Ham­mered By The Waves

A Young French­man’s So­journ in New­found­land in 1882-83

The Compass - - TRINITY SOUTH - mered By The Waves Cod­fish and Casanova!? Ham­mered By The Waves Ham- that Whor­tle-berry?! sar­race­nia pur­purea, Yoo hoo, Mr. Google. Oops, Ham­mered By The Waves,

Ro­man nu­mer­als drive me nuts. Es­pe­cially when I’m solv­ing cross­word puzzles and the clue is “Cae­sar’s 557” or some such. The nu­mer­als drive me nuts be­cause I don’t know them very well de­spite dis­tant years of school­ing. Un­der­stand­ably, I’m not 100 per cent cer­tain which page of the in­tro­duc­tion of

[Cre­ative Pub­lish­ers] side­tracked me. Page 11, I think — XI?

The fol­low­ing quo­ta­tion by trans­la­tor Dr. James McGrath in a letter to Joey Small­wood sent me aGoogling: “...he [Henri de la Chaume, the book’s au­thor] agrees with Casanova that New­found­land cod­fish, prop­erly pre­pared, is one of God’s great gifts to the hu­man race.” Off I went to Google­land. Ap­par­ently, Casanova — yes, Casanova; buddy who suc­cess­fully wooed a whole slew of women — ate some fifty-odd oys­ters a day to avail of their aphro­disi­a­cal qual­i­ties.

That randy ol’ Vene­tian paramour ate oys­ters to keep up his...well, strength. He ate oys­ters and New­found­land cod­fish, the lat­ter of which he touted as God’s gift to the hu­man race.

Think about this: Noth­ing like a good feed of fish and a bot­tle of wine.

Even­tu­ally, I re­turned from Google­land and moved past the In­tro­duc­tion.

is Henri de la Chaume’s ac­count of the 17 months he spent in New­found­land in 1882-83 when he was 20 years old. He de­scribes his writ­ing as, “... noth­ing more than a page in the life abroad of a young French­man, artist and poet in his day, as ev­ery well­born man ought to be in these times.”

In light of re­marks I’ve al­ready made about Casanova, and con­sid­er­ing the lo­cal seafood dishes young Henri was likely served with some reg­u­lar­ity dur­ing his so­journ in New­found­land, it’s in­ter­est­ing de la Chaume fur­ther writes: “And can I help it if the women there are far su­pe­rior to the men and al­most oblige me to spend most of my time in the study of their sex?”

Later Henri makes this note re­gard­ing sev­eral young ladies of his ac­quain­tance: “I was con­fused, al­most be­wil­dered by the care­less bold­ness with which these young girls threw them­selves at young men.”

At the risk of ruf­fling some feath­ers — no, truly hop­ing to rumple some plumage — I present this next de la Chaume state­ment, al­beit some­what out of con­text: “In New­found­land the men are un­learned. They never con­sider us­ing their in­tel­li­gence in the realms of thought.”

Makes you want to smack him, eh b’ys?

Read the book and fit those lines into the proper con­text — the con­text I’ve in­ten­tion­ally ne­glected to see if I could rile you up — and you’ll agree they’re kinda funny.

Speak­ing of funny, many of de la Chaume’s im­ages are amus­ing. I drew at least 27 smi­ley faces in the mar­gins.

Here’s a cou­ple of dandy snip­pets seen in Henri’s de­scrip­tion of one of his ac­quain­tances, a cer­tain Mr. Benoit, the tip of whose nose “ juts out with an in­vin­ci­ble prej­u­dice against straight lines,” and whose mous­tache is “coarse haired and stiff, yel­low brown in colour and ap­par­ently al­ways blown to one side by an in­vis­i­ble wind.”

At one point, de la Chaume men­tions the “del­i­cate bells of the whor­tle-berry.” You know what I had to do. As far as I can fig­ure out, it’s a blue­berry or one of its kin.

At an­other point, he com­ments on the “ Wild­man’s cup.”

or Ev­i­dently, the pitcher plant. Just look at the re­main­der of de la Chaume’s re­mark: “... Wild­man’s cup whose red veined leaves are also a vase in which, on hot days, the rare trav­eler finds re­fresh­ing wa­ter.”

I’ve been bog-bound, sun-baked and parched but I’ve nei­ther sipped nor supped from a pitcher plant. Have you? Part Three — Part III — of

“A Fugue In North Amer­ica,” is about de la Chaume’s trav­els be­yond New­found­land, to Canada and the United States.

I’ve never been much of a trav­eler and I have no de­sire to leave The Rock to visit far­away places, like Canada or the United States, so I con­fess I skimmed that part of the book.

Once though, Mis­sus made me see the sights at Ni­a­gara Falls. That’s some size of a brook! Thank you for read­ing. By the way, should it ever ap­pear in your cross­word puz­zle, Cae­sar’s 2011 is MMXI.

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