Unspeakable, unspoken.

young_americans
Down in the shadow of the penitentiary
Out by the gas fires of the refinery
I’m ten years burning down the road
Nowhere to run ain’t got nowhere to go

Unspeakable Things Unspoken: The Afro-American Presence in American Literature
— by Toni Morrison


I planned to call this paper “Canon Fodder,” because the term put me in mind of a kind of trained muscular response that appears to be on display in some areas of the recent canon debate. Also I liked the clash and swirl of those two words. At first they reminded me of that host of young men — black or “ethnics” or poor or working-class — who left high school for the war in Vietnam and were perceived by war resisters as “fodder.” Indeed many of those who went, as well as those who returned, were treated as one of that word’s definitions: “coarse food for livestock,” or, in the context of my thoughts about the subject of this paper, a more applicable definition: “people considered as readily available and of little value.” Rude feed to feed the war machine. There was also the play of cannon and canon. The etymology of the first includes tube, cane, or cane-like, reed. Of the second, sources include rod becoming body of law, body of rules, measuring rod. When the two words faced each other, the image became the shape of the cannon wielded on (or by) the body of law. The boom of power announcing an “officially recognized set of texts.” Cannon defending canon, you might say. And without any etymological connection I heard father in fodder, and sensed father in both cannon and canon, ending up with “father food.” And what does this father eat? Readily available people/texts of little value. But I changed my mind (so many have used the phrase) and hope to make clear the appropriateness of the one I settled on.

My purpose here is to observe the panoply of this most recent and most anxious series of questions concerning what should or does constitute a literary canon in order to suggest ways of addressing the Afro-American presence in American Literature that require neither slaughter nor reification — views that may spring the whole literature of an entire nation from the solitude into which it has been locked. There is something called American literature that, according to conventional wisdom, is certainly not Chicano literature, or Afro-American literature, or Asian-American, or Native American, or… It is somehow separate from them and they from it, and in spite of the efforts of recent literary histories, restructured curricula, and anthologies, this separate confinement, be it breached or endorsed, is the subject of a large part of these debates. Although the terms used, like the vocabulary of earlier canon debates, refer to literary and/or humanistic value, aesthetic criteria, value-free or socially anchored readings, the contemporary battle plain is most often understood to be the claims of others against the white male origins and definitions of those values; whether those definitions reflect an eternal, universal, and transcending paradigm or whether they constitute a disguise for a temporal, political, and culturally specific program.


Read the full essay…

REFERENCE
Morrison, Toni. “Unspeakable Things Unspoken: The Afro-American Presence in American Literature.” (1988).

001_hw_dig_cropped
Artist Hale Aspacio Woodruff was commissioned to paint the Amistad Murals in 1938.
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Here, Woodruff portrays the repatriation of freed slaves in Africa.
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In this 1939 mural, Woodruff depicts the trial of the Africans aboard the Amistad.
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In his 1942 mural The Underground Railroad, Woodruff shows slaves about to cross the Ohio River to freedom.
“Shotgun, Third Ward #1”
“Shotgun, Third Ward #1”
by John Biggers (1966)

Love’s Philosophy

(( soul meets soul on lovers’ lips ))

A literary analysis of Shelley’s “Love’s Poetry.”

“Love’s Poetry”


The fountains mingle with the river
And the rivers with the ocean,
The winds of heaven mix for ever
With a sweet emotion;
Nothing in the world is single;
All things by a law divine
In one spirit meet and mingle.
Why not I with thine?—

See the mountains kiss high heaven
And the waves clasp one another;
No sister-flower would be forgiven
If it disdained its brother;
And the sunlight clasps the earth
And the moonbeams kiss the sea:
What is all this sweet work worth
If thou kiss not me?


— Percy Bysshe Shelley

Literary Analysis

1. The poet

Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792–1822) was one of the major (Latter-day) English Romantic poets. It is pleasing to note that Shelley refused to add sugar to his tea. This was a political statement against slavery for in those times, sugar plantations depended upon slave labour.

joseph_severn_-_posthumous_portrait_of_shelley_writing_prometheus_unbound_1845-1-
Joseph Severn’s 1845 portrait of Shelley.


