“Titles for Unwritten Articles, Essays, and Stories” — Samuel Butler

Literature

“Titles for Unwritten Articles, Essays, and Stories”

from Samuel Butler’s Note-Books

  1. The Art of Quarrelling.
  2. Christian Death-beds.
  3. The Book of Babes and Sucklings.
  4. Literary Struldbrugs.
  5. The Life of the World to Come.
  6. The Limits of Good Faith.
  7. Art, Money and Religion.
  8. The Third Class Excursion Train, or Steam-boat, as the Church of the Future.
  9. The Utter Speculation involved in much of the good advice that is commonly given—as never to sell a reversion, etc.
  10. Tracts for Children, warning them against the virtues of their elders.
  11. Making Ready for Death as a Means of Prolonging Life.  An Essay concerning Human Misunderstanding.  So McCulloch [a fellow art-student at Heatherley’s, a very fine draughtsman] used to say that he drew a great many lines and saved the best of them.  Illusion, mistake, action taken in the dark—these are among the main sources of our progress.
  12. The Elements of Immorality for the Use of Earnest Schoolmasters.
  13. Family Prayers: A series of perfectly plain and sensible ones asking for what people really do want without any kind of humbug.
  14. A Penitential Psalm as David would have written it if he had been reading Herbert Spencer.
  15. A Few Little Crows which I have to pick with various people.
  16. The Scylla of Atheism and the Charybdis of Christianity.
  17. The Battle of the Prigs and Blackguards.
  18. That Good may Come.
  19. The Marriage of Inconvenience.
  20. The Judicious Separation.
  21. Fooling Around.
  22. Higgledy-Piggledy.
  23. The Diseases and Ordinary Causes of Mortality among Friendships.
  24. The finding a lot of old photographs at Herculaneum or Thebes; and they should turn out to be of no interest.
  25. On the points of resemblance and difference between the dropping off of leaves from a tree and the dropping off of guests from a dinner or a concert.
  26. The Sense of Touch: An essay showing that all the senses resolve themselves ultimately into a sense of touch, and that eating is touch carried to the bitter end.  So there is but one sense—touch—and the amœba has it.  When I look upon the foraminifera I look upon myself.
  27. The China Shepherdess with Lamb on public-house chimney-pieces in England as against the Virgin with Child in Italy.
  28. For a Medical pamphlet: Cant as a means of Prolonging Life.
  29. For an Art book: The Complete Pot-boiler; or what to paint and how to paint it, with illustrations reproduced from contemporary exhibitions and explanatory notes.
  30. For a Picture: St. Francis preaching to Silenus.  Fra Angelico and Rubens might collaborate to produce this picture.
  31. The Happy Mistress.  Fifteen mistresses apply for three cooks and the mistress who thought herself nobody is chosen by the beautiful and accomplished cook.
  32. The Complete Drunkard.  He would not give money to sober people, he said they would only eat it and send their children to school with it.
  33. The Contented Porpoise.  It knew it was to be stuffed and set up in a glass case after death, and looked forward to this as to a life of endless happiness.
  34. The Flying Balance.  The ghost of an old cashier haunts a ledger, so that the books always refuse to balance by the sum of, say, £1.15.11.  No matter how many accountants are called in, year after year the same error always turns up; sometimes they think they have it right and it turns out there was a mistake, so the old error reappears.  At last a son and heir is born, and at some festivities the old cashier’s name is mentioned with honour.  This lays his ghost.  Next morning the books are found correct and remain so.
  35. A Dialogue between Isaac and Ishmael on the night that Isaac came down from the mountain with his father.  The rebellious Ishmael tries to stir up Isaac, and that good young man explains the righteousness of the transaction—without much effect.
  36. Bad Habits: on the dropping them gradually, as one leaves off requiring them, on the evolution principle.
  37. A Story about a Freethinking Father who has an illegitimate son which he considers the proper thing; he finds this son taking to immoral ways, e.g. he turns Christian, becomes a clergyman and insists on marrying.
  38. For a Ballad: Two sets of rooms in some alms-houses at Cobham near Gravesend have an inscription stating that they belong to “the Hundred of Hoo in the Isle of Grain.”  These words would make a lovely refrain for a ballad.
  39. A story about a man who suffered from atrophy of the purse, or atrophy of the opinions; but whatever the disease some plausible Latin, or imitation-Latin name must be found for it and also some cure.
  40. A Fairy Story modelled on the Ugly Duckling of Hans Andersen about a bumptious boy whom all the nice boys hated.  He finds out that he was really at last caressed by the Huxleys and Tyndalls as one of themselves.
  41. A Collection of the letters of people who have committed suicide; and also of people who only threaten to do so.  The first may be got abundantly from reports of coroners’ inquests, the second would be harder to come by.
  42. The Structure and Comparative Anatomy of Fads, Fancies and Theories; showing, moreover, that men and women exist only as the organs and tools of the ideas that dominate them; it is the fad that is alone living.
  43. An Astronomical Speculation: Each fixed star has a separate god whose body is his own particular solar system, and these gods know each other, move about among each other as we do, laugh at each other and criticise one another’s work.  Write some of their discourses with and about one another.
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Four Notes from Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Note-Books

