Rasputin's Daughter is the novel of quite the political intrigue, suitable to current United States weather. The question of what one's worldview must be like when one is the favorite daughter of the "mad monk," during the dawn of the 1917 Russian Revolution, is answered by Robert Alexander who gives life to Maria Rasputin as well as the voice of her lover, Sasha, who was under cover as her lover and friend to infiltrate the Rasputin household and their trust, by which to more easily kill the patriarch, who was deemed of considerable threat to the order of the anti-Tsarist regime.
The novel begins when Maria is being interviewed by a man of the name Aleksander Aleksandrovich Blok, who also when he is not serving the Thirteenth Section as an interrogator, happens to be a poet. So when Matryona Grigorevna Rasputina is, "dragged through the ransacked halls of the Winter Palace," to be brought before Blok for questioning as to the reality of the events leading up to and including her father's death, she is able to recite his own poetry to him, "To sin shamelessly, endlessly/To lose count of the nights and days/And with a head unruly from drunkeness/To pass sideways into the Temple of God.
My would be interrogator was suddenly blushing. 'I wrote that.' " Of course Maria knows he wrote it and that he did causes her to hate the handsome Blok all the more, as they sit on separate sides of a very bloody and jagged line. She credits Blok's words with granting sophistication to a girl who would have been otherwise left behind at the level of schooling required for the sons and daughters of nobility as well as anyone within the court system. And now that was past and Blok wants to know what happened.
The novel takes place in one weeks time as Maria uncovers the good, the bad and the ugly of her own father, and in doing so reveals the bareness of her own self. Her father was not mad, nor was he formally educated. He was the last of a dying breed known in Siberia as shaman; men heralded for special powers of healing through chant, prayer, touch and other non-Westernized forms of medicine. Some of Rasputin's powers are made up for glory, some of it is very real.
Maria, who often serves as her father's messenger, more than once walks in on him while he is in the middle of a sexual encounter. He is not above taking advantage of women who need his notes to have a relative protected or sent to a certain hospital. His beard is long, his table manners are stomach turning to read about, as he wipes his greasy fingers on his beard and bits of food stick to it. But it is for these reasons, disgusting or no, he is a powerful and unique influence at the palace. He strikes the Emperor and Empress as genuine. His roughly hewn and insubordinate manner goes to his favor and he does have a talent in aiding the chronically ill, especially Heir Tsarevich Aleksei Nikolaevich, who suffers deplorably from hemophilia.
Rasputin is at the call of and is supported by members of the Royal Palace, and it is up to Maria to find him when he is needed. When the Tsarista phones to say her son is dying as he tripped over a toy and is bleeding uncontrolled inside his knee, and Rasputin's help is required at once; Maria sets off to find her father somewhere within the seemingly debauched landscape of his lifestyle at St. Petersburg.
Maria eventually locates him, interrupting his session with a prostitute, and they both head to the Aleksander Palace. Aleksei Nikolaevich, has a leg filled with blood to the extent it is bent and contorted, " 'Mama...Mama...' he gasped, 'will it hurt so much when I go to Heaven?' " After all others have left the room Rasputin and his daughter, under his instruction begin to heal the suffering boy through prayers, chants and stories. " 'Close your eyes and hold my hand, dear boy,' came Papa's deep, sweet voice. 'Now imagine we are strolling through the forest near my home in Siberia. Can you picture it? Can you see the endless pine wood and smell the sweet scent? The trees - they are so big!'
His eyes closed, Aleksei breathed in, exhaled, and replied softly. 'I see it all, Father Grigori...so many pine trees...and mushrooms too! Lots and lots of mushrooms!'
'Yes, that's right! Let's pick some, shall we?'
By the next day the boy's leg is not fully healed but is resting flat on the bed, his temperature is normal and he was able to calm down and be free from pain enough to sleep. The places Rasputin took the child with his stories, freed the boy from agony so he could be a person again. Maria is exhausted by the ordeal of caring for the boy and falls asleep while her father stays by Nicholas's side with prayers and chants for hours.
Once they return home, Maria eats a large dinner of every type of fish available in the house. Fish is considered a type of holy meal as the Apostles ate fish. Jellied fish heads are a favorite in the Rasputin household. The mother is not part of their apartment life as she never liked St. Petersburg and she and her husband are permanently separated.
