literary-history

Bless Us Every One: It’s Yule at the Trading Post!

We hope you saved some Yuletide steam for our Black Phoenix Trading Post update! Below are the scents, sprays, and polishes that will make your heart grow three sizes – just ask Ebeneezer Scrooge, whose classic story is honored below with a special series of holiday offerings.

Also, please take note of our next shipping cut-off dates to receive items by Christmas. These cut-offs are for shipments you need to receive by Christmas only and do not affect scent availability for purchase: (Please note dates are by 12:01am PST) Dec 14th for domestic orders, and December 10th for Canada, Caribbean, Europe, and Middle East. 


Gift Certificates are not subject to the same cut-offs as they’re sent by email.

Joyeux Noël from all of us at the Lab!

++ JOLABOKAFLOD

The dawn of the Eddic and Skaldic poetry heralded Iceland’s long and rich history of literary culture. Since World War II, there has been a tradition in Iceland called Jólabókaflóðið, or the Christmas Book Flood. It begins with the release of Bokatidindi, a catalog of the season’s new publications. Gifts of books are exchanged on the 24th of December, and Christmas Day is spent reading with your loved ones.This year, we’d like to add a few droplets to the flood. For every purchase of Jolabokaflod, you receive the Jolabokaflod perfume, a carefully selected used book purchased from Los Angeles booksellers, and a portion of the proceeds from each bottle will be donated to Project Night Night, an organization that provides security blankets, age-appropriate books, and plush toys to homeless youth.

Project Night Night

Jólabókaflóðið: A dribble of candle wax, distant hearth-smoke, a fleck of chocolate Yule log, and aged, yellowing paper bound by well-loved leather that has passed through many gentle hands.


++ BPTP YULE NAIL POLISHES

EIN KUSS VON KRAMPUS

A black based multichrome that will shift from red to gold to bronze to green in different lighting and angles.

SNOWBLIND

Filled with microflake and glitter; snow white micro flake, silvery blue micro flake, shifting blue to purple iridescent glitter, and icy blue shimmer.


++ BPTP YULE CANDYFLOOF

Made with 100% vegan sugar cane! Created exclusively for Black Phoenix Trading Post by our friends at Confounding Confections, based on Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab scents!

PINK SNOWBALLS FLOOF

Chilly vanilla rose snowballs!

YELLOW SNOWBALLS FLOOF

Slushy white mint, vanilla cream, lemon drops, grapefruit, and yuzu!


++ BLACK PHOENIX TRADING POST: A CHRISTMAS CAROL

++ THE FIRST OF THE THREE SPIRITS

It was a strange figure - like a child: yet not so like a child as like an old man, viewed through some supernatural medium, which gave him the appearance of having receded from the view, and being diminished to a child’s proportions. Its hair, which hung about its neck and down its back, was white as if with age; and yet the face had not a wrinkle in it, and the tenderest bloom was on the skin. The arms were very long and muscular; the hands the same, as if its hold were of uncommon strength. Its legs and feet, most delicately formed, were, like those upper members, bare. It wore a tunic of the purest white and round its waist was bound a lustrous belt, the sheen of which was beautiful. It held a branch of fresh green holly in its hand; and, in singular contradiction of that wintry emblem, had its dress trimmed with summer flowers. But the strangest thing about it was, that from the crown of its head there sprung a bright clear jet of light, by which all this was visible; and which was doubtless the occasion of its using, in its duller moments, a great extinguisher for a cap, which it now held under its arm.

Even this, though, when Scrooge looked at it with increasing steadiness, was not its strangest quality. For as its belt sparkled and glittered now in one part and now in another, and what was light one instant, at another time was dark, so the figure itself fluctuated in its distinctness: being now a thing with one arm, now with one leg, now with twenty legs, now a pair of legs without a head, now a head without a body: of which dissolving parts, no outline would be visible in the dense gloom wherein they melted away. And in the very wonder of this, it would be itself again; distinct and clear as ever.

