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From a 1903 letter to Franz Xaver Kappus from Rainer Maria Rilke

I want to beg you, as much as I can, dear sir, to be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves like locked rooms and like books that are written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.

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“Live the questions now.” Rainer Maria Rilke

Thank you for visiting this page. I’m Julia, and I work as a psychodynamic psychotherapist, relationship counsellor, and clinical supervisor. I’ve been in private practice in the City of London and in south-west London for the past three years; for the decade before that, I worked as a specialist psychotherapist for working age adults in the NHS (where I’ve also run staff groups).

This is where you will find the posts on my London-based blog, which I update constantly through the week, almost as a stream of consciousness. It reflects my interests, including psychotherapy, and my weekly experience outside – though not divorced from – my work. It’s a contemporary version of the commonplace book – one where the thoughts, responses, and comments of others are welcome.

“Caius is pronounced ‘keys’”

From: Historic England entry:

“VICARAGE CRESCENT SW11

St Mary’s Vicarage (Including Railings And Gates)

l8th Century late, altered. Three-storey and dormers. Four windows. Brown or yellow brick. Band at second floor sills. Recessed windows with glazing bars.

Wrought iron gate with simple overthrow lamp-holder and railings on low forecourt wall. LCC plaque erected in 1935 commemorates residence here of Dr Edward Adrian Wilson (1872-1912), Antarctic explorer and naturalist who died with Scott.”

From: Squires in the Slums: Settlements and Missions in Late Victorian Britain (2007), by Nigel Scotland:

“The Gonville and Caius Mission commenced in the Yelverton (Road) district of St Mary’s Battersea in 1892. The seeds of the idea were first sown by Canon Clarke, Vicar of Battersea, who invited the college to come and work in his huge parish. One of his staff at Battersea, the Revd. Francis W Pawson (d.1921), was a former soccer blue and member of Gonville and Caius and so provided the link between the college and the parish. Canon Clarke generously placed at the college’s disposal the old Battersea Vicarage, a substantial building close to the Thames and known as the Vicarage House. It stood in large gardens and had a mission-room attached. The house, which was formally renamed ‘Caius House’, was able to accommodate between six and eight residents or ‘settlers’. It was used by Caius men from December 1887. A printed circular letter dated August 1888 stated that ‘every settler will interest himself in some aspect of the work as is the case of ‘institutions such as Toynbee Hall’.”

From Wikipedia:

“Born in Cheltenham on 23 July 1872, Wilson was the second son and fifth child of physician Edward Thomas Wilson and his wife, Mary Agnes, née Whishaw. A clever, sensitive, but boisterous boy, he developed a love of the countryside, natural history and drawing from an early age. He was sent as a boarder to a preparatory school in Clifton, Bristol, but after failing to gain a scholarship to public school, he attended Cheltenham College for boys as a day pupil.

His mother was a poultry breeder and he spent much of his youth at The Crippetts farm, Leckhampton near Cheltenham. By the age of nine, he had announced to his parents that he was going to become a naturalist. With encouragement and tuition from his father, he started to draw pictures of the wildlife and fauna in the fields around the farm. After passing his exams with honours in science in 1891, he went to Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, where he read Natural Sciences, obtaining a first-class degree in 1894.

It was during his time there that he developed the deep Christian faith and asceticism by which he lived his life. He studied for his Bachelor of Medicine degree at St George’s Hospital Medical School, London and undertook mission work in the slums of Battersea in his spare time. In February 1898, shortly before qualifying as a doctor, Wilson became seriously ill and was diagnosed with pulmonary tuberculosis, contracted during his mission work.

During a long convalescence from this illness he spent months in Norway and Switzerland, time he used to practise and develop his skills as an artist. He qualified in medicine in 1900, and the next year was appointed junior house surgeon at Cheltenham General Hospital.

In 1897, he met Oriana Fanny Souper at Caius House, Battersea, while he was conducting mission work. They married on 16 July 1901, three weeks before he set off for the Antarctic as a member of Robert Falcon Scott‘s expedition. The wedding was in Hilton, Huntingdonshire, where her father was vicar…”

From the website of the National Portrait Gallery:

“Returned to the Antarctic on Scott’s 1910 expedition on the Terra Nova as head of the scientific staff. Wilson with Oates, Bowers, Evans and Scott, reached the South Pole on 18 January 1912 just after Norwegian Roald Amundsen but all the party died on the return journey.”