Sasha, Maria's boyfriend, stops by to see her but she kicks him out as she is afraid of what her father would think, only to find her father with the housekeeper. Maria tries to warn her father to be aware of an internalized plot to assassinate him, as the Romanov monarchy implodes on itself as at the same time, the common people, wanting warmth and bread revolt; and all this during World War I.
She tries to keep him from going out before she can tell him everything, by keeping his favorite boots by her bedside so she will wake up before he can leave. But this does not work, and she sleeps through his passing. Rasputin is taken by uncles of the Tsar to be poisoned with sweets and wine. When he refuses the delectables, he is simply shot in front of Maria who still is trying to warn him. Rasputin dies in the arms of his daughter and Maria is stunned to find her boyfriend, who she loved and trusted and whose child she is carrying is one of her father's assassins. The politics of the novel are accurate of the time as they are murky, thick, and ever changing. Sasha is Prince O'ksandr, " 'Prince Felix sent me to infiltrate the Khlysty and his family - to find his religion, charm his daughter, enter his home - all in the hopes not of simply getting information but of unearthing scandal.' "
Sasha is soon to pass away from typhus, as he lives under deplorable conditions at the hands of The Thirteenth Section. And Maria after telling her story to Blok, passes on, unknowing the father of her child is alive, but soon to die. "Blok gazed across the huge throne room and watched as Maria Rasputin reached the tall gilded doors, slipped through one and pulled it shut behind her, disappearing into history."
By Sarah Bahl
Salome Muller, was born in 1809 in Langensoultzbach, Alsace, three years before the first of a series of East Indies volcanic eruptions that would create a disastrous cooling trend with other major environmental changes across Europe and Asia. In Alsace, the air was filled with a haze, and crops planted at the usual time in spring would be frozen over and new ones planted. But by August whatever had survived of the new plantings would be killed by an early frost. Millions suffered and starved. If what was planted did not survive there was no plan B. Children were sent to forage for nuts and berries. Men hunted, but game grew scarce.
The year 1816 is known as The Year Without a Summer and it was during the winter of that year that Daniel Muller got together with his wife, Dorothea and their four children, into his brother Henry's kitchen. Henry had a wife, and three children, two girls and one boy; both families gathered around a lithograph of a couple with their children in Missouri, with flowers in their front garden, geese in a yard, and cattle grazing in lush pasture as part of the background.
The Muller families were Alsatian shoemakers, and if a decision was made to emigrate to America, then both would go together. A couple more families from the village joined the discussion and their imaginings were to travel to a land of plenty, as a group and to live and prosper in America as independent families living next to each other as they were now except with plenty of game to hunt and fish and crops to eat.
They assured themselves of guaranteed employment in The New World. "The men were farmers, locksmiths, shoemakers, and storekeepers. The women were cooks, milliners and midwives. They carried Bibles, food, precious musical instruments and tools of their trades," as they left the village in the spring to travel to where they could embark upon the long ocean voyage to America.
The journey was beyond brutal for when the Muller families, along with nearly everyone else from Langensoultzbach, got to Amsterdam, they found themselves to be of the lowest sought cargo of all: immigrants. Shipowners of ill repute were the only persons willing to deal in such a trade as hauling impoverished men, women and children across the Atlantic, all in hope of a new life. The first shipowner, of the dilapidated Rudolph vessel, took the Mullers' money and the specie of the estimated 900 others who were crammed into the Rudolph, waiting for it to sail. But the shipowner was never seen again, as after waiting for days, the family heads, Daniel and Henry, left the anchored ship and entered the city to search for the man who had absconded with the last of their savings. The brothers found to their horror that the supposed shipowner had not only left town with some of the final savings of 900 poor immigrants, but he had never owned the ship to begin with. The original owners had no time nor inclination to clean up the thief's mess because they were in court attempting to reclaim ownership of the vessel, rotted as it may have been. The Muller families along with the other immigrants were all ordered off the ship after five months of living there because the court had finally decided to return the less than grand Rudolph to its original owners and the Mullers were to go back to Amsterdam and be under the care of local governance and charity.
The government, due to the overwhelming number of immigrants held up and running ragged through the streets of Amsterdam, offered to pay 30,000 guilders to anyone willing to transport these poor impoverished beings to America. The Mullers were told to go back to Helder; for despite it being winter, a new ship was ready to set sail to America. The New Sea Air, as the latest vessel of wonder was ironically named, was in worse shape than the Rudolph. The Mullers boarded her, but she was not to take them to their dream country. Her mast broke from winter gales and the ship returned to port, shortly after setting sail.
