Sunday, March 31, 2013

Christ is Risen

Today we completed the seven week study 24 Hours That Changed the World. It was a detailed look at the last day leading up to Jesus' crucifixion, and then today at the time just after his death leading up to His resurrection early on the first day of the week. I actually have one more chapter to read, one that I skipped when I was out of town on the week that was being discussed.

The study was good; the book was good, but not stellar. I'll post a review of the book sometime in the next two weeks. Our Life Group classes were extremely good. It's always easy to teach a class when those in it already know the material so well. We had some lively discussions over the last seven weeks. Only once (when I was there; I missed two) did we have a disagreement. That was when I followed something that was in the book and a class member strongly objected to it.

I'm also mindful that, as I've posted on this blog before, Easter is my spiritual birthday, so among the many reasons to celebrate on this day, that really stands out for me.

Life has had many twists and turns since that day in 1974. My walk has not be consistent. I've had times of questioning, but they never grew into doubt. I've had times of not seeking God earnestly, but they never turned into a break in relationship. I've had times of not much caring whether I was in church or not, but they never turned into breaks in fellowship. Praise God for all of that.

So I come down to near the end of this special day, my heart full and my mind active, anticipating what God has to offer me in the coming years. I close this posts with those words from the John Peterson hymn, which has recently been re-done with a modern tune:
Living He loved me,
dying He saved me,
buried He carried
my sins far away.
Rising He justified,
freely forever.
One day He's coming
Oh glorious day.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The Hero as Priest

Man as Deity and Deity as hero were in the past. So was prophet, as in modern times men speak for themselves, not for God. So said Thomas Carlyle in lectures in the series On Heroes, Hero-Worship, and the Heroic in History. Originally given in 1840, these were published in 1841, and were popular in their day. Among Carlyle’s many works, this book is as popular as any.

The hero as poet, it seems, survives into modernity, though I think Carlyle believed that all the good poets were in the past. Now he turns to the hero as priest. The priest, he says,
is a kind of Prophet; in him too there is required to be a light of inspiration, as we must name it. He presides over the worship of the people; is the Uniter of them with the Unseen Holy. He is the spiritual Captain of the people; as the Prophet is their spiritual King with many captains: he guides them heavenward, by wise guidance through this Earth and its work. The ideal of him is, that he too be what we can call a voice from the unseen Heaven; interpreting, even as the Prophet did, and in a more familiar manner unfolding the same to men.

So if I understand Carlyle correctly, he believes the priest functions almost as an under-prophet. The offices are much the same, with the prophet having a wider reach.

Many have presided “over the worship of the people” functioning as “a voice from the unseen Heaven.” Tens of thousands, nay probably millions, have done that even just considering those sanctioned by some higher-up authority to do so, discounting the many who, without having recognized credentials, have been intermediaries between God and man. What makes one priest a hero and another not? Carlyle settled on Martin Luther and John Knox as samples of the hero as priest. Why them? He tells us, in clearer language than he often does.
Yet it will suit us better here to consider them chiefly in their historical character, rather as Reformers than Priests. There have been other Priests perhaps equally notable, in calmer times, for doing faithfully the office of a Leader of Worship; bringing down, by faithful heroism in that kind, a light from Heaven into the daily life of their people; leading them forward, as under God's guidance, in the way wherein they were to go. But when this same way was a rough one, of battle, confusion and danger, the spiritual Captain, who led through that, becomes, especially to us who live under the fruit of his leading, more notable than any other. He is the warfaring and battling Priest; who led his people, not to quiet faithful labor as in smooth times, but to faithful valorous conflict, in times all violent, dismembered: a more perilous service, and a more memorable one, be it higher or not. These two men we will account our best Priests, inasmuch as they were our best Reformers.

So, the priest who serves in quiet times, who does nothing more than raise his congregation to new spiritual heights, who helps them to do good and avoid evil, is no hero to Carlyle. To be a hero you have to have served in tumultuous times and been the equivalent of a warrior priest. Luther certainly fits the bill. As the one who finally found a way to break the grip on the people of a corrupt Roman Catholic Church, he is generally considered the founder of the Reformation. Others had come before him: Wycliffe, Hus, even perhaps the Waldensians, are part of the Reformation equation.

