William Cowper … The Best Friend I Never Met (Part 1)

William Cowper, 1799, Francesco Bartolozzi, London, Tate


“I will never count upon my list of friends,
the man who needlessly
sets his foot upon a worm.”

When, as a boy, I first read that statement
I was filled with genuine regard – a sense of
great relief that there could actually be one
other person who had the same tender-hearted
empathy, and moral conviction as me.

I had always thought – from what I saw and
heard of people around me – that I was
the only person on earth who felt that way.

The great sadness, though, was in realising
that the man who made that statement
had died 160 years before I was born.

Since I could never meet him, I was
determined, at least, to learn all I could
about him.

The man’s name was … William Cowper.

The fact that I have never had an appreciation
for poetry, does not mean that I cannot
appreciate the life of a poet.

One poet whom I would have considered it
a great honour to have met, was William
Cowper … not for his poetry, but for the
gentle nature that he and I clearly share.

Our personalities are Identical.


William Cowper (his family pronounced the name
as “Cooper”) was born on the 15th of November, 1731,
in Hertfordshire, to a church minister and his wife.

As a teen, every new, personal detail I learned
about William actually became … unsettling
because, in learning of his

tender disposition;
bullying at the hands of malignant students;
lifetime affliction from Melancholy;

preference for the conversation of women over
the conceited boasting of men;

willingness to forego the company of anyone
who displayed no empathy for an animal;

love of gardening;
and feeling utterly out of place in the world
(describing his home as a place of “blest seclusion
from a jarring world …” )

… I was reading about myself.

But I remember having to close the book
and walk away for a while, upon discovering
that William was moved to do the very same thing
that I had always done:

pledging a vow of care
to the three hares who were his beloved pets.

It was not merely that William Cowper
was a tender-hearted man in a crude world,
but that …We had the Same spirit.

When I have been feeling downcast from the abuse
of people whom I have given time, effort, emotion,
or personal possessions … to help,

I sit down and read a portion of William’s memoirs
– which makes me believe that I am not absolutely
alone in this world.

I can honestly say that William Cowper
– who lived two hundred years before I was born,

has been the only friend I have ever known.

CHILDHOOD: Boarding School

William’s beloved mother died in 1737
when he was only six years of age, and whilst
the child had been raised by a very kind
and affectionate woman,

it was testament to the heartlessness of his father,
that William was sent to Pittman’s Boarding School.

“At six years old, I was taken from the nursery,
and the immediate care of a most indulgent mother,
and sent to a considerable school in Bedfordshire.

Here I had hardships of different kinds
to conflict with, which I felt more sensibly,
in proportion to the tenderness with which I had
been treated at home.”

It was at the Boarding School that William was
subjected to the sadism of one malignant bully
in particular – a sadistic creature of whom
William would later write:

“But my chief affliction consisted in my being
singled out from all the other boys, by a lad
of about fifteen years of age,
as a proper object upon whom he might
let loose the cruelty of his temper.

I choose to forbear a particular recital of the
many acts of barbarity, with which he made it
his business continually to persecute me:

it will be sufficient to say, that he had,
by his savage treatment of me, impressed
such a dread of his figure upon my mind,

that I well remember being afraid to lift up
my eyes upon him, higher than his knees;
and that I knew him by his shoe-buckles,
better than any other part of his dress.

May the Lord pardon him,
and may we meet in glory.”

Such was the kind and forgiving nature
of the man.

William would be taken from the school
after two years, at the age of eight.

At eleven, William was enrolled at Westminster
School where, in 1742, he studied the Classics,
moving, at 17, to the study of Law – a profession
in which he had no interest.

Staying with an uncle in 1752 , William not only
discovered romantic feelings for a young woman
named Theodora … but found that they were returned.

The only problem was, Theodora was his cousin;
and his uncle was obliged, in 1755, to strictly forbid
any continuance of the blossoming relationship.

This (around 1753) was probably the occasion
of William’s first terrible descent into the grip
of Melancholy. William was 22.

Although frequently seen attempting to play the part
of the cheerful extrovert at various social circles
from the mid-1750’s until the early 1760’s,

it is highly evident from the entire record of William’s
life, that his favourite haunt was the sitting room,
by the fire; his preferred companionship being the quiet
and genteel women with whom he was acquainted.

It was the observation of acquaintance William Hayley
that, as a young man, William

“… in his conduct was far more decorous
than the generality of his youthful associates … ”

Hayley then went on to summarise one bout
of Melancholy that afflicted Cowper:

“His health now rapidly mended, and in June, 1765,
it was no longer thought necessary that he should
continue under the roof of Dr Cotton …

In 1773, however, his malady returned, and he sunk
into a state of blackest despondency, from which
he did not begin to recover till the year 1778 …

That the disorder which again visited Cowper
was deeply rooted in his constitution has already
appeared … “ [ William Hayley, 1805 ]

William Cowper’s timid disposition led him,
on several occasions, to attempt suicide.

But it is the events that occurred during each of these,
that are staggering for any contemplative reader to

Something far more than coincidence
was responsible for William’s being unable
to carry out his intent:

1. –

Seated calmly in his room to poison himself
using Laudanum –

… he found himself constantly interrupted
by household staff.

2. –

Intent upon jumping off a pier to drown himself
in the Thames – on arrival, William discovered that –

.. the tide was out.

3. –

Whilst making determined effort to stab himself
in the chest with a dagger –

… the knife broke.

4. –

Attempting to hang himself from a door
and kicking a chair out from beneath his feet –

… the ligature broke.

There was, in the life of William Cowper,
an over-riding Circumstance which clearly
prevented him from ending his own life.

It is the practice of would-be commentators
to maintain – without clarification, that William
was committed to an asylum for … ‘insanity’.

Ignorant statements like this feed, I suppose,
the glib, callous mentality that so epitomises
the type of crude humanity that is such a
repulsive characteristic of the bulk of conceited,
smug humanity:

‘If … I … cannot relate to it, then it must be
ludicrous’. ‘If a man can be touched by the pain
of a worm – then he Must be … insane.’

Rather than consider that there Could Possibly
Exist, those who are more tender-hearted and
compassionate than their arrogant selves,
crass ignoramuses leap upon callous presumption
concerning things which are beyond them.

This glib Ignorance of Commentators was noticed
even by sober-minded men of Cowper’s own day:

“There is reason to regret that any of his biographers
should have fallen into the use of a phraseology
calculated to favour in some degree,

the erroneous impressions which have been
entertained with respect due to the true nature
of his afflictive malady …

… It excites no surprise to find writers, who have
apparently little knowledge of Christianity,
falling into this error.”

[ London Eclectic Review, October, 1816 ]

(Then again, William believed in a Sovereign God,
whose providence guided events much like a fogbank
might affect, or guide, the course of a ship;

a God who will, on a most certain Day of Judgment,
demand an account from every man and woman,
of how they have used their lives in the time
that was given them on this earth.

To those who readily accept every dictate, theory,
and assertion from the lab-coated priests of the
religion of “Science” … it is hardly surprising that
no other indicator of “insanity” is required, than that. )

To find such glib declarations made of William, by
people who profess themselves to be “Christians”,
is disgustingly indicative of where any mental aberration
truly lies.

