Jacob Elthorne - A Chronicle of a Life

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Read Books, Oct 27, 2008 - 444 pages
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I was named Jacob, it seems, after my uncle, It is quite a good name, there is no fault about the name that I know, yet it was the bane of my life as a boy, with not a little of awkwardness attaching to it thereafter. I have never, it is true, been able to summon my sod to any overpowering admiration for the most notable wearer of that name. Nor can I think that his personality was so overpoweringly undesirable that all others whom an unkindly parentage have given to bear the name should thereby be compelled to find it a shirt of Nessus about their shoulders. The selection of this fortuitous opprobrium is the more difficult to understand as neither of my parents seem to have been at all that kind of person, To a superficial observer my mother might have been the responsible agent. She may possibly have been so. But from my memory of her, that dear soul was quite a different sort of person. She had, it is true, a religious zeal of an absorbing order or rather, not a religious zeal so much as an ecclesiastical activity, which is not quite the same thing but this was the only outlet for an exuberant personality, where other and less harmless activities right have been turned to. Nevertheless, her Sabbath Day observance, her stoic attendance at innumerable services, her steadfast committal of the benefit of these to notes that were B never looked at after, her many and complete abstinences, were only superficial things, worn from without Iike a cloak. In herself she was bright, coquettish and affectionate, and the very last person in the world to choose for any son of hers so unromantic a name as Jacob. As for my father, I have vivid, enticing memories of a tall, handsome man, full of vivacity andcharm of manner, a little melancholy withal, but bursting out continually, like a gay brook, into an effervescence and irresponsibility that, I well rmember, my brother and I used to look forward to like sea bathing, He certainly never chose the name Jacob for me unless, that is to say, it was done in a spIitting, irresistible freak of humour, for he was an inveterate practical joker. It is the more mysterious since neither of my parents could have been considered to be warm admirers of my Uncle Jacob. My father used to scoff his great, inimitable scoffs at him, and burIesque his mannerisms and family life in such a way as to keep my brother and myself in one continual giggIe of merri- ment and admiration. At this my mother would break out a half-protesting hlichael and at once become convulsed with laughter. At the time, as boys, we had a dim suspicion that my mother secretly enjoyed my fathers humour the more as she had had many earnest discussions on how best to cir- cumvent the said Uncle Jacobs lean soul. I have never been able to take my memories back beyond Saggart, a littie place outside DubIin, between which two places my father used to journey twice daily by the aid of a toilsome and noxious steam-tram. Prior to Saggart I under- stand all four of us, my mother, father, and brother, used to live in London Suburbia, In London he had had charge of one of the departments in a certain well-known cornmerciaI house in the City, finally, with a great shout of joy, he being a Dublin man, to be drafted to the charge of the Dublin branch of the same house. It was thus we came to Saggart, the four of us. Thinking backward I cannot pick up any event earlier than my ninth year and there is more than whimsical irony in the one event that should stand out as it does, an oasis of memory in a desert of forgetfulness...

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