Monday, August 21, 2017

Benjamin Disraeli: progressing in politics

Benjamin Disraeli has been called the most gifted Parliamentarian of the 19th century and a first class orator, writer and wit.

Twice Prime Minister, he played a major part in the creation of the modern Conservative Party. He also made the Tories the party most identified with the glory and power of the British Empire: he brought India and the Suez Canal under the control of the British crown.

Reading about Disraeli’s rise from relative obscurity to international renown and what he called ‘the top of the greasy pole’ makes me wonder how he did it, why he did it and which, if any, subterranean forces were at work to move him into such a high position. These articles are a record of my attempts to understand what was going on and to answer those questions.

Getting in: the political party lottery
Although Disraeli may have decided on a political career in 1826, he didn’t do much about it until 1832. This was after his return from the Grand Tour of Europe and the Orient, a tour that restored him to health.

His long term goal was to become Prime Minister.

The first step in this direction was to get into the House of Commons as a Member of Parliament.  This entailed deciding which of the three political parties to campaign for.

The Tory, or Conservative, Party was considered to be worn out at the time, a lost cause, and Disraeli didn’t want to attach himself to a falling star; he couldn’t bring himself to be a Whig (who became the Liberals), so in 1832 he decided that he would campaign as a Radical.

After making a few unsuccessful attempts to get into Parliament by standing as an Independent Radical, in 1835 Disraeli changed his political affiliations and campaigned as a Tory.

For Disraeli, the end was much more important than the means; he felt that he had to do whatever it took to reach his goal. He was in no position to have scruples. Perhaps he changed parties because he felt that time was running out; he was going nowhere with the Radicals so had not got much to lose by joining the Conservatives.

He lost a by-election in 1835. He was then offered the safe seat of Maidstone, and easily defeated his Whig opponent in the general election of 1837.

He was in! He had finally made it at the age of 32. His decision to switch parties had paid off.

The Conservatives, while still a minority in Parliament, made large gains in this election; their star was on the rise again.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Benjamin Disraeli: getting started in politics

Disraeli: a Personal History by Christopher Hibbert is just one of the many available biographies of Benjamin Disraeli, Prime Minister and Earl of Beaconsfield. It is the only one that I have read in full. 

I read it because I hoped to find more examples of unseen influences at work in Disraeli’s life. I finished it feeling slightly disappointed as I did not find many examples of what I was looking for.

I also felt a little disillusioned; the great statesman felt drawn to Westminster not by a vocation or calling, not by principles, ideology or any sense of public service but by self-interest, inordinate ambition and vanity. The desire for fame and the need to make his presence felt at the highest levels of society were Disraeli’s main reasons for entering politics. He decided that a political career was the best route for getting where he wanted to go. 

The immunity of Members of Parliament from being arrested for debt had something to do with it too.

With information from the book and some that I found online, I have enough relevant and inspiring material for another article or two about this fascinating man.

Paving the way for the great destiny to come
Benjamin Disraeli’s father Isaac (D’Israeli) had all of his children baptised into the Church of England, although he himself never abandoned Judaism. Benjamin was 12 years old when Isaac took this unusual step, which was fortunate for him as otherwise he would never have been able to have a political career.

Predictions of the great destiny to come
I was amused to learn that Disraeli played Parliament games with his siblings as a boy. He was Prime Minister and the others were the Opposition.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Cults & causes: Alexander Herzen nailed it perfectly

This quote deserves to be publicized worldwide.

When I first came across it, I had never heard of Alexander Herzen. 

He died in 1870 but these wise words are still very relevant today. They resonate very strongly with me. They are independent confirmation of my own ideas and experiences. They are spot on.

For Herzen, one of the greatest of sins that any human being can perpetrate is to seek to transfer moral responsibility from his own shoulders to those of an unpredictable future order, and, in the name of something which may never happen, perpetrate crimes today which no one would deny to be monstrous if they were performed for some egoistic purpose, and do not seem so only because they are sanctified by faith in some remote and intangible Utopia.“

Said by Sir Isaiah Berlin of Alexander Herzen, Russian writer, novelist, philosopher, teacher and political agitator.

