Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Bravery (Part 1)

Jean-Joseph Benjamin Constant (1845-1902), Arabian Nights

        In considering  Doughty’s writing, it is necessary to examine his circumstances.  He started with no more than two large saddlebags, in one of which was a little money and a stock of medicines which he sold.  He went into the heart of a country in which it was held a merit to kill Christians for their faith and fair sport to murder any traveler, whatever his religion, for loot.  He set out with no other protection than a revolver and to the last retained a fixed determination, amounting to mania, never to say, the few words, no more than, “There is no God but Allah”, that would have spared him the people’s fanaticism.  His money he spent, or had stolen from him, before he turned homewards, and while he was yet some weeks away from the safety of the coast, he was destitute, being offered work as a herdsman.

David Roberts, R.A. (1796-1864),  Approach To Mount Sinai.

        Abide with me, Khahil, till the Haj come and return again, next Spring.” “How might I live those many months?  is there food in the khala?”  “You may keep my camels.”  “But how under the flaming sun, in the long summer season?”  “When it is hot thou canst sit in my booth, and drink leban; and I will give thee a wife.” Hearing his words, I rejoiced that the Arab no longer looked upon me as some rich stranger amongst  them!”

David Roberts, R.A. (1796-1864),  Arabs Of The Desert.

        A man’s style is like the clothes he wears, an expression of his personality.  But what a man is also makes the way he writes, as the choice of a shirt goes to make up his appearance  which is, essentially, a side of his character.  There are fashions in underwear, for the most part unconscious in that we are not particularly aware of how we dress.  It is possible to date almost any paragraph within fifty years by the use and juxtaposition of words in it.  The more mannered the way of life, as in the eighteenth century, the harder it is to break through the convention to the man beneath.  But with Doughty the man’s integrity is such that he writes on his own, if the dates were not available it would be hard to say when.

"The clouds of the second locust brood . . . wreathing and flickering as motes in the sunbeam, flew over us for some days, thick as rain, from near the soil to great height in the atmosphere. They alight as birds, letting down their long shanks to the ground; these invaded the booths, and for blind hunger, even bit our shins, as we sat at coffee. They are borne freely flying at the wind's list, as in the Psalms, 'I am tossed up and down as the locust" -- Charles M. Doughty, Travels In Arabia Deserta

Reader Note:  Paragraphs 1-3 excerpted from: Henry Green, Apologia (Published in No. 4 Folios of New Writing, 1941); Republished in Surviving – The Uncollected Writings of Henry Green, ed. Matthew Yorke.  New York, Viking, 1992. 
Interested readers might also wish to take a look at this and this.

"as the choice of a shirt goes to make up his appearance  which is, essentially, a side of his character"

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