Literature

Punishment of a miser,–to pay the drafts of his heir in his tomb.

A series of strange, mysterious, dreadful events to occur, wholly destructive of a person’s happiness. He to impute them to various persons and causes, but ultimately finds that he is himself the sole agent. Moral, that our welfare depends on ourselves.

The strange incident in the court of Charles IX. of France: he and five other maskers being attired in coats of linen covered with pitch and bestuck with flax to represent hairy savages. They entered the hall dancing, the five being fastened together, and the king in front. By accident the five were set on fire with a torch. Two were burned to death on the spot, two afterwards died; one fled to the buttery, and jumped into a vessel of water. It might be represented as the fate of a squad of dissolute men.

A perception, for a moment, of one’s eventual and moral self, as if it were another person,–the observant faculty being separated, and looking intently at the qualities of the character. There is a surprise when this happens,–this getting out of one’s self,–and then the observer sees how queer a fellow he is.

From Nathaniel Hawthorne’s American Note-Books.

July 13, 1838 (Nathaniel Hawthorne)

Literature

July 13th.–A show of wax-figures, consisting almost wholly of murderers and their victims,–Gibbs and Hansley, the pirates, and the Dutch girl whom Gibbs murdered. Gibbs and Hansley were admirably done, as natural as life; and many people who had known Gibbs would not, according to the showman, be convinced that this wax-figure was not his skin stuffed. The two pirates were represented with halters round their necks, just ready to be turned off; and the sheriff stood behind them, with his watch, waiting for the moment. The clothes, halter, and Gibbs’s hair were authentic. E. K. Avery and Cornell,–the former a figure in black, leaning on the back of a chair, in the attitude of a clergyman about to pray; an ugly devil, said to be a good likeness. Ellen Jewett and R. P. Robinson, she dressed richly, in extreme fashion, and very pretty; he awkward and stiff, it being difficult to stuff a figure to look like a gentleman. The showman seemed very proud of Ellen Jewett, and spoke of her somewhat as if this wax-figure were a real creation. Strong and Mrs. Whipple, who together murdered the husband of the latter. Lastly the Siamese twins. The showman is careful to call his exhibition the “Statuary.” He walks to and fro before the figures, talking of the history of the persons, the moral lessons to be drawn therefrom, and especially of the excellence of the wax-work. He has for sale printed histories of the personages. He is a friendly, easy-mannered sort of a half-genteel character, whose talk has been moulded by the persons who most frequent such a show; an air of superiority of information, a moral instructor, with a great deal of real knowledge of the world. He invites his departing guests to call again and bring their friends, desiring to know whether they are pleased; telling that he had a thousand people on the 4th of July, and that they were all perfectly satisfied. He talks with the female visitors, remarking on Ellen Jewett’s person and dress to them, he having “spared no expense in dressing her; and all the ladies say that a dress never set better, and he thinks he never knew a handsomer female.” He goes to and fro, snuffing the candles, and now and then holding one to the face of a favorite figure. Ever and anon, hearing steps upon the staircase, he goes to admit a new visitor. The visitors,–a half-bumpkin, half country-squire-like man, who has something of a knowing air, and yet looks and listens with a good deal of simplicity and faith, smiling between whiles; a mechanic of the town; several decent-looking girls and women, who eye Ellen herself with more interest than the other figures,–women having much curiosity about such ladies; a gentlemanly sort of person, who looks somewhat ashamed of himself for being there, and glances at me knowingly, as if to intimate that he was conscious of being out of place; a boy or two, and myself, who examine wax faces and faces of flesh with equal interest. A political or other satire might be made by describing a show of wax-figures of the prominent public men; and by the remarks of the showman and the spectators, their characters and public standing might be expressed. And the incident of Judge Tyler as related by E—- might be introduced

From Nathaniel Hawthorne’s American Note-Books.