It is uncanny how much of the bad behavior and sinister practices to be found in cults and cult-like organizations today are covered by views expressed by Alexander Herzen over 150 years ago.

Yes, people do commit terrible crimes in the name of the cause.

Yes, it is always some glorious end in the future that justifies the cheating, lying, deprivation, cruelty, abdication of responsibilities and commitments and other crimes in the present.

Yes, people who would never do something – cheating people out of money for example – for their own personal benefit, will do it in the name of the cause, in the name of Jesus and the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth, in the name of freedom and democracy in the future.

And yes, very often the end never comes, so the crimes and sacrifices were all for nothing.

I have seen all this for myself.

I wonder what Alexander Herzen experienced to make him hold those views.

I wonder how much of what he condemned was committed by him and his friends in the name of socialism and revolution that would bring about a better future.

Alexander Herzen:

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Rudyard Kipling and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

While reading about the lives of Rudyard Kipling and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, I noticed that they had a few elements in common in addition to having lived in Southsea.

Artistic fathers
Both men had fathers who illustrated their books.

Conan Doyle’s father Charles Altamont Doyle was one of the first artists to depict Sherlock Holmes. His drawings were used for the 1888 edition of A Study in Scarlet.

John Lockwood Kipling illustrated his son’s Jungle Books.

Here is an example of each man’s work:

Sherlock Holmes is the tall man in the middle. I much prefer Sidney Paget’s depiction of the great detective!

Bereaved wives
Both Rudyard Kipling and Conan Doyle married women they met through the women’s brothers, brothers who both died young.

Conan Doyle met fellow Southsea resident Louise Hawkins when her brother Jack became a patient of his. He took the young man into his care at his house in Elm Grove, but the patient soon died. He was only 25 years old. Dr Doyle and Louise soon became engaged and then married. Unfortunately, she too died young and Conan Doyle remarried.

Rudyard Kipling met American-born Caroline Starr Balestier when her brother Wolcott, a writer and publisher who wrote a book jointly with Kipling, introduced her to his famous friend. Wolcott died two years later at the age of 29, and Kipling proposed to Caroline soon afterwards.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Benjamin Disraeli and some more unseen influences

Benjamin Disraeli the eminent Victorian, the prime minister of what was at the time the greatest power on earth, the statesman and superb orator who was also a novelist, essayist and supreme letter writer, has been extensively studied and written about.

I can’t compete with or add anything to the coverage of many aspects of his life, his brilliant political career in particular, but in any case my main interest is in the unseen influences that I believe were operating behind the scenes.

Curses, cursing and convenient deaths
I have already written about some deaths that were very convenient for Mr Disraeli. I have just read something in a review of the biography Disraeli: a Personal History by Christopher Hibbert
that gives further support to my suspicions:

"There was a streak of icy vengefulness in his temperament; even as a young man he had written down and filed away the names of those who crossed him. 'Something usually happens to them.'"

So Disraeli had a little list! So it was not only innocent people who happened to be in his way who suffered the consequences of his feelings towards them. So in the case of his enemies, the ill-wishing was deliberate.

This discovery has made me want to do a full investigation.

In the meantime, a little research exercise has found some familiar features.  It seems to me that his unsatisfactory (to Disraeli) starting position in life, his inordinate ambition combined with his creative personality and the setbacks he experienced made him someone who might well have attracted the attention of whatever it is that operates below the surface in the lives of selected people.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Arthur Conan Doyle’s witch Helen Penclosa: Part V

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s short novel The Parasite has inspired a series of articles, of which this is the last.

It is being published today to mark the 87th anniversary of Conan Doyle’s death: he died on this day, July 7th, in 1930. 

Although I had never even heard of The Parasite until a few weeks ago, many elements of the story seem very familiar. They have activated memories of things I have read in other books or experienced for myself; I have featured some of them in previous articles. Here are some connections that I have noticed:

The Parasite and John Buchan
The Parasite reminds me a little of John Buchan’s story The Gap in the Curtain, in which people are trained to use the latent powers of their minds.

