Lovelace And Babbage Vs The Organist.. Finale!

This entry is part 11 of 12 in the series The Organist

You thought it would never happen! Its… Lovelace and Babbage vs The Organist! Part 11!

TA DA!! Notses:

— To those with deprived backgrounds: Dance Dance Revolution! The only way to navigate the punchcards of life:

— I love Wheatstone’s fear of public speaking, though it’s hard to find primary sources.. there is this charming excerpt:

— If you read a bit further in the article we are introduced to Wheatstone’s Kaleidophone– the wavy poles flanking the stage of the Organist doing what would be a spectacular lightshow in the big-budget movie version. Here is a very thorough description of the kaleidophone— scroll down a bit– and its attendant toys– sorry for the hard-to-read site, there’s not a whole lot of kaleidophone stuff out there and SHOCKINGLY, no video! I must get on this… anyways I offer giant kaleidophones as a concept for someone’s next prog-rock prop.

— how villainous was Wheatstone? Check out his ‘Enchanted Lyre’ – actually a bit of a hoax (lyre.. hah!) as is very well explained in this excellent page on Wheatstone and his nefarious musical villainy. I feel I have seriously not done justice to Wheatstone in this story, so I shall have to bring him back!

— music bothered Babbage to such an extent that I will indulge in the harmless hobby of amateur post-mortem diagnosis and speculate that he suffered from amusia, like his contemporary Charles Lamb:

Yet rather than break the candid current of my confessions, I must avow to you, that I have received a great deal more pain than pleasure from this so cried-up faculty. I am constitutionally susceptible of noises. A carpenter’s hammer, in a warm summer noon, will fret me into more than midsummer madness. But those unconnected, unset sounds are nothing to the measured malice of music. The ear is passive to those single strokes; willingly enduring stripes, while it hath no task to con. To music it cannot be passive. It will strive — mine at least will — ‘spite of its inaptitude, to thread the maze; like an unskilled eye painfully poring upon hieroglyphics. I have sat through an Italian Opera, till, for sheer pain, and inexplicable anguish, I have rushed out into the noisiest places of the crowded streets, to solace myself with sounds, which I was not obliged to follow, and get rid of the distracting torment of endless, fruitless, barren attention!

— I’d like to give plenteous thanks to reader Samara Weiss for sending along the full PDF of the Journals of Lady Eastlake (available in Google Books in snippet view only in Europe due to the murky state of copyright I suppose, though the ever-brazen print-on-demand pirates entrepreneurs seem happy enough to first block the text, then slap a modern copyright date on, then hawk it for outrageous sums..). Anyways, where was I… Lady Eastlake! Somewhat tedious company, but her journals deliver the priceless information that Lady Lovelace was a ‘plain, odd-looking woman’ who harangues people about the rights of women. Lady Eastlake gets FIFTY cookies for observing at the end of a presumably unfun mathematical evening, “Babbage and not Byron should have been her father”. :D!!!!

Lovelace seems, as usual, to have improved upon acquaintance– she seems to have been stiff and awkward with people she didn’t know- anyways Lady Eastlake writes a few days later, “I was amused, after my observation, to find Babbage and herself the greatest friends.”

I hope Lady Eastlake likes cookies because she gets another ten cookies for this fitting coda to The Organist, written after a concert:

“Even Mr. Babbage, who hates music, said that he felt something which he could not explain, which bothered him greatly of course as he likes to understand everything.”

Thanks for your kind and patient attention, everyone! I’ll follow up with a post-mortem next week..

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  1. E.T. the Eccentric Type on March 9, 2011 at 9:48 pm

    E.T. agrees with Babbage. Music would be so much more tolerable if people would write it down and READ it instead of PLAY it. I don’t go around reading books out loud… unless I’m sure nobody can here me, anyway.