Read more of and on The Romantics:
Poetry & ProsePoetsS. T. Coleridge
Poetry & ProsePoetsJohn Keats
Poetry & ProsePoetsP. B. Shelley
Poetry & ProsePoetsLord Byron

2. The poem

What is love? Oh Jay. . . poem by poem, step by step we will learn what it is, what it means and how it manifests. “Love’s Philosophy” in spite of its title, has little to do with philosophy per se. ‘Philosophy’ in the context of this poem can be seen as the poet’s argument; the narrator’s point of view.

The first stanza begins with descriptions of the natural world and its interconnectedness. And from this the lovesick narrator turns to the human who occupies their thoughts. In the second stanza the narrator’s pleas intensify. The narrator places us in the position of his beloved and asks us to look around and ‘see the mountains kiss high heaven’. At poem’s end, we are none the wiser, did the narrator win the heart and body of the one they so dearly desired, or did they not? It is worth noting too that each stanza seems to conclude with something of a rhetorical question. Words aren’t required to answer such questions, but lips are.

This poem uses lots of natural imagery and simple verse forms (but very cleverly so) and is thus a good example of a Romantic Period poem. Needless to say, the poem’s theme is by no means original; countless poets before Shelley used the connections so evident in nature to justify the ‘naturalness’ of a desired romantic/love relationship. As many point out, there’s an influence from John Donne (or similar) — consider Donne’s 1615 poem, “A Lecture upon the Shadow”:

Stand still, and I will read to thee /
A lecture, love, in love’s philosophy.

Consider too, Donne’s poem, “The Flea,” which evokes nature in a sort of odd but somehow cute way:

And in this flea, our two bloods mingled be /

Despite its focus on a well versed theme, it is the quality of the language and the brilliance of the structure that renders “Love’s Philosophy” a valid additional contribution to the thesis that is as follows: love is as natural as the birds and bees so darling, just accept my love for you and, sweetheart just accept my lining and lustful kisses for your lovely and luscious lips! As has been the way since Sappho and Catullus this theme — this insatiable subject — can be seen as part of the “nature-justifies-love nexus”:

In this poem the age-old argument is put forward by a swain (man) to a maid (lady) — but it would be equally valid for any other human to human combination, for “love,” my dear reader, is “love.”
.
This then’s the ancient argument with its logic and strength rooted in nature’s garden: — As all of the natural world is in intimate contact — water, wind, mountains, sun-rays moonbeams and even birds, bees and the fragrant Jasminum Sambac, Rose and Honeysuckle too. What about you? why can you not just submit to the laws of nature and submit your lips to mine? As Shelley writes, “What is all this sweet work worth / If thou kiss not me?”

I would argue in fact that the overt influence to Donne is more likely a note of acknowledgment and due deference by Shelley. We all, after all, pen verse upon the shoulders of giants (for all its goods and all its ails). “Love’s Philosophy” reiterates the ‘connection’ that exists between all things in the natural world and between the poem’s narrator and his object of desire. As there is unity in nature, there too should be unity in human relationships (both platonic and sexually intimate). As I wrote somewhere before:


Inevitably chemistry becomes physical as ultimately: everything’s biological.

Language

The natural imagery in this poem is relatively simplistic and uncomplicated: ‘fountains’, ‘rivers’ and ‘oceans’ are all unmodified and description free. While they may be ‘simple,’ they are nonetheless perfectly and skillfully chosen. Note the words closely associated with physicality and intimacy:

mingle / mix / a sweet emotion / kiss / clasp

Repetitive uses of ‘clasp’ — how the waves hold one another & how the immaterial light of the sun seems to touch the earth — stress the interconnections between elements of the natural world . The poem certainly has sensual, if not sexual, connotations (arguably it is designed to persuade not shock. The logic is thus, if in nature things ‘clasp’ one another freely, and if nature’s elements readily ‘mix’ and bond with each other, even obeying the command of God (if, unlike Shelley, his contemporary readers still believed in God’s command to procreate), then turning down the poet’s request for a kiss would be for the object in question, like him/her disagreeing with the laws of nature ;).

Anaphora — To refresh our memories anaphora, dear reader, is the repeated use of a word or phrase to reinforce meaning. In this poem anaphora will have most likely have been used to emphasise the narrator’s quiet desperation:

And the rivers.../
And the waves.../
And the sunlight.../
And the moonbeams.