[ End of Part 1 ] Continued in Part 2


Cowper: Memoirs of the Early Life, 1816

A Study in Scarlet … Part 1: Dispelling Modern Ignorance

It is actually – distressing to hear, on occasion, the
now-all-too typically-characteristic derision
borne of Ignorance, in those who express their distaste
for Doyle’s first adventure with Mr Sherlock Holmes:

their “complaint” ? … the Inexplicable
“Wild West Story”
that comprises roughly the second half of the novel.

As a boy reading Holmes, whenever we,
as schoolchildren, encountered an unfamiliar word

or did not know to what some historical reference referred,
we … laid aside the book we were reading
and opened up the household OXFORD Dictionary,
or went to the local library.

We Made the Effort to Learn.

It was NEVER a hardship, for us in the 1960’s, to
educate ourselves – raise ourselves to a higher standard
than that which we had just ten minutes earlier.

Today – with precious rare exception,
anything that requires minimal personal effort
and the humility to learn,
is immediately dismissed as ‘too difficult’.

The refusal to pause … and discern between
Vacuous Opinion – (which should be kept private
… to conceal one’s foolishness);

and Apathetic or Intentional Error – (which should be
exposed and withstood … to defend honourable folk
from malignant bullies),

has all but vanished from the world that deifies “Me”
and is insulted that anyone should care enough to
make the effort to correct their error.

I was often asked by students, as a schoolteacher
in Venezia, if I could recommend the best thing
for my Italian students to read in order to become
proficient in proper, grammatical English.

Without hesitation, my reply was always …

“find an unabridged, un-modernised, unedited copy of
“The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes”.

“There”, I would point out, “you will see how English
was – and should be – spoken and written;
spelled and punctuated.”

Familiarise yourself with Holmes’ English
of a century ago,

and you will immediately be able to detect
the difference between properly spoken English,
and the barely-literate grunting of the
21st century.

Conan Doyle’s 1887 introduction of Holmes
was the very same introduction that I read
to Italian schoolchildren 120 years later.

And I cannot recall there ever being any difficulty
for 14-year old Italian students,
in understanding the Victorian narrative.

What woeful tragedy then, in modern-day minds
who claim English to be their ‘native tongue’,
but require their books, ‘bibles’, and ‘English’
to be dumbed down, modernised, or edited.


It is in this 1887 novel, A Study in Scarlet,
that Edinburgh native and physician,
Arthur Conan Doyle recounted the meeting of
Holmes and Watson,

and provided the reader with a glimpse
into the background of both literary figures.

Having changed his character’s name
from “Sherrinford” to “Sherlock”;

and replacing “Ormond Sacker”
with “John Watson”,

Conan Doyle introduced Sherlock Holmes
to the world at large in the one shilling edition
of Beeton’s Christmas Annual.

Written within living memory of the 1857 Mountain
Meadows Massacre in America – wherein 120 men, women,
and children were butchered by Mormons in Utah –
Conan Doyle drew upon the outrage for this, his first novel:

“A Study in Scarlet”.

A summary of history will enable the reader today to
understand the outrage that existed at the time
– and should exist today – over the savagery
of which men are capable,

when they place the proclamations of self-appointed,
pseudo-religious ‘leaders’ over and above the old Bible
– while pretending to the world that they have something
(however tenuous) to do with “Christianity”.

1. Some sadistic tyrant claims to follow the Bible.
2. Said tyrant rapes/brutalises/massacres peaceful people.
3. Mindless humanity, therefore, blame the Bible
– which the perverted tyrant used as a cover for his depravity.

IF infantile multitudes had the maturity to control themselves
at any mere mention of the word “Bible” –
WITHOUT the knee-jerk vomiting of obscenities
as though they were starring in the 1973 film, “The Exorcist”,

they MIGHT be able to exercise that once-commonplace,
adult quality that used to be known as … “discernment”.

It might also help them to understand why Conan Doyle
evidently felt compelled to centre his first novel
around an incident involving what was touted as some
supposedly Christian-esque sect in America.

It seems wholly unknown in the 21st century,
that a (genuine) Christian is one whose life
– conduct and conversation -At All Times,
is characterised by the doctrine and example
of Christ …

… and NOT the “special revelation” proclamations
of Popes, Pastors, Faith-“healers”, or Evangelical Showmen.

The mature will have the intelligence
to discriminate the true from the false;

and realise that those who are … truly …
godly people WILL conduct themselves
in accordance with the old Bible

which makes no allowance for mass murder,
emotional hysteria, or fleecing the gullible.

This was NOT an Old Testament war against sadistic nations
who held parties where they placed their babies
on to the red-hot ‘arms’ of bronze statues of Molech,
and then beat drums and danced while the babies
screamed in agony …

… this was the butchery of peaceful settlers – women
AND children included.

THAT is why the “Wild West” story appears.

Now, please: be man or woman enough
to understand Doyle,

rather than put that bemused look on your face
while expressing bewilderment to your YouTube fans.

IF you have the maturity
to endure the sight of words
such as “Christ” or “Bible” carry on reading;

If not, kindly stop criticising Doyle
for writing about something
of which you have no capacity to understand.

Background to The MORMONS

In appalling perversion of biblical writ,
it was maintained by Joseph Smith –

(whose claim to angelic visitation and Extra-Biblical revelations
– a feature of EVERY sect, cult, and Charlatan – became Mormonism,
in April of 1830)

– that the blood of Christ was insufficient to atone
for some sins … and that the only way for redemption
was for “sinners” to have their Own blood spilled.

This blasphemy against the Christ (kindly note) of the Bible,
permitted murder on any “sinner” over the age of eight.

For Smith’s successor Young, to murder certain people was to
… “love” them enough … to shed their blood.

Such was the Mormon notion of “Blood Atonement”.

And at Mountain Meadows, Utah … That Principle
was certainly carried out – children and all.

A Utah settler from Denmark, named Anderson
– for the sin of adultery – was held over an open grave,
whereupon his throat was sliced open from ear to ear.

They held him poised over the grave as the blood
drained into it; dressed his corpse in fresh clothing,
and dropped him into the grave.

This was the mentality immediately before
the massacre at Mountain Meadow.


A party of settlers going under the name of
“The Fancher Party” was attacked by a band of Mormons
and “Indians” which (many strongly suspected)
might not have been ‘Indians’.

Successfully holding the attackers at bay,
the company noticed one of their potential killers
approaching under a White Flag.

Accepting the White Flag of peace, the Fancher Party
let down their defences, spoke with the representative,
and agreed to the Mormon proposal of safe passage
out of the area.

Having surrendered their weapons, the emigrants
began to trek in the direction that their Mormon
escorts led them.

The men – at the front of the convoy – were
butchered first.

The women … and children judged to be over
the age of 7 years … were slaughtered next.

Younger children, presumably, became “Mormons”
whether they wanted to or not.

