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At the Sign of the Cat and Racket
by Honore de Balzac
Translated by Clara Bell
To Mademoiselle Marie de Montheau
AT THE SIGN OF THE CAT AND RACKET
Half-way down the Rue Saint-Denis, almost at the corner of the Rue du Petit-Lion, there stood formerly one of those delightful houses which enable historians to reconstruct old Paris by analogy. The threatening walls of this tumbledown abode seemed to have been decorated with hieroglyphics. For what other name could the passer-by give to the Xs and Vs which the horizontal or diagonal timbers traced on the front, outlined by little parallel cracks in the plaster? It was evident that every beam quivered in its mortices at the passing of the lightest vehicle. This venerable structure was crowned by a triangular roof of which no example will, ere long, be seen in Paris. This covering, warped by the extremes of the Paris climate, projected three feet over the roadway, as much to protect the threshold from the rainfall as to shelter the wall of a loft and its sill-less dormer-window. This upper story was built of planks, overlapping each other like slates, in order, no doubt, not to overweight the frail house.
One rainy morning in the month of March, a young man, carefully wrapped in his cloak, stood under the awning of a shop opposite this old house, which he was studying with the enthusiasm of an antiquary. In point of fact, this relic of the civic life of the sixteenth century offered more than one problem to the consideration of an observer. Each story presented some singularity; on the first floor four tall, narrow windows, close together, were filled as to the lower panes with boards, so as to produce the doubtful light by which a clever salesman can ascribe to his goods the color his customers inquire for. The young man seemed very scornful of this part of the house; his eyes had not yet rested on it. The windows of the second floor, where the Venetian blinds were drawn up, revealing little dingy muslin curtains behind the large Bohemian glass panes, did not interest him either. His attention was attracted to the third floor, to the modest sash-frames of wood, so clumsily wrought that they might have found a place in the Museum of Arts and Crafts to illustrate the early efforts of French carpentry. These windows were glazed with small squares of glass so green that, but for his good eyes, the young man could not have seen the blue-checked cotton curtains which screened the mysteries of the room from profane eyes. Now and then the watcher, weary of his fruitless contemplation, or of the silence in which the house was buried, like the whole neighborhood, dropped his eyes towards the lower regions. An involuntary smile parted his lips each time he looked at the shop, where, in fact, there were some laughable details.
Thursday, 27 August 2009
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Monday, 24 August 2009
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About the book:
In this novel Balzac presents thinly disguised character studies of certain of his famous contemporaries. Beatrix is the Comtesse d'Agoult (1805-1876), an author who wrote under the pen-name of "Daniel Stern," and who lived ten years (from 1835 to 1845) with Franz Liszt, the Hungarian pianist and composer (1811-188. To them were born three daughters, one of whom married Von Billow, and afterward Richard Wagner. Liszt is represented in the novel as Conti. The rival of Beatrix, Camille Maupin, or Mademoiselle des Touches, is a composite study of two characters in real life: the Baroness Dudevant (1804-1876), the famous novelist known by her pseudonym of "George Sand"; and Madame de Steel (1766-1817). It is said that Madame Dudevant was immensely pleased with the story because it represented her in favorable contrast to her "friend" and fellow-author, the Comtesse d'Agoult. The lover of Mademoiselle des Touches, Claude Vignon, stands for the critic Gustave Planche, although it was with Alfred de Musset (1810-1857), the poet, and Frederic Francois Chopin (1809-1849), the musician, that the Baroness Dudevant had her most noted liaisons.
Friday, 21 August 2009
Monday, 17 August 2009
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About this piece of work:
In 1623 Sir Francis Bacon expressed his aspirations and ideals in The New Atlantis. Released in 1627, this utopian novel was his creation of an ideal land where "generosity and enlightenment, dignity and splendor, piety and public spirit" were the commonly held qualities of the inhabitants of Bensalem. In this work, he portrayed a vision of the future of human discovery and knowledge. The plan and organization of his ideal college, "Solomon's House", envisioned the modern research university in both applied and pure science.
