Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Link of the Day
The Washington Post (or at least its book blog)just this month reviewed The Werewolf of Paris by Guy Endore. This book is apparently back in print for the first time in 40 years.

It's nice to see this (relatively) obscure 1933 book, about Werewolves eating prostitutes during the Paris Commune, get some of the attention it deserves.
For my own review from 4 years ago, see here.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Stealing this link from a friend's facebook page:
The Black Cauldron: Is the movie that almost killed Disney animation really that bad?

Just for pure nostalgia's sake. With no other reason really.

But adding this note: Nostalgia's a funny thing. A few years ago I rented and re-watched the Black Cauldron again. Although it was a deeply flawed movie in many ways, I could never bring myself to hate it. All I could remember was how excited I was to see it as a kid. And all the other 1980s cartoons I was excited about during the same period. And how I spent so much of my childhood in my own little world either watching these fantasy stories or imagining them.

For the same reasons, I think this is why I hate most movies I watch nowadays, but love everything that I saw during my childhood. Perhaps the reasons why me and everyone else of my generation never warmed to the Star Wars prequels, for example.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Colonial Cambodia’s “Bad Frenchmen”: The Rise of French Rule and the Life of Thomas Caraman, 1840-87 by Gregor Muller

(Book Review)

The title of this book is Colonial Cambodia’s “Bad Frenchmen.” However, as the quotation marks indicate, the words “Bad Frenchmen” are not the words of the author himself. Rather the title comes directly from the phrase used by the French colonial office itself, “des mauvais francais.” The French colonial office used these words to describe members of their fellow countrymen who they believed were giving France a bad name and lowering French prestige, and by doing so were endangering the French mission to civilize Cambodia (mission civilisatrice).

In his introduction, author Gregor Muller explains his reasons for wanting to focus on these “bad Frenchmen.” According to Muller, we often think of colonialism as the strong oppressing the weak. In actuality, however, things were a lot more complicated. In the case of Cambodia, and in the history of colonialism generally, the actual colonizers who settled in the new territories were largely the social outcasts, business failures and riff-raff from their own country. They did not always identify with the interests of their own government, and they could at times side with the native population against their own government when it suited them.

As Muller explains on page 6:
Caramen’s story and the stories of his fellow merchants in Phnom Penh painfully illustrate that colonial rule in Cambodia was no well-oiled monolithic campaign uniting military, bureaucratic and economic aims in any preordained way. Instead, early colonization is shown to be a piecemeal affair composed of scattered and haphazard efforts, often initiated by individuals and sometimes resting on unexpected alliances across the ethnic divide. As such, these narratives are, I believe, worth telling. The goal is not to trivialize the injustice of colonial rule. But if these stories remain untold there is a risk, as Nicholas Thomas notes, that “not simply … a dimension of colonialism might be neglected but that its coherence can be radically overstated.” (p.6)

To illustrate this, Muller focuses in on the life of Thomas Caraman.

Thomas Caraman actually pops up briefly a couple times in The French Presence in Cochinchina and Cambodia by Milton Osborne. Muller, who also read Osborne’s book, was intrigued enough by these brief references to go to the National Archives in Phnom Penh and dig out all the papers relating to Caraman, and then weave together the narrative that makes up the framework for this book.

From the brief view of Thomas Caraman we get in Milton Osborne’s book, he appears to be a successful French merchant who was influential with the Cambodian royal court, but not always on good terms with his own government.

In the much fuller picture we get from Gregor Muller, Thomas Caraman appears to be a megalomaniac who was not perhaps altogether in touch with reality.
Muller illustrates the huge gap between Caraman’s grandiose visions of himself on one hand, and his complete failure as a business man on the other hand. The gap between Caraman’s self image and reality is so great that often he does not appear to be completely sane. Muller does not attempt to diagnose him, but suggests at some points that Caraman may have been affected by a case of narcissism which affected the way he viewed the world.