A new merchant to the scene, Mr. Krahnstover, agreed to take the tolerant souls to America via New Orleans port, on three different, well conditioned ships, but on the condition that upon arrival in America, the immigrants would be sold as redemptioners. In essence the immigrants had become a form of slave cargo. The names of the ships were: The Emmanuel, the brig, Juffer Johanna, and a brigatine, Johanna Maria. And upon all three ships carrying 1100 people total, one departing after another; rations were scarce. Ventilation within the hull was inadequate. Drinking water went bad. It is astounding any of them survived the voyage. But some did. Though of the Muller family, Daniel's youngest child lasted no more than two weeks out of Helder. And the next day, Dorothea died. The father wrapped up both his wife and son in shoddy canvas sheets and tipped them overboard into the water. Henry Muller's wife died. Every day a different body was given to the sea.
Due to hiring of an incompetent crew, whose resume expertise was that of canals and not oceans, a journey that should have lasted two months took at least three to five. There were only provisions for two months. But finally, finally, a mud colored canal appeared to break apart the ocean, it was the Mississippi. At last it was America! The group traveled up the mouth of the river and into the city of New Orleans. But here, the families were broken apart. Redemptioners were cheaper than slaves, with five or six of them being purchasable for the price of one slave. But their servitude would be for a certain number of years, rather than full life as with a slave. So, the maintenance expense, overall, was much less for an indentured servant than a slave.
And rarely, if ever, would whole immigrant families be bought together. Husbands, wives, and children were sold separately. The going rate for short term immigrant slaves was 80 dollars for men, 70 for women, 60 for boys and girls are not mentioned. Though, short term, connotes that servitude was not for life. But children could work for 10 years or more depending on the age they are at the time of their sale.
The Muller families agreed to stay together but into the third week, it became clear they would be fortunate to find a master to take the father of each head and his children together, much less both families. By this time, a starved Henry Muller with Salome, her sister and brother, were bought, all four, by a farmer in Bayou Sara, a four days sail up the Mississippi.
According to a tale later told by a boat crewman, a Dutch man and his three children, set up the Mississippi, but the man died while on the voyage, (perhaps from eating too much after starving for so long) and his son drowned, probably due to suicide. So, two little girls were all that was left of the Henry Muller family. They were left by the boatmen with signs around their necks at the Bayou Sara, a desolate stopping point.
Then on a spring morning in 1843 Madame Carl Routt traversed the neighborhoods of New Orleans to visit a friend. On her way she sees a woman, dressed as a slave, with a tignon of bright madras cotton, a course linen dress and a dark kersey shawl. Madame Carl was struck by the woman and thought her to be Dorothea Muller, before she realized herself and decided if the woman, sitting in the sun before her was not Dorothea Muller, then it was likely Salome, her daughter. And so, begins a deeply complicated and convoluted court battle as to the identity of Salome Muller; pitting the German community against the owners, current and past, of the light skinned slave woman.
The girl Madam Carl thinks is Salome describes herself as a yellow girl by the name of Mary Miller. By all accounts Salome did appear to be very close in similarity to a quadroon, a person at the time of 1/4 African heritage. But the physical difference between a quadroon and an olive skinned German girl was truly impossible to say. Basically as long as a person had any African ancestry whatsoever, they were considered a slave in the United States unless freed according to law.
The German community fought for Mary Miller's freedom, stating she was really Salome Muller. Along the course of the proceeding, Salome, was thought to be also called Sally Miller. According to documentation a Salemia Muller was sold to a Thomas Grayson. Where she ended up after that no one really knows. Various identities were formed on the basis of Salome Muller. Mary Miller, Bridget Wilson, Sally Miller, and Polly Moore among others.
The story captivated New Orleans and ruined the reputations of slave owning men. The author claims her to be truly Bridget Wilson the slave. Though, the bibliography index has a Saloma Meller listed, yet there is no Meller mentioned in the book. (The difference could be a matter of pronunciation or translation). So, whoever she was, she certainly withheld the art of captivation.
By Sarah Bahl
The Yearling by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings and illustrated by N.C. Wyeth was given to me, by my mother for Christmas in 1991. I was 10 years old, and loved the story for its soft, slow understanding of nature and the South. I knew it to be a tale of growing up, a child's loss of a yearling deer, and the theme being that one cannot be an adult without surviving a permanent and unfair loss.
