Dame Eleanor Hull

Rosemond Tuve on teaching

“Stay[ed] up till 2:15 writing a page each to my grad sem. 2 nights ago, anent their plans for papers (they’re as infantile about being able to find themselves something they want to Find Out, as a bunch of seniors)—and havent caught up sleep since then . . . . trying to learn to do as the men do, teach w. left hand and leave myself some leisure.  Not succeeding as yet; take it as seriously as if at C[onnecticut] C[ollege], far more seriously I took Shak[espeare] than the students did.”

Tuve, quoted in Rosemond Tuve: A Life of the Mind, by Margaret Carpenter Evans (Portsmouth, NH, 2004), pp. 156, 158.

Rosemond Tuve on My Own Work

“I’ve just worked like hell this year.  The extra course is just one too much, added to all the others as before; yet it’s been so much fun (the Spenser to Milton one I mean particularly) that I wouldn’t have not had it for anything.  But it has chopped off all my extra curricular activities such as letters & Serving Tea to Friends, & riding about viewing country.  To a great extent, anyhow.  Shall probably catch up sometime.  I try stoutly to refuse giving up on some non-utilitarian reading at least . . . . Also try to have one 3 hour session per week on what they call My Own Work—now almost indistinguishable from my advanced-course work, so that it’s a naughty shame that I can’t get to more of it—from the teaching point of view.  But nevertheless, a good life.”

Tuve, quoted in Rosemond Tuve: A Life of the Mind, by Margaret Carpenter Evans (Portsmouth, NH, 2004), p. 93.

Rosemond Tuve on LIVING (aka pickle dishes)

“We weren’t the Beat Generation, we were the Liberated one. . . . we were determined to escape from a lot of LIVING, or something that now goes under that name.  WE scorned apartments.  We didn’t see any great lure in finding some place we could COOK in, or worry abt. curtains.  We were entranc[ed] at being deliv[er]ed from the Deadly Social Round our fr[iends] that weren’t in coll[ege] seemed to be squirrel caging ar[oun]d in—We found us a ‘Room’ . . . and we got us a Boarding-house, and then we lit out for where all our friends were, The Library.  By Friends I meant both Living & Dead.  We didn’t make as much difference between these two categories as students do now.  We even sometimes gave up an engagement w. a Boring Living ONE (either sex) to keep one w. a Bright Dead ONE. . . . As I say, we weren’t the Beat Generation.  We hadn’t learned about Anxiety.”

Tuve, quoted in Rosemond Tuve: A Life of the Mind, by Margaret Carpenter Evans (Portsmouth, NH, 2004), pp. 45-6.

Margaret Frazer on writing and having a life

“I write more days than not, and when once I moaned that ‘I have to get a life,’ my loving family informed me, ‘You have one. It’s in the 1400s.’ That seems to sum up things rather nicely.”


How did I miss the news that Margaret Frazer died a couple of years ago?  Or did I know, then, and forget, in the intervening time?

The pickle dish

“There is some tribal insanity that comes over women, as they approach marriage: society offers Pyrex dishes and silver teaspoons as bribes, as bargains, as anesthesia against self-sacrifice. Stuck about with silver forks and new carving knives, as in a form of acupuncture, the woman lays herself upon the altar, upon the couch, half numb. Even sensible women, like Frances Wingate: sensible women, who later struggle, as their senses return, and throw their Gallé vases and fish knives violently around their dwellings, as a protest. . . . Why did one let it all happen?”

Margaret Drabble, The Realms of Gold (New York: Knopf, 1975), 107-8.

Most of my forks and vases (etc.) are the result not of my marriage, but of other people’s; I seem to be the family repository of Stuff.  I wonder if it is easier to get rid of one’s own Stuff than of Family Stuff.  It’s one thing to give away the gifts one never really liked, and it seems to be another to get rid of Great-Grandma’s pickle dish, even if it is an undistinguished bit of china and only my aged father really remembers it being filled with watermelon pickles at his mother’s dinner table.  I remember my father’s remembering, and so the pickle dish remains in my cupboard, though I rarely have dinner parties and when I do, I don’t set out little trays of pickles and olives.

Perhaps I should.  Perhaps it would be some form of exorcism or comfort to re-enact the sort of family dinner that my grandmother (the other one: my father’s mother went into a nursing home when I was four, so I don’t remember her dinners) regularly hosted.  The menu immediately suggests itself: the pickles and olives, obviously, fried fish, a jello salad, green salad, potato salad, crescent rolls or tiny blueberry muffins, green beans (with slivered almonds if we’re really fancy), and iced tea, probably, but just possibly wine, probably a rosé because it looks so pretty in the etched glasses (which, strangely, did not come to me: where are they now?).  Dessert would be a pie, or a layer cake, or both.  I know how to do this.  But this is not my life.

