Saturday, July 25, 2009

inside view of the Tour de France

This is the last day of this year's edition of the Tour de France. By tradition there's no real competition until the very end on the boulevards of Paris. While I'm writing, the riders are rolling through the countryside conversing casually with each other. In pre-race interviews they say the race was unusually tactical and hard, building from a relatively undramatic beginning to a major conflict in yesterday's stage ending with the fierce climb of Mont Ventoux. They also point out that the number and enthusiasm of spectators was astounding this year, culminating with huge crowds of joyful people on Ventoux. And they point out that drug testing seems finally have succeeded in eliminating illegal performance-enhancing substances: a huge amount of controls and no detections.

I'm confident that one racer whose career I've been following off and on for the past few years hasn't used any such substances. He's a personable and modest guy of relatively modest achievements who's Dutch born riding for a Dutch team: Joost Posthuma.

This photo, taken last year, shows him in less garish clothing than his blue and orange Rabo kit:

{source: dailypeloton}

There are short biographies and early photos of him on his own web page and at this Dutch site:

His personal web site also has an extensive photo gallery.

Quite a few riders have personal blogs and a growing number of them tweet and some regularly blog.

This year, Joost has been doing daily interviews from his mobile phone while on the massage table each evening.

Here are some highlights from his calls.

His work day can seem surprisingly mundane. He loves his morning coffee, gets cranky when he's delayed at an airport and looks forward to a pre-dinner shower at the end of a short flight; he puts in his day's work and relaxes in the evening by reading a book, watching sports on TV, catching up with friends and family on his mobile phone, and accessing the Internet with his notebook.

Although he's won some of the less-well-known races, here at the Tour de France he's a support rider, helping to give the team's leading riders a chance at winning stages and placing highly in the overall classification. He's looked out for opportunities to get in breaks during the flat stages but missed the deciding break of the day until yesterday's great stage to Mont Ventoux. This 16-man break stayed away from the third kilometer until nearly the last of this 167 k stage. He worried that the peloton would catch the group and increased his pace to keep them off.

This photo shows him at peak effort as lead rider on the lower slopes of Mont Ventoux:

{source: cyclingnews}

Not a mountain specialist, Joost's effort helped give his teammate, Juan Garate, the wherwithal to win the stage at the top of the mountain.

{Garate pulling away to win;source: cyclingnews. Click here for a thumbnail page of cyclingnews images from this stage.}

Most of this tour's 21 stages, he helped protect the leaders and ferried food and drink from the cars at rear back to team members in the peloton. Although the team's managers were growing increasingly upset with the team's performance until it's success yesterday, Joost never felt that he'd performed poorly and reports times he won praise for doing good work from both his fellow team members and the team's managers.

An even-tempered and friendly kind of guy, he's not prone to make controversial statements. He can be pretty funny as for example in his comments on the Tour's radio-free day. Calling the stage a race without ears, he said race organizers, in seeking ways to back off from technological advances, should require riders to go back to using toeclips and hairnets (which he calls "sausage hats").

Perhaps it's odd that Joost doesn't say much about performance-enhancing drugs. Along with other team members, he was recently called to to give information as evidence is accumulated against a former member of his team. He only just mentions that and his other comments deal with the extensive test program of the Tour, which he takes in stride.

In response to the interviewer's question, he says he's never broken a bone, though he's had his share of injuries. The topic arises because, as usually happens, a couple of riders have crashed and been forced to abandon because of bone breaks. He's strained his knee but has avoided scrapes and bruises as well.

He appreciates encouragement he's received from the many Dutch fans who line the roads but didn't like being thumped on the back by an over-enthusiastic (and probably over-beered) Netherlander on one mountain stage.

He's content with the cold and wet as well as the hot and dry weather they've encountered and didn't complain about the winds of Provence which raged yesterday.

He looks forward to visits with his parents and other relatives, and with his girl friend of course, when they're able to attend stages. He looks forward to getting back to his garden at home and being reunited with his dog.

Friends and family members write in the "guestbook" on his website to give words of encouragement during the unsuccessful stages of this year's Tour and congratulations on his success yesterday. One couple say, roughly: "Hey beautiful mountain goat. We've been watching this afternoon's ride you with awe and admiration. We congratulate you, on the team's stage victory, and your own performance 1.56 behind the winner on the Mont Ventoux." A woman admirer writes: "Congratulations on the victory of Mont Ventoux. You rode very strongly today. Echt Klasse! Yesterday night I rode back from the Tour along with your parents who were sitting in our bus. I had a nice week's holiday at the Tour."

Some previous posts about Joost:

Some examples of rider blogs:

Joost on "ears:"
No oortjes - ears: "I just got a phone voice mail from my mother. She is angry and disappointed in the [radio-free] stage today. She's a major cycle racing fan, and is upset at how tame the racing is right now. Today there was no real competition.

Joost on radio-free day:

The interviewer asks Joost whether there was tacit agreement to take the day easy in protest. Joost says nothing concerted, but a kind of consensus to ride easy. He says, "It is ridiculous that we possess modern communications and can't use them." What's next? he says, will tomorrow they require the riders to used toeclips and wear sausage helmets. "Back in time."

