More notes

Notes to self:

I really must read Carol Barton’s “To stand upright will ask thee skill”: The Pinnacle and the Paradigm more carefully later. It is an interesting look at the core issues of Paradise Regain’d during the temptation of Jesus. They are rhetorical. While Eve was easily tempted by Satan’s rhetoric in Paradise Lost, Jesus is not seduced. The battlefield of Paradise Regain’d is the words themselves, rather than a more dramatic war scene. It’s about resisting temptation, and forgiveness, or as Barton puts it: Christian heroism.

Another strange nugget: Was Napoléon a Junkie?

Accept that Napoléon’s body did indeed contain a very high level of arsenic. Does that justify the assumption that he was poisoned – murdered?

At the beginning of the 19th century, most of today’s recreational drugs were not known in Europe.. . .the recreational drugs of Europeans were extraordinary to our modern thinking: such things as arsenic, strychnine and antimony.

These substances, and others, were widely used in the most unexpected ways. For example, ladies rubbed arsenic on their faces to make their skin white; they dropped belladonna into their eyes to dilate the pupils for a ‘wide-eyed’ look; men had their horses’ coats brushed with antimony to make them glossy. Deadly poisons all, but easily obtained.

Arsenic was also used by some as a mind-altering drug, much as marijuana or cocaine is used today. In small doses it gave the user a feeling of well-being, strength, and sexual staying power.

But arsenic was very much a drug of dependence. The user was forced to continue to ingest the substance in larger and larger quantities, both to obtain the effect, and also to stave off withdrawal symptoms. Dosages soon reached levels that would be immediately fatal to a non-user, yet to cease would bring on the terrible symptoms of acute arsenical poisoning. Inevitably, doses reached levels intolerable even to the experienced user’s body, and physical deterioration and death ensued.

Now that’s an odd theory. I’d like to see some contemporary accounts. Where is “Confessions of an Arsenic Eater?”

The Jane Austen Society is having an essay contest. It’s only a $500 prize, but it’s open to virtually everyone. Details at the web page. For the fans of the Gothic genre, a bunch of new stuff has been added to Beckfordiana, the William Beckford website. I haven’t explored this one yet, but I really want to.

Need something to read? The Diaries of Samuel Pepys have been marked down significantly. All eleven volumes have been marked down to $49.98 at Daedalus books. Now that’s a deal. If you’re into 17th or 18th century diaries, that is.

Every time I turn around there’s another interesting conference. It’s like these people are reading my mind:

Emotions in Early Modern Europe and Colonial North America November 7-10, 2002

Junior and senior scholars are invited to submit paper proposals for a conference entitled “Emotions in Early Modern Europe and Colonial North America,” to be held at the German Historical Institute in Washington, D.C., USA, on November 7-10, 2002.

“Interest in ‘the emotional’ has burgeoned in the last decade, not only in anthropology, but in psychology, sociology, philosophy, history and feminist studies” Catherine Lutz and Geoffrey White wrote in 1986. They could have made the same statement with even more justification in 2002.

I won’t list the proposal categories, but suffice it to say that they are fascinating. I wish I was closer to DC, just so I could go to the thing. On a final note, I notice that there is now a Kant discussion list at Yahoo. That’s all I need, another mailing list I don’t have time to read!