Caraman had dreams of making it big in Cambodia, but has absolutely no business skills or cultural skills with which to do so. Like many of his fellow countrymen, he seems to simply have believed that he was guaranteed success in the colonies because of his white skin which he thought would open every door and smooth out every difficulty.
Instead, he spun from one magnificent failed business venture to another, but never really seemed to learn his lesson. After each failure he blamed everyone but himself, and then picked himself up and tried another business venture.

Although he developed a bad reputation with the colonial government, surprisingly enough, despite Carman’s poor track record and complete lack of skills, his amazing confidence in himself appears to have been infectious. He apparently was a skilled enough talker that he was able to bamboozle various people into backing his ridiculous business plans every time.
(Reading this book, I was struck by how useful it is in the world to simply project a confident self-image. The lesson of Thomas Caraman’s life seems to be to project confidence, no matter what, and at least some people will eventually give in and follow.)

Gregor Muller reconstructs as much of Caraman’s life as he can through his surviving letters, and other archival documents. He then uses Caraman’s life as a frame to explore other aspects of colonial French society in Cambodia.
As a reader, it is not a framework I was entirely happy about, which brings me to the next section


So, is this a good book?
As always, that depends on what yardstick you are using to judge it.

As a work of scholarship, I think Gregor Muller has made a significant contribution to the field of history by rescuing Thomas Caraman’s story from the molding old papers in the Phnom Penh archives.

And when it comes to being informative, this book is very informative. I can’t deny I learned a lot about Cambodia and French colonial society from reading this book.

But as someone who reads history for a hobby, I primarily tend to judge these books on how enjoyable they are to read. And here I regret to say I must give this book low marks.

It’s not that Muller is a bad writer—his prose is very readable, and he displays some excellent talent for story telling in some of the narrative passages. My big problem with the book is the editing.
[I know some pedantic people are going to tell me that good editing is part of good writing, but for my purposes here I’m going to make a distinction between paragraph level prose writing and broader editing concerns.]

Take for example, the opening paragraphs to chapter 6:

William Hale held nothing against black people as long as they stayed in their place. In the course of his career he had learned to appreciate their work. For close to twenty years he relied on black slave labor to sustain his cotton-spinning mill in New Orleans. In antebellum Louisiana, where people were still bought and sold as property, William Hale thrived. Once the Civil War had formally ended slavery in the southern states, and with many former slaves gone north, Hale decided to move to a place where labor remained cheap and abundant, and where his white skin counted for something. Perhaps this was the prime reason that he wound up in Saigon soon after the French conquest of the Mekong Delta.
William Hale was the local representative of Jardine & Matheson, the largest Hong Kong Merchant house in the Far East, and he also dealt in insurance, shipping, and commodity trade. In 1874 the British Consulate listed him as representing “the leading British interests in the colony,” including the legendary Lloyd’s of London. Hale was a busy man and needed no further responsibilities, but he kept a watchful eye on developments on the local cotton market and hoped that circumstances would one day permit him to return to his former trade. With American plantations struggling in the 1870s and the demand for quality cotton high on the world market, Saigon’s traders were certain that cotton was Cochinchina’s future. Unsuccessful forays into that area in previous years had not diminished the general optimism regarding the potential of local cotton. When one day, in May 1878, Caraman walked into Hale’s office to tell him how he planned to revolutionize the Khmer cotton industry, Hale was therefore ready to listen.

(page 157)

The prose style of the above two paragraphs is well-written and quite readable. My problem, however, is that after a big introduction like this right at the beginning of a chapter, you would expect Hale to be one of the major figures in that chapter. Instead, after these 2 paragraphs, and a brief sentence on the following page [“Hale was so impressed by Caraman’s pitch that he loaned him several thousand piasters”] William Hale is never heard from again.

It may seem a small complaint, but these frequent false leads gave me a minor headache over the course of reading this book. I would often think the author was going in one direction, and then find myself suddenly following him down a different tangent instead.

My other complaint is that this book focused so much on analytical history at the expense of its story.
This is a matter of personal preference. If you like scholarly history books that are light on story but heavy on analysis, you won’t mind this. But I prefer to read books that tell history as a story, and I was frustrated because the story kept getting interrupted by long analytical sections.

