On Borrowing

One of the surest tests [of a poet’s superiority or inferiority] is the way in which a poet borrows. Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal; bad poets deface what they take, and good poets make it into something better, or at least something different. The good poet welds his theft into a whole of feeling which is unique, utterly different than that from which it is torn; the bad poet throws it into something which has no cohesion. A good poet will usually borrow from authors remote in time, or alien in language, or diverse in interest.

T. S. Eliot, p. 114 in The Sacred Wood: Essays on Poetry and Criticism, 1920

Likewise, a good illustrator welds the theft into a whole of feeling which is unique, utterly different and sometimes even funnier than that from which it is torn.

And Lewis Carroll may have borrowed from Thomas Gray.

2018-02-18, update: 2019-01-05 (Thomas Gray)

Mental Troubles

Perhaps I may venture for a moment to use a more serious tone, and to point out that there are mental troubles, much worse than mere worry, for which an absorbing object of thought may serve as a remedy.

  • There are sceptical thoughts, which seem for the moment to uproot the firmest faith:
  • there are blasphemous thoughts, which dart unbidden into the most reverent souls:
  • there are unholy thoughts, which torture with their hateful presence the fancy that would fain be pure.

Against all these some real mental work is a most helpful ally. That “unclean spirit” of the parable, who brought back with him seven others more wicked than himself, only did so because he found the chamber “swept and garnished,” and its owner sitting with folded hands. Had he found it all alive with the “busy hum” of active work, there would have been scant welcome for him and his seven!

(Charles Lutwidge Dogdgson: Pillow Problems and A Tangled Tale, 1885, p. XV;
see also: Life & Letters. Bulletpoints not by Dodgson.)


As any human, Carroll/Dodgson was battling with all kind of temptations. As we know, speculations about possible temptations in his private life keep feeding the pop culture Carroll debate since the 1930s. The controversy even might marginalize the religious conflicts which the Reverend Dodgson was struggeling with. I think that one of these serious conflicts was Charles Darwin’s challenge to fundamental religious beliefs. Darwin’s discoveries surely had (and still have) the potential to uproot the firmest faith in various religions.

I don’t know to which degree Henry Holiday discussed and aligned his choice of pictorial references with Carroll, but there is a pictorial reference to mental troubles: St. Anthony’s temptations (painting by Matthias Grünewald). In one of Holiday’s illustrations you see Colenso’s arithmetic textbook. Like Anthony, also Carroll needed lots of mental work as an distraction from sceptical, blasphemous and unholy thoughts. Anthony probably found help in the Bible. Interestingly, the Reverend Dodgson used mathematics to resist the temptations.

I saw this math textbook in Holiday’s illustration since many years. Only recently that led me to the assumption (which probably always will be just an assumption) that Holiday might have placed that book into his illustration as a hint to how Carroll used math to keep his brain busy with “some real mental work” as a “most helpful ally” in his battle against the temptations which haunted him.

By the way: Possible references in “The Hunting of the Snark” to St. Anthony and to Darwin had been addressed by Mahendra Singh already in June 2007, more than two years before I started my Snark hunt. He and John Tufail were among my most helpful scouts during that hunt.

2020-06-11, update: 2020-07-07

Hunting the CoV

Projects 16800-16803,16805-16808

Cause: covid-19

This is the first COVID19 project from our lab. We are assembling the envelope protein, which is an ion channel important for viral function. Learning about how it forms can inform the design of molecules that will prevent proper assembly.

List of Contributors

This project is managed by Dr Lucie Delemotte at KTH /SciLifeLab.


(Project: I pasted the text into the image.)


Proteins are not stagnant—they wiggle and fold and unfold to take on numerous shapes. We need to study not only one shape of the viral spike protein, but all the ways the protein wiggles and folds into alternative shapes in order to best understand how it interacts with the ACE2 receptor, so that an antibody can be designed. Low-resolution structures of the SARS-CoV spike protein exist and we know the mutations that differ between SARS-CoV and 2019-nCoV. Given this information, we are uniquely positioned to help model the structure of the 2019-nCoV spike protein and identify sites that can be targeted by a therapeutic antibody. We can build computational models that accomplish this goal, but it takes a lot of computing power.