Can it be that simple? Yes…and no

Once upon a time, before psychodynamic psychotherapists had heard of COVID or online working, my client was relocating to Australia. It was the planned ending beloved of therapists everywhere, and we had reached his closing session.

As we reviewed the work we had done together, he paused suddenly in his account of how his mood had improved and stabilised over time: “But can it be that simple?”…

Sam Sloma (born 1982) is an English former footballer. (Sloma started out as a trainee with Wimbledon, where he captained their youth side, before being loaned out to Hampton & Richmond Borough.)

After a career as a professional footballer, he retired at 26 and set his sights on the next adventure. In 2016, just six years into his new career, Sam became a Chartered Financial Planner, which is widely accepted as the ‘gold standard’ of financial planning.

Sam wrote on 15th March, 2018:

“In hindsight things always seems so obvious and yet keeping it simple is so difficult for humans to do.”

If I walk a spiral path, inwards or outwards, I can look back from the centre or the periphery and see that the direct line from here to there is quite short. It’s the winding path and the exploration that enrich.

MILNE, A.A. (1882-1956)

From the website of English Heritage:

“The author AA Milne lived at 13 Mallord Street, Chelsea, during the most creative years of his life, from 1919 until about 1940. While living there he wrote both of his Winnie-the-Pooh books and two collections of poetry.

Alan Alexander Milne and his wife Daphne moved to 13 Mallord Street (then number 11) in the summer of 1919. They called it ‘the prettiest little house in London’. Having lived in flats for many years, Milne found it thrilling to live in a house that had ‘an outside personality as well as an inside one’. He wrote:

Any of you may find himself some day in our quiet street, and stop a moment to look at our house; at the blue door with its jolly knocker, at the little trees in their blue tubs… at the bright-coloured curtains. We have the pleasure of feeling that we are contributing something to London.

The Milnes also had a country home in Sussex but Mallord Street was their principal base until 1940, and it was here that their son Christopher Robin (1920–96) was born.

Christopher was soon to become the ‘world’s most famous child’. ‘Billy’, as he was known, lived in a nursery on the top floor of the house with his nanny, Olive Rand. After a year they were joined by a Harrods teddy bear, which came to be known as Winnie-the-Pooh. Winnie was the name of a black Canadian bear in the zoo and Pooh was the name Christopher had given to a swan. When the London Evening News asked Milne to write a story for them in Christmas 1925, he chose to write down a bedtime story he had told his son about his bear. The story became the first chapter of Winnie-the-Pooh (1926). The book was modelled on Christopher Robin and his toys, which in addition to Pooh, included Piglet, Eeyore, Kanga, Roo and Tigger.

Winnie-the-Pooh was followed by The House at Pooh Corner (1928). Milne also published two collections of poetry while at Mallord Street, both of which featured Pooh bear: When We Were Very Young (1924) and Now We Are Six (1927).

The works, which won their author international acclaim, were brought vividly to life by the illustrator EH Shepard and were later transferred to the screen by Disney.”

“beaming with euphoria and oblivious of duty”

From: A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 12, Chelsea. Originally published by Victoria County History (2004):

“…In the 1890s several artists also moved into Upper Church Street, Chelsea. No. 123 on the corner of Elm Park Road was built in 1894 for Felix Moscheles, and by 1901 the Chelsea Arts Club had moved into two old villas at nos 143-5. Evelyn and William de Morgan moved to nos 125-7 (nos 8-9 Bolton Place), Upper Church Street, where two terraced houses were adapted for them in 1909-10. Augustus John occupied Robert Hannah’s at no. 153, until he moved to Mallord Street.

The Vale was extended northwards c. 1909, with picturesquely grouped neo-Georgian houses along the west side. Mallord and Mulberry streets were added to link it with Upper Church Street, and several studios were built in this group of streets before and after the First World War. In Mallord Street no. 28 was designed 1913-14 like a Dutch cottage by Robert van t’Hoff for Augustus John…”

From: A Slender Reputation (1994), by Kathleen Hale:

“Augustus John’s house was at 28 Mallord Street. The story goes that Augustus had met a Dutch architect for the first time in one of the local pubs, and had immediately commissioned him to build a house. By the luck of the gods, considering its haphazard conception, the house was well-built, in a simple, modern style, compact and convenient. The ground floor was entirely occupied by a ballroom-sized studio, lit by enormous windows facing away from the street. It was furnished with a grand piano, a model throne, and a plethora of cushions and divans. On the first floor was a spacious hall, and a small sitting-room with a telephone, where I was to work. A staircase went up to the bedrooms and bathrooms above.

