December 29, 2021December 24, 2021 by EditorM The Chambered Nautilus CIDU John Deering, Strange Brew 12 Comments From DanV, who remarks that this Strange Brew is a complete mystery to him. Related
A nautilus shell has many chambers. As the nautilis grows it creates new, larger, chambers and seals off the old ones.
The other aspect of this is that judges’ offices are known as chambers. There was a time when any set of rooms would be known as chambers, and you see this, for examples, in Edgar Allan Poe’s writings, but the usage only survives in specific reference to judges.
Or phrases such as “chamber music”, words like “bedchambers” and “chambermaid”…
Of course, the word “chamber” has not completely gone out of use, but only a judge can say “I’ll be in my chambers” without it sounding like an archaic usage.
The Chambered Nautilus is the title of a poem by Oliver Wendell Holmes. You may be tempted to think “Oh yeah, Justice Holmes would of course think of judges’ chambers when using the word – giving us a connection between courts and molluscs.” But no, this poet is Holmes Sr., and the Supreme Court Associate Justice was Holmes Jr.
It should also be mentioned that the caption is a play on “The People’s Court”, the name of the longest running general Court TV show. (If you don’t know that show, you still may have heard of “Judge Wapner”, the original judge.)
(While one might, at first, think Deering’s apostrophe is in the wrong place, it is actually in the correct place with the plural, ‘Mollusks’ matching the plural, ‘people’. (The “one”, of course, is me.))
James Joyce used the title Chamber Music for his early book of poems. He was reported to have said privately that what he meant by the phrase was the tinkling of urination into a chamber pot. Quite believable given his fondness for being earthy.
Danny Boy: And supposedly inspired by a specific incident:
“Richard Ellmann reports (from a 1949 conversation with Eva Joyce) that the chamberpot connotation has its origin in a visit he made, accompanied by Oliver Gogarty, to a young widow named Jenny in May 1904. The three of them drank porter while Joyce read manuscript versions of the poems aloud – and, at one point, Jenny retreated behind a screen to make use of a chamber pot. Gogarty commented, “There’s a critic for you!”. When Joyce later told this story to Stanislaus, his brother agreed that it was a “favourable omen”
I always have to remember when we are doing the December Candlelight Nights event at the local restoration village with our reenactment unit to call the two bedrooms “bed chambers” instead of bedrooms. As in “Martin uses the bed chamber on this side of his office for his wife, new baby son and himself and the one on the other side of his office is given to his 2 daughters to use as it has a fireplace and they will be warm.” (Actually among the errors in how they restored the house is that there should either be a fireplace in each bed chamber or none in either. House was built in 1740 and expanded twice – half the house looks as it did originally – side with no fireplace in bed chamber – and half as it looks after the final expansion in 1760.)
We actually did event one night this year before they did what I thought should be done orginally and closed due to increasing Covid cases in our area – if Robert or I come down with same – it will be from that one night, even though we tried to stay back in the rooms we were in and talking about, from the public passing along the outside of the rooms.
Sigh. Fairly self- explanatory.
I weep for the future.
Thanks for checking in on this!
All of our commenters seem to have enjoyed the joke on the ambiguity of “chambers”, so we’re not really in befuddlement 🙂
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