Wednesday, July 31, 2013


A Translation by Thomas Stanley

Thomas Stanley (1625-1678), "E Catalectis Vet[erum] Poet[arum]," in Thomas Stanley: His Original Lyrics, Complete, in Their Collated Readings of 1647, 1651, 1657. With an Introduction, Textual Notes, a List of Editions, an Appendix of Translations, and a Portrait, ed. L.I. Guiney (Hull: J.R. Tutin), p. 81:
A small well-gotten stock, and country seat
I have, yet my content makes both seem great.
My quiet soul to fears is not inur'd,
And from the sins of idleness secur'd.
Others may seek the camp, others the town,
And fool themselves with pleasure or renown;
Let me, unminded in the common crowd,
Live, master of the time that I'm allow'd!
I can't find the original in Scaliger's Catalecta Veterum Poetarum, but I didn't look very closely.

Update from Ian Jackson:
G.M. Crump's Clarendon Press edition (1962) of The Poems and Translations of Thomas Stanley notes (p.388):
Source: Catalepton VIII (Virgil), 'Villula, quae Sironis eras, et pauper agelle'.
  Scaliger's edition of P. Virgilii Maronis Appendix, &c., was published in 1552, 1573, 1575, 1595, and 1617. Stanley may have been working with one of these. Stanley's title also suggests, however, Andrea Torresano's Aldine Press edition, Diversorum Veterum Poetarum in Priapum lusus, Venice, 1517 and 1534.


First Things First

Arrian, Discourses of Epictetus 2.17.1 (tr. W.A. Oldfather):
What is the first business of one who practises philosophy? To get rid of thinking that one knows; for it is impossible to get a man to begin to learn that which he thinks he knows.

τί πρῶτόν ἐστιν ἔργον τοῦ φιλοσοφοῦντος; ἀποβαλεῖν οἴησιν· ἀμήχανον γάρ, ἅ τις εἰδέναι οἴεται, ταῦτα ἄρξασθαι μανθάνειν.


Books in Art, III

Louis Block (1848-1901?), A Still Life of Antiquarian Books, sold for £2,990 at Christie's sale 5937 (April 7, 1998; London, King Street; British Watercolours; lot 139):

Louis Block (1848-1901?), 'In a Library We Are Surrounded by Friends', sold for £3,600 at Bonham's auction 14300 (June 6, 2006; London, New Bond Street; Fine British and Continental Watercolours and Drawings; lot 117):

Louis Block (1848-1901?), The Bibliophile's Desk, sold for £1,680 at Bonham's auction 15800 (June 17, 2008; London, Knightsbridge; British, Continental and Old Master Paintings; lot 96):

If you click on The Bibliophile's Desk, you can see an edition of Lucan. Enough detail is provided to identify it as M. Annaei Lucani Pharsalia: sive de bello civili inter Caesarem & Pompeium libri decem (Londini: ex officina Jacobi Tonson, & Johannis Watts, 1719).

Information about Louis Block is hard to find. See the entry "BLOCK, L." in Benezit Dictionary of Artists. Oxford Art Online. Oxford University Press (accessed July 30, 2013 at
L. Block exhibited from 1879 at the Royal Academy, the Suffolk Street galleries with the Royal Society of British Artists and the New Water-Colour Society, all in London.

Ian Jackson writes:
Did you notice, in the same painting that shows the 1719 Tonson Lucan, that the open manuscript prints lines 552-3 from Book Two of Gay's Trivia?
Volumes on shelter'd stalls expanded lie
And various science lures the learned eye


Tuesday, July 30, 2013


The Finest Story for a Child

Niebuhr, quoted in Francis Lieber, Reminiscences of an Intercourse with George Berthold Niebuhr (London: Richard Bentley, 1835), pp. 73-74:
What wisdom there is in Homer! With a few omissions, it is the very book for children. I know of no story, except Robinson Crusoe, which fascinates a child so much as Homer. It is all natural, simple, and capable of being understood by a child. And then, how well does he not prepare for all the knowledge of antiquity, without which we cannot now get along! How many thousand things and sayings does the child not understand at once by knowing that great poem. The whole Odyssey is the finest story for a child.


Oh, You Classical People!

Jane Ellen Harrison (1850-1928), "Reminiscences of a Student's Life," Arion 4.2 (Summer, 1965) 312-346 (at 332-333):
One scientific friend, Francis Darwin, had lasting influence on me. Classics he regarded with a suspicious eye, but he was kind to me. One day he found me busy writing an article on the "Mystica vannus Iacchi." "I must get it off to-night," I said industriously. "What is a vannus?" he asked. "Oh, a 'fan'," I said; "it was a mystical object used in ceremonies of initiation." "Yes, but Virgil says it is an agricultural implement. Have you ever seen one?" "No," I confessed. "And you are writing about a thing you have never seen," groaned my friend. "Oh, you classical people!" It did not end there. He interviewed farmers—no result; he wrote to agricultural institutes abroad, and, finally, in remote provincial France, unearthed a mystic "fan" still in use, and had it despatched to Cambridge. Luckily he also found that his old gardener was perhaps the last man in England who could use the obsolete implement. On his lawn were to be seen a gathering of learned scholars trying, and failing, to winnow with the vannus. Its odd shape explained all its uses, mystic and otherwise. Three months later I despatched a paper to the Hellenic Journal on what I had seen and did understand. It was a lifelong lesson to me. It was not quite all my fault. I had been reared in a school that thought it was far more important to parse a word than to understand it.

