The Daily Post WOTD is Archaic. What an appropriate word! I am baking bread today, an activity that could be considered archaic. Even among bread-makers, my methods might be considered old-fashioned because I do all my mixing and kneading by hand. A mixer with a dough hook may be easier on the muscles, but it cannot feel the texture of the dough. For me, the way the dough feels is important because (1) dough has feelings that should be respected, and (2) it tells me how much flour to incorporate. It’s a little-discussed fact that too much flour forced into a “sponge” by a machine makes the bread tough and cranky.
(Note to self: When a machine forces too much of anything into me, it makes me tough and cranky, too.)
I considered all this while I was thinking of a book from which to quote. I decided on a passage from That Hideous Strength by C. S. Lewis. The setting is a room in a cottage where a young woman named Jane is helping Mother Dimble prepare a bedroom for a newly married couple.
“In Mrs. Dimble’s hands the task of airing the little house and making a bed for Ivy Maggs and her jailbird husband became something between an game and a ritual. It suggested to her literary memory all sorts of things out of sixteenth-century epithalamiums: age-old superstitions, jokes, and sentimentalities about bridal beds and marriage bowers, with omens at the threshold and fairies upon the hearth. It was an atmosphere extraordinarily alien to that in which she had grown up. A few weeks ago she would have disliked it. Was there not something absurd about that stiff, twinkling archaic world—the mixture of prudery and sensuality, the stylised ardours of the groom and the conventional bashfulness of the bride, the religious sanction, the salacities of the Fescennine song, and the suggestion that everyone except the principals might be expected to be rather tipsy? How had the human race ever come to imprison in such a ceremony the most unceremonious thing in the world?”
One of the things I find interesting about this passage is the rather archaic view that Mr. Lewis has of marriage and the marriage bed. That Hideous Strength was published in 1945 when C. S. Lewis was still a bachelor. He writes about marriage from a position of research and observation, not personal experience.
I compare his view of marriage with that of H. L. Mencken who also tackled the subject in the state of bachelorhood. His book In Defense of Women was published in 1918, twelve years before he married. Both men rely rather heavily on archaic generalizations and stereotypes in presenting their theses.
Anyway, my bread sponge has risen beautifully and is demanding my attention. Have a very lovely day.
(Note to self: The word archaic reminded me of the movie “The Stepford Wives”, but since that is a movie and not a book, I won’t quote from it. My bread reflections gave rise—pun intended—to an Essential Question that I will have to pose in the future.)