Friday, October 17, 2008

A New "Research" Project

This morning I meant to post a report of a short book I finished, something not on my official reading list. I wrote some notes for the review last night, then laid them and the book next to the portfolio I carry to work each day. Alas, this morning, when I finished devotions at my desk, poured and doctored coffee, and opened my portfolio, the notes and book were not there. I suppose in my normal, strict routine way of getting out of the house in the morning, looking on the kitchen table for something out of the ordinary I was supposed to pick up was too much. That will teach me to go one tiny step further in the evening and put the non-standard item in the portfolio rather than next to it.

So what to do in my personal time, after devotions, at my desk? I have finished culling printed writing materials from notebooks, so nothing to do there. I was not ready to again pick up John Wesley's letters and take up where I left off somewhat more than a month ago (expect a future post on that). Reviewing Absolute Write for a poem to critique or a political discussion to burst in on revealed nothing I had to do. But there, in my favorites in Internet Explorer, was the folder titled "Carlyle" and in it the link to The Carlyle Letters Online, hosted by Duke University. A few clicks, making decisions on what to read, found me at a letter from Carlyle to Leigh Hunt in June 1833. I decided on a letter to Hunt because I recently posted for critique my parody of Hunt's famous poem "Jenny Kissed Me". If my readers can stand this affectation, here's my parody.

Hunter Licked Me

Hunter licked me on the nose,
showing me his deep affection.
Whimpering, this dachshund knows
who provided food and protection.
Tell me that my poems won't sell,
that no muse has ever picked me.
Call me crazy, but then yell
Hunter licked me.

I read the letter from Carlyle to Hunt, and decided, "Wouldn't it be nice to have a collection of letters between Hunt and Carlyle much as I have between Emerson and Carlyle?" So I decided to start one. I copied that letter--including footnotes and source citations, and dumped it into a MS Word document. Some formatting was needed, to put it in my typical compressed yet readable layout (trying to save a tree or two, you know), and making the footnotes real footnotes rather than embedded things at the end of the letter.

All of that took little time, so I decided to do some more. I went to the Index By Recipient, and found one more to Hunt in the 1832-34 time frame. This puzzled me, because I expected more than this. So I went to the chronological list and found a number of letters in this time frame, including the first, a brief Carlyle note to Hunt about receiving a book of his from Hunt's publisher. By the time my work day officially started (okay, I may have done my personal stuff 15 minutes too long, but I'll make it up this evening), I had fourteen pages of Carlyle to Hunt.

So what am I going to do with this? Don't know yet. And I have to see if I can find Leigh Hunt's letters on line. I know they've been published, but haven't yet looked for them. I suppose you could call this a "reading and research" project. But it's more than that. It is entertainment for me. And it should also, should I really read these letters, help with the brain atrophy I'm trying to overcome.

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