Archive for June, 2011

Ruperts

26 June 2011

Johnson, comparing the historian William Robertson with Goldsmith, famously said to Boswell

You must look upon Robertson’s work as romance, and try it by that standard. History it is not. Besides, Sir, it is the great excellence of a writer to put into his book as much as his book will hold. Goldsmith has done this in his History. Now Robertson might have put twice as much into his book. Robertson is like a man who has packed gold in wool: the wool takes up more room than the gold. No, Sir; I always thought Robertson would be crushed by his own weight,–would be buried under his own ornaments. Goldsmith tells you shortly all you want to know: Robertson detains you a great deal too long. No man will read Robertson’s cumbrous detail a second time; but Goldsmith’s plain narrative will please again and again. I would say to Robertson what an old tutor of a college said to one of his pupils: “Read over your compositions, and where ever you meet with a passage which you think is particularly fine, strike it out.”

Amusingly, Boswell adds “it is probable that Dr. Johnson, who owned that he often ‘talked for victory,’ rather urged plausible objections to Dr. Robertson’s excellent historical works, in the ardour of contest, than expressed his real and decided opinion; for it is not easy to suppose, that he should so widely differ from the rest of the literary world”. Do you think?

Quiller-Couch likewise wrote:

Style … is not–can never be–extraneous Ornament. You remember, may be, the Persian lover whom I quoted to you out of Newman: how to convey his passion he sought a professional letter-writer and purchased a vocabulary charged with ornament, wherewith to attract the fair one as with a basket of jewels. Well, in this extraneous, professional, purchased ornamentation, you have something which Style is not: and if you here require a practical rule of me, I will present you with this: ‘Whenever you feel an impulse to perpetrate a piece of exceptionally fine writing, obey it –whole-heartedly–and delete it before sending your manuscript to press. _Murder your darlings._’

I finished a fairly protracted bit of editing last weekend and sent the pear story off to the Guardian competition. Four friends and family have now read it and of course all had different views about what I should change or keep. I felt like Jo in Good Wives when her “cool, impartial persons” all tell her different things, as do her family:

So, with Spartan firmness, the young authoress laid her first-born on her table, and chopped it up as ruthlessly as any ogre. In the hope of pleasing everyone, she took everyone’s advice, and like the old man and his donkey in the fable suited nobody.

Her father liked the metaphysical streak which had unconsciously got into it, so that was allowed to remain though she had her doubts about it. Her mother thought that there was a trifle too much description. Out, therefore it came, and with it many necessary links in the story. Meg admired the tragedy, so Jo piled up the agony to suit her, while Amy objected to the fun, and, with the best intentions in life, Jo quenched the spritly scenes which relieved the somber character of the story. Then, to complicate the ruin, she cut it down one third, and confidingly sent the poor little romance, like a picked robin, out into the big, busy world to try its fate.

There were some structural problems about the end wch I hope I sorted. But what struck me was how hard, even with multiple passes through the thing, it is to strike out the “good” bits, or murder one’s darlings. When I went through one of my father’s novels with him we called these Ruperts, after a character who was pointless except to advance the plot – one of the characters was being interviewed by mysterious civil servants, and someone came in to the office, announced himself as Rupert, handed over some forms, made a few jokes and left. We cut him and then when we found extraneous words wch weakened or at best failed to strengthen the writing we leapt on them with cries of “it’s a Rupert”.

Here are some of the Ruperts I removed from the pear story:

“Then the apothecary, the same day, talked of”
“Or perhaps fruit flavours for you today?”
“that slight – ve-ry, ve-ry slight – but unmistakeable reek”
“the greatest houses, those where the”
But never mind that, you know your own business”
really, they would be”
Now this was unfathomable
In future, he said”

Those were the ones I found in pass five, I think – there were around another 15 passes. Mostly what they do is interrupt – one over-writes, explains to the reader too much, comments on the action. It’s a lack of confidence in the text. A few of the Ruperts were also jokes (such as sudden changes in register) that may have been amusing in themselves but didn’t work in this story.

I also found a random typo pretty late on – the curate’s house had a rood rather than a roof. At least one of my readers thought this was a point I was making about religion.

Other things I had to do a lot of work on were rhythm and tracking the characters’ / narrator’s eyeview – who exactly is seeing the action described.

