dual personalities

“Is there anyone there?”

The subject heading is not a plea for readers, although I can’t help noticing that my dual personality is usually the only one who comments on my posts. No, no, I am not worried that she elicits more response than I do — I’m just quoting form a poem.

When I was an impressionable youth and prone to daydreaming about castles and such, I discovered Walter De La Mare’s romantic poem, “The Listeners”.  Two of my boys recently visited Tintagel on a suitably gray and misty day and (for some reason) their photos from the visit reminded me of the poem.

‘Is there anybody there?’ said the Traveller,
   Knocking on the moonlit door;
And his horse in the silence champed the grasses
   Of the forest’s ferny floor:
And a bird flew up out of the turret,
   Above the Traveller’s head:
And he smote upon the door again a second time;
   ‘Is there anybody there?’ he said.


But no one descended to the Traveller;
   No head from the leaf-fringed sill
Leaned over and looked into his grey eyes,
   Where he stood perplexed and still.
But only a host of phantom listeners
   That dwelt in the lone house then
Stood listening in the quiet of the moonlight
   To that voice from the world of men:
Stood thronging the faint moonbeams on the dark stair,
   That goes down to the empty hall,
Hearkening in an air stirred and shaken
   By the lonely Traveller’s call.

Chris looking appropriately Arthurian

And he felt in his heart their strangeness,
   Their stillness answering his cry,
While his horse moved, cropping the dark turf,
   ’Neath the starred and leafy sky;
For he suddenly smote on the door, even
   Louder, and lifted his head:—
‘Tell them I came, and no one answered,
   That I kept my word,’ he said.

Tintagel Chris takes wing

Never the least stir made the listeners,
   Though every word he spake
Fell echoing through the shadowiness of the still house
   From the one man left awake:
Ay, they heard his foot upon the stirrup,
   And the sound of iron on stone,
And how the silence surged softly backward,
   When the plunging hoofs were gone.

High art it may  not be, but you have to admit that it’s evocative. As for the boys, well, they didn’t get blown off the cliffs or taken out by the tide…but they did manage to get wet taking a slefie in a Cornish cave.

james and chris selfies in a cornish cave

Here’s hoping you get to spend some time this weekend in a beautiful and suitably atmospheric location. If not, I recommend a curling up with a good book like Jane Austin’s Northanger Abbey or Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre.And, of course, there are countless film adaptations of the latter if you are in the mood to watch something.


“Comes an echo on the breeze, Rustling through the leafy trees, and its mellow tones are these, Illinois, Illinois,”*

Tomorrow my intrepid church buddies and I will embark on an overnight field trip to Springfield, Illinois. Why, you ask? Because we haven’t been there! And because we are belatedly celebrating Carla’s birthday!


Greetings from ILL? Really?

We are going to check out the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum (designed by hometowner Gyo Obata at HOK)


and the Lincoln home


and who knows what else.

Since we’ll be there on Sunday morning, perhaps we’ll check out the Cathedral Church of St. Paul while we’re in the neighborhood.

cath-springThe current Cathedral was built between 1912 and 1913 to replace an older building located at Third and Adams Streets to house its congregation which was founded in 1835.  Its early members included, Ninian W. Edwards, son of Illinois’ first governor and husband of one of Mary Todd Lincoln’s sisters. Four Todd sisters attended the early church and were married there, including Frances Todd Wallace, Ann Todd Smith and Elizabeth Todd. Mary Todd was married to Abraham Lincoln by the first Rector, Charles Dresser. A marriage registery in which the marriage was recorded is preserved in the Canterbury House. (I had forgotten that the Todds were Episcopalians.)

Since tomorrow is the feast day of John Bunyan, it is appropriate to note that the ubiquitous Pilgrim’s Progress was one of the few books Lincoln could get his hands on to read as a boy. He was much influenced by it, as was another great U.S. president, Theodore Roosevelt, who wrote that

Great-Heart is my favorite character in allegory…just as Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress is to my mind one of the greatest books that was ever written; and I think Abraham Lincoln is the ideal Great-Heart of public life.

Having lived my whole life a few hours away from Lincoln-land, I am very happy to be finally making this pilgrimage.

And, oh yeah, this is pretty funny.

