Great Painting/Fun Writing Challenge

Odilon Redon’s Flower-Clouds

Odilon Redon’s Flower-Clouds

What a fun challenge from Jane Dougherty: “I’m posting a painting that I’ve used before to illustrate a poem, Odilon Redon’s Flower-Clouds, and I’m throwing it open to anyone who wants to have a go at writing a one or two sentence story to go with it.”

I thought of my character BUCK CRENSHAW when I saw this so here’s my story:

None of the comfortable cousins with secure fortunes Buck Crenshaw worked with at the quiet bank off Wall Street knew that Buck dreaded being on the water. Life was rudderless enough, but money needed to be made and so Buck sailed with the fortune hunters while keeping a wary eye on the changeable clouds.


Sex in a Debtors’ Prison

I'm so in the mood for sex right now.

I’m so in the mood for sex right now.

Once upon a time (in 1748) a man named John Cleland sat in a lonely debtors’ prison in England. Day after dreary day he sat thinking of sex. He couldn’t help himself. Debtors’ prison was god-awfully dull.

We don’t know for sure if John ever pleasured himself, but according to Dr. William Acton anyone who did that sort of thing “cannot look anyone in the face, and becomes careless in dress and uncleanly in person. His intellect has become sluggish and enfeebled, and if his habits are persisted in, he may end in becoming a driveling idiot.” *

(I’m wondering here at the very sloppily dressed men I see these days)

Back to John. He hadn’t become quite the idiot yet, so he picked up pen and paper and wrote the first English prose erotic novel about a young virgin girl gone wild (through no real fault of her own). Poor Fanny is sent to live with a woman she believes to be rich. Turns out she’s pimping out girls. When the woman finds that Fanny is a virgin the hijinks begin. Despite everyone being against the book, it was passed around and sent overseas to puritanical America and passed round still more (mostly amongst young men behind barns and carriage houses).

It was also illustrated–rather poorly, but who cared? Not the young lads laughing behind the barn.

Illustration by Édouard-Henri Avril.

Illustration by Édouard-Henri Avril.

A sampling of John’s work:

“But what was yet more surprising, the owner of this natural curiosity, through the want of occasions in the strictness of his home-breeding, and the little time he had been in town not having afforded him one, was hitherto an absolute stranger, in practice at least, to the use of all that manhood he was so nobly stock’d with; and it now fell to my lot to stand his first trial of it, if I could resolve to run the risks of its disproportion to that tender part of me, which such an oversiz’d machine was very fit to lay in ruins.” Wikipedia

For the more erudite there was the other best-selling secret book: Aristotle’s Masterpiece. Since Aristotle wrote about animals having sex it was assumed he was an expert lover. The boys behind the carriage houses ate it up.

By the 1850’s the rules of sex were changing in America. It was assumed up until then that young people would have sex out of wedlock.  Not that premarital sex wasn’t frowned upon but it was tolerated and arrangements were made for the protection of children (not by any means were all the children protected).

Maybe it was the sight of so many bastards around sad and lonely without  their fathers that pushed society in the Victorian direction. The new moral code prescribed young men to WAIT. To CONTROL themselves. Yes, indeed. Boys in the North were expected to follow the new rules. The young Northern girls were to help them by being morally superior.

Southern young men were ridiculed for being virgins, especially in the small farming communities. And there was to be no help from the girls as they were seen as morally weaker and easily led by the dashing boys who read Fanny Hill and Aristotle behind the barn.

Of course, all boys were told (by other boys) that saving a good girl’s virtue was the right thing to do. Pleasuring oneself led to idiocy, so . . . there were the bad girls. In the North they were the immigrant ones. In the South, they were the slaves.

Back to the debtors’ prison and poor John only dreaming about all he could be getting up on the outside. John Celand was no idiot after all. He published Fanny Hill, Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure and became a secret hero to boys through many printings and controversies.

I wonder if we aren’t set for a swing back even today. Will there be a sudden awakening to the many fatherless children of our times and its cost upon society (not to mention the sadness of being a child without a father)? Will sex and porn be sent back to the private places? Yes, there will always be books and laughter behind the barns, and there are only fairy tales about a virginal past, but maybe discretion would be nice for a change.

*Love, Sex and Marriage In The Civil War by Charles A. Mills

For Love of Country- Not Heroics

Adrienne Morris:

Thank you, Jefferson Truitt.

Originally posted on Practically Historical:

Thomas Jefferson Truitt enlisted in… Company D of the 62nd Pennsylvania Volunteers on July 24, 1861.  He was a carpenter working near Kellersburg in Armstrong County PA.  His father, Anderson, died suddenly in October of 1860, leaving the family deep in debt and without a steady income.  To make ends meet, the widowed Sarah Caldwell Truitt was forced to sell pieces of the family farm and work odd jobs.  The outbreak of the war in 1861 rallied the young men of Armstrong County to the Finlay Cadets.  It also provided Jefferson and his younger brother David the opportunity to assist their family financially.


Truitt served with distinction… as the company’s color sergeant.  On July 1, 1862 at the battle of Malvern Hill, he rescued the 62nd PA’s flag from capture by securing it inside his uniform coat.  For his valor, Truitt received a promotion to 2nd Lieutenant.  Marching with the 62nd…

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25 bad guys and a kitten

Originally posted on Some WW1 Photographs...:

I love the contrast between the martial faces of these soldiers of the Infanterie-Regiment Nr. 377 (10. Landwehr Division) in Harville, near Verdun, in April 1918, and the lovely kitten on the left. By the way, this post was written with my 17-year-old cat on my knees…


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How The Civil War Changed The World

A family affair: infantry near Washington

A family affair: infantry near Washington

“Even while the Civil War raged, slaves in Cuba could be heard singing, “Avanza, Lincoln, avanza! Tu eres nuestra esperanza!” (Onward, Lincoln, Onward! You are our hope!) – as if they knew, even before the soldiers fighting the war far to the North and long before most politicians understood, that the war in America would change their lives, and the world.

The secession crisis of 1860-1861 threatened to be a major setback to the world antislavery movement, and it imperiled the whole experiment in democracy. If slavery was allowed to exist, and if the world’s leading democracy could fall apart over the issue, what hope did freedom have?” Don Doyle New York Times


What Happened on May 20th – The Homestead Act

Adrienne Morris:

Yet another example of the slavery issue making things sticky.

Originally posted on IF I ONLY HAD A TIME MACHINE:

On May 20, 1862, President Abraham Lincoln signed the Homestead Act into law.  This act was designed to grant public land to small famers at low cost.  Any application that was head of the household, at least 21 years of age and willing to settle the land for five years and then pay a small filing fee.  If they wished to obtain title earlier, they could after six months by paying $1.25 an acre.


The idea of the Homestead Act was proposed much earlier in 1850 but southern congressmen didn’t want small famers to upset the Southern slave system.  After the passage of the Act on May 20, 1862, people raced to file land claims.  By the end of the Civil War, 15,000 land claims had been made.

The Homestead Act, combined with other factors, unleashed a movement of people that lasted into the 20th Century. In this photo, emigrants arrive at the Gates Post Office in Custer County in 1886.   Photo by Solomon Butcher. Wagon trains became the stuff of legends The Homestead Act, combined with other factors, unleashed a movement of people that lasted into the 20th Century. In this photo, emigrants…

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