The volunteers are selected for their sensitive nervous systems and inability to cope well with the normal, physical world. This partly matches what Austin Gilroy says about himself: he calls himself a highly psychic, sensitive man.

The volunteers in The Gap in the Curtain are very different from Agatha Marden, whom Helen Penclosa successfully hypnotises as a demonstration of her power to control healthy, well-balanced people.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Arthur Conan Doyle’s witch Helen Penclosa: Part IV

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Parasite has inspired a series of articles. Part III described Helen Penclosa and her activities in detail. So what more is there to say about this sinister little story? There are still a few features to be highlighted, points to be made and warnings to be repeated.

Going into reverse
One feature in this and other examples of people ignoring red flags and getting carried away by exciting visions of the future is that not only do many of them not get what they want, but it all goes horribly wrong, into reverse even, and they find themselves in a much worse situation. Their ambition, scientific curiosity, gullibility, greed, arrogance, over-estimation of their powers, strength and resistance … whatever the cause of their involvement with negative metaphysical forces, they are lead to disaster.

Austin Gilroy gets the exact opposite of what he hoped for. He foresees a glorious future for himself; he thinks that his forthcoming paper on hypnotism might even get him made a Fellow of the Royal Society.  This will make Agatha accept that the game is worth the candle!  Unfortunately, it all backfires.

Instead of achieving further academic success, he loses his professorship. Instead of feeling respect and admiration for him, Agatha feels concern because he looks so worried, worn and ill.

Friday, June 30, 2017

More Stalky and Molesworth: Defence Against the Dark Arts Part IX

After finishing the article about Rudyard Kipling’s Stalky and the Molesworth books, I found some associated works that I didn’t know existed:

Stalky & Co.  BBC TV series; made in 1982

Two more Molesworth books, written by Simon Brett and illustrated by William Rushton:

Molesworth Rites Again (1983)
How To Stay Topp (1987)

I found some reviews, and there were enough positive ones to make me decide to get them. They sounded at least worth trying. I bought a DVD of the TV series; I bought the books too as they were not in my library’s catalogue.

I wondered whether I had done the right thing, as dramatisations of books I like are usually very disappointing and tribute books are hardly ever as good as the originals.

The Stalky & Co. BBC TV series
I have always believed that books stimulate the imagination whereas films short-circuit it. However, I bought the Stalky DVD in the hope that it would add something to the stories.

I don’t know what people who have never read the book would make of it; my balanced opinion is that while it was not a complete waste of money and it was not so bad that I was outraged by the dramatisation, it is lucky that I had not expected too much.

Some of the stories are shown out of sequence, and only six of the eight have been included. I wish they had included The Impressionists instead of The Moral Persuaders, which was too painful to watch.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Arthur Conan Doyle’s witch Helen Penclosa: Part III

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s occult novella The Parasite is a goldmine of supporting material for some of my ideas. It could be used as a teaching aid by people who are interested in informing – and warning - people about some types of unseen influences.

Part I of this series of articles introduced the main characters and outlined the plot; Part II described the effects that Helen Penclosa’s occult practices have on her victims. Part III gives more information about Miss Penclosa and her evil practices.

The source of Helen Penclosa’s powers
Where do Miss Penclosa’s powers come from?

By telling us that Helen Penclosa comes from Trinidad, Conan Doyle suggests that she has been involved with practices such as Voodoo or Obeah. He never states this explicitly, but there can be no other reason for his including this information.

It is a clue; it is a trope of the time; it is similar to saying that she has spent some time in Tibet: readers of the day would infer that she acquired her occult powers in a remote, mysterious and exotic place. It is a cop-out that saves him from trying to explain the inexplicable.

Austin Gilroy thinks that a natural force is at work.

Helen Penclosa could well be a natural witch; her powers could have developed because of her unhappiness, lack of options and inability to obtain what she wants in the normal way.

If the definition of black magic as the illegitimate use of the powers of the subconscious mind for one’s own purposes is accepted, then Miss Penclosa practices black magic.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Arthur Conan Doyle’s witch Helen Penclosa: Part II

The Parasite, a short novel about hypnotism by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, contains much material of interest. Part I introduced the main characters and outlined the plot; Part II will give some more details of the effects that Helen Penclosa’s occult practices have on her victims.