*from the Illinois state song, creatively named “Illinois” by Charles H. Chamberlain (1841–1894, also spelled Chamberlin)

How rewarding to know Mr. Smith

Well, here’s something interesting. William Jay Smith, the author of more than fifty books of poetry, translation, children’s books, and literary criticism, has died. He was 97 and had had a distinguished career spanning fifty-two years.


He served in the US Naval Reserves during World War II, and afterward met and married the poet Barbara Howes and completed graduate study at Columbia University, at Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar, and at University of Florence. He taught and lectured at many colleges and universities, including Williams and Hollins. He served as Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress (the position now called Poet Laureate) from 1968 to 1970, and he had been a member of the Academy of Arts and Letters since 1975.

Furthermore, he grew up outside St. Louis and graduated from Washington University! I am ashamed to say I had never heard of him until I got the email about a distinguished alum dying.

So here in his honor is a poem he wrote about “Mr. Smith”

How rewarding to know Mr. Smith,
Whose writings at random appear!
Some think him a joy to be with
While others do not, it is clear.

His eyes are somewhat Oriental,
His fingers are notably long;
His disposition is gentle,
He will jump at the sound of a gong.

His chin is quite smooth and uncleft,
His face is clean-shaven and bright,
His right arm looks much like his left,
His left leg it goes with his right.

He has friends in the arts and the sciences;
He knows only one talent scout;
He can cope with most kitchen appliances,
But in general prefers dining out.

When young he collected matchboxes,
He now collects notebooks and hats;
He has eaten roussettes (flying foxes),
Which are really the next thing to bats!

He has never set foot on Majorca,
He has been to Tahiti twice,
But will seldom, no veteran walker,
Take two steps when one will suffice.

He abhors motorbikes and boiled cabbage;
Zippers he just tolerates;
He is wholly indifferent to cribbage,
And cuts a poor figure on skates.

He weeps by the side of the ocean,
And goes back the way that he came;
He calls out his name with emotion–
It returns to him always the same.

It returns on the wind and he hears it
While the waves make a rustle around;
The dark settles down, and he fears it,
He fears its thin, crickety sound.

He thinks more and more as time passes,
Rarely opens a volume on myth.
Until mourned by the tall prairie grasses,
How rewarding to know Mr. Smith!

Happy Thursday, y’all!

Wednesday round-up

We are enjoying some really glorious weather for the end of August here in flyover country. High 70s and low humidity–unheard of! And the Cardinals continue to have the best record in baseball.


Way to go, boys!

Speaking of sports, here is the newest lacrosse equipment video that the boy did for Total Lacrosse.

His mother thinks he’s cool.

It is John Buchan’s birthday! You remember he (August 26, 1875 – February 11, 1940) was the Scottish novelist who wrote The Thirty-Nine Steps (among others) and served as Governor General of Canada. He was also Lord Tweedsmuir.


Fun fact: His memoir, Memory Hold-the-Door, or Pilgrim’s Way (as it was called in America) was said to be John F. Kennedy’s favorite book. Interesting.

Here’s a tidbit from chapter one:

Looking back I realise that the woodlands dominated and coloured my childish outlook. We were a noted household for fairy tales. My father had a great collection of them, including some of the ancient Scottish ones like The Red Etin of Ireland, and when we entered the woods we felt ourselves stepping into the veritable world of faery, especially in winter, when the snow made a forest of what in summer was only a coppice. My memory is full of snowstorms, when no postman arrived or milkman from the farm, and we had to dig ourselves out like hibernating bears. In such weather a walk of a hundred yards was an enterprise, and even in lesser falls the woods lost all their homely landmarks for us, and became a terra incognita peopled from the story-books. Witches and warlocks, bears and wolf-packs, stolen princesses and robber lords lurked in corners which at other times were too bare and familiar for the mind to play with. Also I had found in the library a book of Norse mythology which strongly captured my fancy. Norns and Valkyries got into the gales that blew up the Firth, and blasting from a distant quarry was the thud of Thor’s hammer.