Anyway, I can’t imagine it will win – there’s the randomness of any big competition, and also the story itself is too weird, not the sort of thing they’ll be looking for. But it’s good to have got it done, particularly during a period of insane busyness at work (on leave this week, hence the rash of posts).

Pleasure Grounds: The Gardens and Landscapes of Hampshire (book #108)

26 June 2011

eds Gill Hedley and Adrian Rance, 1987.

The essay “Archive Sources for Hampshire Gardens” by Rosemary Dunhill reproduces this picture, A Picnic by Cadland (no date given), by John Christian Schetky. It hasn’t scanned terribly well.

A Picnic at Cadland

Article about the current state of the estate here.

In trying to find this image online I came across Art as a tool in support of the understanding of coastal change, a research paper with some good images, such as this photograph of Ventnor around 1900:

Ventnor, around 1900

Much clothedness. And this:

View of the Western Shore, Southampton - Samuel Owen

I like the informal sitting around in this one:

Priory Bay from Horestone Point, William Gray

Words about Pictures: The Narrative Art of Children’s Picture Books (book #107)

21 June 2011

Perry Nodelman, 1988.

Most of the books he discusses are American, so there were a few I hadn’t heard of. One was Trina Schart Hyman, who – among other books – illustrated Snow White with romantic images, some of which are here. There is an interview here, and a bibliography and biography on the same site, wch also has information on other women illustrators of children’s books.

I also found the Sur La Lune Fairy Tales Blog when looking for this, wch is worth a read.

Another book I haven’t read he talks about is Maurice Sendak’s Outside Over There – about a child stolen away by goblins and rescued by her older sister. The Amazon reviews describe it as dark and frightening. He says

Before she was two, my own daughter insisted that we read her Outside Over There again and again. She did not express the same obvious delight in it that she took in other books and could not be persuaded to discuss the book or her response to it, but she always listened to the story with great attentiveness and carried the book with her wherever she went for some weeks. While many adults find such books disturbingly difficult, they seem to speak to children directly, presumably to a part of them that is eventually numbed by experience of the world and that may exist only below consciousness in adults.

I like the imagined dialogue here – the writer saying to the two year-old, “now, discuss the book and your response to it”.

Interesting stuff about Mr Rabbit and the Lovely Present, wch I have read and wch is also illustrated by Sendak. He says that

“as Mr Rabbit and the girl discuss different colors, the green of the landscape around them is suffused with light of the color they discuss. As they discuss red the woods behind them contain red foliage … but as they discuss yellow the woods are lit with yellow-orange, and they walk towards a brownish-yellow road”.

He thinks that this results in a “calm serenity [tautology] … because of the unified concord created by their suffusion with tones of one secondary color”. He also says that the impressionist style Sendak uses contributes to a “calm peace” [again with the tautology] that balances some of the negativity of the text –

“a slightly nasty snippishness in both Mr Rabbit and the girl … she always seems to be accusing him of being a little stupid, and he always seems to be just a little sarcastic about how of course her mother only likes birds in trees”.

In the same way, he analyses how the illustrations by Garth Williams for Charlotte’s Web counter the lack of action in the text; it is “a surprisingly inactive novel – in fact, it is about how violent action is prevented, and it is filled with poetic descriptions that retard the action”. Williams “shows just about every occasion in Charlotte’s Web where people or animals are swept off their feet – Lurvy toppling over Wilbur, Wilbur in midair as he tries to spin a web, Avery turning a handstand at the fair. Even in less frenetic moments … Mrs Arable clutches nervously at her purse … Fern’s hands always seem to imply a hyperactive clutching or grasping”.

I like his description of “the matter-of-fact tonelessness common in European fairy tales”.

Talks about different ways boys and girls are depicted. “Those who smile and invite the gaze of viewers are most often femnale, the others usually male” – as in Shirley Hughes’s Lucy and Tom’s Christmas: “Tom looks in his Christmas stocking while Lucy sits on the bed and smiles out at viewers”. Nodelman calls this complicity with our gaze the act of “willing victims”.

The book also discusses whether picture books use techniques from films, and finds that mostly they don’t – “most pictures in most picture books are middle-distance or long shots, showing full figures in settings, usually seen at eye level”.

Talks about some pictures requiring more “reading” than others, and quotes Lamb on Hogarth: “His graphic representations are indeed books: they have the teeming, fruitful, suggestive meanings of words. Other pictures we look at – his prints we read” (source here).

