Sunday 27 July 2014


2014-30 John Galsworthy - "Ultima Thule" 

John Galsworthy [1867-1933]

[In John Galsworthy, we have a fusion of an outstanding social philosopher, discerning critic, worshipper of truth and beauty, novelist and dramist, man and poet. The main charm of his art lies in the constant blending of these spirits we perceive in him. 

In the short story "Quality", we have an ideal craftsman in Mr Gessler who is dedicated to his profession. In the short story "Ultima Thule", we have an ideal human being in Mr Moronelli who loves all creation!]


Used to see him ... accompanied by a small girl
"Ultima Thule" is the story of a little old friend. I used to see him, accompanied by a very small girl. One would see them silent before a shrub or flower, or stretched on their backs watching the sky. Often they would stand holding crumbs out to the birds, who would perch about them. They were admittedly a noticeable couple.

His costume did not indicate any great share of prosperity. But it was his face that riveted attention. Thin, cherry-red, and wind-dried as old wood, it had a special sort of brightness, with waves of silvery hair, and blue eyes that seemed to shine. Standing by the rails of an enclosure, with his lips pursed and his cheeks drawn in, he would emit the most enticing trills and pipings, exactly imitating various birds.

One day, I saw him coming along alone, looking sad, but still with that queer brightness about him. Presently I caught the words: "God cannot be like us."  On an impulse, I said: ''Why?" He turned without surprise. "I've lost my landlady's little girl," be said. "Dead ! And only seven years old." 

"That little thing! I used to watch you." "Did you? Did you? I'm glad you saw her." "I used to see you looking at flowers, and trees, and those ducks." His face brightened wistfully. "Yes; she was a great companion to an old man like me." "We were great friends ! But I couldn't expect it. Things don't last, do they?" I was glad to notice that his voice was getting cheerful.

"When I was in the orchestra at the Harmony Theatre, it never used to occur to me that some day I shouldn't play there any more. One felt like a bird. That's the beauty of music, sir. You· lose yourself; like that blackbird there." He imitated the note of a blackbird so perfectly that I could have swom the bird started.

Birds and flowers! Wonderful things!
"Birds and flowers ! Wonderful things; wonderful I Why, even a buttercup- !" He pointed at one of those little golden flowers with his toe. "Did you ever see such a marvellous thing?"

"Delighted," he said; "delighted. I make friends of the creatures and flowers as much as possible, but they can't always make us understand."

Next time I came across him standing by the rails of an enclosure, and, in his arms, an old and really wretched-looking cat. "I don't like boys," he said, without preliminary of any sort. "What do you think they were doing to this poor old cat? Dragging it along by a string to drown it; see where it's cut into the fur ! I think boys despise the old and weak! "
Such a depth of Life!

He held it out to me. At the ends of those little sticks of arms the beast looked more dead than alive; I had never seen a more miserable creature. "I think a cat," he said, "is one of the most marvellous things in the world. Such a depth of life in it."

And, as he spoke, the cat opened its mouth as if protesting at that assertion. It was the sorriest-looking beast. "What are you going to do with it?" "Take it home; it looks to me as if it might die." "You don't think that might be more merciful?"

"It depends; it depends. I shall see. I fancy a little kindness might do a great deal for it. It's got plenty of spirit. I can see from its eye."

"You'll find this'll be quite a different cat tomorrow," he said. "I shall have to get in, though, without my landlady seeing; a funny woman I I have two or three strays already." The old friend's room, was fairly large and bare. A large bird-cage on the wall hung wide open. The place smelt a little of beasts and birds.

Bullfinch, the inseparable companion!
Besides the new cat, there were three other cats and four birds, all - save one, a bullfinch - invalids. The cats kept close to the walls, avoiding me, but wherever my little old friend went, they followed him with their eyes. The birds were in the cage, except the bullfinch, which had perched on his shoulder.

Till their legs or wings are mended, they hardly come out of the cage. But they don't stay long, you know, when they're once well." "And then they'll go?" "Yes. The sparrow first, and then the two thrushes.'' "And were all those cats, too, in trouble?" "Yes," he said. "They wouldn't want me if they weren't."

It seemed time to go. "Delighted to see you, sir," he said, "any day." And, pointing up at the bullfinch on his bead, he added: "Did you ever see anything so wonderful as that bird? The size of its heart I Really marvellous!'' 