{toeclip pedals; source: wikipedia}

{toeclip cleats; source: wikipedia}

{"sausage helmet"; aka hairnet or vegetable basket; source: labicletta}

{Laurent Fignon with toeclips; source: grahamwatson}

{Fignon with "sausage helmet"; source: pezcyclingnews}


Drug testing:
According to Pat McQuaid, the head of the International Cycling Union, the Tour de France will be the most rigorously tested sports event in history. There will be about 520 doping tests, and several of the 180 riders are already in the cross-hairs even before the three-week showcase even begins. {source}


This shows Laurens ten Dam scraped and bruised. He fell on a fast descent and posted this photo of himself afterward.

{photo by Laurens ten Dam posted on Twitter}

Friday, July 24, 2009

three weeks in July

Alan Taylor's "Big Picture" on has a feature on the Tour de France today:

{Bradley Wiggins of Britain speeds down Col du Tourmalet in the Pyrenees mountains during the 9th stage of the Tour de France on Sunday July 12, 2009. (AP Photo/Bas Czerwinski)}

There's one more hugely difficult stage to run before the final run-in to Paris on Sunday. In three weeks of tough riding everyone's been rung through the ringer time after time. My favorite rider isn't one of the stars, he's one of the guys on the Rabobank team who provides support to the team's sprinters and its contender for the overall race leader. Though he's been doing his job extremely well, the team has done poorly. Through bad luck, tactical mistakes, and lack of form, they've failed to take a stage victory and have no chance for a high-place finish at the conclusion of the race.

That's put only a small damper on my enthusiasm. It's been an interesting race all the same. In daily telephone interviews, the guy I follow, Joost Posthuma, has been giving insights into the events of this year's Tour and the difficulties he's faced. You can read the series, in Dutch, here:

I'll give some highlights in another post.

For now, here are a few photos from the gallery on his web site.
{All photos are copyrighted; I'm providing these thumbnails under fair use provisions of copyright law.}

12th stage, hot and dry, July 16

13th stage, cold and wet, July 17

14th stage, July 18: his mom was able to get off work this day

15th stage, July 19: collecting water bottles to distribute to team members,

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Emerson casts off English overweight

At Sea, July 23.

Dragged day and night continually through the water by this steam engine, at the rate of near twelve knots, or fourteen statute miles, the hour; in the nearing America my inviting port, England loses its recent overweight, America resumes its commanding claims.

One long disgust is the sea. No personal bribe would hire one who loves the present moment. Who am I to be treated in this ignominious manner, tipped up, shoved against the side of the house, rolled over, suffocated with bilge mephitis and stewing-oil? These lack-lustre days go whistling over us and are those intercalaries I have often asked for, and am cursed now with, — the worthless granting of my prayer.

Thomas G. Appleton* makes now his fourteenth passage. "Shakspeare will do," he said.

The English habit of betting makes them much more accurate than we are in their knowledge of particulars. — "Which is the longest river, the Mississippi or the Missouri?" — They are about the same length. — "About! that won't do, — I've a bet upon it." Captain Lott says that 'tis difficult to know in America the precise speed of a boat because the distances are not settled between the cities, and we overrate them. In England, the distance from Boston to New York would be measured to half a foot. He says that the boat is yet to be built that will go through the water nineteen miles per hour.

In the cabin conversations about England and America, Tom Appleton amused us all by tracing all English performance home to the dear Puritans, and affirming that the Pope also was once in South America, and there met a Yankee, who gave him notions on politics and religion.

M. Lehmann, in Paris, who made a crayon sketch of my head for Madame d'Agout, remarked that in American heads was an approach to the Indian type; and in England, or perhaps from David Scott at Edinburgh, I heard a similar observation.

Gilpin's "Forest Scenery" is a good example of the sincerity of English culture.

*Note by the editor of the Journals: "Thomas Gold Appleton, the genial Boston wit."

Thomas Gold Appleton (March 31, 1812 – April 17, 1884), an American, was an artist, writer, and patron of the arts.

Henri Lehmann (1814–1882) was a French historical and portrait painter. This is his portrait of Madame Marie d'Agoult.

{Marie d'Agoult;source: wikipedia}

Painting by David Scott (1806 – 1849), a Scottish historical painter (portrait here).

{William Gilpin; source: wikipedia}

In referring to Gilpin's Forest scenery as an example of sincerety of English culture, Emerson is drawing attention to the Victorian habit of making things "agreeable." Forest Scenery is a book by William Gilpin. Gilpin (says wikipedia) was an English artist, clergyman, schoolmaster, and author, best known as one of the originators of the idea of the picturesque. He made rules by which wealthy Englishmen could create artful, and very artificial, ruins on their estates.

A source:

Journals of Ralph Waldo Emerson, ed by Edward Waldo Emerson and Waldo Emerson Forbes (Houghton Mifflin Co., 1912)

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

odiously thin and pale, this republic dances before blue bloodshot English eyes

Emerson wrote this letter during his voyage home from England.
To Samuel Gray Ward, S.S. EUROPA, July 22, 1848

At sea Steamship Europa
22 July 1848.        

The daily presence and cheerful smiles of your brother [probably Thomas Wren Ward, Jr.] make it almost imperative, if I had not besides a just debt, to write you a page, and it will be some sunshine in these head winds and long disgust of the sea, to remember all the gallery of agreeable images that are wont to appear with your name. What games we men so dumb and lunatic play with one another! What is it or can it be to you that through the long mottled trivial years a dreaming brother cherishes in a corner some picture of you as a type or nucleus of happier visions and a freer life. I am so safe in my iron limits from intrusion or extravagance, that I can well afford to indulge my humor with the figures that pass my dungeon window, without incurring any risk of a ridiculous shock from coming hand to hand with my Ariel and Gabriel. Besides, if you and other deceivers should really not have the attributes of which you hang out the sign, you were meant to have them, they are in the world, and it is with good reason that I rejoice in the tokens. Strange that what is most real and cordial in existence should lie under what is most fantastic and vanishing. I have long ago found that we belong to our life, not that it belongs to us, and that we must be content to play a sort of admiring and secondary part to our genius. But here, to relieve you of these fine cobwebs, comes an odd challenge from a fellow passenger to play chess with him; me too, who have not played chess, I suppose, for twenty years. 'T is of a piece with the oddity of my letter, and I shall accept that, as I write this. Shadows and shadows. Never say I did it. Your loving fellow film.

