Monday, January 18, 2010

a pair of drawers given to me

When I started typing that post yesterday I didn't think it was going to veer off onto the subject of Radclyffe Hall. I began my list of library books with George Eliot because I thought I was going to talk about Eliot. Why was I going to talk about Eliot? I was going to talk about Eliot because I looked at the cover of my new secondhand Mill on the Floss and thought, "That boy isn't wearing any pants."

(The red rectangle is a library sticker)

But no, you can see the edge of a pocket away to the right, and the crease is hanging too low for those to be his buttocks, although the length of his leg as it crosses behind the plank makes me imagine that anatomical accuracy was not this artist's strength, so maybe … but I think the pocket clinches it; also, I think Eliot wrote all of her male characters with pants. "The Victorian age was a time when men in England always had their trousers on," I reminded myself, and then I remembered the Rev. Francis Kilvert pelting naked down the beach in his Diary and reconsidered: "Oh no they didn't."

Bathing clothed irritated him.

Friday 12 June 1874

At Shanklin one has to adopt the detestable custom of bathing in drawers … To-day I had a pair of drawers given to me which I could not keep on. The rough waves stripped them off and tore them down around my ancles. While thus fettered I was seized and flung down by a heavy sea which retreating suddenly left me lying naked on the sharp shingle from which I rose streaming with blood. After this I took the wretched and dangerous rag off and of course there were some ladies looking on as I came up out of the water.

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