Part of this is also perhaps disappointed expectations. After slogging my way through two rather dry books on French Colonial history in Indochina (The Roots of French Imperialism in Eastern Aisa and the aforementioned The French Presence in Cochinchina and Cambodia) I was hoping for more of a readable popular history, and the title of this book as well as the cover seemed to promise just that.

But this book is not primarily a biography. Caraman’s life does not make up the majority of this book, but instead Muller will use Caraman’s story as a jumping off point to go on at length about various digressions. (I suspect that in the end there just wasn’t enough surviving information on Caraman to fill up a whole book, and so Muller had to resort to various other subjects to fill out the pages. Or it could have been Muller’s plan all along to write a book that was heavy on analysis, I don’t know.)

I found the constant switching back and forth between narrative and analytical sections a bit jolting. Just when I felt like I was getting into Caraman’s story, Muller would go off on some digression for 10 pages or so. When the book finally got around to returning to Caraman’s story, I had largely forgotten what was going on with Caraman, and further more had stopped caring.

To take a typical example:
One of the more interesting events in Caraman’s life is when he was commissioned by the Cambodian king Norodom to procure certain items from France. Caraman manages to botch the job horribly, spending way more money than King Norodom was prepared to reimburse him for. When the king refused to pay for the items Caraman had delivered, an ad hoc tribunal had to be set up by the French colonial authorities to arbitrate the dispute.

It’s a fascinating story, but right at the climatic moment of the showdown, when the French tribunal is deciding its verdict, Muller takes a 23 page digression to talk about the French legal system in Cambodia. In the course of these 23 pages there are several digressions within the digression. We learn about the attitudes of the French to the Cambodian legal system, the history of French judicial control, and the question of whether Vietnamese nationals living in Cambodia should be subject to French law or Cambodian law. We even get yanked into various side stories, like a case about a Vietnamese woodcutter in French controlled Cambodia, and the question of whether Indians in Cambodia should have the same legal protections as European colonialists.

And then finally we get back to the story of Caraman and his legal dispute with King Norodom. At which point I had largely forgotten about this story, and had at any point stopped caring.

We get a few more pages about Caraman’s various misadventures in Cambodia, but then the next chapter (Chapter 5: Rules of romance and reproduction, 1877—79) takes some passing remarks Caraman makes about his Cambodian mistress as an excuse to go on a 30 page digression about every aspect of French interaction with Cambodian women.
In the course of this digression on colonial romance, Muller briefly returns to Caraman’s story to talk about a fist fight between Caraman and his Siamese Mandarin neighbor that attracted much attention, but then (without even bothering to say who won the fight) Muller goes off on more digressions.

And this is typical of the whole book. I found it very frustrating myself.

Also at the end of each chapter or section, the author has the tendency to explicitly spell out the lessons that can be learned from each subject, which unfortunately makes the book sound like a textbook.

But, as always, you should take my opinion with a grain of salt.
This book is popular among the expatriate crowd here in Cambodia, and I’ve talked to a number of other expats here who have also read this book. And so far, I’m the only one I’ve encountered who didn’t enjoy it. Everyone else seems to like this book, and even when I try to explain what I found frustrating about the book, they don’t agree with me.
So I seem to be in the minority on this one.

Interesting Points
Despite my frustrations with this book as a whole, there were several interesting tidbits to be gained along the way.

In spite of all the books flaws, there may be enough little interesting nuggets to justify reading it after all.
For example, during the Cambodian uprising against the French in 1884-87, there are some interesting (if rather horrifying) passages describing the torched earth policy the French commanders practiced against the Cambodian villagers. It's a reminder that the Americans were not the first Western power to commit atrocities in this country.

Also, among the expatriate crowd in Cambodia now, people who have read this book seem to enjoy drawing parallels between the French expatriate community described in this book, and the expatriate community in Cambodia now.
After some 40 years of civil war, Cambodia, or at least Phnom Penh, has once again become a place where large numbers of expatriates have chosen to settle.
In fact there's a new book out now, by a Frenchman, about the new expatriate community in Cambodia: Expatriates' Strange Lives in Cambodia by Frederic Amat [LINK HERE]. I've not read that book yet, but it might be the logical follow-up to this one.

