ALGERNON.

This thread quickly wandered into a discussion of the wonderful 1952 film version of The Importance of Being Earnest directed by Anthony Asquith, with Michael Redgrave, Margaret Rutherford, Dorothy Tutin, Joan Greenwood, and of course Edith Evans as the definitive Lady Bracknell. In connection with that, I would like to bring to your attention the surprising etymology of the name Algernon, as presented by the Hanks/Hodges Dictionary of First Names:

English: of Norman French origin. In Norman French it was a byname meaning ‘moustached’ (from grenon, gernon moustache, of Germanic origin). The Normans were as a rule clean-shaven, and this formed a suitable distinguishing nickname when it was applied to William de Percy, a companion of William the Conqueror. In the 15th century it was revived, with a sense of family tradition, as a byname or second given name for his descendant Henry Percy (1478-1527), and thereafter regularly used in that family. It was subsequently adopted into other families connected by marriage with the Percys, and eventually became common property.


Completely unconnected, but I’ve been stewing over this for days and have to vent my wrath in public: Harold Bloom’s “review” of R. Crumb’s Genesis in the latest NYRB starts off by saying “I don’t like or care about Crumb” (maddeningly supercilious quote: “Staring at the women and men of Crumb’s Genesis, I dimly recall someone showing me an issue of Mad magazine”) and from then on talks about himself and Thomas Mann. I can’t fathom why the editors of the Review didn’t eat the money they’d paid him for his irrelevant maunderings and commission another review, this time from someone with at least a vague acquaintance with Crumb and his tradition. What they published is an insult to their readers and to one of the geniuses of late-20th-century comic art.

Comments

  1. marie-lucie says:

    Algernon: What an interesting etymology! I suppose it is from OF à l(e) gernon, which would be in modern French à la moustache “with/having a moustache”.
    The Norman conquest was really a result of a dynastic dispute between Vikings settled on both sides of the English Channel: William of Normandy was the great-nephew of the old king, who did not have direct descendants, so William was one of the pretenders vying for the throne of England. The story is depicted on the embroidered cloth known as la Tapisserie de Bayeux “the Bayeux tapestry” (still preserved in a museum in Bayeux in Normandy), and the men on both sides of the conflict are identical in appearance, clothing, armour, weapons, etc. There is only one difference between them: the English have moustaches. Perhaps the first Algernon had a specific reason to wear a moustache, unlike all his compatriots, and that made him a curiosity.

  2. For some reason, it’s impossible for me to consider the name Algernon without thinking of Flowers for Algernon, a novel I haven’t read since I was a teenager, some thirty years ago. Then I become uncontrollably weepy, for reasons I can’t quite remember.
    Damn you, LH. [*wipes eyes; hits Post; closes tab*]

  3. John Emerson says:

    With the third Viking contender coming from Byzantium via Krown’s adopted homeland. I’ve always thought it was a damn shame about H. Hardrada.
    The name Ernest, meaning what it seems to mean, was (per the internets) introduced to England by the Hanoverians:
    Cognate of the Germanic Ernst, the name was introduced to England in the 18th century following the coronation of George I (1660-1727), the “German King”. George III’s son Ernest Augustus, was the first of five Kings of Hanover to hold the name. Ernest Augustus V is married to Princess Caroline of Monaco.
    It has declined steadily in popularity since 1900 or before. Samuel Butler also maliciously named a protagonist “Ernest”, though E. Pontifex was genuinely earnest in the beginning and only gradually learned good sense.
    I once traced the German name too. I’m pretty sure that it’s Protestant and not ancient.
    The widespread use of the name “Ernest” is a key element of my Svejkian theory that the whole goddamn 19ths century was wound up way too tight, and that if those bastards had just been willing to kick back and chill, and maybe screw below their class, WWI could have been avoided. What a curse of a name to inflict on an innocent little baby. (e.g., poor Mr. Hemingway).

