The Hay Wain

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Constable, The Hay Wain (1821). Oil on canvas, 130.2 x 185.4 cm. National Gallery, London

When this most famous of paintings was researched

This is a rural scene on the River Stour between the counties of Essex and Suffolk in England. Constable’s masterpiece depicts the central feature of three horses pulling a hay-wain (which is a cart) across a stream, with Willy Lott’s cottage on the left.

This breathtaking painting is part of Constable’s “six-footer” series which he did specifically for the Royal Academy, while the oil sketch for this piece is now in the V & A.

The Hay Wain was originally intended as classical landscape to represent the cycles of nature, hence the alternative name “Landscape: Noon” which was changed when the nickname gathered pace and became popular.

Nowadays, The Hay Wain is considered one of Britain’s best loved paintings, but originally it failed to find a buyer when exhibited in the Royal Academy; and as such, the picture was much better received in the Paris Salon; thus, helping to inspire a new generation of French artists!

The site where Constable painted this is now a lovely part of the world and rightly a tourist attraction!


Jazz Age Great Gatsby Scott Fitzgerald new Orleans Jay Gatz Ernest Hemingway

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Scott Fitzgerald’s most famous and celebrated classic is The Great Gatsby.

He was expelled from college for neglecting his studies having just had an article published in the school magazine, though Fitzgerald still made it to Princeton University.

Not making any money in New York, Scott enlisted into the army, serving for a short time in the First World War.

The Fitzgeralds were plagued by financial difficulties throughout their lives, mainly because of a lavish lifestyle Scott had with Zelda his wife, both living way beyond their means. She was mentally ill and he drank too much, effectively living the life of so many of Fitzgerald’s fictional characters.

However Zelda, who was in and out of institutions most of her adult life was a ballet dancer, painter and extremely good writer having Save Me the Waltz published in 1932 while in the sanatorium.

Fitzgerald’s actual name was Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald named after his distant cousin who wrote “The Star Spangled Banner” which is the US national anthem and Fitzgerald was also a first cousin of one of the members of Abraham Lincoln’s assassination team.

The Great Gatsby was published in 1925 and is about Jay Gatz, a bootlegging gangster who moves to New York to impress a rich girl with his new found wealth. It still is widely regarded as a masterpiece of American Literature.

The Jazz Age in the booming 20s was a highly influential time for Scott. He became friends with Ernest Hemingway, visiting him in Paris and spent time on the French Riviera as part of the expatriate community.

Scott hated Hollywood but had to rely on it for an income, working on scripts to make some money when they returned from Europe only to be hit by the Great Depression beginning in 1929 with the Wall Street Crash.

When Scott married Zelda in 1920, they stayed in the Biltmore Hotel but were asked to leave because of the raucous parties they held, just like Jay Gatsby did.

It was a time of prohibition but there seemed to be no deficit on alcohol in the Fitzgerald family! “There are no second acts in American lives” and “Her voice is full of money” are two very famous quotes of Scott Fitzgerald as well as the expression Jazz Age, coined by him referring to the boom period after the First World War and before the the Stock Market Crash of 1929.

It was a time of white hedonism fuelled by predominantly black jazz music and dance which had originated in New Orleans. Its success had now spread across the states with mainstream radio being so popular.

Zelda survived Scott by 8 years and they rest in peace at the same plot in Maryland, with daughter Scottie.

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Equestrian Portrait of Charles I

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 Van Dyck, Equestrian Portrait of Charles I (1637). Oil on canvas, 367 x 292 cm. National Galley, London

Where this painting was executed

After King James I, came King Charles I who was executed shortly after this painting (was executed) by artist Anthony van Dyck!

Charles is wearing a medallion of Garter Sovereign (which is the highest rank of chivalry) and he was probably leading his knights, who are following behind, and also wearing armor.

This is an elegant picture of both landscape and portrait, using a wonderful horse with a notably small head.

The king is wearing armour and on our right is a pageboy, thus, van Dyck makes Charles 1st a heroic, philosopher-king being shown in charge with baton and sword; the medallion also represents wisdom.

This painting was completed when Scotland and England had become one as Great Britain, thus van Dyck was inspired by Titian’s equestrian portrait of a Roman emperor, and Albrecht Durer had done a similar engraving.

Charles I was seen on horseback in art often, partly to increase his stature, thus there is a statue in Trafalgar Square similar to this picture.

When the Royal Collection was dispersed under the Commonwealth, this painting was acquired by the National Gallery in 1885.


Winnie Pooh Tigger Eeyore Piglet AA Milne Royal Literary Fund Hundred Acre Wood

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Alan Alexander Milne was a playwright before Pooh overshadowed everything he had already done and he adapted The Wind in the Willows, by Kenneth Graham to the stage as Toad of Toad Hall.

A mathematician at Cambridge and taught by HG Wells at high school, AA Milne worked on the student magazine Granta, became assistant editor of Punch magazine and was a screenwriter for the British film industry.

Milne served in both the world wars and wrote comical plays to lift the morale of the troops. Marrying Dorothy who he met working for Punch in 1913, they had one son called Christopher Robin Milne.  In 1923, the first children’s poem – Vespers – published in Vanity Fair magazine, featured Christopher Robin for the first time.

