That Old-Timey Puritan Spirit And That Old-Timer’s WASP Establishment-I’m Not Sure America Has Changed That Much, Or Has It?

From this article in the Independent on American novelist Louis Auchincloss:

How did money actually work among those in America’s elite?:

But the old monopoly of power had gone, and the country was the poorer for it. “The tragedy of American civilization,” Auchincloss wrote in 1980, “is that it has swept away WASP morality and put nothing in its place.”

Here’s another Auchincloss quote from a reader (haven’t checked this one out…probably a quote site). The prose strikes me as kind of post-Wharton, mannered and dull:

“I used to go to church. I even went through a rather intense religious period when I was sixteen. But the idea of an everlasting life — a never-ending banquet, as a stupid visiting minister to our church once appallingly described it — filled me with a greater terror than the concept of extinction…”

If such things be true, then many of the best and the brightest seem busy contructing a meritocracy in the old WASP establishment’s place; an enterprise of many unresolved personal conflicts between political ideals of activist change, progress, and ever-expanding personal freedoms on one hand and deeply held religious beliefs, traditions and customs on the other.

There seems to be an ex post facto character to much of the ol’ meritocratic enterprise, in my humble opinion, where a healthy skepticism is warranted.

In fact, it’s probably made [more] room for the same old Socialism.

On that note, I have a healthy respect for contrarians, frankly, when merely speaking out in favor of…:

‘the importance of traditional marriage values in ensuring children’s future success…’

…involves controversy and professional censure.

It’s so bland!

In fact, what will you do with your own blandness, dear reader, entombing the flaming desire to be woke within; the little half-opened doors of ecstasy and ‘environmental justice’?:

Earth Quaker Action Team is ON IT.:

Friday Poem-Robert Frost

A Late Walk

When I go up through the mowing field,
The headless aftermath,
Smooth-laid like thatch with the heavy dew,
Half closes the garden path.

And when I come to the garden ground,
The whir of sober birds
Up from the tangle of withered weeds
Is sadder than any words

A tree beside the wall stands bare,
But a leaf that lingered brown,
Disturbed, I doubt not, by my thought,
Comes softly rattling down.

I end not far from my going forth
By picking the faded blue
Of the last remaining aster flower
To carry again to you.

Robert Frost

If you’re ever having trouble figuring out what a poem might mean, reading just the first and last lines helps…thanks to a friend.

Michael Dirda At The Washington Post-Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Son

Full post here.

Dirda reviews this biography of Julian Hawthorne.

Did you know Hawthorne had a son who wrote for Hearst and rubbed shoulders with Twain?:

‘Over the course of his long life, Julian Hawthorne seems to have met every major literary and public figure of his time. As a child, he sometimes listened in as his father conversed with Emerson, Thoreau and Melville. At birthday parties, he played games with little Louisa May Alcott.’

Also from Michael Dirda, check out his visit to ‘Mencken Day’ in Baltimore:

‘We stayed for the afternoon talk-in which Richard Schrader revealed how slanted and inaccurate Mencken’s account of the Scopes evolution trial had been…’

The business of monkeys…

I’m often returned to the simple pleasures of bookishness while reading Dirda.

From a previous piece at the Times Literary Supplement (subscription required):

“As a student of his native literature, Mencken favours writers with the authentic American yawp – Walt Whitman and Mark Twain, the humorists George Ade and Ring Lardner. Huckleberry Finn is the novel he loves most (followed, somewhat surprisingly, by Joseph Conrad’s Lord Jim). He judges Emerson to be overrated – “an importer of stale German elixirs, sometimes direct and sometimes through the Carlylean branch house”. He can’t bear the circumlocutions of Henry James and the gentility of William Dean Howells”

See Also: How To Study Literature: M.H. Abrams In The Chronicle Of Higher Ed

Elixirs and ideas Roger Scruton At The New Atlantis: ‘Scientism In The Arts & Humanities’ From Scientific Blogging: ‘The Humanities Are In Crisis-Science Is Not’ Repost-Adam Kirsch At The New Republic: ‘Art Over Biology’…Repost-Stanley Fish At The NY Times Blog: ‘The Last Professors: The Corporate Professors And The Fate Of The Humanities’

Menand wonders in his new book, why it often can take 9 years for a humanities PhD to get their doctorate.  He suggests part of the answer lies in the numbers:  fewer opportunities and fewer university programs since 1970.  Overtrained and underpaid.

