Sunday, February 25, 2007
Though the Slaves of Golconda were originally and always dedicated to studied reading, the stigma that was attached to them arose by a mistaken connection to a story of romance. Stanislas Jean, chevalier de Boufflers, was studying for the priesthood at Saint-Sulpice in 1760 when he met the renowned Latin poet François-Joseph Desbillons, also a Slave. Desbillons told Boufflers a story about a young nobleman and a girl of humble origins, which Boufflers wrote down and began circulating as Aline, reine de Golconde. When the story reached Jean Couturier, director of the Society of Saint-Sulpice--evidence strongly suggests that he never read the story himself, but was told about it by an underling known by the somewhat odd name Sous-Fifre, which is sometimes translated as "slave" in Dutch--he removed Boufflers, who sought refuge with the Knights of Malta. Sous-Fifre alleged the story was a sort of manifesto for a sex cult, the worship of a woman who exercised power over the most noble of men, something the church superiors could not abide. For hundreds of years, the Slaves were maligned and persecuted as misinformation about them was widely disseminated. In some places and circles Aline is still regarded as a modern Eve. Some scholars have even suggested that Coleridge was first attracted to the group because of its association with illicit love.
Monday, February 12, 2007
I was reading Emerson: The Mind on Fire and came across this passage:
Coleridge notes that there are four kinds of readers: the hourglass, the sponge, the jelly bag, and the Golconda. In the first everything that runs in runs right out again. The sponge gives out all it took in, only a little dirtier. The jelly bag keeps only the refuse. The Golconda runs everything through a sieve and keeps only the diamonds. Emerson was not a systematic reader, but he had a genius for skimming and a comprehensive system for taking notes. Most of the time he was the pure Golconda, what miners call a high-grader, working his way rapidly through vast mines of material and pocketing the richest bits.
So there we have it, Emerson was a Slave of Golconda.
Though it is not widely known, there have in fact been many other illustrious members, some whose names cannot be revealed. During the middle ages membership most likely meant death, so the Slaves had to keep a low profile. Pope Silvester III was deposed because of his alleged membership. In some areas there is still a stigma attached to the group, and so certain people wish to have their affiliation kept secret.
If you would like to join, leave your email address to receive a proper invitation. Of course, you may still participate without assuming the bonds of membership, but you will be denied the honor of identifying yourself with the revered group, and engraving your name on the Ages.
Thursday, February 08, 2007
It’s my turn to choose a book for the next Slaves of Golconda read, and what else can I do but pick something from one of my favorite centuries, the 18th? I thought I’d pick three things and let people vote. The group is open to everyone, so if you haven’t participated before you are free to join — all you have to do is read the book and post on it on your blog and/or participate in the discussion at Metaxu Cafe and in comments on other people’s posts. If you plan on participating let me know in the comments which book you’d like to read by, say, Sunday night (Feb. 11), and I’ll tally the votes then (you can also vote on my blog here).
So here are the possibilities I’m thinking of:
- Samuel Johnson’s Rasselas. I’ve read this before, but I’m happy to read it again, especially since I’m learning so much about Johnson through Boswell’s Life. Here’s the first sentence: “Ye who listen with credulity to the whispers of fancy, and pursue with eagerness the phantoms of hope; who expect that age will perform the promises of youth, and that the deficiencies of the present day will be supplied by the morrow; attend to the history of Rasselas, Prince of Abissinia.”
- Maria Edgeworth’s Castle Rackrent. This work is very short (it looks like about 60 pages), but if you get the edition I linked to, it comes with another novel Ennui, which could make a good bonus read. I’ve read Edgeworth’s most famous novel, Belinda, and liked it a lot, so I’m eager to read more of her work. Here’s what Wikipedia says about the book: “Castle Rackrent, a short novel by Maria Edgeworth published in 1800, is often regarded as the first true historical novel and the first true regional novel in English. It is also widely regarded as the first family saga, and the first novel to use the device of a narrator who is both unreliable and an observer of, rather than a player in, the actions he chronicles.”
- Jane Austen’s Lady Susan. I’ve read all of Austen’s major novels but have yet to read her earlier work. This one is also very short, and the edition I linked to includes The Watsons and Sanditon, an unfinished novel, which would also make good bonus reads. Here’s a description from Amazon: “Beautiful, flirtatious, and recently widowed, Lady Susan Vernon seeks an advantageous second marriage for herself, while attempting to push her daughter into a dismal match. A magnificently crafted novel of Regency manners and mores that will delight Austen enthusiasts with its wit and elegant expression.”
What do you think?
If we keep our current pattern, posts on the chosen book will be due on Saturday, March 31st.