Mentions Richard Redgrave’s painting The Poor Teacher, wch I hadn’t come across before.

The book ends by quoting from Peter Rushforth’s novel about the Holocaust, Kindergarten, a description “of a picture in a fictional picture book: an illustration made by a character in the novel for the tale of ‘Hansel and Gretel'”:

The little boy, and the younger girl, stood hand in hand at the edge of an immense dark forest, towering high above them, dressed in the fashion of the 1930s, the little girl with an elaborately woven shawl around her shoulders. They filled most of the picture, standing in the centre of the scene. The girl was looking in front of her, into the forest, and seemed frightened. The boy was looking over his shoulder, back the way he had come, looking straight into the face of anyone looking at the picture. The details were as intensely-observed as in a Victorian genre-painting, and the boy’s open, unguarded face could be studied in a detailed way that one could only give a face to in a painting or a photograph, or the face of someone who was loved, and who returned that love.

Nodelman follows this by saying that “the joining together of the objective detachment of art and the vulnerability of love say more about what picture-book art offers children than I could say in many pages”.

Lives like Loaded Guns: Emily Dickinson and Her Family’s Feuds (book #106)

20 June 2011

Lyndall Gordon, 2010.

Author’s website.

This for me was one of the books one lives in – barely able to think of anything else until I finished it, Ancient Marinering people about it. It’s not just Gordon’s retelling of Dickinson’s life, though there are insights and subtleties in that, but the story of the battle to claim Dickinson, the way it takes over lives, including some pretty remote from Dickinson herself (her niece’s husband’s second wife; her editor’s daughter’s husband). Literary battles as life-changing, even possibly literally deadly in some cases.

There’s an article by Gordon here in wch she talks about her theory that Dickinson had epilepsy and also about the feud. The epilepsy theory is seductive given the language of some of the poems, as Gordon describes – the spasms and fits in thought. I was surprised Gordon didn’t mention non-epileptic seizures, though of course at the time there could not have been a distinction between epilepsy and NES.

There’s a decent review here.

For such a powerful book there’s very little I want to quote specifically. I liked this quotation from Alice James’s diary: “I suppose one has a greater sense of intellectual degradation after an interview with a doctor than from any human experience”.

I’m surprised I can’t find online Helen Hunt Jackson’s anti-suffrage article from 1870, “Good-by, Leather Stockings!”.

I like this exchange:

When Higginson came face to face with Dickinson for the second and last time, in 1873, he asked her how she coped with lack of occupation, day by day within the same walls. She was astonished and gave him to understand that such a question had never occurred to her. Thuogh by then Higginson had corresponded with her for 12 years and read a good many of her poems, he was unaware that her inward life was so active, and her attention to events of nature so constantm that she felt no lack of occupation. She gardened, kept a flourishing conservatory, made the household bread since her father preferred hers and, then too, she added rather dreamily, ‘people must have puddings … ‘.

Because the internet is a wonderful thing, here is a picture of a crocheted shawl belonging to Dickinson that may have been the one she wore when she met Higginson:

Emily Dickinson crocheted shawl

This is from the Harvard archive and the catalogue entry reads

Shawl or cape; blue/green crochet with tasseled drawstring at neck; well worn at back. Probably Louisa Norcross; circa 1860. Wool yarn; front edge length 56 cm., neck edge length 39 cm., lower edge length 190 cm.
This is possibly the cape referred to in a letter from Emily to Louise and Frances Norcross, dated mid-September 1860, beginning “Bravo, Loo, the cape is a beauty . . .”.
This shawl came in an envelope with a note in Martha Dickinson Bianchi’s hand reading: “Emily’s crocheted cape made by her cousin Loo Norcross. Probably worn when she met Col Higginson.” The note likely refers to Emily Dickinson’s first meeting with Thomas Wentworth Higginson in August of 1870. In a letter written to his wife following his visit, Higginson described Emily as wearing “a very plain & exquisitely clean white pique & a blue net worsted shawl.”