Monday, July 29, 2013


Typographical Errors

Wilfrid Blunt (1901-1987), Slow on the Feather: Further Autobiography 1938-1959 (Salisbury: Michael Russell, 1986), p. 111:
Marsden's most famous circular, however, was a brief one whose message was unhappily distorted by the carelessness of his secretary-typist. Most houses had several boys' rooms big enough for two brothers to share, and Marsden, ever eager for statistics, sent all housemasters a questionnaire asking how many rooms each had 'suitable for brothels'. Many stories are told of the typing errors of bursars' secretaries, but the prize must go to one at Wellington who circularised parents as to their willingness to accept an increase of school fees of £25 per anum — to which one father replied that he agreed, but would prefer to continue paying through the nose, as in the past.
Hat tip: Ian Jackson.




John Donne (1572-1631), Devotions upon Emergent Occasions, Meditation VIII:
Still when we return to that Meditation, that Man is a World, we find new discoveries. Let him be a world, and him self will be the land, and misery the sea. His misery (for misery is his, his own; of the happinesses of this world hee is but Tenant, but of misery the Free-holder; of happines he is but the farmer, but the usufructuary, but of misery, the Lord, the proprietary) his misery, as the sea, swells above all the hilles, and reaches to the remotest parts of this earth, Man; who of himselfe is but dust, and coagulated and kneaded into earth, by teares; his matter is earth, his forme, misery.
Id., Meditation XIII:
Wee say, that the world is made of sea, and land, as though they were equal; but we know that ther is more sea in the Western, than in the Eastern Hemisphere: We say that the Firmament is full of starres, as though it were equally full; but we know, that there are more stars under the Northerne, than under the Southern Pole. We say, the Elements of man are misery, and happinesse, as though he had an equal proportion of both, and the dayes of man vicissitudinary, as though he had as many good daies, as ill, and that he liv'd under a perpetuall Equinoctial night, and day equall, good and ill fortune in the same measure. But it is far from that; hee drinkes misery, and he tastes happinesse; he mowes misery, and he gleanes happinesse; he journies in misery, he does but walke in happinesse; and which is worst his misery is positive, and dogmaticall, his happinesse is but disputable and problematicall; All men call Misery, Misery, but Happinesse changes the name, by the taste of man.

Sunday, July 28, 2013


Analysts versus Unitarians

G.P. Goold (1922-2002), "The Nature of Homeric Composition," Illinois Classical Studies 2 (1977) 1-34 (at 1):
Sing, Goddess, of Friedrich son of Wolf,
Who brought countless griefs upon the Homerists,
And sent to Hades many valiant souls of professors,
When on a time there clashed together in strife
The lynx-eyed Analysts and much-enduring Unitarians.
First did one hero take up a huge, jagged hypothesis,
Which no two scholars of this age could believe
(Though he alone believed it quite easily),
And hurled it at foeman's shield of six indubitable strata;
But, checked thereby, the shameless assumption glanced aside.
Next did the other lift up a much larger hypothesis,
And threw it, nor missed, at enemy's book:
Through six editions did the missile penetrate,
But the seventh stopped it, made of the hide of a calf.
Then the two armies advanced with clamour unspeakable,
And a chorus of Babel arose before the face of heaven.
As when the South Wind sheds a mist over mountain-peaks,
A mist hated of shepherd, but to robber better than night,
Even so ascended a thick dust-cloud of uncertainty
From beneath their feet as they went.
Cf. Homer, Iliad 1.1-7, 5.302-304, 7.244-248, and 3.10-14.


Books in Art, II

El Greco (1541-1614), Saint Jerome as Scholar, in Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (1975.1.146):

El Greco (1541-1614), Portrait Of Dr. Francisco De Pisa, in Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth, Texas (1977.05):

El Greco (1541-1614), San Simón, in Museo del Greco, Toledo, Spain (CE00008):



The Translator's Apology

Clive Wilmer, "The Translator's Apology," in New and Collected Poems (Manchester: Carcanet, 2012), p. 157:
for Patrick McGuinness

I have been faithful to the text, after my own fashion.
There have been other adventures, other assignations,
Over and over, with words mouthed and whispered.
But I am faithful in spirit.
If I have gone astray,
If I have deviated into paraphrase,
If I have gone half mad with imitation,
It has always been that some other dusky beauty
Reflected the original, a transitory embodiment.
Forgive me! Truth is my real goal.
Who that laid hands on that perfect form
Could do other than stay with that in perfect constancy?
The opening line echoes the refrain from Ernest Dowson's poem "Non Sum Qualis Eram Bonae Sub Regno Cynarae":
I have been faithful to thee, Cynara! in my fashion.
Hat tip: Ian Jackson.