Ten Story Ideas from F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Notebooks

Literature

Unusual death—man pierced by his own belt buckle.

Boobs Bones Mistaken for John The Baptist

Story: A man who wanted an elephant, or some such one of the wisest of beasts who could not talk. Then began to try to teach him to talk.

The Dancer Who Found She Could Fly

Words

A famous writer fakes his own death but things make him come back.
Or else he can’t.

G. men as Samurai class.

Piggy Back Voyage

Girl whose ear is so sensitive she can hear radio. Man gets her out of insane asylum to use her.

Book: It might have been me. My old idea of half truth half lie, including all notes and everything. Shoot the works.

From F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Notebooks.

“Viciousness is a bag with which man is born” (From Chekhov’s Note-Books)

Literature

* * * * *

Viciousness is a bag with which man is born.

* * * * *

A lady looking like a fish standing on its head; her mouth like a slit, one longs to put a penny in it.

* * * * *

Russians abroad: the men love Russia passionately, but the women don’t like her and soon forget her.

* * * * *

Chemist Propter.

* * * * *

Rosalie Ossipovna Aromat.

* * * * *

It is easier to ask of the poor than of the rich.

* * * * *

And she began to engage in prostitution, got used to sleeping on the bed, while her aunt, fallen into poverty, used to lie on the little carpet by her side and jumped up each time the bell rang; when they left, she would say mindingly, with a pathetic grimace; “Something for the chamber-maid.” And they would tip her sixpence.

* * * * *

Prostitutes in Monte Carlo, the whole tone is prostitutional; the palm trees, it seems, are prostitutes, and the chickens are prostitutes.

* * * * *

–From Anton Chekhov’s Note-Books.

“New literary forms always produce new forms of life” (From Chekhov’s Note-Books)

Writers

* * * * *

In the servants’ quarters Roman, a more or less dissolute peasant, thinks it his duty to look after the morals of the women servants.

* * * * *

A large fat barmaid—a cross between a pig and white sturgeon.

* * * * *

At Malo-Bronnaya (a street in Moscow). A little girl who has never been in the country feels it and raves about it, speaks about jackdaws, crows and colts, imagining parks and birds on trees.

* * * * *

Two young officers in stays.

* * * * *

A certain captain taught his daughter the art of fortification.

* * * * *

New literary forms always produce new forms of life and that is why they are so revolting to the conservative human mind.

* * * * *

A neurasthenic undergraduate comes home to a lonely country-house, reads French monologues, and finds them stupid.

* * * * *

People love talking of their diseases, although they are the most uninteresting things in their lives.

* * * * *

An official, who wore the portrait of the Governor’s wife, lent money on interest; he secretly becomes rich. The late Governor’s wife, whose portrait he has worn for fourteen years, now lives in a suburb, a poor widow; her son gets into trouble and she needs 4,000 roubles. She goes to the official, and he listens to her with a bored look and says: “I can’t do anything for you, my lady.”

* * * * *

Women deprived of the company of men pine, men deprived of the company of women become stupid.

* * * * *

–From Anton Chekhov’s Note-Books.

Six Notes from Nathaniel Hawthorne’s American Note-Books

Books

A letter, written a century or more ago, but which has never yet been unsealed.

A partially insane man to believe himself the Provincial Governor or other great official of Massachusetts. The scene might be the Province House.

A dreadful secret to be communicated to several people of various characters,–grave or gay, and they all to become insane, according to their characters, by the influence of the secret.

Stories to be told of a certain person’s appearance in public, of his having been seen in various situations, and of his making visits in private circles; but finally, on looking for this person, to come upon his old grave and mossy tombstone.