  4. Jan Freeman says:

    About that meandering Fowler thread: Thanks to rootlesscosmo’s leading the discussion into Wilde territory, I noticed the 1952 movie in yesterday’s TV listings (on TCM, no commercials!) and had the great pleasure of seeing it again. Let’s hear it for serendipity!

  5. “la Tapisserie de Bayeux “the Bayeux tapestry” (still preserved in a museum in Bayeux in Normandy), ”
    Still worth reading.

  6. rootlesscosmo says:

    I can’t fathom why the editors of the Review didn’t eat the money they’d paid him for his irrelevant maunderings and commission another review, this time from someone with at least a vague acquaintance with Crumb and his tradition.
    Hear hear. In the last paragraph Bloom “regret[s] not being more gracious to Crumb…” which makes it sound as though he was ungracious under compulsion. Shakespeare fan that he is, maybe he’s pursuing the coveted Andrew Aguecheek Award for Extraordinary Pomposity?

  7. Hear! Hear!
    And I only know of FfA from the Narbonic pastiche.

  8. Algernon … Norman French
    Oh, not Arabic at all, then? :)

  9. HP, it makes you weepy because it’s a tragic story, the tragedy of senility, but worse, because without loss of awareness. Read it again.

  10. Grimm has a long article on Granne. Originally and today this is, among other things, the thin spikelet (?, I ain’t no botanist) at the end of the grains of certain cereals like wheat and oat. It was also used for a beard or mustache hair of the prickly kind, thus (I suppose) more mustache than beard in general.
    Duden sez in brief, at Granne,
    mhd. gran(e)= Barthaar; (Ähren)borste, ahd. grana= Barthaar; Gräte, eigtl.= die (Hervor)stechende, Spitze
    Barthaar beard hair
    Gräte fishbone
    stechende prickly, pricking
        but in See stechen (put out to sea, set sail).
       &nbspstechen appears in many phrases with different meanings
    hervorstechende prominent, protruding
    Spitze tip, point

  11. Because I don’t have a subscription I can’t read it, but who cares about Bloom’s opinion on comics?? Crumb’s drawings had a considerable aesthetic influence on so many people who were crispy in the late 60s, for instance this-here yours-truly hippie. As did all the comic, graphic design and music scenes back then: Head Comix, Armadillo Comics (in Austin, by Jim Franklin), Armadillo World Headquarters etc.

    The Armadillo caught on quickly with the hippie culture of Austin because admission was inexpensive and the hall tolerated marijuana use. Even though illicit drug use was flagrant, the Armadillo was never raided. Anecdotes suggest the police were worried about having to bust their fellow officers as well as local and state politicians.

    I few years back, on late-night high-tone TV in Germany, I caught part of a rather chilling documentary on Crumb. His life has not been of the easiest. Having checked WiPe, I think the film must have been Crumb.

  12. Yes, language hat, whatever one thinks of R. Crumb or comix, a Bloom review of a Crumb comic book is bound to be an embarrassment of Bloom-vogueing.
    Bloom has always been mercilessly swollen with the ceremony of self-regard. Perfessorial Critickism as podium bouffe.

  13. I can’t fathom why the editors of the Review didn’t eat the money they’d paid him for his irrelevant maunderings and commission another review, this time from someone with at least a vague acquaintance with Crumb and his tradition.
    Unfortunately it’s an international disease. The LRB often infuriates me for the same reason – reviews in which the reviewer simply shows off, and hardly deals with the book at all.

  14. h.s. gudnason says:

    Since we’re meandering–I recently watched a movie called Glass Mountain, starring Michael Denison, who played Algernon (without a moustache) in the Asquith Earnest. It’s about a British composer and his adventures during and after World War II and is a tidge melodramatic, but I enjoyed it, not least for a very young Tito Gobbi.

  15. hardly deals with the book at all
    I have seen reviews in the Bulletin of the American Mathematical Society where the reviewer spends several pages giving his own overview of the field which the book is about, and literally does not mention the book until the last paragraph. Not precisely self-centered, but not a book review either.