A second imaginative world overshadowed the woods, more potent even than that of the sagas and the fairy folk. Our household was ruled by the old Calvinistic discipline. That discipline can have had none of the harshness against which so many have revolted, for it did not dim the beauty and interest of the earth. My father was a man of wide culture, to whom, in the words of the Psalms, all things were full of the goodness of the Lord. But the regime made a solemn background to a child’s life. He was conscious of living in a world ruled by unalterable law under the direct eye of the Almighty. He was a miserable atom as compared with Omnipotence, but an atom, nevertheless, in which Omnipotence took an acute interest. The words of the Bible, from daily family prayers and long Sabbath sessions, were as familiar to him as the story of Jack and the Beanstalk. A child has a natural love of rhetoric, and the noble scriptural cadences had their own meaning for me, quite apart from their proper interpretation. The consequence was that I built up a Bible world of my own and placed it in the woods.

Here is the whole book on Project Gutenberg.

Today is Greta Garbo day on TCM, so set your DVR for a line-up of good movies. I plan to check out Mata Hari (1931) which I have never seen.

Garbo, Greta (Mata Hari)_01


Enjoy your Wednesday!

Onward, Christian soldiers

Today is the feast day of Saint Louis, King of France, not only on the R.C. calendar but our own Anglican liturgical calendar. I can’t imagine why.

Louis IX (25 April 1214 – 25 August 1270) was crowned King of France at the age of 12 and reigned until his death.

Louis IX by El Greco

Louis IX by El Greco–His mother thought he was handsome.

A devout Catholic, he is the only canonized king of France. According to Wikipedia, he was raised by his mother who trained him to be a great leader and a good Christian. She used to say:

I love you, my dear son, as much as a mother can love her child; but I would rather see you dead at my feet than that you should ever commit a mortal sin.

Well, okay then. In turn, he wrote to his own son:

My dearest son, you should permit yourself to be tormented by every kind of martyrdom before you would allow yourself to commit a mortal sin.

At this point I have to ask myself, What is a mortal sin anyway?

The answer is, of course, extremely complicated. Mortal sins–not to be confused with venial sins or “grave matter”–are wrongful acts that condemn a person to Hell after death if unforgiven. By the way, Mortal Sins should not be confused with the Seven Deadly Sins, which are not necessarily Mortal Sins. They are sins that lead to other sins.

Got that? Well, if you ask me, old King Louis seems to have been a bit obsessed with all this sinning. In fact, he wore a hair shirt most of the time and allowed himself to be scourged regularly, lest he enjoy Life too much.

Anyway, Louis established a hospital, was friends with fellow saint-to-be Thomas Aquinas, and took part in two Crusades, which were both total failures. But by all accounts he was a holy guy and so we Episcopalians have this prayer for him today:

O God, who didst call thy servant Louis of France to an earthly throne that he might advance thy heavenly kingdom, and didst give him zeal for thy Church and love for thy people: Mercifully grant that we who commemorate him this day may be fruitful in good works, and attain to the glorious crown of thy saints; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.


FYI: We have a pretty cool state of Louis IX in Forest Park here in the flyover town named after him. It has stood atop Art Hill since an unveiling ceremony on Oct. 4, 1906. The statue was inspired by the popularity of a similar statue made of reinforced plaster that was outside the 1904 World’s Fair at the main gate, at Lindell and Union boulevards. The original statue became popular as a place to meet and caught the eye of newspaper illustrators and cartoonists as a symbol of the fair. The committee that ran the fair presented the $42,000 bronze version as a gift to the city during its cleanup of the park.

Over the years Saint Louis’ sword has been broken or stolen a number of times. It was replaced in 1970, 1972, 1977 and 1981. Stealing, and later returning, the sword was considered a rite of passage for students in the engineering program at Washington University. Oh, those crazy engineers!

Be fruitful in good works, but enjoy the day!

The whole armor of God

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might.11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12 For we are not contending against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. 14 Stand therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and having shod your feet with the equipment of the gospel of peace; 16 besides all these, taking the shield of faith, with which you can quench all the flaming darts of the evil one.17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 18 Pray at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, 19 and also for me, that utterance may be given me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains; that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.

–Ephesians 6:10-20

Yesterday, I was the first lector and read the Old Testament lesson. It was  a good one from Joshua which included the verse about “as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” I also got to read the verse “Far be it from us that we should forsake the LORD…” which was amusing to me because “far be it from me” was a favorite way our put-upon father liked to start a sentence. It was right up there with “Be that as it may…” Have you noticed that we do not hear these expressions much anymore?

The second lesson was the above reading from Ephesians which is a really great one–We all need to remember it every morning before going out into the world.