The influence of a peculiar mind, in close communion with another, to drive the latter to insanity.

To look at a beautiful girl, and picture all the lovers, in different situations, whose hearts are centred upon her.

From Nathaniel Hawthorne’s American Note-Books.

Seven Notes from Nathaniel Hawthorne’s American Note-Books

Books, Literature, Writers
  1. On being transported to strange scenes, we feel as if all were unreal. This is but the perception of the true unreality of earthly things, made evident by the want of congruity between ourselves and them. By and by we become mutually adapted, and the perception is lost.
  2. An old looking-glass. Somebody finds out the secret of making all the images that have been reflected in it pass back again across its surface.
  3. Our Indian races having reared no monuments, like the Greeks, Romans, and Egyptians, when they have disappeared from the earth their history will appear a fable, and they misty phantoms.
  4. A woman to sympathize with all emotions, but to have none of her own.
  5. A portrait of a person in New England to be recognized as of the same person represented by a portrait in Old England. Having distinguished himself there, he had suddenly vanished, and had never been heard of till he was thus discovered to be identical with a distinguished man in New England.
  6. Men of cold passions have quick eyes.
  7. A virtuous but giddy girl to attempt to play a trick on a man. He sees what she is about, and contrives matters so that she throws herself completely into his power, and is ruined,–all in jest.

From Nathaniel Hawthorne’s American Note-Books.

“Only the useless is pleasurable” and other notes from Chekhov

Books, Literature, Writers

* * * * *

The hen sparrow believes that her cock sparrow is not chirping but singing beautifully.

* * * * *

When one is peacefully at home, life seems ordinary, but as soon as one walks into the street and begins to observe, to question women, for instance, then life becomes terrible. The neighborhood of Patriarshi Prudy (a park and street in Moscow) looks quiet and peaceful, but in reality life there is hell.

* * * * *

These red-faced young and old women are so healthy that steam seems to exhale from them.

* * * * *

The estate will soon be brought under the hammer; there is poverty all round; and the footmen are still dressed like jesters.

* * * * *

There has been an increase not in the number of nervous diseases and nervous patients, but in the number of doctors able to study those diseases.

* * * * *

The more refined the more unhappy.

* * * * *

Life does not agree with philosophy: there is no happiness which is not idleness and only the useless is pleasurable.

* * * * *

The grandfather is given fish to eat, and if it does not poison him and he remains alive, then all the family eat it.

* * * * *

A correspondence. A young man dreams of devoting himself to literature and constantly writes to his father about it; at last he gives up the civil service, goes to Petersburg, and devotes himself to literature—he becomes a censor.

* * * * *

–From Anton Chekhov’s Note-Books.

“To poison a person or a party of persons with the sacramental wine” and other ideas from Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Note-Books

Books

 

  1. A house to be built over a natural spring of inflammable gas, and to be constantly illuminated therewith. What moral could be drawn from this? It is carburetted hydrogen gas, and is cooled from a soft shale or slate, which is sometimes bituminous, and contains more or less carbonate of lime. It appears in the vicinity of Lockport and Niagara Falls, and elsewhere in New York. I believe it indicates coal. At Fredonia, the whole village is lighted by it. Elsewhere, a farm-house was lighted by it, and no other fuel used in the coldest weather.
  2. Gnomes, or other mischievous little fiends, to be represented as burrowing in the hollow teeth of some person who has subjected himself to their power. It should be a child’s story. This should be one of many modes of petty torment. They should be contrasted with beneficent fairies, who minister to the pleasures of the good.
  3. Some very famous jewel or other thing, much talked of all over the world. Some person to meet with it, and get possession of it in some unexpected manner, amid homely circumstances.
  4. To poison a person or a party of persons with the sacramental wine.
  5. A cloud in the shape of an old woman kneeling, with arms extended towards the moon.

 

From Nathaniel Hawthorne’s American Note-Books.