Sea Weeds. — Two very good men with whom I spent a Sunday in the country near Winchester lately [Arthur Helps and Thomas Carlyle on July 9], asked me if there were any Americans, if there were any who had an American idea? or what is it that thoughtful and superior men with us would have? Certainly I did not retort, after our country fashion, by defying them to show me one mortal Englishman who did not live from hand to mouth but who saw his way. No, I assured them there were such monsters hard by the setting sun, who believed in a future such as was never a past, but if I should show it to them, they would think French communism solid and practicable in the comparison. So I sketched the Boston fanaticism of right and might without bayonets or bishops, every man his own King, and all cooperation necessary and extemporaneous. Of course my men went wild at the denying to society the beautiful right to kill and imprison. But we stood fast for milk and acorns, told them that musket-worship was perfectly well known to us, [but] that it was an old bankrupt, but that we had never seen a man of sufficient valor and substance quite to carry out the other, which was nevertheless as sure as Copernican astronomy, and all heroism and invention must of course lie on this side. 'T is wonderful how odiously thin and pale this republic dances before blue bloodshot English eyes, but I had some anecdotes to bring some of its traits within their vision, and at last obtained a kind of allowance; but I doubt my tender converts are backsliding before this. — But their question which began the conversation was so dangerous that I thought of no escape but to this extreme and sacred asylum, and having got off for once through the precinct of the temple, I shall not venture into such company again, without consulting those same thoughtful Americans, whom their inquiry concerned. And you first, you who never wanted for a weapon of your faith, choose now your colors and styles, and draw in verse, or prose, or painted outline, the portrait of your American.

Forgive these ricketty faltering lines of mine; they do not come of infirm faith or love, but of the quivering ship. Ever your friend,

R. W. E.        

{Samuel Gray Ward was a banker and patron of the arts; source: flickr}

{Old image of Ariel from Shakespeare's The Tempest; source:}

{Archangel Gabriel appearing to Daniel; source:}

Some sources:

The Letters of Ralph Waldo Emerson, ed. by Ralph Leslie Rusk and Eleanor Marguerite Tilton (Columbia University Press, 1991)

Letters from Ralph Waldo Emerson to a friend, 1838-1853, ed. by Charles Eliot Norton (Houghton, Mifflin, 1899)

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Emerson observing the privileged few

Emerson wrote in his journal a few days before he began his return to America:
July 12.        

With Mr. Kenyon and Hillard, I joined the Jays in a visit to Stoke Poges, where is Gray's churchyard; then to Eton, where we found six or seven hundred boys, the flower of English youth, some of them at cricket, on the green; others strolling in groups and pairs; some rowing in the river; and recalled Lamb's remark, "What a pity that these fine boys should be changed into frivolous members of Parliament!"

Kenyon recalled verses of his own, of which I only remember, —
O give us back our lusty youth!
and the whole place remembered Gray. Kenyon asked if ever a dirty request was couched in more beautiful verse than in the hints touching livings and preferments, addressed to the Duke of Grafton, in the Cambridge Installation Ode.
Thy liberal heart, thy judging eye,
The flower unheeded shall descry,
And bid it round heaven's altars shed
The fragrance of its blushing head;
Shall raise from earth the latent gem
To glitter on the diadem.
After seeing the chapel, we went to Windsor, where the tickets of the Jays procured admittance for the whole party to the private apartments of Her Majesty. We traversed the long corridors which form the gallery of sculpture and paintings, then the chambers, dining-room, and reception rooms of this palace. The green expanse of trim counties which these windows command, beginning with a mile of garden in front, is excellent. Then to the Royal Mews, where a hundred horses are kept; listened reverentially to all that the grooms told us of the favorite horses; looked at the carriages, etc. If hard came to hard, the camel has a good deal of hump left to spend from.

In St. George's Chapel, Mr. Kenyon pointed out the true character of stained-glass windows, which is not in large figures or good drawings, but in gem-like splendor and condensation. In like manner he quoted Lady Morgan's notion on carpets, that they should be spread, not nailed; and there should not be great elaborate figures, but such a disposition of forms and colors that they should seem like jewels trodden in.

From Windsor we went to Virginia Water, the toy lake and toy fishing-house of George IV. (But the expense squandered on these grounds does not save them from the ridicule of a tawdry counterfeit, and the spectator grudges his time. Here is a made waterfall; or a made ruin, the "Persepolis of the woods," constructed of stones brought from the ruins of Carthage.) Two red flags hanging from the little frigates afloat were quite too important in the raree-show. We suspected the two or three people in the boat were hired to sit there by the day; and the eye mistrusted the houses might be pasteboard and the rocks barley candy.

Mr. Kenyon: This probably refers to the poet John Kenyon, poet and patron of the arts. See his obituary in the Gentleman's Magazine here.

