Friday, February 15, 2008


More Morley

Toulemonde (Doubleday 1928). Toule is in the OED as an obsolete form of the word toll. Monde = world, people, circle, society. The toll the world takes? I can speculate, but I wish I knew what the title actually meant. I'm sure it was one of Morley's inside jokes (caveat: some of his jokes are not meant to be funny). The contents: a group of related poems about a man named Toulemonde - a writer taking the train to work in New York City, a journalist, someone who reads Blake in his bathtub at home - obviously Morley himself, with a dash of his literary friends thrown in. The book has a plain black cloth cover, and another lovely title page:

Our tree of knowledge is here a grapevine, with a kindly putto dispensing the juice into our cup. The dedication page reads "To Mitchell Kennerley." The title page is preceded by the half-title, then by this short announcement:

Despite this touch of humor, and others, the overall tone of these poems is melancholy and even deeply bitter, as befits the approaching end of the roaring twenties, and perhaps Morley's own disillusionment with journalism and the stress of being "in print." In one poem the narrator refers to the mind/heart stuff that becomes his writing as camera film: "The brittle hurrying ribbon of his thought" (p.32). And again (pp.29-30):

"And now it's late, the telephone won't ring,
I'm safe. I'm safe in silence. I can take
My little rolls of film, of reminiscence,
And (working in a cautious rosy gloom)
Bathe them in the necessary acids
And watch the pictures tenderly emerge;
Develop, tone and fix and wash and dry
Till they can face the White Light of the World.
Those films are full of static: as they whirl,
Winding and unwinding in the dark
You'll see them crackle with a running spark."

I was googling around to see if I could apprehend more about the meaning of the word Toulemonde, other than as just a name, and I saw a tantalizing bit of information: Lot 144 at the 1995 Swann auction of "The Abromson Collection of Christopher Morley" contained a Morley mss "written primarily in ink with extensive corrections, crossouts, etc. Np, nd The Dope on Toulemonde. 7 pages." (Along with a few other handwritten pages, four of which were entitled Visit to a Second-Hand Bookshop - wouldn't we like to read that - but that's another story!) I wonder where the lot ended up? Austin, Texas? Herman Abromson had one of the finest Morley collections of all time, that's for sure. I bet he knew what Toulemonde meant. Anyway, the poems just might break your heart, if you read them closely enough.

Elsewhere: I'm making huge strides through the pages of Montaigne; I'm also reading more Tim Mackintosh-Smith. Enough to keep me busy for a few more days. Brief bookshop report: yesterday a woman bought a stack of art books, and someone else bought books too, and I sold four books on Amazon - a banner day for mid-February! How I love selling books... Back on Monday.

Sarah, I think toulemonde is tout le monde—the whole world, everyone. I think the final t is silent in tout, but not in toute, so it may be perfectly good (Brooklyn) French. Carry on, I usually lurk, but always enjoy your posts.
Yes, definitely tout le monde.
Another lurker piping up....I always thought it was tout le monde as well.

Now thanks to you I am in the midst of a Morleyfest! I'm re-reading Parnassus on Wheels now, and I will be taking a few titles from the project gutenberg files with me as text files on my PDA so I'll have something to read on my 10 hour flight to Alaska next week. Thanks for placing that idea in my head! I cannot think of a better way to spend the long flight.
Brooklyn French would be perfectly appropriate for Morley (or Long Island French, anyway). Thanks for the assistance, folks. Perhaps Morley meant something like: while this book seems to be about me, it's actually about all of us, the universal plight (of being human, thinking/feeling in the age of the city sort of thing), we're all in this together. Hmm. I'd still like to read that little mss someday...

Always happy to encourage Morley reading, Meg - I hope you continue on past his early works ("Parnassus on Wheels" & "The Haunted Bookshop" etc.) and venture into "Kitty Foyle" and "John Mistletoe" and "Human Being" and "The Man Who Made Friends with Himself" etc. And the poetry! Oh dear, I think I'm becoming effusive. Time to go.
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