Conan Doyle tells us in this chilling little story how it looks and feels to be controlled by hypnotism, suggestion and even possession by this evil witch and energy vampire.

Under the influence: Agatha Marden
As a demonstration of her power, and proof that she can make people do things that they would never do of their own free will, Helen Penclosa hypnotises Austin Gilroy's young fiancée Agatha, ordering her break off the engagement.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Arthur Conan Doyle’s witch Helen Penclosa: Part I

While doing some research for an article about Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s life in Southsea, I discovered that he had written a short novel about occult forces called The Parasite:

“… his dark tale of an evil woman possessed of such hypnotic powers that she is able to induce by remote control not only murder, but passionate love as well, in the mind of her chosen victim.”

From  A Study in Southsea: The Unrevealed Life of Doctor Arthur Conan Doyle by Geoffrey Stavert

Stavert’s summary made the story sound very interesting indeed: I immediately thought of psychic crime and psychological black magic.

I found The Parasite on Project Gutenberg. The novella, which was first published in 1894, is only four chapters long; the plot is simple and there are only a handful of characters. The language is rather old-fashioned and melodramatic and the story a bit contrived, but I found The Parasite worth reading as a source of inspiration for an article or two. It contains some very familiar elements and provides yet more independent confirmation of some of my ideas.

The characters in summary
The two main characters are Miss Helen Penclosa, the evil woman, and Austin Gilroy, the chosen victim.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Southsea and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

I went on a day trip to Southsea recently.

The main reason for my visit was to take a look at the place where Sir Arthur Conan Doyle once lived and worked.

lived in Southsea during my last few terms at primary school and my first few terms at secondary school.  I went back there once or twice as an adult, but for personal reasons only: I wanted to lay some ghosts from the past. I didn’t know about the Conan Doyle and Kipling connections at the time. I didn’t know anything about the number 33 either, which by chance is the number of the house that I lived in – and other houses I have connections with.

I have already posted pictures of Kipling's House of Desolation, which is still standing; unfortunately, what might be called Conan Doyle’s House of Success is no longer there.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Kathleen Raine, the Destroyer and the Destroyed

The poet Kathleen Raine was born on this day, June 14th, in 1908. To mark the occasion, here is another article inspired by her autobiographical books.

One thing I noticed immediately is that, unlike many other victims of the creative spirit, Kathleen Raine made attempts to understand the occult forces and unseen influences at work in her life.

She learned from experience and took some responsibility for what happened to her:

Because I suffered I supposed that he had hurt me… an instinctive reaction, stupid and unjust for most often we hurt ourselves whether by imagining non-existent wrongs or in persistence in some mistake we cannot or will not see…”

She thought about the effect that she had on the people around her and realised that, while she had suffered immensely, she had also caused much suffering to others.  She knew that she had treated her parents cruelly –  in return for what they had done to her – and she also realised that obsessively concentrating on someone can have a damaging effect:

Perhaps he felt the longing dragging at him…the sense of another’s unwanted thoughts flowing towards one constantly…”

She came to understand that what happens to people in the outer world is often a reflection of what is happening in their inner world:

“… the world continually reflects back to us our inner states…”

Everything that befalls us has its cause within ourselves… another of those seeming miracles by which a change of inner disposition is followed by a corresponding change in the outward course of events…

Our being responds only to that to which it is attuned…”

Much of what she says is independent confirmation of the validity of conclusions that I had already come to and the truth of insights that had come to me.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Some thoughts from the poet Kathleen Raine

Some of the books I have written about are guaranteed to drive the dark clouds away every time I read them, Rudyard Kipling’s Stalky stories and the Molesworth books for example. They are old friends who never fail to amuse and make me feel better.

Other books have the opposite effect. I sometimes wish that I had never read Kathleen Raine’s three-volume autobiography. Some of the things that she writes come very close to home; they are extremely depressing and almost too painful to read.

I have described elsewhere the fatal curse that she believes she put on her friend Gavin Maxwell. The books Farewell Happy Fields, The Land Unknown and The Lion’s Mouth contain much more material of interest, not all of it distressing to read.

