Category Archives: INSIDE THE BOOK

Inside the book, Vermeer: Portraits of A Lifetime. Analysis of all the paintings of Johannes Vermeer. The book reveals for the first time that the women featured in the paintings of Johannes Vermeer were members of his own family, his daughters, his wife and mother-in-law, Maria Thins.


Republished by Blog Post Promoter

MARK TWAINI am a great admirer of Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens).  After reading his Autobiography I discovered that Mark Twain became increasingly   cynical, depressed and disillusioned by the behavior of the human race.  His revolutionary books, Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer were protests against the institution of human slavery in a time when "owning people" for commonplace.  Toward the end of his life, in his 70s, Mark Twain became reclusive and bitter about the pain and suffering he witnessed on his extensive travels around the world during lecture tours.  This was compounded by the agony and personal responsibility he felt for the death of his infant son, the death of his daughters and his beloved wife.  The accumulated tragedy of his his observations and experience as a human being overwhelmed him in the end.  He died defeated by the pain of his own compassion for humanity and from the loss of the people he loved the most-- his family.

Many men who are "dreamers" and "visionaries", like Twain, are highly empathetic.  They FEEL the pain of other beings as a personal, subjective pain.  Some beings find relief from this chronic agony in drugs or alcohol.  Or, they just stop looking and caring.  Mark Twain found a temporary relief from his own pain in tobacco, humor, and a "collection" of young girls....

This article is re-posted from the Blog "Today I Found Out":
Samuel Clemens (aka, Mark Twain) used to “collect” girls between the ages of 10-16 years old.

On February 12, 1908, Clemens said, “I suppose we are all collectors… As for me, I collect pets: young girls — girls from ten to sixteen years old; girls who are pretty and sweet and naive and innocent — dear young creatures to whom life is a perfect joy and to whom it has brought no wounds, no bitterness, and few tears.”

Okay, so it isn’t actually as creepy as it initially sounds and in some ways is kind of sweet, but Samuel Clemens did love to entertain young girls.  Towards the end of Clemens life, he suffered quite a lot of hardship. His daughter Susy died in 1896 and his wife Olivia passed away in 1904, followed by a second daughter, Jean, in 1909. Clemens fell into a depression in the early 1900s and noted that while he had reached the grandfather stage of life, he had no grandchildren to keep him company. He therefore went about befriending young girls who he treated as surrogate granddaughters.ANGELFISH

The girls in question were the daughters of couples who ran in his same social circle. He often met them on boats carting him back and forth to England or Bermuda, as was the case with Helen Allen. Allen was just twelve years old when Clemens stayed with her family in Bermuda. Her father was the American Vice-Council in Bermuda; her grandmother had known Clemens’ wife as a child. Clemens said Allen was “perfect in character, lovely in disposition, and a captivator at sight,” everything that Clemens wanted in his collection of young girls.

The group of girls were called “Angel Fish” or “the Aquarium Club.” The name is derived from the fish that Clemens first saw in Bermuda. He decided on that name because the angelfish “is the most beautiful fish that swims.” Clemens would buy angelfish pins in Bermuda and present them to each of his girls. Out of a dozen or so original pins, at least one is still in existence. It currently resides in the Mark Twain Library in Redding, Connecticut.

So what exactly did a man in his late seventies do with a bunch of teenaged girls? All manner of innocent, grandfatherly things. Clemens invited the girls to concerts, the theatre, and to his own house for card games, billiards, and reading. While in Bermuda, several of his Angel Fish had fun riding in a donkey-pulled cart with him. Clemens initially called his estate “Innocence at Home” in honour of “his girls.” He kept in touch with them by exchanging letters when they couldn’t visit, but always kept a room available and hoped to have an Angel Fish “in it as often as Providence will permit.” Before you get too much of a “Michael Jackson” vibe, it should be noted that the girls were always accompanied by a chaperone; the room for the Angel Fish even had two beds to accommodate a mother or guardian along with a girl.