Saturday, July 27, 2013


Escapist Literature

G.P. Goold (1922-2002), introduction to Propertius, Elegies, rev. ed. (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1999), p. 9:
Escapist literature, yes! But then, how much of literature, how much of mankind's nobility, springs from the heart's irrepressible yearning to transcend the reality by which we unhappy mortals are fettered!


I Hated Greek

Andrew Lang (1844-1912), "Homer and the Study of Greek," Essays in Little (London: Henry and Co., 1891), pp. 77-92 (at 80-84):
At present boys are introduced to the language of the Muses by pedantically written grammars, full of the queerest and most arid metaphysical and philological verbiage. The very English in which these deplorable books are composed may be scientific, may be comprehensible by and useful to philologists, but is utterly heart-breaking to boys.

Philology might be made fascinating; the history of a word, and of the processes by which its different forms, in different senses, were developed, might be made as interesting as any other story of events. But grammar is not taught thus: boys are introduced to a jargon about matters meaningless, and they are naturally as much enchanted as if they were listening to a chimaera bombinans in vacuo. The grammar, to them, is a mere buzz in a chaos of nonsense. They have to learn the buzz by rote; and a pleasant process that is—a seductive initiation into the mysteries. When they struggle so far as to be allowed to try to read a piece of Greek prose, they are only like the Marchioness in her experience of beer: she once had a sip of it. Ten lines of Xenophon, narrating how he marched so many parasangs and took breakfast, do not amount to more than a very unrefreshing sip of Greek. Nobody even tells the boys who Xenophon was, what he did there, and what it was all about. Nobody gives a brief and interesting sketch of the great march, of its history and objects. The boys straggle along with Xenophon, knowing not whence or whither:
                          "They stray through a desolate region,
                                 And often are faint on the march."
One by one they fall out of the ranks; they mutiny against Xenophon; they murmur against that commander; they desert his flag. They determine that anything is better than Greek, that nothing can be worse than Greek, and they move the tender hearts of their parents. They are put to learn German; which they do not learn, unluckily, but which they find it comparatively easy to shirk. In brief, they leave school without having learned anything whatever.

Up to a certain age my experiences at school were precisely those which I have described. Our grammar was not so philological, abstruse and arid as the instruments of torture employed at present. But I hated Greek with a deadly and sickening hatred; I hated it like a bully and a thief of time. The verbs in μι completed my intellectual discomfiture, and Xenophon routed me with horrible carnage. I could have run away to sea, but for a strong impression that a life on the ocean wave "did not set my genius," as Alan Breck says. Then we began to read Homer; and from the very first words, in which the Muse is asked to sing the wrath of Achilles, Peleus' son, my mind was altered, and I was the devoted friend of Greek. Here was something worth reading about; here one knew where one was; here was the music of words, here were poetry, pleasure, and life. We fortunately had a teacher (Dr. Hodson) who was not wildly enthusiastic about grammar. He would set us long pieces of the Iliad or Odyssey to learn, and, when the day's task was done, would make us read on, adventuring ourselves in "the unseen," and construing as gallantly as we might, without grammar or dictionary. On the following day we surveyed more carefully the ground we had pioneered or skirmished over, and then advanced again. Thus, to change the metaphor, we took Homer in large draughts, not in sips: in sips no epic can be enjoyed. We now revelled in Homer like Keats in Spenser, like young horses let loose in a pasture. The result was not the making of many accurate scholars, though a few were made; others got nothing better than enjoyment in their work, and the firm belief, opposed to that of most schoolboys, that the ancients did not write nonsense. To love Homer, as Steele said about loving a fair lady of quality, "is a liberal education."

Judging from this example, I venture very humbly to think that any one who, even at the age of Cato, wants to learn Greek, should begin where Greek literature, where all profane literature begins—with Homer himself. It was thus, not with grammars in vacuo, that the great scholars of the Renaissance began. It was thus that Ascham and Rabelais began, by jumping into Greek and splashing about till they learned to swim. First, of course, a person must learn the Greek characters. Then his or her tutor may make him read a dozen lines of Homer, marking the cadence, the surge and thunder of the hexameters—a music which, like that of the Sirens, few can hear without being lured to the seas and isles of song. Then the tutor might translate a passage of moving interest, like Priam's appeal to Achilles; first, of course, explaining the situation. Then the teacher might go over some lines, minutely pointing out how the Greek words are etymologically connected with many words in English. Next, he might take a substantive and a verb, showing roughly how their inflections arose and were developed, and how they retain forms in Homer which do not occur in later Greek. There is no reason why even this part of the lesson should be uninteresting. By this time a pupil would know, more or less, where he was, what Greek is, and what the Homeric poems are like. He might thus believe from the first that there are good reasons for knowing Greek; that it is the key to many worlds of life, of action, of beauty, of contemplation, of knowledge. Then, after a few more exercises in Homer, the grammar being judiciously worked in along with the literature of the epic, a teacher might discern whether it was worth while for his pupils to continue in the study of Greek. Homer would be their guide into the "realms of gold."