GOBLIN OF YULETIDE PAST - ATMOSPHERE SPRAY

Powdery snow, glittering softly with the sweetness of memory, juniper, and heliotrope, with a faint hint of cinnamon-sprinkled sugar cookie.

RISE! AND WALK WITH ME - ATMOSPHERE SPRAY

Sweet snow and a wisp of peppermint.

SPARKLE AND GLITTER - PERFUME OIL

Snow-speckled white chocolate and fir needle.

A THOUSAND THOUGHTS, AND HOPES, AND JOYS - PERFUME OIL

And cares long, long, forgotten: joyful sugared carnation and vanilla freesia.

FRESH GREEN HOLLY - HAIR GLOSS

A branch of holly on a cold, clear Christmas morning.

SNOW ANGEL - HAIR GLOSS

Cherubic spun sugar with a hint of lemon, sparkling peach, and floral tea.

SHADOWS OF THE THINGS THAT HAVE BEEN - HAIR GLOSS

Merry music, hot buttered rum, and crackling firewood.

SO FULL OF GRATITUDE - BATH OIL

Soft, sugared shortbread and warm cocoa.

++ THE SECOND OF THE THREE SPIRITS

The walls and ceiling were so hung with living green, that it looked a perfect grove; from every part of which, bright gleaming berries glistened. The crisp leaves of holly, mistletoe, and ivy reflected back the light, as if so many little mirrors had been scattered there; and such a mighty blaze went roaring up the chimney, as that dull petrification of a hearth had never known in Scrooge’s time, or Marley’s, or for many and many a winter season gone. Heaped up on the floor, to form a kind of throne, were turkeys, geese, game, poultry, brawn, great joints of meat, sucking-pigs, long wreaths of sausages, mince-pies, plum-puddings, barrels of oysters, red-hot chesnuts, cherry-cheeked apples, juicy oranges, luscious pears, immense twelfth-cakes, and seething bowls of punch, that made the chamber dim with their delicious steam. In easy state upon this couch, there sat a jolly Giant, glorious to see: who bore a glowing torch, in shape not unlike Plenty’s horn, and held it up, high up, to shed its light on Scrooge, as he came peeping round the door.

“Come in!’” exclaimed the Ghost. “Come in. and know me better, man!”

Scrooge entered timidly, and hung his head before this Spirit. He was not the dogged Scrooge he had been; and though the Spirit’s eyes were clear and kind, he did not like to meet them.

“I am the Goblin of Christmas Present,” said the Spirit. “Look upon me!”

Scrooge reverently did so. It was clothed in one simple green robe, or mantle, bordered with white fur. This garment hung so loosely on the figure, that its capacious breast was bare, as if disdaining to be warded or concealed by any artifice. Its feet, observable beneath the ample folds of the garment, were also bare; and on its head it wore no other covering than a holly wreath, set here and there with shining icicles. Its dark brown curls were long and free: free as its genial face, its sparkling eye, its open hand, its cheery voice, its unconstrained demeanour, and its joyful air. Girded round its middle was an antique scabbard; but no sword was in it, and the ancient sheath was eaten up with rust.

GOBLIN OF YULETIDE PRESENT - ATMOSPHERE SPRAY

Clove-spiked dried oranges, dusted with ginger and cinnamon.

THE BAKER SHOPS - ATMOSPHERE SPRAY

Loaves of bread, piles upon piles of sweet Yule pastries, and a shower of cinnamon, cardamom, and clove.

A VIOLENT FIT OF TREMBLING - PERFUME OIL

Dark myrrh, black cypress, fir pitch, and a shuddering sliver of white mint.

TEA AND MUSIC - PERFUME OIL

Honeyed black tea, rich mahogany leather, and a tuft of chocolate truffle.

GLÜHWEIN - HAIR GLOSS

Warm red wine spiced with cinnamon sticks, cardamom, vanilla beans, honey, clove, lemon and orange rind, bay leaf, and honey.

MISTLETOE AND RED BERRIES - HAIR GLOSS

Sprigs of pale green dotted with blood red droplets of red currant and cranberry.