On Saturday the OM and I loaded up the car with old computers and headed to the recycling event in O’Fallon, only to be caught in a terrible thunderstorm–the kind where most sane people on the highway have their emergency flashers on and are creeping along at 35 miles an hour. Zut alors! We got there and deposited our stuff, but we wisely decided against going to Clarksville and headed home instead.

Crazy kids that we are, we stopped and had brunch at Schneithorst’s.

Well, one more small step in  my basement clean-up/organization project. Mission accomplished.

I also emptied the tall bookcases in my bedroom, carrying the many, many heavy books into another bedroom, and vacuumed behind them (!) in anticipation of having the room painted and wallpapered. This was quite a job.

I had been trying to read this book, but gave up.


It was a clever idea, but the main character did not engage me and ultimately she was annoying. She did not seem true to the mid-19th century and I can’t help thinking that she would have irritated the hell out of old Captain Ahab. Well-written, but…myeh.

I watched Ride With the Devil, did you? It was so good! These characters seemed very authentic and true to their time. I loved it.

And have you seen this video? There are bears in the pool! A mom and 5 cubs! In New Jersey! “What’s the mudder going to do?!”

The little girl reminds me of daughter #1–“They’re eating my floatie!”

Have a good week and don’t forget to put on your breastplate of righteousness.

Mystery solved?

My father’s family has always posed something of a mystery. So far, we can trace the line back to 1744 when John Chamberlin married Mary Wood on March 14th. Their son, John, married Abigail Nichols on November 23, 1768 and their son, Rufus, married Lydia Atherton in 1793. Their son, Asa Leander married Nancy Stiles in 1835 and their son, Arthur Newell (named after Newell, brother of Nancy Stiles), was my great grandfather. I have the birth and death dates and siblings of all these generations, but until this summer, we were a bit confused about my great grandfather’s marriages. We knew that he married Anna Hendren, but family lore had it that she was his second wife, his first wife being Anna’s sister. It turns out that was true. Earlier this summer I sent off to NYC for both marriage certificates. Eventually, the city responded and this is what I received:

May Hendren Marriageand May Hendren marriage 2The first wife, mother of Ethel Chamberlin, was named May (it looks like Mary in one place but she clearly signs May), daughter of John Hendren and Margaret Russell (which explains Guy’s middle name). So far, I have not been able to find John and Margaret anywhere, but I’ll keep looking. Here’s Ethel in about 1916.


When May died (of what I do not know), her sister, Anna, came to help with young Ethel. Soon after, in 1891, Arthur married Anna.

Anna Hendren marriageArthur and Anna had three children: Arthur Newell (II), shown here at 11 months,

Arthur Newell i baby pic

Caroline (named after Arthur’s sister),


Leander, who died of meningitis at the age of 1,

Leander's death

and Guy Russell, who was killed in WWI. So there you have it. Next on the list of mysteries to solve is, of all things, the exact date and place of my grandparents’ (ANC II and Mira Sargent) marriage.

As a non-family-related aside, I went to see “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.” last night and thoroughly enjoyed it.


It was stylish, well paced, suitably PG-13 and frequently made me laugh out loud. I managed to capture something of the original show and I thought Armie Hammer and Henry Cavill worked well together. If you’re in for fun entertainment, it’s well worth it.

Have a wonderful weekend!

“I am a border ruffian from the State of Missouri.”*

Today is the 152nd anniversary of the massacre in Lawrence, Kansas perpetrated by Colonel Quantrill and his Confederate Raiders. I won’t go into all that dark history, but I will suggest that we watch Ang Lee’s very good movie Ride With the Devil (1999).


Considered to be a box-office bomb, it is, I would assert, a very good movie. Why people didn’t line up to see it, I have no idea. There are lots of very good actors in it. It is an exciting, romantic and historically accurate movie filmed beautifully on location in Missouri. Furthermore, it is based on a very good book (Woe to Live On) by Daniel Woodrell, who is from right here in the Missouri Ozarks and knows whereof he writes. 

“Our mode of war was an irregular one. We were as likely to be guided by an aged farmer’s breathless recounting of a definite rumor, or by the moods of our horses, as we were by logic. It was a situation where logic made no sense. So we slouched about in wooded areas, our eyes on main roads and cow paths, watching for our foe to pass in reasonable numbers. They often did.”