But clearly Luther paid a huge price, as did Knox. Not that Hus didn’t: he was executed. Wycliffe was also persecuted, though I can’t remember his outcome. But those two didn’t have success to the extent that Luther and Knox did. Remember, for Carlyle to call someone a hero, they must first have accomplished some great thing, then they must be sincere in how they approach life and their accomplishments. Luther and Knox, about whom I know significantly less, fulfilled these criteria.

This was a good chapter, derived from what must have been a good lecture. I don’t want to get into this too much. My brain is trending toward mush right now, and I have many hours left in the day before I sleep. Possibly I’ll get back to this chapter and add another post. But if not, know that it’s well worth reading.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Words from the Cross

In Life Group today we studied the words Jesus said while he was nailed to the cross, as recorded in the four canonical gospels. This was one of the ways I could have gone with the lesson material, which was more than enough to fill up two hours or more.

Without giving references, here are those words, in probable order they were spoken.

Father, forgive them for they don't know what they're doing.

I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.

Here is your son. Here is your mother.

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

I thirst.

It is finished.

Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.

We had a most interesting discussion on these. While we were doing this, we took time to discuss what the physical layout of Golgotha might have been on the day Jesus was executed. Between these statements we touched on the reactions of the various people around Jesus.

One discussion item was why did Jesus quote the opening of Psalm 22? Did God really forsake him? The most common interpretation of this is that Jesus was, at this time, bearing the sin of the world, and since God can't stand sin, God left Jesus for a time. Another interpretation is that God was there all the time, but in His suffering Jesus was unable to sense His presence. Another interpretation was that Jesus was simply letting his humanity show. He had never known sin, yet there he was dying for the sin of the world. That kind of emotional weight would tend to obscure ones spiritual vision.

When we discussed "I thirst," one man suggested maybe this wasn't in a physical sense, but a spiritual. Jesus was thirsting for the love of the Father, and to be reunited in close fellowship with Him.

When we discussed the forgiveness statement, we concluded that this wasn't meant just for the Roman soldiers who were carrying out Jesus' execution, but for everyone involved in his death. That would also include us, Christians today, who are sinners saved by grace.

It was a good class, easy to teach. And a good way to open Holy Week.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Overwhelmed, Again

Every so often it seems that life deals me a series of blows, not necessarily physical blows, or severe problems. I'm talking mainly about time blows. Time is the most precious commodity I have. It seems that whenever I carve out time for writing, other things are left undone. Eventually they pile up, and I have an emotional overload over all that I must do.

It happened yesterday. The day at work wasn't too bad. I had one task added that I wasn't thrilled with, but all in all not bad. I came home, however, to a house that was a mess, and an at-home to-do list a mile long. I went through several days of mail, sorted the bills, paid one that was due yesterday, and put paper in our recycling bag. I was supposed to have started the dishwasher and cleaned the microwave, but had forgotten.

In the mail was a notice from a collection agency about an old medical bill I had failed to pay. The service was from October 2011, the bill from that November. I didn't pay it all, I remember, because I was waiting on insurance, then I wanted to question insurance on an unpaid amount. Well, I never got around to doing so. Four months later they had sent it to a collection agency, and yesterday a different collection agency letter came. I then spent an hour sorting through old bills, trying to reconcile the amount (a little over $250) with amounts billed and reimbursed, but I couldn't.

But I did discover that the payment I made on a different medical bill almost two weeks ago had never been credited. I couldn't call anyone about either bill at 9 p.m., so I started shoving things into my folder to take to work. I then sorted papers for filing and took them downstairs, to The Dungeon, where they joined another large pile. I also found a card I was supposed to mail three days ago, and the automobile registrations I wanted to take care of a week ago.

