Sunday, May 31, 2015

What did I tell you about Mike Castle? a postscript to my post on Delaware and its Politicians

The Wilmington News-Journal:
"It's just terrible," said Ari Abel, who is about Beau's age and knew him since he was a kid. "The whole time I knew him, he was just a decent, nice guy. He never had a bad thing to say about anyone."
Abel and his father, Rob, are both optometrists, and have known the Biden family for years.
"I think Delaware is an anomaly. We're so close to everyone, including our politicians," Rob Abel said. "It's a remarkable family."

I think Rob Abel meant that Delaware was a remarkable family, as well as the Bidens.

You could see Senator Biden at the Amtrak station. Tom Carper would wave you on in a race ("Looking good!"). Mike Castle on Christmas Day would run down the path to the Swinging Bridge wearing his Giant Green Elf Christmas running suit. I can't imagine what madness came upon the Republican Party in 2010. But I guarantee you Castle is grieving with the Bidens today. 

Added 3 June 2015
Republican Mike Castle, Delaware's former governor and congressman, said the losses have been particularly hard on Biden because he has always put his family first.

"Through it all, in spite of the politics and running for re-election to the Senate and president and vice president, he's always been an understanding and caring father and grandfather. It's very hard not to honor him for that. He's never lost sight of the importance of family," Castle said.
"He's always been there for his children in a very good way, and not in some sort of, 'I'm going to help them up the ladder.' They are his kids. He's going to be there to protect them and care for them in a fatherly way. He's been very extraordinary."
Castle, who was governor in 1988 when Biden suffered an aneurysm that required two surgeries and led to him receiving last rites, said Beau's medical problems had to have hurt even more.
Beau was his "true golden child," Castle said, noting that the oldest son followed in Joe's footsteps at Syracuse University College of Law, and into politics. Beau also served in the National Guard and did a one-year stint in Iraq as a military lawyer. At the last two Democratic national conventions, Beau gave stirring speeches on his father's behalf.
"There was a great sense of pride and fulfillment," Castle said. "He had great feelings for his son and all of a sudden this happens. It's got to be a very distinct shock. He's had his own health issues, but losing two children and a wife is unbelievable. It's just so difficult."

Castle said that true to form, Biden did not show any emotion when they saw each other in Washington on May 21 — one day after the vice president acknowledged his son was in the hospital and nine days before he died.
Biden gave a speech on behalf of a book written by former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell, and was "his usual professional self."
Afterward, Castle, who also is a stroke survivor, said he approached his old friend and fellow politician. "I hope all goes well with Beau," Castle recalled saying to Biden.
Biden didn't discuss Beau's condition or indicate that the cancer had returned, but simply said, "Thank you."

Saturday, May 30, 2015

The thing about Delaware being small is that everyone grieves

The one place where you could be sure to see Senator Biden was the Amtrak station. In 1988 I approached him there after the aneurysm surgeries to say how good it was to see him looking so strong. Young Beau was with him, looking immortal.

We have had a string of 5 deaths close to home in the last several weeks, the next-to-last being my best friend.

Now anyone who spent two decades in Delaware feels Beau Biden's death as if were a kind of death in the family, even though in a very extended family.