Enjambment — Enjambment is when a line of poetry carries on into the next line, without punctuation or pause but carrying sense. As critics say, enjambment helps the flow of meaning and pairs up passages of the poem. In “Love’s Philosophy,” Shelley does this between lines 3/4, 6/7 & 11/12.

Lines 11 & 12 enjambed.
No sister-flower would be forgiven
If it disdained its brother;

Personification — In essence, personification means giving non-human objects human characteristics, we see this in various places in the poem:

-- Fountains mingle with the river
-- Winds of heaven mix forever with a sweet emotion
-- The mountains kiss high heaven
-- The waves clasp one another
-- Moonbeams kiss the sea

Metre

The dominant foot in this poem is the trochee, where the first syllable is stressed and second non-stressed, producing a falling rhythm (the opposite of the iambic). As there are four feet per line (except in lines 4, 8 & 16) the metre is technically termed as a: trochaic tetrameter.* However, some lines have iambicda–DUM — and anapaestic rhythm — da–da–DUM — and this altered beat ties in with the poem’s meaning at given points.

Line 1.
The foun/tains min/gle with / the river,
Iambic feet start this poem. Steady and traditional da–DUM tetrameter.

Line 2.
And the riv/ers with the o/cean,
Two anapaests da–da–DUM da–da–DUM with an extra beat – this line rises and falls.

Line 3.
The winds / of hea/ven mix / for ever
Iambic tetrameter again, like the first line.

Line 4.
With a / sweet e/motion;
This shortened line is unusual, reflecting an abrupt fall (three trochees = trochaic trimeter).

Line 5.
Nothing / in the / world is / single;
This line is the first true trochaic tetrameter, that first stressed beat stamping its authority on what is a definitive statement.

Line 6.
All things / by a law / divine
An opening spondeestressed stressed, to add emphasis or to break up monotonous rhythm: DUM–DUM — gives energy to the rising anapaesta metrical foot consisting of three syllables, the first two are unstressed and the last is stressed: da–da–DUM — and iamban unstressed syllable followed by a stressed one: da–DUM.

Line 7.
In one / spirit / meet and / mingle -
Trochaic tetrameter again — A trochee is a reverse iamb: DA–dum (like say, ‘BRAIN-dead’.

Line 8.
Why not / I with / thine?
Here we might interpret it as (1) two trochees and an extra stressed beat or (2) an anapaest and iamb.

Line 9.
See the / mountains / kiss high / heaven,
Here we’ve a trochaic tetrameter, said to be a classic foot for the expression of poetic grief and emotional confusion. . .

Line 10.
And the / waves clasp / one a/nother;
Trochees plus that gripping spondee, followed by the softer pyrrhic — a metrical foot of two short or unaccented syllables.

Line 11.
No sist/er-flower / would be / forgiv/en
Nine syllables make this an iambic tetrameter with a fading extra syllable.

Line 12.
If it / disdained / its broth/er;
Note the tripping rhythm as the opening trochee moves into the iambic finish and the natural pause with fading extra syllable.

Line 13.
And the / sunlight / clasps the / earth
Trochees with the extra stressed beat at the end.

Line 14.
And the / moonbeams / kiss the / sea:
Same tetrameter.

Line 15.
What is / all this / sweet work / worth
Note this line and the previous two end with a strong masculine beat, reflecting a little more enthusiasm?

Line 16.
If thou / kiss not / me?
And the final shortened line, again two trochees and the stressed beat, me, all by itself.


Know this, oh my sweetest one — breathe, feel and hear these words from two centuries ago:


Our sweetest songs are those that tell of saddest thought.


END NOTES

* I rely heavily on Andrew Spacey (2019). I/m still undergraduate and my mother tongue is knot an English won; I couldn’t even distinguish between a gramophone and a homophone.

Oscar Wilde

[Irish | 1854–1900]

I just love his full name: Oscar Fingal O’Flahertie Wills Wilde… Anyhow, he was a poet and a writer who — because of his sexuality — faced various problems and even had to spend a period of time in prison. This is one of my favorite of his observations:

We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.

And this, this is what I want to convey today to you:

You don’t love someone for their looks, or their clothes or their fancy car, but because they sing a song only you can hear.

(The only song I hear is the one sung by you.)