Here are a few random extracts from the notes I made when reading the three books, which are now back in the public library. I have changed the sequence in which her words appear, and just included some quotations that might inspire people and provide confirmation for their ideas.

Some words of wisdom from Kathleen Raine, and a few comments from me:

Imagination loves nobility and splendour, tragedy, beauty and kingship; loves all great things …of equality it knows nothing…

“… poetry alone answers to the unsatisfied longing for beauty and wonder…”

Poets keep alive the pearls and not the acorns, food of natural mankind…”

Is she suggesting that the majority of people are swine!

Monday, May 22, 2017

Two school stories: Defence Against the Dark Arts Part VIII

My investigation of Rudyard Kipling's early life has stirred up memories of two good books about life in boys' schools, one of them written by Kipling himself:

Stalky & Co. by Rudyard Kipling

The Compleet Molesworth by Geoffrey Willans and Ronald Searle.

They are both very funny; they have brought great enjoyment to large numbers of people. I am very glad that I read them when I was young enough for them to make an indelible impression.

Reading in childhood
Children may read to escape, to fill gaps in their lives, to exercise their imaginations, to learn directly and indirectly and for enjoyment; whatever the cause, they may remember what they read for the rest of their lives.

For example, Ayn Rand read a story in a magazine in 1914, when she was nine years old. Barbara Brandon, her biographer, managed to locate a copy of the magazine in 1982, and discovered that Ayn, who had recounted the story at considerable length, had remembered almost every detail, both major and minor, of this work that she had not read since the age of nine.

As a small boy in Southsea, Rudyard Kipling escaped from his unbearable life by reading. He never forgot some of the stories and poems that he read in books and magazines during this time. He wrote about them and his efforts to identify some of them in Something of Myself.

I can remember most of what I read as a child very vividly. Some of it was buried for many years but it was still all there, including the two books about school life.

The Molesworth books are much lighter than the Stalky stories; they are greatly enhanced by Ronald Searle's cartoons.

Rudyard Kipling is a great writer; Ronald Searle is a great illustrator.

These books have their critics. They may seem dated, irrelevant and politically very incorrect, but they are part of my life and I feel privileged to have read them.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Rudyard Kipling and the House of Desolation: Part III

Part I described the abandonment of Rudyard Kipling and his younger sister by their parents. Part II continued the story and ended with his release from what seemed to him like a prison sentence with torture thrown in.

There are still a few questions outstanding and points to be made.

Did Kipling lie about or exaggerate his suffering?
remember reading somewhere that when Kipling's parents first read the account of his time in Southsea, they tried to get his sister Trix to say that it hadn't been so bad as he said it was. This is what happens in many such cases; people said the same thing to Charlotte Brontë, when actually she had toned down her account of life at the dreadful school.

There is a lot that could be and has been said on this subject. Writers certainly use their imagination to create good stories. For many, what happens in their imagination seems real to them, more real even than what really happened. Some use what happened in real life as just the starting point for building a whole edifice of fiction. Some present occasional incidents as happening frequently and such things as minor criticisms as vicious attacks. This may seem like lying and exaggeration to some people.

Monday, May 1, 2017

The childhood of Marie Corelli

I described some painful events in the life of the Queen of Victorian Best-sellers Marie Corelli recently. Writing about an episode in Rudyard Kipling's childhood gave me the idea of investigating Marie Corelli's childhood.

There is little information available and much confusion about her parentage. She deliberately muddied the water herself; she obscured her past with a fog of lies and deceit. We will never know for sure whether the Scottish poet, scholar and journalist Charles Mackay was her real father or, as she insisted, her adopted father. It is likely that her mother was a servant and Marie was born illegitimate. She would have seen this as a terrible disgrace, something to be ashamed of and kept hidden; she claimed Venetian blood and gave herself an Italian name in compensation and to hide her real parentage.

