Rock ’N’ Roll Legend Chuck Berry Dead At 90

MICHAEL OCHS ARCHIVES VIA GETTY IMAGES
Music legend Chuck Berry penned a great number of hits in the 1950s and ’60s that influenced generations of rock groups, including The Beatles. 

Rock ’n’ roll pioneer Chuck Berry has died, Missouri police said Saturday. He was 90.

“The St. Charles County Police Department sadly confirms the death of Charles Edward Anderson Berry Sr., better known as legendary musician Chuck Berry,” police said in a statement posted to Facebook.

First responders were called out to a home on Buckner Road around 12:40 p.m. and found a man later identified as Berry unresponsive “and immediately administered lifesaving techniques,” the statement reads. They were unable to revive him and he was pronounced dead at 1:26 p.m.

Berry penned a great number of hits in the 1950s and 1960s like “Sweet Little Sixteen,” “Roll Over Beethoven” and “Rock and Roll Music” that influenced generations of rock groups, including The Beatles. Merging a captivating stage presence with his own blend of blues, country and jazz, Berry helped define the fledgling rock’n’ roll genre, later becoming one of the first musicians inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio.

Born into a middle-class family in St. Louis, Missouri, Berry picked up the basics of guitar from a neighbor and started performing music as a teenager. In 1952, he formed a trio with Johnnie Johnson on piano and Ebby Harding on drums that rose to fame in the local nightclub scene. To pay the bills, Berry worked as a hairdresser. But soon enough he wouldn’t have time for that ― a trip to Chicago netted a recording session with Chess Records, during which Berry performed an old hillbilly tune called “Ida Red.” Changing the name to “Maybellene,” Chess sent the track to an influential New York DJ, and it became a hit among the teenage set.

According to an oft-cited line by John Lennon, “If you tried to give rock ‘n’ roll another name, you might call it ‘Chuck Berry.’” Berry’s music became so well-known, he toured the country with only a guitar, trusting he’d be able to find musicians in each city he played who could serve as his back-up. Many of his lyrics focused on teen culture, although he was significantly past that age by the time he started traveling around singing about cars and dates.

Chuck Berry’s signature “duck walk.”

But in the nascent era of the Civil Rights Movement, Berry’s status as a black man with a following of young white people ― a lot of them girls ― caused certain conflict. He’d been known to take refuge in police stations to dodge protesters after his shows, which sometimes featured police presence themselves, according to an Esquire profile. After a teenage coat-check girl who worked briefly at a club he owned alleged Berry had an affair with her, the guitarist served two years in prison. A tax evasion charge sent him to prison again, briefly, in 1979. Then, in 1990, a police raid on a recording compound he owned turned up a stash of marijuana and images of Berry with nude women ― including one underage ― but charges were later dropped.

Notoriously interview-shy, Berry had been living out his later years in Ladue, Missouri ― near his hometown. He never stopped writing music, and performed regular gigs at a local restaurant and club called Blueberry Hill.

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Author: HO

“YOU WERE NEVER LOVELIER, YOU WERE NEVER SO FAIR.” JUNE 2016.: FLOWER POWER VOL. 3

  • Lifestyle Books
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  • “You Were Never Lovelier, You Were Never So Fair.” June 2016.: Flower Power Vol. 3

“YOU WERE NEVER LOVELIER, YOU WERE NEVER SO FAIR.” JUNE 2016.: FLOWER POWER VOL. 3

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When I first moved to Cambridge I encountered a disgusting display of what happens when civic “leaders” forget what they are in office to do, thereby leaving a disgusting eyesore in the middle of the city for all to see. I took action and I called the mayor’s office, I called the office of the city councilors, I called the parks division to do something, and do it now. I continued to call until finally one Cambridge mayor was produced. I literally took his honor by the hand and showed him where to look and where to sniff. He made a note of both. And so, the
great wheels of government began to turn, ever so slowly. I
said to his honor, the mayor, “Any official in any European city
our size would regard the absence of green grass properly
cut, trees properly tended, and pots of flowers in riotous
numbers as a disgrace.” But Americans seem to regard flowers
as superfluous, unessential, and a waste of money.

Slowly, improvements came to the great Common, where I might, by law, allow my cattle and horses to graze, should I ever get any.

The statues take a prominent place but you will look in vain for snatches of color, riotous color, color that thrills you. Flowers have that power, but we have no flowers.

Perhaps the City Fathers and City Mothers think the careless folk, little aware of how difficult it was to get the flowers here in the first place, might allow their urinating dogs to pollute them. I concur, that could well be an issue.Or perhaps they will think that hoodlums might do wheelies through all the color, for the shear joy of being destructive and “cool”. This, too, is a potential worry.

Or young lovers, of whom we have a plethora, an overabundance, might pluck the fairest blooms to give to a lover, who might be superseded in an moment or two for someone better in every way. This, too, could happen.