My memories of the work consisted of the image of Jody, a pre-teen boy and his flutter mill he would make and lazily gaze at. Also, an understanding that a pet was killed, similar to Old Yeller. But re-reading the work as an adult, it struck me how sad the story is. Perhaps children are more likely to withhold an immunity to sadness as people and situations are seeming to pass by uncontrolled and unquestioned.
Though, at the time I read the story, I was not a stranger to death. Nor without a respect for nature. As a little girl growing up in West Africa, I knew death more personally than is usual for Western culture. This may be because while the family resided in the Gambia, my father was given the gift of a grown ram by the natives. He came to us on a white flat bed truck, the natives sitting there holding him, their legs dangling over the side. My mother moaned and complained through puffs of endless cigarette that if they wanted to give my father a gift, which was sweet enough, then why not a canary? Or something manageable within a cage? He ran about our orchid, among the orange trees and would ram people. I christened him Ramsy. And so Ramsy he was. After he had thoroughly bruised my mother with me behind her, and my girlfriends and I (along with everybody else) would walk about the orchid in fear of being plowed down, it was decided perhaps a ewe would be of benefit to him.
So, Ramsy was given Sparkle (I named her as well, it was the mid 80s), a matching gift from the staff. Ramsey chased Sparkle around and around the orchard. I remember Sparkle running as fast as she could, along the hollowed brown gate surrounding the orchard with its trees of lemon, grapefruit, cashew nut and orange. Behind her would be Ramsy. Sparkle was pregnant soon enough. Then one morning, I walked out to the orchard, in those pinafore dresses they had with the elastic over the front in an empire waste fashion. It was the dry season as the day was filled with a hot golden sunshine, and a sticky scent of citrus and African earth waved through the air. The gardner was digging a very large rectangle. Next to the grave lay Sparkle. There was blood and I remember the sweet, pungent smell of death. The gardener told me she had been too young. I knew what he meant. The lamb had not survived either.
So, I knew death. To know someone who has died and to know death are two different things. I felt sad and it felt unfair, but I did not deeply mourn for Sparkle. I had never loved her. In the West, death is clean. Death is somewhere else. But not in Africa. The next day, I came back to the grave. Fresh earth had covered the scent of demise and the newly laid, broken ground held a silence unto itself.
There was one moment when I did mourn. It was years later, and my best friend Karine and I were on the beach of Conakry, Guinea. It was a rocky, polluted area that we were forbidden to go. But being eight year old girls, Karine and I somehow, never always listened to what we were told to do. It was not dirty in the sense of trash strewn everywhere, but the water was not clean enough to swim in. We walked along, and talked and as it began to rain, I noticed a large grey dog. He looked like an Irish Wolfhound. The tide was rising and the dog was on a tiny island of rocks, between the waves and the shoreline. The waves grew higher and began to wash over the dog's legs.
At this time there was a group of school aged boys. They were throwing stones at the dog. Big ones. I shouted at them to go away. They ignored me. They were told by Karine, to go. The waves were getting even higher and the rain came down. The sky was as grey as the dog.
Then, my heart dropped into the bottom of my stomach as I realized they were going to kill it. I could hear the hollowed sound of the rocks hitting the dog and saw the waves washing over it. I ran across the soft purple-grey stones of the beach, through the black back yard gate and around the side of the bungalow crying, back to the servants of my friend as they were sitting in the garden shaded from the rain, and begged them. Go they are killing the dog. Please go. I pointed as the crow flies, back to the ocean, to where the adults should be to make it better. They laughed at me. "Look at that white girl caring for a dog," Karine's maid said, as she bent over in hysterics. My utmost tragedy was their comedy central.
Nothing. I returned to the beach on my own. Karine was still there. She was stoic. There was no dog now. Karine said he had gotten to shore but they kicked him back, a couple of times. I walked the shoreline and I could swear I heard a sad whine that was not of the waves. But I could not find the dog.
Karine's father returned and wanted to know, what she and I were thinking going to the beach on our own in the first place. We had always been forbidden to do this. But we had. And I mourned that dog's death more than I had ever mourned anything. It was not natural. There was no need for it. The shore had been right there. The dog could swim just fine.
The servants were in trouble, as well for their response. But this time, there was no earth to cover. There was no comfort of an objective gardner to give to a little girl. The waves would take the dog with them in time.