Hillard: Emerson probably refers to George Stillman Hillard, an American author and lawyer who was traveling in England at that time.

The Jays: This may refer to John Clarkson Jay (1808-1891) and his wife. Jay was a well-known American conchologist (collector and examiner of shells).

"frivolous members of Parliament": It was Charles Lamb's older brother John who made this remark.

{St Giles church Stoke Poges. Thomas Gray's Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard is believed to have been written here; source: wikipedia}

{Sketches of events during a cricket match between Eton and Harrow, 1880; source: The Graphic}

{More sketches of events during a cricket match between Eton and Harrow, 1880; source: Illustrated London News}

{A mid-19th c. Eton scene; source: Bobst Library, NYU}

{The river at Eton; source: Lippincott's Magazine of Popular Literature and Science, February, 1876, Vol. XVII, No. 98 (Gutenberg)}

Regarding the "Cambridge Installation Ode", see the Cambridge History of English and American Literature.

{The lower ward (bailey) of Windsor Castle in England. St George's Chapel is on the left and the Round Tower is centre right. Image by Joseph Nash published 1848; source: wikipedia}

{Waterlool Gallery, Windsor Castle; source: antiquemapsandprints}

{Late Victorian painting of Windsor Castle by Walter H. Goldsmith; source: goldenagepaintings}

{View from Windsor Castle; the slopes overlooking the River Thames and Eton, the Chapel being in the distance; source:}

{Image from a window in St. George's Chapel, Windsor; source:}

{Virginia Water. Fishing Temple & Lake; source: antiquemapsandprints}

{Cascade at Virginia Water; source:}

{Corinthian columns from Tripoli at Virginia Water, Windsor Castle; source:}

{Frigate on Virginia Water; source}

Some sources:

Journals Of Ralph Waldo Emerson 1820-1872, with Annotations, edited by Edward Waldo Emerson and Waldo Emerson Forbes; Vol. VII, 1845-1848 (London, Constable & Co.; Boston And New York Houghton Mifflin Company, 1913)

Journals Of Ralph Waldo Emerson 1820-1872, with Annotations, edited by Edward Waldo Emerson and Waldo Emerson Forbes; Vol. VII, 1845-1848, (New York, Houghton Mifflin Company, 1912)

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

a kind of modern-antique American gymnosophist

On this day in 1848, Thomas Carlyle wrote his wife about his trip to Stonehenge with Emerson:
Thomas Carlyle to Jane Welsh Carlyle

Amesbury, 7 july, 1848 —

My Dear, — It cannot be supposed that I have much to tell thee since morning, and indeed the day has passed over without accident at all; but being relegated here to a most lonesome and rather dilapidated bedroom, with no perceptible desire still to sleep, I have borrowed from Emerson a sheet of Note-paper, and from the people of the Inn a pen and inkbottle; and will vent a portion of my sorrows upon poor Chelsea before I go to bed. Eheu [Alas], am I not right to stay at home? The world holds in it no man to whom travelling is such a labour, under any and all conditions! —

We got along happily enough to Bishopstoke today, — except that it appeared, the little Forster-and-Dickens Publichouse did not lie on our road at all, but lay on the road of some Coach, which, at some unknown hour, would (had we known of it) have taken us off the S. Western railway, and landed us sooner at Salisbury or at least at Stonehenge: however, the damage was not great, and at any rate there was then no help. We did get to Salisbury, all right however, about three o'clock: all right as far as a poor wretch could be right, who could not get his lips closed, but was obliged to talk all the way; and had not slept the night before! — At the Salisbury Station we leapt straightway into a kind of Gig (inferior to the Derbyshire ones),1 and were rapidly driven to this ancient village, some 8 miles further; here we, after some confused consulting, discharged our Gig-apparatus; got some wretched dinner, of whale-blubber mutton and old peas; and then in the grey windy evening set forth to walk towards Stonehenge over the bare upland; found it, saw it: — a wild mournful, altogether enigmatic and bewildering sight; — dreadfully cold too (in my thin coat), and after about 2 hours came our ways home again to Amesbury, an enchanted-looking village, very appropriate to the neighbourhood. Stonehenge and the uplands far and wide were utterly solitary; a vast, green, wavy tract of sheep-pasture, all studded with (what they call “barrows”) the tombs of extinct nations, and that huge mass of dark, meaningless, gigantic dislocated stones; of which no creature will ever tell us the meaning, except that it is the extinct temple of an extinct people (seemingly sunk very deep in error), and the prey now of Pedants and doleful creatures whose whole element seems one of emptiness and error! The grim windy evening, spent amid those grim remains, in a mood such as mine, will probably long continue memorable to me. And that hitherto seem all the conquest I am like to get from it.2

Returning to Amesbury, which seemed already sunk into sleep (about 9 o'clock) or almost into death, we got Tea, the worst in nature, without cream, nay without milk except about half-a spoonful — no help! The place is one of those Coach villages that have been ruined by railways: once the great road from Exeter to London, 12 Coaches a-day, and half a dozen “families” (i.e. posting carriages), now left sad and silent, the big inn rotting, and not even milk to be had! We leave tomorrow morning early for Wilton (past Stonehenge again) in a Dog cart, the only attainable vehicle; and after a day of Wilton House, and Salisbury and Clarendom, hope to meet poor Helps at Bishopstoke, and attain a little cream to our tea, — attain at least the hope of soon ending such an expedition!3 Goodnight, my own poor Jeannie—ah me!— T. Carlyle

I wonder how your Chopin prospered; how your concert-tickets &c!4 — Emerson is healthy; full of cheerfulness, at least of unsubduable placidity: if I could get a little sleep, I should do well enough yet.
Why art thou then cast down my soul;
What should discourage thee?5
Good night, Dearest. /

T. C.

Footnotes by the editor of Carlyle's letters:

1. Which they had taken the previous summer.

2. After seeing Stonehenge they spent the night of 7 July at the George Inn, Amesbury, 1½ mi. W of Stonehenge and 8 mi. N of Salisbury. For Emerson's account, see “Stonehenge” in his English Traits (Boston, 1856) ch. 16, and Journals and Miscellaneous Notebooks 10:334–36, 432–42.