Besides the room, Clemens’ house also had a billiard room which was refashioned into a sort of shrine to the Angel Fish. Above the door was a sign that said “the Aquarium” and inside the walls were lined with framed photos of each of the Aquarium Club’s members.Mark-Twain1

As innocent as it all was, if some celebrity tried to do that today, the press would have a field day with it, insinuating all manner of disgusting things, whether there was any evidence of such acts or not. In his day, it wasn’t really much of a scandal, though Clemens’ remaining daughter, Clara, didn’t appreciate the behavior, perhaps being a tad jealous. When she returned to her father’s home from a stint in Europe to find that her father had collected a group of young girls to entertain, she made her father change the name of his house to “Stormfield” and stopped the household staff from saving letters from the Angel Fish. (Today the full collection of every surviving letter can be read in Mark Twain’s Aquarium: The Samuel Clemens-Angelfish Correspondence.)

The presence of chaperones probably should have put Clara’s mind at ease, but the letters Clemens wrote to his girls would definitely raise some eyebrows today. Shortly after Dorothy Harvey’s fourteenth birthday, he wrote to tell her “I wish I could have those free-gratis-for-nothing-voyages-&-nothing-to-do-but-look-at-you every day.” To Dorothy Quick, just eleven years old, he wrote after one of her visits, “I went to bed as soon as you departed, there being nothing left to live for after that, & all the sunshine gone. How do you suppose I am going to get along without you?” The letters showed his love and devotion to his girls and the enjoyment he experienced in spending time with them, but today parents would likely have used these letters as evidence in civil lawsuits.

mark-twain-154x210Despite this, only one relationship ever looked to be somewhat improper, and that wasn’t with one of his Angel Fish; further, the inappropriate overtures didn’t come from Clemens. The girl was Gertrude Natkin. He met her when she was fifteen and he was 70 in 1905.  The two exchanged letters and Natkin developed a “school girl crush” on Clemens and went somewhat overboard in expressing her affection for him through her letters. Clemens became concerned about this and distanced himself from her- his letters growing more and more infrequent, because he didn’t want to gain a reputation for impropriety nor encourage her affections, perhaps proving that he saw his Angel Fish as nothing more than granddaughters.  Certainly, at the time, an adult male courting a 15 year old girl wouldn’t have raised eyebrows, particularly if the suitor was well-to-do and not too old.  But at 70, it would have been a scandal even in that time period.

Clemens died on April 21, 1910 of a heart attack, just a few years after establishing the Aquarium Club for his Angel Fish. All in all, there were around a dozen members of the club who visited Clemens regularly until his death, but his enthusiasm for the club waned in the last year of his life; he complained that his girls were growing up too fast, complained about their boyfriends, and cut off one girl when she turned sixteen.  In the end, his fondness for them primarily lying in their innocence, as something of a breath of fresh air in a cynical world, waned as they gradually lost that defining feature of children."


Republished by Blog Post Promoter

electronic monkThere are too many people on TV and the Internet demanding that we “believe” their version of “reality”, all of which are divergent, conflicting, self-contradictory, self-serving, or absurd.  So, why waste your time and attention on “believing” anything when there is an ingenious labor-saving device called:  The Electric Monk


(from Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency by Douglas Adams)

“High on a rocky promontory sat an Electric Monk on a bored horse. From under its rough woven cowl the Monk gazed unblinkingly down into another valley, with which it was having a problem.

The day was hot, the sun stood in an empty hazy sky and beat down upon the gray rocks and the scrubby, parched grass. Nothing moved, not even the Monk. The horse’s tail moved a little, swishing slightly to try and move a little air, but that was all. Otherwise, nothing moved.

The Electric Monk was a labour-saving device, like a dishwasher or a video recorder. Dishwashers washed tedious dishes for you, thus saving you the bother of washing them yourself, video recorders watched tedious television for you, thus saving you the bother of looking at it yourself; Electric Monks believed things for you, thus saving you what was becoming an increasingly onerous task, that of believing all the things the world expected you to believe.

Unfortunately this Electric Monk had developed a fault, and had started to believe all kinds of things, more or less at random. It was even beginning to believe things they’d have difficulty believing in Salt Lake City. It had never heard of Salt Lake City, of course. Nor had it ever heard of a quingigillion, which was roughly the number of miles between this valley and the Great Salt Lake of Utah.

The problem with the valley was this. The Monk currently believed that the valley and everything in the valley and around it, including the Monk itself and the Monk’s horse, was a uniform shade of pale pink. This made for a certain difficulty in distinguishing any one thing from any other thing, and therefore made doing anything or going anywhere impossible, or at least difficult and dangerous. Hence the immobility of the Monk and the boredom of the horse, which had had to put up with a lot of silly things in its time but was secretly of the opinion that this was one of the silliest.

