Mr. Barrett’s Secret and Affairs of Death by Magister Ludi Sir Kingsley Amis, author of Take A Girl Like You http://realini.blogspot.com/2022/06/take-girl-like-you-by-kingsley-amis-one.html and other superb novels
10 out of 10
This collection of stories touches on a variety of subjects, from the military theme of the first three, which include My Enemy’s Enemy http://realini.blogspot.com/2022/11/my-enemys-enemy-by-magister-ludi.html I Spy Strangers and Court of Inquiry, tales that enlighten us as to what can go on in the army, during World War II, when major Raleigh and others abuse their positions of power, taking to court Frank Archer, because he had left behind a useless engine, just to make a point, to Sf Drink yarns.
We have seen Simpson travel in time to look at the prospects for humanity, wine and drink in general and discovered that there will have been a nuclear war, that had devastated an area the size of Europe, with vines, barley and other crops gone, and the future humans are hard at work (well, some of them anyway) trying to make up for lost traditions, ingredients, to have drink made of…shoe polish in The Friends of Plonk.
Now Mr. Barrett has a daughter, Elizabeth, who has had an ailment as a child that has immobilized her and made the doctor prescribe opium, she is now soon to be thirty nine, had had two volumes of poetry published and receives a letter from an admirer, an esteemed poet himself, Mr. Robert Browning.
They meet and find that they are not just compatible, but they are passionate about each other, he wants to marry her, albeit the father, Mr. Barrett, is not favorable to the idea, perhaps because of jealousy – though we are told that this is not a perverted affection that he has for his daughter – but also because of his doubts.
It is said that Robert Browning has ancestors from The West Indies and this is 1855, the Victoria era when racism was the rule apparently and Mr. Barrett has written ten points which make him wish that the poet Robert Browning would not marry Elizabeth – she has two sisters that suffer from the same ailment, but the parent is not concerned with this possible genetic predisposition, but with something else.
Elizabeth is terribly upset by the opposition of her father – ‘papa, you seem to think Mr. Robert Browning is a demon’- but she loves the poet, who has an original style – his manner of writing is listed among the ten worrying points, which make Mr. Barrett fear that he could have a grandson or granddaughter of color, something that the Victorian age would treat with disdain and people would discriminate against the child
We are told that Alexandre Dumas pere has had a grandmother of color and Alexander Pushkin has had a great grandfather who was not white…eventually, Elizabeth marries Robert Browning and they travel to Italy – the father hopes that if the child is born black, then they will be less hostile in Italy – she writes a poem that mentions the Portuguese and the parent is again angry, because this was a nickname that he used for her and he feels this as a sort of betrayal of their intimacy and will keep away from Elizabeth Browning even later…
Affairs of Death
In this short story, we have the description of an interesting encounter, that of the infamous Macbeth (I wonder if the idea that actors avoid saying this name, because of superstition, it brings bad luck is real…not the ill omen, but just that this is a habit they have I doubt, something that we could google for in any case) and Pope Leo IX, taking place in 1049, after the pope had been defeated in war.
Pope Leo IX now wants to take e=revenge and has instructed his assistant to round up the commanders responsible for the humiliating defeat in Sicily and southern Italy suffered at the hands of the Norman invaders and they will be found, most of them, and executed, those that have escaped will have people sent for them, an expression of the cruelty, lack of humanity of this and other ‘holy fathers’
The King of Scotland, Macbeth, had tried to see the pope before, when visiting Rome, but Leo IX had been away…this time, he has pleased to hear that the Scottish king is so determined to pay respects, the sovereign in Scotland has control over the church and he could prove useful to the Pope, in plans he may have for the British isles…Macbeth will explain that killing Duncan had been an execution for Scotland, not a bloody murder…
Pope Leo IX will be involved in the Great Schism, maybe we should say he is the one who made it happen, given his position, and from 1054 we can talk of two major religions in Europe, The Catholic and the Orthodox, we belong to the latter branch, albeit in name only, since I am an atheist, but many, perhaps most differences in attitudes, work ethic, achievements are sometimes put down to the contrast between the protestant point of view and the easy going, too relaxed views of the Orthodox around here.
Mason’s Life is so short a story as to qualify as what they call ‘flash story’ and we have a man called George Herbert Mason talking in his sleep about telephone numbers, he is aware that he is sleeping, which is so rare as to be practically impossible and he wants this experience to be shared in ‘real life’ when he is conscious, he wants to call the man he had met in his unconscious state…if we can call sleep that