Saturday, 31 March 2012

Outside the Club (Creating the Future Part IV)

We have come a long way.  Let us, at least for a few sentences, go back, almost to where we started, to 1836, and to the Working Men’s Association:

1.      To draw into one bond of unity the intelligent and influential portion of the working classes in town and country.
2.      To seek by every legal means to place all classes of society in possession of their equal political and social rights.
3.      To devise every possible means, and to use every exertion, to remove those cruel laws that prevent the free circulation of thought through the medium of cheap and honest press.
4.      To promote, by all available means, the education of the rising generation, and the extirpation of those systems which tend to future slavery.
5.      To collect every kind of information appertaining to the interests of the working classes in particular and society in general, especially statistics regarding the wages of labour, the habits and condition of the labourer, and all those causes that mainly contribute to the present state of things.
6.      To meet and communicate with each other for the purpose of digesting the information required, and to mature such plans as they believe will conduce in practice to the well-being of the working classes.
7.      To publish their views and sentiments in such form and manner as shall best serve to create a moral, reflecting, yet energetic public opinion; so as eventually to lead to a gradual improvement in the condition of the working classes, without violence or commotion.
8.      To form a library of reference and useful information; to maintain a place where their brethren from the country can meet with kindred minds actuated by one great motive – that of benefiting politically, socially, and morally, the useful classes.  Though the persons forming this Association will be at all times disposed to co-operate with all those who seek to promote the happiness of the multitude, yet being convinced from experience that the division of interests in the various classes, in the present state of things, is often too destructive of that union of sentiment which is essential to the prosecution of any great object, they have resolved to confine their members as far as practicable to the working classes.  But as there are great differences of opinion as to where the line should be drawn which separates the working classes from the other portions of society, they leave the Members themselves to determine whether the candidate proposed is eligible to become a member.  (from The Early Chartists, edited by Dorothy Thompson. Emphasis in original.)

Sunday, 11 March 2012

An Accidental Life

He didn’t mean it.  He couldn’t help it.  He didn’t want to be poor; it was his fate: born to be a no-hoper, a drifter, an impoverished workingman, a fool with a few ideas; all of them bad.  He didn’t mean to kill the foreman; it just happened; he didn’t want to kill the farmer; he was protecting himself, that was all.  Contingency: it is our modern fatalism.  He didn’t mean to do any of these things.  He wanted a home, a settled life, a family who could trust him; he didn’t want to keep running away; always to be defeated by a life too complex to control.  But he is not big enough for this world.  Brains is what he lacks, or so he says; with good brains they would bathe in money, shower in gold coins; do no work at all; this is what he tells them.  Stupidity.  It is his fate; born always to fail.

Thursday, 8 March 2012

A Beautiful Young Nymph Going to Bed

Corinna, Pride of Drury-Lane,
For whom no Shepherd sighs in vain;
Never did Covent Garden boast
So bright a batter'd strolling Toast;
No drunken Rake to pick her up,
No Cellar where on Tick to sup;
Returning at the Midnight Hour;
Four Stories climbing to her Bow’r;
Then, seated on a three-legg'd Chair,
Takes off her artificial Hair:
Now picking out a Crystal eye,
She wipes it clean, and lays it by.
Her Eye-Brows from a Mouse's Hyde,
Stuck on with Art on either Side,
Pulls off with Care, and first displays 'em,
Then in a Play-Book smoothly lays 'em.

Saturday, 3 March 2012

Friday, 2 March 2012

Just One Drink...

How much does the author understand?  In the first book of the trilogy we live inside the narrow mind of the hero, Bob; an ordinary guy, with no special talents; a bit of a bore, if truth be told.  The little that we see of Jenny is mediated through his actions and opinions, many of which are hopes and dreams, and little fantasies; of a respectable life together, comfortably asleep between the well-ironed sheets, homely under a crocheted blanket, of wild flowers and a blue border...  In the second book, The Siege of Pleasure, we see the world from her point of view.