroad student for 3 1/2 months was nothing but a pleasant experience. It is where I met Stacey and our mutual friend -- my roommate -- Kristen. My time in grad school was pretty bad, but I loved walking around London. That was the greatest part. Waking at 6:00 in the morning and walking across Waterloo Bridge before the sun came up; walking across the Thames Embankment while the sun rose. I miss it so much, that even now I'm welling up just thinking about it.

The theatre. I loved seeing shows. I saw some of the greatest performers of my time. Derek Jacobi, Alan Cumming, Tim Curry, Dame Judi Dench, Rosamund Pike, Patrick Stewart, Anna Maxwell Martin, Kenneth Branagh, Ralph Fiennes, Dame Eileen Atkins, Sophie Thompson, Gina McKee. Saw productions like HAMLET and TWELFTH NIGHT, plays that are no where better made than in the soil from which they sprang.

I think back and I wonder if I didn't enjoy it enough. I knew when I was there that I should grab every moment, that one day I would be stuck in a bad situation and have something good to look back on.

I think I did make the most of it, the most of what was given to me; at least I took what I could from it.

And I know some day I will return to London, not feeling the visitor, but as though I've never left. I know a little of myself will always belong in London.

Trafalgar Square

St. Paul's from Millennium Bridge

Typically foggy London morning on Westminster Bridge

22 November 2009

dad; a year ago, in London (22 Nov 08)

My father is 75% hard of hearing, so when his alarm goes off in the morning to wake him up, even though it wakes me up all the way upstairs, he often sleeps right through it, and I have to go downstairs and wake him up.




woke at 9:00

saw jazz trio at Natural History Museum*

Lunch at V&A [Victoria and Albert Museum]

Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park at night

* Here is a video that Stacey took of the performance we saw of The Neil Cowley Trio (and that's my big head in front of her).

21 November 2009

a year ago, in London (21 nov 08)

21 - 11 - 08

woke at 10:30

cold, windy 40's

Wallace Collection [saw Madame de Pompadour portrait and The Swing]*

Infiltrated Regent's College [former college I attended] with Stacey for dinner

Festival on South Bank

Jazz at South Bank Festival Hall

nutella crepes, Mmmmmm


20 November 2009

a year ago, in London

20 - 11 - 08

woke at 9:00

50's [degrees]

went to Harrods for tea and scones with Stacey

Apsley House near Hyde Park [museum, if I remember correctly]

Bond Street Christmas lighting -- real reindeer, fake snow blown out of the windows above the shops, entertainers

stopped at cafe in Leicester Square 4 dinner

19 November 2009

a year ago today, in London


woke at 9:00

early 50's, cool, sunny

class & Phd mtg

I really could have been a bit more descriptive, huh?

18 November 2009

a year ago

I'm scrap-booking my time in London last year, and came across my bulletined diary (that Abby gave me) from that time. Each day I wrote the basics of what I did that day.

Here's from a year ago.


cool, cloudy, sunny

woke at 2:00 [P.M.]

went to dinner with Stacey & watched Top Gear

I wish my life were an Austen novel, but I'm living in a Dickens world

I knew getting up this morning that my day was not going to be pleasant, because I need to consolidate my loans, and of course this can't be easy.

In order to fill out the forms online to consolidate I have to know what my educational pin is, something of four numbers that is apparently more important than my social number. I go on the department of education Web site to retrieve this omniscient number, but (of course) since I've already tried to do this years ago, I'm not allowed to do it again. So I call them up and they tell me to do something which I don't really understand as the lady on the line was talking fast and obviously didn't want to talk to me. So I try to do it on the Web site, but then a security question comes up -- what is your mother's maiden name? I put in Nichols. Nope, wrong. I put in Nicholls. Nope, wrong. I'm starting to believe that I don't know what my mother's maiden name is. I try it again. Oh, three times is not the charm, and now my pin is disabled.

I refrain from calling the Department of Education again, for fear of getting that lady who, through her tone of voice, will only verify how much of a moron I already know I am.

So I'll call back tomorrow. And go through the torturous process of getting my pin un-disabled, and then trying again to find out what the elusive four numbers are, just so I can put it in a little square box on my loan page, so they will let me consolidate my loans, so I don't have to pay the 600 dollars they want me to pay every month.

Life is like the Circumlocution Office in Charles Dickens's "Little Dorrit", a place where one goes to find information, but instead one is continually placed in circles, where "forms need to be filled in to request permission to fill in more forms" and in the end no information is attained, but only a sort of soul crushing defeat is felt.

I think we all wish our lives were like an Austen novel, where the rules of love are the only complex ingredients in life. I know I do. Especially since I don't really believe in love, and so, by process of elimination, I would have nothing to worry about at all.

16 November 2009

dude, I swear.

Remember that time people said that if George Bush, Jr. became president again, they were going to move to Canada? I thought they were being a tad bit overly dramatic. But now I understand them. Because I swear if Sarah Palin is ever the president of my country I am going to leave the U.S. so fast, you won't even know I've left.

09 November 2009


I'm reading a rather fat book about the rise and fall of the British Empire. I am at the beginning, so I am just at the part where Britain is infiltrating what would become America and the American's fight for independence against the British in the late 1700's. And just now I think that what happened three hundred+ years ago is still happening today in Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Fort Hood.

On a happier note, I have watched the first half of the football game with my father. Me, reclining on the arm of his recliner, sharing a snuggly blanket, my father saying that we will pretend that we are at the game and it is 10 below.

My father turns on Fox News during the commercials. I listen to the ignorance of the people on that channel, and I know what it is to love, because I do not hate or even in any way dislike my father for his republican beliefs. There will always be differences between people and wars will only exist so long as people allow their opinions to supersede their love.

EDIT: Finishing this post I went downstairs to watch the second half of the game -- "All you need is love..." from the Beatles ringing through my head as a consequence of the post I just wrote-- picking up a fortune cookie left over from the chinese takeaway ordered earlier this evening, and I smiled as I read One who is too insistent on his own views, finds few to agree with him. How very apt.

07 November 2009

coming home from work

after working 10 hours at the deli, my father tells me, in a jovial tone,

"I told your mother this morning, that Monday, my only day off, I don't want to hear anything from anyone. I'm going to wake up, have a nice breakfast, and sit in my chair and watch the game. And that is it. Nothing else. I don't care if the President calls. Obama-head will have to call back tomorrow, because I'm watching the Monday night game!"

And then, in his characteristic, after work, slightly demented mood, he moves his right hand up into the air, in an aristocratic french manner, and say's,

"'Avant. Be out of my sight.' That's from Shakespeare. And it's the only thing I know of Shakespeare."

To which I retort, "What about 'To be or not to be? That is the question?'"

We then spend the next minute trying to think up the next line, with my father, befuddled, muttering,

"nobler in the mind..."

"yes! 'Tis nobler in the mind..."


My father sits down. "Oh, who cares about Shakespeare, dopey Shakespeare." And then, "My legs are swollen tonight." Which of course must naturally transition into my father singing, a la West Side Story, "Tonight, tonight, my legs are swollen like a dyke."

