Monday, July 12, 2010

My favourite quote about reincarnation

"All souls incarnate and reincarnate under the Law of Rebirth. Hence each life is not only a recapitulation of life experience, but an assuming of ancient obligations, a recovery of old relations, an opportunity for the paying of old indebtedness, a chance to make restitution and progress, an awakening of deep-seated qualities, the recognition of old friends and enemies, the solution of revolting injustices, and the explanation of that which conditions the man and makes him what he is."

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Octavia my love, where art thou?

Octavia Hamilton was a contralto who flourished in Melbourne in the late 1850s and through the 1860s. She had several children to unknown fathers, shacked up with a gent above a wine shop and made her husband pay for it! She is looked upon generally as a scandalous figure and a model of what was wrong with 'professionals' as stage-folk were then called.

When I dug into the census of 1841 I found something interesting. She was fifteen years old when her future husband, Augustus Graham Moon was lodging with the family. The only lodger. Well, slap-me-happy if they didn't get married that very year. Mr. Moon must have had his way with Octavia under her father's roof. That's gumption.

And all these years I had been feeling sorry for the hard done by Mr. Moon. Was Octavia (Frances Eliza Scrivenor) really Melbourne's operatic tart-in-chief or was her behaviour a long campaign of revenge? I'll never know. She is hard to find. Almost impossible. The only route I have open to the little red-corvette that resides in my brain is the tarmac road of her daughter's descendents who married well and had a large branch here in Victoria. Not only her, but Octavia's wider family also came out as well including brothers and so on. Her father, a Grays-Inn lawyer became insolvent twice and made it out here and earned a better living.

I love wicked old Octavia. Her name is so Roman, so epic, so historic, so made for a bigger stage that her life could contain. Let us hope I can uncover an picture of the woman that was the original O.H!

Research and rescue

It is a well-spring of never ending fresh bubbling astonishment to me that every time I earnestly seek out the identification of some figure who gave their life, or neatly slice portion thereof, in service to public amusement of this country (Australia) during the 19th century, I am almost always confronted with a footnote whose seems to think it's job is to decorate the bottom of a page so the layout of the page does not get bored when it gazes down at it's feet while the reader pours across whatever passage said reader is fixed upon.

It usually happens like this: page 234, "Joshua Archibald Meatcakes then went on to the Bendigo goldfields where he performed with Herr. Schtumpschmaker (1814-1891) who played the violin. The footnote attached to the German fiddler will then say soemthing fo this nature:

"Herr. Mincefondle Von Schtumpschmaker (1814-1891) Native of Cologne. Studied the violin under Noodlepuddle in Leipzig"

Why am I being told this? What possible bearing does this coupling have upon Mr. Meatcakes? If there is a reason, why am I not shown it, or at least if not shown it, why am I not given a delicious detour regarding Schtumpschmaker. I don't mind being waylaid in a text if the scenery is nice and the information is engaging. Authors have lost, in fact, positively jettisoned the art of the anfractuous narrative with regard to biographies. Editors quake in their boot, wishing to confine the reader to just the subject and no more. Biographies are more than just railroads for facts and dates. They should be pleasant affairs infused with the vanilla of affection for the subject and the environment in which they find themselves such as Kurt Ganzl's hard bound affection on Willie B. Gill the broadway stalwart about whom most of us knew nothing.

A biography should be an astronomers map of not only planets, moons and orbits, but constellations, nodes, far-off stars and others comets of interest. It should be RICH. I research just this way and it takes me longer but the stuff that I find is richer. It is damaskene and gossip, fact and fondant. Yummy.