Sunday, March 12, 2006


Portrait of a Supposed Scholar

Honoré de Balzac, Lost Illusions, Part I, Chapter 3 (tr. Herbert J. Hunt):
Astolphe was reckoned to be a first-class scholar. Though he was an absolute ignoramus, he had contributed articles on sugar and brandy to a Dictionary of Agriculture, every detail of them pilfered from all the newspapers and out-of-date works dealing with these two products. Everyone in the département believed he was writing a treatise on modern methods of tilling. Although he remained shut up in his study every morning, he had not written so much as a couple of pages during the past twelve years. If anyone came to see him, they found him scrabbling among his papers, looking for a mislaid note or sharpening his quill; but he squandered the time he spent in his study, lingering over his newspaper, carving corks with his penknife, tracing fantastic doodles on his blotting-pad, skimming through his Cicero in the hope of lighting on a sentence or passage which might have some bearing on events of the day. Then, that evening, he would try to lead the conversation on to a subject which allowed him to say: 'There's a page in Cicero which could well be taken for a comment on what is happening today.' Thereupon he would recite the passage to the great astonishment of his listeners, who would repeat to one another: 'Really Astolphe is a mine of knowledge.'
Reminds me of a certain blogger I know.

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