"What?" I exclaim, laughing uproariously.

"Oh, I'm tired, and crazy tonight," my father exclaims matter-of-factly.

"No, really?" I'm still laughing as I leave the kitchen.


Like many people who come to New York to live and then have to leave before they really want to, I spent the next three or four years with the vague feeling that there was a great party going on somewhere and I was not at it.

03 November 2009

to live in the 1800's

Along with the many interesting, innocuous things one can do on Facebook, there is an application called socialinterview, where you can answer questions about your friends.

Here's one that one of my Facebook friends wrote about me:

"What would Helen Walko be like if he/she lived in the 1800s?"

'Almost exactly as she is now, except she'd fit in better, and spend her days wishing she lived in the 1600's.when men and literature were so much better......''

01 November 2009

my parents

note left my father in his chicken scratch that very much resembles my own,

Helen - Get the cats Kibbles -- and we need Bread -- See you all after 5 -- DADO

Some time after my mother writes below, in blue ink,

Do Not get this stuff -- Mom

Just as I'm about to write this on here, thinking this was enough to show the incongruity of my family, mom knocks on my door to reiterate her argument that I shouldn't buy anything at Rite Aid, a block away from where I live, her argument being that my father works at Giant Eagle, can buy it himself, and RA doesn't have the kind of kibbles that the cats like. I tell her they do, she tells me they don't, I tell her I have bought it there, she relents, but then says that she wants to buy a big 20 pound bag of it at Giant Eagle. I tell her go right ahead and do that but what are the cats going to eat in the meantime. Her response is that they can live a day without food. I want to tell her that she is a moron but instead don't say anything -- and then she goes in for the kill. Why don't I just take the bus up to Giant Eagle and pick up the kibbles there before dad gets home. Oh, and there's a list of other things on the kitchen table. I tell her to leave my room. She slams my door and her own.

31 October 2009

du Maurier

For Daphne Du Maurier, there is only one role available to a female storyteller: that of immobile chronicler, preserving the worlds men have lost.

Daphne Du Maurier Haunted Heiress by Nina Auerbach, 59

28 October 2009


White trash and black slimeballs. What make downtown so special. Although some of them are fun. We have a man who comes in that we call Temptations Man because he comes in expressly to listen to the Temptations on the computer. He's always drunk -- reeks of alcohol -- and sometimes gets upset -- if we tell him to stop singing or tell him he has to leave. He's a nice black man in his mid fifties and I happen to adore him. He's always so sweet to me, but apparently he has been kicked out for a year (again) because he smells too bad and because he has been singing loudly. I feel bad, because he must have a terrible life, to always be so drunk, and I feel like (however minutely) his time at the library is a time for him to have some fun. And who cares if he's singing? It's not like our library is ever quiet anyway. And he's never tried to sell me weed.

I won't be in again until next week. Was going to go in tomorrow, but want to watch over my dad a bit, make sure he takes the medication he's suppose to -- a lacsitiv (grossly mispelled) -- that I'm sure he's not going to want to take, and he'll want to wait until the last possible moment. He was suppose to take it tonight -- tomorrow morning at the latest, but he still wants to go to work tomorrow and then take it when he gets home at 10:00 pm! He's so stubborn. It upsets me. I don't know if I told you that the doctors told him that if he had waited only two or three more days to see a doctor (for what he was in the hospital for) he would have died, his heart would have just stopped working. Hence -- why I'm taking anxiety pills. lol.

Glad to hear Marsha is keeping strong. And it was good to see you today, however briefly. I shall tell you when I am next in, and you can stop in if you have time (and the strength), and we can have a little chat.

My best,

"The thing we end up wasting most of is our life."

Alain de Botton

23 October 2009

feeling happy

My dad amazes me. At 73, he gets up and goes to work. He looks so tired in the morning while he's eating breakfast, and sometimes falls asleep in his chair between bites. But when it is time to go, he gets dressed, and rushes out the door. He likes his work, but I know if he had a chance he would give it up, if somehow we could get enough money from some other source to pay for our bills, bills we can't even manage to entirely pay as it is. I feel so bad that he is working, while I am not.

These last three days I have been feeling superb. Actually happy. No sickness. If this continues, then I will try for a waitressing job. I do have an appointment at career development at Point Park next week, and hopefully that will yield something, although I'm cynical.

But in the meantime, I do the dishes, everyone's laundry, keep the house clean, give my father money for bills. So I guess I shouldn't feel too bad.

These pills keep me calm. I haven't been angry in over a week. I used to be so angry. Everything upset me. But I haven't been upset, even though things have happened that I know if I weren't on these pills, would make me very upset.

I sleep better too. All through the night. I wake up at 7:00 in the morning and can't believe that I have been sleeping non-stop since midnight. Before I could always tell exactly what time it was when I woke up, but now my sleep is so deep that I don't even realize time has passed.

21 October 2009

I admit I am a snob

I had a wonderful day. For the first time in a long time. Maybe it is the unnatural (for October) 70 degree weather, maybe my pills have finally decided to work, but I woke today without a headache and did not feel sick after eating toast and taking my pill. I took a walk, listening to Lily Allen, and then took the bus to town, to return and pick up books at the library. Had lunch by myself at my favourite eatery -- that sells wraps, smoothies, and soups (delish), flipping through the new Craig Ferguson auto-biography while I ate, and beginning the biography on Daphne Du Maurier that, since reading Justine Picardie's fictional biography of Daphne -- not-so ingeniously titled "Daphne" -- I have been eagerly wanting to begin.

A library patron -- Theresa -- came into the eatery just as I finished -- lucky for me -- and after having a short chat, that dealt with what I was reading and "Honey, do you know anyone who writes like her [Daphne] today?" to which I replied, "No. Writers today just don't write like they did back then" -- I left to have tea in the Starbucks in the Omni William Penn Hotel, which I have just decided shall be my new cafe. It is so fancy, with the large chandelier, and the ornate gold stucco, and warm coloured and therefore inviting large carpets. I like things that are fancy. I like beautiful places where I can sit and read and look at people dressed in fancy clothes, the women with their uniquely adorned high heels (leopard skin and bright coloured ones) and men with their blackberries, and their facial expressions of importance. While I sit in a large, brown, comfy chair, dressed in tattered old jeans, a child's shirt with Tinkerbell on it, and a hoodie over that. Despite my pretensions of modesty, I am a snob.

And enjoy being one very much.

16 October 2009

16 Oct 09

My mother fell, so she has been in bed all day.

I woke at 10:00. Took my anxiety pill. Made me more tired, so I slept from 12:00 - 2:00.

Did some stretching. My back has been hurting me. Haven't been able to take walks with this rainy/cold weather, but have been laying in bed all day, these last three days.

Watched two episodes of Lark Rise to Candleford, a British television show set in the late 19th century.

Walked to Rite Aid to buy brillo pads.

Contemplated cleaning my room, but decided I was too tired. These pills I am on make me so relaxed that I'm not up for doing much of anything. And don't care that I'm not doing anything.

15 October 2009

15 oct 09

I have to take the trash out. It is cold and rainy, and I have just taken a shower.