When I took up my duties, I found dishevelled piles of unanswered letters, some of them important commissions for portraits, and unpaid bills all over the house. Eventually I got these into order of priority, and suggested that Augustus set aside some time every afternoon for dealing with them. He dictated to me very slowly and I wrote as fast as I could. The resulting scribbles were illegible to me, unless I copied them out immediately after each lot was dictated. When I presented him with the neatly handwritten letters (my handwriting then was round, childish and very clear), he would decide whether to sign them himself or to leave them for me to sign on his behalf as ‘p.p. Augustus John’. He always squeaked the ‘p.p.’, which amused us both idiotically, and he often called me ‘p.p.’. We had lots of silly fun, but getting him to start work was always a tussle of wills. The minute he had finished his morning painting session, his only idea was to join his friends at a local pub. I remember one day when Lady Tredegar arrived after lunch for a sitting, Augustus was nowhere to be found. I ran along King’s Road looking in all the pubs and eventually tracked him down – beaming with euphoria and oblivious of duty. Realising that a direct approach to him would only meet with an angry rebuttal, I said, craftily, that I too would like a drink, an idea that appealed to his conviviality. Fairly soon I suggested that we return home as Lady Tredegar was due any minute. A look of appalled consternation flashed across his face, and we sped back at a smart pace, me in a straight line.”

https://artuk.org/discover/artworks/lady-katharine-agnes-blanche-carnegie-18671949-viscountess-tredegar-156458#

From Shakespeare’s play “Hamlet” (Act 3 Scene 1)

To be, or not to be, that is the question:
Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles
And by opposing end them. To die—to sleep,
No more; and by a sleep to say we end
The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to:…”

See also https://youtu.be/hTZdhe1mAmc

“In the DSM-5, symptoms that were once labeled under the broad umbrella of hysteria fit under what is now referred to as somatic symptom disorder.”*

*verywellmind.com

From: Mrs. Beeton’s Book of Household Management, by Isabella Beeton (1861) – Chapter 43 – The Doctor:

“2643.Hysterics.–These fits take place, for the most part, in young, nervous, unmarried women. They happen much less often in married women; and even (in some rare cases indeed) in men. Young women, who are subject to these fits, are apt to think that they are suffering from “all the ills that flesh is heir to;” and the false symptoms of disease which they show are so like the true ones, that it is often exceedingly difficult to detect the difference. The fits themselves are mostly preceded by great depression of spirits, shedding of tears, sickness, palpitation of the heart, &c. A pain, as if a nail were being driven in, is also often felt at one particular part of the head. In almost all cases, when a fit is coming on, pain is felt on the left side. This pain rises gradually until it reaches the throat, and then gives the patient a sensation as if she had a pellet there, which prevents her from breathing properly, and, in fact, seems to threaten actual suffocation. The patient now generally becomes insensible, and faints; the body is thrown about in all directions, froth issues from the mouth, incoherent expressions are uttered, and fits of laughter, crying, or screaming, take place. When the fit is going off, the patient mostly cries bitterly, sometimes knowing all, and at others nothing, of what has taken place, and feeling general soreness all over the body. Treatment during the fit. Place the body in the same position as for simple fainting, and treat, in other respects, as directed in the article on Epilepsy. Always well loosen the patient’s stays; and, when she is recovering, and able to swallow, give 20 drops of sal volatile in a little water. The after-treatment of these cases is very various. If the patient is of a strong constitution, she should live on plain diet, take plenty of exercise, and take occasional doses of castor oil, or an aperient mixture, such as that described as “No. 1,” in previous numbers. If, as is mostly the case, the patient is weak and delicate, she will require a different mode of treatment altogether. Good nourishing diet, gentle exercise, cold baths, occasionally a dose of No. 3 myrrh and aloes pills at night, and a dose of compound iron pills twice a day. [As to the myrrh and aloes pills (No. 3), 10 grains made into two pills are a dose for a full-grown person. Of the compound iron pills (No. 4), the dose for a full grown person is also 10 grains, made into two pills.] In every case, amusing the mind, and avoiding all causes of over-excitement, are of great service in bringing about a permanent cure.”