How long did the Monk believe these things?

Dirk GentlyWell, as far as the Monk was concerned, forever. The faith which moves mountains, or at least believes them against all the available evidence to be pink, was a solid and abiding faith, a great rock against which the world could hurl whatever it would, yet it would not be shaken. In practice, the horse knew, twenty-four hours was usually about its lot.

So what of this horse, then, that actually held opinions, and was sceptical about things? Unusual behaviour for a horse, wasn’t it? An unusual horse perhaps?

No. Although it was certainly a handsome and well-built example of its species, it was none the less a perfectly ordinary horse, such as convergent evolution has produced in many of the places that life is to be found. They have always understood a great deal more than they let on. It is difficult to be sat on all day, every day, by some other creature, without forming an opinion on them.

On the other hand, it is perfectly possible to sit all day, every day, on top of another creature and not have the slightest thought about them whatsoever.

When the early models of these Monks were built, it was felt to be important that they be instantly recognisable as artificial objects. There must be no danger of their looking at all like real people. You wouldn’t want your video recorder lounging around on the sofa all day while it was watching TV. You wouldn’t want it picking its nose, drinking beer and sending out for pizzas.

So the Monks were built with an eye for originality of design and also for practical horse-riding ability. This was important. People, and indeed things, looked more sincere on a horse. So two legs were held to be both more suitable and cheaper than the more normal primes of seventeen, nineteen or twenty-three; the skin the Monks were given was pinkish-looking instead of purple, soft and smooth instead of crenellated. They were also restricted to just one mouth and nose, but were given instead an additional eye, making for a grand total of two. A strange looking creature indeed. But truly excellent at believing the most preposterous things.

This Monk had first gone wrong when it was simply given too much to believe in one day. It was, by mistake, cross-connected to a video recorder that was watching eleven TV channels simultaneously, and this caused it to blow a bank of illogic circuits. The video recorder only had to watch them, of course. It didn’t have to believe them as well. This is why instruction manuals are so important.

So after a hectic week of believing that war was peace, that good was bad, that the moon was made of blue cheese, and that God needed a lot of money sent to a certain box number, the Monk started to believe that thirty-five percent of all tables were hermaphrodites, and then broke down. The man from the Monk shop said that it needed a whole new motherboard, but then pointed out that the new improved Monk Plus models were twice as powerful, had an entirely new multi-tasking Negative Capability feature that allowed them to hold up to sixteen entirely different and contradictory ideas in memory simultaneously without generating any irritating system errors, were twice as fast and at least three times as glib, and you could have a whole new one for less than the cost of replacing the motherboard of the old model.

That was it. Done.

The faulty Monk was turned out into the desert where it could believe what it liked, including the idea that it had been hard done by. It was allowed to keep its horse, since horses were so cheap to make.

For a number of days and nights, which it variously believed to be three, forty-three, and five hundred and ninety-eight thousand seven hundred and three, it roamed the desert, putting its simple Electric trust in rocks, birds, clouds, and a form of non-existent elephant-asparagus, until at last it fetched up here, on this high rock, overlooking a valley that was not, despite the deep fervour of the Monk’s belief, pink. Not even a little bit.

Time passed.”

SHERLOCK HOLMES Personal Memoir Chapter One

Republished by Blog Post Promoter


“When I first arrived in the great city, I had neither kith nor kin in England, and was therefore as free as air — or as free as an income of eleven shillings and sixpence a day will permit a man to be. Under such circumstances I naturally gravitated to London, that great cesspool into which all the loungers and idlers of the Empire are irresistibly drained. There I stayed for some time at a private hotel in the Strand, leading a comfortless, meaningless existence, and spending such money as I had, considerably more freely than I ought.”, I thought to myself.

It was a cold morning of the early spring.  We sat after breakfast upon either side of a cheery fire in the old room at Baker Street. A thick fog rolled down between the lines of dun-colored houses, and the opposing windows loomed like dark, shapeless blurs through the heavy yellow wreaths. Our gas was lit and shone on the white cloth and glimmer of china and metal, for the table had not been cleared yet.