The Ballad of Reading Gaol and Other Poems

This poem — originally published anonymously, written after Wilde’s two year’s hard labour in Reading prison — is the tale of a man who has been sentenced to hang for the murder of the woman he loved. The Ballad of Reading Gaol follows the inmate through his final three weeks, as he stares at the sky and silently drinks his beer ration. Heart-wrenching and eye-opening, the ballad also expresses perfectly Wilde’s belief that humanity is made up only of offenders, each of us deserving a greater charity for the severity of our crimes.

Oscar Wilde
The Ballad of Reading Gaol (and other poems)

The Canterville Ghost

A collection of stories, including two of Wilde’s most famous: “The Canterville Ghost,” in which a young American girl helps to free the tormented spirit that haunts an old English castle and “The Happy Prince,” who was not as happy as he seemed. Often whimsical and sometimes sad, they all shine with poetry and magic.

The Picture of Dorian Gray

Enthralled by his own exquisite portrait, Dorian Gray exchanges his soul for eternal youth and beauty. Influenced by his friend Lord Henry Wotton, he is drawn into a corrupt double life; indulging his desires in secret while remaining a gentleman in the eyes of polite society. Only his portrait bears the traces of his decadence. The novel was a succès de scandale and the book was later used as evidence against Wilde at the Old Bailey in 1895. It has lost none of its power to fascinate and disturb. Influenced by his friend Lord Henry Wotton, he is drawn into a corrupt double life; indulging his desires in secret while remaining a gentleman in the eyes of polite society. Only his portrait bears the traces of his decadence. The novel was a succès de scandale and the book was later used as evidence against Wilde at the Old Bailey in 1895. It has lost none of its power to fascinate and disturb.”


Silentium Amoris

(The Silence of Love)

As oftentimes the too resplendent sun
Hurries the pallid and reluctant moon
Back to her sombre cave, ere she hath won
A single ballad from the nightingale,
So doth thy Beauty make my lips to fail,
And all my sweetest singing out of tune.

And as at dawn across the level mead
On wings impetuous some wind will come,
And with its too harsh kisses break the reed
Which was its only instrument of song,
So my too stormy passions work me wrong,
And for excess of Love my Love is dumb.

But surely unto Thee mine eyes did show
Why I am silent, and my lute unstrung;
Else it were better we should part, and go,
Thou to some lips of sweeter melody,
And I to nurse the barren memory
Of unkissed kisses, and songs never sung.

— Oscar Wilde

Oscar_Wilde_Signature
“Sign your name, across my heart”

Blissful ignorance

((..الجهل نعمة))

v.

“I hold there is no sin but ignorance.”

— Machiavelli ❱ Marlowe ❱❱ Rethink.

2E750670-B075-471C-BA67-7245173B536D
Spanish Fly 😜
B002DBA4-D3D2-482A-9896-D4C65A9D8081
Lest We Forget.

Esoteric red herrings… now I’m in the fucking know.

— Anna Bidoonism

I will defend the importance of bedtime stories to my last gasp.

— J. K. Rowling

Did you know — I didn’t until I read it tonight — that reading for pleasure in one’s youth is a key factor in determining one’s future “social mobility” (success in later life). OECD Research shows the extent to which one reads for pleasure is the most important indicator of the future success of that individual [read on…]. I ask you, dear reader (Oh! James: Where art thou?), did you hear about/read:

01. — Future Shock, by Alvin Toffler (1970)

02. — Orientalism, by Edward Saïd (1978)

03. — Imagined Communities, by Benedict Anderson (1983)

04. — The Magic of Reality, by Richard Dawkins (2011)

?

Books = a way of escape
Books = a way of escape
Books 📚
Books 📚
Books 📚
Books 📚
The Penguin Book of Romantic Poetry
The Penguin Book of Romantic Poetry
book___03
Conrad also wrote The Secret Sharer (oh Jay)
bookcover-art-12
From Russia + Vladimir Nabokov


p.s.

Ignorance is bliss
[proverb]
If one is unaware of an unpleasant fact or situation one cannot be troubled by it. — “I don’t want to hear about Trump’s latest tweets, ignorance, in this instance my dear friend, is bliss.”