On the subject of shawls, here’s Dickinson’s poem 443:

I tie my Hat—I crease my Shawl—
Life’s little duties do—precisely—
As the very least
Were infinite—to me—

I put new Blossoms in the Glass—
And throw the old—away—
I push a petal from my gown
That anchored there—I weigh
The time ’twill be till six o’clock
I have so much to do—
And yet—Existence—some way back—
Stopped—struck—my tickling—through—
We cannot put Ourself away
As a completed Man
Or Woman—When the Errand’s done
We came to Flesh—upon—
There may be—Miles on Miles of Nought—
Of Action—sicker far—
To simulate—is stinging work—
To cover what we are
From Science—and from Surgery—
Too Telescopic Eyes
To bear on us unshaded—
For their—sake—not for Ours—
Twould start them—
We—could tremble—
But since we got a Bomb—
And held it in our Bosom—
Nay—Hold it—it is calm—

Therefore—we do life’s labor—
Though life’s Reward—be done—
With scrupulous exactness—
To hold our Senses—on—

And another poem below – I hadn’t come across this one, wch Gordon reads as a response to the recently published Goblin Market. The introduction here is from this article.

The prose portion of the letter explains the impetus for her correspondence: she wrote to wish Bowles well as he recovered from an illness. Writing on behalf of her sister Lavinia, her sister-in-law Susan, and herself, Dickinson reminds Bowles of a time in the previous year when they had all been together and then, in the final prose paragraph that breaks into verse, offers him religious and natural metaphoric gifts:

We pray for your new health – the prayer that goes not down – when they shut the church – We offer you our cups – stintless – as to the Bee – the Lily, her new Liquors-

Would you like Summer? Taste of our’s –
Spices? Buy, here!
Ill! We have Berries, for the parching!
Weary! Furloughs of Down!
Perplexed! Estates of Violet – Trouble ne’er looked on!
Captive! We bring Reprieve of Roses!
Fainting! Flasks of Air!
Even for Death – a Fairy Medicine –
But, which is it – Sir?

Anthem for Doomed Youth (book #105)

20 June 2011

Carola Dunn, 2011.

Author’s website.

I suppose I read these out of curiosity to see how the author develops Daisy’s life, and in particular how she manages to keep Daisy working now she’s married with children; and to see how she manages to get Alec (Met detective husband, handy if you make a habit of finding bodies) on the scene this time.

The book is set in 1926. Two words grated on me – OED gives mixed results.

“Reported missing Sunday the sixth, by his teenaged daughter.” The earliest citations for “teenaged” are from 1953, one in a reference book of American sland and the other from the listener. “Teenage” itself is attested from 1921 in Canada, 1935 in America and 1950 in the UK – in an adult novel by Noel Streatfeild I haven’t read (and must now do). I’ve forgotten whether it’s Alec or one of the other police who say this line, but I think in any case I’m voting anachronistic.

“If you’re going to be so – so negative, Lily, I wish you would go away.” This use of negative as an adjective struck me as wrong. The speaker is a middle-aged or elderly middle-class woman. The earliest OED citation in anything like this sense is from 1891, in the Dictionary of National Biography – “His negative bent made him before all things a censor and a critic”. There’s also 1895, the International Journal of Ethics, “one does not like to be entirely negative or pessimistic after so many words”. So I suppose this is just about plausible.

Albion’s Seed: Four British Folkways in America (book #104)

20 June 2011

David Hackett Fischer, 1989.

This is a fascinating account of four ideological and/or economic migrations to America in the 17th and 18th centuries and the ways the migrating communities took their own folkways with them, creating distinctive traits in different regions of America.

There’s a Wikipedia page on the book. There are extracts from the section about the emigration of people from the Scottish Borders and Northern Ireland to the “back country”, the Appalachian mountains, Maryland, Virgina and Carolina here. There’s another extract here (PDF) particularly about the environment of the regions to which the first three of the migrations Fischer discussed went. I like the image of some of the Puritans having “have had their overgrown beards so frozen together that they could not get their strong-water bottles into their mouths” (not sure what strong-water is – spirits?).

Here’s a list of criticisms of the book, including suggesting that he overstates his case and that sometimes he gives no sources or outdated sources (wch I had noticed). I’ve also found that quotes where I can find another source online sometimes differ from what appears to be the original text (“perswade” where he silently corrects to “persuade” in the ballad below, for instance, and “Nashun” in an account of a sampler where he corrects to “Nation”) and occasional minor inaccuracies (he says the Filmer family seat in Kent is now “a school for wayward girls” – in fact it hasn’t been since 1947, though it was still a school for boys at the time Fischer was writing; and see comments on the William Blundell quote below).