Friday, 14 August 2009
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THE FIRST BOOK OF FRANCIS BACON; OF THE PROFICIENCE AND ADVANCEMENT OF LEARNING, DIVINE AND HUMAN.
To the King.
There were under the law, excellent King, both daily sacrifices and freewill offerings; the one proceeding upon ordinary observance, the other upon a devout cheerfulness: in like manner there belongeth to kings from their servants both tribute of duty and presents of affection. In the former of these I hope I shall not live to be wanting, according to my most humble duty and the good pleasure of your Majesty's employments: for the latter, I thought it more respective to make choice of some oblation which might rather refer to the propriety and excellency of your individual person, than to the business of your crown and state.
Wherefore, representing your Majesty many times unto my mind, and beholding you not with the inquisitive eye of presumption, to discover that which the Scripture telleth me is inscrutable, but with the observant eye of duty and admiration, leaving aside the other parts of your virtue and fortune, I have been touched--yea, and possessed--with an extreme wonder at those your virtues and faculties, which the philosophers call intellectual; the largeness of your capacity, the faithfulness of your memory, the swiftness of your apprehension, the penetration of your judgment, and the facility and order of your elocution: and I have often thought that of all the persons living that I have known, your Majesty were the best instance to make a man of Plato's opinion, that all knowledge is but remembrance, and that the mind of man by Nature knoweth all things, and hath but her own native and original notions (which by the strangeness and darkness of this tabernacle of the body are sequestered) again revived and restored: such a light of Nature I have observed in your Majesty, and such a readiness to take flame and blaze from the least occasion presented, or the least spark of another's knowledge delivered. And as the Scripture saith of the wisest king, "That his heart was as the sands of the sea;" which, though it be one of the largest bodies, yet it consisteth of the smallest and finest portions; so hath God given your Majesty a composition of understanding admirable, being able to compass and comprehend the greatest matters, and nevertheless to touch and apprehend the least; whereas it should seem an impossibility in Nature for the same instrument to make itself fit for great and small works. And for your gift of speech, I call to mind what Cornelius Tacitus saith of Augustus Caesar: Augusto profluens, et quae principem deceret, eloquentia fuit. For if we note it well, speech that is uttered with labour and difficulty, or speech that savoureth of the affectation of art and precepts, or speech that is framed after the imitation of some pattern of eloquence, though never so excellent; all this hath somewhat servile, and holding of the subject. But your Majesty's manner of speech is, indeed, prince-like, flowing as from a fountain, and yet streaming and branching itself into Nature's order, full of facility and felicity, imitating none, and inimitable by any. And as in your civil estate there appeareth to be an emulation and contention of your Majesty's virtue with your fortune; a virtuous disposition with a fortunate regiment; a virtuous expectation (when time was) of your greater fortune, with a prosperous possession thereof in the due time; a virtuous observation of the laws of marriage, with most blessed and happy fruit of marriage; a virtuous and most Christian desire of peace, with a fortunate inclination in your neighbour princes thereunto: so likewise in these intellectual matters there seemeth to be no less contention between the excellency of your Majesty's gifts of Nature and the universality and perfection of your learning. For I am well assured that this which I shall say is no amplification at all, but a positive and measured truth; which is, that there hath not been since Christ's time any king or temporal monarch which hath been so learned in all literature and erudition, divine and human. For let a man seriously and diligently revolve and peruse the succession of the Emperors of Rome, of which Caesar the Dictator (who lived some years before Christ) and Marcus Antoninus were the best learned, and so descend to the Emperors of Graecia, or of the West, and then to the lines of France, Spain, England, Scotland, and the rest, and he shall find this judgment is truly made. For it seemeth much in a king if, by the compendious extractions of other men's wits and labours, he can take hold of any superficial ornaments and shows of learning, or if he countenance and prefer learning and learned men; but to drink, indeed, of the true fountains of learning--nay, to have such a fountain of learning in himself, in a king, and in a king born--is almost a miracle. And the more, because there is met in your Majesty a rare conjunction, as well of divine and sacred literature as of profane and human; so as your Majesty standeth invested of that triplicity, which in great veneration was ascribed to the ancient Hermes: the power and fortune of a king, the knowledge and illumination of a priest, and the learning and universality of a philosopher. This propriety inherent and individual attribute in your Majesty deserveth to be expressed not only in the fame and admiration of the present time, nor in the history or tradition of the ages succeeding, but also in some solid work, fixed memorial, and immortal monument, bearing a character or signature both of the power of a king and the difference and perfection of such a king.
