“The whole secret of life is to be interested in one thing profoundly and in a thousand things well.” That's Horace, in whose spirit Bertie Russell conquered happiness.
Walking with Dickens would have been a challenge. He went "far and fast" at all hours. "If I could not walk far and fast, I think I should just explode and perish."
Today we'd do Highgate Cemetery (maybe have a word with Karl Marx) and the Keats and Freud Houses. Tomorrow we'd have visited Darwin's sandwalk and Down House.
And then, on to Henry James's Lamb House... [His favourite walk... In search of HJ... HJ's Sussex... HJ's Rye... Landlord]
Finally today, virtually, Satis House from Dickens' Great Expectations.
Close your eyes, and, as in the Magic Tree House books I used to read with our girls, just say "I want to go there."
It's a much cheaper and less stressful way to travel.
Plus, it leaves my wife and me free to see James Taylor and Bonnie Raitt tonight at Bridgestone Arena!
UPDATE, Jy 13-Terrific concert! Lotta years' of experience represented on stage and in the audience... someone in the long mens' room line quipped, there were either too few toilets or too many old prostates.
It was on this day in 1798 that the English Romantic poet William Wordsworth (books by this author), while on a walking tour of Wales with his sister, Dorothy, saw the ruins of Tintern Abbey, which inspired his poem "Lines Composed a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey, On Revisiting the Banks of the Wye during a Tour. July 13, 1798." Wordsworth claimed the 1,200 lines came to him with the greatest of ease, entirely in his head.
He said: "No poem of mine was composed under circumstances more pleasant for me to remember than this. I began it upon leaving Tintern, after crossing the Wye, and concluded it just as I was entering Bristol in the evening, after a ramble of four or five days with my notes. Not a line of it was altered, not any part of it written down till I reached Bristol." WA
UPDATE, Jy 14
Our virtual course continues with today's excursion to Bertrand Russell's Cambridge. “Every morning Bertie would go for an hour’s walk by himself, composing and thinking out his work for that day. He would then come back and write for the rest of the morning, smoothly, easily and without a single correction.”
Ludwig Wittgenstein showed up on Russell's doorstep one day to challenge his quest for mathematical certainty.
Russell eventually learned to live with uncertainty, dispel loneliness, and conquer happiness. The daily walks didn't hurt.
Logicomix... Russell on Wittgenstein
Tomorrow's the anniversary, btw, of an important date in the history of the other Cambridge: Emerson's Harvard Divinity School Address in 1838, which also challenged conventional wisdom and smug certainties. He called walking gymnastics for the mind. "In this refulgent summer, it has been a luxury to draw the breath of life..." Our mortal breath is every bit as divine as any prophet's. If you don't believe it, just walk.
Our next English peregrination: Yorkshire.
Enough of Thought, Philosopher;...One of the questions we consider in class is why there have been so few female philosophers until fairly recent times. We first read Plato’s arguments in The Republicas to why there cannot be a truly just society until all citizens, both male and female, are given equal opportunity to excel; then we study Aristotle’s rejoinder that such a policy would be folly, since women are by nature inferior to men, intellectually and physically. This point is reiterated later in the course by selections from the writings of Arthur Schopenhauer, a vociferous misogynist, who argued that women were really just big children, unable to understand abstract thought. (Ironically, his mother was one of the first female novelists to publish under her own name. Understandably, she did not get along very well with her son.) To balance these arguments for women’s inherent inferiority, I then have the class read several poems by Emily Brontë, including ‘The Old Stoic’ (below), ‘I See Around Me Tombstones Grey’, and the above-quoted ‘The Philosopher’...
Too long hast thou been dreaming
Unlightened, in this chamber drear –
While summer’s sun is beaming –
Space-sweeping soul, what sad refrain
Concludes thy musings once again?
– Emily Brontë (1818-1848), ‘The Philosopher’
The American philosopher John Dewey once remarked that when women philosophers became prominent, the very notion of what constitutes philosophical inquiry would be greatly expanded. By insisting on their right to be heard, and by demonstrating their keen powers of observation, the Brontë sisters have had a powerful and enduring impact on the history of thought...
The Old Stoic, by Emily Brontë (1818-1848)
Riches I hold in light esteem,
And Love I laugh to scorn;
And lust of fame was but a dream
That vanish’d with the morn:
And, if I pray, the only prayer
That moves my lips for me
Is, “Leave the heart that now I bear,
And give me liberty!”
Yea, as my swift days near their goal,
‘Tis all that I implore:
In life and death a chainless soul,
With courage to endure.
Emily Brontë – Philosopher, by Tim Madigan... To Walk Invisible... Walking the Bronte Trail
And then to Shakespeare's country-
In an alternate universe we're at Stratford-upon-Avon today, walking with Will Shakespeare, 400 years gone now. Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow. Montaigne might have been his favorite philosopher...
And finally on to
The (virtual) train stops in Lewis Carroll's, John Locke's, and Harry Potter's Oxford today. Any one of them might plausibly have said “it’s no use going back to yesterday, because I was a different person then.” But it was Alice's creator who said it, and who had her believe "as many as six impossible things before breakfast.” Good for him. For her. The wonderful thing about a tabula rasa is how easily it can be filled with fun and magic.
Carroll penned so many marvelous lines. This one, in a better world, would shut down that insane mistake by the lake ("it's a put on") in Cleveland this week: “I don't think..." then you shouldn't talk, said the Hatter.” [written during the summer '16 GOP convention]
Christ Church College is next on our itinerary. Besides Locke, Potter, and Carroll (Charles Lutwidge Dodson), its alums include William Penn, Prime Mininster (redux) Gladstone, W.H. Auden, Albert Einstein, John Rawls, A.J. Ayer, Daniel Dennett.