“By the by, a pretty riddle or fable might be made” | More Notes From Nathaniel Hawthorne

Books, Literature, Writers
  1. Dandelions and blue flowers are still growing in sunny places. Saw in a barn a prodigious treasure of onions in their silvery coats, exhaling a penetrating perfume.
  2.  How exceeding bright looks the sunshine, casually reflected from a looking-glass into a gloomy region of the chamber, distinctly marking out the figures and colors of the paper-hangings, which are scarcely seen elsewhere. It is like the light of mind thrown on an obscure subject.
  3.  Man’s finest workmanship, the closer you observe it, the more imperfections it shows; as in a piece of polished steel a microscope will discover a rough surface. Whereas, what may look coarse and rough in Nature’s workmanship will show an infinitely minute perfection, the closer you look into it. The reason of the minute superiority of Nature’s work over man’s is, that the former works from the innermost germ, while the latter works merely superficially.
  4. Standing in the cross-road that leads by the Mineral Spring, and looking towards an opposite shore of the lake, an ascending bank, with a dense border of trees, green, yellow, red, russet, all bright colors, brightened by the mild brilliancy of the descending sun; it was strange to recognize the sober old friends of spring and summer in this new dress. By the by, a pretty riddle or fable might be made out of the changes in apparel of the familiar trees round a house adapted for children. But in the lake, beneath the aforesaid border of trees,–the water being not rippled, but its grassy surface somewhat moved and shaken by the remote agitation of a breeze that was breathing on the outer lake,–this being in a sort of bay,–in the slightly agitated mirror, the variegated trees were reflected dreamily and indistinctly; a broad belt of bright and diversified colors shining in the water beneath. Sometimes the image of a tree might be almost traced; then nothing but this sweep of broken rainbow. It was like the recollection of the real scene in an observer’s mind,–a confused radiance.
  5. A whirlwind, whirling the dried leaves round in a circle, not very violently.
  6.  To well consider the characters of a family of persons in a certain condition,–in poverty, for instance,–and endeavor to judge how an altered condition would affect the character of each.
  7.  The aromatic odor of peat-smoke in the sunny autumnal air is very pleasant.

Notations from Nathaniel Hawthorne’s American Note-Books.

Old worm-eaten aristocracy (Nathaniel Hawthorne)

Literature, Writers

In the cabinet of the Essex Historical Society, old portraits.–Governor Leverett; a dark mustachioed face, the figure two thirds length, clothed in a sort of frock-coat, buttoned, and a broad sword-belt girded round the waist, and fastened with a large steel buckle; the hilt of the sword steel,–altogether very striking. Sir William Pepperell, in English regimentals, coat, waistcoat, and breeches, all of red broad-cloth, richly gold-embroidered; he holds a general’s truncheon in his right hand, and extends the left towards the batteries erected against Louisbourg, in the country near which he is standing. Endicott, Pyncheon, and others, in scarlet robes, bands, etc. Half a dozen or more family portraits of the Olivers, some in plain dresses, brown, crimson, or claret; others with gorgeous gold-embroidered waistcoats, descending almost to the knees, so as to form the most conspicuous article of dress. Ladies, with lace ruffles, the painting of which, in one of the pictures, cost five guineas. Peter Oliver, who was crazy, used to fight with these family pictures in the old Mansion House; and the face and breast of one lady bear cuts and stabs inflicted by him. Miniatures in oil, with the paint peeling off, of stern, old, yellow faces. Oliver Cromwell, apparently an old picture, half length, or one third, in an oval frame, probably painted for some New England partisan. Some pictures that had been partly obliterated by scrubbing with sand. The dresses, embroidery, laces of the Oliver family are generally better done than the faces. Governor Leverett’s gloves,–the glove part of coarse leather, but round the wrist a deep, three or four inch border of spangles and silver embroidery. Old drinking-glasses, with tall stalks. A black glass bottle, stamped with the name of Philip English, with a broad bottom. The baby-linen, etc., of Governor Bradford of Plymouth County. Old manuscript sermons, some written in short-hand, others in a hand that seems learnt from print.

Nothing gives a stronger idea of old worm-eaten aristocracy–of a family being crazy with age, and of its being time that it was extinct–than theseblack, dusty, faded, antique-dressed portraits, such as those of the Oliver family; the identical old white wig of an ancient minister producing somewhat the impression that his very scalp, or some other portion of his personal self, would do.

From Nathaniel Hawthorne’s American Note-Books.