But we cannot deny the great majority of our fellow citizens the beauty of flowers… even if the first crop, and the second crop, and, yes, the third crop be destroyed by one menace or another. We must be tenacious and insist upon beauty as the goal, no matter how long it takes to achieve it.

Here, in this book, in this three volume series, you will find all the reasons you will ever need to put flowers in our Common, and complete the long pending task. For without flowers there cannot be, will never be a conclusion that is suitable for the people of this great, internationally renowned and much visited city, settled by Puritans for the work of God.

And if you do not think that planting flowers is the work of God, then you need to stop and look about you, for each flower is an emissary of God to cheer us in our miseries, as the stories in my three volumes show so well.

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Author: HO

This comes as a gift from Dr. Jeffrey Lant to you. May your every word flourish. Ex Libris

by Dr. Jeffrey Lant

Author’s Program Note.

First there was the thunderclap, sharp, unyielding sound overawing all, pulling me anxious from my bed; to be swiftly followed by a cascade of erratic sound, my sundered rest punctured by noises that made the end of the world seem puny and insignificant by comparison. I was alone and soon to be unhappy, bereft, no comfort, my world altered forever.

This is the story of what happened just the other day. I know that sympathetic folk worldwide will join me in my lamentation… for this is a tale any one of us could have penned and which all of us might easily share and could as easily experience.

I call it Ex Libris, and it is a sad tale.

“84 Charing Cross Road”

If you’re a Bibliophile like I am, I don’t have to introduce you to this cinema classic released in 1987. It features an adamant, opinionated, chain-smoking, wise-cracking, irreverent New York writer (is there any other kind?) expertly played by Anne Bancroft (1931-2005), a lady in love with books, the more obscure and esoteric the better. Her correspondent is a soft-spoken London-based expert in finding out-of-print English books. (perfectly rendered by Sir Anthony Hopkins b. 1937).

He has at first no clue quite how to handle this rather alarming customer; then discovers that she is what all writers and lovers of language require, a Kindred Spirit, puckish, golden hearted, honest to a fault, friend, jousting companion, lover of words, lover of those who shape these words, dram at the ready but never to excess; willing to let the rest of us into their enthralling lives, changing us forever, even the ones who bathe infrequently and are too vocal about their ill-considered (and frequently
changed) politics.

I had absolutely no trouble adhering to the rites and precise rituals of their arcane mysteries, not just in London either, but New York, Los Angeles, Paris, Oxford, Chicago. Chicago?

Purists may wrinkle their fastidious noses but, yes, Chicago where I sprawled for hours (age 12 or so, thank you very much) in the magic caverns tottering in unimaginably lofty formations on Clark Street. Yes, Chicago, “my kind of town, Chicago is” where I often heard my mother warn me that I could have all the books I could carry but not one more. Then hear my practised wheedling for more and still more, for my mother believed in the curative powers of disintegrating fine tooled leathers and the cats which could lead you if they would to wondrous editions not yet found by my tardy and less persistent competitors. Yes, Chicago, too, by all means, and proudly.

Where have these discriminating tabbies and their erudite successors gone? I feel guilty and ashamed that I don’t know, such is the undeniable pull of these establishments and their silky inhabitants down my ages. Forgive me!

“The Look”.

I know now what I could hardly even imagine then; that I was either born with or early acquired the unquestioned demeanor and certain stance and undoubted swagger of a Bibliophile. That is to say, I was a lad for whom doors were open wherever I went, wherever books in all their aspects and appurtenances were favored, as they were widely and worldwide.

Unfavored school mates and taunting cousins (self designated sans peur et sans reproche, especially if a grid iron and locker room were involved) might deride, but they would do so at their considerable risk and undoing. Bibliophiles, remember, have the benefits of deep memory and the certainty that revenge is a dish best tasted cold.

In those long-ago days I brought home a steady stream of prizes with resounding names, grandiose certificates, the letters patent of our realm, and even Yankee cash on the barrel head. Such unanticipated (to them), irritating developments, which caused my more brawny, athletic peers to rethink their positions, and (no matter how reluctantly) to treat me with the reverence and veneration I so richly deserved. Parents of such sad scoffers might be heard, and in public, too, intoning this righteous sentiment: “Why can’t you be a scholar like Jeffrey?,” words which no doubt enlivened and encouraged the sorry lot. Their roles in life have no doubt been the better for it.

Every click a diminishment, a certain loss, a looming tragedy.

I live in the middle of the greatest constellation of words in the Great Republic, Fair Harvard and dozens of institutions of higher and other learning, over 70 such institutions just minutes away, the whole one of the greatest achievements of our species and a light to people everywhere who appreciate and advocate humane values and a world of peace, serenity, fairness, and equality, the hallmarks of this special place and its abiding message to the ages.