Egestions of Port Esquiline

[John Bulwer (1606-1656),] Anthropometamorphosis: Man Transform'd; or, The Artificial Changeling Historically Presented, In the mad and cruel Gallantry, Foolish Bravery, ridiculous Beauty, Filthy Finenesse, and loathsome Lovelinesse of most Nations, Fashioning & altering their Bodies from the Mould intended by Nature. With a Vindication of the Regular Beauty and Honesty of Nature. And an Appendix of the Pedigree of the English Gallant. By J.B. Surnamed, The Chirosopher (London: Printed for J. Hardesty, 1650), p. 220:
This phantastical cohibition against the freedom of Nature in this part, makes me reflect upon as inconvenient a restraint (deriving but a colaterall insertion) impos'd upon the egestions of Port Esquiline. For the Guineans are very careful not to let a fart, and wondered at the Netherlanders rusticity and impudence, who used it so commonly, & durst commit such a stink in presence, they esteeming it not only to be great shame and contempt done unto them, but they had rather dye then perpetrate such an abominable act. Purchas Pilgr. 2 lib. 7.

The Irish are much of the same opinion in this point of unnatural restraint, whereas the Romans by an edict of Claudius the Emperour, most consonant to the Law of Nature, at all times and in all places, upon a just necessity freely challenged the benefit of Nature. De Bry Hist. Ind.

Verily, although it be not held decent before superiours, as a note of some familiarity and contempt; yet they who have not confidence enough to claim the benefit of the Law of Nature, ratified by Claudius, had not need be subject to the Colick, for they would hardly endure that Criterumi [sic, read Criterium?] of Nature, when, as Hyppocrates speaks, Crepitus ventris soluit morbum.

Some notes:

egestions of Port Esquiline: Oxford English Dictionary defines egestion generally as "The action of discharging or emptying out" (sense 1), and specifically as "Evacuation of the bowels" (sense 2.b), although here a gas, rather than solid or liquid, is meant. A.C. Hamilton, ed., Edmund Spenser, The Faerie Queene (London: Longman, 1977), p. 253 n. (on "Port Esquiline [was] a gate in ancient Rome, its anus as it gave passage to the common dump."

an edict of Claudius: Suetonius, Life of Claudius 32 (tr. J.C. Rolfe): "He is even said to have thought of an edict allowing the privilege of breaking wind quietly or noisily at table, having learned of a man who ran some risk by restraining himself through modesty." (dicitur etiam meditatus edictum, quo veniam daret flatum crepitumque ventris in convivio emittendi, cum periclitatum quendam prae pudore ex continentia repperisset.)

Hyppocrates: I can't find the source of Crepitus ventris soluit morbum (passing gas has cured illness), but cf. e.g. Hippocrates, Coan Prenotions 485 (tr. Paul Potter): "For flatulence to pass out without any sound or breaking of wind is best, but it is still better for it to come out with a sound than to be pent up inside." (φῦσαν δὲ ἄνευ ψόφου καὶ πραδήσιος διεξιέναι, βέλτιστον· κρέσσον δὲ καὶ σὺν ψόφῳ διελθεῖν, ἢ αὐτοῦ ἀνειλέεσθαι.) Similarly Hippocrates, Prognostics 11.

There are dozens, nay hundreds, of synonyms for flatulence. "Egestions of Port Esquiline" is a quaint one worth reviving.


Friday, July 26, 2013


No Master

W.H. Davies (1871-1940), "No Master," in his Collected Poems (New York: Afred A. Knopf, 1916), p. 167:
Indeed this is the sweet life! my hand
Is under no proud man's command;
There is no voice to break my rest
Before a bird has left its nest;
There is no man to change my mood,
When I go nutting in the wood;
No man to pluck my sleeve and say—
I want thy labour for this day;
No man to keep me out of sight,
When that dear Sun is shining bright.
None but my friends shall have command
Upon my time, my heart and hand;
I'll rise from sleep to help a friend,
But let no stranger orders send,
Or hear my curses fast and thick,
Which in his purse-proud throat would stick
Like burs. If I cannot be free
To do such work as pleases me,
Near woodland pools and under trees,
You'll get no work at all; for I
Would rather live this life and die
A beggar or a thief, than be
A working slave with no days free.



Henry David Thoreau, Journals (Nov. 18, 1858):
The fruitless enterprise of some persons who rush helter-skelter, carrying out their crazy scheme,—merely "putting it through," as they phrase it,—reminds me of those thistle-downs which, not being detained nor steadied by any seed at the base, are blown away at the first impulse and go rolling over all obstacles. They may indeed go fastest and farthest, but where they rest at last not even a thistle springs. I meet these useless barren thistle-downs driving over the fields. They remind me of busy merchants and brokers on 'change doing business on credit, gambling with fancy stocks, that have failed over and over again, assisted to get a-going again to no purpose—a great ado about nothing,—all in my eye,—with nothing to deposit, not of the slightest use to the great thistle tribe, not even tempting a jackass. When you right or extricate one of these fellows and set him before the wind again, it is worth the while to look and see if he has any seed of success under him. Such a one you may know afar—he floats more slowly and steadily—and of his enterprise expect results.