Our family's maids would laugh at me for how much I could eat, as I would come to the kitchen for meals so often I could have been a cartoon character. But that evening, I had no appetite. I could not stop hearing the gasping, dying whine and the sound of the relentless ocean waves, oblivious salty waters. I stared down at my dinner as if I had never seen food before, and tried not to cry. After dinner, my mother took me in her lap and said, in between puffs of cigarette, "It is a harsh country that makes for hard people and the animals fare no better." I understood her logic, but it brought little comfort. (The life expectancy for the average Guinean at the time was 42 years at the most). Yet that night, I was given Henry and Ribsy by Beverly Cleary, among a pile of books we had recently gotten. It was an old library copy with a yellow cover and the picture of a dog with a boy, in 1950s style illustration. Ribsy is a worn down dog, whose ribs show and he is found and given a home by Henry. I devoured that book. Curled up on the couch, the world regained order.
Two years later I was given The Yearling for Christmas. And as melancholy as losing that grey dog was, The Yearling is sadder. It knocks Black Beauty out of the park. It's as if there is some unspoken rule that a tale must never be too tragic. There are tragic characters, but they are rarely the main ones. Rawlings ignores this rule and she provides no answers as to why. Perhaps this is what granted the novel its popularity, for whatever a person may have been through in life, The Yearling is somehow sadder.
As an adult I realized how much loneliness centered within the lives of all Rawlings' characters living within the world of late 1800s northern Florida. A country of farmers and hunters who live off the land, but not with it. Man is an animal with a gun in a spanish moss decorated forrest filled with wild life. Jody Baxter, is part of this setting. He goes to the creek and makes a flutter mill upon the shallow, slow moving waters. He lives in a small three room house, with his father, Penny and his mother, Ory. Penny is smaller than Ory, and why he choose her for a wife is not certain, but he did:
"Sich doin's! Nobody acted that-a-way when I were a gal."
"No," Penny said, "I was the only one wanted you."
She lifted the broom in pretended threat.
"But sugar," he said, "the rest just wasn't smart as me."
Ory lost a few children to rural living and the travails of the time. But Jody survived. A wide eyed boy with one friend, Fodder-wing Forrester, a neighbor who is a cripple and dies, but not before naming Jody's new found friend and playmate, Flag.
Penny was bit by a rattle snake while on a hunt, and he lives by shooting a doe, cutting out her organs and using them to draw poison from his own blood. The doe had a fawn who becomes Jody's Flag, as his white turned up tail is like a flag.
The Baxter's home is sparse, but Jody has never been starved. Never beaten. He goes on hunts with Penny and learns the ways of farming. The men all live bound on what nature provides. If they need to eat they go out and hunt. But they also hunt for sport. As if all that is natural will always come out of nowhere, continuously and forever. Men are animals competing with animals for food and space. But men have guns they can kill easily and repeatedly with in a way other animals cannot do to them in turn.
Jody, sensitive and thoughtful, is raised to be a man such as these men. There are no other examples. Penny, is better than most and contemplates unnecessary killings of wolves, but in the end he helps to kill off the last wolf himself so as not to be outdone by neighbors, who kill and capture at will and for profit.
Jody's best friend is Flag. The two play together and wherever Jody is, there is Flag to be found soon enough, prancing along and butting his un-horned head at imaginary enemies. Both are yearlings, growing up side by side. But there are premonitions that Flag's life is in jeopardy when it becomes clear he does not understand the difference between forrest foliage and the Baxter's plantings. The Baxter's survive on their crop. Hours and days of labor go into their yield. And when Flag%
Anna Sewell's only novel is one of eternal morality. The story of a handsome, well-bred as well as good natured horse and his journey through Victorian Era Britain.
Black Beauty, originally named Darkie, is born a dark colored colt with a white starred forehead, into a household of fair wealth, "the first place that I can well remember was a large pleasant meadow with a pond of clear water in it." His mother's name is Duchess, and she was a favorite of the master's. He called her, "Pet."
When Darkie is caught by his mother running, kicking and biting with other colts of the field, she whinnies him to her side and explains to her son, that his play mates are cart horse colts and they are not of the most mannered variety. She tells him, "I hope you will grow up gentle and good, and never learn bad ways: do your work with a good will, lift your feet up well when you trot, and never bite or kick, even in play."