Generations from now historians and other researchers into our past will call this the Golden Age, the final days of what we have worked so diligently for a thousand years to create, foster, and maintain, including language and the books which enshrine it forever.

The proven vandals, the assured barbarians are not just at the gate, they are placed within our glorious precincts by our very children, placed here by committed parental thrift and scrimping; each more adept than the one before in their proven ways to eradicate what we have so loved, supported and honored; imposing standards which are no standards at all.
Come to Cambridge, to Harvard. The future is breaking here like a brand new, unwelcome dawn. As if by wizard’s wand, institutions once boasting that they were citadels of progress and the liberal arts now are teetering on the knife edge of extinction; buildings gone, faculties dismissed, the very idea of liberal arts and progress derided and dismissed; the potent weapons click by click on the agile fingertips of the young and careless, are dooming not just multitudes, useless cargo on Spaceship Earth, but our very species. Truly Father forgive them for they know not…

I’m forced to join the revolution

I have for the last many years, harbored a guilty secret. I cannot bear to send my books to other homes and foreign shores. I hide them in places where even I forget, but better work of literature misplaced by sympathetic hands than gone forever, a sacrifice to the savages and their wanton ways.

The books that fell were a small part of the thousands of books which have found sanctuary here and over the course of my entire life. They were stacked and crammed and buried and pushed and shoe-horned into a space sustained by the thickest of woods, mahoganey. Now and again I would look at them and sigh, for like “Sophie’s Choice” (1979) by William Styron, I knew I would have to make a decision, and that the decision would be unwelcome, whatever I decided to do.

And so, God stepped in, impatient with my inability to decide, and said, as sure as he’d send a telegram, “Clear the shelves of these books!” And He did.

Thus, my precious books, though only a few hundred of the total inventory, were marked for extinction, coming in the shape of the Goodwill truck from Somerville. They have pestered me often for them, and now, at last, they shall have their way. Of course I feel terribly, which is silly, isn’t it? Because as my assistant, Kris McNamara said as he helped me pick up the fruit of generations, “Everything you want is on the internet anyway, what’s the big deal?” But then, he is only 33, and can scarcely remember anything the outrage that I have lived with for so long. And so we in our turn shall be forgotten, too.

The Goodwill truck will come, life will go on, though admittedly altered and lessened. As for me, I have hidden as many of them as I can, in places no one would ever look. You see, I shall not go down without a fight, all flags flying, every page intact, every word. For even if I become known as the last man of suitable standards and goals, I shall accept that title, that honor, with gladness and pride, the stearnest demeanor… for even then there will be hope.

Envoi

Whether you have seen “84 Charing Cross Road” before (lucky), or, whether this is your first time seeing this magnificient film (lucky), this distinctly moving film, I advise you to go to any search engine and watch it. In the meantime, here is the film score to whet your appetite:

http://ow.ly/ZaYC304zvuM

In some ways, technology is a blessing.

About the author

Dr. Jeffrey Lant, Harvard educated, started writing for publication at age 5. Since then, he has published over 1,000 articles and 57 books, and counting. For information about his oeuvre, go to:

www.amazon.com/author/jeffreylant/

Remember, even rich and successful authors derive acute satisfaction from letters of ebullient content and affection.

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Memoirs > Happy and Glorious. Encounters With The Windsors HAPPY AND GLORIOUS. ENCOUNTERS WITH THE WINDSORS

  • Memoirs
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  • Happy and Glorious. Encounters With The Windsors