Milne’s most famous book is about a bear and his adventures in the woods which was followed by House at Pooh Corner, though he did write adult literature as well such as the detective story The Red House Mystery which was better received on the other side of the Atlantic.

Publishers were pressuring Alan Alexander for more children’s stories because this was where the money was, though Milne was reluctant to be typecast as a children’s writer and enjoyed the diversity of screen writing, stage plays, articles, poetry and non fiction.

Winnie the Pooh was named after Christopher Robin Milne’s stuffed teddy bear originally called Edward, which is on display at the New York Public Library. Winnie is a Canadian black bear from Winnipeg given to London Zoo by a soldier and Pooh was a swan.

The woods Pooh Bear plays in are Ashdown Forest in Sussex. The Hundred Acre Wood is a smaller version of the 500 actual acres and Pooh-sticks was played on the River Medway near Cotchford Farm by Christopher Robin Milne, when he was a child.

House at Pooh Corner was published in 1928 and illustrated by EH Shepard. This is when we meet Tigger, the infamous bouncing tiger who was immortalised in the Disney films. The house is what Piglet and Pooh Bear build for Eeyore. It is suggested in this sequel that Christopher Robin is growing up when the inhabitants of the Hundred Acre Wood throw him a farewell party at the end implying that he is off to boarding school.

AA Milne retired to his farm in Cotchford and died in 1956 after having a stroke and brain surgery. Royalties from Disney’s movies of Pooh Bear all go to the Royal Literary Fund.

Seaport Embankment

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Claude, Seaport Embankment (1648). Oil on canvas 149 x 196 cm. National Gallery, London

Where this seaport is located

The full title for this painting is Seaport with the Embarkation of the Queen of Sheba. 

Claude Lorrain is aka Claude Gellee. Depicting the Queen of Sheba leaving to see King Solomon in Jerusalem according to the First Book of Kings.

Her city has has Classical buildings with morning sun lighting up the sea, and the vessels are being loaded up. To the right there is a group of people; thus, the steps and left column intersect at the line of perspective and the Queen herself is wearing a colorful cloak with crown on, ready to board the ship.

There are two other ships one on the vanishing point with the sun between them.

This is one of the first paintings the National Gallery ever acquired back in 1824 and was a huge inspiration to Turner and his version, which was left as part of the Turner Bequest on condition it was hung next to Claude!


Death of a Salesman Arthur Miller Crucible Salem Witch Hunt American Dream

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Arthur Miller’s family lost everything in the Wall Street Crash of 1929, having been successful retailers and very wealthy. He was born in Manhattan, studied journalism and English at Michigan University where Miller began a drama career that he was involved with for the rest of his long and fulfilled life.

In 1940 Miller married the daughter of an insurance salesman and their son Robert went on to produce the 1996 film version of the Miller play, The Crucible.

The Crucible is Arthur Miller’s most frequently produced play nowadays and depicts a group of young women being accused of witchcraft and held on suspicion of practising magic.

Willy Loman is a little man destroyed by the pressures of modern life in Death of a Salesman which opened in Philadelphia in 1949 and is Arthur Miller’s most famous character.

Death of a Salesman won the Pulitzer Prize and a Tony. It is a modern day tragedy play depicting the downfall of an ordinary man, like that of a great man in the traditional Ancient Greek or Shakespearean format.

In the McCarthy anti-communist witch hunt of 1956 when Arthur Miller had to testify, he refused to name people he knew who could have been communists and was held in contempt of Congress. This spurred him to write The Crucible about the Salem witch trials of New England in 1692.

Miller’s marriage to Marilyn Monroe in 1956 was a surprise to many and the intellectual partnered with screen goddess was perhaps doomed from the start. Miller then met Inge on the set of the Misfits, starring Marilyn Monroe and written by himself.

Oscar winning actor, Daniel Day-Lewis is Arthur Miller’s son in law and starred in the most recent movie version of The Crucible, with Winona Ryder to which Miller did the screenplay.

Arthur Miller campaigned against the Vietnam War and the freedom of dissident writers, meaning he had his productions banned in the Soviet Union.

The legacy for Arthur Miller is surely that on any one day, somewhere in the world his work is being performed.

Even at the age of 80, this great playwright won the prestigious Olivier Award in the UK where he was also much loved and admired, for Broken Glass.

Arthur Miller was an old fashioned liberal who never accepted the American Dream at face value and is perhaps the most successful dramatist ever to have graced Broadway. He has been deeply missed since 2005 when he passed away aged 89.

Classical Drama

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Sophocles by Plato is a play that begins with a description of Bassae: “high on a mountainside”

The Bassae Temple in Greece, represents perhaps the beginning of civilization, where savagery and cannibalism were first officially defeated.

The frieze at Bassae tells us this much (with its sculpting) partly about the isolated mountain location of such a large temple, and this theme is part of the above mentioned tragedy by Plato, who blended violence with harmony, just like the frieze of the Bassae Temple.

Right under the world we have learned of Classics, is this primitive nature, opposing cultural beginnings. Ancient Greece is well known in the arts for this, thus inspiration came from stories passed down about Apollo, acting upon orders from Zeus, who lead the Greeks.