Link of the Day
Noam Chomsky – US treatment of Bradley Manning “obviously improper” see here and here

Thursday, August 23, 2012

On the Amalekites

So this link, How Christian fundamentalists plan to teach genocide to schoolchildren

...brings back a few memories.

I first remember hearing about Saul's destruction of the Amalekites in second grade. My second grade teacher (at my private Christian school) told us Bible stories every day.

It was in retrospect, a surprisingly thorough retelling of the Old Testament considering we were only in second grade.

To give her her due, my second grade teacher was very good at her job. We were too young to read the real Bible at that age, so she would just retell the Bible stories to us in language that we could understand.
It was one of those under-appreciated skills that looks deceptively easy, but very few people actually pull it off.

(I used to ask my mom to tell Bible stories just like our teacher did, but without success. Also once the student teacher took over Bible story time for a few days, and couldn't do it at all. She completely confused the whole class trying to re-tell the story about how Jeroboam and Rehoboam split the Kingdom of Israel into two parts. Then, a couple days later our regular teacher came back and started telling us the stories again, and suddenly it was back in a language we understood.)

Perhaps because she was such a good story teller, several of these stories stick out in my mind years later.

I remember well the story of Saul's extermination of the Amalekites. I remember it partly because it referenced back an earlier story. The teacher reminded us of how the Amalekites had attacked the Israelites in the desert, and in my child mind I immediately thought: "Oh no, was I supposed to have remembered that? I vaguely remember when they got attacked in the desert, but I didn't remember the tribe's name." (I was a typical first born and prone to panic easily in school when I thought I wasn't remembering everything I should of.)

Oddly enough, the brutal extermination of the Amalekites itself didn't particularly horrify me at the time. But as I said, we had already worked our way through several gruesome Old Testament stories by this point, and one more massacre more or less didn't seem to make a difference.

Plus we were children, and we accepted whatever the adults told us. If the adults told us it was morally right for the Israelites to kill all the Amalekites, we tended to accept it and just shove our own doubts into the back of our mind. (Or at least I did.)

It's only now in retrospect that I wonder why these kind of stories were taught to children. And why people think that children should get their morality from the Bible.

Also, it wasn't until later years (and the invention of the Internet) that I would discover that the destruction of the Amalekites is a thread that re-occurs several times throughout the Old Testament.
It's true that God orders plenty of other races are exterminated in books like Numbers and Joshua, but these appear to have been done in the hot blood of conquest. The extermination of the Amalekites is done in cold blood over the centuries. Even during the time of Saul, even during the time of Hezekiah, God still can not stand the fact that there are some people of Amalekite blood living, and he still orders the Israelites to systematically wipe them out.

It is in response to this that Chomsky gives his famous comments about the Bible. The link is here, but the relevant section probably deserves to be quoted here in full as well.

In response to a question from the interview that many people look to religion to provide moral codes, Chomsky replies:
Moral codes...You can find things in the traditional religions which are very benign and decent and wonderful and so on, but I mean the Bible is probably the most genocidal book in the literary canon. The God of the Bible--not only did He order His chosen people to carry out literal genocide--I mean wipe out every Amalekite down to the last man, woman, child, and, you know, donkey and so on because hundreds of years ago they got in your way when you were trying to cross the desert--not only did He do things like that, but, after all the God of the Bible was willing to destroy every living creature on earth because some humans irritated Him. That's the story of Noah. I mean, that's beyond genocide--you don't know how to describe this creature. Somebody offended him, and He was going to destroy every living being on earth? And then He was talked into allowing two of every species to stay alive--that's supposed to be gentle and wonderful.

(A couple disclaimers should probably be made at this point. First according to the Biblical account the Amalekites did ambush the Israelites in the desert, not just simply get in their way. But I'll make allowances for Chomsky because he's talking from memory in an interview situation.
Secondly it's probably also important to note thatChomsky's views on religion are more complex than this one quote would indicate. In other talks and interviews he does say that most of the progress movements of the last century have come out of the church, so he is no Christopher Hitchens, believing religious groups are always the root of all evil.)

