How I wish the Admiral were here

this minute to talk to and listen to the beautiful music from NPR with me. The music has been Schuman's Piano Concerto No 1. How I would talk to him so differently -- now that I have hindsight into what widowhood really is, and what I feel. I would speak to him differently. Tell him I will never ever have another man, how I will live in this house until I'm dead, what it's like doing some of the things we used to do together without him.  How dreadfully he's missed. His absence palpable. I have a whole new area of social dysfunction to tell him about -- the treatment of people who have lost beloved partners


Charlotte Rampling, Sous la Sable the latest of my gravatars

Miss Drake



Dear Older Diary,

I thought I'd nake a blog as it just took me a great deal of trouble to renew this account for the pictures. Thus I put my latest photo of my two cats on this site.  They are now my companions:

PussycatsBedroomCatTreeAug2014 (Small)

And here is a blog I wrote about them and Olivia Manning's Extraordinary Cats.

I am going to stop going to the grief support person I've been going to because I suspect she wants to get rid of me. We are not compatible for real and so she told me this crazy story about how when a butterfly lands near her it is a sign from a dead person of her friend. She was challenging me to say she is deluded. It is false to think these psychologists/psychiatrists operate from more benign controlled motives. Many are socially coercive strongly, most.  To be fair, I did talk with her telling of what last August was like, how it was a hell for me and my beloved. And now I'm here without him.

I am wondering if the piano teacher I hired wants me as a student. She took 2 weeks to start the lessons and now she's cancelled again. She says it's summer and she has a vacation to go on. I had practices this week but there's so little to go on for 2 more weeks I feel silly. If she cancels again, I'll try the JCCNV as I'm told they offer these and they are much less expensive. I am enjoying Dance Fusion Workshop: imagine a group of 50 to 60+ year old women dancing in exercise sort of mode before a mirror, following a lithe 30+ year old teacher in ways that are reminiscent of a Michael Jackson video. I didn't say very like ...

I am working on the projects I told you about (edition of Ethelinde for Valancourt; my book on Austen films, and now a review of a book called Better Left Unsaid: Victorian Novels, the Hays Code films and the Benefits of Censorship by Nora Gilbert, finished a couple; I sent off a review of Kenneth Johnston's Unusual Suspects, my review of Simon Heffer's High Minds is on the Victorian Web,and I sent off an introduction to Valancourt's edition of Eleanor Sleath's Orphan of the Rhine. I will start teaching at two OLLIs, one at AU (Anthony Trollope: Beyond Barsetshire) and one at GMU (The Gothic: ghost stories & films, Jackson's Haunting of Hill House, Martin's Mary Reilly, Charnas's Vampire Tapestry),  Reading with friends on the Net and keeping up my other blogs on wordpress once a week.

Life is desolate for me because without him I live an impoverished life -- I cannot do what I could with his aid and presence. Desperately lonely for his talk and attitudes. The epitaph I chose for this blog seems prophetic now. I did fear he might die much younger than the average, but did not foresee how he would be taken from me, so cruelly to him and so swiftly to me.

Miss Drake

Tell me again

Tell me again
How the white heron rises from among the reeds and flies
forever across the nacreous river at twilight
Toward the distant islands.
---  Hayden Carruth

AmySchrom (Custom)

Miss Drake

So here's a list of my projects

Dear all,

In trying to evolve a schedule for the summer I make this list:

Book projects: A place of refuge: Jane Austen film canon

Ethelinde, or The Recluse of the Lake, by Charlotte Smith an edition for Valancourt



Introductory essay on Eleanor Sleath's Orphan of the Rhine for Valancourt


Reviews for journals:

Unusual Suspects: Pitt's Reign of Alarm and the Lost Generation of the 1790s by Kenneth Johnston

Better Left Unsaid: Victorian Novels, Hays Code Films, and the Benefits of Censorship by Nora Gilbert

The Sister Arts: The Erotics of Lesbian Landscapes by Lisa L. Moore

The Cambridge Companion to Jane Austen, 2nd edition, ed. Edward Copeland and Juliet McMaster


Reviews for online

Austen Reveries:  Harvard NA by Austen edited Susan Wolfson

Victorian Web: Fictions of Affliction: Physical Diability in Victorian Culture by Martha Stoddard Holmes



EC/ASECS: a panel

The Anomaly: the single unmarried adult woman living alone, spinsters, divorced and widowed women

Proposed paper for JASNA/Burney at Montreal:

Frances's Franny: A Proposed Solution


Hopes (?)

EC/ASECS, Delaware: November 2014

Widows in Austen

September 2015: In Belgium:

On Living in a New Country: Trollope's North America (this may be impossible for me)



For next fall:

The Gothic at OLLI at GMU

Anthony Trollope, Traveler, Political Writer, Sociologist


They don't seem all that overwhelming.

