Timely. Painfully timely.

image from wallyg's Flickr stream

“Garibaldi was not much more successful on [Staten] Island than was his monument.  He went into exile after his Redshirts were defeated in 1849, and came to Staten Island planning to remain in America.  A lifelong sailor, he went down to the wharves along the shore from St. George to Rosebank, and in his broken English offered himself to the captains there.  On boat after boat the officer who had held off the French in the Battle for Rome was turned away or entirely ignored.  ‘But I do not ask for wages,’ he protested, ‘I want to work to warm myself!’  He spent some time making candles, but showed little aptitude for it, and for several months his employment was carrying barrels of wax to the candle-dippers from the docks…

“It is always curious to see how little ink has been spilled on the question of work.  The Heroic Age, so-called, was defined by people who greatly took and greatly gave, rather than worked or made; old-time Romans like Cato wrote treatises on how to supervise labor (to be provided by slaves)…the end-point of a proper Victorian novel is a marriage and money sufficient to live off the interest.  Mr. Darcy is the man of literature par excellance, with “ten thousand a year” and no job.  But as we find in real life, even men like Garibaldi, the ‘Hero of the Two Worlds,’ who would have a street in almost every town in Italy named after him someday, and statues from Washington Square to the Janiculum, found themselves embarrassed by the question of what to do and how to earn a living.”

Kuhner, J.BStaten Island, or, Life in the Boroughs.  (2010) Brooklyn: Crumpled Press.


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