Fischer’s list of folkways is useful to bear in mind if you are creating imaginary societies:
Speech ways
Building ways
Family ways (both in ideal and in actuality)
Marriage ways (including courtship and divorce)
Gender ways (customs regulating social relations between men and women)
Sex ways (including the treatment of sexual deviance)
Child-rearing ways (again, in ideal and in actuality)
Naming ways (favoured forenames and the descent of names)
Age ways (attitudes towards age)
Death ways
Religious ways
Magic ways (beliefs and practices about the supernatural)
Learning ways (attitudes towards literacy and education)
Food ways (including patterns of eating and fasting)
Dress ways
Sport ways (including attitudes towards recreation and leisure)
Work ways
Time ways (attitudes towards time, the rhythms of life)
Wealth ways (attitudes towards wealth, wealth distribution)
Rank ways (rules by which rank is assigned, the roles it assigns, relations between ranks)
Social ways (conventional patterns of migration, settlement, association and affiliation)
Order ways (ways of ensuring order, forms of disorder)
Power ways (attitudes towards authority and power, patterns of political participation)
Freedom ways (ideas and customs about liberty and restraint)

Here’s part of a ballad about the Puritan migration to Massachusetts:

The Zealous Puritan

For Company I fear not,
There goes my Cousin Hannah,
And Reuben so persuades to go
My Cousin Joyce, Susanna.

With Abigail and Faith,
And Ruth, no doubt, comes after;
And Sarah kind, will not stay behind;
My Cousin Constance Daughter.

(from An American Garland: Being a Collection of Ballads Relating to America, 1563-1759).

During this migration, “the cost of outfitting and moving a family of six across the ocean was reckoned ad £50 for the poorest accommodation, or £60 to £80 for those who wished a few minimal comforts. A typical English yeoman had an annual income of perhaps £40 to £60. A husbandman counted himself lucky to earn a gross income of £20 a year”.

In Puritan Massachusetts, “in nuclear families that were persistently “disorderly” – a word that covered a multitude of misdeeds – the selectmen were required to remove the children and servants and place them in other homes. Thus, in 1675, Robert Styles of Dorchester was presented for many sins, and ordered to “put forth his children, or otherwise the selectmen are hereby empowered to do it, according to law”. According to this site (wch has other good quotations about life in colonial families), his sins included “not attending the public worship of God, negligence in his calling, and not submitting to authority”.

In this society no-one was allowed to live alone. There were laws against it in Connecticut and Plymouth:

In 1668 the court of Middlesex County, Massachusetts, systematically searched its towns for single persons and placed them in families. In 1672 the Essex County Court noted:

Being informed that John Littleale of Haverill lay in a house by himself contrary to the law of the country, whereby he is subject to much sin and iniquity, which ordinarily are the companions and consequences of a solitary life, it was ordered…he remove and settle himself in some orderly family in the town, and be subject to the orderly rules of family government.

[He was] given six weeks to comply, on pain of being sent to “settle himself” in the House of Correction.

This custom was not invented in New England. It had long been practiced in East Anglia. From as early as 1562 to the mid-seventeenth century, The High Constables’ Sessions and Quarter Courts of Essex County in England had taken similar action against “single men,” “bachelors,” and “masterless men.”

Death customs in Puritan Massachusetts discouraged outward displays of grief, except for a weird custom following the funeral:

After the funeral, food and drink were served. Then suddenly the restraints were removed on one of the few occasions when New Englanders drank to excess. Entire communities became intoxicated. Even little children went reeling and staggering through the bleak burying grounds. There are descriptions of infants so intoxicated that they slipped into the yawning grave.

(This is one of the things he gives no source for.)

I like this print of Yale in 1807 he mentions, with the “students in beaver hats and swallow-tailed coats playing football on New Haven Common, while an elder … looked on with an air of disapproval”.

A ballad from the 17th century migration “of indentured servants and distressed cavaliers” to Virginia:

The Lads of Virginia

Come all you young fellows wherever you be,
Come listen awhile and I will tell thee,
Concerning the hardships that we undergo.
When we get lagg’d to Virginia. …

When I was apprentice in fair London town,
Many hours I served duly and truly,
Till buxom young lasses they led me astray.
My work I neglected more and more every day,
And to maintain them went on the highway.
By that I got lagg’d to Virginia. …

When I was in England I could live at my ease,
Rest my bones down on soft feathers,
With a jug in my hand and a lass on my knee,
I thought myself fit for all weathers.