In the wake of this historical atrocity, a man named
Lee was the only one of the Mormon killers to be executed
(by firing squad under the command of a certain Marshal Nelson)
for his blind allegiance to Brigham Young, Governor
of the Utah Territory.

Lee’s final words before execution included:

“I do not believe everything that is now being taught
and practiced by Brigham Young. I do not care
who hears it. It is my last word – it is so.

I believe he is leading the people astray, downward
to destruction … I studied to make this man’s will
my pleasure for thirty years.
See, now, what I have come to this day!”

It is firmly asserted – by its present adherents, that
modern Mormonism no longer practices “Blood Atonement”
… yet, IF the mind-set has indeed been removed,
it is puzzling to note that Mormons have repeatedly
pushed blame elsewhere;

and tried to bring about the wholesale banning
of Conan Doyle’s “Study in Scarlet”.

I am a British Citizen.

And I understand that Great Britain became “Great”
in the 18th century … because it butchered people
who could not fight back … made slaves of multitudes
… and terrorized, invaded, and occupied the lands of
those who did not acquiesce –

much as another nation took over the reins
a century later, and now boasts freely and loudly
of its “greatness” and “might”.

Yet I – as a British man – do not seek to ban
the truth of British tyranny in the 17- and 1800’s.

I had nothing to do with it …

Despise those who did …

And believe that political corruption and murder
SHOULD be open to historical criticism and loathing.

And that the citizens – of ANY country – SHOULD BE
capable of summoning enough Integrity and Maturity
to stop living in a fantasy world of ego, apathy,
and the fanatical pagan religion of nationalism.

It strikes me as strange then, that certain Mormons
in the American state of Virginia, should seek to ban
“A Study in Scarlet” as being “anti Mormon”
[ The Guardian, 16 August 2011 ] …

… rather than acknowledge the incident
upon which it was based,
and have the maturity and integrity to reassure
the world that nothing like it could ever
happen again at their hands.

Conscience, in the most of humanity,
has observably been a thing of the past
for the last thirty years.

The massacre at Mountain Meadows
most definitely did occur:

Conan Doyle based this novel upon it,

and I forward the title now
for your consideration.

If any visitors are unfamiliar with the “origin”
of Mr Sherlock Holmes, they will readily find
the account in the opening chapters of …

A Study in Scarlet

which is featured below, in Part 2.


A Lifetime … Contained Within a Children’s Book

In 2004, I gave away my entire library to people
whom I was certain would appreciate the books, and who, I knew,
did not have the means to acquire copies of their own.

A few remaining volumes that I kept
could be carried easily in both hands.
They would, I thought, be the last books that I would own.

I could never have imagined that – ten years later –
I would find a book that I would never have thought to see
during whatever was left of my lifetime.

Desperately missing the conscientious humanity
amidst whom I was raised, I never thought that
there could be anything that would allow me
to escape – to so fully ‘return’
to those days of the early 1960’s …

But entering one antiquarian bookshop
… allowed me to do just that — Escape.

I remember seeing the book as soon
as I turned the corner; a moment when
there seemed to be a delay:

My mind was racing. But time seemed to slow.
I just could not accept what I was seeing.

It was, I suppose, like travelling on the
other side of the world, and turning a corner
to ‘see’ someone that you know from home –

you Know that it can’t possibly be! … But it is !!!
And you need to search for an explanation.

( I remember, on my second day in British Columbia –
seeing a woman I knew from Scotland – standing in a
shopping mall, here on the other side of the world
… where I had only just arrived.

I actually started towards her with a beaming smile
on my face, until Reason tapped loudly
on the inside of my head. )

Then the old brain sets everything in order
and you realise that it is someone who (incredibly!!!)
looks exactly like the person back home.

This time, I saw the book.

I knew what it was – instantly.

But I just could not take in that I was actually seeing
The Exact Same cover … the exact same edition,
after fifty years.


I would have been about five when my grandma
and grandpa would ask to hear me read to them
from the old Bible. I liked to read – but I liked it
a lot more whenever I could make other people
happy just by reading to them.

The first certain memories I have of reading books
are of the (then widely varied) “Ladybird’ books
that I used to receive as birthday presents:
a page of text on one side,
with a wonderful full page drawing on the other.

I had a fair sized library, grouped by subject – and all
lined precisely a ruler width from the edge of the shelf:

The Ladybird Book of … Horses, Stamp Collecting,
British Birds, and, What to Look for in Spring/Summer
/Autumn/Winter – accompanied several dozen other titles
including, of course, David Livingstone – who was a
not too distant relative.

Ned the Lonely Donkey made me cry:
not the book for a child with a tender heart.

But the book that is forever ingrained in my memory –
the one that I read three times in succession –
was Enid Blyton’s “Valley of Adventure”.

The first chapter was absolutely terrifying – and enthralling –
I could not put it down (until my mum appeared at the bedroom
door … “Put that book down and go out and play!”)

It was not merely a story … it WAS an Adventure!

Four children going for an aeroplane ride
with their mother’s friend, Bill …

… being directed to the ‘plane on the tarmack,
climbing onboard, and sitting quietly in the back –

even when Bill returned,
in heated discussion with another man;

only to realise after take-off
that these gruff men were strangers,
and that the children had boarded the wrong plane.

As always, when reading, I immediately put myself
in the character’s place.

I remember making certain that my bedroom door
was wide open … and finally falling asleep with the blankets
held tightly up to my ears.

It was, for me, high excitement.

Now, 50 years later, ALL those memories
came rushing back and my hands shook a little,
as I took the book in my hands … stared at it
… and opened the cover:

It had belonged, once, to another little boy, or girl,
who lived a child’s lifetime before I was born;

and who was given this book,
in the very same year that it was released.

Looking down at the book in my hands,
I could suddenly ‘smell’ the heavy woollen blanket
on my bed;

see the sloping roof of my attic bedroom;
and hear the sheep from the field across the road.

In an instant, my life had vanished:
I was six years old once again –

thoroughly lost in this Valley of Adventure.

Finding this book has taken me back to a time
when the postman, the milkman, and the lollipop man,
always had a big smile and a friendly wave;

when you felt safe as long as there were people around;

And where one obnoxious little brat –
(once, as we were all walking home from school) –
told a little girl to “go to hell” …

only to have ‘old’ Mrs Johnson reach over her garden gate,
grab the top of his ear, and tell the malignant creature
to never use language like that again, anywhere near her house
– never releasing her grip on the wretch until he apologised –
to her, and to the little girl.

We learned common sense; self control; manners;
and knew right from wrong,
from the example of the adults around us.

And now, in an instant … this dear old children’s book
brought all those memories back to life –
after all these years.

Then again, I am not so sure that the joy
of those by-gone memories is entirely a good thing:

once the book is closed,
the grim reality of the 21st century still remains.

But for one blissful moment, I was back in my bedroom:
The feeling of excitement … turning the next page
with a euphoria of wonder:

‘What would happen next?’

Such is the power of a well-written book,
upon an industrious human mind.

Now, all these years later, one thing I do know
about this simple children’s book, is that

– every now and again … whenever I want,

I can again lie down on the soft, green moss
In the cave behind the waterfall …

… and peer out safely through the lush curtain
of fern fronds that screen the cave from view,
and hide me from the threat of evil men.