From: Part II of the Project for a Scientific Psychology (1950 [1895]), by Sigmund Freud:

“The formation of symbols also takes place normally. A soldier will sacrifice himself for a many-coloured scrap of stuff on a pole, because it has become the symbol of his fatherland, and no one thinks that neurotic.

But a hysterical symbol behaves differently. The knight who fights for his lady’s glove knows, in the first place, that the glove owes its importance to the lady; and, secondly, he is in no way prevented by his adoration of the glove from thinking of the lady and serving her in other respects. The hysteric, who weeps at A, is quite unaware that he is doing so on account of the association A – B, and B itself plays no part at all in his psychical life. The symbol has in this case taken the place of the thing entirely.

This assertion is correct in the strictest sense. We can convince ourselves that whenever anything is evoked, from outside or by association, which should in fact cathect B, A enters consciousness instead of it. Indeed, one can infer the nature of B from the provoking causes which – in a remarkable fashion – evoke A.

We can sum the matter up: A is compulsive, B is repressed (at least from the consciousness).

Analysis has led to the surprising conclusion: that for every compulsion there is a corresponding repression, that for every excessive intrusion into consciousness there is a corresponding amnesia.”

Chadwell Street, Islington, London, EC1

Above: looking west along Chadwell Street to Myddelton Square. (Historic England) From 1857 wall box-type post boxes came into use for fixing into existing walls. In 1859 an improved cylindrical design of pillar box was created for standard use nationwide.”

From: Survey of London: Volume 47, Northern Clerkenwell and Pentonville. Originally published by London County Council, London, 2008:

“Named after one of the sources of the New River, Chadwell Street was begun in 1822, with agreements for the building of all but No. 11 made by 1823. However, the street was not fully built up until 1838, and there is a consequent lack of coherence. The earlier developments were towards the east or St John Street end, and included a Nonconformist chapel of 1823–4. Shophouses at Nos 1–3 were built along with the adjoining St John Street frontage in 1822–4, Daniel Toohey, a victualler, being the developer. In 1823 James Hall, a Charterhouse Street plumber, undertook, in partnership with Charles Haynes, to build sixteen more houses, seven flanking the chapel at Nos 4–10, and nine more on the north side at Nos 15–23. Only Nos 4. and 5, with shops, and Nos 20–23, put up by William Pateman, another plumber and glazier, were completed before Hall’s death c.1830. Then the principal builder on Hall’s take was John Ramsay, who gave W. C. Mylne considerable difficulties with poor materials and construction. James Mansfield had taken the plots for Nos 12–14 in 1822, but deferred development into the 1830s, as did Priddle and Manser at No. 11 opposite. Both these builders held adjacent plots fronting Myddelton Square, and left the finishing of Chadwell Street until after the completion of their parts of the square.”

Romance or novel?

Image (Wikipedia): “Lower Largo (Fife, Scotland) is famous as the 1676 birthplace of Alexander Selkirk, who provided inspiration for Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe. The house that now stands at his birthplace on 99-105 Main Street features a life-sized statue of Selkirk wearing self-made goatskin clothes, scanning the horizon. A signpost at the harbour points to Juan Fernández Islands, some 7,500 miles distant, where Selkirk lived for more than four years as a castaway.”

From Wikipedia:

“The rise of the word novel at the cost of its rival, the romance, remained a Spanish and English phenomenon, and though readers all over Western Europe had welcomed the novel(la) or short history as an alternative in the second half of the 17th century, only the English and the Spanish had, however, openly discredited the romance.

But the change of taste was brief and Fénelon’s Telemachus [Les Aventures de Télémaque] (1699/1700) already exploited a nostalgia for the old romances with their heroism and professed virtue. Jane Barker explicitly advertised her Exilius as “A new Romance”, “written after the Manner of Telemachus”, in 1715. Robinson Crusoe spoke of his own story as a “romance”, though in the preface to the third volume, published in 1720, Defoe attacks all who said “that […] the Story is feign’d, that the Names are borrow’d, and that it is all a Romance; that there never were any such Man or Place”.