At the age of four Darkie, receives his breaking in. He is in a very good place with a kind and sensible master, but still, he is disconcerted by the bit in his mouth and finds the weight of his master upon his back quite odd indeed. But he is coaxed and petted to quell the shock of the change. Darkie is also trained to become used to man's machines, such as trains, so he will not have to fear nor fret when at a station. Soon before their parting Darkie's mother gives him advice to last a lifetime:
There are a great many kinds of men; there are good, thoughtful men like our master, that any horse may be proud to serve; and there are bad, cruel men, who never ought to have a horse or a dog to call their own. Besides, there are a great many foolish men, vain, ignorant and careless, who never trouble themselves to think, these spoil more horses than all, just for want of sense; they don't mean it, but they do it for all that. I hope you will fall into good hands; but a horse never knows who may buy him, or who may drive him; it is all a chance for us; but still I say, do your best wherever it is, and keep up your good name.
Soon Darkie finds himself within the luxury of a lose box at Squire Gordon's estate. His stable mates are Merry Legs and Ginger. Merry Legs is a pert, tubby, plucky little grey dappled pony who is a fair favorite with children. Ginger is a tall chestnut beauty with a vigorous temper and a good heart.
It is here, Darkie is named Black Beauty, and he is again in a good place, with practical and compassionate owners. His one wish is for liberty. To run and roll upon meadow grass as he used to when a colt. He dislikes the steel bit, the straps and only being let out of his stall when he is needed. Though, every Sunday, the family would walk to Church and the horses would be let free for exercise in a large pleasant meadow.
"It was a great treat for us to be turned out into the home paddock or the old orchard; the grass was so cool and soft to our feet, the air so sweet, and the freedom to do as we liked was so pleasant - gallop, to lie down, and roll over on our backs, or to nibble the sweet grass. Then it was a very good time for talking, as we stood together under the shade of the large chestnut tree."
As the times in the orchard and meadow allowed the horses room for conversation, it was in this manner Black Beauty learned about Ginger's upbringing. Within Ginger's past were some reasonable caretakers, but also many abusers. Including those so very fond of the check reign, a strap that runs from the harness, directly upon the horse's neck and attaches to the back of its head. The tighter the reign, the higher the horse's head.
Check reigns were in fashion among a variety of classes, during the period, and such fashion caused much distress and suffering for the horse. Ginger rails against ill treatment and the check reign. Black Beauty's owners have never used it, so he has as of yet no personal knowledge of having his head and neck forced up. Ginger describes men as "brutes" and "blockheads" which many can be, but Merry Legs turns the sour mood around by reminding all of the good masters they have now.
But, such peace and quality of life pleasantries were not to last as the mistress of the household becomes direly ill. The estate is broken up as the master and mistress depart to a more temperate climate in desperate hopes, the change in environment will remedy the lady's declining health. The horses are given to friends. Merry Legs is never to be sold as per agreement. Black Beauty and Ginger are placed with the Earl of W- at Earlshall Park, a much wealthier estate than their former home. Here the mistress is fond of the check reign and insists upon its use despite warning regarding Ginger's temper.
One morning the mistress demands the reigns to be up far too tightly and Ginger lashes out, kicking her way out of the carriage harness. Black Beauty, now named Black Auster, is accidently kicked in the bargain and the lady misses the Duchess's garden party. All for the check reign.
Many ill treatments of the horses come from knowing ignorance such as use of the check reign or else from over exhausted systems, exemplified by low rung cab drivers who can hardly care for themselves, much less the horses. And the horses are never preferred above people.
Black Auster is sold from the Earl of W-'s estate, when his knees are broken by a drunken rider and the hair burned off as part of the medical treatment. The look of his knees causes him to fall into the middle class. He is first sold as a job horse. A client of the renting stable, takes a liking to Black Auster's quality and recommends him to a friend of his, Mr. Barry, a businessman whose doctor has recommended he take on a horse for exercise. Beauty would likely have had a well off home with Mr. Barry as the accommodations of the businessman's stables were sound including food of high quality. But his new owner had the misfortune of hiring two irresponsible grooms in a row; one who stole corn and the other time, by being lazy and not cleaning out the stall. So, in disgust and likely embarrassment, Mr. Barry sold the horse.
