Photo by Brooke Estis Bleyl

Saturday, October 25, 2014

End of the World News, Part II


Motivated by the recent Ebola news, I posted recently about Jack London's 1912 novella, The Scarlet Plague (about an infection that quickly destroys the majority of humanity--in the years 2013!), and I promised a later post about Mary Shelley's novel The Last Man (published on January 23, 1826), a novel with a similar--but, of course, earlier--theme.

Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin Shelley, born in 1797, had already experienced so much with Death that it's no real surprise that she would feel that He was coming for everyone--and soon. Here's a partial list of those close to her who had died by the time the novel appeared:

  • Mary Wollstonecraft (her mother), 1797--the mother she never knew but whose books she read repeatedly.
  • An unnamed daughter--dead on March 6, 1815, only a few weeks old. (If she and Percy Bysshe Shelley named their child, no one has ever discovered it.)
  • Fanny Godwin, half-sister, committed suicide on October 9, 1816.
  • Harriet Shelley (Bysshe's first wife), committed suicide around December 10, 1816 (her body was discovered in the Serpentine).
  • Clara Shelley, daughter, on September 24, 1818. She was about a year and a half.
  • William Shelley, son, on June 7, 1819. He was about three and a half.
  • Allegra Byron, the daughter of Lord Byron and Claire Clairmont (Mary's step-sister), April 19, 1821. She was about four and a half.
  • Percy Bysshe Shelley (her husband) and Edward Williams (friend)--both drowned on July 8, 1822, off the Italian coast.
  • Lord Byron, friend (it was his summer place in Geneva where she had conceived the idea for Frankenstein), April 19, 1824. Later, when friends brought Byron's body back to England for burial, Mary viewed his remains. He'd been stored in preservative wine for the transport and was now purple.
There were others--but these are people close to her circle--including, of course, her husband and three of her children. Her remaining son, Percy Florence Shelley (his middle name was for the Italian city of his birth), would outlive her, but Percy--this last possessor of the Shelley-Godwin-Wollstonecraft genes--had no real intellectual interests and spent his adult years (childless) enjoying his substantial inheritance from the Shelley estate. He loved his yacht, loved putting on amateur theatricals at the impressive home in Bournemouth, England, the seaside city where he and his family now lie: Godwin, Mary Wollstonecraft, Mary Shelley, Percy Florence and his wife. (Percy Bysshe Shelley lies in Rome--not far from Keats' grave.)

Mary, feeling alone, isolated, deeply depressed, had begun work on The Last Man over the winter of 1823-24. In her journal entry for May 14, 1824, she wrote: The last man! Yes I may well describe that solitary being's feeling, feeling myself as the last relic of a beloved race, my companions, extinct before me--" (The Journals of Mary Shelley, 476-77).

TO BE CONTINUED ...

Friday, October 24, 2014

Frankenstein Sundae, 64


On July 18, I wrote to tell Betty that I’d just finished reading Janet Todd’s biography of Mary Wollstonecraft. I said that I remained impressed with it, but I had a few small complaints—not enough footnotes (where could I find some of the things she mentioned?), not enough reminders of dates in her text (what year was this?).
I added that I was about to head off to the University of Rochester to read a pamphlet on vegetarianism by John Frank Newton, a person and a publication with quite an influence on Bysshe Shelley for a while. (I’ll write a bit later about that journey—about what I discovered there.) Within four days, though (July 22), I wrote exultantly to Betty: I finished the draft of the PBS chapter! I did not tell her how long it was, but I just consulted my digital copy of that early draft, and I can report that it was forty-eight pages—a bit much for just the youth of the man who would become Mary’s husband. (By contrast, the final draft—now on Kindle Direct—is only fifteen pages. Oh, the pain of slicing!)
Betty sent her congratulations (and said I was about to catch up with her in the story: I am mid-1825.). She also told me that her son had visited her recently and had coaxed her out onto the tennis court for the first time in four years.
In my answer on July 23 I told her that I’d been a varsity tennis player at Hiram College for four years—and I was fairly honest, too, noting that I was on a very bad team. I also noted that I’d just helped my son and daughter-in-law move and doing so had renewed my appreciation for the women in PBS’ life who had to be ready to pick up and go on virtually a moment’s notice. What an impulsive lad!
I also wrote about how—as a father of a young man—I understood more clearly the feelings (and rage!) of Timothy Shelley, Bysshe’s father. Sir Timothy (he was a baronet) did not cover himself with glory during all of this, but what father—especially one in the early 19th century—would handle well what PBS hurled his way? Expelled from college, eloped with a sixteen-year-old [Harriet Westbrook], borrowed money against his estate, rejected religion, and on and on.