Spent all day in bed today, watching innocuous shows. A lot of bridal shows, whose wedding is it anyway and say yes to the dress. They interest me, although I don't want to marry, or want to grow through the process of a wedding. Maybe a perverted curiosity about something foreign and distasteful to me.

Still feeling sick after taking an anxiety pill, but less so than yesterday. I wake up with a headache and feeling fluish sick. I hope there isn't something else wrong with me.

These pills make me tired, and I don't feel like doing anything, even taking a walk, although it is so rainy out that I can't really take a walk.

Now, for the trash. Fun times.

14 October 2009

14 October 09

One of my friends is no longer my friend. 10 years I've known him. But because I've been a bit bitchy with him lately, or because he doesn't want to deal with me, he doesn't want to know me anymore. Isn't that horrible? I should have known this would happen. I think I did. He isn't good with people. He doesn't want to deal with people's pain. He only wants people who will deal with his. I don't think he was using me as such, but he obviously didn't care so much for me as a friend as I thought he did, if he'll give me up this easily.

Starting my anxiety pill today. It was a bad experience at first. I don't know if it was a reaction to the pill, but I had the worst nausea I've had, and some other things which I won't mention. One of the side effects is nausea, but the reason why I'm taking this pill is primarily for nausea brought on by anxiety. After the wretched nausea subsided, I felt, and have been feeling, better. More calm, not racing thoughts, no anger. But I don't know if that's the pill per se, or if I'm just having a good day. Even with my persistent anxiety, I have had days where I am perfectly fine, which is one of the reasons why I waited so long to see the doctor.

13 October 2009

13 Oct 09

Got my anti-anxiety pills today, after passing a thyroid test, and having an EKG done to rule out heart disease (one of my symptoms is heart palpitations). I hope these pills work and I start feeling better. I already do, actually, now that I know I have these pills.

Today, I am feeling good.

12 October 2009

12 Oct 09

Dream last night. I was in a house. And there were a bunch of young crazy people, about 16-22. I had to evaluate them. I wasn't a doctor, but I was there to take care of them, and had a notepad. I couldn't read my own writing. I was writing down their conditions, and what they were taking in order to help them. A lot of them were quite rude to me, but I told myself that they were sick and they needed my help. One girl was very nice to me, but then was mean.

I was suppose to meet a friend for lunch today, but was sick, of course, and had to cancel. Stomach upset, and headache. I have my doctors appointment tomorrow. Hopefully whatever they give me will help.

I am trying to remain calm. Easier said than done. I take walks, and listen to Lily Allen, and watch Buffy, and Craig Ferguson, and listen to music that I like. I try not to be sad that my life is hurting me so much. I try to hope that there will be something better. I try to imagine how my life can be better.

I don't believe that anything I can do will make it better. I feel like I'm infected. I'm a bad person. I'm not good enough to lead a happy life. I'm too needy, I'm not strong enough, I'm not smart enough. People I know who were idiots in high school are doing better than me.

I try to not be so disillusioned that I lose sight of the good in life. I try not to let myself be like some, who only see the practical, so-called realistic side of life, but allow myself to indulge in the hopeful, perhaps not entirely "truthful" side. The side that encourages one to try to get something good out of this awful existence we've been handed.

11 October 2009

11 Oct 09

Not at all sick today. That's how it goes. Some days just wretched, and there's nothing to do to stop feeling that way. And then others, completely fine.

I feel my spirit dwindling, so far, and to a greater extent than it ever has. It doesn't seem like there is much of anything good in this life, and I don't feel like being here anymore. Not that I am suicidal, by any means no. I have some zest for life still. I read from a novel last night, set in the 19th century, and felt more alive than I do in my own life. If it weren't for literature...

Okay, now this truly sounds as if I want to off myself. But it is just that every day life bores me so much, and there seems no cure for it.

I took a walk today, and had a fantasy. Some guy living here who's British but lives in London 6 months out of the year, and here 6 months. And how nice it would be if we could spend half the year here, and the other in England. I could work for the British library and waitress here. The best of both worlds.

My foolish hopes will never live up to reality.

10 October 2009

10 October 09

I feel so sick today. Woke up with headache and have been nauseous and disoriented -- that feeling you get when you have an ear infection and you're off your equalibirium. This is the worst. Went out with Tom and felt sick the whole time. At least it wasn't too overwhelming until I got home. But had to sick in the shower for a bit while the water fell on me before I could feel even good enough to get up.

Probably didn't help that I watched the episode where Buffy's mum dies. couldn't help but to think what it will be like when my parents go. I think how any of us feels when that happens is sort of a mini-dose of how I feel every day with this anxiety/nausea thing going on. I cried a lot watching this episode. I think that helped. I needed a bit of a cry.

09 October 2009

another day

I went to Walnut Grove today. A new restaurant opened where I live. I am going to send in an application for a job waitressing. I am scared. Of everything now. But scared of waitressing, of doing something wrong, breaking a plate or something. But I need money. And I can't get anything else.

My parents are yelling at one another. Every day, every night. They yell at one another. No money to pay for anything. I get sick hearing them.

I need a new place to live, and people who don't make me feel sick to my stomach.

I told my mother I hate her last night. I hate her for always being drunk and not doing anything. It was during a 20 minute electrical black out -- all the lights on the street and in the houses went out -- and I went to get a flash light and mother was being drunk and I told her I hated her. I think I could only have done that in the dark.

I just really hate people right now. People I can't depend on. One of my acquaintances doesn't want anything to do with me now because he knows that I can't depend on him -- that he's not dependable -- and that I need that. And he doesn't think he can trust me, which he probably can't. I know too much what is bad, and cannot be simple and nice right now. And he needs that, I guess, someone who isn't filled with hatred for the world around her.

It is useless getting close to people, for me. They always think I am so much nicer and simpler than I am. But they learn otherwise. And then, something always happens -- in any relationship, for every person -- and people run away.

My whole life, I have had people in my life who I have been close with and they no longer like me, and they leave. I'm not trying to get sympathy here. But it is curious. Friends in middle school and high school that I was so close with and they find other people. I've never really thought about it and what effect that has had on me, if any. I just figure that they find people who are cooler -- it was all about who was cool in school in middle school -- or they marry, or they move away (or I move away) and they find other people. I think I've taken it for a matter of course that people will leave me. Why I don't get too close to them.

That's sad.

08 October 2009

I need...

I need to move on. I need to find a way to cope, and not expect anyone to pick me up or make things better for me, or even to offer sympathy. I need to learn how to live on my own, so that even when I have people that are there for me, I will know how to cope when they are no longer around.

I need to find some perspective, and not be so (seemingly) neurotic.

I need to find something worth living for.

I need to write about the good things.

I need to realize that London was something of a disaster, and the prospect of leaving this horrible place for that city was the only thing that for a long time kept me going, but now I need to move on and find something else to depend on, something that is hopefully better, and more successful.

I need to not give up.

07 October 2009

Hello, again.

Okay,s o I guess I won't give this up completely. But it is all going to be depressing stuff. I'll try to write positive some times.