The dinners I make are usually stir-fries or simple pastas, basically one-dish meals, easy to prep and clean up after Sir John and I have both been working all day.  What did my grandmother’s days look like, in the days I remember?  I expect she cooked at least two hot meals a day for my grandfather, even if lunch was leftovers or sandwiches, and she always set the table nicely, with placemats if not a tablecloth, and did dishes immediately afterward.  She worked in the garden, and sewed for me or for church bazaars; she may have baked for church bake sales or for the Sunday social hour; she put in some time on housework, because she dusted every day, and vacuumed at least every second day.  She wrote letters to a large network of extended family.  She wasn’t much of a reader, except for those letters; if she had magazines in the house, it was for the recipes or instructions for knitting, crochet, or sewing projects.  There were times in her life when she worked: in a nursery (that is, garden center, not babies), in a shoe store.  But her life was home-centered, and when I think of it, I experience a fierce and bewildering sense of dislocation: where did I come from, how did I get to be the person I am—career woman, city person—, one state over from my grandmother’s early home, and yet a world away from the life she led?

I’m trying to lighten the load of Stuff that I’m storing.  But the pickle dish stands for a whole way of life.  I don’t want that life, I’m deeply unsuited to it, but it haunts me still.  It’s easier to keep housing the pickle dish than to re-create the lifestyle or experience the guilt I’d feel if I gave away the dish.

Basement Cat again

Now the old grey guy has been to the vet for vile experiments . . . at least they seem to have sent the right cat back this time . . . but maybe they’re just getting more sophisticated about their nefarious projects down there.  I am staying on my guard, and not going near any cat carriers.  I feel like I’ve moved to the island of Dr. Meaurao.

I now pronounce you partners for life


After all the lawsuits, all the people who died separated from their partners because of familial homophobia, all the outrageous death duties because gay partners weren’t covered by the same inheritance rules as straight marrieds, all the officials who here and there declared that they would issue marriage licenses to gay couples (like Gavin Newsom), all that and more.  Everyone can now have the next-of-kin of their choice.  Let’s have a really bang-up reception to celebrate!  Let us eat cake!  Champagne fountains for all!

Basement Cat speaks his tiny, paranoid mind

You may SAY that that’s Glendower, but I know that the real Glendower never came back from the vet (probably some unspeakable experiment is being done on him, and I can’t believe you don’t care about that; you say you love cats but obviously you don’t or you would never take any of us to the vet).  THAT is an imposter, an alien, and he is going to murder us all in our beds, especially you big hoo-man apes who sleep like the dead, not always ready to pounce on dangerous intruders, like us.  And if he didn’t murder you last night, that’s just because he’s playing some long game, lulling you into a false sense of security.  If I ever go off guard, HE WILL STRIKE.

You are going to be so sorry you didn’t listen to me.

And for cat’s sake, DON’T EVEN THINK ABOUT TAKING IN Academic Cog’s cats.  What are you, crazy?  The only good cat is Basement Cat, and ye shall have no other cats before me.  As for that mangy orange monster in the yard, you ARE crazy, clearly.  Why can’t you use your bleeding-heart impulses on some hoo-man political sneeze instead of trying to solve feline homelessness?  They’re all a bunch of lazy no-goodniks.  Except me.  I will selflessly keep trying to protect you from false-Glendower, until he kills us all.

Names and other inheritances

I was already trying to sort, purge, and organize our stuff when the basement flooded.  Now I have real motivation to make progress.  One of the items rescued from the rising tide is a small wooden chest that belonged to one of my grandmothers.  I hadn’t even looked at it in years, and hadn’t opened it in much longer.

It contains, among other papers, educational records for this grandmother, who was what we now call a returning student: she earned a college degree in her 60s, because she had always wanted to go to college, and finally was able to.  I knew that, and it’s one of the reasons I enjoy teaching the population I teach, including the returning students who are a generation or more older than the “typical” college student.

But I did not know her full name, or at least, I don’t recall ever being told it.  The “middle” name I knew for her was her nom de jeune fille.  Her given middle name:


So, although when I began blogging I chose the name of an obscure medieval woman translator in an effort to publicize the fact that there were accomplished, intellectual medieval women, in fact I have a sort of right to the name.  Oddly, I’ve even become a translator, when I had no thought of that however many years ago I began this blog.  The “Dame” part, though . . . well, we all know “There’s nothing like a dame.”  I expect that’s the best I’ll ever do in that direction.

Dream, interrupted

When the cat alarm went off this morning, I was having tea with Peter Wimsey, the ghost of his grandmother (or possibly the Dowager from Downton Abbey; it looked like Maggie Smith, which I suppose is not incompatible with being Peter Wimsey’s grandmother), and a former student of mine who is devoted to historical reenactment and was most fetchingly and appropriately dressed for the occasion.

The cat alarm said that the squirt bottle was not an appropriate way to activate the snooze function, and would in fact result in escalating the alarm noise.

I really wanted to go on with that dream.  I’ve never before had tea with Peter Wimsey, let alone his grandmother, corporeal or otherwise.  And there were other people present to whom I had not yet been introduced.  Could one of them have been Harriet Vane?  Or Peter’s mother, the enchanting Dowager Duchess?  And I hadn’t even started on the petits fours.


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