As older parents know, parenthood does not ever end; it just changes—and often in ways that are painful to experience. There’s something so impossibly sweet about a young child, grasping your hand as you cross the street, admiring you so entirely that he dresses like you, reading books that you love, throwing himself into activities that you prefer, and on and on. And then, gradually, allegiances shift, new interests emerge, independence arrives—often noisily, and no one but a ghost grabs your hand in the crosswalk.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

End of the World News, Part I


Regular visitors to this site know that I've done a lot of research and publishing about both Jack London (1876-1916) and Mary Shelley (1797-1851). And in these days of our Ebola-frenzy, I think about two novels written by these two writers--Jack London's The Scarlet Plague and Mary Shelley's The Last Man. Neither novel is nearly so well known as these two writers' other works (The Call of the Wild, Frankenstein), but it interests me that both of them wrote tales about a disease that threatens to wipe out all of humanity.

In the next couple of posts, I'm going to tell you a bit about these two books, beginning with The Scarlet Plague, 1912. (Here's a link to the electronic text of his short novel.)

It first appeared in June 1912, published in full in (coincidentally!) London Magazine. At that time, London and his wife, Charmian, were aboard the Dirigo on a sail around Cape Horn from Baltimore to Seattle. From Charmian's diary--and from letters and other writing--we know more than a bit about that voyage--about her hives, his writing (he's at work on his novel The Valley of the Moon and a variety of short stories), their activity (they liked to box--spar!), the weather (gales), the ship's difficulties rounding the Horn, the captain's serious illness (not good news), their arrival in Seattle, where they learn the captain has stomach cancer and has only days remaining in his life.

The Scarlet Plague appeared in book form (Macmillan) in May 1915. I see in my notes that I read the novel in November 1986, a year I was on sabbatical leave from Harmon Middle School. Among my sabbatical projects? Read all of Jack London--which I did (all fifty of his books). Here--word for word--is the summary I wrote when I finished the book:

Futuristic, short novel in which a great plague, in 2013 [!!!], destroys nearly all of humankind. Sixty years later the story begins as three savage boys (Edwin, Hoo Hoo, and Hare-Lip) accompany an old man they now call "Granser," who had been Professor James Howard Smith, professor of English Literature at Berkeley.

The boys, who frequently taunt Granser and show him little respect and who speak like savages and have no learning at all ("What's education?" one asks; "What's money?" from another), convince Granser to tell them the story of the Plague--which he does, consuming most of the rest of the book.

The Scarlet Plague, caused by microorganisms, killed quickly (from 15 minutes to 2 hours), symptoms being the scarlet color and progressive numbness from toes to heart. Millions died all over the world, and the world quickly became brutal and wild as groups called Prowlers (from the slums) shot, plundered, and burned.

Granser was immune and wandered for years alone before he encountered a brute, Bill the Chauffeur, who was keeping and terrorizing Vesta Van Warden, the billionaire's wife Bill had once worked for. Granser can't defeat him, so he leaves and discovers other survivors near ... Glen Ellen [where London lived his last years]. He joins them, sires children, etc. Keeps books in a dry cave in case they're needed. Edwin, perhaps the most gentle, may one day want them.

Here is one of the final paragraphs of the novel; Granser is speaking to the boys:

“The gunpowder will come. Nothing can stop it—the same old story over and over. Man will increase, and men will fight. The gunpowder will enable men to kill millions of men, and in this way only, by fire and blood, will a new civilization, in some remote day, be evolved. And of what profit will it be? Just as the old civilization passed, so will the new. It may take fifty thousand years to build, but it will pass. All things pass. Only remain cosmic force and matter, ever in flux, ever acting and reacting and realizing the eternal types—the priest, the soldier, and the king. Out of the mouths of babes comes the wisdom of all the ages. Some will fight, some will rule, some will pray; and all the rest will toil and suffer sore while on their bleeding carcasses is reared again, and yet again, without end, the amazing beauty and surpassing wonder of the civilized state. It were just as well that I destroyed those cave-stored books—whether they remain or perish, all their old truths will be discovered, their old lies lived and handed down. What is the profit—” 

Rather dark, eh?