I have the chance to experience – with the same book
in my hand – the thrill, the fear, and the adventure
that I felt in that little attic bedroom,
a lifetime ago.

And that,

for me …

is truly wonderful.

P Livingstone


A Study in Scarlet … (Part 2: Mr Sherlock Holmes)

In Part 1, I endeavoured to expose the Ignorance
and curtail the bewilderment that is so
evidently confounding the modern masses who
find it an easy thing to wonder what Doyle
“was doing” when he included a “Wild West” story
in A Study in Scarlet.

Multitudes now base their conceptions of Holmes
upon the perverse, vulgar trash of a disgraceful
BBC series in which “Holmes” (from what segments
I have endured) is portrayed as a smart-mouthed punk,

do a tremendous disservice to themselves, and insult
(as does the buffoonery of said television atrocity)
the work and memory of Conan Doyle and his
dignified, mature … pipe smoking … character.

In providing the historical background to this story,
I sincerely hope that there will be one or two folk
who will receive it with appreciation, and find
new reason to enjoy the company of … CONAN DOYLE’s
Sherlock Holmes.

A Study in Scarlet


In the year 1878 I took my degree of Doctor of Medicine
of the University of London,
and proceeded to Netley to go through the course
prescribed for surgeons in the army.

Having completed my studies there, I was duly attached
to the Fifth Northumberland Fusiliers as Assistant Surgeon.

The regiment was stationed in India at the time,
and before I could join it,
the second Afghan war had broken out. …

I was removed from my brigade and attached to
the Berkshires, with whom I served at the fatal battle
of Maiwand.

There I was struck on the shoulder by a Jezail bullet,
which shattered the bone and grazed the subclavian artery. …

For months my life was despaired of, and when
at last I came to myself and became convalescent,
I was so weak and emaciated that a medical board
determined that not a day should be lost in sending me
back to England. …

I had neither kith nor kin in England, and was therefore
as free as air – or as free as an income of eleven shillings
and sixpence a day will permit a man to be.

Under such circumstances, I naturally gravitated to London,
that great cesspool into which all the loungers and idlers
of the Empire are irresistibly drained.

There I stayed for some time at a private hotel in the Strand,
leading a comfortless, meaningless existence,
and spending such money as I had,
considerably more freely than I ought.

So alarming did the state of my finances become,
that I soon realised that I must either leave the metropolis
and rusticate somewhere in the country,

or that I must make a complete alteration
in my style of living.

Choosing the latter alternative, I began by making up
my mind to leave the hotel, and to take up my quarters
in some less pretentious and less expensive domicile.

On the very day that I had come to this conclusion,
I was standing at the Criterion Bar,
when some one tapped me on the shoulder, and
turning round I recognized young Stamford,
who had been a dresser under me at Barts.

The sight of a friendly face in the great wilderness of London
is a pleasant thing indeed to a lonely man.
In old days Stamford had never been a particular crony of mine,
but now I hailed him with enthusiasm, and he, in his turn,
appeared to be delighted to see me.

In the exuberance of my joy, I asked him to lunch with me
at the Holborn, and we started off together in a hansom.

“Whatever have you been doing with yourself, Watson?”
he asked in undisguised wonder, as we rattled through
the crowded London streets.
“You are as thin as a lath and as brown as a nut.”

I gave him a short sketch of my adventures, and had hardly
concluded it by the time that we reached our destination.

“Poor devil!” he said, commiseratingly,
after he had listened to my misfortunes.

“What are you up to now?”
“Looking for lodgings,” I answered.
“Trying to solve the problem as to whether it is possible
to get comfortable rooms at a reasonable price.”

“That’s a strange thing,” remarked my companion;
“you are the second man to-day
that has used that expression to me.”

“And who was the first?” I asked.

“A fellow who is working at the chemical laboratory
up at the hospital. He was bemoaning himself this morning
because he could not get someone to go halves with him
in some nice rooms which he had found,
and which were too much for his purse.”

“By Jove!” I cried, “if he really wants someone to share
the rooms and the expense, I am the very man for him.
I should prefer having a partner to being alone.”

Young Stamford looked rather strangely at me
over his wine-glass.

“You don’t know Sherlock Holmes yet,” he said; “perhaps
you would not care for him as a constant companion.”

“Why, what is there against him?”
“Oh, I didn’t say there was anything against him.

He is a little queer in his ideas –
an enthusiast in some branches of science.
As far as I know he is a decent fellow enough.”

“A medical student, I suppose?” said I.

“No – I have no idea what he intends to go in for.

I believe he is well up in anatomy, and he is a first-class
chemist; but, as far as I know, he has never taken out
any systematic medical classes.

His studies are very desultory and eccentric,
but he has amassed a lot of out-of-the way knowledge
which would astonish his professors.”

“Did you never ask him what he was going in for?” I asked.

“No; he is not a man that it is easy to draw out, though he
can be communicative enough when the fancy seizes him.”

“I should like to meet him,” I said.

“If I am to lodge with anyone, I should prefer a man of studious
and quiet habits. I am not strong enough yet to stand much noise
or excitement. I had enough of both in Afghanistan to last me
for the remainder of my natural existence.

How could I meet this friend of yours?” …

As he spoke, we turned down a narrow lane and passed through
a small side-door, which opened into a wing of the great hospital.

It was familiar ground to me, and I needed no guiding
as we ascended the bleak stone staircase
and made our way down the long corridor
with its vista of whitewashed wall and dun-coloured doors.

Near the further end a low arched passage branched away
from it and led to the chemical laboratory.

This was a lofty chamber, lined and littered with countless bottles.
Broad, low tables were scattered about,
which bristled with retorts, test-tubes, and little Bunsen lamps,
with their blue flickering flames.

There was only one student in the room,
who was bending over a distant table absorbed in his work.

At the sound of our steps he glanced round
and sprang to his feet with a cry of pleasure.
“I’ve found it! I’ve found it,” he shouted to my companion,
running towards us with a test-tube in his hand. …

“Dr. Watson, Mr. Sherlock Holmes,” said Stamford,
introducing us.

“How are you?” he said cordially, gripping my hand
with a strength for which I should hardly have given him credit.

“You have been in Afghanistan, I perceive.”

“How on earth did you know that?” I asked in astonishment.

“Never mind,” said he, chuckling to himself. …

“We came here on business,” said Stamford,
sitting down on a high three-legged stool,
and pushing another one in my direction with his foot.

“My friend here wants to take diggings, and as you were
complaining that you could get no one to go halves with you,
I thought that I had better bring you together.”

Sherlock Holmes seemed delighted at the idea
of sharing his rooms with me.

“I have my eye on a suite in Baker Street,” he said,
“which would suit us down to the ground.

You don’t mind the smell of strong tobacco, I hope?”
“I always smoke ‘ship’s’ myself,” I answered. …

“Oh, that’s all right,” he cried, with a merry laugh.
“I think we may consider the thing as settled –
that is, if the rooms are agreeable to you.”

“When shall we see them?”