Miss Drake


Two months since I last wrote here.  I don't want to lose this space by not writing here (it's the source for many of the older pictures on Reveries Under the Sign of Austen, Two) so for today, a favorite poem from which I took what was my first epigraph for this blog, a list of some of the blogs I've bee writing on Wordpress, and a still from a new favorite Austen movie: yes I've returned to my book A Place of Refuge: The Jane Austen film Canon:

There's a certain Slant of light,
Winter Afternoons –
That oppresses, like the Heft
Of Cathedral Tunes –

Heavenly Hurt, it gives us –
We can find no scar,
But internal difference –
Where the Meanings, are –

None may teach it – Any –
'Tis the seal Despair –
An imperial affliction
Sent us of the Air –

When it comes, the Landscape listens –
Shadows – hold their breath –
When it goes, 'tis like the Distance
On the look of Death –

--Emily Dickinson (1830-1886)


See Ellen and Jim have a blog two

Le Weekend

Breaking Bad

Michael Gorra on Henry James


Reveries under the Sign of Austen, Two

Downton Abbey

Season5TomandSarah (Custom)
Tom Branson (Allen Leech, while he's lost his socialism alas he picks a schoolteacher) and Sarah Bunting (Daisy Lewis) in the image I recall from the end of Little Women: Jo March and Mr Bhauer kissing under his umbrella -- from the coming fifth season

Rebecca Mead's My Life in Middlemarch

Tony Tanner's Jane Austen

Pierre Goubert's Jane Austen

Under the Sign of Sylvia, Two

A year has passed -- what it's like

Sunday Poetry: With a Cat on my shoulder -- though the dark trees/down to the lake

Previously Married Women

Whatever became of Borders and other tales


Some verses by me:

He was thrown away.
What am I to do?

I carry on,
I exist as best I can  without him.

ElizabethatTemple (Custom)

I've been studying Howtidi's Death Comes to Pemberley and love Anna Maxwell Martin's performance as Elizabeth: I've bonded -- here she is at a temple on the Pemberley gronds disquieted over where she finds herself in her life, how others behave ...


2014 desolation

I have not written here in a while so you don't know that after all the DMV has kept my license suspended after I gave them all the documentation they requested, which shows I am not epileptic and have none of the conditions they said they were concerned by. They have the power to look into my prescriptions and demand explanations out of any psychological records. Did you know that? why is Snowden so exercised by the NSA?

Here is yesterday's exhausting day set of distress upon distress. Today walking to and from an HD-opera I felt my heart beating super-quickly and when I went to cross the street someone almost ran me over. People in cars in Virginia don't believe there are creatures called pedestrians and when these creatures get in the way the drivers get indignant. I hope if someone reads this blog after I have died of this you will tell someone with power to make some splash that the DMV was responsible for my death.

So what else do I have to tell of my year thus far: I am going to start volunteer teaching of Jane Austen to older retired people.  I'm feeling the important voices I've lost forever. My father's. What would he have said about this license loss? I suspect he would have raged on my behalf. I remember how he raged at the way I was treated at Metropolitan Hospital up in Spanish Harlem after a car accident (I was not a driver but a pedestrian). Jim would be started. Utterly unexpected after 34 years of driving with hardly a ticket.

It's now been 25 years since I've talked with my father and had the comfort and intelligence of his conversation. We would phone once a week in the 1980s.

Sometimes I can imagine what Jim would say about something that just happened. About the cell phone he'd have told me again and again I'm a fool to have bought one. He never wanted one. We had old flip phones as phones.  But many things I cannot guess and it hurts not to know because so often his jokes made things unimportant; he gave me good advice: he might have known my license was still suspended and I must not buy car for $17,000 for which I must pay insurance.  He would have enjoyed Prince Igor with us today.

These things make a big difference in our lives.

I don't see how I can survive if this goes on and on and on this way. I am powerless but before I had the shelter of his presence, his understanding, his strength, his help. I am naked to the winds. I am a person one wall of whose house has blown away.


I was shown this by a member of Women Writers through the ages: Middlemarch and Me.

'“Middlemarch” suggests that it is always too late to be what you might have been—but it also shows that, virtually without exception, the unrealized life is worth living.'

This reminded me of the axiom or saying I put at the top of this blog: I must not reproach myself for my unlived life. It's not my fault he's dead.  I did all I could to keep him alive. Had the cancer epidemic not reached the Admiral I would have carried on going to conferences, giving papers, traveling, making acquaintances and friends. None or (to use the term as Mary Crawford says she uses "never") very little, hardly anything at all of that will happen now. I will spend the next 20 years alone.