‘Spring Beauties’-A Brief Post And A Link On Andrew Wyeth

Andrew Ferguson on Andrew Wyeth: ‘Terror In The Abstract:’

Andrew Wyeth homepage here with some images included.

There are definitely interesting things going on with light in Wyeth’s work. It fills his paintings. I also find my eye and mind hovering between realist depiction and abstract arrangement of objects on the canvas.

Ferguson:

‘Beneath the frequent prettiness, most of the pictures are just this side of harrowing, not just lonesome and melancholy but portraits of life as it seeps inevitably away. The wind that lifts the lace curtain in Wind from the Sea makes the hair on your arms stand up. Jamie Wyeth, Andrew’s son and a celebrated artist himself, confesses to being puzzled by the benign view of Wyeth’s work. “My father’s work is terrifying,” he said. It’s not sentimental. It’s luminous! But in a creepy way.’

Wyeth reached a level of popular appreciation few artists ever receive in their lifetimes.

Like many Americans, I find myself drawn to what I would call a New England plainness and Yankee work ethic and aesthetic, which is evident is some of Wyeth’s landscapes, at least. Long winters and deep woods. Shorter distances and stonier soil in the meadows. Perhaps a Puritan, high-minded spiritual reserve.

Robert Frost, Emily Dickinson and Nathaniel Hawthorne spring immediately to mind, but, I confess so did that gothic Mainer and fiction horror-writer Stephen King.

Or perhaps the Shaker work song ‘Simple Gifts’ adapted by Aaron Copland might be a good example of what I’m trying to get at.

Here’s Yo-Yo Ma and Alison Kraus performing:

————————————–

So, is this representative of Wyeth?  Perhaps. He did much of his work in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania and Maine, but according to Wikipedia there may be other influences as well:

‘N.C. also fostered an inner self-confidence to follow one’s own talents without thought of how the work is received. N.C. wrote in a letter to Wyeth in 1944:[8]

“The great men [ Thoreau, Goethe, Emerson, Tolstoy] forever radiate a sharp sense of that profound requirement of an artist, to fully understand that consequences of what he creates are unimportant. Let the motive for action be in the action itself and not in the event. I know from my own experience that when I create with any degree of strength and beauty I have no thought of consequences. Anyone who creates for effect — to score a hit — does not know what he is missing!”‘

So, I’m speculating. Addition: There’s also a strong modernist-influenced creative imagination at work here too, and like Hopper, the American question of what to do with all that space and wilderness.

Yet, a man able to walk familiar land, seeing it anew with keen eyes, hoping his senses pick up more than he knows, having a medium with which to express his thoughts seems a man who’s had some success in life, regardless of popular appreciation.

Of course, a concupiscent eye must come into tension with other parts of a man’s character.

Or at least when there was a tittering about his ‘Helga‘ paintings a while back.

Ferguson:

‘Stopping to rest near a group of European spring beauties, he saw on a trail above him a young woman on a walk. Assuming she was alone, she moved off the trail, lifted her skirt, and defecated in the grass. Wyeth was charmed. “The white curve of her bottom was amazing,” he told Meryman. The little lumps she left tumbled downhill and stopped in the patch of spring beauties.’

Well, there you go, America.

A discussion of ‘Christina’s World,’ a well-known work of his does more justice than this brief post.

————————

Repost-A Reaction To Jeff Koons-For Commerce Or Contemplation?

Roger Scruton says keep politics out of the arts, and political judgment apart from aesthetic judgment…this includes race studies/feminist departments/gay studies etc.:  Roger Scruton In The American Spectator Via A & L Daily: Farewell To Judgment

Goya’s Fight With Cudgels and Goya’s Colossus.  A very good Goya page here.