  16. Bill Walderman says:

    You can read book reviews that focus on a particular book in the New York Times Book Review. For me, the best reviews, which you can find in the NYRB, LRB and sometimes TLS, are essays on the topic of the book under review that are written by people who know a lot about the topic and that expand beyond the book itself and place the book in context.

  17. m-l: The Norman conquest was really a result of a dynastic dispute between Vikings settled on both sides of the English Channel: William of Normandy was the great-nephew of the old king,
    m-l, I’m no expert, but I don’t think it’s quite right to call Edward the Confessor (= “the old king”) and Harold Godwinson & that lot “Vikings” or to think of them in those terms. They’re Anglo-Saxons and kings of Wessex. They are the descendants of Angles, Saxons & Jutes, and they certainly had Viking blood too. The Normans were also descended from Vikings; but I don’t think either side was Viking. In those days the Vikings were a large proportion of the available gene pool in NW Europe, but they weren’t culturally or politically omnipresent just because their genes were. The Anglo Saxons went to considerable trouble to annoy — and be annoyed by — the Danes. Neither the crown and helmets and so on depicted in the Bayeux tapestry nor the things in the Sutton Hoo trove look very similar to Viking decoration I’ve seen in Norway.

  18. I cannot think of anyone of my age who was called Algernon; has it made a comeback since? Are there little Algys or Algies or even Algæ out there? Biggles’s best mate was Algy, they met during WW1.
    Algy met a bear
    The bear met Algy
    The bear was bulgy
    The bulge was Algy.
    I know I’ve posted that before.

  19. On granne. I just found out that my little nieces called my father “the broom grandpa” because of his prickly beard.

  20. who cares about Bloom’s opinion on comics??
    Well, exactly. So why commission a review from him?
    For me, the best reviews, which you can find in the NYRB, LRB and sometimes TLS, are essays on the topic of the book under review that are written by people who know a lot about the topic and that expand beyond the book itself and place the book in context.
    Yes, I have no problem with such reviews and have learned a lot from them, but that’s very different from a “review” that ostentatiously ignores the book except to kick a little dirt on it while rambling on about Thomas Mann. Every time I read anything by Bloom I lose a little more respect for him.

  21. Biggles’s best mate was Algy
    And from my childhood, there was Rupert Bear, whose best mate was Algy Pug.

  22. I remember that Algy.
    Here’s an earlier chance encounter between Rupert Bear & R. Crumb.

  23. mollymooly says:

    William the Bastard’s team got a bye to the final. Many of Harold Godwinson’s team had picked up injuries and suspensions in the semi-final at Stamford Bridge.
    I wonder whether the moustaches at Bayeux are a genuine ethnographic touch or a simple blackhat–whitehat symbology. There was no convenient heraldry to distinguish protagonists.

  24. who cares about Bloom’s opinion on comics??
    Well, exactly. So why commission a review from him?

    Maybe it’s an attempt to integrate the pseuds. They will start reading the review primarily because it’s by Bloom, and will finish it because there is much discussion of the famous writer Thomas Mann. Unwares, though, they will have learned of Crumb’s existence, and will think: “my goodness gracious, so this person Crumb is not beneath the notice of the famous writer Harold Bloom?! I must have my bookseller search out a first edition of Bigass Comics”.

  25. Rightfully, Harald Hardrada should have won, because the other Harald cheated. England owes Norway nearly 1000 years of reparations.

  26. MollyMcM*:William the Bastard’s team got a bye to the final. Many of Harold Godwinson’s team had picked up injuries and suspensions in the semi-final at Stamford Bridge.
    I thought a bye was a cricketing term, is this a reference to Sussex C.C.C.? Talking of Ireland, I heard Samuel Beckett was very good at cricket.
    *This is very confusing.