Eric Robertson Dodds was an Irish Classical scholar and liked to show the wild side of Classics and the Greek culture. It was clearly made up of primitive elements which we often see in the tragedy plays so often emulated even today.

Beyond the well known myths in the artwork of Hercules fighting the Amazons, there is the brutal truth about ancient culture and the inhumanity of that way of life. There were some horrific tragedy plays that survived from the ancient world; hence, many were taught on the Greek curriculum: Sophocles, Aeschylus and Euripides were popular.

As far, and as wide as Egypt, Syria and India, the knowledge of this was apparent, whereas only the elite were lucky enough to be taught about Greek culture.

Tragedy maintained order in society, and this reverberates through the plays of ancient times. Powerful scripts in Greek tragedies communicate sheer terror and commanded huge audiences back then and still now, due to the success of fusing violence with poetry.

Sophocles is a play about a corrupt family. Sophocles himself was involved with a curse of murder, incest, suicide, plague, civil war and he must escape from this; along side that we have a collection of entertaining scenes: dancing, singing, comedy, romance and formal speech, to name but a few!

These famous texts appeared like energy from an ancient city. The culture of Greece had to be reproduced on stage like the festivals offered to the Greek gods – back in the day – and people would unwind by watching Dionysus, at the Acropolis, near the Parthenon.

Thebes was the enemy city of Athens. Drama had become an institution and religious ceremonies were now like theatrical performances; thus competitions with prizes were funded by wealthy members of society, and huge entertainment attractions to the citizens.

Female roles had to be played by men and almost everyone went to see the performances which toured right across Europe.

When Aristotle tutored Alexander the Great, it was only a matter of time before the most important piece of literary criticism ever known appeared, separating politics from the arts, and connecting the stage to the audience; thus, turning one into the other. What was it?

Tragedy went well with democracy so it appeared. Athens failed to win the Peloponnesian War against Sparta which then spiraled towards mob rule.

Thucydides suffered the tyranny and investigated this carefully. Extortion meant huge amounts of genocide and massacre meaning power eventually was handed over to the people; a daring experiment, that is now emulated right across the globe, and called democracy!

Philosophers like Plato for instance, developed the Greek language toward analytical areas: truth, ethics, and rhetoric were but three. This meant the Romans had great respect for them, thus inspiring the whole Western world ever since in a great many ways.

Socrates was practically an actor himself the way he debated in the streets, but Plato and Aristotle dramatized versions of their dialogues – turning them into scripts – and helping to bring this crucial period in time, to life.

However, the way Socrates died was hardly fitting for the ideal of democracy and the way we see it today – even this was dramatised by Plato. His book about justice is “The Republic” and uses a fictional Socrates as the antithesis of justice, to make his points about the ideal political order.

After all how can democracy see fit to execute on of the worlds greatest thinkers?

Two important things did rise out of all this: Athens and Rome surged against their monarchies in search of a better deal which was democarcy; and Latin (rather than Greek) was used in government, law, and education, as Rome took prominence.

Tarquin was expelled by Brutus in an overthrow of the Roman monarchy, and the free republic took over, lasting for hundreds of years.

In Rome the rich aristocratic families were an oligarchy elected by citizens. They had magistrates who reported to the senate, and acted as a permanent advisory board; Julius Caesar poisoned the dictaorship, but was assasinated by a second Brutus with his gang.

Mark Antony stepped up to become Caesar Augustus leading the autocracy in Imperial Rome. He then declared a free republic with elections and justice and magistrates, but this idea was not to last and sadly it very quickly transgressed toward cruelty.

A poem was written about this in 1831 by Edgar Allan Poe, thus part of the 15-line poem called “To Helen” reads such like: On desperate seas long wont to roam, Thy hyacinth hair, thy classic face, Thy Naiad airs have brought me home To the glory that was Greece, And the grandeur that was Rome.”

The lavish lifestyle of the average Roman Emperor means we have the Colosseum and the Pantheon to admire now. Architecture clearly preempting that of Virgil and Horace, who reflected in their poems about the history of Rome, and tell the story of Roman politics changing hands, over time.

According to Tacitus and his history of Rome, it was Cicero who was Rome’s greatest orator, while the nightmare relating to Caesar reverberated across the Western world.

Thomas Jefferson swore by Tacitus and his strong writing, thus the Founding Fathers in the US used Rome as their model: George Washington was Cincinnatus called up from his farm to counsel the chief magistrate in order to save the state from a fate worse than death, before returning to his farm!

Athenian democracy and Roman republic. These are the classical models of politics; thus, both are still reflected around the global community today. For example, Capitol Hill in the United States has senators, just like the one in ancient Rome did and this emulates the republican system as does Marxism; the facism of Mussolini was very similar and many years after Augusta occured just down the road!

Modern nation-states seem to like Athenian democracy, rather than imperial Rome today, but perhaps most blend the two.

Both cities built theatres, but the Romans liked to adapt Greece’s scripts for their own good. Triumphant gladiatroail games were part of Rome rather than Greece; hence, the victorious war generals would climb Capitol Hill to thank their god Jupiter.