3. In his Journal TC wrote: "Morrow morning [8 July], Dogcart across the downs to Wilton: Down or ‘Plain,’ an expanse of waving bare ground, resembling a Scotch moor, only that it is without brooks, and of much more fertile character. Scandalous to see it lying vacant in the heart of such an England as ours at present is. … then country road to Wilton; … then full inspection of Sydney Herbert's house [Wilton House], which is princely: Bust of Cato: A. Dürer's Picture; fairy ‘luncheon’ by Mrs. Wager the Housekeeper. Salisbury Cathedral and City. Old Sarum, the day before. — A. Helps caught us at Bishopsgate on the railway: home with him till the morrow (sunday) which poured a deluge of rain. To Winchester in the afternoon nevertheless. Cathedral there; first, St. Cross there. Home to Chelsea about 10 p.m. — Emerson called next day, and is now off, towards Liverpool, or Coventry &c; to sail for home on Saturday. Valeat—eheu [Let him be gone—alas]!" — See also Froude, Carlyle 3:440–41. The ruins of Clarendon Palace are ca. 2½ mi. E of Salisbury. Sidney Herbert (1810–1861; DNB), politician, second son of 11th earl of Pembroke. The Hospital of St. Cross, founded 1136 for thirteen poor brethren, is ca. 1 mi. S of Winchester Cathedral and is the setting of Trollope's The Warden (1855). Emerson records that TC cursed "the priest who received £2000 a year, that were meant for the poor" (English Traits 288).

4. Chopin gave his second matinée musicale, 7 July.

5. Cf. metrical Ps. 43:3.


A couple of days later, Carlyle wrote his friend James Marshall:
Chelsea, 10 july, 1848—

My dear Sir,

. . . . .

I have just returned from a visit to Stonehenge in the Wiltshire Downs, with a certain Transatlantic Friend, R. W. Emerson, who, after some months' sojourn in these parts, is on the point of turning homewards again. A man of genius and worth in his American way; somewhat moonshiny here and there in the Results he arrives at, but beautiful in speculation if you leave practice out, — in fact a kind of modern-antique “American Gymnosophist,” for whom we are bound to be thankful. He and his affairs keep me very busy this day: so without more writing, except to offer my kind regards to Eckermann, and best thanks to Dr Weissenborn above, I subscribe myself, with true remembrances from both parties here,

Yours sincerely /

T. Carlyle

{Amesbury in 1903; source:}

{Salisbury Meadows by Constable, 1831; source:}

{Watercolour, Stonehenge, close up view from E, [c 1830], by James Bridges; source:}

{Barrows near Stonehenge; source:}

{Wilton House: source:}

Gymnosophist: is a name for practitioners such as the Indian yogis. See Gymnosophist (wikipedia)

{A yogi; source: wikipedia}

Main source:

Thomas Carlyle; the Collected Letters, Volume 23, edited by Ian M. Campbell et al (Duke University Press , 2009)

Monday, July 06, 2009

a somewhat moonshiny fellow

Thomas Carlyle, wrote about the last week of Emerson's trip to England in a letter he sent his mother this day in 1848. Here is an extract:
Thomas Carlyle To Margaret Carlyle; 6 July 1848
Chelsea, 7 [i.e. 6] july, 1848 —        

My dear Mother,

It seems to me again too long since I have written to you; but the fault has not altogether been mine: besides, the only way to mend it is to write now, before any one get in to interrupt me; which accordingly I do, the first work of the day. . . .

Doubtless you have been reading of these awful explosions in Paris, which interest everybody, and are indeed an alarming symptom of the misery of this poor time. To us the most interesting feature of all is this General Cavaignac who has had the command in that terrible business. He is the younger brother of the Cavaignac we loved much and were very intimate with here, while he lived: we often heard of him as a just and valiant and everyway excellent man, whom his brother much loved; and indeed I believe him to be really such; — which kind of character was certainly never more wanted than in the place he is now in!1 Perhaps no man in all the world could have had so cruel a duty laid upon him, as that of cannonading and suppressing these wretched people, who we may say his Father and Brother and all his kindred had devoted themselves to stirring up:2 but he saw it to be a duty, and he has bravely done it. I suppose he will get himself killed in the business, one day; and indeed he appears privately to look for nothing else. His poor old Mother still lives; has now no child but him; — has a strange history indeed to look back upon, from the days of Robespierre all the way!3 — It is very curious to me to think how the chiefs of these people, as Armand Marrast, Clement Thomas (late commander of the National Guards),4 used to sit and smoke a pipe with me in this quiet nook some years ago. And now Louis-Philippe is out, and they are in, — not forever either! "The wheel of Fortune," as old Aunt Babby's5 dream said, "the wheel of Fortune, one spake up and the other spake down!" —

Emerson has been lecturing at a considerable rate here; meeting with moderately fair encouragement from a certain class. We had to attend him, — not a very severe duty either, for there is really something of excellent in him tho' he is a little "moon shiny": — however the thing is now over; and he is fast getting ready to go home to America again; sails from Liverpool, in fact, tomorrow (or rather saturday, for this is but thursday!) week.6 A voyage of ten or twelve days, if happy, will land him at his own house-door, after a long and interesting absence; — and as for us, the likelihood is, we shall never see him again at all. His present visit has not done much for me, nor could I in any way, do much for him: but he has and keeps up from old a very friendly feeling for me, and the very separations that lie between us add themselves to this probably final parting to make it sad and affectionate! How much is every one of us left alone in this world; nothing above him but the eternal skies, no help or counsel for him except in Heaven only!

