Tuesday, 31 January 2012

The Lady of Shalott

I just started reading A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libbra Bray. It begins with one of my absolute favourite poems as a child, The Lady of Shalott by Alfred Lord Tennyson. My other favourite poem was The Highway man by Alfred Noyes.

Here are some interesting song interpretations of the poem. Loreena McKennit is probably my favourite musician. She also did a beautiful version of The Highwayman.

Loreena McKennit, The Lady of Shalott

Shalott by Emilie Autumn. She plays a mean electric violin!

The original poem:

The Lady of Shalott, Alfred Lord Tennyson

On either side the river lie
Long fields of barley and of rye,
That clothe the wold and meet the sky;
And thro' the field the road runs by
To many-tower'd Camelot;
And up and down the people go,
Gazing where the lilies blow
Round an island there below,
The island of Shalott.

Willows whiten, aspens quiver,
Little breezes dusk and shiver
Through the wave that runs for ever
By the island in the river
Flowing down to Camelot.
Four grey walls, and four grey towers,
Overlook a space of flowers,
And the silent isle imbowers
The Lady of Shalott.

By the margin, willow veil'd,
Slide the heavy barges trail'd
By slow horses; and unhail'd
The shallop flitteth silken-sail'd
Skimming down to Camelot:
But who hath seen her wave her hand?
Or at the casement seen her stand?
Or is she known in all the land,
The Lady of Shalott?

Only reapers, reaping early,
In among the bearded barley
Hear a song that echoes cheerly
From the river winding clearly;
Down to tower'd Camelot;
And by the moon the reaper weary,
Piling sheaves in uplands airy,
Listening, whispers, " 'Tis the fairy
Lady of Shalott."

There she weaves by night and day
A magic web with colours gay.
She has heard a whisper say,
A curse is on her if she stay
To look down to Camelot.
She knows not what the curse may be,
And so she weaveth steadily,
And little other care hath she,
The Lady of Shalott.

And moving through a mirror clear
That hangs before her all the year,
Shadows of the world appear.
There she sees the highway near
Winding down to Camelot;
There the river eddy whirls,
And there the surly village churls,
And the red cloaks of market girls
Pass onward from Shalott.

Sometimes a troop of damsels glad,
An abbot on an ambling pad,
Sometimes a curly shepherd lad,
Or long-hair'd page in crimson clad
Goes by to tower'd Camelot;
And sometimes through the mirror blue
The knights come riding two and two.
She hath no loyal Knight and true,
The Lady of Shalott.

But in her web she still delights
To weave the mirror's magic sights,
For often through the silent nights
A funeral, with plumes and lights
And music, went to Camelot;
Or when the Moon was overhead,
Came two young lovers lately wed.
"I am half sick of shadows," said
The Lady of Shalott.

A bow-shot from her bower-eaves,
He rode between the barley sheaves,
The sun came dazzling thro' the leaves,
And flamed upon the brazen greaves
Of bold Sir Lancelot.
A red-cross knight for ever kneel'd
To a lady in his shield,
That sparkled on the yellow field,
Beside remote Shalott.

The gemmy bridle glitter'd free,
Like to some branch of stars we see
Hung in the golden Galaxy.
The bridle bells rang merrily
As he rode down to Camelot:
And from his blazon'd baldric slung
A mighty silver bugle hung,
And as he rode his armor rung
Beside remote Shalott.

All in the blue unclouded weather
Thick-jewell'd shone the saddle-leather,
The helmet and the helmet-feather
Burn'd like one burning flame together,
As he rode down to Camelot.
As often thro' the purple night,
Below the starry clusters bright,
Some bearded meteor, burning bright,
Moves over still Shalott.

His broad clear brow in sunlight glow'd;
On burnish'd hooves his war-horse trode;
From underneath his helmet flow'd
His coal-black curls as on he rode,
As he rode down to Camelot.
From the bank and from the river
He flashed into the crystal mirror,
"Tirra lirra," by the river
Sang Sir Lancelot.