  2. Floyd on February 26, 2011 at 6:50 pm

    We’ve come to a sort of ending, but as someone else has noted, Wheatstone and the Organist are footloose, and I think they might be the inadvertent originators of Rock N Roll.
    Possibilities abound…including a new episode, or two or three.

    Your servant, Floyd
    Who has become comfortably numb.

  3. nekokami on February 1, 2011 at 7:56 pm

    Ah, I wasn’t the only one who noted the similarity between Babbage and Lord Vetinari, then. ;)

    I completely approve of the idea of a printed, bound version, but I’d be happy with an ebook, as my space constraints for printed material are currently rather severe.

    I like this font, but perhaps it could be a bit larger….

  4. Anon, a Mouse on January 25, 2011 at 3:46 am

    HOORAY!! Um.. is that Wellington’s Horse rocking out right in front?

    I’d love to actually see Wheatstone’s (or indeed any) kaleidiphone. And can’t help but note the single similarity between Babbage and “The Patrician.”

    Thank you again for such a brilliantly written and illustrated semi-biographical intelligent romp. Should you ever wish to go to press with a bound volume, I’d be more than happy to put you in touch with some good printers.

  5. SimonG on January 24, 2011 at 12:54 am

    Great story. I especially liked the idea that music is spoilt by the noise.
    On a less frivilous note, you may be interested in the Darwin Correspondence Project, which includes some brief correspondence from CD to CB: mostly regarding party invitations.

  6. Cheops on January 23, 2011 at 7:18 pm

    It happens to be two other heroes were in the same predicament…

    “The dynamic duo about to be perforated in a human piano roll! Desaster! Which way out? The most dreadful music is yet to come!”

    The Batman & Robin episode is “The Dead Ringers”, (especially 1:10 – 1:30 and 2:20 – 4:20).

  7. Samara on January 22, 2011 at 6:44 am

    You’re very welcome — I feel like the WikiLeaks of catty Victorian journals! But O! That remark from/about Babbage is worth more cookies than I can bake!

  8. E-wit on January 22, 2011 at 12:45 am

    OK — what next???

  9. Mary Ellen on January 21, 2011 at 2:02 am

    Way back around Ep. 6 or so I remember wondering in a comment whether the mathematical aspect of music might enter into things somehow — hoorah! This really is a wonderful denouement, Sydney, in every way.

    I’m more or less a visual artist myself, and quite innumerate (not, as you yourself prove, that this is a necessary combo). I’ve never really understood the appeal of math, which has always caused me more grief than anything else. but it is perfectly obvious from Babbage’s fascinating notes on music-hating that for him, anyway, the perception, following through, and analysis of pattern was a need and a necessity ground right into his brain structure. music presented him with patterning *which he knew to be patterning*, in a form that he was – for reasons probably also neurological – unable to penetrate. the esthetic aspect was either totally lost on him, or the pain of being unable to process it was enough to negate it, which comes to the same thing, I guess. Poor guy! Still, he perceived beauty that I’ll never see.

    Great action sequences, by the way. Your movie experience really shows — or is it all wild, pure TALENT!?
    (i echo Cerridwen’s objection to using this small all-caps serif font for leaving comments. Very hard for the non-eagle-eyed to read.)

  10. Corey Reid on January 20, 2011 at 9:01 pm

    I wonder if you could compile a set of rules of the Lovelace/Babbage universe: “There’s always an ejection seat,” might deserve a place there.

    When you produce the book, PLEASE find a way to include the notes! Always at least half the fun!

  11. Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey on January 20, 2011 at 1:24 am

    Our hostess writes:

    …though the ever-brazen print-on-demand pirates entrepreneurs seem happy enough to first block the text, then slap a modern copyright date on, then hawk it for outrageous sums…

    Someone I know had the misfortune to order such a book.

