Thursday, June 28, 2012

Harriet Taylor Mill: A Fighter of Women's Rights

Day of Birth:         October 1807
Place of Birth:       Walworth, south London
Day of Death:        3 November 1858
Place of Death:      Avignon, France
            Taylor was an English philosopher and early advocate for women's rights, who is often overshadowed by her husband, the philosopher John Stuart Mill.
            Harriet Hardy was the daughter of a surgeon. Educated at home, she enjoyed writing poetry. In 1826, she married John Taylor, a prosperous merchant and together they had three children. The Taylors became active in the Unitarian Church and in 1830 a Unitarian minister introduced Harriet to the philosopher John Stuart Mill. Harriet and John met for the first time in 1830. Their meeting was arranged by the leader of Harriet's Unitarian congregation, the Reverend W. J. Fox. There is no way to know whether Fox anticipated that passionate feelings would spring up between John and Harriet, but whatever his intention, the two young people did very quickly fall in love. Their conduct during the long period in which Harriet was married to John Taylor would be scandalous by contemporary standards, let alone Victorian ones. Their affair was to last for more than 20 years, and was generally tolerated by Harriet's husband. From 1833, the couple largely lived apart, enabling Harriet to see Mill more easily. Their behavior scandalized society and as a couple they were socially isolated. But they inspired each other intellectually and often worked together.
            Mills' 'The Principles of Political Economy' (1848) has a chapter attributed to Harriet called 'On the Probable Future of the Labouring Classes' in which she argues for the importance of education for all in the future of the nation, both economically and socially. Her essay, 'The Enfranchisement of Women' (1851), considered one of her most important works, was published under Mills's name. The essay strongly advocated that women be given access to the same jobs as men, and that they should not have to live in 'separate spheres' - views more radical than those of Mills himself. “The Enfranchisement of Women,” published in The Westminster Review in 1851, is the best candidate for a significant philosophical work authored primarily or even solely by Harriet (H. T. Mill 1998, 51ff). Occasioned by a series of feminist conventions in the United States, it makes a case not merely for giving women the ballot but for “equality in all rights, political, civil, and social, with the male citizens of the community” (H. T. Mill 1998, 51). This essay contains many of the same lines of argument as The Subjection of Women, written by John and published in 1869, although it expresses a somewhat more radical view of gender roles than the later essay (see Rossi 1970, 41ff). It maintains that the denial of political rights to women tends to restrict their interests to matters that directly impact the family with the result that the influence of wives on their husbands tends to diminish the latter's willingness to act from public-spirited motives. Further, it contends that when women do not enjoy equal educational rights with men then wives will impede rather than encourage their husbands' moral and intellectual development. And it insists that competition for jobs will prevent most of the problems that admitting women into the workforce would putatively cause from materializing. All of these points are common to “The Enfranchisement” and The Subjection. The major point of difference between the two is that while the Subjection rather notoriously suggests that the best arrangement for most married couples will be for the wife to concentrate on the care of the house and the children, a position that John also takes in an early essay on marriage written for Harriet (J. S. Mill 1984b, 43), the “Enfranchisement” instead argues for the desirability of married women's working outside the home.
            Harriet's husband died in 1849 and in 1851 she and Mill were finally married. In the autumn of 1858, the couple travelled to France where the climate was better for Harriet's tuberculosis. She died of respiratory failure in Avignon on 3 November 1858. John Stuart Mills' most famous work 'On Liberty', which they had written together, was published in 1859 and was dedicated to Harriet.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

Synopsis: The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des Rêves, and it is only open at night.
But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway—a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them, this is a game in which only one can be left standing, and the circus is but the stage for a remarkable battle of imagination and will. Despite themselves, however, Celia and Marco tumble headfirst into love—a deep, magical love that makes the lights flicker and the room grow warm whenever they so much as brush hands.
True love or not, the game must play out, and the fates of everyone involved, from the cast of extraordinary circus per­formers to the patrons, hang in the balance, suspended as precariously as the daring acrobats overhead.

My thoughts: you know, I’ve read a lot of books, but this one is one of the best! First of all, we are presented to the whole circus, a dream come true place where everything that you wish might exist. Then, we’re presented to their “staff” and the people who made it came true: Alexander, the men in the gray suit; Hector Bowen, aka Prosperus, The Magician; Chandresh, the “owner” of the circus; Celia and Marco, our “main” characters; Poppet, Widget, Tsukiko, the Burgess sisters, Tante Padva and many others. Alexander and Hector made an agreement years before the circus was created: a challenge, and Le Cirque des Rêves would be the local of the challenge. Celia is Hector’s daughter and Marco is an orphan adopted by Alexander. They are the opponents.
                As the story goes, you just keep wishing that the circus actually existed, and that you were a VIP guest, with an invitation like Bailey’s “This card gives the bearer unlimited admission”.
                The sad thing is that I can’t say too much about this novel, otherwise I’ll just keep writing and writing until I tell the whole book, and no one will buy it. ;) What I have to say to future readers is: Read this book VERY carefully. As a illusion, nothing is what it seems. It is as if Celia were really taking care of the circus, and manipulating what you are reading. You can see things like the bonfire in the center of the circus and smell things like those hot chocolates.
I had to keep a calculator by my side at all times to see how old were the characters during the reading. That was the only flaw I could find: the author wrote the years on each chapter, but they don’t follow a correct timeline, so you have to keep calculating the ages of everyone.
                There are so many magical places inside the circus main tent that it’s almost impossible to choose your favorites. Mine are the Illusionist – Celia’s tent – (OF  COURSE!) and the Ice Garden. But the circus is much more then the local of a fight, it represents the dreams of many and the love letters of the opponents. Yes, despite all things, Celia and Marco fall in love, and it’s soo beautiful! Marco is such a romantic! Every tent that he did was only for her. He did the Ice Garden; in return, She did the Tree of Wishes. That was the only way they could be together, since he couldn’t abandon London to travel with the circus and because their love wasn’t meant to exist. Their love is so simple, humble and delicate that I couldn’t stop cheering for them.
                Another story is of Poppet, Widget and Bailey. Bailey goes to the circus during daylight because of a “true or dare” game and meets Poppet when they were 10. Six years later, they meet again, this time inside the circus. Poppet and Widget are twins and have special powers – she has the power to read the future through the stars and he has the power to see peoples past, and it makes sense since Widget was born before the bonfire was created and Poppet was born after the bonfire was done – and they invite Bailey to travel with them.
                Erin Morgenstern writes, as I said, without following a correct timeline, but incredibly, everything connects and everybody gets together.
                So, don’t forget: keep attention during the whole reading because it may seems like there is no sense at all, but don’t trust on your senses because since it’s a illusion, nothing is what it seems (as I already said).
Opens at nightfall,
Closes at dawn.