A CIRCLE AROUND THE HEARTH - HAIR GLOSS

Oranges and apples, roasted chestnuts, and warm fig pudding with candied apricot brandy.

OPPORTUNITIES OF INNOCENT ENJOYMENT - BATH OIL

Creamy peppermint bark.

++ THE LAST OF THE SPIRITS

The Phantom slowly, gravely, silently approached. When it came, Scrooge bent down upon his knee; for in the very air through which this Spirit moved it seemed to scatter gloom and mystery.

It was shrouded in a deep black garment, which concealed its head, its face, its form, and left nothing of it visible save one outstretched hand. But for this it would have been difficult to detach its figure from the night, and separate it from the darkness by which it was surrounded.

GOBLIN OF YULETIDE YET TO COME - ATMOSPHERE SPRAY

Frankincense, myrrh, styrax, oakmoss, and clove.

THE SHADOW OF ITS DRESS - ATMOSPHERE SPRAY

Black plum, black currant, opoponax, olibanum, sinuous labdanum, and opium tar.

DUSKY SHROUD - PERFUME OIL

Black coffee and smoked vanilla bean with deep indigo opium petals.

MISCELLANEOUS TATTERS - PERFUME OIL

Tonka-stained cloth, brick dust, rye, and ragged weeds.

UNCERTAIN HORROR - HAIR GLOSS

Red patchouli, sage leaf, Darjeeling tea, smoke-scarred sandalwood, green tobacco, and oud.

A WICKED OLD SCREW - HAIR GLOSS

Cedar, cracked leather, a bent twopence, and pipeweed.

OBEDIENCE TO A SECRET IMPULSE - HAIR GLOSS

A dark, forbidding patchouli chypre with a sliver of soul-cold fir needle.

HIDDEN PURPOSE - BATH OIL

Shadowy lavender oudh.

++ SCROOGE

“I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future!” Scrooge repeated, as he scrambled out of bed. “The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. Oh Jacob Marley! Heaven, and the Christmas Time be praised for this! I say it on my knees, old Jacob; on my knees!”

THE WRITING ON THE STONE - ATMOSPHERE SPRAY

Black tea, myrrh, smoked vanilla, and licorice root.

PRISONS AND WORKHOUSES - ATMOSPHERE SPRAY

Dry tobacco and amber.

A BREATHLESS CHUCKLE - PERFUME OIL

Marshmallow cream, sweet fudge, vanilla shortbread, and confectioners sugar.

THE INEXORABLE FINGER - PERFUME OIL

Black patchouli, obsidian, and oudh.

THE INEXORABLE FINGER - PERFUME OIL

Black patchouli, obsidian, and oudh.

STRONG IN HIS ENTREATY - HAIR GLOSS

Black leather accord, lavender, myrrh, and vetiver with white cognac.

A TIGHT-FISTED HAND AT THE GRINDSTONE - HAIR GLOSS

Petrified woods bound in a rigid leather cord.

COLD, BLEAK, AND BITING - HAIR GLOSS

A brittle wind of eucalyptus blossom, spearmint, and icy elemi.

HIS OWN HEART LAUGHED - BATH OIL

Winter cherries and a slush of merry snow.

‘For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide / When The Rainbow Is Enuf’, Ntozake Shange, Shameless Hussy Press, San Lorenzo, California, 1976.