Got the King's College Magazine today. Those magazines you get from the universities you've attended. Notice some faces. Clare Brant, 18th century specialist of literature, in her usual purple and black shirt ensemble, with plain black slacks. A medallion of some sort hanging on her neck. Never saw her in any other two colours, but purple and black. Some dinner the literature department was at. The whole magazine detailing how great they are. All the things the university does. I don't mind it of Point Park -- I love that university (college, when I was there) -- feel solemn reading King's College. Large magazine it is, with a Lord on the cover as the piece de resistance. An article about Virginia Woolf's time at the college; how a student home inspires one, playing with Woolf's A Room of One's Own. I was least happy in my dorm room. It was London that I wanted. I don't completely hate reading this magazine, but makes me rather sad. Everything makes me sad these days.

I feel so alone. I feel like there is good out there, and I tried to find them, and couldn't (either because I'm lame or I just didn't come across them) and I may never. I may end up just living life half-feelingly and then die. And I don't feel safe. There is not one place I can go where I feel completely safe. I have no Tiffany's. No one person who I feel I can say anything to. No Knightley. But life doesn't have Tiffany's or Knightley's maybe; only literature. Literature as the vessel that shows more of what can be, rather than what is. I just need to learn that there will always be conflict in my life -- I will never be completely secure, life does not provide that -- with any place or person, but that that is not a bad thing. That I will find place and people that I feel as secure with as a person can. And if I haven't found those places yet, there is still time.

02 October 2009

I'm done with this blog.

30 September 2009


If I had realized how much "adulthood" sucks (for lack of a better word) I would have had a lot more fun in college.

I was such the adult in my youth, and now I feel like a child.

25 September 2009

g-20 financial summit turns to concern for nuclear weapons in Iran

The pre-scientific age, whatever its deficiencies, had at least offered its members the peace of mind that follows from knowing all man-made achievements to be nothing next to the grandeur of the universe. We, more blessed in our gadgetry but less humble in our outlook, have been left to wrestle with feelings of envy, anxiety and arrogance that follow from having no more compelling repository of veneration than our brilliant, precise, blinkered and morally troubling fellow human beings.

The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work. Alain de Botton

23 September 2009


At the library, when boss was gone, and the workload pretty much done (for me, anyhow) I spent the time looking up pictures of Daniel Craig. Why....I think I was talking about him with a co-worker, who fancies he looks a bit like him. And, he kinda does, I have to admit. Before I know it, I have three other people peeking over my shoulder, as I sit in the bosses desk looking at pictures of Daniel Craig in the shorty-shorts he wore for Casino Royale, laughing about what you can guess but I won't relate.

Life is made of moments.

22 September 2009

"The Little Stranger"

I had one of those moments of complete happiness today that I wish I had more often. I was in the library, doing something I can't remember, checking in or shelving books, and everything suddenly seemed all right and good, and immediately after I thought -- this will change in a few minutes, and of course it did, but I tried to remember what it felt like, so that I feel it more often.

I drank tea last night while reading a new book by Sarah Waters, called The Little Stranger. It is a great book. I love her writings. Unfortunantely, not much happens in them, and by the middle I usually get bored. But this novel isn't quite so wordy and highly intelligent, but seemly simple with a subtle complexity that will probably resolve into some grand idea that, thankfully, will arrive at the end of the story. It is difficult for me to appreciate books that spend the entirety trying to promote some theory or major idea. Not much of a point to that when everything that is written has been before. A good story, with true (but unique) characters, is what I desire.

21 September 2009

bring it on, bitch.

No more gothic, Bronte-inspired, emo shit on here anymore.

I will write only good things.

Is this possible?

Got laptop back from shop where it has been this past week. Something refreshing about not having the distractions of the world wide web at your fingertips. Like starting anew.

I remember what life was like before I got a computer. Although, frankly, it wasn't much better. This is not an emo statement, just the truth.

Tomorrow. The library. I hope to run into protestors. I'm the only Pittsburgh-er, it seems, who is not afraid of these protestors, or am in fear that my life will be turned upside down by the presence of heads of state and, their counterparts, the civilians that wish to hurl (innocuous?) words at them.

I say -- bring it the fuck on!

Guess who?

12 September 2009


These are the things I need:

money to pay for my school loans which I have to start paying again.

a job, one that I won't dislike

a boyfriend who is interesting and passionate and smart and who I find attractive (no small order that).

a place of my own

enough money to travel back to london for a visit, and Kristen and Stacey to come too so we can have a reunion.'

a purpose for living

Jack Vettriano

11 September 2009

not what is so blatantly obvious

I've read through that short story and have discovered that there are large chunks of the end of it that I must have at some point taken out. And that the main male character was apparently originally called Jeremy and then (because of my sudden interest in the tennis player, Lleyton Hewitt?) it was changed. I must have written this story my freshman year of college. I wrote a lot of stories then. None of them good, but all imaginative, inspirational, free. I was so eager for life my freshman year of college, and indeed even through those four years, even after I came back from Regents College in London and found something missing in my old college, even after (at the same time) the English departments favourite professor and head of the department left for a position elsewhere. Rather cliche, really. We all grow up in college -- or are suppose to realize the reality of life. Some of us are destroyed by it, and others pick up the pieces and move on.

Illusions. I was so happy my first two years at college. So inspired. I could write silly, fantastic stories and feel no guilt for their lack of basis in reality. I haven't written stories since then. I try sometimes, and can't. Like it is wrong to indulge in fantasies. I could write a story that is factual, reality based, but that would be no fun, no escape. Plus, I have always found what is not often found in reality to be more interesting than what is.

Others can write about what does happen, I'd rather take a more surreal approach to reality. I've always loved literature for its ability to open our mind, to show us not what is so blatantly obvious, but what is difficult to see, but there, nonetheless, in some capacity.

Jack Vettriano

10 September 2009


I don't know what to write. I don't have anything to write. Hence why I haven't been writing.

So, I'll post a story, that I wrote years and years ago, and which I came across today when I was going through my files while at a cafe with Abbt. I haven't read through it because if I do then I will not post it. It is pretty silly -- I was reading Austen and Edith Wharton at the time --

‘Jane will be quite an old maid soon, I declare. She is almost three and twenty! Lord, how ashamed I should be of not being married before three and twenty!’ – Lydia Bennet in Pride and Prejudice


1861 -- In the fashionable side of New York City lived a young girl whom everyone was talking about. Her name was Mary Collins. She was a girl of twenty who only a week ago had been received at her first ball and only the night before at an opera. She had “come out.” It was time for her to find a husband.

She was lucky that her father knew so many great business men and that her mother held an outstanding reputation, for before week’s end she had secured a match. His name was Louis Avery and he was a business partner of her father’s. Even those who did not know him personally knew that he was a prominent defense lawyer by the articles in the newspapers telling of his victories. Mary felt lucky and many of her acquaintances thought her so, except for one person, her sister.
Lucy Collins knew that she was selfish for wishing that her sister would never marry. I can not lie to my reader by telling them it was solely out of love for her sister that she feared this separation. Rather, she knew that once her older sister was attached, she too would have to go through the courtship process. She was only nineteen and thought that age too young to undergo the difficult task of choosing ones husband.