HAPPY AND GLORIOUS. ENCOUNTERS WITH THE WINDSORS

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I little thought, so many years ago, when I first encountered the Queen and the
royal Windsors, that I should be, so many decades later, writing my own memoirs of my several encounters. But I am.
How did I begin my connection with the Windsor dynasty?
In just this way: to get a doctoral degree at Harvard, you must write a work of intellectual distinction, challenging existing nostrums, replacing them with new truths, found and defended by you; your topic in due course becoming your first book.
Just what topic you select is closely evaluated and reviewed by your designated dissertation adviser, a poobah with enormous influence on your life.
Here’s where my English History Professor at Harvard, Professor Hanham now stepped in to alter my life, irrevocably, thoroughly, beneficially. He said, “Why don’t you write about the formulation of the great English royal pageants. It would make a splendid book.”
Thus, he handed me a subject which I have been able to dine out on for my
entire life. Millions of people worldwide have participated in the British pageants
since there were such pageants. But “real” historians disdain such frippery. It is beneath their lordly notice.
Here, however, Hanham made an astute observation about me, one for which I
probably have never given him sufficient acknowledgement or recognition.
Forgive me.
The pageants are so obvious, so ubiquitous, so universal, so wide ranging, that by definition, amongst my more snobbish colleagues at Harvard, they couldn’t possibly be important.
However, Hanham was shrewd. He knew, or must have known, that I would be
the only true lyric historian in my class. It was a canny observation. So I began
my lifetime career writing about the “obvious”, because it never really is.
Thus he set me on this path… The path that led to the pageants of the
Windsors, their lives, their foibles, things that were happy and glorious, and
things that were not.
I accepted his challenge, and went to work at once in my usual bull-dog way,
for I am a man who does not fear hard work, so long as at the end of the day, it
produces something of real magnitude and importance. In other words, a thing
worth doing.
My first real breakthrough occurred in one of the most beautiful buildings at Christ Church, Cambridge. There, in a medieval library perfect for my imaginings, I was presented with a box of unpublished letters and documents owned by the current Marquess of Salisbury. These were the letters of his ancestor, the 3rd Marquess (1830-1903). He was Queen Victoria’s Prime Minister three times. Now, thanks to these papers, I had my first sampling of truly substantive and important information.
That day, I knew that I would have further encounters with the Sovereign and the Royal Family. Thus, I set out with a will upon the task of promptly finishing my dissertation. Out of innumerable pieces of the puzzle, I fashioned a work of two volumes, 623 pages, presented to the Department of History, December, 1974, and immediately accepted.
I give you, ladies and gentlemen, the opus maximus, “Queen Victoria’s Golden
Jubilee, 1887”. I am as proud of it today as I was proud of it then, and this work
has worn well over the years.
Plus all the material for my first book “Insubstantial Pageant: Ceremony and confusion at Queen Victoria’s Court ” 269 pages available at www.writerssecrets.co – http://writerssecrets.co/products/insubstantial-pageant-ceremony-confusion-at-queen-victorias-court
Now, I was a Recognized Scholar.
Yankee Doodle was coming to storm the palace. God save the Queen!

A tale from an insider, the first American granted unique access to the Royal Archives of Windsor Castle.

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1. not knowing the market. Too many info-products are egotistical productions. If you want to make money from such a product, you must direct it squarely at a large and growing market that has a pain you can take away … or an aspiration you can help them achieve.

2. not delivering useful information. Most how-to books and products are useless .. . they don’t provide the exact details people need to achieve the promise of the product’s title. But why should anyone pay good money for a product that doesn’t deliver what they want?
3. not producing client-centered marketing materials. If you want to motivate an individual to buy a product, you’ve got to tell him just what he’s getting, all the advantages, benefits you have for him. But most info-producers talk about their products… not about client advantages. As a result, most of the marketing communications produced by info-entrepreneurs end up where they belong … in the trash.
4. not hammering home these benefits in an organized, efficient, relentless way. If you want to make money in the information business, you cannot be vague or obscure about the advantages you’ve got for your targeted market . . . you must be direct, pointed, persistent.
5. not updating products, selling them for years. Most information publishers take a product out of circulation after a year, two at the most. Smart ones pinpoint a market in need, produce a valuable problem-solving product, and resolve to sell their product so long as this market has this problem. Updating is therefore inevitable.
6. not creating a line of problem-solving information products. Information entrepreneurs who become rich do so because they don’t put all their eggs in one basket … or one product. They diversify, not only updating all products but regularly adding new products . . . both those they create themselves and those they get others to create.
To solve these, and a host of related problems, Pick up your copy of:
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“Treasures From The Lant Collection: Dr. Jeffrey Lant, Founder.”

In the meantime dive into Dr. Lant’s new series

“Treasures From The Lant Collection: Dr. Jeffrey Lant, Founder.”

Find the whole series at  Dr. Jeffrey Lant’s Author Page at Author Central with all his latest books, events and blog posts.

Go to: http://www.amazon.com/author/jeffreylant/

Dr._Lant_and_Kip_Combined_framedTune in for two connoisseurs in ebullient conversation about life, money, collecting, and the joy of MORE! F. Scott Fitzgerald said, “The very rich are different from you and me”… Come see for yourself. Recorded live at Writers Secrets Live Center: http://www.TheLiveBusinessCenter.com/?id=27538

Recording at: https://www.dropbox.com/s/x2hy57hl45xd8nm/Dr.%20Lant%27s%20interview%20with%20Christopher%20Forbes.mp4?dl=0

when your host Dr. Jeffrey Lant,  internationally known authorand commentator, goes toe-to-toe with plutocratic, billionaire Christopher (“Kip”) Forbes, Vice Chairman of Forbes Publishing company, whose appearance reminds us “living well is the best revenge.”.

Every Collector who ever lived would KILL to be part of THIS Epic Event!

Tune in for Dr. Lant, the art connoisseur – see this connoisseur in action as he is unpacking and viewing his newly restored art-pieces for the very first time, the latest additions to his collection.