2

April 23rd 1616: William Shakespeare dies

On this day in 1616, 400 years ago, English playwright William Shakespeare died in Stratford-upon-Avon. Born in Stratford on April 23rd 1564, Shakespeare was the son of John Shakespeare, a leather merchant and glove maker, and local heiress Mary Arden. Little is known about Shakespeare’s early life, and he had little formal education, which leads some to question the authenticity of his plays. Shakespeare met a woman called Anne Hathaway when he was 18 years old. After a quick courtship, the couple married in November 1582, going on to have three children. Scholars generally believe that Shakespeare moved to London in the late 1580s and began working at local theatres. By the 1590s, it appears Shakespeare was working as an actor and playwright for the acting company Lord Chamberlain’s Men. By 1600, Shakespeare was an established playwright, having bought a large family home in Stratford and building the Globe Theatre in London with his business partners. Throughout his career, Shakespeare wrote around 38 plays, including Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, Macbeth, A Midsummer Night’s Dream and King Lear, and 154 sonnets. It is believed that he died on April 23rd 1616 - his 52nd birthday. Shakespeare bequeathed most of his belongings to his eldest daughter, leaving his widow his ‘second-best bed’, which is assumed to have been their marital bed. His extraordinary stories, and unique rhetorical style - inventing several words and phrases which have since entered the lexicon - make William Shakespeare the most famous writer in history.

400 years ago today

A Babylonian Princess Poet

Enheduanna, the daughter of King Sargon of Akkad (2334-2279 BCE), composed numerous poems and hymns, such as the one above written in Sumerian and dedicated to the goddess Inanna (the Sumerian counterpart to Ishtar). During her lifetime, Enheduanna served as a high priestess of the moon god, Nanna, in the city of Ur. A genuine creative talent, she is also remembered as one of the first named authors in history. Although the tablet above is somewhat damaged, it provides a good example of a later copy of one of her hymns, which shows that her work continued to be read and taught in scribal schools well into the second millennium BCE. (Source)

Schoyen Collection, MS 2367/1.

This is so great, I'm stealing it from Warren to make it rebloggable

printedvelvet asks:

“Aside from stuff Phillip K. Dick and Neal Stephenson, what’s on your must-read cyberpunk novels and comics list?”

Warren says

Okay.  Deep breath.

Cyberpunk, also known as Radical Hard SF or The Movement, was born around 1980 and didn’t survive that decade.  (Some people map the end to 1992, with Neal Stephenson’s SNOW CRASH.)  Philip K Dick had no affiliation with the movement, and was dead by 1982, two years before William Gibson published NEUROMANCER.  People tend to associate Dick with cyberpunk because of BLADE RUNNER, particularly its visuals, which had nothing to do with the novel, but were so strikingly of the speculative zeitgeist that in 1982 William Gibson had to get out of his cinema seat and leave the screening because it looked too much like what was in his head.

Phil Dick was pre-cyberpunk.  He, JG Ballard and Alfred Bester were major touchstones for the movement.  Ballard’s CRASH and Bester’s STARS MY DESTINATION and THE DEMOLISHED MAN are essential.  Also John Brunner’s STAND ON ZANZIBAR, THE SHEEP LOOK UP, and, most importantly for cyberpunk’s ancestry, THE SHOCKWAVE RIDER.

Of the cyberpunk period itself, you will need William Gibson’s first trilogy, NEUROMANCER, COUNT ZERO and MONA LISA OVERDRIVE.  Also, Bruce Sterling’s THE ARTIFICIAL KID and ISLANDS IN THE NET.  Richard Kadrey’s METROPHAGE.  Rudy Rucker’s SOFTWARE and WETWARE.  Pat Cadigan’s TEA FROM AN EMPTY CUP.  That should keep you going for a bit.

FWIW, I agree with all of what Warren says, and please consider this another vote for METROPHAGE, which is amazing.

How soon hath Time the suttle theef of youth,
Stoln on his wing my three and twentith yeer!
My hasting dayes flie on with full career,
But my late spring no bud or blossom shew'th.
—  John Milton has a personal crisis about his lack of achievement at the age of 23.
3