“Mr. Avery is coming to dinner this evening, Lucy,” Mary related to her sister one spring afternoon. “You have a very keen way of observing people and I would like to know what you think about him.” Both sisters were in their sitting room, a room for shared secrets and feminine gossip.

“If you wish me to but you must remember that whatever I believe about his character may be incorrect.”

The party that evening consisted of the before mentioned person, the sister’s parents and their old acquaintance, Leytton Montgomery. The latter was a man of twenty two who was studying law at a local university. He was once an eminently rich man but two years before his father had lost the family’s money on a speculation venture gone wrong. However, his connection with the Collins’s family insured him a place in the very best of families for dinners and balls. Ever so often he was even invited to the opera. Having known Lucy and Mary since they were children, he was a favorite among them.
Leytton was the last member of the party to sit at the dining table, arriving at the Collins’s house fifteen minutes after dinner had been served. He was often late; consequently, no one but Mr. Avery was surprised at his late entrance. Nothing was spoken of during dinner, propriety stating that discourse should be held in the drawing room. Once in this room, Mary and Mr. Avery occupied the sofa before the fire, Leytton spoke to his Mr. and Mrs. Collins in a corner near a book shelf, and Lucy settled herself in her favorite chair near the maroon curtained window. Such a place afforded her the privilege of viewing every person in the room.

If her sister had asked her then what she thought of Mr. Avery, she believed she would be unable to give a response. Only two words were spoken with him and they were only introductory phrases. The only assessment she could derive of his character was by his appearance. He was exactly as she thought he would look; tall, with a stern eye and furrowed brow; a man of twenty-five who looked much older. She could only attribute the latter to the hardships of his job, though it was considered superfluous for any gentleman of his wealth and social position to do more than the minimum of work. She had read that he was now defending a woman who had allegedly been beaten by her husband. The papers said it looked like the prosecution would win. She felt admiration for him who took a case that many other lawyers refused.

In order to stifle the inevitable ennui which began to pervade the room, it was decided among Mary and Mr. Avery that the party should play a game of charades. Mr. and Mrs. Collins instantly agreed. Even so, assembling each person into a group was a difficult task because both Lucy and Leytton did not wish to participate. Eventually, Leytton was persuaded to accompany Mary and Mr. Avery but not even the caressing voice and threatening eyebrow of the sisters’ mother could persuade Lucy to join. The servants were told to scourge the attic and unused rooms for props, and the amateur theatrical performance began. Lucy retrieved a book to occupy herself while her parents dressed themselves in makeshift apparel created out of tissue paper. She did not close her book and lay it in her lap until the next group took their place in the center of the room.

Lucy felt pity for Leytton who was given a fire poker for a sword and a crooked crown made out of stationary to place on his head. While the other two were devising the scene, Leytton tried in vain to keep the crown from falling from its intended resting place, giving Lucy a smile that denoted discomfort. Gifted with foresight, I will relate to my reader that the scene was from the King Arthur tales. It was set on the night of Guinevere’s execution. Lancelot (played by Mr. Avery) comes to save his love while King Arthur (Leytton, with his perpetually falling crown) looks on. It was all very dramatic, with Lancelot riding up on a candlestick and Guinevere struggling to free herself from the twine loosely wrapped around herself and a chair.

Soon after this scene closed, the game exhausted its novelty and the players retreated to corners of the room. Mary, along with Mr. Avery, came over to Lucy and asked her how she liked their performance. Only satisfactory remarks were given and both players glowed at the scanty commendations voiced. Sitting down on two chairs placed before them, Mr. Avery said to Lucy with a certain swagger,

“I feel I am a sort of modern day Lancelot. Like that man, I defend those who are unable to defend themselves. And when I defeat my opponent and read or hear the praise of my fellow men, well then I feel like I have committed a task that only God himself could have justly executed. For sure, Lancelot was a mistaken man, many did not understand his passions and views of the world, just like many do not understand me but in such times when I am placed against those who question my actions or thoughts, I remember that they do not know the cruelty and injustice on this world like I do and then I am able to prove them wrong as I do those I am placed against in court.”

Mary beamed at her perfect mate while Lucy felt disgust at his open pride. When once she had thought Mr. Avery so hard working because he wanted to help others, now she could not help to form the opinion that it was simply for the gratification of his pride.

She was very glad when they left her to join Mr. and Mrs. Collins near the fire. Leytton was no where to be found and believing that he had left without saying goodbye, as he was wont to do, Lucy again picked up her book. She read no more than a page when she heard near her seat,

“Do you never tire of Jane Austen?” Leytton had quite noiselessly sat himself on the chair beside Lucy and was now languidly reclining with his hands folded together on his chest and his two legs stretched out straight before him. Lucy placed her book face down on the table next to her but did not answer his question. Leytton continued,

“I thought you told me you despise our society for its obsession with marriage and propriety but if I’m not mistaken,” and in a bantering tone he remarked, “and I’m often not, does not Jane Austen deal heavily with those two issues?” With a raised eyebrow and a smile on her lips, she responded,

“Yes, her books do often deal with such issues and the very emphasis our society places on these issues makes them even more interesting to me. Why do people care about who other people marry? Why must marriages take place between two people of the same social class? Why are women brazen old maids if they do not marry? It seems there are worse problems on this world than good breeding and marriage and yet that is all we care about. I want to find the answers to my questions and the only places to find them are where the issues I ponder are studied.”

“That is very astute of you. You should take my place at law school. They could use someone with your intuition.”
“I hardly think that they would allow a woman to enter law school. How are you, by the way, progressing in your work?’
“I suppose I am doing well.”
“You don’t seem to care.”
“Frankly, I don’t. Oh, don’t look worried. I’ll pass.” Lucy knew he did not like to talk about his studies. It made them both angry, Lucy because she felt he should work harder and Leytton because he did not like Lucy to criticize him. She supposed that he simply did not want to become a lawyer but he would not tell her why if this was so he was studying to become one.
“What did you think about my performance?” Leytton asked as his disgruntled look changed as he chuckled at the mere thought of how Lucy would respond. “Am I cut out to play King Arthur on the great stage?”
“Perhaps if it is a comedy. I wonder if you heard me snickering behind my book after you left your crumpled crown lay where it fell after several attempts to keep it in place.”
“Thankfully, no. One rap from you and I lose all sense of proportion.”
Looking across the room at her sister and Mr. Avery, she asked, “What do you think about Mary’s suitor?”
“Rather conventional. I suppose he’ll do for your sister. She’s not like you; she doesn’t expect much. What do you think of him?”
“I think he’s a proud fool.”
“Will you tell your sister so?”
“Of course I won’t. I don’t force my opinions on anyone unless they want them to be heard. She asked me to observe him to tell her what I think about him but I know that she will only want to hear good things. I shan’t tell either what I feel or what she wants to hear. I’ll simply tell her that he’s too much of a quandary for me to figure out. Her suitor believes himself to be a contradiction as he so bluntly told me when he compared himself to his idol, Lancelot. It seems that he fancies himself an incarnation of that man, and I believe he really is. Just like that fellow was proud and unsympathetic to anyone save himself, so is Mr. Avery the same.

