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Tag Archives: Charles Dickens

Our First American Woman Poet

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Her family’s good status helped her in having a good raising and education. In her growing up years, Anne was taught history, several languages, and literature. Anne had been well tutored in literature and history. She learned Greek, Latin, French, Hebrew, as well as English. She was married to Simon Bradstreet at the age of sixteen and had eight children.

Image result for governor bradstreet Simon Bradstreet

Though 17th century American poet Anne Bradstreet once called her poems “homespun,” her words sore above her dreary and dire life in early New England. Leaving England for the New World in 1630, with her husband and parents, she met a world an ocean away comprised of unknown fevers, malnutrition, poor food, and Indian attacks.

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The voyage to America on the “Arbella” with John Winthrop took three months and was quite difficult, with several people dying from the experience. Life was rough and cold, quite a change from the beautiful estate with its well-stocked library where Anne spent many hours. As Anne tells her children in her memoirs, “I found a new world and new manners at which my heart rose [up in protest.].”

Image result for john winthrop John Winthrop

Her conflict with the Puritan faith and love for her husband inundated her verse. When I taught her poetry in American literature classes, students were astonished with the depth of her writing. She had no formal education, was home schooled by her literary father, and described her world with realism. She was the first American woman poet to be published.

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More often, her poems and meditations consist of drawing moral lessons from her domestic activities–house cleaning, baking, preserving, caring for her children–or from her observations of nature. And she observed deeply those personal experiences, allowing them to speak to her.

Spring is my favorite season, and I welcomed it early this year. A variety of birds have found our bird feeder and have started their nest building under John’s workshop with their lattice protection. Even the days are finally longer.

“Spring flew swiftly by, and summer came; and if the village had been beautiful at first, it was now in the full glow and luxuriance of its richness. The great trees, which had looked shrunken and bare in the earlier months, had now burst into strong life and health; and stretching forth their green arms over the thirsty ground, converted open and naked spots into choice nooks, where was a deep and pleasant shade from which to look upon the wide prospect, steeped in sunshine, which lay stretched out beyond. The earth had donned her mantle of brightest green; and shed her richest perfumes abroad. It was the prime and vigour of the year; all things were glad and flourishing,” said Charles Dickens.

“If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant,” wrote Anne Bradstreet. Whether it is the weather or our circumstances, we can count on this change of seasons.

“Contemplations” is considered by many as her best poem.

Then higher on the glistering Sun I gaz’d

Whose beams was shaded by the leavie Tree,

The more I look’d, the more I grew amaz’d

And softly said, what glory’s like to thee?

Soul of this world, this Universes Eye,

No wonder, some made thee a Deity:

Had I not better known, (alas) the same had I

The wisest man to ever live, King Solomon affirmed this truth in Ecclesiastes 3:1. “There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under the heavens….” I am so grateful for spring.

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Let Spring Begin!

“Beware the Ides of March” is a familiar phrase to those who have read Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar. These were the Soothsayer’s words to Julius Caesar on his impending death in the play, and on March 15 in 54 BC, Caesar was assassinated.

Another dramatic event happened on this date in 1917.  Czar Nicholas II of Russia abdicated his throne, ending a 304-year-old royal dynasty.

Nicholas II.

Centuries apart, two rulers lost their thrones and places in history, one with a knife and another with a signature

On March 15, 1765, Andrew Jackson was born in the Waxhaws of South Carolina. For the first fifteen years of his life, he lived in this Scots-Irish community. His widowed mother, Elizabeth Hutchinson Jackson, made sure that her three sons received a good education and religious training. She was a Patriot and believed in the American Revolution, and she modeled for her sons a life of determination to do the right thing, in spite of the odds.

Brave Elizabeth by [Ingle, Sheila]

Next Saturday, March , 2014, there will be a birthday celebration at Andrew Jackson State Park. There will be fun events for all ages as you enjoy his boyhood homeplace. It is a day of living history demonstrations to see what the Carolina Backcountry was like during Jackson’s time. See traditional crafters at work. Listen to historians discuss the legacy of Andrew Jackson. Enjoy the beauty of the park as history comes to life before your eyes.

https://southcarolinaparks.com/andrew-jackson

March is certainly a fickle month, as to weather. Anthing can be expected. As one of my favorite authors described it, “It was one of those March days when the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold: when it is summer in the light, and winter in the shade.” Charles Dickens

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Last weekend we went back to Daylight Savings Time and gained an hour of daylight at the end of the day, rather than its beginning. Some like this; others don’t. What we can count on is the worst of winter is certainly behind us, though I didn’t even wear my winter coat this year. So perhaps hope is part of the story of the month of March.