After that I saw him often, going with him sometimes to buy food for his cats, which seemed ever to increase in numbers. His talk was always of his strays, and the marvels of creation, and that time of his life when he played the flute at the Harmony Theatre. He had been out of a job, it seemed, for more than ten years; and, when questioned, only sighed and answered: "Don't talk about it, please ! " He struggled on from week to week, getting out and collecting strays, and discovering the marvels of creation, and finding her a funny woman. 

One July afternoon, he had been taken dangerously ill"There he is," she said; "can't touch a thing. It's my belief he's done for himself, giving his food away all these years to those cats of his"What does the doctor say?" "Double pneumonia - caught it getting his feet wet, after some stray, I'll be bound. I'm nursing him. There has to be some one with him all the time." He was lying very still when I went up, with the sunlight falling across the foot of his bed, and, sure enough, the bullfinch perching on his pillow. In that high fever he looked brighter than ever. 

"Mr. Jackson! He'll be here soon. Mr. Jackson I He'll do it for me. I can ask him, if I die. A funny woman. I don't want to eat; I'm not a great eater - I want my breath, that's all." At sound of his voice the bullfinch fluttered off the pillow and flew round and round the room, as if alarmed at something new in the tones that were coming from its master.

"I think I'm going to die," he said; "I'm very weak. It's lucky, there's nobody to mind. If only he'd come soon. I wish"- and he raised himself with feeble excitement - I want him to promise me to take them, and bully-boy, and feed them with my money, when I'm dead." Presently there came the sound of a motor-car in the little street below. "Here he ·is," she whispered. "Mr. Jackson?" "The same. How is the little old chap?"

I described the situation. "He seems to think," I ended, "that you'll be kind enough to charge yourself with his strays, in case he should die." "H'm! Stray cats, you say, and a bird! Well, there's no accounting. He was always a cracky little chap. So that's it !  We pay him his five quid a quarter regular to this day. He deserved it. Thirty years he was at our shop; never missed a night. First-rate flute he was. He ought never to have given it up, though I always thought it showed a bit of heart in him.

"We were having a rocky time at the Harmony; had to cut down everything we could - music, well, that came about first. So I went to him and said: 'Mr Moronelli, Which of these other boys had better go?' 'Oh !' he said - ­'has one of them to go, Mr. Jackson? Timminsa - he's a wife and family; and Smith - he's only a boy. Next day I had his resignation. All he'd say was: 'I shall get a place all right ! ' He never did. I heard by accident he was on the rocks; that's how I make him that allowance. 

"Cats ! Why not? I'll take his old cats on; don't you let him worry about that. I'll see to his bird, too. If I can't give 'em a better time than ever they have here, it'll be funny I" And, looking round the little empty room, he again uttered that profound chuckle: "Why, he was with us at the Harmony thirty years - that's time, you know; I made my fortune in it."

Next day at six o'clock I knew that he was gone. He lay, covered with a sheet, in the darkened room. His face, as white now almost as his silvery head, had in the sunlight a radiance like that of a small, bright angel gone to sleep. No growth of hair, such as comes on most dead faces, showed on those frail cheeks that were now smooth and lineless as porcelain. And on the sheet. above his chest the bullfinch sat, looking into his face. 

A wire was sent to Mr. Jackson, and on the day of the funeral I went down to 'UItima Thule,' Wimbledon, to see if he had earned out his promise. He had. In the grounds, past the vinery, an outhouse had been cleaned and sanded, with cushions placed at intervals against the wall, and a little trough of milk. Nothing could have been more suitable or luxurious.

"How's that?" he said. "I've done it thoroughly." "The only thing," he said, "is the cats. First night they seemed all right; and the second, there were three of 'em left. But to-day the gardener tells me there's not the ghost of one anywhere. It's not for want of feeding. They've had tripe, and liver, and milk-as much as ever they liked. I must say it's a bit of a disappointment to me."

Mr. Jackson led me back to the house. A gilt bird-cage was hanging there, replete with every luxury the heart of bird could want. "Is that for the bullfinch?" I asked him. "Oh!" he said; "didn't you know? The little beggar wouldn't let himself be caught, and the second morning, when they went up, there he lay on the old chap's body, dead. I thought it was very touchin'. I thought 'Ultima Thule' would have done him well ! "

''Do you mind telling me why you called your house ‘Ultima Thule' ?"  "First-rate. The whole place is the last word in comfortA man must have a warm corner to end his days in. ‘Ultima Thule,' as you say." And with that word in my ears, and in my eyes a vision of the little old fellow in his 'Ultima Thule,' I travelled back to town.