Uses for Books

Georg Christoph Lichtenberg (1742-1799), Waste Books E.311 (tr. R.J. Hollingdale):
Do we write books so that they shall merely be read? Don't we also write them for employment in the household? For one that is read from start to finish, thousands are leafed through, other thousands lie motionless, others are jammed against mouseholes, thrown at rats, others are stood on, sat on, drummed on, have gingerbread baked on them or are used to light pipes with.

Schreibt man denn Bücher bloß zum Lesen? oder nicht auch zum Unterlegen in die Haushaltung? Gegen eins, das durchgelesen wird, werden Tausende durchgeblättert, andere Tausend liegen stille, andere werden auf Mauslöcher gepreßt, nach Ratzen geworfen, auf andern wird gestanden, gesessen, getrommelt, Pfefferkuchen gebacken, mit andern werden Pfeifen angesteckt, hinter dem Fenster damit gestanden.
For some reason Hollingdale didn't translate the final phrase "hinter dem Fenster damit gestanden." A friend and informant comments:
Rather than try to preserve the passive through the whole thing, I think I would break it up into smaller sentences and translate the last section actively: "Some people use books to light their pipes, and others stand behind the window with them."
Lichtenberg was a noted Anglophile, and I wonder if a passage from Joseph Addison, The Spectator, no. 85 (Thursday, June 7, 1711), could have been at the back of his mind. Both Addison and Lichtenberg mention pipes and pastries in connection with uses of books:
It is the Custom of the Mahometans, if they see any printed or written Paper upon the Ground, to take it up and lay it aside carefully, as not knowing but it may contain some Piece of their Alcoran. I must confess I have so much of the Mussulman in me, That I cannot forbear looking into every printed Paper which comes in my Way, under whatsoever despicable Circumstances it may appear; for as no mortal Author, in the ordinary Fate and Vicissitude of Things, knows to what Use his Works may, some time or other, be applied, a Man may often meet with very celebrated Names in a Paper of Tobacco. I have lighted my Pipe more than once with the Writings of a Prelate; and know a Friend of mine, who, for these several Years, has converted the Essays of a Man of Quality into a kind of Fringe for his Candlesticks. I remember in particular, after having read over a Poem of an Eminent Author on a Victory, I met with several Fragments of it upon the next rejoicing Day, which had been employ'd in Squibs and Crackers, and by that means celebrated its Subject in a double Capacity. I once met with a Page of Mr. Baxter under a Christmas Pye. Whether or no the Pastry-Cook had made use of it through Chance or Waggery, for the Defence of that superstitious Viande, I know not; but upon the Perusal of it, I conceived so good an Idea of the Author's Piety, that I bought the whole Book.
For more on this subject see Holbrook Jackson, Anatomy of Bibliomania (London: Faber and Faber Limited, 1950), Part VIII (Of the Uses of Books), pp. 129-153, who cites Addison but not Lichtenberg.

In this drawing by Pierre Calmettes we see another use for books:

Thursday, July 25, 2013


The Purpose of Education Revisited

Commenting on The Purpose of Education, Dave Berg writes about John Alexander Smith:
One would think that he might have based his statement on Aristotle, On the parts of animals, book I, 639a6-12.
In William Ogle's translation:
For an educated man should be able to form a fair off-hand judgement as to the goodness or badness of the method used by a professor in his exposition. To be educated is in fact to be able to do this; and even the man of universal education we deem to be such in virtue of his having this ability.
The Greek:
πεπαιδευμένου γάρ ἐστι κατὰ τρόπον τὸ δύνασθαι κρῖναι εὐστόχως τί καλῶς ἢ μὴ καλῶς ἀποδίδωσιν ὁ λέγων. τοιοῦτον γὰρ δή τινα καὶ τὸν ὅλως πεπαιδευμένον οἰόμεθ' εἶναι, καὶ τὸ πεπαιδεῦσθαι τὸ δύνασθαι ποιεῖν τὸ εἰρημένον.
Smith may well have had this passage in mind. From David Ross and C.A. Creffield, "Smith, John Alexander (1863–1939), philosopher and classical scholar," Oxford Dictionary of National Biography:
He was a fine Aristotelian scholar, and in 1908 succeeded Ingram Bywater as president of the Oxford Aristotelian Society. He worked for many years at an edition of the De anima, and translated this work for the Oxford translation of The Works of Aristotle (vol. 3, 1931); he was joint editor of the volumes published between 1908 and 1912. He lectured regularly on the Ethics, and in order to get to the bottom of Aristotle's theory of justice studied deeply in Greek law: the first volume (1920) of the Historical Jurisprudence of Sir Paul Vinogradoff owed much to Smith's learning and ingenuity. He made extensive preparations for an edition of the Poetics, which appealed to his literary as well as to his philosophical interest.
One of the volumes published between 1908 and 1912, when Smith was joint editor of the Oxford translation of Aristotle, was William Ogle's version of De Partibus Animalium (1911).