“I always wonder what happens after Lancelot saves Guinevere. Of course, most people imagine Lancelot and Guinevere living happily ever after. I can’t do the same. It’s too idyllic for people who hold such great foibles. I always disliked Guinevere when most girls admired, indeed emulated, her. She is unrealistic. Her passion for a man other than her husband is often commended because she is regarded as a woman who won’t let conventions tie her to a husband she does not love. But her passion is not the sort of passion I feel is commendable. I would feel more sympathy for her if she felt a passionate need to help her husband with his quest to restore peace at Camelot. Instead, her type of passion destroys her husbands endeavor.
“I always felt sorry for King Arthur. I believe I would have loved him. He fought through any obstacle that came his way, even if he knew it might cost him his life. Most of all, he was humble. Every deed he committed was for the benefit of others. I would have been proud to call myself a wife to such a man.”

“Do you fancy your sister a modern day Guinevere?”
“I cannot say. If she is and she marries this Lancelot I fear their love, if love there is, will dispel once she discovers his true character and he hers.”
A month after the dinner at the Collins house, Leytton traveled with his father to Boston to assist with the care of his father’s sister who was also a dear friend of Lucy’s mother. Though Mrs. Collins was informed of her friends present condition, she thought it unnecessary to visit her, as she always professed to be sick and yet never died. Two weeks later, Mrs. Collins received a letter from Leytton with his condolences for the death of her friend. Two weeks more and Leytton, still in Boston, sent a letter to Lucy:

Dear Lucy:

As you probably know I have stayed in Boston these two weeks to hear the reading of my Aunt’s will. I am not aware if you have heard what was left me. I told the executor of the will to withhold such information in his letter to your family because I wanted to be the source from which you would hear the news. It seems that my generous aunt has left me one of her estates, in Florence, Italy as well as a good portion of her fortune. That means, my dear friend, that I am now a rich man. I have no worries for the future. This immense change in my life has prompted me to quit law school. Also, I will be moving to Florence in three months time, if not sooner.

I will call on you and your family when I return to New York in one week.