There are of course numerous Christian apologetics for the Amalekite genocide, and you can find several of them on-line. This one seems to be the most thorough.
Good question...shouldn't the butchering of the Amalekite children be considered war crimes? By Glenn Miller.

I'm not going to try to refute this on a point by point basis. For me, I think you begin to lose your humanity by even entering into the debate. Once you even start entertaining the idea that these massacres are morally ok, then you've lost something. If that makes me close minded, then so be it I guess.

Link of the Day
Academic Freedom and the Corporatization of Universities

Friday, August 17, 2012

If I Were A Radio Producer....

I just finished working my way through the BBC Radio series: This Sceptred Isle (W). Again.

I've worked my way through this series several times now actually, and thoroughly enjoy it each time.
If you include everything, it's about 50 hours. But the nice thing about radio programs and Audio Books is that you never really miss the time

I've always been a slow reader, but I'm a big fan of audio books because I can put them on the in the background at my apartment when I'm doing my laundry, cooking, eating dinner, cleaning, getting dressed, getting ready for bed, et cetera.

At times I disagree slightly with some of the politics of the show. For example at the end of the last episode, there's a little polemic about how the the lesson of English history is that Britain works best when it has a strong central figure to lead it. This rubs my anarchist sensibilities the wrong way.

But this didn't stop me from appreciating what masterful storytelling the series used. Taking the listener all the way from Julius Caesar's invasion of Britain in 55 BC to Tony Blair in 1999 in just 45 hours, the show gives just the right amount of details to keep things interesting, but at the same times keeps a strong narrative arch that avoids getting bogged down in the details.

It makes me wish NPR would do a similar project on American history. A comprehensive overview of American history lasting about 50 hours or so. (Or longer. I wouldn't mind longer actually). And taking us all the way through American history from the colonial days up to the present.

And so, if I were a Radio Producer, this is the project I would commission.

Actually--at the risk of sounding like a huge geek, this is what I would absolutely love: a year by year chronicle of American history.  Each year would get a one hour radio program dedicated to it.  Possibly two 1 hour radio programs for each year.  And then just systematically work your way through the entire history of America, from the earliest colonial settlements to the present day.
 The style would be the same as "This Sceptred Isle" where you would have a narrator's voice telling the story (instead of a panel discussion or various experts brought it.)  It would take a lot of work and energy to do the research and then to write it into a smooth flowing narrative, but you could start slow.  Maybe just one new program a month?  One new program every 6 months?  However long they needed to produce a quality series.
It would take forever to work all the way through American history on a year by year basis, but who cares?  Public radio isn't going anywhere soon (hopefully).  Take the long route and gradually accumulate a huge archive of radio programs that chronicle every year of American history.  Then you could sell collections of the archived programs on CD.   (If it takes several decades to work your way through all that history, you could start selling archived collections before the show as a whole is complete).  History geeks like me could buy them and listen to them at our leisure at home.  We would love it.

Just my humble idea to make the world a more interesting place.

Link of the Day
In Hiroshima's Shadow

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Ayn Rand Back in the News

(And other digressions)

So I guess the fact that Mitt Romney's vice presidential nominee is a huge Ayn Rand nut has thrust Ayn Rand back into the news.

I don't know if you've been reading all the same internet articles I have, but here's all the interesting things about Ayn Rand I've learned in the past few days.

Via Phil I learned that Ayn Rand had a bizarre serial killer fan girl phase--article here.

And via Salon.com, Ayn Rand Railed Against Government Benefits, But Grabbed Social Security and Medicare When She Needed Them.

For my own thoughts on Ayn Rand, see my review of The Fountainhead here.

If you've ever read any Ayn Rand, it comes out very quickly that she is not a fan of Christianity.
It is ironic she has become the icon of the Republican Party then.

So just to be clear : If you're from the libertarian wing of the Republican Party, and you like Ayn Rand, fair enough I suppose.
But if you're from the religious right wing of the Republican Party, you really have no business praising Ayn Rand.