Red herring
A clue or piece of information which is or is intended to be misleading or distracting. — “The writing of the Secret Sharer is convoluted and full of red herrings.” (Also: ‘a dried smoked herring fish that turns red due to the smoke in the drying process.’)

Delphic
Relating to the ancient Greek oracle at Delphi; to deliberately obscure something; to be or act ambiguously.

Esoteric
Intended for or likely to be understood by only a small number of people with a specialised knowledge or interest. — “She grew increasingly frustrated with the esoteric philosophical debates organised by Dr. Humaid.”

Recherché
Rare, exotic, or obscure. — “Some of the idioms he insisted on using were to recherché for most of the students in the Elizabethan era literature class.”

Love me little, love me long

[Robert Herrick | 1591–1674]

YOU say, to me-wards your affection’s strong;
Pray love me little, so you love me long.
Slowly goes far: the mean is best: desire,
Grown violent, does either die or tire.

||

Love me little, love me long,
Is the burden of my song:
Love that is too hot and strong
Burneth soon to waste.
I am with little well content,
And a little from thee sent
Is enough, with true intent,
To be steadfast friend.
Love me little, love me long,
Is the burden of my song.

Say thou lov’st me while thou live,
I to thee my love will give,
Never dreaming to deceive
While that life endures:
Nay, and after death in sooth,
I to thee will keep my truth,
As now when in my May of youth,
This my love assures.
Love me little, love me long,
Is the burden of my song.

Constant love is moderate ever,
And it will through life persever,
Give to me that with true endeavor.
I will it restore:
A suit of durance let it be,
For all weathers, that for me,
For the land or for the sea,
Lasting evermore.

Love me little, love me long,
Is the burden of my song.

Of Love: A Sonnet

How love came in I do not know,
Whether by the eye, or ear, or no;
Or whether with the soul it came
(At first) infused with the same;
Whether in part ’tis here or there,
Or, like the soul, whole everywhere,
This troubles me: but I as well
As any other this can tell:
That when from hence she does depart
The outlet then is from the heart.

Robert Herrick (1591-1674) was an English poet best known for Hesperides: Or, The Works Both Humane & Divine (1648), a book of poems. This includes the carpe diem poem “To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time.”

To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time

Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,
Old Time is still a-flying;
And this same flower that smiles today
To-morrow will be dying.
The glorious lamp of heaven, the sun,
The higher he’s a-getting,
The sooner will his race be run,
And nearer he’s to setting.
That age is best which is the first,
When youth and blood are warmer;
But being spent, the worse, and worst
Times still succeed the former.
Then be not coy, but use your time,
And, while ye may, go marry:
For having lost but once your prime,
You may forever tarry.

^ In the genre of carpe diem

Gather Ye Rosebuds While Ye May, by John William Waterhouse
‘Gather Ye Rosebuds While Ye May’ by British Pre-Raphaelite artist, John William Waterhouse (1909).

Eric Hobsbawm

[English | 1917–2012]

Eric John Ernest Hobsbawm was a well known British historian who focused on the rise of industrial capitalism, socialism and nationalism. Hobsbawm was born in Egypt but spent his childhood mostly in Vienna and Berlin. Following the death of his parents and the rise to power of Adolf Hitler, Hobsbawm moved to London with his adoptive family, then obtained his PhD in history at the University of Cambridge. His best-known works include his trilogy about what he called the “long 19th century” (The Age of Revolution: Europe 1789–1848, The Age of Capital: 1848–1875 and The Age of Empire: 1875–1914) and, The Age of Extremes on the short 20th century.

In these works, Eric Hobsbawm traces with brilliant anlytical clarity the transformation brought about in every sphere of European life by the Dual revolution – the 1789 French revolution and the Industrial Revolution that originated in Britain. This enthralling and original account highlights the significant sixty years when industrial capitalism established itself in Western Europe and when Europe established the domination over the rest of the world it was to hold for half a century.

Read more:
PeopleWriters ❱❱ Eric Hobsbawm

Mary Ann Evans

[English | 1819–1880]

a.k.a., George Eliot

Mary Ann Evans was a philosopher, journalist and translator before she became a novelist. Her first book of stories was published in 1856. She led an unconventional life, co-editing the liberal journal Westminster Review for three years and living with the married man and philosopher George Henry Lewes. Her novels, in particular, Middlemarch, are acclaimed for their realism and psychological insights.