=== Linux ===
I run folding@home (F@H) on two computers. One operates under MS Windows, the other one is a five years old computer with a Linux operating system. That old computer became very slow due to mitigations against Intel CPU vulnerabilities, so I didn’t use it anymore. But I reactivated it for F@H operated under a bare bone Linux OS. As that computer doesn’t do anything else than folding, I disabled the Intel CPU protection by starting the kernel with “mitigations=off”. That re-enables hyperthreading etc. (Don’t do that if you use your computer on the network for other tasks besides folding.) It works for kernels at and above version 5.2 and increases the speed (and the F@H point count) significantly. If your computer boots into Linux with GRUB, add mitigations=off to the settings in GRUB_CMDLINE_LINUX_DEFAULT.

=== Teams ===
As part of the “gamification” concept of F@H, your protein model folding computer collect points during folding. (It’s just for fun. Competition is in our genes, F@H plays with that.) You can join teams in order to get to the top in a ranking of teams together with other contributors. By default you are in a Zero team. That’s fine. You don’t have to change anything if you just want to help folding protein models.
        Some contributors join teams of organizations (e.g. companies) in order to let these organizations look good. That’s fine too. There are various kind of teams.
        You also easily can create your own team. Due to my obsession, I of course created a The Hunting of the Snark team. (So far it consist of only one member, but as of already is among the top 10% of all teams.)
        Curecoin: The top team is the Curecoin team. There you not only get points, you also get some kind of currency. It’s not my thing. One reason for me not to join Curecoin is that the blockchain technology applied would add additional workload to my computer. On the other side, Curecoin isn’t bad either. The Curecoin team has even more points than the Zero team, but much less work units. I think, that is because many contributors in that team run computers with powerful CPUs and GPUs. They get work units done faster than less powerful machines, and the points computation algorithm of F@H acknowledges that. (Thanks to the required number crunching power, blockchain technologies helped the market for graphics cards and GPUs a lot.) Personally I don’t like Curecoin, but as always: Use it if you like it and if you know what you are doing. (Links: Am Rechner nebenher die Welt retten |

=== Caveats ===
Depending on the setting (Light/Medium/Full) of FAHcontrol, your computer can get quite hot. The older one of my computers does 24 hours/day folding in a cool room in the basement. It consumes a power of 26 Watts. The F@H setting is “Full”. It’s a fan-less mini computer, so no tear&wear of an internal fan needs to be considered. The computer won’t get damaged by the heat, because it adapts the CPU clock frequency in a way which doesn’t let it get too hot. In winter it won’t reach maximum temperature anyway. But in summer its temperature limits will get tested, even though the ambient temperature will stay below the 50°C maximum. So I added an external fan (14W). My other computer is a laptop computer. I chose the “Light” setting (which means that the GPU will not be used for folding).
        Super contributors use gaming computers with powerful CPUs and GPUs. And some show off impressive cooling machinery. Those gamers know what they are doing and can run F@H with maximum performance.

=== Smartphones ===
F@H does not run on smartphones, but there is a project for such devices. The Vodaphone “DreamLab” is a proprietary app. Of course it only runs during charging. I recommend to read the privacy statement.

=== Scams ===
Due to Covid19, F@H became much more popular, so take care not to install malware like fake applications which e.g. steal passwords. Don’t panic, but wherever scams are possible, you’ll have to deal with them. F@H is no exception. Possible scams are no reason not to contribute to F@H, but be aware of scams, e.g. foldingathomeapp.exe is malware! If you want to be on the save side, only install F@H software from and don’t touch anything else.

=== Join ===
You can share computer time too.

F@H Team 263865 | COVID19 | Wikipedia |Twitter | Facebook (en) | Facebook (de)

2020-03-31, update: 2020-07-03

Fact Checks

  • Ambiguous: The “Boots” and “the maker of Bonnets and Hoods” in The Hunting of the Snark are two different persons.
  • Unproven: Carroll was on drugs when he wrote the Alice books.
  • Sometimes wrong: Carroll quotes. Check them.
  • Likely wrong: The “Ocean Chart” (the Bellman’s map) in The Hunting of the Snark was made by Henry Holiday.
  • Wrong: C.L. Dodgson (aka Lewis Carroll) invented the word “Snark”.
  • Wrong: Only the first issue of The Hunting of the Snark has “Baker” on page 83.
  • Wrong: There is photographic evidence that Alice Liddell as a child kissed C.L. Dodgson.
  • Wrong ( C.L. Dodgson sent an admiring Queen Victoria a copy of An Elementary Treatise on Determinants.


Not Lewis Carroll

2019-07-12, updated: 2020-06-08

Henry Holiday and the maker or Bonnets and Hoods

Watch those fingers: The photo has been “photoshopped” (by Henry Holiday or Joseph Swain?) already many years before I worked on it using GIMP. Holiday’s tinkering with the little finger and the thumb of his left hand might be a “Victorian craze“.