  27. marie-lucie says:

    AJP, there was intermarriage at the highest levels between the Saxons and the descendants of Vikings (in England, Normandy and Scandinavia), which is why William of Normandy could pretend to the throne as a blood relative of King Edward (whose mother was William’s great-aunt), as opposed to the Saxon Harold, a relative only by marriage, who did become king but was killed at Hastings. I have a book on the Tapestry and its historical context by a Danish historian, which emphasizes the importance of the Viking connection and the continuing relations across the English Channel, even after the Viking settlers of Normandy had adopted the French language over the course of several generations. The boats built by William look like Viking boats to me. The lack of Norwegian features may mean that indigenous art forms developed later in Norway, or that the expatriates (if coming from Norway) did not continue them in England or Normandy.
    According to Wikipedia, most of the Sutton Hoo burials (in East Anglia) predate the Danish invasions and are considered to be Anglo-Saxon, except for some Swedish influence in the latest burial, discovered very recently.

  28. Off topic, but reading the Wikipedia article on the Bayeux tapestry, I came across this sentence:
    It was common medieval iconography that a perjurer was to die with a weapon through the eye.
    It’s marked ‘citation needed’ so I should probably take it with a grain of salt, but it immediately made me think of the childhood oath: Cross my heart, hope to die, stick a needle in my eye. Googling, unfortunately, does not immediately tell me whether the association is legitimate or not, or even if the original sentence is true.
    Every time I find a question the internet can’t immediately answer for me, I’m struck by two things: the number of things it can answer, and the degree to which I’ve come to expect that it can answer everything (or at least point me in the right direction). Oh, the joys and disappointments of technology. :)

  29. marie-lucie says:

    mollymooly: wonder whether the moustaches at Bayeux are a genuine ethnographic touch or a simple blackhat–whitehat symbology
    The designer of the tapestry probably used the moustaches as a convenient way to identify the members of the English army, but the Norman “Algernon” would not have been called that unless he went against the current fashion among men of his own social group.

  30. Crown:
    “Bye” is a general tournament term, used when the number of players in an elimination tournament is not a power of two. For example, if Alice, Bob, Charlie, David, Eve, and Marvin are all competing in such a tournament, the first round may pit Alice against David and Bob against Eve. Charlie and Marvin are given a bye, which means they do not compete in this round. In the semi-finals, Alice plays Charlie and Eve plays Marvin; in the final round, Alice wipes out Eve to be crowned Queen of the Tournament.
    Of course, Marvin then fakes the records to make posterity believe that he won after all. “The penalty for winning by cheating is winning — by cheating.” (A.A. Leff)

  31. I think the Viking ships in Oslo are very beautiful, especially in comparison to the ones in the tapestry. It’s hard to know what to make of William’s boats; they are portrayed during their construction as small canoes, and shown subsequently drawn much bigger (but still not as big as proper Viking ships). Does the tapestry carry any real information about the boats?
    Incidentally, it’s really disgraceful the whole tapestry isn’t available on the internet, for everyone to see properly, at a large scale. I may have to write someone a letter about that.

  32. I have a book on the Tapestry and its historical context by a Danish historian [who was mumbling a hot potato in his mouth.]
    Potato-mumblers are not to be trusted, especially when they try to cheat the Norwegians out of their valid age-old claims.

  33. John: … (A.A. Leff)
    That’s a good one. Thanks, John.

  34. Other John: The Danes try to cheat the Norwegians out of their valid age-old claims.
    What, bus passes? That’s shocking!

  35. The Viking longships were apparently masterpieces of design: J. R. Hale, ‘The Viking Longship’. Scientific American February 1998: 58-66.
    The Hanseatic League took over shipping after the Viking era because their slow, fat, round cogs and carracks (I think) carried more freight than the longships, which were designed mostly for raiding, ascending rivers, and being pulled up on shore. The Vikings did have a freight ship too, but it apparently didn’t match the cogs and carracks.
    I once spent some time trying to find out if cog, carrack, and coracle were cognate with kayak. Not imnpossible, but not likely.