She left the web, she left the loom,
She made three paces through the room,
She saw the water-lily bloom,
She saw the helmet and the plume,
She look'd down to Camelot.
Out flew the web and floated wide;
The mirror crack'd from side to side;
"The curse is come upon me," cried
The Lady of Shalott.

In the stormy east-wind straining,
The pale yellow woods were waning,
The broad stream in his banks complaining.
Heavily the low sky raining
Over tower'd Camelot;
Down she came and found a boat
Beneath a willow left afloat,
And around about the prow she wrote
The Lady of Shalott.

And down the river's dim expanse
Like some bold seer in a trance,
Seeing all his own mischance --
With a glassy countenance
Did she look to Camelot.
And at the closing of the day
She loosed the chain, and down she lay;
The broad stream bore her far away,
The Lady of Shalott.

Lying, robed in snowy white
That loosely flew to left and right --
The leaves upon her falling light --
Thro' the noises of the night,
She floated down to Camelot:
And as the boat-head wound along
The willowy hills and fields among,
They heard her singing her last song,
The Lady of Shalott.

Heard a carol, mournful, holy,
Chanted loudly, chanted lowly,
Till her blood was frozen slowly,
And her eyes were darkened wholly,
Turn'd to tower'd Camelot.
For ere she reach'd upon the tide
The first house by the water-side,
Singing in her song she died,
The Lady of Shalott.

Under tower and balcony,
By garden-wall and gallery,
A gleaming shape she floated by,
Dead-pale between the houses high,
Silent into Camelot.
Out upon the wharfs they came,
Knight and Burgher, Lord and Dame,
And around the prow they read her name,
The Lady of Shalott.

Who is this? And what is here?
And in the lighted palace near
Died the sound of royal cheer;
And they crossed themselves for fear,
All the Knights at Camelot;
But Lancelot mused a little space
He said, "She has a lovely face;
God in his mercy lend her grace,
The Lady of Shalott."

Friday, 27 January 2012

Adam Worth, Moriarty and Mr Hyde

Adam Worth

Adam Worth was an American criminal, oft dubbed 'the Napoleon of Crime'. In about 1869 he moved to England, and continued his exploits there. He organised a criminal network that perpetrated robberies, and had escaped from SingSing prison in America at one time during his early career. He had a long and exciting career that would probably make a good book and movie. (There is apparently one movie, Harry and Walter Go To New York but it is not based on reality.)

Worth is believed to have been the inspiration for Conan Doyle's Professor Moriarty, nemesis of Sherlock Holmes. He is highly intelligent, a worthy adversary for Holmes. I think Worth would have loved to be portrayed as someone who could almost foil even the master of detectives.

Professor Moriarty from The Final Problem. By Sidney Paget.

When I found out Adam Worth was the inspiration for Moriarty, I was interested, because I remembered that there was a character called Adam Worth in Sanctuary, who was indeed a criminal mastermind. In the series, Worth was a contemporary of the 'five', Helen and her original group at university. However they did not let him join their group. Later, due to the death of his beloved daughter, he suffered a mental severing and became, in effect, the character of Jekyll and Hyde, one part of him an intensely evil criminal mastermind, the other, weaker part the original Adam. Adam was an interesting character, and it is quite clever how they melded the two personalities: that of an intelligent scientist turned into a monster (Jekyll and Hyde) with that of an ingenious criminal.

Adam Worth in Sanctuary

Macavity the Mystery Cat in TS Eliot's Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats (Later the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical, Cats) is also based on Worth.

Of course there are no photos of him, for he is never to be found. Just a few photos of humans in cat suits pretending to be him. 

Awesome Glasses

Johnny Depp as Ichabod Crane in Sleepy Hollow, one of my favourite films ever! I would love glasses like these!

Fantastical Fake Machines Rendered With A Historian's Eye For Detail


Thursday, 26 January 2012


I have been adding lots of books to my Goodreads site, both ones I have read recently and ones I remember I loved as a child. If you want any reading recommendations feel free to visit!