Emerson has asked me to make a little journey with him to see a strange old Antiquity, old almost as the Hills, which bears the name Stonehenge, near Salisbury in Wiltshire, about 100 miles Southwest of this. It is some 4 hours by railway; the ground, for the greater part, already known to me (for it is partly the road to Alverstoke, thro' Hampshire). I have consented to go; and so off we move tomorrow forenoon. A friend lives in the way,7 who will lodge us one night as we return, or two if we like, — perhaps over the Sabbath till Monday: On Monday evening, Emerson sets off towards the North, and we do not see him again. — Today, as you may fancy, I am making my bits of preparations and arrangements; I have various places to go to; so shall be busy all day, — and indeed ought already to be getting under way! — Jack talked to Emerson of going with us; but I know not whether he will stand good; — probably not: I must consult him before night come.

On the whole, dear Mother, I must be off. You shall hear from me again, a word about the journey, so soon as we return. Tell Jamie I do not forget that I owe him a Letter: I will pay it by and by.— From Jean at Dumfries, I hear nothing this good while; but suppose she is busy nursing, poor thing. My affectionate blessings to one and all.— Get ready for Moffat, then, and off!

Adieu dear good Mother.

Ever your affectionate

T. Carlyle

Footnotes by the editor of the Carlyle letters:

1. The constituent assembly, elected in April and meeting for the first time, 5 May, had reorganized the govt., giving power to an executive commission that appointed to ministries men from the provisional govt., but excluded the socialists, whose attempted attack on the assembly, 15 May, had failed. The national workshops, set up to deal with unemployment, had been overwhelmed by more than 115,000 unemployed workers. Attempts to cut down the size of the workshops by the assembly led to a serious revolt by workers, socialists, and revolutionaries, 22–26 June, with savage street fighting. Many were killed, deported, or imprisoned. Responsible for the suppression as minister of war, Gen. Louis Eugène Cavaignac (1802–57; see 9:91) then became pres. of the council, responsible to the assembly, with a moderate republican ministry. He was to be overwhelmingly defeated in the presidential elections in Dec. by Louis Napoleon. He was the brother of the Carlyles' dear friend E. L. Godefroy Cavaignac.

2. His father, Jean Baptiste Cavaignac (1762–1829; see 9:8), a member of the revolutionary national convention, had voted for the death of Louis XVI; his brother had been imprisoned during the early part of Louis Philippe's regime and escaped to exile, 1835. Gen. Cavaignac remained a committed republican to his death.

3. Julie Cavaignac, b. Corancez (1780–1849; see 9:8).

4. Clément Thomas (1809–71), republican politician; escaped imprisonment and went into exile, 1835–37; commander-in-chief of the national guard in Paris, May–June, when replaced during the uprising; exiled again, 1851; executed by national guardsmen, 1871.

5. Unidentified.

6. Emerson sailed from Liverpool, 15 July, and landed in Boston, 27 July.

7. Arthur Helps lived at Vernon Hill, Bishop's Waltham, Hants, 11½ mi. SE of Winchester.

awful explosions in Paris: Carlyle refers to the June Days Uprising; see note 1 above.

{Painting of Battle at Soufflot barricades at Rue Soufflot Street on 24 June 1848, by Horace Vernet-Barricade; source: wikipedia}

that terrible business: On June 21 the National Assembly began to scale back expensive economic benefits that had been granted poor Parisians. Faced by armed resistance to this action, the Assembly called on the army to restore order. Over the next few days the army overwhelmed Parisian rebels ensconced in blockaded city streets. The victorious "Party of Order" in the Assembly then appointed general and statesman Louis Eugène Cavaignac to the head of the French state. Later, on the 10th of December, Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte was elected president of the French Republic. (Source: wikipedia.)

"moon shiny": OED
moonshiny — 3. Of the nature of moonshine; fanciful, unreal, insubstantial. Cf. MOONSHINE n. 2a.
1833 Pearl & Lit. Gaz. 23 Nov. 65/1, I threw aside the poem and the ode, and resolved to write some love ditty or moonshiny stuff — any body can write that. 1857 H. MELVILLE Confidence-man xli. 312 And moon~shiny as it in theory may be, yet a very practical philosophy. 1880 Sat. Rev. No. 1291. 122 There is a good deal of moon~shiny sentiment in it, especially in the conversation of the lovers. 1892 ‘M. TWAIN’ Amer. Claimant 36 The same old scheming, generous, goodhearted, moonshiny, hopeful, no-account failure he always was. 1990 Amer. Lit. 62 208 This complaint culminates a lifetime of deprecating descriptions of the frail, moonshiny, imaginary territory of his fictions.

