lowell: a primer

September 14, 2011 § Leave a comment

Lowell had a globetrotting childhood, because his family thought it would be pleasant for his digestion, not to mention salient to his moral education as an upstanding young man of distinguished intellect and unblemished virtue, to acquire an education abroad. What this meant was that Lowell became acquainted from a very young age with certain unmentionable districts in Amsterdam. Worse, he became used to beauty — the sites, the sounds, the fabled architecture — and demanded it in his daily surroundings.

After a while, travel tired him. Women wearied him. He was forever getting sunburned because the smell of coconut lotion, which was the smell of the masses, which was the smell of a hump-shaped matron beached and expiring on the sand under the scanty shade of a decorative parasol, made his skin crawl and his gorge rise. The smell of suntan lotion restricted his bodily locomotion and the freedom of his senses. Both were paramount to his continuing happiness. And Lowell’s happiness, as anyone in his retinue could have told you, was paramount to all else.


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