Saturday, April 04, 2009

** [new words at the end]At the beginning of Alec Guinness's autobiography, he says he grew up in London before there were automobiles, and he didn't remember it being at all quieter. Different noises, and just as noisy is what he remembered.

In the usually merry Pickwick Papers, Mister Pickwick visits a man in debtor's prison who is dying. The man says, "Open the window." Pickwick does and Dickens describes the sound of London in the first half of the nineteenth century. Noisy. The big difference seems to be that voices are discernably part of the loud hum, and that individual voices come through more than they have been doing in the age of the internal combustion engine.

In "Period Piece: A Cambridge Childhood,"a book about growing up in Cambridge where her father, a son of Charles Darwin taught, Gwen Raverat wonders about horses. She grew up when horses did the economic moving things around in a city. She lived till when they didn't do that at all, and there were many few horses in existence. She wondered if, given the choice, horses would rather exist and be horribly mistreated, as they were when they mattered, or not exist at all.

An interesting thought. I didn't know till after I read her truly terrific book that Gwen Raverat was a part of the Bloomsbury set, and alternative culture person. It's worth it if it helps you look at things from your own angle, and shake the rest of us up a bit.