Leytton’s letter sent Lucy into a state of agitation and she quickly went to her sister in their sitting room to tell her the news. Mary was glad for Leytton but could see that Lucy was not. Unwilling to tell her sister why she was irritated, Lucy shut herself in her room and refused to speak to anyone in the family about this new development. When Leytton arrived one week later, Lucy persuaded him to walk with her to the perfumery, where she professed she had something to buy. Leytton was well aware, as I am sure my reader is, that this was merely a design to speak with him alone.
“I must say,” Lucy began, after they had walked a block, “that your letter surprised me.”
“How so?”
“I did not expect, even after you told me of the fortune you had acquired, that you would not finish law school.”
“I am aware of your opinion on that matter and was so sure of how you would react when you heard the news of my decision that I could not tell you in person.”
“You could still go to law school even if you don’t have to earn a living.” Leytton wished to end this conversation as promptly as possible and quickly responded that he never wanted to become a lawyer, confirming the supposition that had been lying in his interlocutors mind for the last year. She asked him what prompted him to attend law school in the first place but he would not give her an answer. Abruptly she stopped walking. He did the same.
“I do not understand why you are throwing away this opportunity. You could help so many people, like Mr. Avery.”
“Lucy, I am not Mr. Avery. I’m not King Arthur either. I can’t save the world, nor do I want to.”
“But you have to do something. You are such a good, caring man. I would hate to see you do nothing with your life.”
“I thought you said that you never force your opinions on those who do not want to hear them. Well, I don’t want to hear yours.” He began walking again. Lucy stood astonished and then quickly strode up beside him, checked but not defeated.
“So what are you going to do? Sit in your home all day and go to the opera at night? Is that going to be your whole existence? There is nothing more despicable.”
“I don’t see you doing anything different with your own life.”
“That is all a woman in my position can do.” He stopped his frantic walking and looked at her with the same critical eyes that she had given him a half a block ago.
“You little hypocrite. Do you fancy that men don’t have the same troubles? If so, you are wrong. You may believe that we live the life of privilege because we are given greater freedom than your sex but truth told we suffer just like you by society. I have avoided telling you why I decided to become a lawyer but now I see that I must, even if it sets you even more against me. You know that I was not rich. Oh yes, we never spoke of it. It was easy not to when everyone acted as though I was, inviting me to their home for dinner and to their box at the opera. But that could not have lasted forever. People have already become tired of me; I have received fewer invitations to dinner these last six months than I had in one month last year. I knew that if I did not take measures to secure my place in society that I would lose my position forever. So I started law school, hoping that if I acquired a gentlemen’s occupation I would be accepted into society again. I was frightened I would become an outcast. I did not do it because I wanted to help others but merely to help myself. Now that you see me for the weak person I am, I am sure you will want nothing to do with me.”
Lucy could not look at him she was so ashamed. He had never spoken to her as he just did. Leytton quickly felt ashamed for his sudden outburst and said,
“Forgive me.”
“I should be asking you to forgive me. I am obstinate.”
“You are passionate. You are afraid that I will one day regret my decision. But now that I have told you why I quit law school, do you still think that I will regret it?”
“I always knew that you did not like it. I thought you would learn to. I do accept your decision now.” Suddenly, though, she furrowed her brow and stated vehemently, “At least you should have made me understand. You must admit that. If I would have understood, then I wouldn’t have made such a fool of myself as I did just now.”
“As I already told you, I thought you would dislike me if you found out.”
“I wish you did not feel that way. I always thought we could tell one another anything. We always did when we were children.”
“As you said before, there is a part of your character that is obstinate.”
“I never hesitate to tell you what I think about your character or decisions.”
“This is partially my fault because I let you, which perhaps isn’t so bad. I have shaped a part of my character on your observations of my faults, some of which have not been unfounded. I could be an insolent braggart like Mr. Avery but you have shown me how to rise myself above those fools who only worry about their reputations.”
“You tried to stay in their society.”
“Sometimes the pressure is so large, and we are so weak, that we do what is worst for us.” He smiled at her and gave his arm to his fair-haired friend while they walked back to the house. After a while Lucy said softly,
“You know you are far too good to me.”
Leytton responded, “I care for you too dearly to be otherwise.”
The marriage between Mr. Louis Avery and Miss Mary Collins was announced in the New York Times that week. It was to be in four months, just as the hyacinth buds in Central Park were expected to bloom.
“Mary, I will miss our conversations in this dear, quaint room,” Lucy said one morning as both sisters sat sewing in their sitting room. “I shall be quite alone now.”
“I promise I will come and sit with you in this room just as though it were old times.”
“But it won’t be like old times. Our conversations will have to change once you are a wife. You will want to talk about your new duties and your husband. All my worries and burdens will sound secondary to your own.”
“Now why would you think that? I will not think any problems you may have any less crucial than my own. Besides, you will be coming out soon and you can tell me about your suitor and I can give you advice. It is the most enjoyable and interesting part of a girl’s life and I can live through it again with you.”
“Oh, I don’t want to come out! Everything about it is awful. I would hate to think that the best time of my life should last in such a short interval. Isn’t a girl’s life enjoyable after she marries?”
“I am sure it can be but I know that everyone says that the best time is when she is choosing a suitor.” It was all very perplexing to Lucy. She thought choosing a suitor a very odious process. What if one chose wrong? She had seen many couples who did not seem very happy with one another. It would be such a shame to dislike ones company but even worse to know that you would have to keep that company until death.
“Mary, do you love Mr. Avery?”
“I do not think I do yet, but he is a very agreeable man. And I’m sure enough of love will come once we are married.” Lucy did not like her sister’s response and the critical expression she wore was one that greatly disturbed her companion. It upset Mary so much that she finally pleaded, “Lucy, don’t look at me like that. I do feel something like love stirring within me.” She too did not like to be criticized by Lucy.
The conversation dwindled and both sisters resigned to sewing silently. As one sister was imagining her future happiness and the other pondering over what her future may be, Leytton walked into the little room.
“The scene of perfection. Two little women sitting silently by the hearth sewing.” He walked over to them, hands in his pockets, and kissed each on the cheek. “How are my favorite girls this March morn’?” Soon after his entrance, Mary left the room to write a letter to her lover. As soon as she left, Lucy queried,
“Is that what every man wants in a wife, Leytton, a silent woman who sits by the hearth sewing?” Lucy asked, after several minutes of silence.
“I can’t speak for every man, for I am but one.”
“Then what of yourself?”
“Do you mean do I want a docile wife that will do whatever I say?” She nodded.
“Well, I hardly think that much fun. I’d die an early death from boredom. What of yourself? Do you want a husband who will tell you what to do?”
“You know very well that I do not.”
“We are certainly one unconventional pair then.” Lucy brought her eyes to a painting of a mother and her daughter above the hearth, avoiding eye contact with Leytton. She had started to feel very funny when around him and didn’t know if she should like it. “You can tell your sister that I will be attending her wedding as I have extended my stay until April.”
“Mary will be pleased.”
“You look sad today Lucy. Do you care to tell me why?” She now looked at him.
“I am very selfish. I do not want my sister to marry because once she does then I will be expected to find a suitor. I don’t want to go through it Leytton. I have to feel that it is not the great experience my sister tells me it is. Furthermore, my two dearest companions are leaving and I so hate solitude.”
“Mary will only be a couple of blocks away and I’m sure she will want you to call daily. As for me, if that is indeed the other companion you are speaking of, I will send many letters to you and visit every summer. Maybe even you and your parents can come to Italy. Have they ever been before?”
“They don’t travel overseas. Mother gets sick on boats and father has work.” Leytton could see that Lucy was really distressed. He had witnessed how the color in her cheeks had diminished and there was a look in her mien that spoke of weariness. Weariness from exertion in thought, Leytton surmised. It affected him to know that it was partly because he was leaving that she was pained.
“I suppose you can’t come to Italy alone?”
“Not unless I have someone to accompany me. I know mother would not let me go alone, especially at the time when I am to choose my husband. Those who knew I was going to see you alone would not approve.”
“What could they think? I am an old family friend. I have known you since you were born. We are like brother and sister.” Tears were rising in her eyes. She did not like him saying that they were like brother and sister.
“People may say otherwise.”
“Like what? What would they say, Lucy?”
“That…You know Leytton.”
“No, I do not. Tell me. Tell me what they would say… No, look at me as you say it.”
She brought her eyes to his and timidly spoke, “They would say that…that you are my…suitor.”
“Why was that hard for you to say?” She did not answer. She rose to the hearth, keeping her eyes transfixed on the painting while tears glided down her cheeks. Leytton could see her tears but knew she did not want him to acknowledge them. He rose too and standing behind her said, “So, come to Italy.” She looked down at the ashes gathered round the outside of the grate and said, “I’ve already told you why I can’t.”
“I think I am going to have to take back that remark I once made about you being astute.” He laughed and she looked up at him, her cheeks now dry, the deluge ended.
“Do you think that there could possibly be anyone else who could suit me as well as you? I know I am not a fool to feel that we are intended for one another. Oh no, maybe not in the conventional sense. Your parents I’m sure have no idea that I love you much more than a friend, that I have always felt so, and that it pains me to even think that they would give any objection to our marrying. You belong with me in Italy. We have both suffered too long in a climate that is far too cold for us.” He looked into her eyes, which were starting to well up again. He knew the battle she was going through to keep the water from overflowing. It was to no avail, for the waterfall would come and to protect her pride from a possible wound, he gathered her to him, allowing his breast as a haven for her tears. Neither spoke a word and for several minutes the only sound in the room was the chime of an antique clock resting on the mantelpiece above them and the sobs of Lucy sotto voce. Eventually Leytton whispered, “Do you not want me? Would you rather King Arthur?” She released herself from his embrace, hoping the intensity of her eyes would tell him more than the words she would express.