Also while we're on the subject of historical figures who are misunderstood by the right wing, Cracked.com has a good article on why the Right has completely misunderstood Thomas Paine, and why they really have no business using him as a symbol considering he was actually much more of a New Deal Democrat and  stood for just about everything they opposed.

I made the same observation a few years after reading a mini-biography of Thomas Paine.
And in fact if you wanted to go even further on this, something that the Cracked.com article only talks about Thomas Paine's economic ideas, and doesn't even mention that Paine really hated the Bible, and spent most of his intellectual energy in his later years writing about what a horrible book the Bible was. Which is yet another reason he would make awkward company with today's religious right.

To quote Thomas Paine on the Bible:

Whenever we read the obscene stories, the voluptuous debaucheries, the cruel and torturous executions, the unrelenting vindictiveness, with which more than half the Bible is filled, it would be more consistent that we called it the word of a demon, than the word of God. It is a history of wickedness, that has served to corrupt and brutalize mankind; and, for my part, I sincerely detest it, as I detest everything that is cruel.

(For full text see here).

And while I'm on the subject....
If you go back to the Cracked.com article linked to above: 8 Historic Symbols That Mean The Opposite of What You Think, I also agree with them that it is totally stupid for anarchists to use Guy Fawkes symbols. See my review of V for Vendetta here to see me making essentially the same argument that they do.

(Actually the whole list is pretty good. My only nit-pick is #6. I think they are being a little bit harsh on people who like Che Guevara. Yes, Che had his faults. Yes, the whole misadventure in the Congo was not his finest hour. But that doesn't mean that he wasn't a symbol of anti-imperialism. And plus I think most of the people who wear Che Guevara T-shirts do know that he was in the Congo.)

Link of the Day
On Politics, Occupy, the Tea Party and the Global Financial Crisis

Saturday, August 04, 2012

On The Passing of Gore Vidal

Since everyone else is writing on this, I might as well put in my two cents as well.

I've never actually read much Gore Vidal, although I've always been meaning to. After all, he seems like the kind of author who would be up my street: writes a lot of historical fiction from a liberal polemical standpoint.
His American Empire series in general, and Burr (W) in particular have long been on my list of "books to get around to someday."

The only thing by Gore Vidal I actually read was Julian (W). I read it in 9th grade for a book report project in English class. We were allowed to pick our own book for this project.
At the time I had no idea who Gore Vidal was, but I was going through my Roman Empire phase, and I was reading all the books our school library had on ancient Rome.

For anyone who's not yet read it, the book is a historical novel (apparently very well researched) about Julian--the Apostate--the Roman Empire who attempted to return Rome to Paganism years after Constantine had already made Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire. Because the book is written from Julian's point of view, it is written to include his criticisms of Christianity, and what he sees as the virtue of Rome's ancient religion.

It is to the credit of my conservative Christian high school that they stocked this book in their library. But it was still a bit of an anomaly to find a book critical of Christianity in the school library, and, having gone into the book completely blind, I got really confused by it.
I kept waiting for Julian to realize his mistake, and for Christianity to be redeemed at the end of the book. When that didn't happen, I wasn't quite sure what to write on the book report.

This was 20 years ago now, so some of the details of the book are a bit vague in my memory. I remember it being well-written, but I also remember at the time feeling a bit restless with how slow the plot was moving. That could just have been because I was a lot more impatient at 14. I wonder what my reaction would be if I were to read it again now.
The other thing that sticks in my mind is the passages of the book dealing with sex.  If memory serves, it was nothing too explicit, but then I came from a Christian school background, and I was unused to any discussion of sex in a novel at all (aside from the moralizing anti-sexual polemics).   This may be another reason the book has stuck in my memory after all these years.

Link of the Day
Destroying the Commons

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

That We Should Rise With The Lark by Charles Lamb

I'm stealing today from Charles Lamb (W), because
1). I got a laugh out of this little essay,
2). It reflects my own views entirely, and
3). It's in the public domain.

I encountered this essay on the audio book One Thousand Years of Laughter: An Anthology of Classic Comic Prose (A).
I won't be giving that audio book the full review treatment here, because it's not a real book so much as it is just a compilation. But I will say I thoroughly enjoyed it.

