Art Inspired Writing

  Some of my fellow writers have mentioned being struck by a shiny new idea while listening to music.  As much as I enjoy listening to music, thus far, no tune has sent me dashing for a pen.  Rather, when it comes to The Arts, it is is paintings that will often  make me stop and go,  “hmm….”

A few paintings that inspired me while writing my last novel, PORTRAITS OF THE LIVING: A GHOST TALE,  were the following:

1.  Goya’s Don Manuel

This painting with the  child holding a bird captive, and two cats waiting to pounce upon it  hangs in The Hoffmans’ dining room.

Titania Sleeping by Richard Dadd hangs in their parlor:

The renowned English artist went mad during his travels through Europe and the Middle East.  After claiming possession by the Egyptian god, Osiris, he began exhibiting increasingly violent behavior.   Upon Richard’s return home, his father refused to instituionalize him.    Not long afterwards, on August 28, 1843, Richard Dadd stabbed his father to death.

Richard Dadd spent the rest of his life in a mental institution.

While my novel has nothing to do with Dadd or fairies,  the  painting and Dadd’s lifestory made me think of the ill character in my story, and the one who needs to wake up and see the truth…

Do paintings inspire ideas in you?

Happy Birthday, Harriet Beecher Stowe


Harriet Beecher Stowe was born on June 14, 1811 in Litchfield, Connecticut, to Roxane Foote and Lyman Beecher.   As her mother passed away when she was only four, she was raised primarily by her father-  a Presbyterian minister who preached temperance, prison reform, and abolitionism.

After receiving a “male education” at a seminary run by her sister, Catharine, she moved to Ohio and married Calvin Ellis Stowe, a staunch abolitionist who taught at the same seminary as her father.   During their time in Ohio, the Stowes became part of the Underground Railroad and hid several fugitive slaves in their house.

A few years later, they settled in Brunswick, Maine.   In 1850, while Calvin taught at Bowdoin College, Harriet was inspired to pick up a pen after Congress passed the Fugitive Slave Law which prohibited aid to runaway slaves.    Incensed, Harriet used her own personal recollections she’d heard from the fugitives she’d helped, as well as a memoir written by an escaped slave: Josiah Henson to inspire her work:  Uncle Tom’s Cabin.

Published in 1852, the book which depicted the harsh realities of slavery, was (not surprisingly) condemned by slave owners.  In Mobile, Alabama, a bookseller was run out of town for daring to sell the novel.  Harriet, herself, received a package containing the ear of a slave.   While pro-slavery people condemned the work as slanderous, it fueled the abolitionist movement across the United States.   300,000 copies were sold in the US in its first year of publication.  It went on to become the bestselling novel of the 19th century.

So powerful was its affect on readers, that Abraham Lincoln is quoted as having said upon meeting Harriet,  “So, this is the little lady who has made the big war.”

Nowadays, the book has received much criticism for its stereotypical depictions:  the “happy darky”,  the pickaninny children,  and the “Uncle Tom”- too kind, too quick to please his masters.   From literary critics, it has been accused of being too sentimental and even a child’s fable.

What  hardly can be denied is the power the book had in changing the minds and hearts of many of its contemporary readers.     And  thus, is a fierce reminder of the power of a pen.

On a similar note, on this same day in 1942, a young girl in Holland named Anne Frank,  made her first entry in what would become the most famous diary ever written.

Published in: on June 14, 2010 at 11:52 am  Comments (19)  
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How Contemporaries viewed Frankenstein

  Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

1. “This novel is a feeble imitation of one that was very popular in its day,–the St. Leon of Mr. Godwin. It exhibits many characteristics of the school whence it proceeds; and occasionally puts forth indications of talent; but we have been very much disappointed in the perusal of it, from our expectations having been raised too high beforehand by injudicious praises; and it exhibits a strong tendency towards materialism.

The main idea on which the story of Frankenstein rests, undoubtedly affords scope for the display of imagination and fancy, as well as knowledge of the human heart; and the anonymous author has not wholly neglected the opportunities which it presented to him: but the work seems to have been written in great haste, and on a very crude and ill-digested plan; and the detail is, in consequence, frequently filled with the most gross and obvious inconsistencies….

We have heard that this work is written by Mr. Shelley; but should be disposed to attribute it to even a less experienced writer than he is. In fact we have some idea that it is the production of a daughter of a celebrated living novelist.”- excerpt from Literary Panorama and National Register, June 1818


2. “…So concludes this extraordinary tale, in which the author seems to us to disclose uncommon powers of poetic imagination. The feeling with which we perused the unexpected and fearful, yet, allowing the possibility of the event, very natural conclusion of Frankenstein’s experiment, shook a little even our firm nerves; although such and so numerous have been the expedients for exciting terror employed by the romantic writers of the age, that the reader may adopt Macbeth’s words with a slight alteration:

“We have supp’d full with horrors
Direness, familiar to our “callous” thoughts,
Cannot once startle us.”

…It is no slight merit in our eyes, that the tale, though wild in incident, is written in plain and forcible English, without exhibiting that mixture of hyperbolical Germanisms with which tales of wonder are usually told, as if it were necessary that the language should be as extravagant as the fiction. The ideas of the author are always clearly as well as forcibly expressed; and his descriptions of landscape have in them the choice requisites of truth, freshness, precision, and beauty.

…Upon the whole, the work impresses us with a high idea of the author’s original genius and happy power of expression. We shall be delighted to hear that he has aspired to the paullo majorica; and, in the meantime, congratulate our readers upon a novel which excites new reflections and untried sources of emotion. If Gray’s definition of Paradise, to lie on a couch, namely, and read new novels, come any thing near truth, no small praise is due to him, who, like the author of Frankenstein, has enlarged the sphere of that fascinating enjoyment.”- Sir Walter Scott writing for the Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine, April 1818

Published in: on June 6, 2010 at 5:11 pm  Comments (11)  
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