“And I am grateful that you love me despite all of mine.” She smiled more heartily than Leytton had seen her do in weeks and rested herself on his chest, feeling that never was there a time when she was more content. Though satisfied that he had successfully won the woman of his heart, Leytton could not help to feel anxious about how her mother and father would react to this new development.
He voiced this concern to Lucy and she decided that it would be unnecessary to make her parents aware of the understanding between them until after her sister’s marriage. Meantime, what a joyous time they had with one another! When left alone, they would talk about what their married life would be like. Both hoped their parents would consent to a marriage in Italy but it was unlikely that they would allow the two young lovers to cross the sea without one. Still, they did not lament. As long as they could spend the rest of their life in the place which they knew would both suit them, they did not care where their united life began. High hopes were present within both; they were so confident in their love and constancy, that I can assure my reader that nothing would stop them from doing as they wished. Lucy had not forgotten the conversation that she had with Leytton about his abandoning a venture in law and though she quite agreed with him, she still pondered what Leytton intended for them to do in the way of activity. Leytton was aware that his wife could not be one who sat demurely by her husband’s side and was prepared when Lucy queried him on this point.
“I am very pleased that you have brought up this topic because I was going to if you had not. A companion to my departed aunt who is from Florence sent me a letter not too long ago asking me that if I did not have a vocation and would like one, if I would help her at a school of which she is headmistress. It is a school for English children, aged three to fifteen. It seems that they have had a sudden influx of students and there are several new positions open. She is seeking those who have had a classical education. I have written her back saying that, if upon visiting her establishment I thought I could be of any use and if the conditions were suitable, that I would certainly take her offer.”
“Oh, that’s marvelous,” Lucy interjected.
“But I am not finished, my dear. I also inquired if she would care for another helper, one whose very kindness and intelligence would be the very combination to establishing trust with her students and instilling knowledge in their little brains. I have not yet received a letter from her. I expect one at the end of this week. I must confess that I had received the letter and sent my reply before you had accepted me as your husband. I was not going to ask you to marry me until I received her reply. I wanted to be certain if you accepted me you would have something to do with yourself in Italy. My design was defeated that morning I saw you sewing with your sister in your sitting room. I spent a quarter of an hour watching you outside the door. I could see you were in deep thought and it pained me to see how torturous those thoughts were. I was not certain if it was because I was leaving that you were hurting but I felt that perhaps it was.”
One mid April afternoon there was a wedding between a young woman of fashion and a man of wealth. Those invited to the wedding tried to contain their boredom by stifling their intermittent yawns during the service, for Mary Collins was correct when she stated that the most interesting part was when a girl was picking her suitor. It is not just so for those involved but also for the family and acquaintances of the couple and once that scene takes a close, it is time for the spectators to predict and gossip about another young girl’s future. In like fashion, after the “I do’s” had been stated and the cake cut, everyone turned their attention toward the brides younger sister.
Addressing her daughter the day after the wedding, Mrs. Collins said, “You know now that Mary is settled, Lucy, you will be expected to find a husband. I was wondering dear if you have anyone in mind. Leytton, is that a look of incredulity? Well believe it, Lucy is no longer the little girl we all once knew. She is grown up now, and she has duties that I’m sure she is well aware of. Darling if you don’t have anyone in mind, I can hardly think of anyone you would…” She turned towards Leytton and said, “She has never been good around men. -- Well, if you don’t have anyone in mind,” she continued to say to Lucy, “I know your father has a few he has been looking at. You will speak to him about it after.”
“Mother that won’t be necessary, for you see I have already chosen a suitor.” Leytton looked intently at Lucy and she looked at him to gather courage.
“You have already…” and she gasped. “How can this be so and why did I not know?”
“I’m sorry to take away all your fun, mother, but I have.”
Mrs. Collins could not help but to think the worst. Oh, he must be a pauper, or too old, or someone with a bad reputation. Oh my, what has Lucy got her self into? Urgently, she exclaimed, “Well, who is he?”
“He is someone you know well mother. Someone you think very highly of.”
“Don’t butter me up; out with it, girl!”
Leytton walked behind Lucy, who was sitting in a chair opposite her mother. Some may consider Mrs. Collins a silly woman but she did possess some intelligence and quickly after surmised
“Are you sure?”
“I certainly hope your daughter is sure,” Leytton retorted.
“But how can this be so? Everyone always said that Leytton was like a brother to you.”
“Everyone is wrong. Mother we are quite decided on this so would you kindly tell us if you object.”
“I just don’t know. I can’t say. I have to speak to your father. You know I can’t make any decision without your father.” Mr. Collins was called in and told the news by his emphatic wife. Few words were ever spoken between him and Leytton but the latter knew that Mr. Collins was not an ill-natured man and was rather confident that no obstacle would be placed in his way.
“So what do you think Mr. Collins. Should such a marriage take place?”
“With the money his aunt bequeathed to him, along with what Lucy has of her own, they could manage to live prosperously together,” Mr. Collins ruminated to himself.
“And, you must not forget sir, that I was also given my aunt’s estate in Florence.”
“Yes, I can not forget that. When your aunt first took residence in that home, when I was a newly married man of twenty-five and she had married her weakling husband at the age of nineteen, she told us that if her husband died before her that she would leave that estate to my eldest boy. Well, I never had any boys and so to compensate it was left to you. I don’t know if you are a kind hearted man, sir, but she seemed to think that you were. When she visited us here last she told me of her plan to leave her estate to you because she knew the situation you were in and took pity upon you. I thought she was a fool, that she should have left it to her own son but apparently he has taken to drinking. She also told me, the clever woman that she was, that she thought you intended to marry my daughter. She could see it in the way you looked at her. I told her she was wrong, but then I began to watch you, and I soon saw that she was right.
Considering your new situation as a wealthy man of property, you should be able to sufficiently support my daughter, that is if you don’t squander your money as most young lads do now a days. And so I consent. I suppose you two will move to Italy?” The young couple nodded and both were so happy that one tightly hugged her jubilant mother while the other with great force shook the hand of his future father in law.

Two months later, after the marriage between Lucy and Leytton, another young girl was needed to fill the appetite of the insentient wives and old maids of New York. If only that young girl, whomever she may be, will be as lucky as our dear Lucy!
Leytton had received a prompt response from the schoolmistress and within three months both were working as teachers in an English/Italian secondary school on the banks of the Arno River. Lucy began her post teaching poetry, modern literature and, of course, Dante who, despite his origins, was not even widely read among the locals. In fact, most of the local children were illiterate. (It would later be discovered that 78% of the population at this time could not read or write). Miss ----- school was quite different. It was a boarding school whose students ranged from all over the country of England and whose students were from both the middle and the upper classes. The school’s main attraction was its locale. In the heart of Florence, it allowed students the opportunity to ingratiate themselves in a culture whose arts and literature was superior.
. Another advantage of the school was that it provided mandatory Latin language classes, which was a must for any student who wished to enter law school. Leytton began his post teaching first an introduction Latin course and then later several advanced courses. Lucy and Leytton took classes of their own learning the native tongue and Lucy became so fluent in the language that by their second year at the school she also took the role of teaching an introductory Italian class. Lucy was very proud of her husband, who took to teaching remarkably well and who loved his profession more than she could have hoped. Both loved the little society they participated in at the school. They soon found those they met outside their world environment enjoyable company as well and the Montgomery’s soon became known for their lively dinner parties.

As in all true stories, not all would occur perfectly for the pair. Lucy was unable to have children which proved to be one of the greatest tests of their commitment. They (coped) by believing that fate intended their students to be the children they would never have. With such a love as theirs, they were able to surpass difficulties and end their road in life satisfied and grateful. With a world full of unequal matches, the narrator can only hope that there are others like Lucy and Leytton.

After Notes

1. Guinevere, Lancelot, and King Arthur. Guinevere and Lancelot are meant to reflect the characters of Mary and Mr. Avery. Lucy idolizes King Arthur – he is her romantic ideal. Jeremy’s portrayal of King Author in the charade does not live up to Lucy’s image of King Arthur. Lucy eventually realizes that King Author is not real, but only an ideal and that Jeremy, despite his faults, is right for her.

2. Juxtapositions – New York and Florence. New York society is superficial and its values and mores stifle the natural inclinations of its inhabits. Florence is a city which cultivates the creative soul and breeds artists. Florence is tenacious of its free will; Lucy and Leytton arrive in Florence a few months after Italy becomes a unified nation. The juxtaposition of New York and Florence mirrors the juxtaposition of the arranged marriage between Mary and Mr. Avery and the natural courtship between Lucy and Leytton.

3. Charade – the charade reflects the society of New York. While New York society takes seriously their propriety and customs (ie: the courtship process), they are really nothing but a superficial game which has no basis in nature. Yet, we see in the character of Jeremy how easy it is for one to become influenced by this society. Just like Jeremy allows himself to become a player in the charade (after only a short resistance), so does he join law school in the hope of rejoining the society that had banished him once he lost his wealth. Lucy, on the other hand, is able to resist joining the charade; everyone else is willingly (and blindly) involved. It is also curious to note how quickly the players become bored during the charade, as the guests do at the wedding, the latter which is, one could argue, another version of a charade.