The Scarlet Plague is not one of London's better novels--and, in general, his novels are not as good as his stories--but it is an eerie commentary on our worries now--and published almost exactly 100 years ago.


Next time: Mary Shelley's The Last Man

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Frankenstein Sundae, 63


I notice now, too, that Betty and I had at some point commenced a tradition of closing our email with “Fondly.” I smile in wonder. Who started that? And when?

And so I look back … when did we start closing like that? And who started it?
Early in our correspondence, we sometimes just put our names—or something like All best or Yours ever and obliged (that was one of Betty’s). But as I look back through the emails, I see that the first Fondly came from me—on January 5, 2000, at the end of a long note about my father’s death. But Fondly did not immediately catch on. I used it now and then; so did she. But by the summer of 2000, we were both using it routinely. It was an accurate word. I did feel “fondness” for Betty—and enormous gratitude for how she was helping me. Think of it: a premier Shelley scholar pausing in her busy days to reply to earnest emails from a retired middle school English teacher who was working on a YA biography of Mary. As I sit here now, I am still amazed by what she did. And even more ashamed that—later—I allowed the correspondence to dwindle. And then disappear.
But I’m going to delay talking about that. I want to think well of myself for just a bit longer.

In early July we were writing back and forth about Janet Todd’s biography of Mary Wollstonecraft, a book I was in the process of reading. Betty was bothered by some of the negative comments in the reviews of Todd’s book. On July 7, I wrote a longish message about book reviewing and about how I go about it. I reiterated one of my fundamental questions that I ask about a book (a question that, many reviews later, I still ask): Has this writer done the work? (You’d be surprised how often the answer to that question is, “No.”) And if the writer has done the work, well, I am much more generous in the rest of the review—especially if he or she has a sense of humor, a graceful style, some fresh insights.
Betty replied with a kind note and said, I am back to the answer that rears itself every time I become impatient: take the time it takes. And that advice, it seems to me, is about the most basic and sensible principle any writer could embrace. A writer who hurries is a writer who will have regrets.*
I wrote back and thanked her, again, for all her help, telling her that I really enjoyed our exchanges but regret the one-sidedness of them: You are the principal MWS scholar in the world; I, in some sense, the Cowardly Lion & the Tin Man & the Scarecrow all in one.
I realize now—reading that comparison—that it seems to suggest that she is the Wizard of Oz. That’s not good, is it?

*Relevant. In a recent previous post in this series, I said that I'd resolved in 2000 not to move again--then said that seven years later we did move, from Aurora to Hudson. Oops. We moved in 1997, not 2007. Seems I'd forgotten Betty's dictum!


Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Never Invite an Old Guy to Speak


The text for my remarks at WRA on Oct. 20, 2014 ...

