Random bookish things: Project Bookmark, Charles Darwin, Captain Marryat.

Have you heard of Project Bookmark? It’s a Canadian charity that places “text from stories and poems—on plaques, called Bookmarks—in the exact, physical locations where literary scenes take place. The charity has a total of 12 Bookmarks in three provinces, and envisions a national network of sites and stories so that residents and visitors can read their way right across Canada.”

Like this.

That’s Michael Ondaatje with a Bookmark celebrating a scene from  In The Skin Of A Lion, on Toronto’s Bloor Viaduct. Pretty cool, right?

Project Bookmark has just kicked off an innovative month-long fund-raising campaign. Each day in April, a different reading personality will champion the cause, and offer prizes to everyone who donates to the campaign that day. The champions include Margaret Atwood and Guy Gavriel Kay and many other literary heavy-weights. Do check out this video by Project Bookmark’s founder Miranda Hill for more about the campaign. And don’t forget to donate your $$ for a shot at all these prizes!


I’m reading this over and over again: Charles Darwin’s List of the Pros and Cons of Marriage.  Here are some pros.

“Children — (if it Please God) — Constant companion, (& friend in old age) who will feel interested in one, — object to be beloved & played with. — better than a dog anyhow.– Home, & someone to take care of house — Charms of music & female chit-chat. — These things good for one’s health. — but terrible loss of time. –

My God, it is intolerable to think of spending one’s whole life, like a neuter bee, working, working, & nothing after all. — No, no won’t do. — Imagine living all one’s day solitarily in smoky dirty London House. — Only picture to yourself a nice soft wife on a sofa with good fire, & books & music perhaps — Compare this vision with the dingy reality of Grt. Marlbro’ St.”

And some cons.

“Freedom to go where one liked— choice of Society & little of it. — Conversation of clever men at clubs—Not forced to visit relatives, & to bend in every trifle.— to have the expense & anxiety of children—perhaps quarelling— Loss of time. — cannot read in the Evenings— fatness & idleness— Anxiety & responsibility— less money for books &c— if many children forced to gain one’s bread.— (But then it is very bad for ones health to work too much)”

Read the whole thing, and much more, here. Oh, and Darwin did marry, and went on to have ten children.


From Amitav Ghosh’s blog, here’s a fascinating piece on Captain Frederick Marryat and the British Museum Buddha. I read Captain Marryat’s sea-stories as a child, though I never really warmed to them, partly because I had zero context for his work and partly because I’d much rather have lived in Malory Towers than on the Coral Island.

Here’s an excerpt from the blog post, where the art historian Rupert Arrowsmith writes about the provenance of this statue.

“…this Buddha-image was not bought from anyone in Burma, nor was permission ever given for its removal.  It was swiped during the anarchy following the British invasion of Lower Burma between 1824 and 1825.

The person who swiped it, and then handed it on to the British Museum, was Frederick Marryat, a high-ranking naval officer who later became the author of popular sea stories.  The sculpture can only have occupied a monastery or temple, and it is unimaginable in the context of Burmese Buddhism that its pious custodians would have let it go without a fight. […]

The Buddha-image wasn’t the only souvenir of Burma Marryat brought back with him from the war of 1824-5.  He is now thought to have acquired more than 120 artifacts, including an important royal carriage.  He later wanted to donate all of this to the British Museum in exchange for a lifetime position on the board of trustees, but the Museum said no.  They didn’t say no because they were worried that there had been something unethical about Marryat’s methods.  In a typically British twist to the story, they said it because they thought he was the wrong class, and would probably lower the tone of the boardroom.”

Do read the whole post here.


5 thoughts on “Random bookish things: Project Bookmark, Charles Darwin, Captain Marryat.

  1. “Constant companion, (& friend in old age) who will feel interested in one…” That’s the key to maintaining a relationship, a two-way street, although I think a break now and again from the ‘constant companion’ role can help keep things from getting stale.

  2. The feeling interested in the other person part brings to my mind Wodehouse saying that “Women have to learn to bear anecdotes from men they love. It is the curse of Eve.”

  3. I was happier with Darrel and Sally in Malory Towers too.
    If only it was just Marryat who was busy nicking stuff. They were all at it! Any visit to a museum in Britain is a lesson in the arrogance of those Imperialists. You’ve got to blush.

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