 

Go to: https://www.dropbox.com/s/ycf1ljc3zzldk72/Dr.%20Lant%27s%20latest%20aquisitions%20of%20art%20and%20artifacts.mp4?dl=0

See Snippets Caught of “A Connoisseur’s Journey – Being the Artful Memoirs of a Man of Wit, Discernment, Pluck and Joy” in the Making

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A Connoisseur in Action

red_room_panoramicDr. Lant’s glorious red room which houses his marvelous collection as told about in his memoirs “A Connoisseur’s Journey: Being the artful memoirs of a man of wit, discernment, pluck, and joy”

A multi-awards winning, gloriously written and unique memoir by Dr. Jeffrey Lant

First Place in category at The GREAT SOUTHEAST BOOK FESTIVAL


BIOGRAPHY/AUTOBIOGRAPHY

WINNER: A Connisseur’s Journey – Dr. Jeffrey Lant

Great Southwest Book Festival, March, 2016

Sole winner in the category

BIOGRAPHY/AUTOBIOGRAPHY

WINNER: A Connoisseur’s Journey – Dr. Jeffrey Lant

Great Northwest Book Festival, March, 2016

BIOGRAPHY/AUTOBIOGRAPHY

WINNER: Tesserae: A Memoir of Two Summers – Mathias B. Freese

RUNNER-UP: A Connoisseur’s Journey – Dr. Jeffrey Lant

Awarded FIRST in Class at Southern California Book Festival.

SECOND in Class at the Great Midwest Book Festival.

THIRD in Class at the London (England) Book Festival.

THIRD in Class at the New England Book Fare.

Dr. Lant also was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award with a focus on “A Connoisseur’s Journey” with this citation.

“Dr. Jeffrey Lant. On behalf of the citizens of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, I congratulate you on the release of your Memoir, ‘A Connoisseur’s Journey’. Your work is a groundbreaking experiment into the use of musical citations in literature, adding depth and nuance to the reading experience.”

(signed) Charles D. Baker, Governor and Karyn E.Polito, Lieutenant Governor

Preface of “A Connoisseur’s Journey” by Dr. Jeffrey Lant –

This is my twentieth book, but only the first of my memoirs. Over the course of my long connection with books, the discovery, the reading, the writing, the rewriting and rereading I have come across many volumes of memoirs, some glorious and gloriously written, some so forgettable that you cannot remember the author even a moment after putting the dreary pages down, vowing to avoid him like the plague forever after. However I, dear reader, shall give you what you want in a memoir… humor, indiscretion, secrets, stories of the rich and famous, stories about places and situations you’ve longed to visit and enjoy. You will learn much in theleast demanding of ways… and feel more and more intelligent as you read.

 

You will be in the hands of a man of learning, privilege, and audacity, who has been there, done that, and lived to write the tale. There is nothing fair or objective in what you’re about to read. Nor should there be. For a memoir is all about you, your life, your point of view, your unique journey wherever on Earth and in whatever way you choose to make it. And if some — even you! — cavil or object to even a single word or sentiment, why then write your own memoirs, for the genre is open to all.

Get your copy here: http://writerssecrets.com/memoir-creation-2/

 Watch for Extensions coming to “A Connoisseur’s Journey” soon
In the meantime dive into Dr. Lant’s new series

“Treasures From The Lant Collection: Dr. Jeffrey Lant, Founder.”

Find the whole series at  Dr. Jeffrey Lant’s Author Page at Author Central with all his latest books, events and blog posts.

Go to: http://www.amazon.com/author/jeffreylant/

Dr._Lant_and_Kip_Combined_framedTune in for two connoisseurs in ebullient conversation about life, money, collecting, and the joy of MORE! F. Scott Fitzgerald said, “The very rich are different from you and me”… Come see for yourself. Recorded live at Writers Secrets Live Center: http://www.TheLiveBusinessCenter.com/?id=27538

Recording at: https://www.dropbox.com/s/x2hy57hl45xd8nm/Dr.%20Lant%27s%20interview%20with%20Christopher%20Forbes.mp4?dl=0

when your host Dr. Jeffrey Lant,  internationally known authorand commentator, goes toe-to-toe with plutocratic, billionaire Christopher (“Kip”) Forbes, Vice Chairman of Forbes Publishing company, whose appearance reminds us “living well is the best revenge.”.

Every Collector who ever lived would KILL to be part of THIS Epic Event!

Tune in for Dr. Lant, the art connoisseur – see this connoisseur in action as he is unpacking and viewing his newly restored art-pieces for the very first time, the latest additions to his collection.