Tuesday, 11 August 2009
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TABLE OF CONTENTS:
OF UNITY IN RELIGION
OF SIMULATION AND DISSIMULATION
OF PARENTS AND CHILDREN
OF MARRIAGE AND SINGLE LIFE
OF GREAT PLACE
OF GOODNESS & GOODNESS OF NATURE
OF SEDITIONS AND TROUBLES
OF WISDOM FOR A MAN'S SELF
OF SEEMING WISE
OF THE TRUE GREATNESS OF KINGDOMS AND ESTATES
OF REGIMENT OF HEALTH
OF MASQUES AND TRIUMPHS
OF NATURE IN MEN
OF CUSTOM AND EDUCATION
OF YOUTH AND AGE
OF FOLLOWERS AND FRIENDS
OF CEREMONIES AND RESPECT
OF HONOR AND REPUTATION
OF VICISSITUDE OF THINGS
Saturday, 8 August 2009
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CANTO I--The Trystyng
One winter night, at half-past nine, Cold, tired, and cross, and muddy, I had come home, too late to dine, And supper, with cigars and wine, Was waiting in the study.
There was a strangeness in the room, And Something white and wavy Was standing near me in the gloom - _I_ took it for the carpet-broom Left by that careless slavey.
But presently the Thing began To shiver and to sneeze: On which I said "Come, come, my man! That's a most inconsiderate plan. Less noise there, if you please!"
"I've caught a cold," the Thing replies, "Out there upon the landing." I turned to look in some surprise, And there, before my very eyes, A little Ghost was standing!
He trembled when he caught my eye, And got behind a chair. "How came you here," I said, "and why? I never saw a thing so shy. Come out! Don't shiver there!"
He said "I'd gladly tell you how, And also tell you why; But" (here he gave a little bow) "You're in so bad a temper now, You'd think it all a lie.
"And as to being in a fright, Allow me to remark That Ghosts have just as good a right In every way, to fear the light, As Men to fear the dark."
"No plea," said I, "can well excuse Such cowardice in you: For Ghosts can visit when they choose, Whereas we Humans ca'n't refuse To grant the interview."
He said "A flutter of alarm Is not unnatural, is it? I really feared you meant some harm: But, now I see that you are calm, Let me explain my visit.
"Houses are classed, I beg to state, According to the number Of Ghosts that they accommodate: (The Tenant merely counts as WEIGHT, With Coals and other lumber).
"This is a 'one-ghost' house, and you When you arrived last summer, May have remarked a Spectre who Was doing all that Ghosts can do To welcome the new-comer.
"In Villas this is always done - However cheaply rented: For, though of course there's less of fun When there is only room for one, Ghosts have to be contented.
"That Spectre left you on the Third - Since then you've not been haunted: For, as he never sent us word, 'Twas quite by accident we heard That any one was wanted.
"A Spectre has first choice, by right, In filling up a vacancy; Then Phantom, Goblin, Elf, and Sprite - If all these fail them, they invite The nicest Ghoul that they can see.
"The Spectres said the place was low, And that you kept bad wine: So, as a Phantom had to go, And I was first, of course, you know, I couldn't well decline."
"No doubt," said I, "they settled who Was fittest to be sent Yet still to choose a brat like you, To haunt a man of forty-two, Was no great compliment!"