  36. The arrow in the eye story appears to be bogus. Here is a picture of the part of the tapestry the “arrow piercing eye” remark is about, and here is a closeup sketch of the original needle marks, made by someone who viewed the tapestry in 1819, that show the arrow going nowhere near the eye. Author Charles H. Gibbs-Smith spends an entire page debunking the arrow-in-the-eye story in The Bayeux Tapestry. He doesn’t mention its meaning, but does trace the story to a poem written by Baudri, Abbot of Bourgueil between 1099 and 1102, about a similar tapestry that hung in the bedchamber of Adela, Countess of Blois. How an abbot would know anything about a countess’s bedchamber is also not mentioned.

  37. mollymooly says:

    is this a reference to Sussex C.C.C.?
    More Chelsea F.C.
    Talking of Ireland, I heard Samuel Beckett was very good at cricket.
    Mm. Irish cricket is a very small pond. We did beat the West Indies once; Samuel didn’t play in that game.

  38. marie-lucie says:

    AJP: It’s hard to know what to make of William’s boats; they are portrayed during their construction as small canoes, and shown subsequently drawn much bigger (but still not as big as proper Viking ships).
    If you look at any medieval pictures of boats, they are always drawn much smaller (especially much shorter) than they must have been, with only a few people crammed into them and filling the whole space. Representations of houses or castles or city walls are also often disproportionately small compared to the human figures. In pictures of groups of people, the kings or saints are usually markedly bigger than the ordinary people. Those were pictographical conventions, not intended to be realistic in all details, unlike most later representations.

  39. Harold Bloom’s “review” of R. Crumb’s Genesis in the latest NYRB starts off by saying “I don’t like or care about Crumb”… and from then on talks about himself and Thomas Mann.
    Maybe the dog ate his homework. If he didn’t like it, he could at least use that as a place to start. I was going to suggest that if the NYRB ever needs someone to review anything by Gilbert Shelton, they find someone who was born much later than 1930 to do so, but on second thought, maybe it’s not about generations. Mr. Bloom also didn’t like the Harry Potter series. At least he gives reasons for that: the use of phrases like “stretch his legs”, which he thinks is a cliche (even if it is–and he doesn’t say what phrase he would replace it with–why would this be inappropriate for children’s books?); also he questions whether the series, which he lumps in with Stephen King, is enriching or educational. How can a book that explores traditional childhood conflicts within a fictional setting not be both? And what on earth is wrong with reading something for pure enjoyment?
    If anyone wants to read more non-reviews, I see the NYRB charges $69.00 a year for the electronic edition.

  40. Does the tapestry carry any real information about the boats?
    For one thing it shows horses being carried in them and also the manner of getting the horse out of the boat. For another, it shows shipwrights (some bearded, but not mustached) building the fleet with an adze, small axes, and what is one of the earliest medieval representations of a drill.

  41. marie-lucie says:

    Nijma: How an abbot would know anything about a countess’s bedchamber is also not mentioned.
    In medieval times, there were no dedicated bedrooms, instead the rich used high “four poster beds” with posts at each angle, which were made into small rooms by the curtains hung between the posts, which could be closed for privacy and warmth. Many noble people entertained visitors while lying in or on their beds, propped up on cushions, as people still do now when they are in the hospital. This was still true in the 17th century, for instance the group of educated women known as les Précieuses often had a roomful of visitors sitting on chairs around their beds and discussing literary and grammatical matters.
    A highly placed ecclesiastic such as an abbot or bishop could be the confessor and spiritual adviser of a highborn lady. That he was admitted to her “bedchamber” does not mean that they would actually be alone, since servants went in and out of every room, and a lady-in-waiting might also be sitting in a corner of the lady’s chamber. Complete privacy was extremely rare once the bedcurtains were opened.

