Thursday, June 30, 2016

Cumbered with Serving, Best with Woes, Learn of the Lady from her Letters

In times of great stress, we take comfort in small things, hence my fascination with the little book, "In Small Things Forgotten." which I used in my dissertation, and mentioned in my book on Barbara Pym, "The Subversion of Romance in the Novels of Barbara Pym."  I mention Pym her in a post on Erzebet because, but for the reputation a Victorian Catholic clergy assigned to her, Erzebet would be one of Pym's excellent women, widowed, still responsible, caring for others, yet unlike most of Pym's women, fantastically wealthy.

"Who should blame us if we only want the trivial things?'  Barbara Pym, quoted in the film, "Miss Pym's Day Out" starring Patricia Routledge.

I have been involved with caregiving, and solving other's issues for some time now, more intensely the last two years, and completely immersed the last 5 months.  Things that give me respite are often not possible; it is another full time job.  One cold Feb. day, after hours and hours at the hospital waiting or battling with incompetents, I hang a small, plastic red heart on one of my trees.   It becomes my focus point over the next month or of doctor's visits, a botched attempt at rehab at Fiendish Manor, battles with insurance companies, a fraud situation perpetrated by Fiendish Manor, lawyers, caregiver agencies, and so much more aggravation.

An hour on the couch with my little cats, watching Netflix, or immersed in a Patricia Cornwell, Elizabeth George, or James Patterson, these keep me alive.  These and correspondences with women who read my old columns on, but became my fast friends.  They lead by example, as each faces a family trauma, or serious personal illness, and yet, they keep on.

My mother, now gone herself, stressed to me often that if something were to happen to one of us, to her, to me, to Dad, the two left would have to keep going.  I'm trying.

One thing that has happened to me is that I continuously compare myself to Erzebet, to the Erzebet portrayed in her letters as compiled and published by Kimberly Craft.

As I've written before, the letters are all about Erzebet's attempts to manage her 27 or so estates in times of war and illness, alone as a widow, constantly worrying about her granaries and funds.  How would she care and feed for all those in her charge?  I found nothing happy or even light-hearted in her in her letters.

Now, here I am.  Involved in the care and responsibility of 5 houses, shopping for others, arranging their medical care, calling for their medicines, trying to live their responsibilities for them. Not feeling well myself, not at all well, not sleeping, yet rising early to make this or that appointment for someone else. Worrying about those charged with the care of my family, dodging attempts from members elsewhere in my family overseas to take advantage of Dad and of Me, worrying about my own family, my husband, our son.

I'm an only child, and in this age of technology and social media, I feel so alone.  How must Erzebet have felt, a young widow, with her parents dead, living in dangerous times, a religious outcast according to some?  Wealthy single women, or even gentlewomen of modern means, have never been treated favorably.  I had one modest house before I married, and I had neighbors who constantly resented me for it.

Pym, and I, have read and commented on Coventry Patmore's "The Angel of the House." I, and Erzebet, have had the burdens that kept The Angel grounded, but we are both very far from receiving the praise and admiration she got from her doting, if not smothering husband.

Norah Loft has written about single women in the 16th century and 17th century who tried to run and own estates, and J.S. Mill has addressed the laws that kept women from owning property, and see also The Married Women's Property Acts, and Mary Wollstonecraft, "A Vindication of the Rights of Women."

Ah, Erzebet, Ah, women kind.

Public Domain Image of a Letter by Erzebet

Monday, June 27, 2016

The Scary Doll Gallery

Here are images of some scary dolls, brought to you tongue in cheek.  I hope you enjoy them, and feel free to share with us  your own scary doll stories.

Clown by Grace Dorbeck. author.

China doll with teeth from Colemans, Vol. I; formerly Laura Tresko Collection.

Skull. author.

Dia de Muertos Calaveras. author

Blow Mold Ghost; author

Goth Doll Sisters. author.

Witch made of Fimo. author

Deadly Nightshade the Paper Doll, Herb's Daughters by Ellen Tsagaris

By A. Thorndyke

Courtesy, Aberntathy's. Voodoo Doll Mascot

Goose at Halloween

"Lucy" and other Skulls . author

Halloween Ceramics, Lefton and Jackson's Pottery. author.

