The Gift of Dr. Jenny Lind Porter

The Lantern of Diogenes

All maturation has a root in quest.

How long thy wick has burned, Diogenes!

I see thy lantern bobbing in unrest

When others sit with babes upon their knees

Unconscious of the twilight or the storm,

Along the streets of Athens, glimmering strange,

Thine eyes upon the one thing keeps thee warm

In all this world of tempest and of change.

Along the pavestones of Florentian town

I see the shadows cower at thy flare,

In Rome and Paris; in an Oxford gown,

Men’s laughter could not shake the anxious care

Which had preserved thy lantern. May it be

That something of thy spirit burns in me!–Jenny Lind Porter

Tonight will be the public meeting of the Austin Historic Landmarks Commission at the Austin City Hall Council Chambers regarding the proposed demolition of Dr. Jenny Lind Porter’s house in Austin, Texas. It’s not the only item on the agenda and the meeting runs between 7-10 PM this evening.

The link to the live broadcast on local TV is here.

About five years ago, I bought a copy of one of Dr. Porter’s books, “The Lantern of Diogenes and Other Poems” published by The Naylor Company Book Publishers in 1954 in San Antonio, Texas. It was sold for $3.00. She dedicated the book to her mother. The message I got from the seller was intriguing:

The Lantern of Diogenes and Other Poems by Jenny Lind Porter

I anticipate the decision from the Austin Historic Landmarks Commission will ultimately be to release the permit to demolish Dr. Porter’s house. This will not diminish her memory in the hearts of the many students she inspired over many years to become teachers themselves, to look beyond what the world is and imagine what it could be, and to believe in the soul of man, no matter where scientists and philosophers think it lives. Her legacy will live on long after her house is gone. Her lantern will always be lit.

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Comments

  1. Well, there is no conclusion yet to the story of what happens to Dr. Jenny Lind Porter’s Casa Magni. Instead of deciding to demolish her house in Austin, Texas, the can was kicked down the road again by postponing the decision to the September meeting of the Austin Historic Landmarks Commission.

    The link above to the local TV channel only works for live broadcasts. I stayed up until 11:15 PM (well past my bedtime) and the discuss about Casa Magni went on for about an hour. I doubt it will be recorded and archived.

    The words used to describe Dr. Porter were “physically feeble” and “dementia.”

    The public meeting didn’t really seem to be about commemoration. Preservation of the house is not feasible, but despite the owner making that case, the commission did not vote to release the permit to demolish. The Enfield Homeowners Association requested and got a postponement in order to do more research on the history of the house and consult other construction experts on the feasibility of restoration.

    The decision has already been delayed by 30 days and the commission doesn’t have much more information than they had a month ago. I’m not sure what will be gained in 60 more days.

    The owner offered to build a lending library of Porter’s books or other suitable legacy in the neighborhood. The commission suggested he work with the HOA on working out the details of the proposed new construction’s historical suitability.

    There is now controversy about whether or not the acclaimed Austin architect, Hugo Franz Kuehne, actually had anything to do with the house because it was so poorly designed.

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  2. I just noticed the 1987 letter describing a gift of two of O. Henry’s letters(O. Henry was the pen name of William Sydney Porter and Jenny Lind Porter is his neice) from Dr. Jenny Lind Porter and her husband, Lawrence E. Scott at link, https://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth139294/m1/1/

    Scott, Jenny Lind Porter & Scott, Lawrence E. [Description of gift from Jenny Lind Porter Scott and Lawrence E. Scott], letter, Date Unknown; (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth139294/m1/1/: accessed July 25, 2016), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Austin History Center, Austin Public Library.

    The address in the lower left is:

    Casa Magni
    51 Summit View
    Austin, Texas

    Recall that 51 Summit View is also 1715 Summit View. It’s a sad irony that Casa Magni not only refers to the house which will no doubt be demolished after a decision is made this evening by the Austin Historic Landmarks Commission, it was also the name of the last house where the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley lived and it overlooked the Gulf of Spezia in Lericia in Northern Italy. At the time, the house was described as “dilapidated but habitable,” https://www.rc.umd.edu/reference/misc/shelleysites/italy/gulfofspezia/gulfofspezia.html

    I wonder if the Porters named their house Casa Magni because Shelley was one of Dr. Porter’s favorite poets. In fact, a poem about him is included in her book, The Lantern of Diogenes and Other Poems:

    To Shelley

    Rare Spirit! Doric mind, whose pillars sought
    To lift the world’s entablature above
    Flat stylobates of custom, was it love,
    The universal sympathy, that taught
    Thee, brooding in thy heart and brain?
    To thy frail body came a voice and said,
    “Within the naos the old gods lie dead,
    Yet still the living worship, and have pain
    Because there is no answer. Tell them why!”

    And so by subtle curves and inward slant,
    Although our understanding is but scant,
    The moldings grew and bore the shafts on high;
    Across the pediment of thy great soul
    Love’s truths are written, and large rhythms roll.

    Some of the classical words’ meanings are obscure today and I had to look them up:

    An entablature is a horizontal, continuous lintel on a classical building supported by columns or a wall, comprising the architrave, frieze, and cornice.

    A stylobate is a continuous base supporting a row of columns in classical Greek architecture.

    Naos might refer to, in Egyptology, that which is hidden and unknown inside the inner sanctum of a temple, but also to little boxlike shrines, carried by statues.

    A pediment is the triangular upper part of the front of a building in classical style, typically surmounting a portico of columns.

    Farewell, Casa Magni.

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