The late 18th century brought an answer with the Romantic Movement’s readiness to reclaim the word romance, with the gothic romance, and the historical novels of Walter Scott. Robinson Crusoe now became a “novel” in this period, that is a work of the new realistic fiction created in the 18th century.”

“The Scarlet Letter” by Nathaniel Hawthorne (1850)

Robert McCrum introduces “The 100 Best Novels” in The Guardian of 6.1.14:

“…Nathaniel Hawthorne, describing “a tale of human frailty and sorrow”, insisted that The Scarlet Letter was “a Romance”, not a novel. This distinction, in his mind, was important. Where a novel, as he put it, “aims at a very minute fidelity, not merely to the possible, but to the probable and ordinary course of man’s experience”, a romance expressed “the truth of the human heart”. Here, in short, is the prototype of the psychological novel, a brilliant and groundbreaking example of a new genre within 19th-century fiction.

Hawthorne’s tale has a stark simplicity. In the 17th-century town of Boston, a young woman, Hester Prynne, is publicly disgraced for committing adultery and giving birth to an illegitimate child, a girl named Pearl. Forced to wear a scarlet “A”, Hester slowly redeems herself in the eyes of Puritan society. Over many years, she challenges the two men in her life – her husband and her lover – with the dark truth of their emotional responsibilities and failures, while at the same time wrestling with her own sinful nature. After seven long years of painful rehabilitation, she emerges as a strong, inspiring woman, while the pastor, Arthur Dimmesdale, who seduced her dies of shame. Hester, too, eventually dies and is buried near Dimmesdale under a tombstone marked with a simple “A”.

Such a bare summary does few favours to an extraordinary work of the imagination that burns from page to page with the fierce simplicity of scripture and an almost cinematic clarity of vision. The Scarlet Letter is an astounding book full of intense symbolism, as strange and haunting as anything by Edgar Allan Poe (No 10 in this series), a writer whom we know Hawthorne much admired…

The most memorable and original aspect of The Scarlet Letter lies in Hawthorne’s portrait of Hester Prynne, who has been described as “the first true heroine of American fiction”, a woman whose experience evokes the biblical fate of Eve. Hawthorne’s achievement is to make her passion noble, her defiance heartbreaking and her frailty inspiring. She becomes the archetype of the free-thinking American woman grappling with herself and her sexuality in a cold, patriarchal society.

There is also something emblematic of the newly settled American society about The Scarlet Letter, the belief that the public individual, subjected to a merciless democratic scrutiny, is owed the human right of ultimate restoration, if he or she deserves it. Hester Prynne is more than just a mother with a baby, she is an outcast woman who will ultimately be welcomed back into American life, purged and cleansed of her sin. Readers of The Scarlet Letter during, for instance, the Monica Lewinsky scandal of the 1990s, could not fail to miss the resonance of Hawthorne’s “romance” with that bizarre political drama…”

“He feels as if he’s been ambushed by a flowering shrub.”*

*From: Alias Grace (1996), by Margaret Atwood:

“Simon paces along the shore, picturing to himself what the Major must be doing – a racecourse, a bawdy-house, a tavern; one of the three.

Then he thinks, inconsequentially, about taking off his shoes and wading into the lake. He has a sudden memory of dabbling in the creek at the back of the property, as a young boy, in the company of his nursemaid – one of the young millhands turned servant, as were most of their maids then – and getting himself dirty, and being scolded by his mother, and the nursemaid too, for allowing it.

What was her name? Alice? Or was that later, when he was already at school, and in long trousers, and had gone up to the attic on one of his furtive escapades, and had been caught by the girl in her room? White-handed, as it were – he’d been fondling one of her shifts. She’d been angry with him, but couldn’t express her anger, of course, as she’d wanted to keep her position; so she’d done the womanly thing, and burst into tears. He’d put his arms around her to console her, and they’d ended by kissing. Her cap had fallen off, and her hair came tumbling down; long dark-blonde hair, voluptuous, none too clean, smelling of curdled milk. Her hands were red, as she’d been hulling strawberries; and her mouth tasted of them.

There were red smears afterwards, on his shirt, from where she’d started to undo his buttons; but it was the first time he’d ever kissed a woman, and he’d been embarrassed, and then alarmed, and hadn’t known what to do next. Probably she’d laughed at him.

What a raw boy he’d been then; what a simpleton…”