An Unhung Cutpurse

2015-05-09 12.47.13-2This is a passage that I was trying to remember while in Ireland recently. Or should I say, “whilst in Ireland”?

Yes, that sounds much better – plus I like it that I get to repeat the fact that I was in Ireland recently (something that never ceases to amaze me – on so many levels that you can’t even begin to imagine!)

So, back to the point, whilst in Ireland I was trying to remember these lines, from Look Homeward Angel:

Each of us is all the sums he has not counted: subtract us into nakedness and night again, and you shall see begin in Crete four thousand years ago the love that ended yesterday in Texas.

The seed of our destruction will blossom in the desert, the alexin of our cure grows by a mountain rock, and our lives are haunted by a Georgia slattern, because a London cutpurse went unhung. Each moment is the fruit of forty thousand years. The minute-winning days, like flies, buzz home to death, and every moment is a window on all time.

One of the things that I loved from the start about Thomas Wolfe was the rhythm of his language. It hardly mattered what he was saying sometimes – just the lilt and sway of it was enough.

“…haunted by a Georgia slattern because a London cutpurse went unhung …” It just sounds so lyrical — and authoritative — and maybe a little bit dangerous. But checking out the meaning is interesting, too.

  • alexin =(biochemistry, dated) A protective substance that exists in the serum or other bodily fluid and is capable of killing microorganisms; complement.
  • slattern = a untidy, slovenly woman; Origin of SLATTERN probably from German schlottern to hang loosely, slouch; akin to Dutch slodderen to hang loosely, slodder slut
  • cutpurse = “one who steals by the method of cutting purses, a common practice when men wore their purses at their girdles” The word continued after the method switched to picking pockets.

Every moment is a window on all time. And happenstance is the warp and woof of our days, however much we try to protect ourselves from letting that in.

So what’s to be made of all that?

I don’t know. Perhaps I’ll go back to Ireland and see if I can find out whilst I’m there!

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2 Responses to An Unhung Cutpurse

  1. LOL, thanks, Alice – trying to get back on track re. entertaining you! 😉


  2. Alice Nye says:

    I thoroughly enjoyed your reflections. What a thought-provoking excerpt from Thomas Wolfe! I am so glad to be introduced to it. And to learn a new phrase, eg “an unhung cutpurse.” So interesting. Thanks for writing this and sharing it.


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