A vision of our little old friend  with his constant companion


John Galsworthy: Ultima Thule  
Clik Here to read the full story in pdf

John Galsworthy:  Quality and Other Stories [Ultima Thule]  
Clik Here to read the full book in pdf

John Galsworthy:  Complete Works - Delphi Classics  
Clik Here to read the Preview in pdf


Sunday 20 July 2014


2014-29  John Galsworthy - "Quality"

John Galsworthy [1885-1933]
[Best known today as the author of The Forsyte Saga, John Galsworthy was a popular and prolific novelist and playwright in the early decades of the twentieth century. 
Galsworthy had a lifelong interest in social and moral issues, in particular the dire effects of poverty. He was awarded the Order of Merit in 1929 and the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1932.
In the narrative "Quality" [1911], Galsworthy depicts a German craftsman's heroic life of dedication to his profession, in an era where "big firms having no self respect grab all jobs by advertisement and not by work."] 

Not a man in London made a better boot!
I knew him from the days of my extreme youth, because he made my father's boots; inhabiting with his elder brother two little shops let into one, in a small by-street in the West End.

That tenement had a certain quiet distinction; there was no sign upon its face that he made for any of the Royal Family--merely his own German name of Gessler Brothers; and in the window a few pairs of boots. 

Those pairs could only have been made by one who saw before him the Soul of Boot--so truly were they prototypes incarnating the very spirit of all foot-gear. 

I remember well my shy remark, one day, while stretching out to him my youthful foot:  "Isn't it awfully hard to do, Mr. Gessler?" And his answer, given with a sudden smile from out of the sardonic redness of his beard: "Id is an Ardt!"

Himself, he was a little as if made from leather, with his yellow crinkly face, and crinkly reddish hair and beard. And that was the character of his face, save that his eyes, which were gray-blue, had in them the simple gravity of one secretly possessed by the Ideal. 

It was not possible to go to him very often--his boots lasted terribly, having something beyond the temporary--some, as it were, essence of boot stitched into them.  One went in, not as into most shops, in the mood of: "Please serve me, and let me go!" but restfully, as one enters a church.

"How do you do, Mr. Gessler? Could you make me a pair of Russia leather boots?" Without a word he would leave me, retiring whence he came. Soon he would come back, holding in his thin, veined hand a piece of gold-brown leather. With eyes fixed on it, he would remark: "What a beaudiful biece!" When I, too, had admired it, he would speak again. "When do you wand dem?" 
But if it were some new kind of foot-gear that he had not yet made me, then indeed he would observe ceremony--divesting me of my boot and holding it long in his hand, looking at it with eyes at once critical and loving, as if recalling the glow with which he had created it, and rebuking the way in which one had disorganized this masterpiece

I cannot forget that day on which I had occasion to say to him; "Mr.Gessler, that last  pair of town walking-boots creaked, you know." "Id shouldn'd 'ave greaked." "It did, I'm afraid." "You goddem wed before dey found demselves?" "I don't think so." "Zend dem back!" he said; "Zome boods, are bad from birdt. If I can do noding wid dem, I dake dem off your bill."

Once (once only) I went absent-mindedly into his shop in a pair of boots bought in an emergency at some large firm's. He took my order without showing me any leather, and I could feel his eyes penetrating the inferior integument of my foot. At last he said:
"Dose are nod my boods." The tone was not one of anger, nor of sorrow, not even of contempt, but there was in it something quiet that froze the blood

He put his hand down and pressed a finger on the place where the left boot, endeavoring to be fashionable, was not quite comfortable"Id 'urds you dere," he said. "Dose big virms 'ave no self-respect. Drash!" "Dey get id all," he said, "dey get id by adverdisement, nod by work. Dey dake it away from us, who lofe our boods. Id gomes to this--bresently I haf no work. Every year id gets less--you will see." 

