I found an interesting tidbit in a book called The Literary Life and Other Curiosities by Robert Hendrickson that I recently acquired from Half Price Books. Apparently authors have a thing for nudity. William Blake and his wife once sat out in their garden reciting passages from Paradise Lost to each other. When a visitor arrived Blake reportedly called out, “Come in! It’s only Adam and Eve, you know!” There is no report as to the visitor’s response. Then there is Samuel Boyse (1708 – 1749), an English poet who was so poor he pawned all of his clothes for food. Having nothing to wear he then spent the next six weeks writing in bed until friends took pity on him and gave him and bought him some clothes. And D.H. Lawrence, author of Lady Chatterly’s Lover and Sons and Lovers among other novels, liked to climb mulberry trees in the nude just because.
The bathtub was a favorite writing spot for Ben Franklin and playwright Edmond Rostand author of Cyrano de Bergerac. Poet James Whitcomb Riley would lock himself nude in a hotel room so he would write instead of drink. I wonder who he gave his clothes to once he was in his room?
No, I don’t write in the nude. I prefer wearing my pajamas thank you very much.
Let’s do a complete turn around and talk about Victorian literature a moment. Those crazy Victorians didn’t even like their table legs to be naked. The Guardian has a list (I am always a sucker for a list) by Philip Davis of top ten books from the Victorian era. On the list are Elizabeth Gaskell, Mrs. Oliphant, Christina Rossetti and George Eliot. While I have read Eliot and like her very much, I haven’t read any of the others. I do own a couple of Gaskell novels and sort of collected Rosesetti that I bought long ago when I was determined to read Goblin Market. I still fully intend to get to it but so many other books seem to get in the way. Why is that I wonder? There is an interesting book on the list I’ve never heard of before called Lilith by George MacDonald. Davis says the book rivals Tolkein and Philip Pullman in imaginative scope. I don’t know about you, but I’m intrigued.
Finally, let me just say, the next Montaigne essay will be “On Liars.” Stay tuned.