{Thomas Carlyle, ca. 1848; source:}

{Le général Cavaignac d'après Ary Scheffer; source brittanica}

{Godefroi Cavaignac (1801-1845); source: images-chapitre}

{Armand Marrast, editor of the republican Le National and a relatively conservative member of the National Assembly,; source: wikipedia}

{Clément Thomas, also an editor of Le National, was Colonel in the National Guard and a leader of the National Assembly; source:}

{Louis Philippe, King of the French, by Franz Xaver Winterhalter; he had abdicated in February and fled the country in March; source: wikipedia}

{Mid-19th c. watercolor of Stonehenge;}

Main source: Thomas Carlyle; the Collected Letters, Volume 23, edited by Ian M. Campbell et al (Duke University Press , 2009)

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Woodside, Queens, New York

A recent piece on Tony Bennett in the New York Times speaks of his enduring love for the Astoria section of Queens, New York, where he was born and raised. I noticed it particularly because celebrities and most ordinary folk do not commonly reminisce — as does Mr. Bennett — about the glories of that part of the world.

As it happens, it is the place where a progenitor of mine put down his roots. In 1853, at age 18, he had come to New York, without money or family to support him, and, unlike many others, he had, by the end of the century, established himself as a prominent merchant, philanthropist, and supporter of social causes. By all accounts he made his way without any of the ruthlessness which characterized the robber barons who were his contemporaries. Indeed, one of his reasons for emigrating was the failure of the 1848 revolution in Germany and his native Müunster which he ardently supported; and he counted among his friends men like the radical reformer Carl Schurz.

My father, his grandson, remembered him as a portly man of generous spirit — genial, outgoing, and cheerful. Here are two images of him from the turn of the century.
{Louis Windmuller; source: National cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1895}

{Louis Windmuller from Empire State Notables (1914); source:}
He lived first in Manhattan, then Brooklyn, and finally Queens. There, he bought a small estate in the Woodside Section on a hill, as he said, "the highest point for many miles around," which would later be turned into a public park bearing his name: Windmuller Park.

This panoramic view shows the playground area:

{source: Sean Hopkins on picasaweb, May 25, 2009 }

The NYC public parks web site describes the man and the place:
This park, located between 39th Road and 39th Drive and running from 52nd to 54th Streets in Queens, is named for Louis Windmuller (1835-1913), a civic leader and businessman who summered on this Woodside hill until his death in 1913.

Born in Westphalia, Germany in 1835, Louis Windmuller emigrated to the United States at the age of 18. He began working in the banking industry and soon became successful, chartering several banks that served New York’s growing German immigrant population. Windmuller also helped found the German-American Insurance Company in response to the devastating fire that destroyed Chicago in 1871. Later in life Windmuller devoted his energies to civic service, becoming active with the Reform Club, the New-York Historical Society, the Legal Aid Society, the American Scenic and Historic Preservation Society, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Windmuller wrote frequently for publications about a variety of topics, including economic policy and civic issues.

Windmuller was a staunch advocate of parks and he served on the Heine Monument Society, which helped secure a spot for the fountain in what is now known as Joyce Kilmer Park in the Bronx. A fervent walker, Windmuller also established the "Pedestrian Club" which even counted Mayor William Jay Gaynor as a member. In the summer, Windmuller often walked an hour from his Woodside home to his Title Guaranty and Trust office downtown (via a ferry at Hunter’s Point); he once remarked that "a good rule to make your tramp a really enjoyable pastime is to be careful and not walk too fast."

In 1912 Windmuller’s daughter Anna burned to death in a house fire and it was said that he never recovered from the shock. Suffering from dementia and unresponsive, by September 1913 Windmuller was declared incompetent to manage his own affairs. Windmuller died less than a week later. An editorial in the New York Times called him "an exceedingly simple and likable man, whose kindly disposition and unfailing sympathy secured to him a host of sincere friends."

The land comprising Windmuller Park was acquired from the Windmuller family in 1936 and the park was officially opened to the public in 1937. Other portions of the Windmuller property were sold in the 1940s to build one of the many "garden apartment" developments that took root in this part of Queens. Neighboring Doughboy Park was fully improved and opened in 1957, and in 1959 the section of 54th Street that ran between the two sites was closed to traffic and converted to parkland, joining the two parcels.

When Parks Commissioner Richard Clurman urged individual communities to unite with the city to keep their neighborhood parks clean and safe, several Woodside residents heeded the call to turn around Windmuller Park. The Windmuller Park Neighborhood Association was formed in the spring of 1973 and in response to the community’s enthusiastic support, Parks returned the favor that summer by making significant repairs at the site. After the park survived no further break-ins or vandalism, Windmuller Park was hailed as a model for Parks’ fledgling partnership program. The park was so successful that it became one of the few in the city where a flag actually flew on the flagpole installed at the site -- flag theft being a widespread problem at that time. . . .
The park now features a large, fenced dog run giving local canines a place to safely run free.

The NYC parks dept gives a link to a map for the park.

Here is another view of the park:

And a link to some 360° panorama shots

The archives of the New York Times contain quite a few articles about the man and his doings. Here are links to a couple of them:
THEIR GOLDEN WEDDING.; Mr. and Mrs. Louis Windmuller Keep It at Their Home In Queens.