But now in Virginia I lay like a hog,
Our pillow at night is a brick or a log,
We dress and undress like some other sea hog,
How hard is my fate in Virginia.

Old England, Old England, I shall never see you more.
If I do it’s ten thousand to twenty;
My bones are quite rotten, my feet are quite sore,
Fm parched with fever, and am at death’s door.
But if ever I live to see seven years more.
Then I’ll bid adieu to Virginia.

(Also from An American Garland.)

He writes “Gentlemen took pride in the firtility of their women and their animals – sometimes in the same breath. A seventeenth-century gentlement named William Blundell expressed delight in his ménage, when within 24 hours his wife was delivered of a son, his prize cow produced a calf, a sow dropped fifteen piglets, a bitch gave birth to sixteen puppies, a cat had four kittens, and his hen laid fifteen eggs”. He gives the sources as A Cavalier’s Notebook but in fact the actual text reads “in or about the year 1673 there happened in one family in Salford, within the space of twenty-four hours, these several births following, viz. : the wife of the house was delivered of a son, a cow of a calf, a sow of fifteen pigs, a bitch of sixteen whelps, a cat of four kittens, and a hen hatched fourteen eggs. All this I took in writing from Mr. Samuel Andrews, and he professed that he had it credibly affirmed to him by persons in the same neighbourhood”. Fischer implies that this relates to Virginia, but in fact this is an English source, isn’t about the author William Blundell’s family, and there are a couple of other minor discrepancies. Still a good story though – should be a nursery rhyme.

There’s a good list of North Midlands (Cheshire, Derbyshire, Lancashire and Yorkshire) vocabulary that travelled to America, including the following:

budge
cattawumpus
cuddle
dither (upset)
expect for suppose, as “I expect that’s so”
find (provide for)
flabbergasted
good grief
mad (angry)
quality folks (gentry)
shaggareen (untidy person)
sneezlepoak (hesitating person)
swatch (fabric sample)
thingamajif
upsa daisy

Thomas Budd’s proposal for education in Quaker schools in Pennsylvania, 1698: boys were to be “instructed in some mysetery or trade, as the making of mathematical instruments, joinery, turnery, the making of clocks and watches, weaving, shoemaking or any other useful trade”. Girls were to learn “spinning of flax and wool, and knitting of gloves and stocking, sewing, and making of all sorts of useful needlework, and the making of straw work, as hats, baskets, etc”. He also said “to the end that the children of the poor people, and the children of Indians, may have good learning with the children of the rich people, let them be maintained free of charge with their parents”. Penn himself wrote “I recommend the useful parts of mathematics, as building houses, or ships, measuring, surveying, dialing, navigation: but agriculture especially is my eye. Let my children be husbandmen and housewives”. But Fischer writes that there was little Quaker support of public education, and “on the subject of education, no public laws of any importance were passed in Pennsylvania from 1700 to 1776”. Not sure what “dialing” is.

On Quaker food, Fischer says that the migrants brought with them a method of food preservation through boiling. This included cream cheese (Philadelphia) wch was partly dehrydrated sour cream, apple cheese, plum cheese, pear cheese, walnut cheese (there are some recipes for this online but none of them seem to be about boiling), lemon cheese (can’t find a recipe for this except ones that look like lemon curd or are in fact a type of cheese) and orange cheese or orange butter (can’t find this either, though Fischer says it is still a Christmas dish in Quaker families).

More death ways, this time from Carrickfergus – Fischer argues that these traditions were taken by emigrants to Appalachia:

On the death of a person, the nearest neighbours cease working till the corpse is interred. Within the house where the deceased is, the dishes, and all other kitchen utensils, are removed from the shelves, or dressers; looking glasses are covered or taken down, clocks are stopped, and their dial-plates covered. Except in cases deemed very infectious, the corpse is always kept one night, and sometimes two. … If a dog or cat passes over the dead body, it is immediately killed, as it is believed that the first person it would pass over afterwards would take the falling sickness. A plate with salt is frequently set on the breast of the corpse, and is said to keep the same from swelling.

Source. Fischer gives this as 17th century, but the text is from 1839.