“Call for me here at noon to-morrow,
and we’ll go together and settle everything,” he answered.

“All right – noon exactly,” said I, shaking his hand.

We left him working among his chemicals,
and we walked together towards my hotel.


Holmes was certainly not a difficult man to live with.
He was quiet in his ways,
and his habits were regular.

It was rare for him to be up after ten at night,
and he had invariably breakfasted and gone out
before I rose in the morning.

It was upon the 4th of March, as I have good reason
to remember, that I rose somewhat earlier than usual,
and found that Sherlock Holmes had not yet finished
his breakfast.

… I picked up a magazine from the table
and attempted to while away the time with it,
while my companion munched silently at his toast.

One of the articles had a pencil mark at the heading,
and I naturally began to run my eye through it. …

The writer claimed by a momentary expression,
a twitch of a muscle or a glance of an eye,
to fathom a man’s inmost thoughts.

Deceit, according to him, was an impossibility
in the case of one trained to observation and analysis.

Before turning to those moral and mental aspects
of the matter which present the greatest difficulties,
let the enquirer begin by mastering more elementary problems.

Let him, on meeting a fellow-mortal,
learn at a glance to distinguish the history of the man,
and the trade or profession to which he belongs.

Puerile as such an exercise may seem,
it sharpens the faculties of observation,
and teaches one where to look and what to look for.

By a man’s finger nails, by his coat-sleeve, by his boot,
by his trouser knees, by the callosities of his forefinger
and thumb, by his expression, by his shirt cuffs –

by each of these things a man’s calling is plainly revealed.
That all united should fail to enlighten the competent enquirer
in any case is almost inconceivable.”

“What ineffable twaddle!” I cried,
slapping the magazine down on the table,
“I never read such rubbish in my life.”

“What is it?” asked Sherlock Holmes.

“Why, this article,” I said, pointing at it with my egg spoon
as I sat down to my breakfast.

“I see that you have read it since you have marked it.
I don’t deny that it is smartly written. It irritates me though.

It is evidently the theory of some arm-chair lounger
who evolves all these neat little paradoxes
in the seclusion of his own study.

It is not practical.

I should like to see him clapped down
in a third class carriage on the Underground,
and asked to give the trades of all his fellow-travellers.

I would lay a thousand to one against him.”

“You would lose your money,” Sherlock Holmes remarked calmly.

“As for the article I wrote it myself.”

As a boy … as a school-teacher in Italy …
and as a man past 55, I never lose that
thrill of anticipation upon opening one of Doyle’s
to re-live another adventure with Holmes,
and his friend and colleague, Dr Watson.

I hope that there might be one or two folk
who visit this page, who will feel the same way.

P Livingstone

Tom Crean: Tragic Epilogue of a Childhood Hero


After a peaceful stroll around the deserted harbour,
we walked the ten minutes distance
to our favourite second hand bookshop
for a bit of a root around.

There, in my regular haunt – the shelf of the European
History section, was the incredibly clean-looking spine
of a hardcover volume, whose title I recognised instantly.

Gently sliding it from the shelf, I even imagined that
I heard the slight crack of binding as I opened the cover
and looked at the frontispiece …

there, in the centre of the typescript, two words
that I would never have thought to see in any book
that would interest me, greeted my eyes.

First. Edition.

If the book had ever been read, it must
have been read only once. It was pristine.

The author being an American, this particular title
had been the only account of Shackleton
(or, rather, featuring a boyhood hero, Tom Crean)
that I had not read growing up in Northern Ireland.

From County Kildare … Ernest Shackleton

For me, as a boy in the 1960’s, Shackleton’s escape
from Antarctica was legendary.

Moderns can prate on all they care to about
“technological advances” …
in a world where human beings worship machines,
cannot exist for thirty minutes without being
somehow connected to one;
and enthuses about time-wasting, mind-liquefying toys:

we were adamantly assured, in the Royal Navy,

– apart from the exceptional 3500+ nm voyage
forced upon William Bligh as a result of the mutiny
on HMS Bounty –

Shackleton’s voyage in the James Caird rates
as the single greatest exhibition of seamanship
in historical record – not merely as relating to
pure nautical mileage, but for its appallingly
extreme conditions of endurance for human beings.

A wee while ago …

(Ship’s photographer, I am to the far right, in the front row.)

As a boy, the perseverance-in-adversity of those men
filled me with admiration.

But it was the Aftermath – the return to ‘daily life’
of Tom Crean, that affected me deeply.

It was a dreadful atrocity, I always thought,
to have realised that – after all his heroic efforts
with Scott, and later, Shackleton;

and upon his retirement in Ireland
as the landlord of his own ‘public house’,
The South Pole Inn, in Annascaul, County Kerry,

Tom Crean could never speak openly about his
life and adventures in the Antarctic.

Tom had, of course – during those adventures,
been with the Royal Navy: any reference
to that would be deemed to be admiration
of Britain by the type of stupid, sectarian mind
that blindly worships My Country and everything
to do with it.

Upon on his return to Ireland, Tom met with
this same brutal, mindless fervour from the low-grade,
scurrilous thugs of the Irish Republican movement.

In April, 1920, Tom’s beloved brother,
a member of the Royal Irish Constabulary,
had been ambushed and killed – shot four times –

by the same type of useless, vicious dregs of humanity
that run in ‘gangs’ because they are, in themselves
incapable of anything noble, heroic, or honourable.

And now, he was forbidden to speak
of his adventures and ‘daring do’,
by the same organisation of cut-throat thugs
who had murdered his brother …

“A three man RIC party based at Innishannon,
was ambushed while on patrol at Ballinspittal,
a village mid-way between Kinsale and Bandon,
by members of the Third West Cork Brigade
under the leadership of battalion adjutant Jim O’Mahony.

Sergeant Cornelius Crean
and Constable Patrick McGoldrick were killed outright,
while the other RIC man escaped uninjured.

Forty-eight year old Sergeant Crean, from Annascaul, Co. Kerry,
had twenty eight years police service,
having been a farmer before joining the RIC.

He was a brother of the famous explorer Tom Crean,
who had accompanied Ernest Shackleton
on his voyage to the South Pole in 1909.”

Tom, with Roger, Toby, Nell and Nelson

Obliged by sectarian thugs to ‘keep a low profile’,
Tom would outlive his brother by eighteen years.

Tom Crean died in July of 1938.


Self Esteem: Mass Rape and Murder … The Batavia Massacre

The following account must be, surely, a call
for modern-minded multitudes to start thinking
like mature adults (if such a concept has not been
bred out of humanity) once again.

For “fathers” to ‘grow up’ – dress, and talk, and
discipline and act like fathers who deserve the name;

for parents to teach their children to have consideration
for others; accountability for selfishness;
and instill in them the concept that they are NOT
the centre of the universe.

for “mothers” to be mothers and raise young ladies
with modesty, sobriety, and the moral fibre to say ‘No’
to every lecherous proposition they receive;

for school-teachers to ensure that students have the ability
to carry on an intelligent conversation; to read, and write
– like adults once did;

For adults to begin to act with sober-minded maturity
(And if they have none of their own – acquire it.