July 11th 1960: To Kill a Mockingbird published

On this day in 1960, the novel ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ by Harper Lee was published by J.B Lippincott & Co. The novel tells the story of the trial of a young African-American man in Alabama in the 1930s, and is told from the perspective of the daughter of the defendant’s lawyer, Scout Finch. Lee was partly inspired by events she recalled from her own childhood growing up in Alabama in the days of Jim Crow segregation. 'To Kill a Mockingbird’ was released during a turbulent time for American race relations, as the burgeoning Civil Rights Movement was beginning to get underway with sit-ins and Freedom Rides in the wake of the Supreme Court ruling Brown v. Board of Education (1954). The novel was originally going to be called 'Atticus’ for Scout’s father and the moral centre of the story, but was renamed for one of Atticus’s iconic lines. The novel was an immediate success, and won the Pulitzer Prize in 1961. In 1962 it was adapted into an Oscar-winning film starring Gregory Peck and featuring the film debut of Robert Duvall as the elusive Boo Radley. Harper Lee never published another novel and remains reclusive from the press, though she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2007. The influence of 'To Kill a Mockingbird’ has never faded in the 54 years since its release, and is a favourite of many for its warmth and humour while tackling some of the most troubling issues of its day.

“Shoot all the blue jays you want, if you can hit 'em, but remember it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird”

Today is the birthday of Beatrix Potter, born on this day in British history, 28 July 1866. She is most remembered for her work as an author and illustrator of children’s books. Her most famous creation, Peter Rabbit, is still a popular and well loved character today.

3

Dante’s Divine Comedy

Nearly two hundred years after its original publication, Dante’s Divine Comedy was republished in 1502 with Italian Renaissance flair. The Renaissance brought about a greater desire for erudite texts; individuals who collected such works were seen as worldly and refined. To meet this growing demand, books became smaller and less cumbersome, which explains why this edition of Divine Comedy almost fits in the palm of your hand.

The first illustration above is the title page of Divine Comedy, and the second illustration is an introduction the Inferno section that serves as the starting point of Dante’s journey. Dante then travels to purgatory and paradise. Much scholarship has focused on Inferno, which has proven to be the most captivating of the three realms Dante visits.

The full article about Dante’s Divine Comedy can be read at: http://www.newberry.org/infernal-imagery

7

What Jane Saw: Recreation of the 1813 Joshua Reynolds Retrospective Exhibit Attended by Jane Austen

On 24 May 1813, Jane Austen visited an important and  much-talked-about art exhibit at the British Institution in Pall Mall, London. The show  was a retrospective of the works of Sir Joshua Reynolds (1723-1792), England’s  celebrated portrait painter.

No visual record of this show is known to have survived, although it  attracted hundreds of daily visitors during its much-publicized three-month run.  However, many details of the exhibit can be reconstructed from the original 1813  "Catalogue of Pictures,“ a one-shilling pamphlet purchased by visitors as a guide  through the three large rooms where hung 141 paintings by Reynolds. Armed with  surviving copies of this pamphlet, narrative accounts in nineteenth-century newspapers  and books, and precise architectural measurements of the British Institution’s exhibit  space, this website reconstructs the Reynolds show as Jane Austen (as well as any Jane  Doe) saw it.

This is a very interesting project, overseen by The University of Texas at Austin English Department, a link to which was dropped into my inbox recently by zeborahnz. The Catalogue of Pictures actually links to the paintings it describes, so that you can view all 141 paintings that appeared in the exhibit in 1813, along with descriptive text and information about the painting in question. You will literally see What Jane Saw.

When I talk about “historical accuracy”, and the way this phrase is bandied about in popular culture in order to enforce some kind of assumed ubiquitous whiteness of “the past”, I’m always struck by the fact if you actually recreate something from European history letter by letter according to documentation, the diversity and vibrancy, the truth of the past, becomes apparent almost immediately.

Interestingly enough, I’m reminded of someone who sent me a message about the development of a game called Ever Jane, an MMORPG set in Regency England and based on Austen’s books, which had restricted the option of race to white because of “historical accuracy”:

I told the makers of ‘Ever, Jane’ (a new MMORPG based on Jane Austen’s books and the early regency period) that restricting the race to white people because of 'historical accuracy’ was ridiculous and told them to come check out your blog. The founder seemed really enthusiastic & stuff, so she may be perusing your posts now.

The game did end up being created (although it is still in development), and I’m curious if they ever followed through with adding some diversity to their character creation options.

