Babbage has his Harmonic-Disruptor-Ray; but how exactly does one go about destroying poetry?
Okay, salamander-people are within the realm of possibility but this episode is merely fanciful, as Kubla Kahn’s interrupted composition happened in 1797, over a decade before Lovelace was even born. Crazily enough though Lovelace’s husband had an estate near Porlock, which I swear I didn’t know about when I started this gag. Freaky. Stoned!Coleridge courtesy of Nick Harkaway, with a good list of the Evils of Poetry and Why It Must Be Destroyed (that’s what you were going for, right?)
There’s a largish queue of Persons from Porlock outside of poor Coleridge’s door. 2dgoggles: No Gag Too Old! As I haven’t the smallest compunction in resurrecting 150-year-old Babbage-vs-street-musician gags from Punch (this one gets in street music, statistics, and difference engine… trifecta!) the lack of originality here doesn’t worry me a bit . I felt I needed a bit more practice in composing these black-and-white panels, so consider this an etude.
Charles Babbage was to develop a highly-targeted poetry-destroying method in what is one of his most famous quotations, in this Helpful Letter he wrote to Tennyson about his poem “The Vision of Sin” :
In your otherwise beautiful poem,one verse reads, “”Every minute dies a man, Every minute one is born;”
I need hardly point out to you that this calculation would tend to keep the sum total of the world’s population in a state of perpetual equipoise, whereas it is a well-known fact that the said sum total is constantly on the increase. I would therefore take the liberty of suggesting that in the next edition of your excellent poem the erroneous calculation to which I refer should be corrected as follows:
“Every moment dies a man, And one and a sixteenth is born.”
I may add that the exact figures are 1.067, but something must, of course, be conceded to the laws of metre.”
When I was young in Babbage studies (like, a month ago) I thought this was apocryphal, but nope, this is an actual letter. In Babbage’s defense I should say that it’s often extremely difficult to tell when he’s joking. On the other hand his actual jokes are pretty much never this funny.
Life Insurance: not a random gag! My zeal from Primary sources is such that I’m currently reading (okay, currently skimming) Babbage’s piece on actuarial tables. I notice he can’t even write about freakin’ life insurance without opening with a please-tell-me-you-didn’t-hit-publish career-torching rant.
My own Person From Porlock has come knocking in the form of my Day Job (as in, Don’t Quit Your), which resumes in a couple of weeks. There’s a few things I’ll get out before then. After that obviously production will slow, but if you think this will merely be dropped you clearly have NO IDEA how obsessive I am.