Teenage Creativity

One aspect of Matthew Lewis’s ‘The Monk’ that I did not mention yesterday is that this youthful writer loses no opportunity to insert one of his poems or ballads into the text. Mostly using rhyming iambic pentameter these are all rather good. The only one that isn’t is presented as written by a young boy in need of advice about his work. ‘Alonzo the Brave and Fair Imogine’, for example, can be found on Google.
This had me reflecting overnight on my own teenage versifications, in which I was encouraged by the gentle Jesuit, Fr. John Harriott S.J., who was the teacher for my A level year of 1960. I still possess the exercise book into which I transferred all these works in my best handwriting. The ink is a little faded now, but I see I hadn’t then lost my copperplate r.The Examination011 Here is one of the shortest with which I also experimented with some kind of rather doubtful free verse. I must have spent some exam time daydreaming. Hopefully I had finished the paper.
It was Father Harriott who wanted to enter me for S(cholarship) level G(eneral) C(ertificate) (of) E(education). Because I was not applying to any University the headmaster would not allow it. In those days you were not told your marks – just pass or fail. My mentor took the trouble of applying to the examination board for my marks and telling me that I had achieved S level standard. Which was rather nice.
PansyFor today’s black and white photo challenge I posted on Facebook a bejewelled pansy. It seemed to me that the markings on these playful plants lent themselves perfectly to representation in monochrome.
This morning Jackie drove us to Wroughton to visit Frances who fed us on sausage and bacon butties (cobs or baps if you prefer) and then drove us to the Swindon Museum and Art Gallery to visit an exhibition based on the work of the teenaged J.M.W. Turner.
In a cabinet in one of the museum rooms sat a typewriter from 1914 which was very like Typewriterthe one on which I, after a fashion, taught myself to type at my Aunt Stella’s home. The font on the letter in the museum is similar to that in the typed versions of my poem mentioned above, that I have tucked into the notebook. Using this ancient device was a laborious process in which pressure on the keys stamped ink from a ribbon onto the page, and the shift key was a lever you pulled across at the end of each line.
In a case in the corridor leading to the art gallery stood an easel containing what for me Winter in Pendlebury - L.S.Lowrywas actually the highlight of the trip, L.S. Lowry’s ‘Winter in Pendlebury’, labelled their Pick of the Month.
turnertalk460Seven of the eight Turner paintings were executed in 1791-92, when he was 16-17. His teenage skill was incredible, yet it perhaps needs a certain amount of imagination to recognise the style he was to develop that was so far ahead of his time.
On our return home Jackie and I dined at The Plough Inn at Tiptoe. We both had the enormous rack of pork ribs and could eat no sweet. Jackie drank Beck’s and I drank Doom Bar.

The Monk

One of the benefits of our mild Autumn has been that non-hardy plants, like this fuchsia Fuchsia quasarQuasar, are still out in the garden. Normally a delicate pink and lilac on a white ground, this picture was my selection for the third day of my Black and White Flower photograph submissions.
Edward Sherred, landscaper, called this morning with his wife. Every couple of years he had pruned the tops of the variegated hollies in the front garden. Our predecessors had the benefit of free tree surgery and his wife used the branches to make Christmas wreaths. Having enjoyed a similar arrangement at Lindum House I was happy for us to continue the process. He did a good job.
Stinging nettles and sticky williesBlackberry blossomDandelionIt was a dank day for my Hordle Cliff top walk this morning. Stinging nettles and sticky willies were sprouting again in the hedgerows. Blackberries had been conned into producing more blossom, and a brave little dandelion had forced its way up through a driveway’s gravel.Hordle Cliff beach
Birds were silently snuggled up in their nests, and The Needles were shrouded in mist. I met no other creature in an hour’s walk.
‘The Castle of Otranto’ is hailed as the first gothic novel, and Matthew Lewis’s ‘The Monk’ as the ultimate one. This work, which I finished reading today, has all the ingredients. Set in Madrid at the time of the Inquisition, we have a dubious monastery and a doomed convent; we have wild weather and benighted forests; we have superstition and sorcery; we have blind belief and blasphemy; we have saintly heroes and sinful religious; we have cunning and deception; we have a sadistic prioress and a seduced and seducing prior; we have terror and torture; we have ghosts, ghastly dungeons, and damp sepulchral crypts strewn with unburied bodies; and we have rape and murder most foul.
Hammer (‘The House of Horror’) Films would have relished it, but it was a French-Spanish production directed by Dominic Moll that presented the adaptation released in 2011.
It hard to believe that Lewis was barely twenty when he completed this fast-moving and insightful novel that has intrigued readers ever since 1796. My Folio Society edition benefits from an introduction by Devendra P. Varma and is embellished by the wood The Monk Illustrationengravings of George Tute, who must have thought it was Christmas when asked to illustrate a book packed with such dramatic incident. He is certainly up to the task.
This evening we dined on Jackie’s delightful chicken jalfrezi (recipe) and savoury rice (recipe). I finished the chianti.