As the screenwriter prefaces the film, “On the western frontier of Missouri, the American Civil War was fought not by armies, but by neighbors. Informal gangs of local southern Bushwhackers fought a bloody and desperate guerrilla war against the occupying Union Army and pro-Union Jayhawkers. Allegiance to either side was dangerous. But it was more dangerous still to find oneself caught in the middle.”

Indeed, George Vogel, the 17-year old half-brother of my great-great-grandmother Mary Prowers Hough, was beaten to death in Westport in 1863 by Jayhawkers or Bushwackers (nobody seems to know which) who wanted his horse.

This movie is a good reminder of how rough it was back then.

As usual, I have no Big Plans for the weekend, but the OM and I are planning to take a pile of old computers to a recycling event in O’Fallon, MO. As you know, old computers are not so easy to dispose of, so when there is one of these free drop-off events, it is good to take advantage of it. Since we’ll be out and about, we may venture up to Clarksville (population 442) in Pike County.


This little city on the Mississippi River was platted in 1819 and named for the then governor of the territory, William Clark. Maybe we will drive up there and have lunch and look at old man river.

I can’t think of anything better to do, can you?

*”I am a border ruffian from the State of Missouri. I am a Connecticut Yankee by adoption. In me you have Missouri morals, Connecticut culture; this, gentlemen, is the combination which makes the perfect man.”
-Mark Twain (“Plymouth Rock and the Pilgrims”) on December 22, 1881

“I sometimes have my doubts about the accuracy of the word ‘laptop’.”

11913884_1015403995161170_4787748314700711608_oSandra Boynton is my kind of gal.

I have been a fan ever since she started writing and illustrating greeting cards back in the 1970s for Recycled Paper Greetings. I mean who can forget the genius “Don’t let the turkeys get you down” card?


Not to mention all those wonderful children’s books we read over and over and over in the 1980s and 90s.


It might surprise you to learn that she is grew up in Philadelphia. Her parents were Quakers. She attended a Quaker school (Germantown Friends School) and then went to Yale, entering in 1970 in the college’s second year of coeducation. She readily admits “joyfully squandering an expensive education on producing works of no apparent significance”.


Well, I just kind of love her.

She even has a website.

Enjoy your Thursday–the weekend is almost here!

“Yes, ma’am, just as hard as I could.”*

John Wayne and some old coots in "Tall in the Saddle"

John Wayne and some old coots in “Tall in the Saddle”

Well, the films of John Wayne are featured on TCM all day today, so set your DVR!

I am especially looking forward to Tall in the Saddle (1944) which I have not seen in quite a while.

My mother always liked Tall in the Saddle, because she liked Ella Raines who plays the female lead. I think she thought she was more “normal” looking than a lot of the stars of the 1940s–i.e. pretty without the need for elaborate hair, extensive makeup and penciled on eyebrows.


She also has a good part to play in this western–a tomboy who gets to ride around on horseback and kick symbolic dust at the goody-two-shoes who is competition for John Wayne’s affection, Audrey Long.


The reviewer for the New York Times called the film “a regulation rough-and-tumble Western”, complete with a thundering stage coach ride through sagebrush country, fist fights, shootings, and “the customary romantic clinch”. The reviewer acknowledged that Wayne saves the film from its predictability:

Mr. Wayne has to fight his way through every inch of this film, against toughies like Ward Bond, a crooked judge; Harry Woods, a no-account rustler, and Russell Wade, a weakling gun-happy young rancher. Even Ella Raines sends some bullets whizzing perilously close to our hero’s head … Mr. Wayne walks into a mess of trouble in Red Rock, but in eighty-seven noisy minutes he bowls over the opposition, turns up the murderer of his cousin and has Miss Raines purring in his arms. Just take Tall in the Saddle for what it is, a rousing old-fashioned Western, and you won’t go wrong.

Yes, Mr. Wayne saves the day and the movie.

All the movies showing today are worth viewing for their star. That cannot be said for a lot of the movies shown this month on TCM’s Summer Under the Stars.

Anyway, The Quiet Man (1955) is on tonight, followed by The Searchers (1956) and Rio Bravo (1959). So enjoy!

Here is the schedule.

*John Wayne in response to the statement, “I saw you hit that poor man!”


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