Remembering the missing photos from China that I wanted to find, I spent a fruitless half hour looking for them, stepping over boxes pulled from shelves in the storage room and never returned. I didn't find the photos.

Before long it was 11 p.m. I was beat. I piddled around at something for a half-hour, becoming more and more frustrated. Finally I decided The heck with it, and went to bed. I slept well at least, catching up a little from a sleep deficit I've been running.

All of which is probably of no interest to anyone but me.

Today was better. I paid that old bill and asked the doctor/hospital to call off their collection goons. I taught my class at noon, and that went well (despite losing my PowerPoint file with less than an hour left before class; I was able to recover it). Tonight I came home at the usual time with a better attitude. I heated leftovers for supper and put other leftovers in the freezer. I cleaned what I was suppose to clean, added the checkbook, filed some papers, and...

...and it all seemed better. I still have a mound of papers yet to be filed. I still have to mail that card, and get back to working on taxes, and find the missing photos, and do who knows what else. But I'm feeling better. Busy days ahead. I don't think I'll go to Barnes & Noble after work tomorrow (something I normally do on a Friday evening when both my wife and mother-in-law are away). Instead I'll come home and get a few more things done, maybe finalize my writing profit/loss for 2012. If everything holds, I'll end tomorrow in better shape mentally than I am today.

All of which is still probably of no interest to anyone but me, but....

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Carlyle: The Hero as Poet

On May 12, 1840, Thomas Carlyle gave his third lecture in his series on Heroes. Titled "The Hero as Poet," it looked into the lives of Dante and Shakespeare. His previous lectures, he said, dealt with the production of older ages, "not be be repeated in the new." Divinity as hero and prophet as hero would never happen again, he said. Mankind had advanced to the point where he no longer stooped to such low intellectual things. Or, "if we do not now reckon a Great Man literally divine, it is that our notions of God, of the supreme unattainable Fountain of Splendor, Wisdom, and Heroism, are ever rising higher...."

Ah, but the poet! He believed we would always have poet-heroes. "...the hero...can be Poet, Prophet, King, Priest or what you will according to the kind of world he finds himself born into." Concerning the poet, what would it take to turn a poet into a hero—or maybe a hero into a poet. Carlyle says
I confess, I have no notion of a truly great man that could not be all sorts of men. The Poet who could merely sit on a chair, and compose stanzas, would never make a stanza worth much. He could not sing the Heroic warrior, unless he himself were at least a Heroic warrior too. I fancy there is in him the Politician, the Thinker, Legislator, Philosopher;—in one or the other degree, he could have been, he is all these.
So I conclude he picks Dante and Shakespeare, not because of the greatness of their poetry, but because of the greatness of their lives. Or, perhaps he would say their poetry was great because they were great men and heroes, capable of fulfilling many roles in life. He doesn't completely dismiss aptitude, saying both of these men obviously had aptitude for poetry. And in good Carlylean characteristic, he can't help but bring Goethe into the equation when discussing aptitudes. I think, by the time I finish all of Carlyle's works, I shall be very tired of hearing about Goethe.

Dante he (Carlyle) likes because he rose from some limitations to be able to write his book. Although he was born upper class, the political machinations of Florence drug him down. He was, however, a bright light in a dark age. His life was from 1265 and spanned a mere 56 years, into into the next century, which was squarely in the Dark Ages (or Middle Ages if you prefer). Thus his accomplishment was even bigger because of these handicaps. And best of all, Dante was sincere in what he did. As mentioned before, sincerity is akin to greatness as the mark of the hero.

Shakespeare, Carlyle says, "has given us the Practice of body" whereas Dante "has given us the Faith or soul." Shakespeare worked as the Renaissance was unfolding, which gave him advantages Dante didn't have. Although, Macaulay said that the mark of a greater poet was a great work produced in a civilized age. Easy for a poet to produce a great work in a dark age, harder in a civilized age. How exactly a civilized age is supposed to hinder a poet is something I haven't quite figured out, but I'm not calling Macaulay wrong. Shakespeare clearly wrote in an age more civilized than the age of Dante's labors. Those more astute than I will have to figure out which had the greater environmental handicap.