Also if you have a Goodreads profile, add me and we can share reading lists!

Clockwork or All Wound Up

by Philip Pullman

Clockwork is a fairly short story by Philip Pullman. It is a scary tale for younger readers. I enjoyed it and there were some moments that made me shiver, however it was really a little young for me, I much prefer his more complex and painstakingly created worlds such as in His Dark Materials series. I think this would be an enjoyable tale for younger readers, and the short length and large print makes for easy reading. It is a clever story, and there are tongue in cheek asides that made me laugh, like the comments about artistic temperament, inspiration, and about how if you want to get things cheap it pays to be rich. 

A short excerpt from The Clockwork Moth's 2010 Shadowplay of the book:

Wide Sargasso Sea

Novel by Jean Rhys

This was an excellently written novel, but I felt so sad throughout it that I was unable to enjoy it at all.

Wide Sargasso Sea gives us an insight into the tragic life of one of literature's cruelly overlooked characters, Mr Rochester's wife, dismissed as mad, as a dangerous insane creature who keeps him from his true love Jane and attempts to murder him.

In Wide Sargasso sea, we are allowed a glimpse of Antoinette's tragic childhood, her brother's death and her mother's subsequent madness. The sensitive, lonely child is sent to a convent school, until such time as it is decided she should be married off. A young gentleman from England, a fortuneless second son marries her for her money. Having no love for his wife, Rochester soon believes tales of her madness and begins to see her in a different way. His change of behaviour to her, and harsh lack of love is what begins to drive her mad.

I pitied Antoinette. While Jamaica must have seemed like a wild and frightening country to the English at the time, and while mental health was not understood in those days, it is so clear how his behaviour damages this simple, childish girl, who has come to love him. He is all she has in the world, having no family, and the only other person, her maid, Christophine, he drives away.

This book left me with a lingering sense of melancholy and a strong desire to punch Rochester in the face.

Beads and Lace

My hair is still so short, it's frustrating. Take this as a lesson, never get a haircut because it looks good on Carey Mulligan, especially when you look nothing like Carey Mulligan. Anyway, it's growing back, and I can finally start doing styles again, so I managed this small updo. I can't wait 'til I have more hair so I can have Mrs. Lovett hairdo or a really big bouffant!

Top from Shop 55 Vintage
Skirt from second hand shop. I wore it before in this post.

Jacket second hand. I wore it the other day.

Hairdo: A kind of three mini bun do.

Close up of earrings:

Departed Soul earrings from redheart13 on Etsy.

 Detail of beading on top. It's really intricate, looks like it might have been hand-beaded. It reminds me of 20s dresses with all their elaborate beading. It's not from the twenties, though, it's a more modern reproduction.

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Predator's Gold (The Hungry City Chronicles #2)

Novel by Philip Reeve

NOTE: You probably shouldn't read this review if you haven't read Mortal Engines yet. You really should read it, it is an excellent book.

Predator's Gold is the sequel to The Mortal Engines. Tom and Hester, older now, and a couple, have been travelling the skies for the last few years, in the ship, The Jenny Haniver. They have been flying 'the bird roads', trading and being generally quite content. But one stop at Airhaven changes all that. For they take on a passenger, Professor Pennyroyal, a rather annoying little historian. Soon they are being chased by more than one person, all of which mean to do them harm.

Meanwhile, Anchorage, an ice city nearly decimated by the plague moves across the Ice Wastes, looking for a place where they can be safe...

I really enjoyed this novel, although there are bits in this that made me sad. I feel sorry for Hester, who is still so self concious and full of self hatred, and I wish she would see that she is just as good as everyone else. She is by far my favourite character. Tom can be frustrating, but as Hester would say, his innocence and trust is what makes him Tom, and could we really like him otherwise. Caul is also an interesting character. 

I don't want to give away too much, so I will just say that this was a very engrossing and exciting book and I was hooked from cover to cover. A must read!