Tim Parkin writes:
I had vague memories of reading before the quotation from Smith – I read Jan Morris' Oxford book years ago, but I doubted it was that. Sure enough, a Google search revealed that I had read it on one of my very favourite sites not so many years ago:
The following quotation comes at second or third hand. John Alexander Smith (1863-1939), Waynflete Professor of Moral and Metaphysical Philosophy at Oxford, gave a lecture sometime before WWI, attended by Harold Macmillan. Macmillan reported Smith's words to Isaiah Berlin, and Isaiah Berlin told them to Ramin Jahanbegloo, who reproduced them in Conversations with Isaiah Berlin (London: Phoenix Press, 1993), p. 29:
All of you, gentlemen, will have different careers — some of you will be lawyers, some of you will be soldiers, some will be doctors or engineers, some will be government servants, some will be landowners or politicians. Let me tell you at once that nothing I say during these lectures will be of the slightest use to you in any of the fields in which you will attempt to exercise your skills. But one thing I can promise you: if you continue with this course of lectures to the end, you will always be able to know when men are talking rot.


Spicy Virgin Revisited

Dear Mike,

One man's schoolboy howler is obviously another man's paronomastic folk etymology.

In the constellation Virgo, the virgin holds an ear of wheat in her hand, and her brightest star is named Spica. Isidore of Seville in his Etymologies (XI.ii.21) says that "The term 'virgin' (virgo) comes from 'a greener (viridior) age,' just like the words 'sprout' (virga) and 'calf' (vitula)." (I quote the translation of Stephen A. Barney et al, CUP 2006, p.242).

As for the spicier aspects of the virgin, I have occasionally seen (in French Roman Catholic books) "spicilegium" mistranslated as "spice-box", a very Counter-Reformation reference. Alas, Googlebooks seems to be weak on 19th century French popular religion, and I do not find exact references for the examples I recall all too dimly. But here is one, new to me, from the Supplément au Dictionnaire Oeconomique of Noël Chomel (Paris 1743), in which spicilegium is glossed as an "amas de telle marchandise" i.e a "heap of spices".

As ever,

Ian [Jackson]

Isidore, Etymologies 11.2.21:
virgo a viridiori aetate dicta est, sicut et virga, sicut et vitula.
Cf. Servius on Vergil, Eclogues 3.30:
nam et vitula a viridiore aetate dicta est, sicut virgo.
Were Servius and Isidore completely wrong about the etymology of virgo? I haven't seen M. Runes, "Virgo," Indogermanische Forschungen 44 (1927) 151-152, but the summary in Classical Quarterly 21 (1927) 112 says:

See also Birgit Anette Olsen, "Fresh shoots from a vigorous stem: IE *uih1ró-," in Language in Time and Space: A Festschrift for Werner Winter on the Occasion of His 80th Birthday (Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter, 2003), pp. 313-330 ("3. Latin virgō, virāgō and virga" on pp. 319-321).

Wednesday, July 24, 2013


Books in Art, I

I'm aware of two blogs dedicated to the theme of books in art:
Unfortunately, there have been no new posts on these blogs for months, and for all I know they may be defunct. I have my own digital collection of paintings featuring books and readers (many culled from those two blogs), and I'll post some of them here when I can't think of anything else to blog about, which happens increasingly often these days.

Alexandre Antigna (1817-1878), La fille du bouquiniste (1855), in the Musée des Beaux-Arts, La Rochelle:



The Purpose of Education

John Julius Norwich, A Christmas Cracker, being a commonplace selection (Huntingdon: Hambleden Press, 1980), [p. 12]:
John Alexander Smith, Professor of Moral Philosophy at Oxford, began a course of lectures in 1914 with the following words:
Gentlemen, you are now about to embark upon a course of studies which will occupy you for two years. Together, they form a noble adventure. But I would like to remind you of an important point. Some of you, when you go down from the University, will go into the Church, or to the Bar, or to the House of Commons, or to the Home Civil Service, or the Indian or Colonial Services, or into various professions. Some may go into the Army, some into industry and commerce; some may become country gentlemen. A few — I hope a very few — will become teachers or dons. Let me make this clear to you. Except for those in the the last category, nothing that you will learn in the course of your studies will be of the slightest possible use to you in after life — save only this — that if you work hard and intelligently you should be able to detect when a man is talking rot, and that, in my view, is the main, if not the sole, purpose of education.
For the probable source of this quotation see David Ross and C.A. Creffield, "Smith, John Alexander (1863–1939), philosopher and classical scholar," Oxford Dictionary of National Biography:
Smith was not only a philosopher; he was an admirable classical scholar. A conspicuous instance of this is supplied by the testimony of an eminent scholar to the effect that he had often 'discovered unerringly what Pindar meant, where every one else was unconvincing'. He was deeply versed in philology (and, as became a highlander, not least in Celtic philology), and acquired with extraordinary facility at least a reading knowledge of many languages. He had a very acute feeling for the precise meaning, and the development of the meaning, of words. Many years later Harold Macmillan recalled his comment at the outset of his lectures: that undergraduates would hear nothing of practical value to their careers 'save only this, that if you work hard and intelligently you should be able to detect when a man is talking rot, and that in my view is the main if not the sole purpose of education' ('Oxford before the deluge', tape-recorded seminar, Oxford University Archives, 1973).