"I'm not so young, Sir," he replied, "As you might think. The fact is, In caverns by the water-side, And other places that I've tried, I've had a lot of practice:
"But I have never taken yet A strict domestic part, And in my flurry I forget The Five Good Rules of Etiquette We have to know by heart."
My sympathies were warming fast Towards the little fellow: He was so utterly aghast At having found a Man at last, And looked so scared and yellow.
"At least," I said, "I'm glad to find A Ghost is not a DUMB thing! But pray sit down: you'll feel inclined (If, like myself, you have not dined) To take a snack of something:
Friday, 7 August 2009
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Sylvie and Bruno, first published in 1889, and its 1893 second volume Sylvie and Bruno Concluded form the last novel by Lewis Carroll published during his lifetime. Both volumes were illustrated by Harry Furniss.
The novel has two main plots; one set in the real world at the time the book was published (the Victorian era), the other in the fantasy world of Fairyland. While the latter plot is a fairytale with many nonsense elements and poems, similar to Carroll's Alice books, the story set in Victorian Britain is a social novel, with its characters discussing various concepts and aspects of religion, society, philosophy and morality.
Thursday, 6 August 2009
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The Hunting of the Snark (An Agony in 8 Fits) is a nonsense poem written by Lewis Carroll (Charles Lutwidge Dodgson) in 1874, when he was 42 years old. It describes "with infinite humour the impossible voyage of an improbable crew to find an inconceivable creature". The poem borrows occasionally from Carroll's short poem Jabberwocky in Through the Looking-Glass (especially the poem's creatures and portmanteau words), but it is a stand-alone work, first published in 1876 by Macmillan. The illustrations were by Henry Holiday.
In common with other Carroll works, the meaning of his poems has been queried and analysed in depth. One of the most comprehensive gatherings of information about the poem and its meaning is The Annotated Snark by Martin Gardner.
Wednesday, 5 August 2009
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Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There (1871) is a work of children's literature by Lewis Carroll (Charles Lutwidge Dodgson), generally categorized as literary nonsense. It is the sequel to Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1865). Although it makes no reference to the events in the earlier book, the themes and settings of Through the Looking-Glass make it a kind of mirror image of Wonderland: the first book begins outdoors, in the warm month of May, on Alice's birthday (May 4), uses frequent changes in size as a plot device, and draws on the imagery of playing cards; the second opens indoors on a snowy, wintry night exactly six months later, on November 4 (the day before Guy Fawkes Night), uses frequent changes in time and spatial directions as a plot device, and draws on the imagery of chess. In it, there are many mirror themes, including opposites, time running backwards, and so on.
Tuesday, 4 August 2009
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Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1865) is a novel written by English author Charles Lutwidge Dodgson under the pseudonym Lewis Carroll. It tells the story of a girl named Alice who falls down a rabbit-hole into a fantasy world populated by peculiar and anthropomorphic creatures. The tale is filled with allusions to Dodgson's friends. The tale plays with logic in ways that have given the story lasting popularity with adults as well as children. It is considered to be one of the most characteristic examples of the genre of literary nonsense, and its narrative course and structure have been enormously influential, mainly in the fantasy genre. The book is commonly referred to by the abbreviated title Alice in Wonderland, an alternative title popularized by the numerous stage, film and television adaptations of the story produced over the years. Some printings of this title contain both Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and its sequel Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There.
Monday, 3 August 2009
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The story revolves around Elinor and Marianne, two daughters of Mr. Dashwood by his second wife. They have a younger sister, Margaret, and an older half-brother named John. When their father dies, the family estate passes to John, and the Dashwood women are left in reduced circumstances. The novel follows the Dashwood sisters to their new home, a cottage on a distant relative's property, where they experience both romance and heartbreak. The contrast between the sisters' characters is eventually resolved as they each find love and lasting happiness. Through the events in the novel, Elinor and Marianne find a balance between sense (or pure logic) and sensibility (or pure emotion) in life and love.