At what precise minute that little airy musician doffs his night gear, and prepares to tune up his unseasonable matins, we are not naturalists enough to determine. But for a mere human gentleman—that has no orchestra business to call him from his warm bed to such preposterous exercises—We take ten, or half after ten (eleven, of course, during this Christmas solstice), to be the very earliest hour, at which he can begin to think of abandoning his pillow.
To think of it, we say; for to do it in earnest, requires another half hour's good consideration. Not but there are pretty sun-risings, as we are told, and such like gawds, abroad in the world, in summer time especially, some hours before what we have assigned; which a gentleman may see, as they say, only for getting up. But, having been tempted once or twice, in earlier life, to assist at those ceremonies, we confess our curiosity abated. We are no longer ambitious of being the sun's courtiers, to attend at his morning levees.
We hold the good hours of the dawn too sacred to waste them upon such observances; which have in them, besides, something Pagan and Persic. To say truth, we never anticipated our usual hour, or got up with the sun (as 'tis called), to go a journey, or upon a foolish whole day's pleasuring, but we suffered for it all the long hours after in listlessness and headachs; Nature herself sufficiently declaring her sense of our presumption, in aspiring to regulate our frail waking courses by the measures of that celestial and sleepless traveller. We deny not that there is something sprightly and vigorous, at the outset especially, in these break-of-day excursions. It is flattering to get the start of a lazy world; to conquer death by proxy in his image. But the seeds of sleep and mortality are in us; and we pay usually in strange qualms, before night falls, the penalty of the unnatural inversion. Therefore, while the busy part of mankind are fast huddling on their clothes, are already up and about their occupations, content to have swallowed their sleep by wholesale; we chose to linger a-bed, and digest our dreams.
It is the very time to recombine the wandering images, which night in a confused mass presented; to snatch them from forgetfulness; to shape, and mould them. Some people have no good of their dreams. Like fast feeders, they gulp them too grossly, to taste them curiously. We love to chew the cud of a foregone vision: to collect the scattered rays of a brighter phantasm, or act over again, with firmer nerves, the sadder nocturnal tragedies; to drag into day-light a struggling and half-vanishing night-mare; to handle and examine the terrors, or the airy solaces. We have too much respect for these spiritual communications, to let them go so lightly. We are not so stupid, or so careless, as that Imperial forgetter of his dreams, that we should need a seer to remind us of the form of them. They seem to us to have as much significance as our waking concerns; or rather to import us more nearly, as more nearly we approach by years to the shadowy world, whither we are hastening. We have shaken hands with the world's business; we have done with it; we have discharged ourself of it. Why should we get up? we have neither suit to solicit, nor affairs to manage. The drama has shut in upon us at the fourth act. We have nothing here to expect, but in a short time a sick bed, and a dismissal. We delight to anticipate death by such shadows as night affords. We are already half acquainted with ghosts. We were never much in the world. Disappointment early struck a dark veil between us and its dazzling illusions. Our spirits showed grey before our hairs. The mighty changes of the world already appear as but the vain stuff out of which dramas are composed. We have asked no more of life than what the mimic images in play-houses present us with. Even those types have waxed fainter. Our clock appears to have struck. We are SUPERANNUATED. In this dearth of mundane satisfaction, we contract politic alliances with shadows. It is good to have friends at court. The abstracted media of dreams seem no ill introduction to that spiritual presence, upon which, in no long time, we expect to be thrown. We are trying to know a little of the usages of that colony; to learn the language, and the faces we shall meet with there, that we may be the less awkward at our first coming among them. We willingly call a phantom our fellow, as knowing we shall soon be of their dark companionship. Therefore, we cherish dreams. We try to spell in them the alphabet of the invisible world; and think we know already, how it shall be with us. Those uncouth shapes, which, while we clung to flesh and blood, affrighted us, have become familiar. We feel attenuated into their meagre essences, and have given the hand of half-way approach to incorporeal being.
We once thought life to be something; but it has unaccountably fallen from us before its time. Therefore we choose to dally with visions. The sun has no purposes of ours to light us to.
Why should we get up?