Drama has always been in politics and drama is the theatre – or amphitheatre – but which one steals the show when it comes to Classics?

Athenian philosophy will now live forever, but the huge spectacle of a Roman parade will tempt any Hollywood director!

Socrates had a dramtic ending and Augustus rose up.

“All Roads Lead To Rome” apparently, and there is certainly some evidence for this; thus, the cultural beginning of time clearly started with Classics, but do not ‘All These Roads’ however begin in Greece, and finish a long way away?


Tarzan the Ape Man Africa Jungle Edgar Rice Burroughs Pearl Harbour Mowgli Rudyard Kipling

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Edgar Rice Burroughs was from Chicago and created the fictional character Tarzan in 1912. This Ape Man is basically a superhero in the jungle, a boy abandoned in Africa and raised by apes.

Burroughs has a crater on Mars named after him for his science fiction novel John Carter which is about a heroic adventurer in space and there are eleven books in this series. John falls asleep in a cave and wakes up on Mars, beginning the adventure.

Edgar is a descendant from English immigrant Edgar Rice who came to Massachusetts in the 1600s. After several attempts to make it in business, Burroughs turned to writing as a career and his most famous novel has had probably more sequels than any other work of fiction.

Tarzan of the Apes was published in a magazine, then as a book in 1914 and was Edgar Rice’s most successful piece of work after being discharged from the army with a heart problem. It was such a success Burroughs capitalised heavily on the Tarzan phenomenon, selling merchandise, comics, TV and film rights. There a few fictional characters as well known as Tarzan – the name now being far bigger than his creator’s.

All of this made Rice Burroughs a very wealthy man and it was thought his ranch and town in Los Angeles soon got officially named Tarzana, however it was the other way round. Burroughs named his character after his ranch which he bought some time before writing the novel!

Interestingly enough, Edgar married Emma Hulbert on New Year;s Day in the year 1900 and they had three children together.

Jane Goodall was heavily influenced towards her life long fascination with chimpanzees as a result of reading Tarzan of the Apes and Rudyard Kipling’s Mowgli from Jungle Book, was a huge inspiration in the development of the Burrough’s character.

Towards the end of his career, Burroughs published a series of science fiction books about Venus, which seemed fitting having started out with Mars, as well as doing the jungle and the wild west on planet earth.

With the success of his writing career, Burroughs set up his own publishing company in 1923 and began printing his own books. It is called Edgar Rice Burroughs Inc, based in Tarzana, California and managed by his family. He was one of the first to go incorporated which he did for tax reasons.

Edgar Rice Burroughs died in 1950 from his heart problems having survived the attack on Pearl Harbour in Hawaii, where he was living during World War Two and working as a war correspondent.

Classical Art

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Why Pausanias, the God Apollo Epikourios and Bassae were part of a masterplan

The architecture from Arcadia will live forever (with a little restoration) quite possibly!

With the huge bronze statue adorning the place, meant for the roof of the temple – with all its beauty and symmetry – however, (according to Pausanias) this wonderful statue almost hides the sculpted outer part of the building.

So much of the sculpture is missing that attention nowadays has been turned to the frieze, thus, the site has religious interest and purpose for the local community, which is just as important.

Both the architecture of Greek and Roman temples are similar. They are easily recognisable by: the rectangular stone platform, the column in the central chamber, the solid grooves with sculpted marble decor, and the moulded figures in the triangular slope of the eaves. There would also be a statue of the relevant god or goddess facing the entrance.

Mythology itself has its own myth, and that is the colour of the temples. Red, gold and green were the main colours and not sperling marble white sculpture that we might expect. Pure white, romantic vision and perfection encapsulates the ideal, but colour was a big part of ancient decor; that we know, but how much was used is difficult to say.

Some believe whole buildings were swamped with colour, others that colour was just used to enhance the figures. With all the temples being relatively similar in their layouts it was down to the sculptors to give individuality.

Apollo the Helper is the meaning behind The Temple of Apollo Epikourious. According to dialogues there was a sculpted god playing a lyre beside some dancing nymphs at the front overlooking the entrance.

Exterior sculpted work has only survived in fragments due to the elements. In Bassae one column has the remnants of a figure playing a lyre which surely relates to Apollo – it is symbolic of him in many paintings – plus the cloak must be Zeus who was Apollo’s father and is said to have worn a cloak.

Dancing girls with their swirling drapery tell the story of a local legend quite possibly. As the legend goes, Zeus had to hide away in the mountains (at birth) in a cave from Kronos, and attention was distracted by the nurses playing music to mask the crying.

Slowly we have managed to piece the jigsaw back together after the cruel passage of time, and it is clear enough that Arcadia was the centre of the world back then with good old Zeus being the ruler; the procession up the hill would have been noisy, but standing in front of the altar outside the temple and offering sacrifice would have to be in silence while Apollo – apparently – would strum away on his lyre.

Knowledge of Classics has depended partly upon art history as well as literature. The artwork of Bassae may be a result of local legends weaved in and changing the traditional mythology that was standard in Greece; the image of the god or goddess was usually housed inside the temple in a dark chamber, but rituals, offerings and sacrifice were done outside where the altarpiece was usually placed.

