November 27, 2004

Today's drawing: Voltaire, pens.

This is the drawing I wish I'd used yesterday. It's from the same notebook as the Thanksgiving drawing of the wineglass, which was not drawn on Thanksgiving but in Paris a few years ago. The reason I wish I'd used this drawing yesterday is that yesterday was the day my Normblog profile ran, and there was a reference to Voltaire in one of my answers. I don't know when I'm going to have occasion to talk about Voltaire again and rather than try to work Voltaire into some future posting, let me use the Voltaire drawing today. This drawing was done at the Louvre, the bust is the work of Houdin, and the comment in the cartoon bubble was not something I heard but something I read on a card on the wall.

Going through my Paris notebook is always troubling to me because I remember how much I disliked the pens I took to Paris. They were India ink felt tips that just didn't feel right. I had recently taken a trip to Amsterdam and done my best travel notebooks, and I knew part of the reason the Amsterdam notebooks worked out well was the pen: a new gold-nibbed Mont Blanc pen, which I filled with fountain India ink. A fountain pen enthusiast emailed after I posted the law school notes drawing and asked if I still used a fountain pen. This is a bit of a sore subject with me, as I wrote back:
I lost the Pelikan pen that got me through law school, eventually admitted to myself that I wasn't going to find it, replaced it with a Mont Blanc pen, which I used a lot, including for drawings (with fountain India ink), finally admitted that it just didn't work right anymore and I wasn't going to be able to figure out a way to fix it, replaced it with another Pelikan pen, which I promptly lost. So I'm in the phase where I think I've got a shot at finding the lost pen.
The emailer sent me to a very nice website for pen enthusiasts, and I'm thinking maybe I can find some way to revive the Mont Blanc pen, which is the one that helped me so much in Amsterdam and was so sadly missed in Paris. I've never had a pen I liked so much as the Pelikan pen I had in law school. When I finally gave in and replaced the Mont Blanc with a new Pelikan, I really hoped to get back to the feeling of the best pen I ever had, the law school pen. But the truth is the new Pelikan did not feel like the one given to me 25 years earlier. Is it possible I lost it on purpose out of disappointment? Yet I still believe that I would have broken it in and made it feel like the old one. Maybe memories of how things felt 25 years ago cannot be trusted.

But back to Voltaire. Mont Blanc, I see, makes a Voltaire fountain pen. This seems fortuitous. Maybe I should buy one. What is the connection between pens and Voltaire? He was a writer, of course. But also, he used a pen name. It would be quite nice if it were Voltaire who said "The pen is mightier than the sword," but he did not, even though it seems like the sort of thing he might have said. Even that other great free speech quote, is apparently not actually his. But there is a Voltaire pen quote:
To hold a pen is to be at war.


Aras said...

voltaire rules! did you ever read candide? holy shit it's amazing!

Ann Althouse said...

Sure, I read "Candide." Read it in French, in high school.

Also saw the Leonard Bernstein operetta when it ran on Broadway in the 1970s.