His face and voice made so deep impression that during the next few minutes I ordered many pairs. They lasted more terribly than ever. And I was not able conscientiously to go to him for nearly two years. When at last I went I was surprised to find that outside one of the two little windows of his shop another name was painted. "Ah! Mr. Gessler, What have you done to your shop?" "Id was too exbensif. Do you wand some boods?" 

I ordered three pairs, though I had only wanted two, and quickly left. And soon after that I went abroad. It was over a year before I was again in London. And the first shop I went to was my old friend's. I had left a man of sixty, I came back to one of seventy-five. 

"Oh! Mr. Gessler, how splendid your boots are! See, I've been wearing this pair nearly all the time I've been abroad; and they're not half worn out, are they?" "Do you wand any boods?" he said. "I can make dem quickly; id is a slack dime." I answered: "Please, please! I want boots all round--every kind!" To watch him was painful, so feeble had he grown; I was glad to get away

I had given those boots up, when one evening they came. In shape and fit, in finish and quality of leather, they were the best he had ever made me. A week later, passing the little street, when I came to where his shop had been, his name was gone. I went in, very much disturbed. In the two little shops--again made into one--was a young man with an English face.

"Slow starvation, the doctor called it! You see he went to work in such a way! Would keep the shop on; wouldn't have a soul touch his boots except himself. When he got an order, it took him such a time. People won't wait. He lost everybody. And there he'd sit, goin' on and on--I will say that for him--not a man in London made a better boot

But look at the competition! He never advertised! Would 'ave the best leather, too, and do it all 'imself. Well, there it is. What could you expect with his ideas?" I used to watch him. Never gave 'imself time to eat; never had a penny in the house. All went in rent and leather. How he lived so long I don't know. He regular let his fire go out. He was a character. But he made good boots." 

"Yes," I said, "he made good boots." And I turned and went out quickly, for I did not want that youth to know that I could hardly see.


John Galsworthy's Complete Works in HTML  [Click Here]


Sunday 13 July 2014


2014-28  What I learnt from the "Meditations" of Marcus Aurelius
              on the Art of Liviing

Marcus Aurelius [121 AD - 180 AD]
[Marcus Aurelius Antoninus Augustus  [121 AD – 180 AD] was the last of the Five Good Emperors, and is also considered one of the most important Stoic philosophers. 
Marcus Aurelius' Meditations, written in Greek while on campaign between 170 and 180, is still revered as a literary monument to a philosophy of service and duty, describing how to find and preserve equanimity in the midst of conflict by following nature as a source of guidance and inspiration.
Marcus was clearly familiar with the Discourses of Epictetus, hailed as the greatest of the Stoics, quoting them a number of times (see Med. 11.33-38). ] 

1.  "When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive, to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love."

2.  "The first rule is to keep an untroubled spirit.  The second is to look things in the face and know them for what they are."

3.  "Accept the things to which fate binds you, and love the people with whom fate brings you together, but do so with all your heart."

4.  "Be content with what you are, and wish not change; nor dread your last day, nor long for it."

5.  "If you work at that which is before you, following right reason seriously, vigorously, calmly, without allowing anything else to distract you, but keeping your divine part pure, as if you were bound to give it back immediately; if you hold to this, expecting nothing, but satisfied to live now according to nature, speaking heroic truth in every word that you utter, you will live happy, and there is no man able to prevent this."

Sunday 6 July 2014


2014-27    What I learnt from the "Enchiridion" [Manual] of Epictetus 
                on the Art of Living

Epictetus [55 AD - 135 AD]
[Epictetus was an ancient Greek philosopher who lived between 55 AD and 135 AD and taught the philosophy of Stoicism

Stoicism is the school of philosophy that teaches one to detach oneself from one's emotions so that truth may be derived from one's reason. 

The major compilation of Epictetus' teaching is the four-volume Discourses and Enchiridionwritten down by his pupil, Arrian. 

The Enchiridion serves as a manual or handbook for the everyday practice of the Stoic philosophy as exemplified by Epictetus. ]

1. "Make the best use of what is in your power; and take the rest as it happens."

2. "Wealth consists not in having great possessions but in having few wants."

3.  The key is to keep company only with people who uplift you, whose presence calls forth your best.

4.  Men are disturbed not by the things that happen, but by their opinion of the things that happen.

5.  Never say of anything, "I lost it,"  but say, "I gave it back."

Here is the full book "Enchiridion" in pdf [Click on the Picture]