All I can say right now about Brian Higgins

          I wrote memorial tributes to the great Melvilleans Harrison Hayford and Walter E. Bezanson but I never thought I would write about Brian Higgins, younger than me, not older, my student at the University of Southern California in 1968 then my collaborator on many projects for four decades. Can I compose a third in the conventional memorial genre? No. No. I protect myself in this piece by starting with Henry James, whose late works were beloved by both Brian and me. Perhaps the best thing I ever wrote alone was an article on James’s prefaces to the New York edition. It did not make much of an impact, although a very famous novelist said it “ennobled” him. No one guessed that a particular section was autobiographical, based on my collaborations with Brian. In talking about it and Brian, I will sound more than a little vainglorious. But, then, one of the things Brian explained to me was, “They just don’t comprehend the level we are operating on, Hershel.”  That, of course, became one of the many catch-phrases we laughed about every time an occasion arose, year by year, for one of us to recall it.
          In that article on the prefaces the submerged autobiography is the paragraph about James’s memories of the places where he wrote his novels and stories, places where he had performed acts of heroism: “In writing the prefaces James remembered the details of what he had written years before far less clearly than he remembered the rooms in which he had labored over his fiction and the sounds outside those rooms and (less often?) the sights from the windows in those rooms. For monument to his high achievement James might have been content with his randomly sized books in their range of colors and their diverse stamping and lettering, the hodgepodge figuring for him what the slab of marble in the suburban cemetery figured for John Marcher. Instead, in his sixties he saw his writing rooms as his monument. The remembered rooms, the scenes of his labors and of his triumphs, he enumerated lovingly.” I listed a dozen or so of the rooms, starting with “‘the high, charming, shabby old room’ that looked out at the Piazza Santa Maria Novella” and ending with, in Bad-Hamburg, “‘a dampish, dusky, unsunned room,’ so dark that he could see his way to and from his inkstand ‘but by keeping the door to the court open.’” In writing the prefaces, I said, James “rejoiced in his sense of his own bravery in these rooms, where he had encountered more dangers than in the nocturnal marches down the London streets during which he conducted his investigative researches for The Princess Casamassima. Nostalgia is a secondary emotion in these memories: these rooms, for the duration of James’s own courageous occupancy, had been inhabited by the Muse herself, and now in his memory they were sacred places.” When I wrote the paragraph in the early 1990s I was thinking, already, of the rooms in which Brian and I had worked, where we had struggled with an array of aesthetic challenges.
          When I taught summer school at Northwestern in 1973 Brian came up from Chicago to work with me at night in the English department, where we could use typewriters to lay out about what was wrong with the Cowley reordering of Fitzgerald’s Tender is the Night. (Later Hayford loved hearing that the piece “was aborning in old University Hall.”) Two years earlier, I had extemporized for 50 minutes when I arrived at a USC class to find the students holding paperbacks of the nonsensical Cowley edition. More recently, Brian had proved his worth by meticulously locating in it small accidental losses along with big inadvertent ludicrousnesses. The article, published in August 1975, was in due course treated briskly in American Literary Scholarship as a “bibliographical” piece, not a critical article, when of course it was a worthy piece of criticism (however much we could have improved it in later years) and, more than that, a piece that in a rudimentary way engaged basic seldom-explored problems in literary aesthetics. Then an eminent purblind Eastern professor, now dead, denounced it at length in a collection of essays on the novel without reprinting it there. (Pursuing his monomaniacal feud across international borders, decades later he challenged me to come to his hotel room, strip at least to the waist, and settle the issues once for all. This invitation gave Brian and me cause for two decades’ worth of laughter.) It was the response to our Tender article that elicited from Brian the comment about the level on which we were working. We published a bit of our mid-1970s work on Stephen Crane’s Maggie in a Norton Critical Edition, but our long essay proved unpublishable in the United States because it exposed the editorial and aesthetic incompetence of the all-powerful bibliographer Fredson Bowers. Honest reviewing of the grand national editorial project simply ceased after every editor of a textual journal had seen our paper and bowed before Bowers’s threats of legal proceedings against anyone who published it. Starting then in the mid-1970s timid textual journals stifled any inquiry into the necessary relationship between editorial principles and what cognitive psychologists were learning about the creative process. Our inability to publish this study damaged our careers and our psyches and taught us bitter lessons about doing original work and challenging authority. Brian and I wrote other articles and edited significant collections, never giving up hope of triumphing over the censorship of the monograph-length study of Maggie. How did we survive and flourish, until that article was published--not in the United States but in the Antipodes, in the 1990s? Might as well ask how we survived so many “Higgins breakfasts” as long as we did! Or how we survived the century’s coldest day yet in Chicago then later worked through the century’s real coldest day, again, toting a dead car battery and a living bundle of typescripts inch by icy inch past the Moody Bible Institute. Decade by decade we got better together as readers, teaching ourselves, and had more private fun, as when we satirizing ourselves with pretentious terms like “Flawed Grandeur” and “Fair Augury” in titles. And we laughed. Now I will never have anyone to laugh with the way I laughed with Brian.
          One workroom followed another. Perhaps the most heroic site of all was a kitchen in Ladera Heights where for two weeks in July 1975 (a month before the Tender article was published) we read Pierre, talking through the functions of passages and recording our conclusions in typed notes, many of which ultimately informed the 2006 book. In those sessions Brian and I pushed ourselves day by day into the most rigorous literary analysis either of us had ever done, the result better than either of us could have done alone, for Brian’s great strength, nourished by John Plumb and other British tutors, was as a reader, and I had been transformed as a reader by five months in bed with a one-volume Shakespeare as I recovered from tuberculosis. There were many other work spaces, thought spaces, for the later articles, the collections we edited, and the much-interrupted, Pierre book which lured us like a Spirit-Spout. We wrote together in a slightly shabby 1930s Spanish house in Brentwood (recently appraised on the Internet for $3,700,000); the marble Newberry Library Melville Room (the Melville books now dispersed and the room repurposed); Brian’s rental apartment in Chicago; a dark narrow unsunned row house in Wilmington, Delaware, on a cliff above the Brandywine; a motel room in New Bedford where Brian kept silent about the poisonous, insidiously flattering invitation he had just heard from a great Harvard psychologist; the third floor of a Victorian on the flats in Wilmington where we worked with both lapboards and, for the first time, a computer; the very last house in southeast Pennsylvania, where a few steps into the woods the man from Leicester got to stand in three American states at once; the Public Library in Troy, New York; the Berkshire Athenaeum in Pittsfield, Massachusetts; and finally another Spanish house, in Morro Bay, California. For some of the sessions, photographs of Brian or me holding galleys (a textual stage now unknown to writers) or page proofs or posing with books convey something of the pleasures of working together, but nothing except our printed words, especially in the Pierre book, comes close to capturing the sense of exhilaration and joy that suffused us as we did our best thinking and writing. Taken all in all, our collaborations record for me a huge, powerfully moving part of both our working lives, and our work rooms are as sacred to me as James’s were to him. Now talking about the rooms in which Brian Higgins and I taught each other for almost half a century keeps me from acknowledging what his silence is going to mean and what I am going to do without the laughter.