Ian Jackson writes:
I suspect that John Julius Norwich's quotation from J.A. Smith does not derive from the (surely obscure) 1973 tape-recording cited in the ODNB — let alone the ODNB itself, which was published 24 years after his 1980 Christmas Cracker — but rather from Jan Morris's The Oxford Book of Oxford (OUP 1978), pp.330-1, which credits "Harold Macmillan in The Times, 1965".

Tuesday, July 23, 2013


William Linwood

W. Tuckwell, Reminiscences of Oxford (London: Cassell and Company, Limited, 1900), p. 156 (on William Linwood, 1817-1878):
He is known to the present generation as compiler of the "Anthologia Oxoniensis." He was a rough, shabby fellow when I remember him, living in London, and coming up to examine in the Schools, where he used to scandalise his colleagues by proposing that for the adjudication of Classes they should "throw into the fire all that other rubbish, and go by the Greek Prose." It was said of him that somewhat late in life, reading St. Paul's Epistles for the first time, and asked by Gaisford what he thought of them, he answered "that they contained a good deal of curious matter, but the Greek was execrable."
Sir William Gregory, K.C.M.G., Formerly Member of Parliament and Sometime Governor of Ceylon. An Autobiography, ed. Lady Gregory, 2nd ed. (London: John Murray, 1894), pp. 44-45:
At the time of my matriculation, I remarked, among the other students undergoing the ordeal, one in particular, who struck me much. He seemed very old, very ugly, very unclean, and very uncouth, and I wondered what could have brought such a creature to such a smart college as Christ Church. Shortly after my coming up there were three exhibitions or scholarships for Christ Church men alone. They were pleasant things to get, as they about paid for the food of the holder of them. I went in, thought I had done a most successful examination, as many subjects were given with which I was thoroughly conversant, and when the result was announced it was Linwood first, Gregory second. My antiquated and dirty companion at matriculation was the victor, and by all accounts an easy winner. It was hardly a crumb of comfort to have got the second. A rumour pervaded the college that he wrote off sixty or eighty of the most unimpeachable Greek iambics, whereas I felt rather elated at having produced about twenty during the same period of two hours, all of which were not unimpeachable.

The same year I contested the Craven Scholarship, open to all the University, and there I found my old antagonist. I had still great hopes that I should be able to turn the tables on him, but alas! it was again Linwood first, Gregory second. I had only the barren honour of being the second best scholar of my year. It was truly unfortunate my coming into contact with this remarkably learned man, a kind of modern Porson in Greek, the author of the profound "Lexicon Aeschylaus [sic, read Aeschyleum]" and the subsequent master of Birmingham school; for not only had I to submit to the bitterness of defeat, but I became disheartened and gradually estranged from the steady reading set of men, with whom I had allied myself at the beginning of my Oxford career.

From Ian Jackson:
A small addition to your account of Linwood. It's from H.C. Beeching's anonymous "Pages from a Private Diary" as published in The Cornhill Magazine for March 1898 (new series volume 4), p.388: entry for January 1, 1898:
Linwood is forgotten now, but he was a character in his day. 'My dear boy,' he said once, as he corrected a piece of Greek prose — 'my dear boy, you have been reading the Greek Testament again; I wish you wouldn't.'


Two Men Wrote a Lexicon

Edward Waterfield, in The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations, new ed. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999; rpt. 2001), p. 804:
Two men wrote a lexicon, Liddell and Scott;
Some parts were clever, but some parts were not.
Hear, all ye learned, and read me this riddle,
How the wrong part wrote Scott, and the right part wrote Liddell.
Many variations are printed in The Periodical, Volume VIII, No. CX (April 15, 1921) 40-41.

Greek Comedy, Hellenistic Literature, Greek Religion, and Miscellanea: The Academic Papers of Sir Hugh Lloyd-Jones (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1990), p. 235:
When boys at Westminster School used to defend eccentric interpretations criticized by their Head Master, H.G. Liddell, by saying they had found them in the lexicon of which he was an editor, Liddell used to say, 'Scott wrote that part.'


City of Letters

Joshua 15.15 (Douay-Rheims version, followed by Vulgate):
And going up from thence he came to the inhabitants of Dabir, which before was called Cariath-Sepher, that is to say, the city of letters.

Atque inde profectus abiit ad habitatores Dabir, cujus nomen vetus erat Cariath Sepher, id est, civitas litterarum.
Judges 1.11:
And departing from thence he went to the inhabitants of Dabir, the ancient name of which was Cariath-Sepher, that is, the city of letters.

Atque inde conscendens venit ad habitatores Dabir, quae prius vocabatur Cariath Sepher, id est, civitas litterarum.
Pope Gregory IX, in his bull Parens scientiarum (April 13, 1231), said that Paris was "velut altera Cariath Sepher" (like another Cariath-Sepher).