The modern reconstruction of Bassae – a 2,500 year old temple – is thought to be pretty accurate.

Half columns inside were used in an ingenious way to make the shrine look bigger, and this made the walls seem distant. The frieze goes all the way round with a Corinthian column in the centre with Bassae thought to be the earliest known example of such design; thus, the Statue of Apollo was behind the column with a perfect view of the mountain countryside.

This statue was four metres high, but was eventually taken in to town for people to adorn it.

It was replaced in the temple with a marble version that was probably draped and left in peace unlike the one in the town. Bassae faces north, though most Greek temples face east, thus the frieze of the inner chamber is the biggest known in Greece.

The statue and the columns draw in the visitors’ attention. The standard plan was no different in Bassae but the variety of design was / is quite unique like the poetry of the ancient world followed similar rules, but innovation was recognisable!

Putting these 23 slabs of marble into order has not been easy especially since they have been removed and transported to a far away place – the UK.

Each slab alone is separate and has its own place in the history of art, so deciphering the big picture has been a huge – but exciting – challenge for archaeologists.

It is agreed generally about the depiction: Hercules is fighting Zeus; and the Amazons are fighting the Centaurs.

Where the first story runs into the second is not quite so easy to tell!

Two scenes leap out: firstly, there is Apollo firing his arrow at a centaur with Artemis on the chariot; and secondly, Hercules is clubbing an Amazon. These were probably the central / focal slabs that occupy the middle of the frieze.

The Parthenon in Athens was designed by the same architect and both have similar central scenes focusing the eye of the beholder and leading it up the column; quite possibly the frieze in Bassae, was like this with Apollo and Artemis high above the main doorway.

These are standard Classical stories that we all know and love from popular culture, but what a way to find them on the hillside shrine of the Bassae Temple sculpted into marble and predating any text or manuscript – now that is primary research into history – thus, these monuments, or what is now left of them, stand as proud as any other, anywhere in the world.

Public sculpture or public art emphasised the importance of these things in society and their solemnity.

The British Museum now parades part of this as a shrine to Classics in general, and has made it available free of charge, for the whole world to see.

Just because these scenes are ubiquitous in Hollywood and such like that doesn’t weaken their significance because it means these myths were big in the culture of the time and links to the religious side of their culture too.

Hercules features in Roman mythology as well. He wears a lion skin and fights the Amazon women – the enemy – with a club.

It has been suggested that the Amazons invaded Greece. Hercules certainly invaded the Amazons to get the queens belt. The question is why did these notorious women need to be defeated?

Women usurping the men. This is an ancient story and part of Classics.

The other story is of a wedding when a centaur grabs the bride, but Apollo and Artemis step in. The idea is believed to be that defeating half-horses and armed females, reflects the basic rules of human society being perverted, hence, defeat means restoration of these basic rules, equating to order in Greek society – perhaps alluding to JUSTICE!

Love and war are the ancient gender roles in society, thus alongside a temple it provides centre-stage for this. Giving divine protection, humans are united with their god at the temple.

Hercules fights for Apollo – according to the lovely frieze – and Apollo sits behind his marble column right up on the hillside looking out over his empire; thus, a frieze mediates the love and war idea being more than just the battles but the artwork too!

Hercules leg is missing though? Back then, 200 years ago the British were criticized for wasting money on this scrap heap!

Bassae is still not as acclaimed as the Parthenon, but both were designed by Iktinos. The fighting is brutally depicted on the frieze, which would have been high above the eye level of the visitor; thus modern culture has certainly been influenced by Classical culture.

Abstract art for instance, evolved quite recently in art history, revitalizes the early Greek sculpture with the stylized abstract forms. Ovid has waxed and waned from deploration to recognition. Virgil appeals to many because of the bravery speaking out against the Roman Empire, which few dared to do. Bassae is a perfect encapsulation of Classical context.

Bassae’s temple setting, the temple’s function, the values of the people visiting it, the literature and art mediating from the frieze, the tragedy played out by it, and scripts written from it to be performed in amphitheaters nearby. This has since been emulated many times by the masters and greats throughout history – Shakespeare being one of them.


Mockingbird Harper Lee Tom Robinson Innocence Racism Alabama

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To Kill a Mocking Bird is Harper Lee’s most famous and only published piece of work. It is about racism witnessed growing up in Alabama for which she won the Pulitzer Prize in 1961.
In the story, innocence is destroyed by evil and the mockingbird represents the idea of innocence. To kill one is to destroy innocence.
Finch tells his children, they can shoot all the blue jays they like, but it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.
This means that blue jays are a bully and a pest but the mockingbird does nothing but sing. Like the accused Robinson a mockingbird is a symbol of innocence in a guilty world.
Gem, Tom, Dill, Boo and Mr Raymond are all mockingbirds – Innocent people who have been in contact with evil. When Tom is shot, Underwood compares it to the senseless slaughter of songbirds. At the end, Scout thinks that hurting Boo Radley would be like “shootin” a mockingbird.
Scout’s surname is Finch – a small bird – suggesting the vulnerability of children in this racist world.
Atticus Finch is a lawyer and defends Tom Robinson against the charge of raping a white girl. The story is told in the first person by a young girl, Scout Finch. She is 6 years old, very intelligent and a tomboy. Many of the locals try to get Atticus to pull out of the trial but he goes ahead.
The jury is all white and a guilty verdict almost certain even though there is a strong case for Tom’s innocence.
The Finch family are slandered for this crusade to help a black man, but Atticus is determined to set a moral example to his children in the hope that they will not emulate this biased society and prejudge on account of race.
Tom, unfortunately was led on by Mayella with her sexual advances and caught by her father. Atticus proves that they are lying, however Tom is still convicted and shot trying to escape from prison.