  42. marie-lucie says:

    Does the tapestry carry any real information about …?
    Actually the “tapestry” carries a lot of information about life at the time. The cloth is about 20 inches wide and is divided lengthwise into three parts: in addition to the middle part (about 15-16″) which carries the main part of the story as a continuous strip, pictorially and verbally (in Latin), there are also smaller, individual designs in the top and bottom parts, most of which seem to have been left to the imagination of the embroiderers. Some of them refer to the story itself, others show birds, animals, trees, people working, quarrelling, having fun, etc, so that those details are also a great source of information.

  43. Others say that fine Old French ladies had the habit of banging monks, bishops, and knights more or less willy-nilly.

  44. This site has an excellent complete reproduction of the Tapestry, page by page as it were, with the Latin text translated into English.
    For some reason I can’t HTML the site in, so it’s
    http://hastings1066.com/

  45. Here’s the direct link to Paul’s Bayeux Tapestry.
    The code I used here is <a href=”http://www.hastings1066.com/” target=”_blank”>Bayeux Tapestry</a>
    …but on preview it looks like the target=”_blank” gets stripped out, leaving:

    <a href=”http://www.hastings1066.com/”>Bayeux Tapestry</a>

    If you have a free wordpress account, it’s very easy to make a link with the blog editor.

  46. Maybe the dog ate his homework.
    There is another explanation. I have finally gotten around to reading Mostly Harmless, and am on the page where Ford Prefect is falling past the sixteenth floor of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy building, the floor where the sub-editors have their digs, and Ford thinks, “What about all that copy of his they’d cut? Fifteen years of research he’d filed from one planet alone and they’d cut it to two words. ‘Mostly harmless.’ The finger to them as well.” Maybe the original R. Crumb book review got severely edited and HB is even now flipping off the sub-editors.

  47. David Marjanović says:

    For some reason, it’s impossible for me to consider the name Algernon without thinking of

    Gideon Algernon Mantell, who, incidentally, did not wear a mustache.

  48. “Algernon … Norman French
    Oh, not Arabic at all, then? :)”
    Non. Algernon Francais.

  49. One would like to point out that “la Tapisserie Bayeux” was as likely as not made by English needlepersons, who would have known very well whether Englishmen shaved their upper lips.

  50. marie-lucie says:

    From the museum website (English version):

    Listed as a “Memory of the World” by UNESCO, the Bayeux Tapestry (Calvados) is an embroidery, 70 metres long, made in the 11th century.

    [Bayeux is in the department of Calvados, which also includes Caen].

    Celebrating the conquest of England by William, Duke of Normandy, this linen canvas was probably embroidered by monks in the south of England after the Battle of Hastings on October 14th, 1066.

    ["canvas" is not the right word - it is a piece of linen cloth]

    Legendary animals, ships, Vikings, Norman and Saxon cavalries illustrate the exploits of William and his opponent Harold, another pretender to the throne of England.

    La Tapisserie de Bayeux is thought to have been commissioned by William’s half-brother Odo(n), who was a cleric and was made bishop of Bayeux at a young age. The purpose of it was probably to be hung on the pillars of the nave of the Bayeux cathedral, then being rebuilt, and displayed on the occasion of the dedication of the cathedral. The Danish historian I quoted above thought that the work had been done by nuns (since embroidery later became a purely feminine specialty), but there are some scenes that religious women would certainly not have included in their work.
    Zythophile’s link calls William’s victory “an epochal French victory”, but although the Normans spoke French by that time, they did not consider themselves French, and although the dukes of Normandy were nominally vassals of the king of France (who was very weak at the time), they did not even pay lip service to that relationship. French history textbooks do not mention the conquest of England as as a French victory: the goal of William’s conquest was to satisfy his own ambition, not to add England to the territories of the king of France, who was not consulted about the project. Instead, William’s conquest eventually caused the rise of England as a unified and independent power which later threatened the existence of France as a similar power. Non-Norman French speakers who moved to England in the wake of the conquest were not sent by the king of France.
    The link also says that during the Revolution the piece was confiscated in order to “cover military wagons”, a strange use of this long, narrow piece of linen, but it is more likely that it was meant to be torn to pieces to make bandages for the wounded (like an old sheet).