    Read my review “The Worst Excuse for a Book I’ve Ever Seen,” but prepare to be appalled:

  12. Ceridwen on January 19, 2011 at 10:33 pm

    Love the comic, love the links (someone ought to make one of those kaleidophones)… wondering why the font on the comments is so gosh-darned small. The font itself is good but, for an old granny with bifocals, it’s a heck of a thing to try and read. How do I set the font for the comments larger without making the page itself larger?

  13. Lance on January 19, 2011 at 10:30 pm

    Bravo! Utterly glorious stuff. Thank you so much for *finishing* this, no mean feat as I’m sure Babbage would agree :-)

    …and of course, Encore!

  14. Redshift on January 19, 2011 at 7:32 pm

    Excellent. And another lovely Wheatstone bridge reference for the engineers!

    Who is that rocking out in the middle panel? A common street musician, or someone we have met?

    And is the bass drum-running sequence a Galaxy Quest reference?

  15. Owen Fleet on January 19, 2011 at 1:05 pm

    BOOK! SEQUEL! COFFEE! Not necessarily in that order. Thank you so much for all your hard work :)

  16. the doodler on January 19, 2011 at 5:35 am

    This is _wonderful._ I had to read it twice to catch all the gags. Wheatstone’s public speaking phobia, 1830s DDR … it’s beautiful. Will they continue to fight crime at some point? If you have time? :D

  17. Peltier Cooler on January 19, 2011 at 2:43 am

    Oh, Gods. Make a book.

    I will give it as Newtonmass presents to everyone on my list. I promise.

    Please, please, please.

  18. sam on January 18, 2011 at 10:34 pm

    Brilliant indeed!!! Thank you for all your hard effort!
    And I love the notes about your research. ♥

  19. Dr. Ernie on January 18, 2011 at 8:51 pm

    I love it. Can I buy a bound copy of the whole series?!?

  20. Morris on January 18, 2011 at 6:13 pm

    Great denouement, but as a compulsive proofreader, I’m disturbed to an unreasonable degree by your tendency to drop the first ‘t’ in “Wheatstone”.

  21. Kaazz on January 18, 2011 at 6:03 pm

    Lovelace saves the day!! Yet, the dastardly Organist & his fiendish accomplice, Wheatstone, are still at large!! This seems to set things up quite well for a SEQUEL! ;-)

    Yes. Please. A book! I will pay cold, hard CASH for this in printed form!! You should get some monetary benefit for you effort & talent!!

    Really, truly, thanks! This comic is brilliant. Absolutely, positively BRILLIANT! Keep up the good work!

    (And, um, yeah, the kaleidophone ‘link’ isn’t one…)

  22. Robin on January 18, 2011 at 5:43 pm

    Is it me or is the link to the kaleidophone not actually a link?

  23. Brian on January 18, 2011 at 4:20 pm


    (No words….)

  24. mordicai on January 18, 2011 at 1:09 pm

    An ending worth waiting for. I was curious to see how Babbage’s begrudging & new-found respect for music would manifest & an interest in staff notation is a wonderful way to play it.

  25. Ray Girvan on January 18, 2011 at 12:56 pm

    “available in Google Books in snippet view only in Europe due to the murky state of copyright I suppose”

    But you can go through a proxy server such as Danny Sullivan at Search Engine Land got a reply from Google on the point of what rights they assert over their PDFs of out-of-copyright works – – and they say they’re more like guidelines. The overall picture seems to be that the difference in access is there as an impediment to out-of-USA troughing of files for commercial publication, rather than a legal wall.

    Anyhow: great work. As others have said, these strips really need to go into book form.

  26. Dave Van Domelen on January 18, 2011 at 12:53 pm

    Why do I get the feeling that this entire storyline was merely a pretext to let you say, “Wheatstone, take it to the bridge!” ?

    • Ambidexter on January 30, 2011 at 12:40 pm

      Oh good, I’m not the only one who thought that. In fact, as soon as Wheatstone appeared I knew there’d be an allusion to a wheatstone bridge. I must be psychic or an electronics nerd.