Nelle Harper Lee was a tomboy as a child like her character Scout and she lived in a cold water only flat in New York when she began writing. At college she became editor of the student magazine, Rammer Jammer, that she also wrote for, like so many accomplished writers started.
Lee continuously refuses to do interviews and public appearances, though she did receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom on 2007 at the White House, which is the highest civilian award available in the US and she now attends an awards ceremony at the University of Alabama for essay writing. She talks to students, signs autographs and appears in photographs with them.

It is thought this story is biographical due to the main theme reflecting an event Harper Lee witnessed in 1936 when she was ten years old.

Classics and Change

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Why this Roman map of Britain has changed over the years

Not everything has survived from ancient times, but the work of Pausanias did, thanks to the scribes, and many scholars have since redrafted much of it ever since the Renaissance.

Thankfully, what we have now relating to Classics is never likely to be lost and there is always the possibility of finding something new hidden away!

Trying to make the texts as authentic as possible so we read them as they did 2000 years ago is a large part of the transcribing process. Scholars compare the different versions from copyists throughout the ages, and provide more accurate manuscripts (hopefully) thereby obtaining, the finer / more important details, that are crucial to our understanding of the classical world.

It is important to modern accuracy in cartography to understand how the Romans managed to plot their maps (which of course included Britain) and this tells us how well they knew the territories that they conquered.

Tacitus was perhaps the most famous historian from the Roman Empire; he compared the shape of our island to a diamond; the later Latin manuscripts depict it differently and more like a shoulder blade.

Now a lucrative business, publishing and updating Classical texts has strengthened the subject even more, and this helps provide accurate views of these thinkers from ancient times.

Part of the fun is the debate about what was written, and what was meant, in the 2000 year manuscript tradition, which has now become an industry.

Much of poetry was very carefully preserved though, and the Greek or Latin verse is in no doubt as a result. No one would dare change it, but the interpretation is always being translated; thus, people had a different mindset in ancient times, and the scholarly interpretations are always evolving.

The levels begin at the very lowest, and expert scholars must bear this in mind, because they understand the ancient world better than many modern readers who often have no knowledge of Greek or Latin.

There is certainly a difference to Classics in the modern versions of their language, compared to the real cultural activities using the original (ancient) versions of their languages, which were of course embedded in society.

Keats was a Classical English poet without any Greek, and Shakespeare was almost the same; thus, Shakespeare used a translation of Plutarch’s biography to write his version of “Julius Caesar” perhaps with the infamous line: ‘it’s all Greek to me’……in mind!

The different issues raised in Classics have always been vast: literature, drama, philosophy are but a few! Plato is quite possibly the king of them all, and continues to reinvent the debates surrounding politics, economics and Marxist theory, which incredibly has its roots in ancient Greece and Rome and keeps reinventing itself on most postgraduate courses.

Incredibly enough, early versions of atomic theory and matter, came originally from Democritus and Epicurus who were Greek scientists, thus anthropology and other ancient ideas of theirs appeared in Pausanias guidebook as we have seen.

The poets weren’t the only ones to get their work translated, because Pausanias and his guidebook has most famously been translated by Sir James Frazer, who visited Greece many times to supplement his research in the nineteenth-century; he blended the pathways and routes with those of Pausaniaus and came up with a revised version and something which is not uncommon in many walks of life these days.

By the time Frazer got involved though, no one really believed in Zeus or Apollo any more. Back in ancient times they did, and they went to the trouble of building him a temple half way up a mountain. Frazer liked the scenery, the nature and the beautiful countryside, instead of the sun-gods which the ancients liked; this proves how some things definitely changed over 2000 years, but others didn’t and this is huge for Classics.

Thereafter a pecking order developed – as with everything in life – in who could do the best translations, blending the old with the new, and this is something that will surely remain.

Pausanias was lucky to survive because it was eclipsed by the more recognisable works in the Classical period, and of course it is in Greek and printed originally when Rome was in charge; hence, it was never on reading lists but not because it was no good, but just because it was generally ignored. It is feared many other such things never did survive!

People are now looking at the wider picture with regards to mythology. Classical texts cover a whole period: the collapse of Rome, the rise of Byzantine, the influence of Turkey (with Istanbula and Constantinople) and how religious texts too, influenced the ancient period.

Pausaniuas in his own time was just jotting down notes, and was hardly a recognised writer, but what he did write down attracted Frazer many years later: the religious sites, public rituals, worship, myths, customs, and superstitions, were but a few of the topic areas carried forward.

