Thursday, 23 August 2012

F. E. Chadwick et al Ocean Steamships etc

Lowry's references to literature of the sea are fairly extensive in Ultramarine and include appropriations from a book entitled Ocean steamships a popular account of their construction, development, management and appliances by F. E. Chadwick, U.S.N., J. D. J. Kelley, U.S.N., Ridgely Hunt, U.S.N., John H. Gould, William H. Rideing, A. E. Seaton (1891).

Lowry's obsession with the stokehold may have been ignited by the descriptions in Chapter "The Ship's Company written by Lieutenant J. D. Jerrold Kelley U.S. Navy in Ocean steamships etc. However, we have no record of when Lowry read the book - it may have been as a child or at school.

Lowry had an affinity with ships' firemen and references or allusions to firemen occur frequently in his work. Lowry may have even signed on the S.S. Fagervik as a fireman on his journey to the White Sea in 1931. A description of the stokehold of the Oedipus Tyrannus and the fireman Nikolai Wallae occurs early in Ultramarine. (Pg.s 24-25); "But despite their work the firemen seemed to get more fun out of life than the seamen, and it seemed somehow to be better, in some queer way to be nearer to God-" (Pg. 25).

Compare text from Ultramarine with Ocean Steamships etc: was humiliating to watch the nicety with which the lever weight and fulcrum worked, opening and closing their hidden mechanisms and functioning with such an incomprehensible exactness! He thought of the whirling clanks holding horribly in their nerveless grip the penetrating shaft that turned the screws ... Ultramarine Pg. 25

....and in the end you marvel at the nicety with which lever, weight, and fulcrum work, opening and closing hidden mechanisms, and functioning with an exactness that dignifies the fraction of a second into an appreciable quantity. Cranks whirl and whirl and whirl incessantly, holding in moveless grip the long shafting turning the churning screws..... Ocean Steamships Pg. 171

An echo of the above can also be found in a description of the movement of Oedipus Tyrannus on Page 41; "The desire of the link for the pivot; of the lever weight for the fulcrum...".

"Well, those were the ancient violences, the old heroic days of holystones; and they are gone, you say." Ultramarine Pg. 47

"In the middle watches the decks are scrubbed with sand and brooms and brushes, for the old, heroic days of holy-stones are over, and a hundred pounds of effort are no longer expended for an ounce of result." Ocean Steamships Pg. 166-169.

"He gazed round the engine room. Ah, there at least no interruption entered. It was a wonderland, a laboratory of laboratories, a twilight island of mysteries.....Why was it his brain could not accept the dissonance as simply as a harmony, could not make order emerge from chaos?" Ultramarine Pg. 157

"When you come to measure the region fairly, it broadens into a wonderland ; it shapes itself into a twilight island of mysteries, into a laboratory where grimy alchemists practise black magic and white. At first all seerns confusion, but when the brain has co-ordinated certain factors, harmony is wooed from discord and order emerges from chaos." Ocean Steamships Pg. 170

Lowry used the phrase "All Lombard Street To A Tahiti Orange" in his novel Ultramarine when the crew are discussing the chances of the survival Norman's pigeon in the sea  "Yes. All Lombard Street To A Tahiti Orange on that, mate' said the boatswain, as he started to roll a cigarette. 'I'm afraid he'll make a nice little bit of supper for one of them sharks, supper eh?'" (Pg 149). Lowry must have recalled the phrase from Ocean Steamships; "Very creditable, sir ; very well done. You may secure, sir ? " Very well done it is, and when you remember this is the first drill and many of the hands are new, you may feel reasonably assured, should any ordinary fire break out, that it is all Lombard Street to a Tahiti orange it will be subdued most promptly." (Pg. 155).

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