Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Saturday, December 05, 2015

Advent, Birthday edition: The Nine Tailors

Emily took out the jug, but returned almost immediately. 
"Oh, if you please, ma'am, the Rector says, will you all excuse him, please, and he'll take his breakfast in the study. And oh! if you please, ma'am, poor Lady Thorpe's gone, ma'am. and if Mr. Lavender's finished, he's please to go over to the church at once and ring the passing bell." 
"Gone!" cried Mrs. Venables. "Why, what a terrible thing!" 
"Yes, ma'am. Mr. Johnson says it was dreadful sudden. The Rector hadn't hardly left her room ma'am, when it was all over, and they don't know how they're to tell Sir Henry."
Mr. Lavender pushed his chair back and quavered to his ancient feet. ' 
"In the midst of life," he said solemnly, "we are in death. Terrible true that is, to be sure. If so be as you'll kindly excuse me, ma'am, I'll be leaving you now, and thank you kindly. Good mornin' to you all. That were a fine peal as we rung, none the more for that, and now I'll be gettin' to work on old Tailor Paul again." 
He shuffled sturdily out, and within five minutes they heard the deep and melancholy voice of the bell ringing, first the six tailors for a woman and then the quick strokes which announce the age of the dead. Wimsey counted them up to thirty-seven. 
--Dorothy Sayers, The Nine Tailors
This passage jumped out at me a few days ago when I reread The Nine Tailors. A woman, a mother with a 15-year-old daughter, dying at 37. The poor deceased was not a major character in the book -- in fact, she never appears; all she does is die -- and yet her death weighed heavily on me. This very day I'm 37, with a 13-year-old daughter. I don't feel young at all, but I'm not ready at all to be carried off by a sudden influenza. Remember your end, and you will never sin.

The bells are a reminder of morality in The Nine Tailors, and each has its name and legend:

The voice of the bells of Fenchurch St. Paul: 
Gaude, Gaudy, Domini in Laude. Sanctus, sanctus, sanctus Dominus Deus Sabaoth. John Cole made me, John Presbyter paid me, John Evangelist aid me. From Jericho to John A-Groate there is not bell can better my note. Jubilate Deo. Nunc Dimittis, Domine. Abbot Thomas set me here and bade me ring both loud and clear. Paul is my name, honour that same. 
Gaude, Sabaoth, John, Jericho, Jubilee, Dimity, Batty Thomas and Tailor Paul. 
Nine Tailors Make A Man.
Nine tailors for the death of a man, and six for a woman. May we all be blessed with another year free of the toll of the bells.

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