Only in the agony of parting do we look into the depths of love.

Mary Ann used the pen name George Eliot to write her novels because at that time in history female novelists were seen as only capable of being romantic authors. Thus, the argument goes, she wanted to be taken seriously as a writer, so felt that using a man’s name would afford her the credit.

What loneliness is more lonely than distrust?

Middlemarch

— 1871, Edinburgh: William Blackwood & Sons.

Today it is widely considered to be the case that her novels are amongst the greatest works of English literature produced in the 19th c.

Middlemarch contains all of life: the rich and the poor, the conventional and the radical, literature and science, politics and romance, but above all it gives us a vision of what lies within the human heart, the roar on the other side of silence. In the story, Dorothea is bright, beautiful and rebellious. Lydgate is the ambitious new doctor in town. Both of them long to make a positive difference in the world. But their stories do not proceed as expected and both they, and the other inhabitants of Middlemarch, must struggle to reconcile themselves to their fates and find their places in the world.

Adam Bede

— 1859, Edinburgh: John Blackwood.

In this novel, the protagonist is Adam Bede, a wood worker, who is in love with the beautiful Hetty Sorrel, but unknown to him, he has a rival, in the local squire’s son Arthur Donnithorne. Hetty is soon attracted by Arthur’s seductive charm and they begin to meet in secret. The relationship is to have tragic consequences that reach far beyond the couple themselves…

The Mill on the Floss

— 1860, Edinburgh: William Blackwood & Sons.

In this novel, we meet Maggie Tulliver, a young lady who worships her brother Tom and is desperate to win the approval of her parents, but her passionate, wayward nature and her fierce intelligence bring her into constant conflict with her family. As she reaches adulthood, the clash between their expectations and her desires is painfully played out as she finds herself torn between her relationships with three very different men: her proud and stubborn brother; hunchbacked Tom Wakem, the son of her family’s worst enemy; and the charismatic but dangerous Stephen Guest. … choice-overload, right?

Romola

— 1863, London: Smith, Elder & Co.
This is said to be one of Eliot’s most ambitious and imaginative novels. It is set in Renaissance Florence during the turbulent years following the expulsion of the powerful Medici family during which the zealous religious reformer Savonarola rose to control the city. At its heart is Romola, the devoted daughter of a blind scholar, married to the clever but ultimately treacherous Tito whose duplicity in both love and politics threatens to destroy everything she values, and she must break away to find her own path in life.

Felix Holt, the Radical

— 1866, Edinburgh: William Blackwood & Sons.

The novel centres around a lady called Esther. When the young nobleman Harold Transome returns to England from the colonies with a self-made fortune, he scandalises the town of Treby Magna with his decision to stand for Parliament as a Radical. But after the idealistic Felix Holt also returns to the town, the difference between Harold’s opportunistic values and Holt’s profound beliefs becomes apparent. Forthright, brusque and driven by a firm desire to educate the working-class, Felix is at first viewed with suspicion but, as Esther discovers, his blunt words conceal both passion and deep integrity. Soon the romantic and over-refined Esther finds herself overwhelmed by a heart-wrenching decision: whether to choose Transome or Holt… ch- ch- choices — again 😦

It is never too late to be what you might have been.


p.s.
The Guardian view on George Eliot: a novelist for now
— Editorial
“It is 200 years since the birth of George Eliot, and her artistic virtues – humanity, honesty, seriousness – are more necessary than ever…”

Also, I wanna introduce to A.S. Byatt who has written a lot about George Eliot, is a well regarded literary critique (heart) and is a novelist in her own right and is, according to one essayist, “a gifted observer, able to discern the exact but minor details that bring whole worlds into being.”

Possession
It says ‘Romance’ and in some ways it is, but in others it is not…

Possession is not just a novel; it’s a collection of poetry, letters, journals and diaries, each with their own distinct voice. A tour de force of prose-wring skill, beyond the usual demands of fiction, written by a literary ventriloquist. The novel begins in the Reading Room in the London Library. Part-time research assistant Roland Michell, finds letters hidden inside a book. They were written by celebrated Victorian poet Randolph Henry Ash to Cristobel LaMotte, a lesser-known writer, suggesting an adulterous affair…