To be Shipped any day: Journal of the American Revolution: Annual Volume 2015 Hardcover – May 28, 2015

  In this volume is my piece on the Tryon Patriots of 1775 and the one on David Fanning's escape from North Carolina to Charleston in 1782.


Journal of the American Revolution: Annual Volume 2015 Hardcover – May 28, 2015

Founded in 2012, the Journal of the American Revolution has provided educational, peer-reviewed articles by more than 75 historians and experts on the journal's popular website, The site attracts more than 65,000 readers per month and its historical perspectives have been featured by Time, MSNBC, Smithsonian, Slate and other national media. The online periodical's roster of writers includes a balance of emerging talent and seasoned scholars, such as J. L. Bell, Benjamin L. Carp, Thomas Fleming, Benjamin H. Irvin, Andrew O'Shaughnessy, Jim Piecuch and Ray Raphael. The Journal of the American Revolution, Annual Volume 2015, marks the beginning of a partnership between Westholme and the journal to provide an annual print edition of the journal's best historical research and writing. These annual volumes are designed for institutions, scholars, and enthusiasts alike to provide a convenient overview of the latest research and scholarship in American Revolution studies. The fifty articles in the 2015 edition include: "Five Myths of Tarring and Feathering," by J. L. Bell; "Raid Across the Ice: The British Operation to Capture Washington," by Benjamin Huggins; "Paul Revere's Other Riders," by Ray Raphael; "A Patriot-Loyalist: Playing Both Sides," by Todd Braisted; "William Lee & Oney Judge: A Look at George Washington & Slavery," by Mary V. Thompson; "The Great West Point Chain," by Hugh T. Harrington.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Everything turned upside down--Henry Binder, Noel Polk, and now Brian Higgins

The oldest have borne most; we that are young . . . .? The youngest have borne most; we that are old . . . What's happened is backwards.

At least we got our last collaboration published, READING MELVILLE'S PIERRE; OR, THE AMBIGUITIES (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2006).

Brian was supposed to tie up everything that needed to be finished.
Here is the way it should have been:
 Now at divesting time it's clear the envelope doesn't contain anything explosive. I just expected Brian to handle things that no one else should have to deal with.

Michael Lindgren in the Washington POST on Harold Bloom's tribute to Whitman as Healer

“Several prolonged times when close to death,” he [Bloom] writes, “I have recited Whitman to myself as medicine. . . . He has healed me and goes on helping me to get through many sleepless nights of anxiety and pain.” It is this image of Bloom chanting Whitman aloud in a dark room as a talisman against the depredations of illness that lingers when the book’s covers are closed.

We don't hear enough about Whitman as healer.

Late in 1958 when I was recovering from tuberculosis, working from 8 at night till 4 in the morning as a telegrapher on the Kansas City Southern in Port Arthur, taking an overload of classes at Lamar State University of Technology in Beaumont, still reeling from the great tragedy to the family in the spring, desperate for sleep, I very deliberately made time to read Song of Myself aloud to myself in the cavernous KCS Freight House late at night. I was healed enough to continue. Whitman does not discriminate.

How I taught Whitman starting 15 October 1987:
'BIG MEDICINE." Take in as large a dose as you need.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Kevin Costner makes research on Civil War Costners hard

Just try typing in "Costner" in Civil War and you get Kevin and you get Kevin and you get Kevin when what I wanted was a list of Costners who served in the Civil War. On to Fold3?

Monday, May 25, 2015

Cousin David Cockerham and the Unbearable Shortness of Time Between the Revolution and the Civil War

Raleigh Register 31 August 1859--Cousin David Cockerham, Revolutionary Patriot, is honored for surviving this near the new war in which Cockerham cousins died.