Humanity has lost its moral integrity.

Men dress, act, and speak like slobs.
Women pride themselves in being aggressive.

Bureaucrats take the extreme actions of the vicious, the vulgar;
the dangerously stupid, and the observably immature,
and ‘tar’ everyone in society – the diligent, the discrete,
and the responsible – with the absurdities of “Health and Safety”.

And while human beings have spent a decade merging
with machines – incapable of existing without being attached
to one – they have descended into self-deifying savages,
as the bulk of Internet comments and profanity-spewing
conduct of multitudes in public, clearly confirms.

It this Self Esteem madness does not stop, the horror
of the Batavia can only begin.

Travel back with me then, some 390 years, to consider

Practical Lessons from a particularly sadistic Massacre …

Francisco Pelsaert was a Company Man.

And in 1628, he had determined to rise high
in the Dutch East Indies Company.

Part of his strategy, was to take a position of
overseeing the transport of silver to the Island of Java.

As a company man, Pelsaert was in ultimate command
of the company-owned ship, Batavia.
Even the ship’s captain found himself subservient
to the decisions made by Pelsaert.

Second to Pelsaert, was another company employee –
a failed apothecary named Jeronimus Cornelisz,
whose Chemist’s Shop was forced out of business
due to economic hardship …

… and whose reputation was not helped
by the fact that he was a member of a depraved,
orgiastic cult whose leader, Johannes Torrentius,
had been tracked down and imprisoned by the
Dutch authorities.

The Dutch East Indies Company was Cornelisz’s
way out of bankruptcy, and a comparatively
miserable life.

Third in line of authority, the ship’s captain,
Ariaen Jacobsz, was a brilliant seaman;
and an even more accomplished drunkard.

Though accounts are varied, there were around 341
souls onboard Batavia, which included

Lucrezia van den Mylen, 27, (genuinely regarded as
the most beautiful woman in Holland) was one of
about 30 women women travelling,

in addition to an assortment of children, men, and
around a hundred soldiers.

Having tried to ingratiate his obnoxious self upon
Lucrezia, Jacobsz found himself thoroughly repulsed
by the woman. Arriving in (what would become)
Cape Town,

Pelsaert went ashore leaving Jacobsz
who set about not merely becoming outrageously drunk,
but rowing to neighbouring ships
from which, he was summarily forced to leave.

Upon Pelsaert’ return, Pelsaert humiliated Jacobsz
in from of the entire ship’s company.
Seething with rage, Jacobsz was approached by Cornelisz,
with the prospect of mutiny.

Eight mutineers captured Lucrezia, tore her clothes off,
smeared her with faeces, and dangled her over the side
of the ship – all in an effort to force retaliation from Pelsaert
which would, they imagined, provide an “excuse” for mutiny.

Pelsaert, however, knew that he dare not attempt to
punish these depraved creatures on a confined ship,
and elected to wait until reaching land.

Such was the ‘atmosphere’ on board the Batavia
in the first few days of June, 1629.

While under full sail, in the early morning
of the 4th of June, 1629,
bridge lookout Hans Bosschieter
alerted the captain that he saw a reef ahead.

It is utterly irrelevant whether any, or how many,
other ships struck this reef:
as a former Royal Navy man,
I know from experience that the ship’s care
is the responsibility of the officer of the watch.

In this instance, the captain WAS warned by the lookout
of possible danger ahead …

… and seemingly with that dismissive arrogance
which is frequently evident whenever
people of low character are placed in positions
of authority, scoffed and dismissed the warning
as merely moonlight glinting off the waves.

At just past 3:00 a.m. … Batavia hit the reef at full speed.

The grounding took place on Morning Reef in the Wallabi Group
which comprised two islands and a series of exposed cays
(reef, rock, and sand that, because of their small size, could not
reasonably be called ‘islands’) some 45 miles off the coast
of Western Australia.

This portion of the Wickham-Stokes, Royal Navy/Admiralty Chart
shows the relation of the Wallabi Group islands to the western coast of Australia, which appears on the extreme right.

While approximately 40 souls drowned the night of the grounding,
women, children and babies were rowed from the grounding site
to the invariably-described-as ‘womb-shaped’ Beacon Island, which was
situated across the shallows and to the north west of the stricken vessel.

Forty men set up camp on a rock called ‘Traitor’s Island’,
while the 70 sailors – now under “command” of Cornelisz,
remained on the grounded ship passing their time by throwing
silver bullion at each other, and swilling liquor from the ship’s stores.
Twenty of the drunken creatures managed not to be drowned
in the seas that bashed the foundered ship that night.

Pelsaert, the captain, and few ‘VIP’ guests remained on a rocky cay
until the decision was made that they would board a 25-foot longboat
and row for Batavia (Java). Leaving the 250-plus survivors,
Pelsaert and his 47-member company duly left in the longboat
on their voyage for help.

The ‘womb-shaped’ form of Beacon Island, just above and off-centre.
The reef which claimed the Batavia is visible at the bottom of the photograph.

With Pelsaert gone, Cornelisz was now officially in control.

Ostensibly to search for water, Cornelisz had 20 soldiers
accompany a 21-year old corporal named Wiebbe Hayes
in being rowed to a larger, neighbouring island.

If they found water (which Cornelisz was confident they
would not), they were to signal the main party.

With Wiebbe and his twenty competent soldiers out of the way,
Cornelisz and his thugs proceeded to stave off boredom
through a course of systematic rape and murder of the passengers.

Outside of the butchery inflicted upon biblical Christians
for 1600 years by both Pagan and Papal Rome, some of the
most uncomfortable reading to be had is to be found

in the descriptions of the murder and rape of the 125 inhabitants
of that island, at the hands of Cornelisz, and the sadistic savages
who sided with him.

Once Cornelisz and his ‘men’ had sufficiently entertained
themselves by

stabbing and cutting the throats of those who fell sick …
drowning or strangling others …
and poisoning a baby in order to watch it bleed to death from
its mouth and rectum,

they would relieve daily monotony by whimsically selecting
who would be next to be murdered.

Wiebbe – who had discovered a natural well on the distant Island –
had sent a smoke signal as agreed; realised that they were being ignored,
and knew that their presence was not wanted.

But, he could never have had any concept of what was occurring
over on Beacon Island. Without weapons, they would have been
powerless to help against the muskets that were held by the mutineers.

Amidst that perversely drawn-out, reign of carnage, thirty men
had managed to escape on haphazard rafts, making their way
to Wiebbe and his men on West Wallabi Island.

It was from these escapees that Wiebbe learned of the systematic
rape and slaughter that was systematically claiming
the ever-diminishing survivors.

The ‘fortunate’ ones, who were allowed to live, consisted of
a few tolerated men (one a Calvinist preacher whose wife and daughters
were brutally murdered);

and five married women who were spared for … “natural use”.

Constant fear of being ‘next’ to be murdered, or brutally and
repeatedly raped, comprised the daily existence of those who were
‘spared’ by Cornelisz and his band of filth who used the survivors
to gratify every whim of their depraved minds.

