Archive for the '65 Years Old' Category

Sixty-Five Year Old: Captain Henry Whalley

His fame remained writ, not very large but plain enough, on the Admiralty charts. Was there not somewhere between Australia and China a Whalley Island and a Condor Reef? On that dangerous coral formation the celebrated clipper had hung stranded for three days, her captain and crew throwing her cargo overboard with one hand and with the other, as it were, keeping off her a flotilla of savage war-canoes. At that time neither the island nor the reef had any official existence. Later the officers of her Majesty’s steam-vessel Fusilier, despatched to make a survey of the route, recognised in the adoption of these two names the enterprise of the man and the solidity of the ship. Besides, as any one who cares may see, the ‘General Directory,’ vol. ii. p. 410 begins the description of the ‘Malotu or Whalley Passage’ with the words: ‘This advantageous route, first discovered in 1850 by Captain Whalley in the ship Condor,’ &c., and ends by recommending it warmly to sailing vessels leaving the china ports for the south in the months from December to April inclusive.

This was the clearest gain he had out of life. Nothing could rob him of this kind of fame. The piercing of the Isthmus of Suez, like the breaking of a dam, had let in upon the East a flood of new ships, new men, new methods of trade. It had changed the face of the Eastern seas and the very spirit of their life; so that his early experiences meant nothing whatsoever to the new generation of seamen.

In those bygone days he had handled many thousands of pounds of his employers’ money and of his own; he had attended faithfully, as by law a shipmaster is expected to do, to the conflicting interests of owners, charterers, and underwriters. He had never lost a ship or consented to a shady transaction; and he had lasted well, outlasting in the end the conditions that had gone to the making of his name. He had buried his wife (in the Gulf of Petchili), had married off his daughter to the man of her unlucky choice, and had lost more than an ample competence in the crash of the notorious Travancore and Deccan Banking Corporation, whose downfall had shaken the East like an earthquake. And he was sixty-five years old.

Joseph Conrad, The End of the Tether

Published in: 65 Years Old | on February 6th, 2012 | No Comments »

Sixty-Five Year Old: Mrs. Baumann



Late in the afternoon in October, as Shenandoah rewrote a poem, Mrs. Baumann’s voice had come through the closed bedroom door. And he had been annoyed because he now had to come from his room, pale and abstracted, his mind elsewhere, to greet his mother’s friends. It turned out that Mrs. Baumnann had come with a friend, a woman of her own age, and when Shenandoah entered the living room, Mrs. Baumann, as voluble as Mrs. Fish, told Shenandoah in a rush the story of her friendship with this woman.

They had come to America on the same boat in the year 1888, and this made them ship sisters. And then, although their friendship had continued for some years, one day at a picnic of the old country’s society, a sudden storm had disturbed the summer afternoon, everyone had run for cover, and they had not seen each other for the next nineteen years. And Mrs. Baumann seemed to feel that the summer thunderstorm had somehow been the reason for their long and unmotivated separation. The two old women drank tea and continued to tell the youthful author about their lives and how they felt about their lives; Shenandoah was suddenly relaxed and empty, now that he had stopped writing; he listened to them and drank tea too. Mrs. Bauman told Shenandoah that in her sixty-five years of life she had known perhaps as many as a thousand human beings fairly well, and when she tried to sleep at night, their faces came back to her so clearly that she believed she could draw their faces, if she were a painter. She was sickened and horrified by this plenitude of memory, although it was wholly clear why she found the past appalling. Yet these faces kept her from falling asleep very often, and consequently she was pleased and relieved to hear the milkman’s wagon, which meant that soon the darkness would end and she would get up, make breakfast for her family and return to the world of daylight. Mrs. Baumann felt that perhaps she ought to see a psychoanalyst, like Freud, to find out what was wrong with her.

Delmore Schwartz, America! America!

Published in: 65 Years Old | on February 6th, 2012 | No Comments »