 

Go to: https://www.dropbox.com/s/ycf1ljc3zzldk72/Dr.%20Lant%27s%20latest%20aquisitions%20of%20art%20and%20artifacts.mp4?dl=0

See Snippets Caught of “A Connoisseur’s Journey – Being the Artful Memoirs of a Man of Wit, Discernment, Pluck and Joy” in the Making

FREE consultation ($150 value). Expert shows you how to make money online.Call (757-647-2886) 24/7 Or Skype me homeprofitcoach NOW! Profit today!” Your success guaranteed.http://www.HomeProfitCoach.com/?rd=kr2fDPDb

Money Making Books > Cash Copy

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“BRIDESHEAD REVISITED”… REVISITED. SOME THOUGHTS ON THIS OLD BAG OF TRICKS THE ENGLISH LOVE TO VENERATE

Picture

By Dr. Jeffrey Lant

I very well remember the first day I became aware of “Brideshead Revisited, The Sacred & Profane Memories of Captain Charles Ryder”. I can even, without too much difficulty, tell you where I was that momentous day in 1970. I was in Oxford, where I planned to spend as many festive weeks as I could squeeze out of my Harvard fellowship and live the life of an English lord. I took the train from Victoria Station, London, and was replete with every degree of enthusiasm and excitement for my unusual situation.

You see, I was working on my doctoral dissertation at Harvard at the time, and rationalized to myself that spending so much time in Oxford would enable me to do the necessary research which could only be done in a fine library, such as the one Oxford has possessed for centuries.

To do this research required a dinner jacket, black shoes (not so very scuffed), and nodding acquaintance with all the fine wines of France, and a strong head for advancement into further research into every single one of them. As it turns out, it also required a copy of “Brideshead Revisited”. This novel, published in 1945, shows an idealized vision of everything author Evelyn Waugh’s wand touched.

It was a magic I believed in, as did all my Oxen friends, bright, witty, clever… who made themselves past masters. We all understood “Brideshead Revisited” because we were all determined to live it… each and every page of it, until the action in the book shifted to Brideshead itself, later in the book and not nearly as interesting as I would find it years later.

This book and everything Waugh said had no more fervent supporters than we Americans, who used to gather everyday at a particular coffee shop in the middle of Oxford and posture, preen, and one up each other with devastating effect.

To meet these stringent requirements, we collectively determined that only Americans from the elite schools should be admitted to our fellowship. That included every Ivy League college of course (though Dartmouth and Brown were iffy), headed by Harvard, and occasionally someone from the Harvard of the West, Stanford… but usually we were too busy maneuvering our own social position to help a poor Western student or anyone else who wanted to join our merry, stringent company.

Of course, as a PhD candidate at Harvard, my own stellar credentials topped the list. And from the very first minute I was in Oxford, I was in just the right set at just the right time. I never missed a morning coffee (though I detest coffee and never drink it), for fear of what would be said about me if I weren’t there to protect myself. This was no place for weenies, as my own brother Kevin quickly discovered when he came to visit me.

He was bicycling around Europe, preparing to take up his fellowship at Ohio State University, and only my recommendation allowed him to come into our circle. He was furious to be reliant on me. I said that if he would remove his distracting beard, it would give him a pass for a day or two. His response, characteristically truculent, was “Jesus himself wore a beard! If it was good enough for Jesus, its going to be good enough for you!”

It wasn’t… and so he peddled on, to some obscure place where he could observe his rocks and mountainous formations without the presence of a censorious older brother, always correct on any subject, and his punctilious friends.

When the train pulled in to Oxford, I had a premonition that my life was about to change dramatically… that I had reached the Emerald City… and while I was ecstatic to be at Harvard as a student, I was happier to be in Oxford as a man, learning how to be a gentleman of means on a pittance. Harvard gave me money, but Harvard was not the place for an aspiring lord like myself. For that, it had to be Oxford.

De rigueur

William Powers Ingoldsby, always this man’s best friend, was on time as always when the train rolled in. He gave me a quick once over, and started barking orders. I was to get my haircut at once. I was to dispose, in a way no one could find them, of my true American clothes. I must submit to being taken to his tailor immediately, a place where he was so well known that when he put in this order and asked for rushed service, he got it. These garments I was absolutely innocent of, for I had never worn what Americans wrongly call a tuxedo.

I was putty in the hands of Ingoldsby, who had come a term before I got there, with his house and servant, and unending parties, which made us and all the rest of our cadre very happy indeed. His further instructions urged me to ready myself for my first entree into English Society. Princess Imeretinsky, who was born English, was having a soiree at her gracious home in Cheltenham. It was of course black tie, all decorations to be worn. Sadly, I had none and felt naked.

As we walked up the drive to her home, Ingoldsby gave me my final instructions… all preceded by “Don’t”. I shall abandon this tedious list, and focus on his last instruction… “Don’t break anything!” Twenty minutes later, I was assisting the hostess pick up the shards of an imperial Russian goblet, smashed by Ingoldsby to my unutterable joy and happiness.