  51. “..that the work had been done by nuns (since embroidery later became a purely feminine specialty), but there are some scenes that religious women would certainly not have included in their work…”
    Our mores have change, they saw life through better understanding of reality, now we blush over standard natural processes.
    Even in modern era, My Mama was aghast at the plain speaking of a some Nuns when this Nun had discovered my badly damage and told her that my guts were in good shape due to the “Fart…”

  52. marie-lucie says:

    All right, I will be more blunt: even in a less prudish age, is it likely that women, especially nuns, would have embroidered a picture of male homosexual activity?

  53. A picture of…oh, my…..um,..where? King Edward the Confessor was said by some to be homosexual, also Robert Curthose the oldest son of William the conquerer, but afaik the nudes in the tapestry are not about them. There is an interesting insight about Anglo-Saxon women embroidering the tapestry here, around note 30 (the essay seems to be part of a devotional set).
    According to the Gibbs-Smith book (1973)(he was Keeper Emeritus at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London), the Bayeux tapestry was made of colored wools worked on bleached linen, commissioned by Bishop Odo of Bayeux, made to a Norman brief, designed in England, and embroidered by English craftswomen. It is now thought the tapestry was originally meant for a castle and was designed as a secular work (those scenes of nudity and lewdness again). (Oh, and the Cathedral at Bayeux tried to get it back and was denied–convenient?) There is a French tradition calling it “La tapisserie de la Reine Mathilde” but no one believes William’s wife embroidered it; Gibbs-Smith suggests it may have been commissioned for her. The tapestry, displayed in the former bishop’s palace, is owned and exhibited by the city of Bayeux, in the Department of Calvados, five miles inland and seventeen miles west-north-west of Caen. Gibbs-Smith says the tapestry was taken out during the French Revolution in 1792 “when it was found that there was insufficient covering for the wagons of the Bayeux military volunteers…in 1794 it again came near to destruction, when there was a proposal to cut it up and decorate a float with it for a public holiday procession…” Gibbs-Smith suggests the designer of the tapestry was a misogynist and missed many opportunities to portray women in, for example the Coronation scene and various crowd scenes, although he conceded the horses are done with unusual sensitivity, even obsession. He also points to several errors in the embroidery–leg on the wrong side of the horse, arm in wrong place, as evidence of “week-end embroideresses” who must have been engaged “late in the Tapestry, as if a contract date was fast approaching.” The famous bearded dwarf holding the horses for William’s messengers was said in Victorian times to be a self-portrait of the designer of the tapestry.

  54. There’s a professional American-football player named Alge Crumpler, currently on the Tennessee Titans (Nashville has a life-sized copy of the Parthenon- or is the one on the Athenian acropolis the copy?).
    -
    Samuel Beckett is reputed to be the only Nobel Prize recipient who’s also been statisticized in Wisden’s.
    -
    Nuns embroidered images of caravan wives doing – ? . . .
    Oh. Right.

  55. McMooly, I hadn’t missed your Stamford Bridge references, I’ve supported Chelsea since 1962.
    As someone who is tempted to do it too, I think it’s fascinating that we still feel obliged to emphasise that the Bayeaux tapestry may have been made by “English” folk, and that the Normen weren’t, you know, French. I feel I’m being manipulated by a Plantagenet puppet master.

  56. Nuns embroidered images of caravan wives doing – ? . . .
    Carving melons into ephebic table decorations, as I recall.