Beauty then finds a home in the city of London, with a good natured middle rung cab driver with a kind family. He is worked very hard, as all cab horses are, but is treated well. On passing, Beauty sees Ginger again. She is used up as a low cab horse and no longer fights for herself anymore. Her wind had been ruined by the check reign and she kept being sold lower down, until she found herself reaching for a piece of straw that had blown from Beauty's feed. She recognizes Beauty, but he cannot believe it is her at first, as she is now a tired creature, with buckling joints and glazed, empty eyes that are hoping for death. She does not kick or jump when she is mistreated anymore, as men are stronger. She was a beautiful, hard working horse, who did the best she could. They speak for a little while but then Ginger is pulled away. Shortly after, Beauty sees a dead chestnut horse in a cart. It has a long thin neck and blood runs out of its mouth. Beauty hopes it to be Ginger. He laments, "I saw a great deal of trouble among the horses in London, and much of it that might have been prevented with a little common sense."
Beauty's owner Jerry, eventually became too ill from the strain of a cab driver's life, contracting bronchitis, to run a cab on his own anymore. Beauty is now about 13 years of age. He is still a fine looking horse but for the knees, still he is not who he used to be. At yet another horse market, Beauty comes upon the uncommon good fortune of being bought by a fair man who fixed up Beauty with kindness and care to sell him to ladies in need of a calm, trustworthy horse. His new stable boy is Joe Green, who used to work at Squire Gordan's. Beauty is never to be sold, and he says, "My troubles are all over, and I am at home; and often before I am quite awake, I fancy I am still in the orchard at Birtwick, standing with my old friends under the apple trees."
By Sarah Bahl
The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton is a novel of Victorian sensibility, a magnifying glass upon an age and time, belonging to a people who valued society above all. Considered one of Wharton's finest works and winner of the Pulitzer Prize, the novel held the last remnants of New York's dying leisure class, to a mirror, revealing the time for what it was, when people lived their lives within the bound of unspoken musings of the heart.
Their testaments and yearnings were never so vulgar as to be stated outright. And despite all the articulations of the age, there was a quiet hindrance to all emotive needs. For these reasons it was the age of innocence.
Wharton greatly admired her contemporary, Henry James and it is as if her prize winning novel perfectly juxtaposes The Wings of the Dove. Her writing style is as modernly succinct as his is prose-like and it is Wharton's perfectly sad Countess Olenska who fills the role of the dove, so lacking in Jame's works.
The question arises, as to how a dove should make herself situated among societal factors of New York's finest. "On a January evening of the early seventies, Christine Nilsson was singing in Faust at the Academy of Music in New York," and on this January day "poor Ellen Olenska" as she is known in her family surfaces through the fixed mechanisms of conservatives who cherish their opera house for its, "shabby red and gold boxes," not because they could not afford new boxes but because a modernized Opera House would likely be more convenient for, "new people."
The house's homey and elegant quaintness turns its back on the modern, making itself a fine fit for Newland Archer, who "leaning against the wall at the back of the club box" with a serene sense of vanity, surveyed not so much the stage, with its unusually beautiful setting; but rather his fixation lay within the Mingott's family box directly across from him.
"Mrs. Lovell Mingott, and her daughter, Mrs. Welland; and slightly withdrawn behind these brocaded matrons sat a young girl in white with eyes ecstatically fixed on the stage lovers." The girl in white, May Welland; grand-daughter of Mrs. Manson Mingott (who is too obese to attend the opera, but rathers to entertain at home) is simple and elegant in appearance. Gazing at the lover's scene below with one white hand tenderly caressing her bouquet of lilies of the valley.
May, Archer's fiancée, is the center of his focus. The inspiring scenes of Faust are a blurred nodding toward artful detail as Newland returns his gaze to the stage. Newland's balanced world of comfortably luminated sensibilities is tipped to a side, when Larry Lefferts, who, "was, on the whole, the foremost authority of 'form' in New York," exclaims, " 'My God!' and silently handed his glass to Sillerton Jackson," due to the venerable point, upon which the balance of Newland's new orbit is to now be pinioned on.
Countess Olenska had taken her seat and waits for her potential executioners to give a thumbs up or thumbs down. Lefferts, the foremost authority gave a thumbs down with, "I didn't think the Mingotts would have tried it on."
Ellen Olenska, cousin to Newland's fiancée, has had the horrifying Victorian luck of a poor marriage. To have had a less than virtuous matrimonial partnership is one matter. To actually reveal the propensity to lack self blame in public for it is quite another. Yet, there she was with her grave eyes daring to reveal the firm judgement she was being sifted through. As if the cannibals of the opera could eat her soul but found it tasteless for her countenance and features to reveal their taste for blood.