Carlyle believes Shakespeare could have done so much more than he did, in terms of politics or public leadership. The greatness of his verse demonstrates this. In the end he says, "Yet I call Shakspeare [sic] greater than Dante, in that he fought truly, and did conquer."

As was his way, Carlyle did not confine himself to these two giants of the world of the poets. Goethe, as I already mentioned; Mirabeau, Tieck, and even Napoleon are all mentioned in almost the same breath as the hero as poet. These lines of reasoning aren't developed much, though perhaps I need to go back and see about that.

This is a lecture/chapter I wan to re-read, in quiet tranquility, with no deadlines or distractions. I think it has much more to inform me that I haven't comprehended.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

A Great Cloud of Witnesses

What a good day at church today! I missed the last two Sundays at our regular church. Two weeks ago I was in Oklahoma City, where I attended church. Last Sunday I was still recovering from a cold. Today I returned, but to a different schedule. We had Life Group first hour, and one service the second hour.

That was because of our guest speaker, Brian Sumner. He was billed as a "professional skater," by which they meant professional skateboarder. For the last decade, or more, he has put on skateboarding exhibitions. I don't know if they have competitions, or if it's all exhibitions. Skateboarding came in too late for me to be interested, and my kids never were either. So I don't really know what it means to be a professional skateboarder.

But Brian was one, from the time he was around nineteen years old till the past few years. He had hundreds of thousands of dollars a year. It was the good life. He married, had a child, made a ton of money. Then he divorced, constantly fought with his wife, hit bottom.

His testimony is that he did hit bottom, and through the process, found Jesus as his savior. His story is inspiring. His sermon today—after a skateboarding exhibition as we met in the gym instead of the sanctuary. Using Hebrews 12:1-2 as his main text, but also quoting generously from several verses in Luke and Paul's epistles, he talked about throwing off everything that hinders us, and the sin that so easily entangles us, then run, with perseverance, the race marked out before us. It was a powerful talk, one that I hope and believe spoke to people in the good sized congregation.

As I watched the exhibition, and listed to the sermon, I was struck by the first part of the first verse of Hebrews 12: Since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses. This refers back to the 11th chapter, the so-called faith chapter, where the writer tells about many from the Hebrew scriptures who lived by faith, not by sight, knowing of the promises of God but never seeing them. Although that's what 12:1 referred to, I believe that cloud of witnesses has never stopped forming.

I felt today that I saw one of those witnesses, giving his testimony both in his words, in his life lived out through dealing with trials of his own making, and by getting the attention of people by doing amazing things on a small board supported by four tiny wheels. I remember years ago a team of weight lifters touring, testifying to how God worked in their lives. These are laymen, though whom God seems to have given a special message of repentance, redemption, and discipleship.

Am I among that great cloud of witnesses? Have I made a difference in anyone's life, to move them closer to God, that is. Not everyone is called upon to speak before the great assembly. Some speak to small assemblies; some to one person at a time. Some don't speak at all, but rather witness by how their lives are lived. Some write instead, articles and books, to instruct and convince.

I suppose, at this moment in time, that's the group I'm in. May I be faithful to that calling, expand my influence, and reach many for the kingdom of God.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Carlyle: The Hero as Prophet

Some time back, I guess a couple of weeks ago now, I did the first part of my review of Thomas Carlyle's Heroes, Hero-Worship, and the Heroic in History. Here's a link to that review.

The second lecture was "The Hero as Prophet. Again, it seems to me the title would make more sense as "The Prophet as Here", but, as I wrote before, it was Carlyle's lecture so he was free to pick his title. And he was free to pick his prophet for this lecture, which was Mohammed, prophet to Islam. Ths lecture begins:
From the first rude times of Paganism among the Scandinavians in the North, we advance to a very different epoch of religion, among a very different people: Mahometanism among the Arabs. A great change; what a change and progress is indicated here, in the universal condition and thoughts of men!
Man had evolved in his intellect so that man was no longer considered a god. Now he was merely a spokesman for God, or a god. The older way of thinking was an error, though we can understand why primitive man made the error given his limited development.