  57. marie-lucie says:

    Nijma: There is an interesting insight about Anglo-Saxon women embroidering the tapestry here,
    Given the whole tenor of the (otherwise interesting) article, think that the “peace-weaving Anglo-Saxon women” are an assumption by the author, who is trying to show a link with Ancient Greek legendary tradition (eg the story of Philomela) which I find extremely doubtful.
    It is known that much embroidery at the time was done by monks, but also other men. In French there is the last name Brodeur ‘embroiderer (masc. form)’. In France there are still some brodeurs, some of them artists who work for couture houses, although women (brodeuses) are more common in the profession in general, doing work on luxury items, such as initials for sets of sheets or tablecloths and napkins to be used at the Elysee Palace or in a very fancy restaurant or hotel. Some nuns are also engaged in embroidering church vestments, some of which are (or were) extremely ornate.
    The “tapestry” is unfinished, as if the work had been hastily abandoned, not as if the end was the work of “week-end embroideresses” who must have been engaged “late in the Tapestry, as if a contract date was fast approaching.” I think that this and other suggestions by Gibbs-Smith are unjustified. How would a team of embroideresses work on a single piece at the same time? They would have to take turns, so why have more than one? It looks instead as if the embroiderer put down their work one day and did not come back to it the next day, or the piece was snatched from them even though it was unfinished.
    The scene I referred to is among the last ones, in a bottom strip. Other nudity there occurs mostly when the dead soldiers are being stripped of their armour and clothing, presumably to be reused, and those pictures are lacking in anatomical detail. As I said above, the top and bottom strip are different from the main strip, which seems to be the work of a single designer (possibly the Latin words were added by a different person after the pictures were complete), but the edge strips are more varied. At the beginning, the top and bottom strips are mostly of more or less imaginary birds and animals, separated by stripes, but as time goes on the bottom strip shows details related to the main page, but later again other designs are added apparently more randomly, like the scene I mentioned. It looks then like those edge designs were drawn (and embroidered by different techniques) by different people, some of them probably less skilled. This is the way a team approach would work, but the embroiderers would not be working on the same piece at the same time, they would be taking turns.
    It seems that a fair amount of research has been done on the making of the tapestry, and the possible locations of the embroiderers, so I won’t try to make any more suggestions.
    Bayeux itself is a pretty little town, very old, worth visiting in itself, and the museum is very good. It not only exhibits the tapestry in a specially designed glass case, it also gives shows in French and English about the historical context, quoting the sources available, including those which conflict with each other. I went there quite a few years ago, and it seems that at least some of this material is now available on the museum website.

  58. mollymooly says:

    I’ve supported Chelsea since 1962
    Was John Major as potty-mouthed on the terraces as rumour has it?

  59. I don’t think I’ve been to a match since 1963, and I wasn’t on the terraces. If I had seen John Major there I would certainly have beaten him up.

  60. I think that this and other suggestions by Gibbs-Smith are unjustified.
    It seems that Gibbs-Smith’s first interest was aviation. He was head of public relations and publications for the Victoria and Albert museum for twenty years. He mentions somewhere in the book that the museum once tried unsuccessfully to borrow the tapestry; perhaps his book came about as a result of his involvement with that. He states the purpose of the book was to make available information that had been out of print for some time, also that most of the notes he presents were compiled from the scholarship of several deceased, unnamed colleagues. The illustrations are very nice though.

  61. John Cowan says:

    The fact that the monastery was in England does not mean that the monks were necessary English in an ethnic sense. They could have come from anywhere in Catholic Europe.

  62. marie-lucie says:

    Last summer I went to a conference in Oslo (where I had the pleasure of meeting both AJP and Trond). The conference participants could go on a tour of the historic village (an outdoor museum with reconstructed buildings) and the Viking Ship museum (the latter is worth the trip). At some point I learned that long banners similar to the Bayeux tapestry were common in Viking times, hung along the walls for decorating a hall or later a church. The one at Bayeux was perhaps longer than most (being made to fit the dimensions of the cathedral) but it was otherwise traditional. Embroidery for religious decoration was apparently a specialty of English monks (Christianity had been in England for several centuries).

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