Fall Academic Awards
Western Reserve Academy
20 October 2014

Never Invite an Old Guy to Speak

I know what some of you are thinking—Hey, that’s the Old Guy who hangs out at Open Door Coffee! Yep, ‘tis I. And now I’m going to demonstrate why you should never invite an Old Guy to speak.
I’d like to thank Mrs. Chlysta for inviting me here today—I’m so grateful for the opportunity to wear a necktie again after two-and-a-half years!
Okay, let’s be more mature … here goes: I’ve spoken from this podium many times—and it’s never ceased being an honor. It’s nice, too, to see some of my former colleagues—and students. I taught Mrs. Borrmann in English I, Mr. Ong in English III; they both still owe me homework. And Mr. Burner was a senior when I first taught here in 1979–80. But I won’t tell you what I know about him … Well, maybe for money.
And, as I said, I sort of know some of you from Open Door, where I hang out in the morning. As a former teacher, it makes me feel good—hopeful—to see students studying. Caring. (Makes me feel even better to realize I don’t have to grade any of it!)
A quick story. Just last month my mom turned 95, and I was telling her that I’d agreed to speak here today, but for various reasons I wasn’t sure that I could go through with it. She looked at me sadly, perhaps remembering I was her idiot child, and said, “Danny, the day will come when no one will ask you to speak, so you probably ought to do it.”
Mom—still wise at 95. Still annoyingly wise. So here I am.
I need to apologize to Mrs. Chlysta, too, because in a minute I’m going to talk about math—and that could get embarrassing. You see, I never exactly excelled at it. I sort of bumbled and stumbled and grumbled through high school math, but when—a college freshman—I took calculus, I was lost from Day One. I was Bilbo in Mirkwood. And huge spiders were everywhere. On one of my miserable tests, my  professor actually wrote this: “Can I help you cry?”
That was nice. But, actually, no—you can not help me cry! Crying is not a team sport. Yes, there is no i in team, but there is one in crying!
When I was teaching English III here, the word evanescent always appeared on my vocabulary list—yes, I was one of those. Vocab lists and quizzes! What a jerk of a teacher! Anyway … evanescent … vanishing, fading away.
In one way, evanescence is the nature of all life, isn’t it? Creatures come into the world, they mature (well, most of us do—my mom’s not so sure about me!), they weaken, they die. A day passes, a month, a year. Many years. Centuries. Millennia. And, today, relatively few folks from centuries ago manage even to elbow their way out onto the tiny stage of our common memory. Homer. Alexander. Cleopatra. Henry VIII. Shakespeare.
Speaking of whom: Have you been following the stories about the bones of King Richard III, recently discovered under a parking lot in Leicester, England? They’d lain there, forgotten, since 1485. At the Battle of Bosworth Field, about fourteen miles away, he’d been slain by his successors, the Tudors, whose spectacular queen, Elizabeth I, about 100 years later, would be on the throne when Shakespeare’s play Richard III premiered in 1592, a play that features, near the end, Bosworth Field with Richard, surrounded by enemies, crying out, “A horse, a horse! My kingdom for a horse!” Didn’t work out. He ended up underneath a lot constructed for—ironically—horseless carriages. And soon—playing Richard III—Benedict Cumberbatch!
Anyway, you may ask, “How do we know those parking lot bones are Richard’s?” By the DNA of a living descendent—that’s how.  
So … let’s think a moment about our own DNA, our own family histories. We can name our two parents. Our four grandparents. But pretty soon things get tricky, don’t they? Can we name all eight of our great-grandparents … sixteen great-great grandparents … thirty-two great-great-great grandparents … sixty-four …  one hundred twenty-eight … two hundred fifty-six … five hundred twelve … (See, I can multiply!) But things quickly get unmanageable after a few generations, so even though those people were directly responsible for our being here, right now, we probably don’t know a single thing about any of them—not even their names. (To make a selfie, your very-long-ago ancestors would have needed to chisel a rock!) But we do know one thing about these ancestors, though—their evanescence. And—their anonymous permanence. We don’t know who they were, but pearls of them—both perfect and flawed—are strung along our chromosomes, helping make us who we are.  
So, let’s think about this for a moment: At Shakespeare’s time (1564–1616) each of you would have had approximately a thousand direct ancestors. Five hundred specific men and 500 specific women would have had to find one another and hook up—successfully—for you to be sitting in this chapel 400 years later. And then, of course, all subsequent (and relevant) children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren from those Shakespearean-era ancestors would have had to have survived war, famine, illness, injury, accident, folly. Senior pranks. If a single one of them had failed to survive before he or she reproduced … well, let’s just say that it’s virtually impossible that you’re sitting out there.
Are you feeling depressed yet? (This is another of the reasons you must never invite an Old Guy to speak!) Knowledge can do that, you know—knock the wind out of you. Depress you. Terrify you.
But … good news … it can also inspire you. Animate you to make some graceful and unique moves in your dance to the music of Time.
So let’s move on to this. The late Cornell astrophysicist Carl Sagan once wrote, “The nitrogen in our DNA, the calcium in our teeth, the iron in our blood, the carbon in our apple pies were made in the interiors of collapsing stars. We are made of starstuff.” …  I like that: We’re all starstuff—actually, not just metaphorically.
We are gathered here today to celebrate some varieties of that starstuff. To commend those among you, who—consciously or unconsciously—have realized that time is short, precious, precarious, unpredictable … evanescent. And you have decided that—while starlight is flooding through your window—you will make sure that soft glow illuminates something wonderful and wondrous—your potential, your fragile, unpredictable, miraculous lives.
So many of you are doing that—in myriads of ways. Making your time matter. And so today we congratulate you, and I wish for you—for all of you—that starlight will continue to gleam upon your lovely, improbable lives for a long, long, long time.  