Joan Miro: Woman… Goethe’s Color Theory: Artists And ThinkersSome Quotes From Kant And A Visual Exercise

A Reaction To Jeff Koons ‘St John The Baptist’

Denis Dutton suggests art could head towards Darwin (and may offer new direction from the troubles of the modern art aimlessness and shallow depth) Review of Denis Dutton’s ‘The Art Instinct’

Sunday Photo And A Poem By Emerson-‘Boston’

Boston-Skyline copy-1

Boston

(Sicut Patribus, sit Deus Nobis)

The rocky nook with hilltops three 
Looked eastward from the farms, 
And twice each day the flowing sea 
Took Boston in its arms; 
The men of yore were stout and poor, 
And sailed for bread to every shore. 

And where they went on trade intent 
They did what freeman can, 
Their dauntless ways did all men praise, 
The merchant was a man. 
The world was made for honest trade,- 
To plant and eat be none afraid. 

The waves that rocked them on the deep 
To them their secret told; 
Said the winds that sung the lads to sleep, 
‘Like us be free and bold!’ 
The honest waves refuse to slaves 
The empire of the ocean caves. 

Old Europe groans with palaces, 
Has lords enough and more;- 
We plant and build by foaming seas 
A city of the poor;- 
For day by day could Boston Bay 
Their honest labor overpay. 

We grant no dukedoms to the few, 
We hold like rights and shall;- 
Equal on Sunday in the pew, 
On Monday in the mall. 
For what avail the plough or sail, 
Or land or life, if freedom fail? 

The noble craftsmen we promote, 
Disown the knave and fool; 
Each honest man shall have his vote, 
Each child shall have his school. 
A union then of honest men, 
Or union nevermore again. 

The wild rose and the barberry thorn 
Hung out their summer pride 
Where now on heated pavements worn 
The feet of millions stride. 

Fair rose the planted hills behind 
The good town on the bay, 
And where the western hills declined 
The prairie stretched away. 

What care though rival cities soar 
Along the stormy coast: 
Penn’s town, New York, and Baltimore, 
If Boston knew the most! 

They laughed to know the world so wide; 
The mountains said: ‘Good-day! 
We greet you well, you Saxon men, 
Up with your towns and stay!’ 
The world was made for honest trade,- 
To plant and eat be none afraid. 

‘For you,’ they said, ‘no barriers be, 
For you no sluggard rest; 
Each street leads downward to the sea, 
Or landward to the West.’ 

O happy town beside the sea, 
Whose roads lead everywhere to all; 
Than thine no deeper moat can be, 
No stouter fence, no steeper wall! 

Bad news from George on the English throne: 
‘You are thriving well,’ said he; 
‘Now by these presents be it known, 
You shall pay us a tax on tea; 
‘Tis very small,-no load at all,- 
Honor enough that we send the call.’ 

‘Not so,’ said Boston, ‘good my lord, 
We pay your governors here 
Abundant for their bed and board, 
Six thousand pounds a year. 
(Your highness knows our homely word,) 
Millions for self-government, 
But for tribute never a cent.’ 

The cargo came! and who could blame 
If Indians seized the tea, 
And, chest by chest, let down the same 
Into the laughing sea? 
For what avail the plough or sail 
Or land or life, if freedom fail? 

The townsmen braved the English king, 
Found friendship in the French, 
And Honor joined the patriot ring 
Low on their wooden bench. 

O bounteous seas that never fail! 
O day remembered yet! 
O happy port that spied the sail 
Which wafted Lafayette! 
Pole-star of light in Europe’s night, 
That never faltered from the right. 

Kings shook with fear, old empires crave 
The secret force to find 
Which fired the little State to save 
The rights of all mankind. 

But right is might through all the world; 
Province to province faithful clung, 
Through good and ill the war-bolt hurled, 
Till Freedom cheered and the joy-bells rung. 

The sea returning day by day 
Restores the world-wide mart; 
So let each dweller on the Bay 
Fold Boston in his heart, 
Till these echoes be choked with snows, 
Or over the town blue ocean flows.

Ralph Waldo Emerson.

-Click through for more photos.