Tuesday, 18 March 2008

U ~ is for Ursula


"Ulysses"  ~  although not expressly identified by name, referred to in "Trouble for Lucia" as "that huge horrid, book by Mr James Joyce, which all happens in one day."

Lucia noted the similarity between "Ulysses" and the eventful day upon which she had unnecessarily fled from Riseholme to avoid Cortese and his English wife, who it turned out spoke no Italian, shirked a council meeting, wangled an invitation to Sheffield Castle, drove there even though her hostess was indisposed, stayed there for quite three quarters of an hour, dined alone in Riseholme and returned to Tilling to find her husband a deux - albeit entirely innocently - with a glamorous prima donna.    
     
"Unavailing woe"  ~ see "Funeral March of a Marionette."         
       
"Undying coquetry awoke"  ~  on the late-evening that Elizabeth Mapp at last worked out that Major Flint and Captain Puffin were spending alternate bibulous evenings together in their respective homes, rather than  working late and alone on diaries or Roman roads, she popped out into the street under the pretext of posting a letter (actually a blank envelope) to observe more closely. Unfortunately, Miss Mapp mistimed this as Major Flint left his friend's house at that moment and saw "veiled and indistinct in the mist, the female figure in the road way. Undying coquetry, as Mr Stevenson so finely remarked, awoke for the topic preceding the worm cast had been 'the sex.'"    
     
Here Benson is quoting from Chapter 8 in  "The Weir of Hermiston" (1896), an unfinished novel by Robert Louis Stevenson, set in Edinburgh and the Lothians during the Napoleonic Wars, which is considered by some to be his masterpiece or at least to  promise artistic growth:

"She tore off her nightcap, and her hair fell about her shoulders in profusion. Undying coquetry awoke. By the faint light of her nocturnal rush, she stood before the looking-glass, carried her shapely arms above her head, and gathered up the treasures of her tresses. She was never backward to admire herself; that kind of modesty was a stranger to her nature; and she paused, struck with a pleased wonder at the sight. "Ye daft auld wife!" she said, answering a thought that was not; and she blushed with the innocent consciousness of a child."       
     
Benson's precise intention here is not certain. It may be simple irony, given that the charms of Elizabeth Mapp, as described by Benson, did not seem likely by any stretch of the imagination to match those of Kirstie with whom Archie Weir, the hero of the novel, falls in love. It may also be intended to highlight the drunken, yet courtly language crowed by the Major before matters grew unpleasant with the intervention of Captain Puffin; "Bless me, if there isn't an unprotected lady all 'lone here in the dark , and lost in the fog. 'Llow me to 'scort you home, madam. Lemme introduce myself and friend - Major Flint, that's me, and my friend, Captain Puffin."     See Mr Stevenson.    
      
United services ~ with their proud service backgrounds, retired Indian army officer Major Benjamin Flint and his friend and neighbour, former naval officer, Captain Richard Puffin.    
   
Uric Acid  ~  Daisy Quantock devoted considerable energy to repelling Uric Acid and following the tenets set out in the Uric Acid Monthly.  
   
Uric acid is a heterocyclic compound of carbon, nitrogen, oxygen  and hydrogen (formula C5H4N4O3 ~ please just imagine the numerals are smaller). It is produced by the metabollic breakdown of purine nucleotides. High concentrations in the blood can lead to gout, diabetes and kidney stones. Purines are present in high amounts in liver and sardine tartlets. See "Uric Acid Monthly."    
  
Uric Acid Monthly ~ the title of a little booklet picked up on a book-stall by Daisy Quantock which led to a keen, but passing enthusiasm (being one of many over the years).

Its contents led her to conclude that her buxom frame consisted almost entirely of waste products which must be eliminated. She learned that every atom of beef, mutton or potatoes turned from the moment it was swallowed into chromogens and toxins and that appetite was merely the result of fermentation.

It led Daisy to confine herself at dinner to an abominable mess of cheese and proteid powder, apples, salad oil, nuts and pine kernels each weighed out with scrupulous accuracy. Tea and coffee were taboo and instead sips of hot water were consumed.

Her supplies were replenished periodically by strange gaunt females from London with small parcels full of tough food that tasted of travelling bags.

After a time on this regime based upon the precepts of perfect health, notwithstanding her iron constitution, Daisy became anaemic. A course of beef steaks and other substantial viands loaded with uric acid restored her to her former vigour.  
  
In his excellent "Life of E. F.Benson,"  Brian Masters mentions that Fred has copy of the Connecticut journal,  "Uric Acid Monthly" pasted into his scrapbook.  

Ursula Pillson, Ursy ~ sister of Hermione (Hermy) and Georgie Pillson. See Hermione Pillson and Georgie Pillson.

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