It was a society in which men lived according to the own dictates
of Self Esteem and its unrestrained depravity.

“How can I believe in God,
when there is all this suffering and cruelty in the world?”

is the imbecile declaration that is spouted as self-righteous
vindication by those who blame God

for the conduct of depraved Men.

Men throw every notion of God out of their lives,
their homes, their schools, and their “churches”
in order to live their own way …

and then have the audacity to complain
because the very God that they so vehemently despise,
does not ‘take care’ of the world for them.

Men demand “the right” to do things their own way:
and when the tyranny and greed … Of Men … results in disease,
cruelty, crime, tyrannical wars, and injustice,

they are impudent enough to blame God for the treachery
of self-serving, conscienceless, and psychopathic … Men;

And use that perverse “logic” to assert that God cannot exist.

If I insist upon touching the flame
which is boiling a kettle of water,

and am painfully burned;

I do not blame my mother,
who has warned me not to do that.

Consider biblical morality, for instance:

1. People refuse to set objective rules that will make society safe.
2. They hate the source of those rules which would make society safe.
3. And then blame the Originator whose rules they reject
4. because he allows them the freedom to live under their own rules …
5. which result in human misery.

Truly, you just could not make this up!


Determined to be rid of Wiebbe and his men, Cornelisz and his thugs
took muskets and rowed for the Island …

… never imagining that they would be greeted with resistance
from Wiebbe and his soldiers brandishing (it may be presumed)
stones, slings, and any other form of weapon that Wiebbe’s men
could fashion from their rock-wall stronghold on the flat island.

On the 17th September, 1629 – during a third attempt to attack Wiebbe
Corneliesz saw – as did Wiebbe – a sail on the horizon.

Pelsaert was returning.

The battle forgotten, Corneliesz told his men to row towards
the approaching ship.

As did Wiebbe.

The race would be crucial:

If Cornelisz reached the rescuers first, he might carry out
his suspected intent to capture Pelsaert’s rescue ship.
If Wiebbe reached the ship first, he could warn Pelsaert
and inform him of what had taken place.

Looking overboard at the approach of Cornelisz’ boat,
Pelsaert’s suspicion was aroused when he noted that
the mutineers were armed with muskets.

Faced with a wall of musket barrels pointing down at them,
Cornielisz’s men quickly dropped their weapons.

Approaching the Island area with the rescue party from Java,
Pelsaert had noticed Corneliesz’s thugs rowing for the
one remaining island that held people: West Wallabi,
which he knew had been settled by Wiebbe Hayes
and those who went with him in search of water.

Now, with the arrival of Pelsaert and the rescue party,
the truth was quickly made evident.


Pelsaert – the authority on behalf of the company that
actually owned the Batavia – quickly held trial.

Although justice has been eradicated from the 21st century,
it still existed in the 17th.

And it was faithfully administered.

Unrepentant and defiant to the end, Jeronimus Cornelisz
was made to kneel before the executioner.

The woman, Lucretia, whom he had kept as a sexual toy,
was quite properly given opportunity to vent her righteous
rage at him.

Cornelisz’ hands were removed with a hammer and chisel.

With arms bound, he was pushed up a gallows ladder
where a noose was secured.

At the top of the ladder, Cornelisz was kicked into space.

And evil was removed from the world.

His murdering cronies followed, although some were spared
the torment of amputation.

Three were “dropped”.

(A punishment in which the arms are tied behind the back
with the end of a 40-foot rope;

the rope end being tied to the mast, they were pushed off
and ‘dropped’.

When the rope runs taught, the shoulders are utterly dislocated.

This is repeated twice more.

A flogging followed.)

Several mutineers were keel-hauled and flogged.

Two – Jan Pelgrom and Wouter Loos – were sentenced to be marooned
on the Australian coast, where disease, hunger, or natives may,
or may not, have dispensed temporal justice upon them.

One – who had enjoyed selecting the murder victims at will –
was “broken on the wheel”.

(A mode of execution where the condemned is tied, spread-eagled
on a large (usually wagon) wheel.

Beginning with his fingers and toes – and working inwards to the core,
every major bone in his body is systematically broken.)

Seven executed.
Two marooned.

If (in those who possess a conscience) accounts of moral fortitude
cannot but hearten; then – surely, accounts of moral atrocity cannot
but caution .

“The wicked walk on every side
when the vilest men are exalted.”

The savages of the Batavia disaster were vulgar, “partying”,
conscienceless … “ordinary” … men.

The account of the Batavia has always been a poignant reminder,
for me, of the treachery and duplicity of those

who serve no higher master than ‘Self’.

P Livingstone

Possessions, Freedom from Greed … What Do You Own, and Why?

It was the wise observation of the Puritans that,

“Many parents go to hell
in getting an estate;

their children go to hell afterwards,
in spending that estate.”

[ Thomas Manton ]

The accumulation of possessions –
the constant seeking after things,
has been, and will continue to be,

the greatest ruin of men and women
– whether they finally come to realise it
on their deathbed, or not.

It not only feeds Vanity and stimulates
Greed for more and more Things,

but it prevents the mind from pausing to
consider what is TRULY important in this life.


My wife and I live – what is often termed,
“A Plain Life” …

We use Electricity to provide light
and boil the kettle for cups of tea.

We do not use it to run a television
or anything else that would foster laziness,
or carry mental or moral sewage
into our home.

It is a matter of self discipline.

Living without covetousness (‘materialism’, greed)
is PRECISELY the same:

It is about Integrity …

Setting Standards – below which,
you will not allow yourself to fall.

I have always been mystified to observe
that people’s homes almost always
seem stuffed-to-over-flowing in chaos:

possessions, plastic, and paraphernalia
that fill attics and garages, and cover
almost every surface of the house.

There seems to be a perverse mentality
in the world
in which owning things,
is somehow seen as reflecting favourably
on a person’s character.

EVEN the very Introductions that are made
in the 21st century … reek of Greed –

Surely, you are familiar with them … ?

When introduced to someone, WHAT
are the FIRST words that are spoken
TO you?

“Hello … What do you do ?”

When I was growing up,
the question was ALWAYS …

“Hello … HOW do you do ?”

Living without television, stereo, and newspapers
while being of immense benefit
to our mental and moral well-being,
also separates us from that
mass-controlling feature of the modern world:

the perverse onslaught of advertising,
and its utterly bizarre, absolute control
of the modern multitudes.

It is one of the most liberating feelings
in the world to observe people, in general,
speaking, agitating, and rushing frenetically about
in their mad rush to buy the latest technological toy,
sale item, or popular fashion accessory –

and to be, oneself, not the slightest bit interested
in what so evidently controls the thoughts and
desires; commands the attention, and dictates
the actions of the modern multitudes.

Truly, this is Freedom.

Greed – the mindless acquisition of amusements
and vanity toys – is behind the appalling
superficiality of 21st century humanity;

and – for anyone who might seek a life
with more meaning than the constant pursuit
of entertainment and ego –

I can promise that you WILL view the world
– and people – much differently,
once commercial advertising
becomes meaningless to your life.

