Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Cover letter tip: remember you are the editor's obedient servant

Just started chapter two of Ron Chernow's Alexander Hamilton. Thought this was funny:

On April 6, 1771, he published a pair of poems in the [Royal Danish
] Gazette that he introduced with a diffident note to the
editor: "Sir, I am a youth about seventeen, and consequently such an attempt as
this must be presumptuous; but if, upon perusal, you think the following piece
worthy of a place in your paper, by inserting it you'll much oblige Your
obedient servant, A.H." The two amorous poems that follow are schizophrenic in
their contrasting visions of love. In the first, the dreamy poet steals upon his
virgin love, who is reclining by a brook as "lambkins" gambol around her. He
kneels and awakens her with an ecstatic kiss before sweeping her up in his arms
and carrying her off to marital bliss, intoning, "Believe me love is doubly
sweet / In wedlock's holy bands." In the next poem, Hamilton has suddenly
metamorphosed into a jaded rake, who begins with a shocking, Swiftian opening
line: "Celia's an artful little slut." This launched a portrait of a
manipulative, feline woman that concludes:

So, stroking puss's velvet paws,
How well the jade conceals her claws
And purrs; but if at last
You hap to squeeze her somewhat hard
She spits—her back up—
prenez garde;
Good faith she has you fast.

The first poem seems to have been composed by a sheltered adolescent with an
idealized view of women and the second by a world-weary young philanderer who
has already tasted many amorous sweets and shed any illusions about female
virtue. In fact, this apparent attraction to two opposite types of women—the
pure and angelic versus the earthy and flirtatious—ran straight through
Hamilton's life, a contradiction he never resolved and that was to lead to
scandalous consequences.

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