Archive for January, 2007

In life, the only daughter of Samuel Taylor Coleridge kept her light under a bushel, dying at 49 with her work largely unknown. Now, 150 years on, she is emerging as a considerable poet in her own right.

A British academic has discovered 120 unknown poems by Sara Coleridge at a university in Texas which, he says, rank her as a significant poet.

Though Dr Peter Swaab does not make extravagent claims for the Lake Poet’s daughter – he ranks her as “an important minor poet” – he says that the astonishing discovery casts remarkable light on the struggles of an intellectual woman constrained by Victorian mores.

In the hoard, Dr Swaab has discovered barely-disguised love poems written by Sara to an Irish poet and, most poignantly, a three-verse poem written in 1852 about her fight against breast cancer which was apparently dictated to her daughter from her sick bed. Six weeks later she was dead.

Addressed to “a little lump of malignity”, she says in the poem: “Crack away, tumour, I pray thee to crack/ Just now you seem to be on the right track.”

Sara, born in 1802, was a noted beauty – it is said that on one of her first visits to the London theatre the thunderstruck audience broke into applause – with a clever mind.

She published two collections of poetry in her lifetime, but anonymously. Dr Swaab believes that Sara did not want to trade on her family name.

His discovery, among Sara Coleridge’s papers in the Harry Ransom Centre in Texas, almost doubles her known output. He said yesterday: “She’s an exceptionally gifted writer and deserves a much wider readership. She needs to be nudged up the list of people we consider to be important in Romantic and Victorian culture.”

The poems fall into three categories: romantic poems written to her cousin, Henry Nelson Coleridge, a lawyer, during their seven-year engagement; mostly short story poems written to entertain her children; and a group written to the Irish Romantic poet Aubrey de Vere, 12 years her junior, with whom she struck up a close – but probably not intimate – relationship after the death of her husband.

Dr Swaab, who teaches English at University College, London, said: “The most important group is those to de Vere. She says in her papers that they were written under the influence of their friendship. A lot of them are really love poems but she is describing her confusion.

“She writes about her attraction to him but also about her need to deny it. She writes about how she was too old for him, about ageing and about how the season for love has passed.”

Other poems paint a picture of motherhood and family life but melancholy seeps through many of them, as well it might.

Sara had a difficult life. She was born in the Lake District but her parents’ marriage was not a success and her father, who had already developed a taste for opium to which he later became addicted, left home before Sara was three. She was brought up with the help of two other Romantic poets, William Wordsworth and Robert Southey.

Her husband’s parents disapproved of her marriage, three of their five children died soon after birth, she suffered severe depression in the 1830s and her husband died young in 1843. She often turned to her deep Christian faith to pull her through.

The new poems were published by Carcanet Press yesterday, under the title Sara Coleridge – Collected Poems. Dr Swaab found them in a bound volume which Sara called The Red Book. He suspects that Sara wanted her children to read them after her death.

Dr Swaab said: “Since her death her work hasn’t been well-represented even in the major collections of Victorian women poets, even though she has a lot to say to female readers today. This may be because she is still seen by many academics as a sacrificial offshoot of the family business, having devoted so much of her time to editing her father’s work.”




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Technology has come up with the answer for people living along who dislike solitary meals: the virtual family dinner, where relatives hundreds of miles apart get together for a chat.

Accenture, the consulting company, is exploiting the explosion in broadband access to provide lonely people, notably the elderly, with a way to get together with relatives as often as they’d like, updating the traditional family meal.

The concept is simple. An elderly woman in, say, Scotland, prepares a meal and, as she sits down to eat, a screen, which is transparent when not in use, pops up at the end of the table.

A computer program runs through a directory of pre-registered family members and friends to find someone who is “available for dinner” – or, at least, a conversation.

The virtual guest’s image is then projected on to the screen and the solitary diner no longer feels that she is eating alone.

“We are trying to really bring back the kind of family interactions we used to take for granted,” said Dadong Wan, a senior researcher in Accenture’s laboratories in Chicago.

Recent figures showed that more than half of women aged over 75 lived alone, and a survey by Help the Aged disclosed that television was the main source of company for nearly half of all over-65s.

“The whole idea is to make sure they eat right,” said Mr Wan. “Recent studies have already shown that people at high risk of under-nourishment consume more than 100 calories extra per meal if they eat with someone else present.”

When a prototype becomes available, in no more than a year or two, it is likely to cost up to £500 per household, Mr Wan said. Insurance companies and Government agencies could one day help to pay for the system, much as they do for home helps, once they see its benefits.


 Dadong Wan and Adam Pilon





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Reading blogs

The number of people reading Internet blogs on the top 10 U.S. newspaper sites more than tripled in December from a year ago and accounted for a larger percentage of overall traffic to those sites, according to data released on Wednesday.

Unique visitors to blog sites affiliated with the largest Internet newspapers rose to 3.8 million in December 2006 from 1.2 million viewers a year earlier, tracking firm Nielsen//NetRatings said.

U.S. news organizations are increasingly calling on their reporters and editors to write news blogs and compete with the expanding Internet format for informal analysis and opinion.

It is one of several tactics they are using to keep readers who can choose from a flood of competing information sources on the Internet.

Blog pages accounted for 13 percent of overall visits to newspaper sites in that month, up from 4 percent a year earlier. Total visitors to the top newspaper sites rose 9 percent to 29.9 million.

About 60 percent of online newspaper readers were men, with the percentage rising to 66 percent of blog readers, Nielsen//NetRatings said.



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tA woman who was found dead hours after taking part in a water drinking contest at a local radio station may have died of water intoxication, a coroner said.

The body of mother-of-three Jennifer Strange, 28, was discovered at her home in Rancho Cordova, California, on Friday after she competed in the “Hold Your Wee for a Wii” contest organised by KDND 107.9.

The radio station had promised a Nintendo Wii video game system for the competitor who could drink the most water without going to the toilet.

Ms Strange went home after complaning to work colleagues that her head was hurting. “She was crying and that was the last that anyone had heard from her,” said Laura Rios, a colleague at the Radiological Associates of Sacramento.

It was not immediately known how much water she drank during the event, though early investigations showed evidence “consistent with a water intoxication death,” according to the Assistant Coroner Ed Smith.

Contestants were initially given half-pint bottles of water to drink every 15 minutes, with the size of the bottles increasing as the competition progressed.

“They told us if you don’t feel like you can do this, don’t put your health at risk,” said fellow contestant James Ybarra of Woodland, California.

John Geary, vice president and marketing manager for Entercom Sacramento, the station’s owner, said staff were stunned when they heard of Ms Strange’s death. “We are awaiting information that will help explain how this tragic event occurred,” he said.



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The Prestige

This (The Prestige) is a very interesting film, directed by Christopher Nolan, about two magicians that shows the dangerous and deadly consequences of envy and rivalry.  From the time that they first met as young magicians on the rise, Robert Angier and Alfred Borden were competitors. However, their friendly competition evolves into a bitter rivalry making them fierce enemies-for-life and consequently jeopardizing the lives of everyone around them. Set against the backdrop of turn-of-the-century London. I am not going to tell you anything else in order not to ‘destripar’ the film, which is very beatiful with its stories about love, hate, death…


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