We moved into our house in November, 2017;
this was the content of the garage
when the previous owners lived here …

This is the content of the garage
now that we live here …

“But surely”, I hear a voice ask – “this is not Practical:
everyone, of necessity, MUST have ‘junk’ –
suitcases, paint tins, tools …”

Yes, very true. BUT that does Not Mean
that these things must be kept in a chaotic mess.

The house in which we live, came equipped with what was
(apparently, in this part of the world) known as a
“Root Cellar” … an area just inside the door of the garage.

After a thorough scrubbing out with hot water and bleach,
all of our tools and miscellaneous bits-and-pieces
were simply placed behind glass doors, on the shelves
that once held Canned Goods.

Every item has a clear box;
and every item is in its own box.

(Please excuse the poor quality photographs, but there
is no natural light down there; only a harsh tungsten bulb
and the flash of the little pocket camera I borrow
for photographs on this site is not up to the task
– It will, however, give you the idea … )


In considering the question of HOW one begins
to ‘downsize’ one’s belongings,
I suppose the best practical answer would be:

“If you have not used it in the past 18 months,
you probably will never use it again.”

(Now, it will go without saying that this excludes
emergency items such as a torch, batteries,
a Primus Stove, and such like.
These can be stored in a container that is
specifically marked for such things as ‘power outages’,
‘plumbing’, ‘electrical’ &c. )

With the “18 month” guide, I refer to personal
and household items; accumulated acquisitions,
and clothing.

Set aside those items that you have not used
in the past year and a half or so:

pick up each one, and ask yourself – out loud:

“Why did I buy this, exactly?”

Then answer the question – out loud:

Absolutely — Talk to Yourself …
And LISTEN to your own answer !

“I bought it to impress (so-and-so)”,
“I bought it because it was on TV –
because ‘everyone else’ had one”,
“I bought it to feed my Vanity” –
and so on.

Then ask, “What does this do with my time?”
“What does having this do to my mind?”
“Could my time be better used than by
wasting it on this?”

When physically hearing the response –
you may well embarrass, if not shame, yourself.

Once all superfluous junk has been set aside
using that criteria as a starting point,

exercise personal integrity in examining
your own conscience to determine
which possessions most gratify Conceit –

that is,

identifying what things have been bought
in order to “impress”
those who are shallow enough
to actually be impressed by … ‘things’.


IF you are determined to ‘downsize’
your own belongings, arrange somewhere
that you can leave the ‘discarded’ items
for a month or so.

If, in that time, your resolve is fixed, and you
truly do not need things to secure happiness,
then, you may donate the items to charity,
if you so wish.

If it is something that is destructive to mind or morals,
– such as a television, books, CD’s, DVD’s &c. –
you effectively destroy it by taking it
to the town dump.

If, on the other hand, the whole exercise was, for you,
a passing fancy … then no ‘harm’ has been done,
and you may freely return to the satisfaction
of your material objects.


Everything that we own has either practical
or sentimental value: there is nothing in our home
that is a ‘fashion statement’ or ‘popular’ product.

I have always believed in quality, dependability,
– craftsmanship: one good item,
rather than three cheap ones.

Taking that little while longer to save one’s pennies
allows one to focus upon whether that item
is really an important and worthwhile purchase.

It removes that desire to ‘collect’ … IF
a self-disciplined mind-set
is behind every future purchase.

By limiting the things that you own
to the narrow and meaningful standard
of definite practical need (clothing),
and sentimental or edifying items (things) only,

you will have effectively removed
the superficial dross of impulse and greed
from your life.

WHAT I Own, and WHY I Keep It …

I cannot show you my DVD Collection,
because I do not have one.
The same applies for CD’s, Books,
or any of the other transient paraphernalia
that observably causes folk to strut about
with an evident sense of superiority.

We have two small Toyota motor cars
– both bought Used; one for my wife’s
medical profession in which mileage
is refunded her;
the other, is our ‘shopping’ car.

Our furniture is antique Scottish or Irish oak,
bought for both its practical use, inherent beauty,
and our deep appreciation of hand-crafted oak.

No attic. No basement. No junk.

It is, very much, A State of Mind
that changes your perception of life:
and reveals the emptiness of the superficial toys
at which multitudes grasp, crave, and strive to own.

It is, quite literally, Freedom from Greed:
something which, I hope, these words might
serve in some way, to help you discover.

Every personal possession that I own
is pictured in this photograph …

A small, watertight, ‘Rubbermaid’ box
contains passport and personal papers;
the other, Kodachrome transparencies from
early work as a photojournalist.

A tea pot and cup; share the space with several
briar pipes,and a container of my pipe tobacco.
Tyndale’s 1536 New Testament sits with
two ring binders holding my academic dissertation
in plastic sheet protectors; whilst a third
contains notes from books, cross references,
and printed pages of my Internet articles.

A five- by three foot oak wardrobe
contains all of my clothes and shoes.

This old leather despatch bag
accompanies me wherever I go;
and carries what you see – my watch,
if the weather is too warm for
wearing a waistcoat.


Every personal item I own (save the clothes
in the oak wardrobe) is included in
these photographs.

All can fit in one large duffle-bag
and be carried with me anywhere,
at a few minutes’ notice.

If looking at something in a shop display,
the philosophy, for me, is a simple one:

Any individual item that cannot be wrapped
and placed in that bag within five minutes,
is something I do not need to own.

A Word about BOOKS …

Reading is my entertainment.

Although having given away my library,
I must mention that, over the years,
the contents of my old books
have been committed (by sheer repetition:
re-reading treasured volumes a dozen times and more)

to my appalling memory … and,
in key quotations, carefully typed
and cross-referenced, and placed in a binder
(which has served when called upon
to deliver a lecture at short notice).

A very well-stocked antiquarian bookshop
provides an admirable and constant source
of quality reading material:

once a book of interest has been read
and re-read, it is returned to the shop,
which, effectively, buys it back
at a small loss to me; credits my ‘account’,
and I can browse for another title of interest.


Should there be anyone who is determined to
improve their heart and their mind
by seriously reducing the amount of clutter
and possessions that are sitting as mere debris
in the home, and debris in the mind ,

I can assure you that – IF you are serious,
following the above suggestions will be
the very best way to test the depth
of your sincerity.

It is impossible to describe the liberty
from constantly ‘wanting’ things
– the freedom from greed – that comes

with a genuine desire and concerted effort
to be rid of extraneous possessions – MOST
of which, have no redeeming merit whatsoever,
and serve only to gratify vanity and waste time.

It is NOT the OBJECT sitting in the attic
of which you are seeking to be rid —

BUT … The desire to “Own things”.

You WILL … once advertising has No impact
upon you whatsoever … find yourself (quietly)
listening to acquaintances talk, and watching
friends waste their money on Vanity Toys.
And you WILL feel sorry for them.

I can also assure you that – with the passage
of a very brief amount of time – one begins
to look back with embarrassment
at the things that were once regarded as
“important” or “indispensable”.

If you are considering “thinning out”
your own personal possessions,
I sincerely trust that the suggestions
presented here may be of some help to you.

P Livingstone