This all added up to more than just a bit of cartography, and is what we expect from any phrasebook or language study these days – more than just the translated words / greater than the sum of the parts and Pausaniuas was perhaps the first to do this properly.

Frazer wrote the “Golden Bough” which begins with a classical problem known as the ‘strange rule of Nemi’ because it governed the goddess Diana on the hills south of Rome.

Each priest had to murder the previous one to gain the priesthood by turning a branch into a weapon and then living a fear for the duration of this priesthood.

Caligula was the Roman Emperor who emulated this and it has been used as a model system of power and civilised reason ever since. It was Frazer using Pausanius who brought all this to light.

Using part of Virgil’s “Aeneid” where the challenger descends from a branch then founds Rome, Frazer went on to use a wide range of resources, but the one central theme grew mainly from Classical editions of Pausaiuas’s guidebook.

Academics and artists generally rely on Frazer now, thus, his version of Classical civilisation did of course rely upon Pausaiuas.

Hollywood continues to enjoy the tragedy, epic poetry of Homer (the Illiad and Odysseus) from Greece and the Romans too: Ovid, Virgil, and Horace, are never far from our screens!

There is Roman politics in America, the cosmos is ancient and so is Daphne becoming a laurel tree due to Apollo’s advances. Classics is classical in every sense.

There is the Midas touch which wasn’t just from King Midas but none other than Julius Caesar, who is perhaps the only human that reached God status from ancient times.

Fasti and festivals keep reappearing and probably always will.

So many modern theorists used mythology to inspire them: Freud with Oedipus incest mother came up with the idea of the Oedipus complex; Narcissus fell in love with his own reflection and gave us narcissism; hence, we may have to accept the ancient scholars were pre-empting the psychoanalytic theories of today, and had some knowledge of them first!

Now a very popular university discipline, Classics actually began at Sunday school as a church taught subject.

Although many were at odds with the glory of Greece and grandeur of Rome – the reformation is one example – the world outside the church, plus understanding Classics, was a way through this; a lot could be learned from Classics and this was hugely recognised even if it wasn’t fully accepted, ’till quite recently.

The cross over between religion and mythology is perhaps the most interesting bit: the gods and goddesses, sacrifice and rituals, and folklore.

Plato’s ideas about education, politics and law are still practised today. Even Friedrich Nietzsche emulates tension in his studies between Apollonian control and dioacisayc release from Classical texts.

Platonic love has distanced itself now from the start of Western philosophy, but for Frazer the story of Classical education has a conclusion and this is the triumph of modern Christian reason.

Foraging back has become a huge attraction to Classics which of course dates back BC.


American Authors

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JD Salinger is best known for his reclusive nature and The Catcher in the Rye, his only novel.

He thought he had trouble fitting in at school being Jewish and changed his name. There in New York, he managed the fencing team, wrote for the magazine and acted in drama productions.

Salinger lost his girlfriend to Charlie Chaplin and then did the cruise ships as an entertainer, though he did eventually marry in 1955 having two children.

He saw combat in the D-Day landings, the Battle of the Bulge and interrogated prisoners of war because he spoke French and German.

Salinger was one of the first into a concentration camp in the big clean up after the war was over, an experience he never really recovered from.

The Catcher in the Rye is about Holden who was expelled from every school he went to and the book was the most censored in the US for its use of bad language, giving it a cult following and making it hugely successful.

When Holden Caulfield is expelled, it is Christmas, he walks the streets of New York City and encounters a prostitute called Sunny. He pays her even though they just talk and she becomes greedy, asking for more money than agreed. Her pimp beats Holden up when he refuses to pay.

He is actually in a mental hospital, as he is on the verge of a breakdown, frightened of telling his family about being excluded from school and the entire novel is written in flashback from this institution.

Holden has become an icon of teenage rebellion. His behaviour is due to him feeling alienated by society and is searching for an identity like many adolescent males.

He is devastated by the death of his younger brother and fails in relationships. The Catcher in the Rye is a song sung by a little boy.

Holden then decides he wants to be someone who helps children and stops them falling off “that cliff” which metaphorically speaking is the transition from childhood to adulthood.

Holden sees a boy walking in the street instead of the sidewalk saying the poem from Robert Burns “Comin through the Rye”. Holden envisages a field of rye high on a cliff with children playing and he can catch them if they fall off. He has misheard the lyric.

Robert Burns song asks if it is acceptable for two people to have a romantic encounter in the fields “meeting” away from the public eye.

Holden wants to “catch” children before they fall from childhood into adulthood and embark upon sex and other things, catching them has therefore the opposite meaning to meet, which implies two people avoiding being caught with their secret encounter out in the rye fields.

Most of Salinger’s work was rejected by publishers and Hollywood, though MGM did buy the rights to one of his short stories and made the movie. Salinger was so shocked at how distant this film was from his tale that he refused to sell anymore movie rights.

He lived to age 91 and died peacefully in 2010 of natural causes. Now, of course, the race is on to make the movie and find someone suitable to cast as Holden.