There are those who, conceding the point that there were obvious and documented presence of those we would consider People of Color, would then insist that Austen’s novels didn’t feature any. They would be wrong. Many have also insisted that they would not have considered themselves “People of Color.” Again, wrong.

Austen had an unfinished novel called Sanditon, which has been subject to many academic analyses and explorations, including the character of Miss Lambe. Miss Lambe is a West Indian heiress of mixed race whose presence, name, and function within the narrative echoes rather directly an anonymous novel very likely to have been read by and influenced Austen: The Woman of Colour (1808):

[From Jane Austen’s Names: Riddles, Persons, Places by Margaret Doody, p. 207]

You can read a bit more about the novel here, including a direct commentary on the manner in which our current stereotypes and cultural biases inform our sense of what is and is not anachronistic, as well as what we expect from the eponymous “Woman of Colour”:

It teaches well, but students need more help thinking of the novel within its cultural moment than I anticipated.

 The phrase “woman of colour” has such modern overtones that they begin the novel expecting a more explicit critique of bigotry and place on Olivia their own experiences of reading women of color (primary in American literature)—either as abject victims or cultural warriors.  Olivia is neither of these, and even sophisticated graduate students struggled with how dutiful she is as she faces obstacle after heart-breaking disappointment. 

Her temperament prompts an interesting discussion about the modern student’s idea of what makes a “heroine” (a similar question comes up when students encounter Austen’s Fanny Price in Mansfield Park, a novel with its own complicated relationship with the slave trade).   More than a female protagonist, students want a woman who is heroic.  So while they might judge Moll Flanders for her sexual machinations and are suspicious but eventually accepting Evelina’s saintliness, they have very clear expectations of a woman of color.  They see the sexism that permeates eighteenth- and nineteenth-century fiction as “of the time,” but this impulse to historicize (primarily as a way to gloss over the nuances of nineteenth-century sexism) does not extend to the bigotry and ignorance of racism.  They are frustrated by the decision she makes at the end of the novel and want to see those who have wronged her punished. 

The myriad ways we are confronted with the past and its cultural and historical realities, but moreover, the way we are confronted with our own expectations of it, and what is really at the core of this project (MPoC).

It’s my hope that any Austen fans reading this will bring a whole new perspective to their reading, and perhaps even take a look at The Woman of Colour to add depth and nuance to their historical fansquee, SCA and cosplay recreations, gaming activities, and discussions.

2

September 21st 1937: The Hobbit published

On this day in 1937, J.R.R Tolkein’s fantasy novel The Hobbit, or There and Back Again was published in the United Kingdom. The novel follows the adventures of the hobbit Bilbo Baggins, as he assists a group of dwarves to reclaim their homeland, and tries to claim a share of treasure guarded by the fearsome dragon Smaug. Tolkein, an academic at Oxford University, found inspiration for the novel in his studies of Old Norse mythology and language. Upon completion, Tolkein had several notable literary friends, including C.S. Lewis of Narnia fame, read the manuscript. The novel was published by George Allen & Unwin Ltd. in September 1937, with an initial run of 1,500 copies, which quickly sold out. The Hobbit was a great success, popular among adults and reviewers despite its childlike tone, and was nominated for the Carnegie Medal. The popularity of The Hobbit led Tolkein’s publisher to request a sequel, which became The Fellowship of the Ring (1954), the first book in The Lord of the Rings series. His work on these novels led Tolkein to amend certain portions of The Hobbit to accommodate Middle Earth lore introduced in the new books. The Fellowship of the Ring was followed by The Two Towers and The Return of the King, and the trilogy - along with its precursor The Hobbit - remain immensely popular literary classics.

“In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort.”

2

First Edition of The Hobbit is Published

21 September 1937

The first edition of The Hobbit was published on this day in British history, 21 September 1937. Published by George Allen & Unwin Ltd. of London, the first edition was printed in a run of 1,500 copies, all of which had sold by December 1937. This first printing was illustrated in black and white by Tolkien, who designed the dust jacket as well.