Perhaps you are familiar with the saying about the month of March that says “in like a lion, out like a lamb.” Our area has been confused. Almost daily the temps have jumped around, and the rains have really been a little much. The outside furniture and white fence have turned green from mildew.

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Unsettling are these weather anomalies that surprised us in the South this year. But then changes aren’t what we look for or hanker after. We tend to like to stay with the status quo or what we are familiar with.

Lewis Grizzard has a way with words and said, “Spring time is the land awakening. The March winds are the morning yawn.’

Happy Spring!

 

Over 350 Million Dollars Given Away

He was fond of saying that “the man who dies rich, dies disgraced,” And so he, turned his attention to giving away his fortune. He abhorred charity, and instead put his money to use helping others help themselves. That was the reason he spent much of his collected fortune on establishing over 2,500 public libraries, as well as supporting institutions of higher learning. By the time his life was over, he had given away 350 million dollars.

Who was this American philanthropist? Andrew Carnegie.

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This industrialist and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie was born on November 25, 1835, in Dunfermline, Fife, Scotland. Carnegie grew up in a family that believed in the importance of books and learning. The son of a handloom weaver, Carnegie grew up to become one of the wealthiest businessmen in America.

At the age of 13, in 1848, Carnegie came to the United States with his family. They settled in Allegheny, Pennsylvania, and Carnegie went to work in a factory, earning $1.20 a week. The next year he found a job as a telegraph messenger. Hoping to advance his career, he moved up to a telegraph operator position in 1851. He succeeded at each new job; he worked hard, kept his eyes open, and mastered each position. As they say, the rest is history.

My hometown of Spartanburg, South Carolina’s first “public” library opened on October 17, 1885, on the top floor of a two-story building facing Kennedy Place; it was a gift to the city. Among the library’s first holdings was Dr. Kennedy’s 600-volume medical library and some 300 other books collected by the citizens of Spartanburg. The yearly subscription fee was $3.

The facility soon was adopted by the Ladies Auxiliary Association, which kept it stocked with books and furniture. By 1899, the ladies realized that Spartanburg was on the verge of outgrowing the little library. They wrote Andrew Carnegie, asking for a contribution to help build a new library. After four years of correspondence, the Kennedy Library Board was notified in June 1903 that Carnegie would donate $15,000 if the city would purchase the land and contribute $1,500 annually in support of the library. And it was done.

His generosity helped communities construct 2,811 free public libraries across America and 13 in South Carolina.

“A taste for reading is one of the most precious possessions of life.” -Andrew Carnegie

“There is not such a cradle of democracy upon this earth as the Free Public Library.” -Andrew Carnegie

“The man who enters a library is in the best society the world offers”                  -Andrew Carnegie

..

In Union, SC  is another library at 300 E. South Street which bears Carnegie’s name.

In Union Carnegie Library History, Jennie Holton Fant describes Carnegie as “a self-made immigrant,” who “succeeded in becoming the richest man in the world, with little education. He believed great wealth begets an obligation to provide for those of lesser fortune and he spent his money making books and information the shared property of all people, rich or poor. His free libraries were built to be a progressive hub of civic and cultural life for all citizens of a community. Fourteen towns in South Carolina benefited from the millionaire industrialist’s generosity between 1903 and 1920. He gave South Carolina $124,700 for thirteen public libraries to be built, and aid to one private library — the equivalent of over a million dollars today.”

The Union Library was the first public library in South Carolina.

Carnegie had a mission. This mission was born in Allegheny City, Pa., where Carnegie worked as a bobbin boy in a cotton mill — his job was to fill the bobbins with thread and oil them for the machines. He was determined to improve his lot, but he couldn’t pay the $2 subscription for a local library that was available only to apprentices (and he certainly couldn’t afford to buy books).

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He sent a letter to the library administrator asking for access to the library, but the administrator turned him down flat. So 17-year-old Andy got the letter published in The Pittsburgh Dispatch.

“He made his case so well that the administrator backed off immediately,” explains Carnegie biographer David Nasaw. “And the library was opened to working men as well as apprentices. He got what he wanted.”

In 1889 Carnegie wrote an article called “The Gospel of Wealth,” in which he spelled out his views on philanthropy: “In bestowing charity the main consideration should be to help those who help themselves.”