This image can be downloaded as wallpaper: http://clubs-kids.scholastic.co.uk/clubs_assets/53057

Mysterious Paper Sculptures Appearing Around Edinburgh

Follow the link for the story and more truly awe inspiring images!


Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

I watched the movie Sweeney Todd, based on the Sondheim musical again today. After watching it, I deciding to try and find the original story, a serial Penny Dreadful. I managed to find it at victorianlondon.org, a site which I am keen to further investigate.

The original story, titled The String of Pearls, is more of a mystery, although Todd's guilt is clear from the start. a man disappears from Todd's shop, assumedly murdered, and it is up to his friends (who only know he has gone missing) to discover what has happened to him, and the string of pearls he was to give the fiancee of his dead friend. It is a well put together story, with humour and sadness and suspense. The other characters and events concerned include Johanna, the fiancee of the man lost at sea, and her faithfulness to the man, while her mother seeks to make her marry a ridiculous drunken 'holy' man, which is, when you think about it, a paritcularly horrifying prospect for a young girl.

There is a great mix of humour, adventure and mystery. Sam, an impish, angry little apprentice who is in love with the daughter of his master is a humorous character. A back story in the chapter I have just started tells of travails of the sailors in Madagascar, which I am sure will be perilous.

The only caveat with this online copy is that the type is rather small, and, for those used to reading novels, the screen size is quite wide. For narrowing the width of the writing, one need only minimise the window slightly, but I haven't worked out a way to make the type larger.

All in all it is, so far, a very enjoyable story, and I highly recommend reading it.

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Electric Broughams

When I started reading The Lost World (by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle) the other day, I noticed mention of a conveyance called Electric Broughams. Interested, I googled it. I discovered that electric broughams were an early motor car around the 1900s. Built to look like a carriage (brougham was originally a name for a carriage), only without a horse, they had three seats.

In the Detroit Electric Brougham, the driver sat in the back next to one passenger, and the other passenger sat facing them at the front. I managed to find the most information on this. I also found pictures of others, such as the Dutch Hedag Electric Brougham, which seems to have had an open seat for the driver out the front, as on a traditional carriage. I'm sure that this would have been unpleasant during a rain storm.

I was also delighted when watching Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows a few days later to see Sherlock and Watson driving in one of these.

Detroit Electric Brougham on Wikipedia

Hedag Electric Brougham on Wikipedia

Detroit Electric Brougham

Hedag Electric Brougham

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows

The other night, my boyfriend and I went to see Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows. Having adored the first one beyond words, I was somewhat worried that this would not match up to the first one. Well, I didn't love it quite as much, after all, it didn't have Lord Blackwood in it, but it was still an excellent movie and I did unreservedly love it!

Robert Downey Jnr. accurately captures the enigmatic and rather fey personality of Sherlock Holmes perfectly. A man whose mind moves so much faster than that of those around him that he is a mystery in and of himself.  Ritchie showed this well by showing how Holmes notices the tiniest elements throughout the movie that support his conclusions at the end, things the viewer does not usually pick up.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle himself was a man of considerable intellect and scientific bent. Observations and ideas in his stories show this beyond a doubt. His clever plot twists in the Sherlock Holmes stories, the explanation for the cut off prehistoric world in The Lost World (which I am currently reading), all these show an intense interest in scientific fact and an ingenious imagination. I think Conan Doyle would have appreciated how Ritchie rewove elements of his stories and the technologies he displayed within the movie, such as the early form of the guns we have nowadays in which you can fit several bullets in the chamber. I was also delighted to see that Holmes drove an electric brougham, which I had seen mention of in The Lost World the other day. A post on these delightful contrivances is soon to follow.

I also enjoyed the little tongue in cheek moments, such as the ending, which tips its hat to the original story progression, with Conan Doyle ending the series and then starting it again. I don't want to give it away. The bit where Holmes didn't want to ride the horse was also amusing to me, as I had learned from watching Stephen Fry in America (TV series) that Fry (who plays Holmes' brother Mycroft) has similar feelings about horses. Liking them from far away, but not liking to ride them, apparently.