Will my unrealized life be worth living? well I don't want to go into cold obstruction (mud, earth) and rot. If I can manage to cope with the new PC I'm having installed I can pretend to be writing a book, maybe write one and even send it to someone --  with the full expectation it will be rejected as I have learned the way to get an essay published in a collection is to know someone putting it together in the first place. There are no blind submissions.

So why carry on? for the sake of remaining sane while alive?

Miss Drake

It remains to be seen if it is also to be the year I tried hard not to be destroyed, and precisely because I tried so hard, I was destroyed. Made myself all the more an available victim.

He did say I should not try but live quietly and not pay attention to what others thought at all. That was among his last words to me.

I have been paying attention and not living quietly but going out a lot.

From Mary Wortley Montagu's poems:

What Lesson is it must restore my Rest?
The firmness of my Soul gives way,
Some pitying Power behold what I endure ...

The admiral really thought I'd be okay.  It seems to me now here at least he was wrong.

I'm not okay without him.

Bu whatever happens, life as I knew it is over for me forever; I cannot maintain that way of life. Instead I rush about trying to please and be with people, flailing crazily.  The bad judgement was this trying, especially trying to deliver that black American girl doll.  I'll never ever go again to that place or to any place where I don't know where it is and no one appreciates my efforts. How could I have been knocking my head against a brick wall that way.

Izzy half-sleeps in her room and does not want me to help her stay up. Across the street in the darkness I see a house lit. I know that woman (a widow like me who lost a husband in his mid-60s to a terrible cancer and who has let me know she does not want more than a passing acquaintance -- why should she?) has her trees outside lit, in the house a son, a daughter and boyfriend. I saw a car drop someone off. I'll never know this sort of thing ever. Now he's gone never be with others in that way.  I could be with him that way and once in a while Yvette would join in.

It is so hard to die, to lie in the ground and rot, lose consciousness.  The admiral thought I should try to be happy based on my books writing reading movies and that he left me enough money to do it. But computers break down and what I am to do to fix it? Today I had a harrowing incident where I could have locked myself out of my MacBook Pro by trying to buy music on itunes in my iphone. I have got to put all gadgets far from me..

I am alone with my cat tonight in the silence. I watch Love Actually -- this warm comforting film with its hopeful children. Bill Nighy keeps saying it's all crap and yet we see him kind to a male friend. Like Downton Abbey everyone kind to one another.

See last year's">Christmas is all around us. l love all the actors. It is stufed with my favorite actors and actresses -- especially Emma Thompson and Colin  Firth. Hugh Grant's over voice is very comforting: what he says is a counterweight to Bill Nighy's scriipt.
Miss Drake

There is no peace

My Sylvia II blogs are far too upbeat. I don't dare say quite what my reality is. Maybe all meaning for life was simply an invention, an illusion, before but with his affection, companionship, shared outlook I could fool myself.

The best I can say and it is true is I prefer not to kill myself. Annihilation is worse as long as I have enough money to live -- here and there I enjoy this or that. I've again been snubbed by the woman across the way; what is so unacceptable about me I've never known but it's so -- and he was no more acceptable. She now is unwilling to answer brief questions: like is hers a good cleaning service, would she recommend them, what is their name? No she is ever expecting guests and must run away. If I don't get that volunteer job I fear I face isolation.

In a way it would be better if I could die naturally and easily -- but life is too tough for that. I don't want to kill myself because most methods are awful and I don't want to desert or be hated. It really is hopeless for me, a 20 year life sentence. It wasn't his fault -- he didn't want cancer nor to die but he felt maybe rightly he was not going to get any better treatment no matter what we paid or where we ran or to whom. He was dispensable. White males' widows are not burnt in suttees but pensioned maybe as a final payment to the male and his family of their life given up to the present rotten order.

Then left to be alone.

He, like most people, didn't choose what he did, but did it out of instinct, need, some semi-conscious deep drive. But I do think his drive in the time after the operation failed was to take the line of least resistance to find some peace. In that sense it was easier to die and were it not for the horrific pain and misery he knew I would say he was luckier than me. Maybe that's why people do say the one of a pair who dies is the luckier. I can't say this for real as what he endured was beyond horror (the humiliation of his body for example) but theoretically, from the standpoint of the terrors that existence can wreak on us.

What fools we were. We did not know he was a dead man once he was deemed to have esophageal cancer. I remember us walking to try to regain his strength.



Living on 76th Street, just off Columbus Avenue, in a 2 room flat in a brownstone: shades of violet

Jim Central Park, boathouse inlet, 1972-73

Inside the flat, with Llyr, our half-beagle, 1971-72,  pregnant for first time


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August 2014


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