Why Mohammed? And why would he be considered a hero to a non-Moslem? Carlyle explains.
We have chosen Mahomet not as the most eminent Prophet; but as the one we are freest to speak of. He is by no means the truest of Prophets; but I do esteem him a true one. Farther, as there is no danger of our becoming, any of us, Mahometans, I mean to say all the good of him I justly can.
As the lecture unwinds, Carlyle keeps hitting home that Mohammed was no quack: He was sincere in his beliefs and teachings. We see that this is the most important thing to Carlyle as he defines who is and who is not a hero. It's either the first or second cut to get on the short list for hero consideration. Was he a great man was the first criteria, great in the sense was he a leader of men, a shaper of events? Certainly Mohammed qualifies. Second, was he sincere in his belief, not just trying to lead men astray with teaching he knew was erroneous but which he spread to mankind for profit or prestiege or for sadistic self-enjoyment. Mohammed, says Carlyle, was sincere. He makes the cut.

Later Carlyle disparages the Prophet's agenda, his method of spreading it (or more correctly the method his early followers used to spread it), his personal life (to a lesser extent). He speaks ill of the Koran, saying it is a jumbled mess, mostly out of order, that has no great place in literature. Despite living for five years in Moslem lands, I've never read the Koran. It's on the reading list, but not high at the moment. He also speaks negatively about the Arab culture in which Islam first flourished. He calls them "the Oriental Italians," to contrast with the Persians, who were "the French of the East."

I have trouble with Carlyle's reasoning here, though it's difficult to say, given Carlyle's definition of a hero, that Mohammed shouldn't make the cut. Was he sincere? Did he really believe Allah had spoken to him? Given all the difficulty the residents of Mecca gave him in the earliest days, you'd have to think he was sincere; otherwise he surely would have given up.

I'm not sure sincerity is a good criteria, and I guess that's my problem. So long as we are leaving out the ordinary man and woman from the ranks of heroes, wouldn't correctness of results by the great man have something to do with it? How can we believe someone to be a hero when we also believe them to have been guilty of gross error in their thinking and practices? I cannot.

This was a clearly written chapter. It gave me a lot to think about. I actually want to go back and re-read it, as a fair amount I read in a semi-distracted state. Perhaps I'll come a little closer to Carlyle's way of thinking if I can apply focused gray cells to his words. If I ever manage to do that, perhaps I'll come back and modify this. My conclusion at present: This is a chapter well worth reading, even though I disagree with its conclusions.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

So Hard to Blog Regularly

Has it really been Sunday since I posted here? I had such good intentions. I was going to post at my writing blog Monday, here Tuesday, there Wednesday, here Thursday. Well Thursday has come, and this is the first post I've done in either of them.

Why is it so hard to blog regularly? I have things I want to write, perhaps not of great interest to the world, but stuff I want to say. I suppose it's that other things seem so much more important when I wake in the morning and drive to work. I sometimes write and post something in the before-work hour at the office. Lately, however, I'm reading in and adding to my Harmony of the Gospels. That seems more important than blogging.

On breaks I've been either keeping up with Facebook and e-mail or pursuing my Thomas Carlyle studies. The noon hour is about 3/4 taken up with heating and eating lunch and my walk. Those 15 minutes remaining would be enough time to write a post, but somehow I never get it done.

When I come home in the evenings there's always something to do. Bills, budgeting, filing, tracking medical expenses—these all take time. The TV is almost always on in the background, which helps to diminish concentration. If I have an hour I try to work on China Tour, though that time hasn't come to hand much recently. I look around at my work space in The Dungeon, and can see I have hours and hours of work just organizing papers. Monday some credit card issues prevented me from doing any writing of significance. Being sick to my stomach Tuesday evening didn't help much either.

