Tuesday, June 21, 2011



Edward FitzGerald (1809-1883), Letters and Literary Remains, vol. I (London: Macmillan and Co., 1889), pp. 124-125 (letter to Frederic Tennyson, February 24, 1844):
Here I sit, read, smoke, and become very wise, and am already quite beyond earthly things. I must say to you, as Basil Montagu once said, in perfect charity, to his friends: 'You see, my dear fellows, I like you very much, but I continue to advance, and you remain where you are (you see), and so I shall be obliged to leave you behind me. It is no fault of mine.' You must begin to read Seneca, whose letters I have been reading; else, when you come back to England, you will be no companion to a man who despises wealth, death &c. What are pictures but paintings—what are auctions but sales! All is vanity. Erige animum tuum, mi Lucili &c. I wonder whether old Seneca was indeed such a humbug as people now say he was: he is really a fine writer. About three hundred years ago, or less, our divines and writers called him the divine Seneca; and old Bacon is full of him. One sees in him the upshot of all the Greek philosophy, how it stood in Nero's time, when the Gods had worn out a good deal. I don't think old Seneca believed he should live again. Death is his great resource. Think of the rocococity of a gentleman studying Seneca in the middle of February 1844 in a remarkably damp cottage.
Id., pp. 144-145 (letter to Frederic Tennyson, December 8, 1844):
Old Seneca, I have no doubt, was a great humbug in deed, and his books have plenty of it in word; but he had got together a vast deal of what was not humbug from others; and, as far as I see, the old philosophers are available now as much as two thousand years back. Perhaps you will think that is not saying much. Don't suppose I think it good philosophy in myself to keep here out of the world, and sport a gentle Epicurism; I do not; I only follow something of a natural inclination, and know not if I could do better under a more complex system.
Id., p. 311 (letter to W.A. Wright, December 11, 1867):
It has been the fashion of late to scoff at Seneca; whom such men as Bacon and Montaigne quoted: perhaps not Seneca's own, but cribbed from some Greek which would have been admired by those who scoff at the Latin.
The Oxford English Dictionary defines rocococity as "the fact or quality of being outmoded or excessively mannered." FitzGerald's letter is the first of the dictionary's two examples.

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