I would describe myself as an avid reader. From the early years of reading about Dick and Jane, I have sought out stories. During elementary school years, there was a limit of 15 books that could be checked out of the Kennedy Library in Spartanburg. They could be kept for two weeks. I ravenously read my choices and was always ready to check out more before those weeks were up.

Following in the reading lists of Mother and my grandmothers, I tended to read historical novels and biographies. There was a series of biographies of famous people that were in orange covers that I perused over-and-over. Gwen Bristow, Ken Follett, and Inglis Fletcher enthralled me with places and times I could only read about. Historical fiction is still my go-to comfort, but suspense and stories about my state also have their places on my book shelves. Pat Conroy, David Baldacchi, Kristin Hannah, Anthony Doerr, John Grisham are a few favorites.

Another one of my favorite authors is Charles Dickens, and he said,  “No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another.”

Thank you, Andrew Carnegie, for giving so much money away to brighten our lives one hundred years later.

 

 

 

“Come Rain or Come Shine”

I’m gonna love you, like nobody’s loved you
Come rain or come shine
High as a mountain, deep as a river
Come rain or come shine
I guess when you met me
It was just one of those things
But don’t you ever bet me
‘Cause I’m gonna be true if you let me
You’re gonna love me, like nobody’s loved me
Come rain or come shine
We’ll be happy together, unhappy together
Now won’t that be just fine
The days may be cloudy or sunny
We’re in or out of the money
But I’m with you always
I’m with you rain or shine.

The lyrics to this slow-moving declaration of love has moved hearts when sung by talents like Frank Sinatra, Billie Holliday, Barbara Streisland, and others. The repetition clarifies the intensity and veracity of the commitment to someone. Published in 1946, after World War II, when couples were looking for lasting marriages, it became popular. Dancing to it played by the Tommy Dorsey Band would have moved married couples to believe again that their marriage could/should/would work.

My parents were married on October 29, 1946. After moving to Spartanburg in 1951, they joined the Quadrille Club. Along with other young couples, they dressed for a party in flowing long dresses and tuxedos to dance the night away. A Christmas dance and spring dance gave them opportunities for ballroom dancing with friends. Jitterbug, the dance of teens during this era, was not on the agenda. The caller for the dances, with the solemn “Ladies and Gentlemen” and then in exciting tones, introduced the fox trot, the waltz, and the cha cha.

Grace and elegance were part of these dances, and the above clip captures that.

Yesterday I started reading Jan Karon’s newest Father Tim novel called Come Rain or Come Shine.

This talented author, through the course of ten novels, has introduced us to the town of Mitford, North Carolina. Jan lives in Blowing Rock, NC where she retired from the advertising field at age 50. Her first Mitford novel, At Home in Mitford, was published in installments in the local paper. (You might remember that Charles Dickens had his first success in the literary world in this manner.)

Though Southern small town in setting, these character-driven novels deal with realism in the lives of children and adults. Each book holds a surprise for the reader, as a tragic side of life is explored. But entwined is hilarity in tone, dialogue, and circumstance. One of the funniest scenes to me is the wedding of stodgy, middle-aged bachelor Tim Kavanagh and his artist/writer/vivacious neighbor Cynthia Coppersmith. On their wedding day, dressed in her dowdy and well-worn bathrobe, the bride is locked into her bathroom when the handle of the door falls off. I could picture this crazy scene and laughed hilariously.

Two young people, adopted by couples with open hearts, as well as the law, Dooley Kavanagh and Lace Harper, are finally getting married in this latest story about a community that truly acts like an extended family. Mitford’s characters come alive once again as a simple home wedding expands into a town event. I laughed aloud several times yesterday and didn’t want to put it down, once again enjoying Jan Karon’s voice that states without interpretation that life is life. (Believe I might have to complete the reading today.)

The lyrics to this song enhance the turmoil in the book as this young couple move forward to their wedding day. Lack of money, a surprise selling of art, both clouds and sun in weather and circumstances, and a pot-luck wedding reception give credence that marriage is a time of “come rain or come shine.”

One of the quotes that Jan Karon shared that I read several times is good advice to help us live better as a couple, a family, or community.

“Stop trying to protect, to rescue, to judge, to manage the lives around you . . . remember that the lives of others are not your business. They are their business. They are God’s business—even your own life is not your business. It is also God’s business!’ Frederick Buechner”

As always, in my reading, I am reminded of truth, even from the imaginary town of Mitford.