Now income tax time is upon me and I must be about that business. I have a cover designer for a print version of Doctor Luke's Assistant, and somehow need to carve out two hours to do the formatting for that. I need to find a cover designer for the print In Front of Fifty Thousand Screaming People.

Ah, well, I'm starting to sound like Thomas Carlyle, making excuses. Just about every one of his letters begins with a lengthy paragraph about how awful he was not to have written to the person sooner. He found thousands of ways to say, "Sorry I'm so late in responding."

All these things somehow seem more important than blogging, but I'll keep posting. I have ideas for at least eight posts. Hopefully I can write three a week for a while, though I'd prefer four. We'll see.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

The DTR Talk

I'm home sick today, a cold I picked up from Lynda which she picked up sometime late last week, perhaps in Oklahoma City. I first felt the effects on Wednesday, was pleased to see it hadn't developed enough on Thursday to prevent my trip to Little Rock, worked most of the day Friday as it worsened, and then it hit hard yesterday. I rested all day, felt better by the evening, and figured I was getting over it. However, this morning as I rose and prepared to go to church and teach adult Life Group, I could tell I was actually worse than on Saturday. So I texted my co-teacher and told him I wasn't coming, and rested all day, alternately sleeping and reading.

Consequently, I have no day at church to report on today, and no sermon to relay. So I'll talk about last week, at the ROC Church of the Nazarene in Oklahoma City. After a good Sunday School class from the regular quarterly, the service and sermon were under the direction of Pastor Richard L. Schneberger. He is a fine leader and preacher. I'd say that even if he weren't my son-in-law. I've heard him preach perhaps twenty times over the years, and I'm always impressed.

Last week, using Luke 9:23 & 9:57-62 as his basis, he talked about our relationship with Jesus. He began by saying that sometimes we have to have the "DTR" talk. It meant nothing to me, but he quickly asked the teens in the congregation what it meant, and several said "define the relationship." I may know enough of texting to communicate with my Life Group co-teacher, but that was a new one on me.

Richard dug into the passage, which is the story of Jesus saying the one who would be His disciple should take up his cross daily and follow Him. Then, in the second part, several were confronted with decisions they would have to make if they intended to follow Jesus: to give up comforts, to not put family first, to worry more about the living than the dead.

He had a good illustration, which, before he gave it, said, "This is fiction. Please don't go repeating this as if it were true." He said what would the members of the church think if they went to a fancy restaurant on a Tuesday night and saw him having a candlelight dinner with a woman who wasn't his wife? His wife, of course, being our daughter. And what if someone from the church confronted him and asked why he was out with the other woman. He said "How would you take it if I answered, 'Well, my date night with Sara is Friday, so on a Tuesday I'm free to date someone else.'"

That was easy to tie back into the sermon. A decision to follow Jesus is not an on/off relationship. You make that decision and stick with it. You don't turn it on and off as you would a microwave oven.

Richard said he had several comments afterward on his illustration, including such as "I"m going to tell your wife!" Sara didn't hear it, as she was in the nursery. But he had told her beforehand what it was, so she knew it was coming.

It was, all in all, a very satisfying day in God's house.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Images of Bubble wrap and Corrugated Cardboard

Tuesday, March 5, 2013
4 years, 9 months, and 26 days

Such a blustery day today! And exactly as forecast. The weather people said it would be 15-20 degrees cooler than yesterday, and very windy. I considered not taking my noon walk, as I had only a light jacket to protect against the wind. But I want to get 50 minutes of walking in this week during the work week, so I walked. By the end of the lap (one "lap" in the commercial subdivision takes me about 10 minutes) I was frozen, so didn't try to add any extra minutes. I suspect the wind chill was around 30 degrees, and I definitely needed a hat or hood or even earmuffs.

At the end of the lap two items blew by that stuck with me. First was a cardboard box, flattened and probably from the recycling hopper next to the dumpster. I blew by slowly, in front of the first building downwind of ours, barely leaving the ground. I considered diverting the thirty feet necessary to pick it up and put it back in the recycling area, which I would walk by. But as cold as I felt I decided to just head to the building as quickly as I could.