The image shows Henry Holiday and segments of one of Henry Holiday’s illustrations (cut by Joseph Swain) to Lewis Carroll’s The Hunting of the Snark. The segments show the Bonnetmaker and a bonnet.

The Bonnetmaker drawing could be a little self portrait of and by Henry Holiday. However, the photo is several years older than Holiday’s illustrations to The Hunting of the Snark. Perhaps it is a portrait taken by Joseph Swain or a self portrait taken by Henry Holiday quite a few years after the Snark was published. Henry Holiday was younger when he illustrated Carroll’s Snark tragicomedy.

Henry Holiday and the Bonnetmaker have one thing in common: They are creative artists. So is Joseph Swain, who engraved that illustration. How did his face look like in 1876?


Such little self portraits have a long tradition.

In German there is term “Assistenzfigur”. That is a person positoned in the background or beside the main person or main object depicted in a painting. You may think of such a person as the static version of a “film extra” in a movie. She or he serves a a kind of helper or assistant. Sometimes one of these extras is the artist who made the painting. In German we call such an image in the image an “Assistenzselbstbildnis” or “Assistenzselbstbild” or “Selbstbildnis in Assistenz”. Perhaps the first known self-portraits in assistance where a kind of signature of the artist.

The “self-portrait in assistance” first became available since the 14th century to master builders and sculpturer, shortly after that in Italy also to fresco painters, and since the 15th and 16th century also to painters of large altar- and panel paintings; see Raupp, S. 8

Source (in German): Footnote on p. 162 in Suzanne Valadon – Identitätskonstruktion… (2001) by Valeska Doll referring to Untersuchungen zu Künstlerbildnissen und Künstlerdarstellungen in den Niederlanden im 17. Jahrhundert (1984) by Hans-Joachim Raupp.

In that matter there also are references to Raupp in Melanie Munduch: Die Selbstbildnisse Luca Giordanos (2012)


#Assistenzselbstbildnis: Twitter

For diskussion of the finger “photoshopping”: Twitter

Original post: 2017-09-28. Update: 2020-06-01

Waistcoat Poetry


There was an old man of Port Grigor,
Whose actions were noted for vigour;
He stood on his head
till his waistcoat turned red,
That eclectic old man of Port Grigor.

Edward Lear, 1872


He was black in the face,
and they scarcely could trace
The least likeness to what he had been:
While so great was his fright
that his waistcoat turned white –
A wonderful thing to be seen!

Lewis Carroll, from “The Hunting of the Snark”, 1876


Martin Gardner annotated (MG058) to The Hunting of the Snark that Elizabeth Sewell pointed out in The Field of Nonsense (1952) that a line in Carroll’s poem has a similarity to a line in a limerick by Edward Lear.

See also:

In The Field of Nonsense (I use a 2015 reprint), Elizabeth Sewell compared Carroll’s waistcoat stanza and Lears’s waistcoat limerick while taking a safe distance to considering “mutual plagiarism” by stating that “there is no evidence that either man was familiar with the other’s work”, adding that “the likeness do not in any case suggest borrowings…” (p. 9).

As for the Snark, I don’t have to worry about embarrassing myself when assuming that Carroll knew Lear’s limerick. So I can say that I think that Carroll alluded to Lear.

2017-09-11, update: 2020-05-20

Snark Radio Play

Sadly, it’s not online anymore. (2020-01-02):

Tony Robinson narrates this fresh adaptation of Lewis Carroll’s classic masterpiece following a strange assortment of characters on their quest for an elusive beast.

Led by a bell-ringing Captain, this motley crew must brave terrifying danger in their chaotic pursuit of a creature known as Snark. Accompanied by specially composed music and songs, this surreal tale questions whether anything is really what it seems. …

First broadcast on BBC Radio 4 in December 2015.

Streaming: 2020-01-02 – 2020-01-31

– Narrator: Tony Robinson
– Bellman: Eric Potts
– Baker: Paul Barnhill
– Butcher: Everal A Walsh
– Barrister: Jonathan Keeble
– Snark (in the Barrister’s dream): Jonathan Keeble
– Beaver: Stephen Hoyle
– Music and songs (composer): Katie Chatburn
– Music (performers):
    – Katie Chatburn
    – Dorry Macaulay
    – Kathryn Williams
    – Stephen Cordiner
    – Jasper Wilkinson
– Director: Charlotte Riches
– Author: Lewis Carroll

2020-01-02, update 2020-05-15