I managed to insinuate to the hostess, who I treated with the most exaggerated politeness, for I had never met a Princess before, Russian or otherwise, I managed to insinuate the fact that my poor friend Ingoldsby was known to be rather clumsy, which was not the truth. But again, we were always on guard for moves of studied one-upsmanship.

But I digress…

The last thing my dear friend Ingoldsby gave me was his well thumbed copy of “Brideshead Revisited.” His need for a pupil was satisfied by standing over me that entire afternoon and urging me to “Get on with the book! Vite! Vite!” I needed no encouragement. From the very first page, I succumbed to the heady magic of Brideshead, for I was too young and inexperienced to know that Brideshead is a fantasy, without a word of truth or historic fact.

Years later, when I discovered author Waugh had completed the book in just six months, I said to myself, “He could only have raced along at that speed if he was making up all the things along the way.” And so he was.

When you tell an English friend, for you I’m sure know only the best of people, he’ll want you to believe in the veracity of Waugh’s vision. It opens with Lord Sebastian Flyte, during his first year up at Oxford. Lord Sebastian was well known to everyone at the “Varsity”, for his chauffeur drove a car of exaggerated luxury… one of those darlings with odd names and a look which made you madly jealous with envy, while at the same time hoping he waved to you as he was driven slowly through the narrow streets, greeting his particular friends, ignoring the rest, including to your chagrin, you yourself.

Lord Sebastian, in the entire volume, never cracks a book of learning. I cannot recall a single instance where he actually learns anything… no doubt one of my knowledgeable readers will send me an irate letter, punishing me for forgetting that on page 364, Lord Sebastian read a paragraph in some book or other. Don’t bother to look it up; that “fact” is just a lie.

Lord Sebastian’s importance is that he is beautiful, the most astonishing undergraduate of his time at Oxford. There are people who would say this paragon of gorgeous visage had a perfect smile, clothes made by the best tailors on Savile Row… a knowledge of the wines and liqueurs unsurpassed by any 18 year old in history… rooms in the very best part of College… and of course, Aloysius… his teddy bear and alter ego, to whom he submitted himself when he needed guidance or advice, which was frequently.

Everyone who saw this quintessence of English nobility succumbed to his charm… not merely considerable, but lethal when he bothered used it. And of course he did. You may rest assured that an Englishman dislikes you if you find yourself the focus of his charm… the greatest weapon in the entire history of the Empire.

The story begins with Lord Sebastian, tight again, a state of affairs the young English aristocracy knew so well. Unfortunately this particular evening, Sebastian had imbibed too much, which concerned absolutely no one; after all haven’t you heard the expression “drunk as a lord?” That was Sebastian’s standard condition. Unfortunately, this particular evening, he had drunk too much.

One of the windows on the ground floor was open, and in a moment his rancid vomit filled the bedroom of Mr. Charles Ryder, 18, unhappily middle class, equally horrified by Sebastian’s conduct and envious about how one could regurgitate with such grace and savoir faire.

Sebastian cast Charles Ryder a winsome smile, which said “I am so charming and beautiful, you won’t mind will you?” Charles’s friends minded, but Charles, casting his eye in the direction of another better place, accepted his role as explainer of Sebastian’s conduct, and friend, which entailed being a consummate babysitter for Lord Sebastian. Men of course, are so far superior to women in that capacity.

Here the game gets both more interesting and more complicated. Sebastian knew, or at least he seemed to know, that his behavior of random vomiting into a fellow undergraduate’s room may have gone just a bit beyond the limit. He therefore calls into service every florist within the greater Oxford area. They were needed to deliver their best, most prepossessing, and most fragrant blooms to Mr. Ryder’s rooms, to the consternation of his scout. He would have been irritated, but for the fact, yes, you knew it, his lordship was beautiful.

Now begins the great flaw of this book. Charles Ryder hungered for love and affection, and Sebastian did too. And so we are led to believe these two young men, captivated with each other, stayed for months at a time at Brideshead, the great country house of Sebastian’s family. It was a city unto itself on a hill overlooking the green, green grass of Wiltshire; packed with treasures of generations of aristocratic brigands who always knew the best things to take (think Elgin Marbles), and did so with breathtaking assiduity.

Then on to Venice to stay with Sebastian’s father, the Lord Marchmain, who years before had abandoned his wife and all of his children because of his wife’s adamant, inconvenient, and unbending Roman Catholicism. His life in Venice plunged Lord Marchmain into debt, but no one pressed him, for after all, he was an English aristocrat with a lovely palace at his disposal.

Now picture if you will two young men of normal concupiscence, together day and night, surrounded by beauteous objects, and a staff always at their disposal. The English critics, so literate, so clever, so blind or so conspiring, say that the relationship between these boys was not vicious (code word for homosexual). That suggests they never touched or hugged, or cuddled in a way that they could deny everything in the morning… in short, that they were “good boys”, and Charles a true friend, eschewing the delights of love for the solidity of friendship.

