Today is the Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time. We have no Saints today to honor, but on this date in 1845 Edgar Allan Poe’s poem “The Raven” was published in the New York Evening Mirror.
Poe claimed to have written the poem very logically and methodically; his intention was to create a poem that would appeal to both critical and popular tastes, as he explained in his 1846 follow-up essay to the poem titled “The Philosophy of Composition”. His description of its writing is probably after the fact and exaggerated, though the essay does serve as an important overview of Poe’s literary theory. He explained that every component of the poem \was based on logic: the raven enters the chamber to avoid a storm (the “midnight dreary” in the “bleak December”), and its perch on a pallid white bust was to create visual contrast against the dark black bird. No aspect of the poem was an accident, he claimed, but was based on total control by the author. Even the term “Nevermore”, he said, was used because of the effect created by the long vowel sounds (though Poe may have been inspired to use the word by the works of Lord Byron or Henry Wadsworth Longfellow). The poem’s publication (and the publication of the subsequent essay) made Poe widely popular in his lifetime though it did not bring him much financial success; he was paid $9.00 by the Evening Mirror. Many parodies promptly sprang into print; Abraham Lincoln first knew of the poem via a parody titled “The Pole-Cat”, though he later read the actual poem and memorized it. Poe’s original gravesite at Baltimore’s Westminster Hall and Burying Ground (once visited by the Poe Toaster each year) is marked by a stone which includes the epitaph, “Quote the Raven Nevermore”. (I love the poem, but I do object to the lines “Then, methought, the air grew denser, perfumed from an unseen censer / Swung by seraphim whose foot-falls tinkled on the tufted floor.” If a “tufted floor” is a carpet, how can foot-falls tinkle upon it?)
When I woke up this morning, my stomach was very upset, and I called in. Richard went to work and worked his eight hours on the second Mississippi Stud table. I woke up at 11:45 am, did my Book Devotional Reading, then read the morning papers and ate my lunch salad. Our LSU Lady Tigers (14-6, 3-4) are playing an Away College Basketball game with the Arkansas Lady Razorbacks (13-6, 2-4), and our New Orleans Pelicans (19-28, 2-6) will be playing a Home NBA game with the Washington Wizards (26-20, 5-5); I will record the scores of both games in tomorrow’s Daily Update. Once I finish this Daily Update, I will take a bath and continue reading The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything: A Spirituality for Real Life by James Martin before going to bed.
Tomorrow is another day without Saints, but it is the anniversary of The Beatles’ last public performance in 1969, on the rooftop of Apple Records. With any luck, I will be able to go to work tomorrow with Richard; on my breaks I will continue reading Gathering Blue by Lois Lowry via Overdrive on my tablet. In the afternoon I will set myself to repairing some jewelry.
Our Parting Quote this Sunday afternoon comes to us from Colleen McCullough, Australian author. Born in 1937 in Wellington, New South Wales, her father was of Irish descent and her mother was a New Zealander of part-Māori descent. During her childhood, the family moved around a great deal and she was also “a voracious reader”. They eventually settled in Sydney where she attended Holy Cross College, Woollahra, having a strong interest in both science and the humanities. Before her tertiary education, McCullough earned a living as a teacher, librarian and journalist. In her first year of medical studies at the University of Sydney she suffered dermatitis from surgical soap and was told to abandon her dreams of becoming a medical doctor. Instead, she switched to neuroscience and worked at Royal North Shore Hospital in Sydney. In 1963 McCullough moved for four years to the United Kingdom; at the Great Ormond Street Hospital in London she met the chairman of the neurology department at Yale University who offered her a research associate job at Yale. She spent ten years from April 1967 to 1976 researching and teaching in the Department of Neurology at the Yale Medical School in New Haven, Connecticut, United States. It was while at Yale that she wrote her first book, Tim (1974); The Thorn Birds (1977), became an international best seller that in 1983 was turned into one of the most watched television mini-series of all time. The success of these books enabled her to give up her medical-scientific career and to try to “live on her own terms”. In the late 1970s, after stints in London and Connecticut, she settled on the isolation of Norfolk Island, off the coast of mainland Australia, where she met her husband, Ric Robinson. They married in 1984. Under his birth name Cedric Newton Ion-Robinson, he was a member of the Norfolk Legislative Assembly, and changed his name formally to Ric Newton Ion Robinson in 2002. In 1984 a portrait of McCullough, painted by Wesley Walters, was a finalist in the Archibald Prize; the prize is awarded for the “best portrait painting preferentially of some man or woman distinguished in Art, Letters, Science or Politics”. The depth of historical research she did for her Masters of Rome novels led to her being awarded a Doctor of Letters degree by Macquarie University in 1993. She was appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia on June 12th, 2006, “[f]or service to the arts as an author and to the community through roles supporting national and international educational programs, medico-scientific disciplines and charitable organisations and causes”. McCullough’s 2008 novel The Independence of Miss Mary Bennet engendered controversy with her reworking of characters from Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. In 2011 she wrote her memoir, Life Without the Boring Bits. Her final book Bittersweet was published in 2013 and she had been working on a sequel when she died. She was buried on Norfolk Island, among the descendants of the Bounty mutineers (died 2015): “I went to town with five pounds to buy an overcoat, and I saw a Blue Bird portable typewriter for five pounds so I bought that instead.”