The Hans Zimmer soundtrack is also excellent and part of what makes the movie so engaging.

All in all, it was a delightful movie, and if you have not already seen it I do recommend it.

The Ice Wastes

Today is appropriately cold and windy to be reading Predator's Gold by Phillip Reeve, as (at the moment, at least) it is set in the Ice Wastes. So I can hear the wind blowing outside while I read, and I can wear my furry explorer jacket which I had just put away for the summer.

Jacket second hand.

Waistcoat and top second hand. Necklace made by me with fake leather thonging, keys, 
cameo pendant and ankh. Knee socks from Kmart or somewhere like that.
Skirt second hand. Boots second hand, my favourites.
Walking stick my boyfriend's from our formal.

Bracelets and rings found second hand.

Earrings. I wore a pair of the copper Celtic dragon ones, which I got from a hippie store, and one of the silver key ones, which I made myself with earring hooks an little key pendants. I think they might have been the key to something once, maybe a tiny padlock. I found them among my boyfriend's things.

The Girl In The Steel Corset (The Steampunk Chronicles #1)

Novel, Kady Cross
Young Adult

There are two sides to Finley Jayne's personality. One is sweet and meek, like a good Victorian girl shoudl be. The other is fast and strong and enjoys violence. It is this part that protects her when her employer's son tries to force his unwanted attentions on her. Terrified of what will happen to her for hurting a rich and important young man, Finley flees. Which is the best thing that could have happened to her. Knocked down Duke Griffin King's velocycle, she soon finds herself part of his team...

The Girl in the Steel Corset was enjoyable and difficult to put down. It has good pacing and action, strong female characters that are likeable and somewhat relatable, and smouldering young men who make you weak at the knees.

Finley is a great character because she is not passive. She doesn't just let things happen to her, she fights back. I like proactive heroines who don't just wait around for men to rescue them. I also love Emily who is an inventor, wonderfully intelligent and very spunky.

I also enjoyed the references to Jekyll and Hyde, A Journey to the Centre of the Earth and the descriptions of the Aether. I've always loved Victorian mysteries and horror stories, and science fiction of the past, such as HG Wells. I enjoyed the loving friendship between Griff and Sam, it's nice to see a friendship like that portrayed between men.

I enjoyed this book completely, it had all the elements I love: A Victorian setting but with strong, modern, intelligent women who can take care of themselves; supernatural/ mystical elements (the Aether) and cool technology.

Saturday, 21 January 2012

Today's Outfit

I'm a bit behind on blog posts, I have to do ones for Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, The Girl In The Steel Corset and a couple of other things I want to write about, but I've been really busy. Hopefully I will get them done soon.

Today I met up with a friend, this is what I wore:

Top, corset top, skirt and jacket from thrift stores. The corset top is just one of those ones with plastic boning, the real ones are really expensive.

 The necklace is from a costume jewellery shop and the earrings are from a Fair Trade shop. I got them back when I had more money. Although they were pretty cheap because they weren't precious stones. Semiprecious stone jewellery is so much better value than diamonds, and, in my opinion, prettier!

The single owl stud is from an earring store ages ago. There was a pair but I lost or broke one.

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Today's Outfit, The Phoenix Requiem, Project Gutenberg

I am currently reading The Girl in the Steel Corset by Kady Cross and The Lost World by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. I just finished The Phoenix Requiem Online Comic yesterday, and I really loved it. I really cared about the characters, and I got nervous near the end, worrying that everything wouldn't work out. I won't tell you what happened, but it is a truly excellent, engaging and imaginative story, and a real must read!

I found The Lost World at Project Gutenberg, a collection of free online ebooks of works of literature whose copyrights have expired, allowing them to be free for all to read. 

Project Gutenberg reminds me of The Book People from Fahrenheit 451 (Ray Bradbury). In a world where books were forbidden and wantonly destroyed, they memorised entire novels for posterity, so that someday, they might be rewritten. The people of Project Gutenberg are like a version of The Book People for our world, volunteers who read and retype famous works onto the internet, so that they can be available at the click of a mouse to anyone who has access to the internet, making sure these cultural classics remain a part of the digital age.