What we do know is that, despite having a kind man as her official father, she was very unhappy as a child.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Rudyard Kipling and the House of Desolation: Part II

 Part 1 described how Rudyard Kipling and his younger sister were consigned to the care of Mrs Holloway, a committed Evangelical and a bigoted and ignorant woman who took a dislike to Kipling and treated him very badly. He endured many years of her cruelty and neglect, not to mention hell-fire Christianity.

There are some more questions to be asked.

Why didn’t Rudyard Kipling say anything?
Kipling said that his beloved aunt asked him this question many times.

He gave two reasons for his not telling anyone how he was being treated. He said that children accept everything that happens to them as inevitable and eternal; he also said that they sense what they will get if they betray the secrets of the prison-house before they are well clear of it.

These are good answers – as far as they go.

Children in general do think that whatever adults do is normal behaviour; children are often threatened with dire consequences for speaking out, perhaps verbally or perhaps with unspoken but well conveyed and understood intention. They may be afraid of losing what little they have.

However, there may be more to it.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Rudyard Kipling and the House of Desolation: Part I

There is an episode in Rudyard Kipling's childhood that is of great interest to me: the miserable years of torment spent in what he later called ‘The House of Desolation’.

He endured five and a half years of calculated neglect, persecution, punishment and humiliation at the hands of a horrible, cruel, religious fanatic of a women called Mrs Holloway and her awful bully of a son. Some of the damage that this prolonged and constant torture caused was permanent.

He wrote about his ordeal in the short story Baa Baa, Black Sheep, in his novel The Light that Failed and in his autobiographical work Something of Myself. It makes very painful reading, at least for people who have experienced something similar.

This nightmare interlude in Kipling's childhood has also been described and discussed extensively in many biographies, reviews, essays and articles; there is no need to reproduce all the details and cover the same ground here. I just want to concentrate on a few aspects of this case, on some unseen but familiar influences and some connections that I have noticed.

First, a few questions.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Today is the 25th anniversary of Isaac Asimov's death

Isaac Asimov died at the age of 72 on 6th April 1992. His death was a great loss to the world.

I enjoyed reading his Science Fiction novels and stories very much; I bought an old 2-volume pack of his autobiography at a big discount a while back, and found In Memory Yet Green and In Joy Still Felt just as good.

I like information, and these books are packed with it. He describes his early life so well that reading about it made me feel as though I had grown up in a poor area in 1930s New York myself.

I like the way he puts his life into the context of the times; he comes to realise that while his family were poor, they were not destitute like others in the Depression era. He also puts his life and personality into the context of other people's; he is balanced and objective when interpreting his earlier behaviour and explaining himself to his readers.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Exploitation and unfinished business in the life of Marie Corelli

There are some lessons to be learned from the financially successful but personally sad life of best-selling Victorian novelist Marie Corelli. 

One of these lessons is about taking responsibility where appropriate, as opposed to blaming someone else. It particularly involves learning to be a good judge of character and not being influenced by factors such as self-interest, self-deception and wishful thinking, as opposed to blaming the other party for not being what we thought they were or wanted them to be.

Blaming people for deceiving us and letting us down seems to be the default. We need to learn to look after our side of things; we need to learn from experience what to look for in people. In particular, we need to learn to recognise warning signals.

This extract from Marie Corelli's book The Silver Domino shows that she knew, in theory at least, that people should take responsibility and blame themselves for their own poor judgement when they feel that they have been deceived by someone:

"Remember that if you do persuade yourself into thinking that I am a Somebody, and if I turn out after all to be a Nobody, it is not my fault. Don't blame me, blame your own self deception."

This is admirable; it is spot on. However, she talked a better game than she played; she didn't apply her wise words to herself. The Silver Domino was published in 1892; here is an extract from The Young Diana, first published in 1918:

"I asked for love – now I ask for vengeance. I gave all my heart and soul to a man whose only god was Self, and I got nothing back…So I have a long score to settle, and I shall try to have some of my spent joys returned to me – with heavy interest."

This is Marie Corelli speaking for herself, and from bitter experience. She was raging at a man she had been infatuated with, because she felt that he had deceived her; he was not what she thought he was and wanted him to be. She had become disappointed and disillusioned. The expression 'Hell hath no greater fury than a women scorned' very much applies in her case.