Doll Graveyard, author

Roaming Antique Doll, author

Thursday, June 23, 2016

A Class I Taught on Anne Rice

Courtesy, Gathered Traditions, "Scarlett"
Anne Rice at CommUniversity February 2006
“Before you can see the light, you have to deal with the darkness”
Chinese fortune cookie
Week I: 
A. Biographical background and film Birth of the Vampire/What attracted YOU to Rice?  A “round the room” discussion
1. Rice on Writing
2. Class Overview
3. Reviews on
4. Rice and New Orleans
5 . Biography
6. Her icons and symbols
7. History and Rice
8. Christ the Lord

B.  The Vampire Chronicles/Now a Musical at SF based on books
            1. Interview
            2. Vampire Lestat: Who and What he is “We have souls, you and I” ( Memnoch 4 quoted in Hoppenstand 4).
            3. Ten books, one critic calls “Long in the Tooth”
            4. Her vampires as outsiders and avenging angels, the most Byronic of all Byronic heroes

Week II:  The Mayfair Family and The Witching Hour/”How Untypical the Typical Rice Aficionado is” (Hoppenstand, Gothic World 2).

1. Gothic fiction incorporates domestic issues ( Hoppenstand 2). E.g., V.C. Andrews, John Saul, Stephen King, William Peter Blatty (31).
            2. Rice and characters “Like us” (3).  We feel sympathy for them.
            3.  Influences:  Castle of  Otranto, The Monk, Melmoth the Wanderer, Vathek, The Mysteries of Udolpho

Week III:  Historical Novels and Erotica, including Cry to Heaven, Christ the Lord and The Feast of All Saints.
1. Vampires and Polymorphous sexuality
2  Cry to Heaven and androgyny
3. Liberation of Women and sexuality
4. Writing and freedom of lifestyle/cf Marquis de Sade and “Reflections on the Novel”

Week IV:  Anne Rice Memorabilia and the Doll Collections:  Influences on her work and the work of others; the Vampire Genre
1. Dolls
2. Tudor History
3. Vampire lore
4. Egyptology
5. Religion
5. Ghosts et al
6. Art and antiques
7. Law and Political Science
8. Dickens, Brontes, Love craft, Woolf, Shakespeare, and the gang
9. Family Influence
10.  Children and daughter’s death
11. Fairy Tales

Old Letter from a Favorite Author

I don't think anyone could be more gracious :)

Thu, 09 Feb 2006 11:14:22 -0800
Re: teaching your work

Thank you for a wonderful and bolstering letter. No, whatever happens in the class happens. Let it unfold. But thank you for asking about my wishes.  I appreciate your interest. Take care and be well, Anne.  

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Thank you to my Followers

Thanks to all who read and follow this blog.  Recently, there was a news story on the most powerful women in the world today.  Of course, some one made the comment that most were also married with children.  I wish they could all read Erzebet's letters, as published by Kim Craft.  Those letters are full of the life of a 17th century "powerful" woman, but also what Barbara Pym would call an "excellent woman."  Erzebet oversaw some 27 estates, with complete households, self sustaining farms and gardens, animals, furnishings, wealth, etc.  She did at a time when misogyny was rampant, in relatively frail health, with children.  She did it alone, with a husband either off to war, or as a young widow, young even for those times.

Her letters are formal, even stiff, sometimes poignant.  In one, she attempts to reign in a manager she thinks is stealing grain.  She is constantly worried about money, about caring for those under her charge, about war with the Ottomans, about her granaries.  

Her life involved sickness, upheaval, and travel.  Like the planation mistress of the American South would be later, she was accountable for everyone's well being.

Like Pym's women, she was cumbered with much serving, and expected to be the gracious hostess and loving wife when needed.

Do we define power through fame  and wealth?  Through notoriety? Other "powerful" women who lived within 100 years or so of Erzebet suffered, even died, though they were alleged to be powerful.  Even earlier, Joan of Arc led an army, but her gruesome and untimely end was probably a direct result of the power she earned as a commander of male troops.  In ancient times, talented women of fame often suffered, though in the case of Boadicea, even her enemies wrote of her bravery.  See the histories of Suetonius Paulinius, Dio Cassius, and Strabo.  Hypatia, the female philosopher who gives a literary journal her name today, was thrown to the mob.

Eleanor of Aquitaine, Catherine de Medici, Isabella of Spain, Catherine of Aragon, Margaret Roper,  Anne Boleyn, Mary, Queen of Scots, Mary Tudor, Lady Jane Grey, Anne Askew, Elizabeth I, Jane Anger, Anne Hutchinson, Sor Juana Inez de la Cruz, the list goes on and on.

Brilliant women, dismissed/curse as witches, dismissed as "freaks",  "Uppity women" or rabble rousers, if not as downright lunatics, because they dared to handle their own affairs, to speak out as men, to defend their honor.

Scary Babies, and They have done Erzebet, too!