Days Like These

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The Independent Culture
8 February 1956


(pictured), American

humorist, writes to

Wolcott Gibbs

"Dear Wolcott, I'm writing this in my office in The New Yorker, through whose corridors, Time magazine said 15 years ago, I often walked, an aged gray-eyed respected ghost. The aged and gray are still true, but it's hard to tell around here about respect anymore, or its kindred feelings. [The editor, Harold] Ross used to send a note reading, `Jesus Christ, that was a swell piece.' All you get now, if you insist on finding out what happened to a manuscript, is a telegram saying, `Piece bought, money deposited'. A month ago they rejected a piece of mine with the highest and warmest and most complete praise I have got since Ross died.

It seems that you should show up around here at least once a year to break the legend... that no one is allowed into your office and that it remains exactly as you left it last time you were here - the copy of The New York Times lying carelessly in a chair, the little clock on the desk stopped, the coffee cup from Schrafft's still partly filled with the coffee of 1953 or whenever it was. "

8 February 1586


describes the execution

of Mary, Queen of Scots at

Fotheringay Castle

"Groping for the block, she laid down her head, putting her chin over the block with both her hands, which, holding there still, had been cut off had they not been espied. Then, lying very still upon the block, one of the executioners holding her slightly with one of his hands, she endured two strokes of the other executioner with an axe, she making very small noise or none at all, and not stirring any part of her from the place where she lay: and so the executioner cut off her head, saving one little gristle, which being cut asunder, he lift up her head to the view of all the assembly. Then, her dress of lawn falling from off her head, it appeared as grey as one of threescore and ten years old, polled very short, her face in a moment being so much altered from the form she had when she was alive, as few could remember her from her dead face. Her lips stirred up and down for a quarter of an hour after her head was cut off.

Then one of the executioners, pulling off her garters, espied her little dog which was crept under her clothes which could not be gotten forth but by force, yet afterwards would not depart from the dead corpse, but came and lay between her head and her shoulders."

Ian Irvine