Source: The Modernist Journals Project, http://www.modjourn.org/render.php?id=1425423439777263&view=mjp_object. Photoshopped.
The book is a ten-page pamphlet by the chief prosecutor of the conspirators in the murder of Abraham Lincoln. The prosecutor, Judge Advocate General Joseph Holt, had attempted to prove that President Davis of the Confederacy was aware of the conspiracy, and Davis’s sympathizers responded by attacking him in print. In print, he replied:
Printed in 1866, the paper has gone brown with age. The florid rhetoric looks old as well. Since at least the era of Hemingway, our taste in prose about moral conflict has trended monochrome.
But there were also monochrome effects in 1866. Before, during, and after the black-and-white absolutes of the Civil War, Washington was a Southern town where white was what gentlemen wore in the summer. In the presence of white, both time and the conflict seemed to halt at the wardrobe door. Fashion sometimes looks like a parallel morality, and as of the second half of the nineteenth century one of its commands began, in a body language which seemed to transcend the mortal changeableness of the body: “Thou shalt wear . . .”
Experiment with the command yourself. Think of this photograph of Judge Holt by Mathew Brady’s studio as a frontispiece to the pamphlet. Then ask: after I’ve seen this image of an author’s body in absolute white, will I have any desire to turn the page and read his words’ transient brown? Won’t I lose as much as I gain when I leave the white behind, back there at the innocent beginning where faces are fortunes, books are judged by their covers, and to appear seems to be?
Sources: Holt’s Vindication is online at Archive.org, https://ia600302.us.archive.org/21/items/vindicationofju3693holt/vindicationofju3693holt.pdf.
The photograph of Judge Holt is in the Brady-Handy Collection, Library of Congress, http://www.loc.gov/pictures/collection/brhc/item/brh2003001193/PP/. I have photoshopped it.
There was a small public park on the north side of the square. In one of its linden trees an ear and a finger had been found one day – remnants of a terrorist whose hand had slipped while he was arranging a lethal parcel in his room on the other side of the square. Those same trees (a pattern of silver filigree in a mother-of-pearl mist out of which the bronze dome of St. Isaac’s arose in the background) had also seen children shot down at random from the branches into which they had climbed in a vain attempt to escape the mounted gendarmes who were quelling the First Revolution (1905-06). Quite a few little stories like these were attached to squares and streets in St. Petersburg.
— Vladimir Nabokov, Speak, Memory, chapter 9
Every few seconds for the last two days, a cyberentity in Russia has been attempting to break into this blog. According to several bloggers, this represents the activity of something called a brute-force password-guessing attack on WordPress’s XMLRPC function.
It claims to originate from an address in St. Petersburg. Of course that claim may be a mere act of literature – say, something like a May Day hommage to Andrei Bely, author of the great Modernist novel of terror and masquerade, Petersburg. In any case, the cyberentity claims to be headquartered not in St. Petersburg but in Moscow, where it calls itself the Super Professional Servers Network.
But its street address in Moscow is all Bely, all Petersburg. It is:
1st Magistralny Blind Alley, 30
And naturally, as a prudent reverence before literature’s power to blind and erase (the pseudonym Bely means “white”), I configured this blog long ago to reject all attempts at communication from Russia.
Benjamin L. Singley, “Overlooking the Thames at 11 o’clock at Night, London, England.” 1903. Library of Congress, http://www.loc.gov/item/91793505/