Monday, October 20, 2014

Frankenstein Sundae, 62


In late June 2000, I wrote to Betty about something that had often bothered me—about biographies in particular but about human discourse in general. The question of motive(s). We are quick to explain the behavior of others (maybe even of ourselves), but can we ever really know why someone does something—and is why even a sensible question?
Here’s what I wrote in my email: I have much trouble—in the books I read, the films I see—with the whole question of motive. I think, for example, that everything I do arises from an awfully complex series of causes, some proximate, some distant, some ineffable? In many instances I simply can’t tell you “why” I did something. Yet writers/filmmakers don’t hesitate to identify motives of characters/subjects, sometimes in the most simple-minded fashion. I think psychology resembles calculus more than arithmetic, but so often I read/see accounts of people whose acts the writer/filmmaker attributes to a single cause. Psychology reduced to a single sum: x + y = z.  I just don’t agree. I don’t think that the behavior of you or me or anyone else with a brain can be easily explained. And this, of course, makes the writing of biography all the more difficult.
I went on to use the example of William Godwin’s accepting the friendship of Bysshe Shelley (before the latter eloped with the former’s daughter Mary). And I suggested a number of “reasons”—but how can we know? This enterprise, I concluded, is difficult, horrendously difficult, teeth-grindingly difficult. But—[was I feeling optimistic now?]—also more fun than just about anything else.
In early July I wrote to tell Betty I had just returned from five days in Massachusetts, helping my mother move from the assisted living unit where she and Dad had been (in Pittsfield) to an independent apartment in Lenox. Now that Dad was gone, Mom no longer needed to be there—and she was eager (too pale a word) to escape. Packing, unpacking, setting up things … we all know the drudgery. Betty wrote to say I know the kind of work you did for your mom’s move is very draining—on different levels. And, yes, it was.
Oh yes. I also vowed at the time that I would never again help out in a move—someone else’s or my own. Seven years later, of course, Joyce and I packed up and moved from Aurora to Hudson, Ohio (about twenty minutes’ distance). So go resolutions.
I notice now, too, that Betty and I had at some point commenced a tradition of closing our email with “Fondly.” I smile in wonder. Who started that? And when?


Sunday, October 19, 2014

Sunday Sundries, 20



1. A wonderful ceremony on Friday to install some former Aurora teachers and students in various halls of fame that the Aurora Alumni Association sponsors. It was great to see Tia Hodge-Jones, who was in our son's classes at Harmon School (1982-86) and who appeared with him in some play productions there, has gone on to do wonderful things on the New York stages--and to write a book for young actors--and to teach and inspire yet another generation. (Here's a link to her book on Amazon.) I've not seen her in about 30 years, and it was wonderful to be with her for a while.

And it was a terrific thrill to witness the installation of two former colleagues at Harmon School--Andy Kmetz and Eileen Kutinsky--into the Honored Educators' Hall of Fame. Both were outstanding teachers (Andy in art, Eileen in science), and both were major influences in my own career. Eileen had already taught a few years when I arrived to begin my career in Aurora (fall of 1966), and I immediately recognized what a rare talent she is--and promptly began to beg, borrow, and steal ideas from her. And, believe me, she had an endless supply. She was extraordinarily generous to me--and, later, to Joyce and Steve--throughout her remaining years at Harmon School. In fact, Eileen was one of the principal reasons we withdrew Steve from Hudson Middle School when he was in sixth grade and moved him to Harmon. We knew that he would learn more about the world just from looking at her walls and displays that he would in someone else's room.

I was happy, by the way, when Eileen, in her remarks, acknowledged her late sister, Vivian LoPresti, who'd taught for years at Lake School (elementary) in Aurora. She was one of the two best teachers I ever saw (I once spent a week in her first-grade classroom when I was in grad school--observing, being dazzled). Guess who the other best-I-ever-saw was? All in the family ...

And what can I say about Andy Kmetz? Supremely talented, absolutely devoted to the kids. He helped me on many play productions (choreography, scenery, et al.), and I just could not have done those productions without him. Everyone knew--and no one knew better than I--that the most beautiful moments in those shows came from Kmetz. And I was so grateful. Joyce and I visit with him still--about once a week. And although he is in his 80s now, he is still in so many ways ... Kmetz. You just never know what's going to come out of his mouth ...

2. I want to add that the folks involved in the Aurora Alumni Association are spectacular human beings. The effort and the heart that have gone into their programs are humbling. Good people doing good things. Oh, that this weary world had a few more billion like them ...!