The second was a piece of bubble wrap, maybe 2x3 feet. I was actually inside the building and walking past the door nearest my office when I saw it through that glass door. It momentarily hung up on the outside door handle. Possibly, had I been quicker, I might have been able to open the door and grab the wrap before the wind carried it off to the south. Alas, in that second where my embedded cache was slow process the bubble wrap freed itself, as if it had hands to push off the grabby handle, and off it went, four feet off the ground and climbing in the last view I had of it.

Today I critiqued a poem over at, I think the first poem I've critiqued in more than a year. It's a poem by a man from Wales that I've interacted with on the site from time to time. I'd consider him a friend, though not a correspondent. His poem was rich in images, but so obscure as to meaning that I couldn't sense any meaning from it at all. He made good use of poetic structure, ending words, variety of line conclusion types. But I couldn't understand the poem. And what I don't understand I don't generally like. That was the gist of my critique. I posted this in the evening here, probably after he had retired on the English isle, so it will be tomorrow before I see his reply.

So what do these things have in common? A flattened box scooting before the wind, a piece of plastic beginning to soar, and a Welsh poem too obscure for me to understand? I suppose they are linked by my writing desires. While imagery and metaphor are needed most in poetry, they are still needed in prose. And this is a weakness of my writing. I can't figure out how to best work images into my prose, and I can't figure out how to make my poetry consistently metaphorical.

Consequently my writing doesn't soar like bubble wrap. It rather scoots along the ground like flattened cardboard, moved by the wind but not going places in a hurry. I need to do more to achieve the bubble wrap effect, to soar, and to give the reader places to press harder and pop open some hidden meaning.

Obviously I'll keep working on it. I'd like to think I was already there, however,

Monday, March 4, 2013

A Carlyle Bibliography

As I work through this period of studying the works of Thomas Carlyle, a period that I'm not really sure how long it will last, I've been troubled by the lack of a bibliography of his works. A quick Internet search didn't turn one up, except for a listing of works on biography sites. I used them to put together a blended list, along with the table of contents of his Critical and Miscellaneous Essays. This gave me something I felt good about.

As I went on, however, reading something at a website here or in one of Carlyle's letters there, I discovered my blended bibliography wasn't complete. I more complete Internet search turned up a Google book of The Bibliography of Carlyle, by R.H. Shepherd. This was published in 1881, just after Carlyle's death. In this I found most of what I had, though some that I didn't. I also had a couple of things not in Shepherd, which is not very reassuring.

More searching, in on-lie used book sites, resulted in finding Thomas Carlyle: A Descriptive Bibliography by Rodger Tarr, from the 1980s. It's under copyright so is not on-line as of yet. I found it for a reasonable price, so I ordered it and expect it to arrive Monday or Tuesday.

I'm not really sure what I'll find in the Tarr book, nor where I'm going with this. One interesting thing is how the Shepherd bibliography is based mostly on publications, not on writing. So Carlyle's works are listed based on when they were published. So for example Carlyle's Reminiscences, which was published in 1881, contains memorials he wrote from 1832 to 1867. But since they were never published until 1881, that is where they are listed. Something like Reminiscences of My Irish Journey, which he wrote while on the journey in 1849 aren't listed in Shepherd, because they weren't published until after Carlyle's death. I'll be interested in how Tarr handles this.

I'm more interested in a list of Carlyle's writings in chronological order of when they were written, not when they were published. The published date is of interest also, but not as much as the writing date. Perhaps bibliography refers to publishing and there is another term I should be using for writings. I'll have to research that.

Another curious factor, at least for Shepherd and the on-line bibliographies is to not include any works that the writer produced that weren't published, as well as to ignore (or be unaware of) writing from early in the career, especially those items not included in the complete works compilation. I suppose that sort of makes sense. If Carlyle thought some of his early writings were not of good quality, he wouldn't want them in his collected works. But that then makes those writings harder to find.

Ah, well, lots of work ahead. I haven't yet run out of steam in this area of interest. I'll see where it takes me.