As neither Dr. Watson, or myself, had any other pressing matters before us, and no prospect of employment to enhance either my interest or livelihood, we spent the afternoon perusing the London Times.  I read nothing except the criminal news and the agony column. The latter is always instructive, most particularly in the observation that violence does, in truth, recoil upon the violent, and the schemer falls into the pit which he digs for another.

Our original acquaintance, when I had been lodged on Montague Street, around the corner from the British Museum, was on Saturday, July 16th.  I had spent the day working in the chemical laboratory at St. Bart’s Hospital. In the morning, I complained to a young medical man named Stamford about not being able to find someone to go halves on some nice rooms I had found in Baker Street.

That very afternoon Stamford brought Dr. Watson into the lab to inquire about sharing the rooms. The next day Watson and I went around together to inspect our potential domicile at 221B Baker Street. We made our arrangements then and there with Mrs. Hudson, the landlady.  Watson began moving in that night, and I the next morning, Monday, July 18th.

Dr. Watson represented himself to me as having served as an Assistant Surgeon of the Army Medical Department, which was attached to the 66th Berkshire Regiment of Foot in Afghanistan. He related to me that he was discharged following an injury received in the line of duty during the infamous British defeat at the Battle of Maiwand, in July of the previous year. Watson related that he was nearly killed in the long and arduous retreat from the battle, but was saved by his orderly, Murray, who threw the doctor on a pack-horse and thus helped to ensure his escape from the field.

Watson is strongly built, of a stature either average or slightly above average, with a thick, strong neck, owing to the fact that he was once an athlete, whom, although a Scot who was educated at the University of Edinburgh, played rugby for Blackheath in south-east London.

I spent nearly half an hour lighting and relighting my pipe while Dr. Watson shuffled through the tabloid pages, grunting occasionally at one trivial report or another.

“I was never a very sociable fellow, Watson, always rather fond of moping about in my rooms”, I complained in a melancholy tone.

Watson grunted impassively from behind the unfolded sheets of the newspaper with little regard for anything other than the distraction provided by a river of typographical trivialities many men frequently employ to dull their empathy.  I will admit that I have most certainly included myself amoung their number on numerous occasions.

Apparently the dampness of my environs had affected my personal blend of Latakia and Cavendish tobaccos, which I have relished as a flavor more pleasing than the finest culinary delicacies of Paris for many years.  Ordinarily, the heat retained by the fine meerschaum bowl of my pipe was sufficient to dry the mixture enough to keep it well lit.  In any case, matches are plentiful and cheap. Suitable pipe tobacco is not.

For some years Watson had taken it upon himself to create adventure stories based upon my criminal investigations, which, upon several occasions, he had accompanied me at my request.  Most frequently, I asked for his assistance when the matter at hand presented a feature of menace which may have required fire arms. For this purpose Dr. Watson seemed inevitably prepared, bearing his service revolver in his pocket, should the occasion for the use of it present itself.  Indeed, I presumed without justification, that his military service qualified him as a proven marksman, though, in point of fact, as an assistance surgeon, he had never fired a gun in defense of his country or himself.

My review of his written accounts of our adventures did not meet with my satisfaction upon any occasion. After reading a few of them I chose to ignore them more frequently than not, demurring of his insistence upon sensationalizing the science of logic and observation which were the only features of my investigations worthy of note, in my own opinion.

I had been silent all the morning, dipping continuously into the advertisement columns of a succession of papers in search of items of professional interest.  Having reflected upon the subject of his scribbling  as I researched the morning papers, with fruitless result, I emerged in no very sweet temper to lecture him upon his literary shortcomings.

“To the man who loves art for its own sake”, I remarked, tossing aside the advertisement sheet of the Daily Telegraph, “it is frequently in its least important and lowliest manifestations that the keenest pleasure is to be derived. It is pleasant to me to observe, Watson, that you have so far grasped this truth that in these little records of my cases which you have been good enough to draw up, and, I am bound to say, occasionally to embellish, you have given prominence not so much to the many causes celebres and sensational trials in which I have figured but rather to those incidents which may have been trivial in themselves, but which have given room for those faculties of deduction and of logical synthesis which I have made my special province.”

“And yet,” said Watson smiling, “I cannot quite hold myself absolved from the charge of sensationalism which has been urged against my records.”