Journal entry, December 25, 1854 (Nathaniel Hawthorne)

Books, Literature, Writers

December 25th.–Commodore P—- called to see me this morning,–a brisk, gentlemanly, offhand, but not rough, unaffected, and sensible man, looking not so elderly as he ought, on account of a very well made wig. He is now on his return from a cruise in the East Indian seas, and goes home by the Baltic, with a prospect of being very well received on account of his treaty with Japan. I seldom meet with a man who puts himself more immediately on conversable terms than the Commodore. He soon introduced his particular business with me,–it being to inquire whether I would recommend some suitable person to prepare his notes and materials for the publication of an account of his voyage. He was good enough to say that he had fixed upon me, in his own mind, for this office; but that my public duties would of course prevent me from engaging in it. I spoke of Herman Melville, and one or two others; but he seems to have some acquaintance with the literature of the day, and did not grasp very cordially at any name that I could think of; nor, indeed, could I recommend any one with full confidence. It would be a very desirable task for a young literary man, or, for that matter, for an old one; for the world can scarcely have in reserve a less hackneyed theme than Japan.

This is a most beautiful day of English winter; clear and bright, with the ground a little frozen, and the green grass along the waysides at Rock Ferry sprouting up through the frozen pools of yesterday’s rain. England is forever green. On Christmas Day, the children found wall-flowers, pansies, and pinks in the garden; and we had a beautiful rose from the garden of the hotel grown in the open air. Yet one is sensible of the cold here, as much as in the zero atmosphere of America. The chief advantage of the English climate is that we are not tempted to heat our rooms to so unhealthy a degree as in New England.

I think I have been happier this Christmas than ever before,–by my own fireside, and with my wife and children about me,–more content to enjoy what I have,–less anxious for anything beyond it in this life. My early life was perhaps a good preparation for the declining half of life; it having been such a blank that any thereafter would compare favorably with it. For a long, long while, I have occasionally been visited with a singular dream; and I have an impression that I have dreamed it ever since I have been in England. It is, that I am still at college,–or, sometimes, even at school,–and there is a sense that I have been there unconscionably long, and have quite failed to make such progress as my contemporaries have done; and I seem to meet some of them with a feeling of shame and depression that broods over me as I think of it, even when awake. This dream, recurring all through these twenty or thirty years, must be one of the effects of that heavy seclusion in which I shut myself up for twelve years after leaving college, when everybody moved onward, and left me behind. How strange that it should come now, when I may call myself famous and prosperous!–when I am happy, too!

From Nathaniel Hawthorne’s English Note-Books.

 

“The journal of a human heart for a single day in ordinary circumstances” and other ideas from Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Note-Books

Books, Literature, Writers

 

  1. A young man and girl meet together, each in search of a person to be known by some particular sign. They watch and wait a great while for that person to pass. At last some casual circumstance discloses that each is the one that the other is waiting for. Moral,–that what we need for our happiness is often close at hand, if we knew but how to seek for it.
  2. The journal of a human heart for a single day in ordinary circumstances. The lights and shadows that flit across it; its internal vicissitudes.
  3. Distrust to be thus exemplified: Various good and desirable things to be presented to a young man, and offered to his acceptance,–as a friend, a wife, a fortune; but he to refuse them all, suspecting that it is merely a delusion. Yet all to be real, and he to be told so, when too late.
  4. A man tries to be happy in love; he cannot sincerely give his heart, and the affair seems all a dream. In domestic life, the same; in politics, a seeming patriot; but still he is sincere, and all seems like a theatre.
  5. An old man, on a summer day, sits on a hill-top, or on the observatory of his house, and sees the sun’s light pass from one object to another connected with the events of his past life,–as the school-house, the place where his wife lived in her maidenhood,–its setting beams falling on the churchyard.
  6. An idle man’s pleasures and occupations and thoughts during a day spent by the seashore: among them, that of sitting on the top of a cliff, and throwing stones at his own shadow, far below.
  7. A blind man to set forth on a walk through ways unknown to him, and to trust to the guidance of anybody who will take the trouble; the different characters who would undertake it: some mischievous, some well-meaning, but incapable; perhaps one blind man undertakes to lead another. At last, possibly, he rejects all guidance, and blunders on by himself.

Notations from Nathaniel Hawthorne’s American Note-Books.