As family is family Newland's ultimate defense was to protect Countess Olenska. And so Archer left his box at the end of the act and made his way to find a place at her side. "Her glance swept the horse shoe curve of boxes. ‘Ah how this brings it all back to me - I see everybody here in knickerbockers and pantalettes!' she said, with her trailing slightly foreign accent, her eyes returning to his face."
Besides, there is never anything more charming to a man than a woman in an undefined position who does not care that she is so. Such was the twilight charm of Ellen Olenska. There is something pure about twilight. It is neither here nor there and its undefined state of essence brings to mind that nothing is so beautiful as that which is imagined.
Newland defends Ellen earnestly from societal retribution while at various dinner parties, including his sister's snide, as well as invasive, comments that Ellen should be named Elaine as Elaine is more elegant;
“ ‘It’s odd,” Janey remarked, ‘that she should have kept such an ugly name as Ellen. I should have changed it to Elaine.’ She glanced about the table to see the effect of this.
Her brother laughed. ‘Why Elaine?’
‘I don’t know; it sounds more-more Polish,” said Janey blushing.
‘It sounds more conspicuous and that can hardly be what she wishes,’ said Mrs. Archer distantly.
‘Why not?’ broke in her son, growing suddenly argumentative. ‘Why shouldn’t she be conspicuous if she chooses? Why should she slink about as if it were she who had disgraced herself?’ ”
He states that even if Ellen has had the fortune of an unhappy life, this is no reason for her to be an outcast. Yet, eventually Newland himself is guilty of setting up Ellen to be a low-life’s mistress rather than a reasonable man’s wife when he persuades her not to seek full divorce in order to preserve the family reputation. Ellen, who remains objectively disenchanted with her life carries on with a melancholy dignity that transposes time. She takes hansom rides with men, who are not her husband, in the middle of the afternoon, does not answer to her people of fashion as she feels they have not answered to her, and never seems to do anything truly mean to anyone else, as if innately incapable of cruelty. Ellen cannot seem to escape a double edge sword’s cut regarding her marriage, and it is as if her best defense is to become the perfect shade of grey.
Newland Archer, a lawyer of high society, a man of more talented propensity than most of his contemporaries was always on the verge of something truly great. Newland makes friends with those who are on the fringes of society but yet are somehow welcomed at its most advanced tables. And among these ornamental threads, Newland seems to find the most intact connections; such as Monsieur Riviere,
“That young tutor is an interesting fellow: we had some awfully good talk after dinner about books and things,” Newland said to May, while they are both riding in a hansom on their way back from a dinner party shortly into their marriage.
“The little Frenchman? Wasn’t he dreadfully common?” said May of M. Riviere. And by common, it is meant by May, “not unusually rich.” Many of their disputes are settled when May rejects a friend of Newland's as "common." But it is M. Riviere; Newland has the most in common with of anyone within the novel. Both men love conversation and are always standing tip toe on a precipice of a moment higher, “You see Monsieur,” M. Riviere said to Newland during the dinner party, “it’s worth everything, isn’t it, to keep one’s intellectual liberty, not to enslave one’s powers of appreciation, one’s critical independence?”
And it is M. Riviere who turns to Newland, years later to beg him to protect Ellen from returning to her monster of a husband. M. Riviere could not impede upon a closed sensibility toward divorce, but he did his utmost to keep Ellen’s family from forcing her to return to some vague beast of a man, known to be Count Olenska. M. Riviere held not personal gain from his protections toward Ellen. It was just that he, more than any man, eternally kept both taste and form folded at the corners as handkerchiefs within the pockets of his faded suit coat.
Newland married society and was swept away by its flow. He had a son and a daughter by May and when she passed away he honestly mourned her. Though now at the age of 57 Newland has a chance to meet Ellen once more, while on a trip through Europe with his son. They could talk as there is nothing like good conversation. But Newland cannot. Perhaps he needed someone or something in his life to be pure, as the yellow rose of friendship placed upon the threshold of eternity. For whatever reason, he sits on a bench outside of Ellen's abode and instructs his perplexed son, Dallas, "Say I'm old fashioned: that's enough." And so Dallas goes to see Ellen without his father. Newland remains on the bench, and it is not until the shutters are put up as the street has darkened from dusk to night, that he gets up and walks back to his hotel alone. Ellen remains a dove in the twilight, as if the background to a painting never fully completed but wondrous in its own right all the same.
"Come, own up: you and she were great pals weren't you? Wasn't she most awfully lovely?"
"Lovely? I don't know. She was different."
By Sarah Bahl