3. I came across the word bugbear this week--a word I've seen many times, of course. But this time I stopped, wondered, did some checking. (See the bottom of this page for info from the Oxford English Dictionary about the word--which has a long history.) I learned, too, that the term is now part of the gaming world. I'd not known that ...

old engraving of a bugbear
4. We finally got around to seeing Guardians of the Galaxy last week. I liked the interplay among the characters a lot more than the boom-booms and the destruction. (Which shows what a wuss I am.) Some funny and some touching moments mixed with some (to me) boring violence.

5. And finally ... I liked a poem by E. E. Cummings that found its way into Writer's Almanac this week--liked it so much I memorized it. Memorizing Cummings presents some issues--mostly because his language is so unconventional. On the other hand, I've discovered that once I do learn a Cummings poem, it stays with me pretty easily. My brain doesn't have too many other things like it in storage--except, of course, for a few other Cummings poems!

love is more thicker than forget
more thinner than recall
more seldom than a wave is wet
more frequent than to fail

it is most mad and moonly
and less it shall unbe
than all the sea which only
is deeper than the sea

love is less always than to win
less never than alive
less bigger than the least begin
less littler than forgive

it is most sane and sunly
and more it cannot die
than all the sky which only
is higher than the sky



bugbear, n.
Pronunciation:  /ˈbʌɡbɛə(r)/
Forms:  15–16 buggebeare, 16– bugbear.
Etymology:  Apparently < bug n.1 + bear n.1
1. A sort of hobgoblin (presumably in the shape of a bear) supposed to devour naughty children; hence, generally, any imaginary being invoked by nurses to frighten children. Obs.
1581   J. Bell tr. W. Haddon & J. Foxe Against Jerome Osorius 10 b,   Hobgoblines and Buggebeares, with whom we were never acquaynted.
1592   T. Nashe Pierce Penilesse (Brit. Libr. copy) sig. I4v,   Meere bugge-beares to scare boyes.
1607   E. Topsell Hist. Fovre-footed Beastes 453   Certaine Lamiæ..which like Bug-beares would eat vp crying boies.
1651   T. Hobbes Leviathan i. xii. 55.  
1758   Johnson Idler 24 June 89   To tell children of Bugbears and Goblings.
1840   R. H. Barham Look at Clock in Ingoldsby Legends 1st Ser. 61   The bugbear behind him is after him still.
 2.

 a. transf. An object of dread, esp. of needless dread; an imaginary terror. In weakened senses: an annoyance, bane, thorn in the flesh.
a1586   Sir P. Sidney Arcadia (1590) iii. xxvi. sig. Yy6,   At the worst it is but a bug-beare.
1642   D. Rogers Naaman To Rdr. sig. Bv,   All you that thinke originall sinne a bugbeare.
1717   Kennett in H. Ellis Orig. Lett. Eng. Hist. ii. 430 IV. 306   The king of Sweden is every day a less bugbear to us.
1841   Dickens Old Curiosity Shop i. iii. 86   What have I done to be made a bugbear of?
1871   E. A. Freeman Hist. Norman Conquest (1876) IV. xvii. 51   Confiscation, a word which is so frightful a bugbear to most modern ears.
1880   ‘G. Eliot’ Let. 14 Sept. (1956) VII. 322   Our only bugbear—it is a very little one—is the having to make preliminary arrangements towards settling ourselves in the new house.
1955   Sci. Amer. Jan. 90/1   Richness of context was their bugbear.
1966   Observer 10 Apr. 12/3   The great bugbear of economic management is the near impossibility of devising policies with a particular objective in view without..making it harder to attain other..desirable ends.

 b. attrib. or as adj.
c1600   Timon (1980) i. ii. 6   Thou shalt not fright me with thye bugbeare wordes.
a1734   R. North Examen (1740) iii. viii. 25. 601   The most horrible & bug-bear Denunciations.
1853   E. C. Gaskell Cranford xii. 223   Indiscretion was my bugbear fault.
1930   E. Sitwell Coll. Poems 252   A bugbear bone that bellows white.
Derivatives


  ˈbugˌbeardom n. bugbears collectively, needless fears.
1862   Mrs. J. B. Speid Our Last Years in India 150   The assaults and tyrannies of bugbeardom.

  ˈbugˌbearish adj.
1800   Southey in J. W. Robberds Mem. W. Taylor (1843) I. 35/2   Bonaparte..a name now growing more bugbearish than ever.
This entry has not yet been fully updated (first published 1888).