And I say to these critics, and I say it with zeal, “You are wrong, you are wrong, you are wrong!” The English as a people have had a very hard time speaking frankly about male relations. They passed the most repressive legislation against gay men, and threw thousands of them into disgrace and often imprisonment. And so Waugh has his characters remain inches apart, but unable to reach out and touch each other. In short, coitus interruptus, indeed.

It is no doubt my revolutionary American outlook on things British that causes me to be so enraged against the British tendency to avoid calling a spade a spade. Rather I am of the “If it walks like a duck, talks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, it must be a duck” school of thought.

Sebastian’s mother, Lady Marchmain, understood I think the precipice that Sebastian was walking. And I do believe she preferred him drunk to the thought of disgusting embraces with his only friend Charles Ryder. This conclusion is more sensible than the one that the author tries to impose on us, that there was nothing but innocence and no jolly rogering… secret or otherwise.

His increasingly self-destructive alcoholism enabled Lady Marchmain, a staunch Roman Catholic of the Pius XII variety, to intervene at frequent intervals… the better to control his increasingly out of control life. But where was Charles Ryder in all of this, the supposed best friend, the sensible one? He himself was so lonely and friendless that he would have accepted most anything from Sebastian, so that he might continue to stay with him in Brideshead and in Venice.

But of course, the real sin was that they loved each other… not wisely, but too well. And whether they fornicated or not (and of course I think they did), their relationship was doomed, for the English have always valued hypocrisy more than truth, which can so often be indiscreet.

Waugh’s book is always most believable when the situations he describes crush individuality, and sacrifice it for one of the most obnoxious words ever invented… gentleman. Charles Ryder and Lord Sebastian Flyte never had a chance. This is what makes the book so wistful, so yearning, so unsatisfactory… for this is a book about how the English, aristocratic or not, work to impose rigid rules and regulations, especially on people who might well flout the system and enjoy themselves.

Thus I came away from “Brideshead Revisited” enraged… and this rage sent me back to my own golden days at Oxford, when I believed the great myth and strove mightily to live it… and succeeded, too, to a great extent. I wonder whether those days when I was young and sought love were in any way real, substantive… whether the magic had power in reality, or whether this was all designed to deceive. I do not know the answer, even now, 50 years later and counting.

I still cannot quite believe that this place dedicated to youth, beauty, truth, and knowledge was a sham… this stage for a play where nothing is as it seems to be.

Oxford revisited

A few years ago, I returned to Oxford, anxious to see the sights of my youth, and how many of them remain, or had been washed away by relentless time. I came away unsettled, even depressed. The magic was gone. The magic, which may never have been there in the first place, was certainly gone now for me. I can only hope that somewhere among these students I did not see and did not know, there was a teddy bear named Aloysius… and the chance of love.

Musical note

I’ve selected as the musical accompaniment to this article the theme song for Granada Television’s magnificent 1981 miniseries “Brideshead Revisited” by Geoffrey Burgon (1941-2010). It is perhaps the best series ever, meticulously crafted, accurate to a fault. If there are faults, they emanate from Waugh and his knowingly dishonest vision, not the producers. They are innocent and free from responsibility.

Click here for the song.

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OUR HARVARD: REFLECTIONS ON COLLEGE LIFE BY TWENTY-TWO DISTINGUISHED GRADUATES

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  • Our Harvard: Reflections on College Life by Twenty-two Distinguished Graduates

OUR HARVARD: REFLECTIONS ON COLLEGE LIFE BY TWENTY-TWO DISTINGUISHED GRADUATES

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Twenty-two notable Harvard graduates, ranging from the class of 1917 to that of 1981, reminisce about their undergraduate years in essays that record everything from high-spirited pranks to thoughts on influential teachers to the often devastating intrusion of world events into the college years.
Buckminster Fuller recalls that his class of 1917 attended a comfortable, insulated Harvard—but also that one in ten was destined to die in the first World War. Anton Myrer remembers the hectic months before this country entered World War Two when everything— “classes, courses, meals, drinks, dates, love affairs”—suddenly accelerated. James Fallows writes about the impassioned politics of the Sixties, when the campus itself became a scene of violent confrontation.
But the world did not always intrude. Robert Fitzgerald sat up until the small hours, cultivating early poems in an ‘‘inky chaos.” Robert Coles writes movingly of revelations grasped under Perry Miller’s guidance; Peter Prescott and John Spooner describe some of the more hilarious excesses that characterized the “Silent Generation” of the Fifties; John Finley writes a loving and comprehensive history of the place that has been home to him for over fifty years

Digital book in PDF or Kindle ePub

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