November 24, 1909, Wednesday
Page 6, 1062 words
Surrounded by their three children, their three grandchildren, and a number of intimate friends, Mr. and Mrs. Louis Windmuller celebrated yesterday in their home on the hillslope of Woodside, Queens Borough, the golden anniversary of their wedding. They were married in Hoboken in 1859, six years after Mr. Windmuller emigrated from Munster, his birthplace. Mrs. Windmuller was Miss Anna Eliza Lefman of New York. . . .
MISS WINDMULLER BURNED TO DEATH; Daughter of the Merchant Set Ablaze in the Kitchen of Her Father's Home.
April 14, 1912, Sunday
Page 1, 219 words
Miss May Windmuller, daughter of Louis Windmuller, Treasurer of the Title Guarantee and Trust Company, died at 9 o'clock last night at the Windmuller residence, on Woodside Heights, Queens, from burns sustained during the afternoon. . . .
He was sufficiently prominent to be profiled in the biographic dictionaries of his time. Here is a representative sample of this genre:
Windmuller, Louis; extract from Who's who in Finance, Banking, and Insurance (N.Y. 1911) Merchant, banker; born Münster, Westphalia, Germany, 1835; educated Gymnasium Carollnum, Münster; came to the United States, 1863; since then resident of New York City; married, New York City, Nov. 23, 1859, Annie Eliza Lefman.

Successfully engaged in business in New York City as a merchant; senior member of ths firm of Louis Windmuller & Roelker of New-York and Frankfort-on-the-Maln, Germany; president Maiden Lane Savings Bank; first vice-president and director Maiden Lane Safe Deposit Co.; director and one of the founders German- American Insurance Co., Title Guarantee and Trust Co., German Alliance Insurance Co., South Manhattan Realty Co.
Who's who in Finance, Banking, and Insurance (N.Y. 1911)

Windmuller, Louis

Merchant, banker; born Münster, Westphalia, Germany, 1835; educated Gymnasium Carollnum, Münster; came to the United States, 1863; since then resident of New York City; married, New York City, Nov. 23, 1859, Annie Eliza Lefman.

Successfully engaged in business in New York City as a merchant; senior member of ths firm of Louis Windmuller & Roelker of New-York and Frankfort-on-the-Maln, Germany; president Maiden Lane Savings Bank; first vice-president and director Maiden Lane Safe Deposit Co.; director and one of the founders German- American Insurance Co., Title Guarantee and Trust Co., German Alliance Insurance Co., South Manhattan Realty Co.

Independent; supported Cleveland on tariff issue, and in campaign of 1892, with Carl Schurz and others, formed the German-American Cleveland Union, contributing effectually to the Cleveland success of that year. Supported McKinley on financial issue, 1896; chairman German American Hughes Alliance, aiding in election of Governor Hughes 1908.

Member New York Chamber of Commerce, New York Board of Trade and Transportation (managing director); treasurer Legal Aid Society, giving gratuitously legal aid to helpless strangers. Life member New York Historical Society; member Germanistic Society, Germanic Museum Ass'n of Cambridge, Mass, (vice-president); vice-president Heine Monument Ass'n, Arion Society.

Recreations: Long walks; art and book collector.

Clubs: Merchants', Lotos, Press, Underwriters, New York Athletic, National Arts, Reform (treasurer since 1889).

Contributor on Economic, civic, and financial questions to North American Review, The Forum. Outlook, New York Times, New York Evening Post, New Yorker Staats Zeitung. Meyer's Konversations. Lexicon, the Berlin Nation and other periodicals.

Residence: Woodside, Queens Borough. Office: 20 Reade St., N. Y. City.
In 1900 he gave some information about his property:
Extract from testimony of Louis Windmuller to the Special Committee of the Assembly appointed to investigate the public offices and departments of the city of New York and of the counties therein included (New York, 1900): I am a merchant. I have been engaged in business in the city of New York for forty-five years. I am sr property owner in the borough of Queens. I reside in that borough, my residence is near Woodside. The land comprises one hill which is the highest point for many miles around, about one hundred and fifty feet above tidewater. I own about twelve and a half acres of ground.
A famous walker, he made a jocular proposal for a walking club of New York celebrities. His idea was written up in the New York Times and Long Island Star Journal:
Astoria Historical Society

Get into a conversation with a long time Queens resident and you're likely to discover a subscriber of the Long Island Star- Journal, a daily paper that informed the community about local and world news until it folded in 1968. A banner across the Star Journal masthead reminded readers that the newspaper's name came from the merger of the Long Island Daily Star (1876) and the North Shore Daily Journal - The Flushing Journal (1841). . . .

At the suggestion of Louis Windmuller, Woodside's 'grand old man,' the most exclusive, distinguished and enthusiastic walking club in the country had just been organized. The mayor's office announced the formation of the 'Pedestrians Club.' The charter members are Mayor Gaynor, Joseph Choate (a former ambassador to Great Britain,) William Hornblower (a Wall Street financier,) and John Parsons (a senior judge of the New York Bar.) Others notables contemplating joining include Andrew Carnegie, financier Jacob Schiff, and General Wingate.

Windmuller, who walks at least four hours each day, suggested that their first walk start at City Hall and ends up somewhere in Bronx Park, Coney Island or Queens. Says he, "I delight in people. To enjoy walking one must use his eyes and the brain as much as he does his legs. I prefer to look at the faces of people to looking at buildings and into shop windows. Don't let automobiles frighten you. Learn to dodge. They nearly got me once, but they can't and I'm seventy-eight years old." The combined ages of the five charter members was 367 years making an average age of 73.
This map shows his home and place of work, just a portion of his daily perambulations.

View Woodside, Queens, NY in a larger map