This was today's outfit. I really love crimson, maroon and berry shades at the moment, there's possibly some influence from Regina in Once Upon A Time there. I have also been told that reds and black are colours that connect to the soul and spirit and bring strength, so that's an interesting thought.

The top is a Peace Angel one found at a Vintage shop when I met up with one of my friends the other week.
The skirt was found at a charity shop on the same day.

Fair Trade earrings from a hippie shop. The stones are garnet, probably my favourite stone.

Necklace from second hand shop.

Detail of the ruffle on the skirt. I love it so much!

John Bell On Shakespeare

This evening I was lucky enough to be able to attend a talk by John Bell, founder and director of the Bell Shakespeare Company. The talk was both interesting and humorous, and he was a great speaker. John Bell discussed topics such as Shakespeare's sonnets mocking the traditional sequence of events in sonnets, and the ridiculousness of people claiming that others had written Shakespeare's plays. The three main contenders for the role of the phantom playwright were all impossible. Francis Bacon wrote all his works in Latin, which he saw as purer than English, and once tried Shakespeare for treason over the mocking of royalty in one of his plays. Both Christopher Marlowe and The Earl of Oxford died before several of Shakespeare's plays were even written, and the plays allude to historical events that happened after these deaths.

I also loved the discussion of the difference between plays in those days and nowadays. Back then, they took place in daylight (which would have been useful, since there was no electricity to light the stage) and the audience were often in a semi circle, visible to the stage and each other. The actors would move around the stage a lot more to face different parts of the audience, and address them through soliloquies. It was more of a shared and involved experience. Nowadays the seating is normally more flat, more of a rectangle than a semi-circle. The audience sit in the dark and it is less of a shared experience and more of a individual one.

As a future librarian (and book addict) I was interested in what he said about Shakespeare's reading habits. Unlike some others, such as Ben Johnson, he did not have a large collection of books. Books in that time were expensive, and Shakespeare moved often between his home at Stratford-Upon-Avon, and London. John Bell thinks that it is likely Shakespeare borrowed books from Ben Johnson's library, and read others in bookshops. I think I also like this, because it is rather a mirror of my own habits. We are always passing books around the family, taking turns to read them, and I borrow a lot of my reading from libraries. This is one of the reasons why libraries serve such an essential purpose, allowing us to read more books than our bank accounts would allow if we had to buy them all.

I was also one of the lucky ones who got to ask a question, getting in the last question before the end of the talk. I asked how he felt about the use of modern language in Shakespeare rewrites, such as the Twitter Romeo and Juliet (cringe!) which I find ironic because if they had had access to something like Twitter they probably would not have died. Bell replied that he enjoys the concept of modernisations and rewrites of Shakespeare but dislikes the modern English translations in textbooks where you can read all the modern English and ignore the old English, because this doesn't encourage kids to learn and love the real version and makes it dry.

I wish I could have made better notes as I have not been able to rephrase everything as well as it was said, and there were so many other interesting topics that were discussed, but this will have to do. All in all, it was a fascinating evening, and I am so glad that I got to go.

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Puzzlewood Forest and The Lord of the Rings

‘Puzzlewood is an ancient woodland in the Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire, England. The area contains strange rock formations, secret caves and ancient trees, with a confusing maze of paths. Puzzlewood is said to be one of J. R. R. Tolkien’s inspirations for Middle-earth in The Lord of the Rings.’

For more amazing images, check out:

I also loved these old Russian woodcut style illustrations for The Hobbit.

The Paris Flat That Time Forgot

In 2010, Mrs de Florian, a Paris 'demimondian' died. She had left Paris during the war, and never returned. Until then, the apartment had remained untouched. It soon became known as 'the flat that time forgot'. I just wish that I could find more images of this treasure trove, which included a painting by the famous artist Boldini of her grandmother, with whom he had been in love.

I originally discovered this apartment on Retronaut.