June 23rd, 2014

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A Miscellany of Morning Maunderings

I love hypnagogia - my subconcious comes up with all its best lines when I'm in that state. This morning I woke to the thought, "The time for snottiness may come, but sheathe the fruit of your disdain in Patience's nostril." Isn't that just the kind of sentiment you want to work into a sampler and sell on Etsy?

Prior to that, I'd dreamt I was writing an article on Milton, looking at his use of long dashes in early editions of Paradise Lost and exploring the hypothesis that he was influenced by the Real Character of Bishop Wilkins, where God is represented by a single horizontal line, that having (in Wilkins's opinion) a simplicity and unity befitting the divine. The sad thing is, I now really want to look into the idea.

I read a couple of Kipling short stories last night, "The Mark of the Beast" and its sequel, "The Return of Imray". In fact Imray didn't appear in the first, so his "return" in the second wasn't a classic sequelish use of "the return of" as a title element, but in fact signalled something altogether more macabre. Still, it got me to wondering what the first example of that locution might be as a sequel alert. Hollywood gave it its great boost, of course, but is there any earlier example than The Return of Sherlock Holmes (1905)? I wonder whether in future years scholars reading The Return of the Native might wonder about Hardy's lost text, called simply The Native - and ask themselves whether the later book would have sold better if titled Native II: This Time it's Pastoral.

Also, if "The Return of..." is a 20th-century invention, what ways of alerting readers to a work's status as a sequel were current prior to that? Labelling something Part I and Part II was one option, of course, used by both novelists and playwrights, but were there no others? Wasn't The Spanish Tragedy a sequel, in fact, to a play now lost? Hence "Hieronymo's mad again". I like to think that had Kyd not had his unfortunate run-in with Sir Thomas Walsingham that play might have been followed by The Swiss Tragedy, The French Tragedy, The Swedish Tragedy, and so on, in a gazetteer of Senecan stychomythia spanning the whole of Europe.

Tonight is Midsummer's Eve - at least, as I was taught it. Many people identify midsummer with the solstice, of course - and I wouldn't like to say they're wrong. I am interested, though, in when Shakespeare thought it was. Any clue?