I took up a glowing cinder from the fireplace with tongs and lighted with it my long cherry-wood pipe. I smoked this when I was inclined to a cooler and sweeter smoke than that provided by my briar pipes.

“You have erred in attempting to put color and life into each of your statements instead of confining yourself to the task of placing upon record that severe reasoning from cause to effect which is really the only notable feature about the thing”, I said, puffing ringlets of smoke into the air which merged and gently dissipated upon the ceiling.

“It seems to me that I have done you full justice in the matter,” Watson remarked with some coldness.

“It is not a matter of selfishness or conceit” said I, answering, as was my wont, to his thoughts rather than his words. “If I claim full justice for my art, it is because it is an impersonal thing — a thing beyond myself. Crime is common. Logic is rare. Therefore it is upon the logic rather than upon the crime that you should dwell. You have degraded what should have been a course of lectures into a series of adventure tales.”

“At the same time,” I remarked after a pause, during which I had sat puffing at my pipe and gazing down into the fire, “you can hardly be open to a charge of sensationalism, for out of these cases which you have been so kind as to interest yourself in, a fair proportion do not treat of crime, in its legal sense, at all. The small matter in which I endeavored to help the King of Bohemia, the singular experience of Miss Mary Sutherland, the problem connected with the man with the twisted lip, and the incident of the noble bachelor, were all matters which are outside the pale of the law. But in avoiding the sensational, I fear that you may have bordered on the trivial.”

“The end may have been so,” he answered, “but the methods I hold to have been novel and of interest.”

“Pshaw. My dear fellow, what do the public, the great unobservant public, who could hardly tell a weaver by his tooth or a compositor by his left thumb, care about the finer shades of analysis and deduction?!  But, indeed, if you are trivial I cannot blame you, for the days of the great cases are past”, I said with an earnestly disheartened conviction.

“Man, or at least criminal man, has lost all enterprise and originality. As to my own little practice, it seems to be degenerating into an agency for recovering lost lead pencils and giving advice to young ladies from boarding-schools. I think that I have touched bottom at last.”, I said in a black, disgruntled mood.

For some considerable time we sat wrapped in silence.  I contemplated the flickering embers of the fire, intrigued by the inexplicable, spontaneous conversion of matter into energy for which no reasonable explanation had ever been offered by any of the great minds of science or philosophy.

Watson continued rattling and shuffling through a pile of papers which I had already discarded with overwhelming disinterest.  There was seldom much of any interest to me in the press, unless it reported upon some incident or situation which offered a game of investigation to me.

After some little while, Watson reported to me that he had chanced upon a curious article concerning the mysterious disappearance of a young girl.

“Have you already read it?”, he inquired.

“No, I cannot say that I recall it.  If there is a feature about it that strikes you as being of singular interest, perhaps you will be kind enough to share it with me”, I said.

According to the report, he summarized, a female child of about ten years was reported missing for several hours by her two siblings and a professor of mathematics, currently at Oxford, while enjoying a Sunday outing along the river Thames.  The girls, when interviewed, stated that their sister, Alice Liddell, had been chasing a white rabbit, and had apparently followed it down a rabbit hole and disappeared beneath an enormous elm tree!  The child remained missing for several hours.

Watson read the section of the report which specified certain details of the case he thought I might find relevant, as follows:

“April 19th. The Reverend Charles Lutwidge Dodgson and the Reverend Robinson Duckworth rowed in a boat up the River Thames with three young girls: Lorina Charlotte Liddell (aged 13), Alice Pleasance Liddell (aged 10)and Edith Mary Liddell (aged 8). The three girls are the daughters of Henry George Liddell, the Vice-Chancellor of Oxford University and Dean of Christ Church as well as headmaster of Westminster School. The journey had started at Godstow, a hamlet on the River Thames northwest of the centre of Oxford.”

“Naturally”, Watson said, paraphrasing the report, “the family of the child, upon news of the incident, were highly distressed.  The professor in question, a Mr. Dodgson, has not been detained by authorities, but several unnamed persons have asserted suspicion of pedophilia against this man!”  Watson paused as he completed reading the remaining portion of the article.