Classical Artefacts

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Where the peasants fit into the Classical world

The labourers in ancient times gave just as important accounts of the temple. They worked the farms and markets and Pausanias was well aware of how well they knew the details; who built the Bassae Temple; it’s financing; and the purpose of such an isolated location.

It is interesting how the pillars of Bassae were so precisely alligned, thus the drawings brought back from the rediscovery 200 years ago have proved very useful in modern architecture, as well as the many sculpted artefacts.

Traces of lettering have been found in the masonry of the temple, and it is identifiable as more Athenian than Arcadian; this is part of the coding to position the blocks from a plan.

Bringing 23 slabs of marble down the mountain 200 years ago would have been tricky, but nothing compared to taking the materials up the mountain 2000 years ago – limestone for the walls and marble for the frieze is very heavy indeed!

Transportation was therefore slow and expensive, thus for this reason mainly, it was ancient Greece and Rome who became responsible for the most notorious of slave ownership of any society in history.

Slave collars are among the most common relics found in excavation digs across the Classical world, something which has since preempted the military dog tag idea and dog collar which is the same thing, providing details about who belongs to whom!

The lettering on the masonry could belong to the craftsmen or the labouring slave. Thus, Horace the Roman poet was actually the son of a freed slave; hence, slavery was part of life for hundreds of years during the Classical period of history, and it was an industry which included slaves from every walk of life.

Near Bassae they found some inscribed metal suggesting that Apollo himself would be well paid if three men were freed from slavery and released to the world with a new status that would be honoured. This implication of a mythical god in the very real system of human slavery is quite fascinating to many people; not to mention that the ultimate example of democracy is supposedly Athens from ancient times, and it is remarkable to think it was really a slave-owning democracy!

Not all of the Bassae structure was built using slave labour though. Much of it was paid for as well, thus archaeologists have found evidence of a whole cultural framework in the area, that is just as important to history as the marble slabs.

Villages, farms, markets, and trading, all make up the Classical community and surround perhaps the world’s most significant temple; they can now tell the diet people had, the crops available and the animals that were farmed, by microscopic analysis of ancient bones.

This affected the local economy and is just as pertinent these days, as any gold coin parading Caesar on it.

Pompeii is another example where they are searching not for art, but plant species in Roman gardens and fruit sold at the markets.

Pottery scattered far and wide is just as important as digging deep for coins because it allows us to map out the urban patterns of settlement. We can see how rural sites worked, and how the average ancient family lived in Classical times.

Surveys have now revealed the greater purpose of the Bassae area. It was part of Arcadia where goat herders served the local community, but who used the temple for processions, or for sacrifice, or for both!

This is touched upon in most guidebooks including the original one by Pausanias as do they note the stages of growth and decline in Greek history in general; thus, Pausanias appears to have been the first to notice how the Roman occupation changed things.

The Romans populated the urban areas, meaning rural sites depopulated and declined, which fits with modern models of urbanisation, and proves that Classics reaches out to the newer theories relating to economic and social policy, thus proving how important the ancient writers have been and are still an integral part of many disciplines these days.


Plot Summsry a Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

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A Christmas Carol, is novella about Ebenezer Scrooge’s transformation. Scrooge is the embodiment of winter, subsequently followed by spring reflecting this renewal of life and the change when his heart is restored to the goodwill of his childhood.

Published when new customs like greeting cards, trees and decorations were being introduced, Charles Dickens almost single handedly helped restore Christmas to a holiday of merriment and festivity in Britain and America after a period of sobriety and somberness.

Carol singing then became popular and formed part of the social reform which Charles Dickens was so famous for.

The chapters were called “staves” that is why there are five which fits with the song theme of the title and Ebenezer is thought to be Dickens father, John who was at times greedy (putting him in jail) and also a generous, kind gentleman. This humiliating experience of losing his childhood made Charles demonize his father, as we do Scrooge.

Set on Christmas Eve, seven years after the death of Jacob Marley a partner in the firm, Marley’s ghost visits Scrooge and tells him to change his ways. Jacob is weighed down with a massive chain made up of cashboxes, keys and padlocks.

You see, charities were collecting earlier and Scrooge refused to donate, saying that he already helps enough.

Then three more ghosts help this slow conversion. The Ghost of Christmas Past reflects when Scrooge was innocent, Present has many different scenes including Christmas shopping and the feast on Christmas day and Yet to Come reveals a grave insisting Ebenezer Scrooge must change his ways otherwise this is where he will end up.

The conclusion being that Scrooge wakes up a changed man on Christmas Day. He orders a prize turkey for Bob Cratchit and promises to “back pay” money to charity.

Previously, Christmas had almost vanished to being a community thing done at church, mainly by religious people. Now it was for everyone!

The “thing” about this story is also the fourth ghost (or first) and that is Jacob Marley. This ghost is a dead human rather than fictitious three created by Dickens, who loved ghost stories and tales of the paranormal.

The message is strong in this, the most popular ghost story of all and that is that everyone is entitled to a second chance.

“Merry Christmas” has been popularized ever since Carol was published and “Scrooge” and “Bah Humbug” have entered the English language as expressions in their own right from the novel.

Sudden charitable giving hit England especially from famous people after this book was published.