“How very curious”, he remarked, placing the paper next to his chair, and pulling out his own smoking pipe, tobacco and tools. “The siblings of the child insist that all parties involved are entirely innocent.  They assert that their sister is at fault for chasing a strange rabbit.  Indeed, they claimed that the rabbit was wearing a waistcoat, and examining a pocket watch when they last saw it!

Furthermore, the child in question, Alice, when questioned by the press, stated emphatically that much ado was being made of nothing, and that the entire incident was merely a story conjured by Mr. Dodgson as an innocent amusement!  Certainly, the entire matter is nothing more than a sensational hoax, perpetrated by the Times editor as an attraction to gullible persons to read the paper. Typical behavior of the press!  Reprehensible, I should say” , he concluded.

I pondered and smoked over the matter for several moments, mesmerized by droplets of rain streaming down the panes of glass which faced westward from my upstairs rooms at 221 B Baker Street.

“Certainly”, I observed to Watson, “this report demonstrates that the magistrates investigating the case are mentally incompetent.  The family, powerless to press charges in the matter, as there is no evidence of foul play, and no harm having been done, are powerless to prosecute.”

Nevertheless, I seized upon this peculiar report as an opportunity to busy myself with a new investigation. My curiosity pressed me to make an inquiry with the constabulary under whose jurisdiction the matter had been attended.

However, before turning to those moral and mental aspects of the matter which present the greatest difficulties, I reminded myself, the inquirer must begin by mastering more elementary problems.  After all, it is a capital mistake to theorize before you have all the evidence.  It biases the judgment.  To that end I posted a telegram that very afternoon to the constabulary at Oxford to whom I was known personally through our cooperation upon several cases in that area.

The following morning I received a reply from which I discovered that Mr. Dodgson was a bachelor Anglican clergyman.  Moreover, and most importantly, a comfortable livelihood was provided him through his talent as a mathematician, which had won him the Christ Church Mathematical Lectureship.

No formal charges had been filed against Mr. Dodgson or Reverend Robinson Duckworth by the girl’s father, the Vice-Chancellor. However, the telegram implied that the inferred scandal of sexual indiscretion fomented by the newspaper report remained a topic of discussion upon the campuses of the university as well as in the community at large, and had alerted the constabulary to maintain an informal interest in the matter.

Contrasted with this supplemental information, the scandalous implications regarding his behavior, as described in the Times report, were becoming more intriguing to me by the moment!  The most singular feature of the case, for me, was not the possibility of indiscretion but rather that no further mention whatever had been made of the rabbit!

Having no further information available to me, and disdaining contact with the press, as was my usual practice, I determined that my most effective method of investigation was to go around to visit professor Dodgson at his offices at Christ Church.

As for the matter of Mr. Dodgson’s integrity, rather than assuming that an impropriety might have occurred, it seemed more likely to me that his ignorance was as remarkable as his knowledge. As a mathematician he is undoubtedly astute, given his position as a professor. However, an unmarried man of his position should most certainly understand that his culpability for the temporary disappearance of this child placed him at the greatest risk socially!  The penchant for society to persecute such a person, even a clergyman, in the absence of evidence of his innocence, is certainly a matter of gravity, if not sensibility.

I might easily have dismissed the matter entirely if it were not for an abiding curiosity on my part to reconcile the singular incongruities in the report. How could a young girl, and not her siblings, disappear down a rabbit hole for several hours, having been observed, reportedly, in pursuit of a rabbit wearing a waistcoat and possessing a pocket watch?  Further, why would the children assert that the incident was merely a story conjured by Mr. Dodgson for their amusement, when the adults in attendance at the scene treated the matter with so much earnestness that the police and press were summoned?


To Continue reading “Sherlock Holmes: My Life”,  click here to go to the site of the publisher to order or download a copy of the book

Support independent publishing: Buy this book on Lulu.

Read Chapter Two here:


Republished by Blog Post Promoter

“There is only one dogma in Magic: The visible is the manifestation of the invisible. The visible bears an exact proportion to the things which are inappreciable by our senses and unseen by our eyes.  Above, immensity: Below immensity! Immensity equals immensity. This is true in things seen, as in things unseen.”

after Dogme et Rituel de la Haute Magie, The Doctrine of Transcendental Magic.  From MORTALITY MECHANIC’S MANUAL by Lawrence R. Spencer