Monday, July 22, 2013


A Hardship

John Lowe, "John Sparrow: The Warden of All Souls," The American Scholar 61.4 (Autumn 1992) 567-574 (at 569):
In 1939 everything was brought to a halt by the outbreak of war. John joined the Oxford and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry as a private soldier. He liked barrack-room life and determined to stay in the ranks. When his friends wrote, concerned with the terrible deprivations he must be suffering, he replied to one, "My only hardship so far has been to watch my friend, Corporal Haydock, eating shepherd's pie covered in apricot jam."


The Mystery of the Spicy Virgin

W. Tuckwell, Reminiscences of Oxford (London: Cassell and Company, Limited, 1900), p. 83 (on Trevor Wheler's unpublished diary):
He "sits" in the Little-Go school, and hears a man construe spicea virga a "spicy virgin."
Spicea virga is a sprout of corn (wheat for us Americans). But what Latin text was the man construing? I can find no example of spicea virga. See Lewis and Short:
spīcĕus , a, um, adj. [spica], consisting of ears of corn (poet. and in post-Aug. prose): "corona," Tib. 1, 1, 16 (24); Hor. C.S. 30; Plin. 18, 2, 2, § 6; Sabin. Massur. ap. Gell. 6, 7, 8; cf. "serta," Tib. 1, 10, 22; Ov. M. 2, 28; 10, 433; id. Am. 3, 10, 36; Claud. B. Gild. 136: "messis," i.e. of grain, Verg. G. 1, 314: “frux," Aus. Monos. de Cibis: "coma," i. e. the ears, Prop. 4 (5), 2, 14.
To the examples under "serta" add Ovid, Fasti 4.616. To the list of nouns modified by spiceus add "culmus" (Prudentius, Apotheosis 49) and "far" (Prudentius, Contra Symmachum 2.217).

Thanks very much to Karl Maurer for pointing out that spicea virga occurs in a poem by Johannes Bissel, in Vernorum libri tres, quibus deliciae veris describuntur. Editio altera (Munich 1640), p. 15 (
Nulla ibi sepositae Cerealia pabula vitae,
     Non seges, aut flavis spicea virga comis...


A Comical Religious Frenzy

W. Tuckwell, Reminiscences of Oxford (London: Cassell and Company, Limited, 1900), p. 24 (on John Brickenden Frowd):
He had been chaplain to Lord Exmouth, and was present at the bombardment of Algiers. As the action thickened he was seized with a comical religious frenzy, dashing round the decks, and diffusing spiritual exhortation amongst the half-stripped, busy sailors, till the first lieutenant ordered a hencoop to be clapped over him, whence his little head emerging continued its devout cackle, quite regardless of the balls, which flew past him and killed eight hundred sailors in our small victorious fleet.

Sunday, July 21, 2013


Heap Up Your Joys

The Song from the Tomb of King Intef, tr. Miriam Lichtheim, Ancient Egyptian Literature: A Book of Readings, Vol. I: The Old and Middle Kingdoms (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1975, ©1973), pp. 196-197 (footnotes omitted):
Song which is in the tomb of King Intef, the justified, in front of the singer with the harp.

He is happy, this good prince!
Death is a kindly fate.
A generation passes,
Another stays,
Since the time of the ancestors.
The gods who were before rest in their tombs,
Blessed nobles too are buried in their tombs.
(Yet) those who built tombs,
Their places are gone,
What has become of them?
I have heard the words of Imhotep and Hardedef,
Whose sayings are recited whole.
What of their places?
Their walls have crumbled,
Their places are gone,
As though they had never been!
None comes from there,
To tell of their state,
To tell of their needs,
To calm our hearts,
Until we go where they have gone!

Hence rejoice in your heart!
Forgetfulness profits you,
Follow your heart as long as you live!
Put myrrh on your head,
Dress in fine linen,
Anoint yourself with oils fit for a god.
Heap up your joys,
Let your heart not sink!
Follow your heart and your happiness,
Do your things on earth as your heart commands!
When there comes to you that day of mourning,
The Weary-hearted hears not their mourning,
Wailing saves no man from the pit!

Refrain: Make holiday,
Do not weary of it!
Lo, none is allowed to take his goods with him,
Lo, none who departs comes back again!
"The Weary-hearted" is the god Osiris.

Saturday, July 20, 2013


It Has That Effect on Me, Too

Boswell's Edinburgh Journals 1767-1786, ed. Hugh M. Milne (Edinburgh: Mercat Press, 2001), p. 244 (February 17, 1776):
I went down awhile to the Advocates' Library to consult some English law books on a subject on which I had a petition to write. A large library always comforts me somehow. I cannot at present tell distinctly how.
Interior of the Advocates Library, Edinburgh, from Modern Athens! Displayed in a Series of Views: or Edinburgh in the Nineteenth Century: Exhibiting the Whole of the New Buildings, Modern Improvements, Antiquities, and Picturesque Scenery, of the Scottish Metropolis and its Environs, from Original Drawings, by Mr. Thomas H. Shepherd. With Historical, Topographical, and Critical Illustrations (London, Jones & Co., 1829), following p. 86:

Friday, July 19, 2013


He Is a Great Baboon

Roy Campbell (1901-1957), "The Theology of Bongwi, the Baboon," Collected Poems, Vol. I (London: Bodley Head, 1949), p. 17:
This is the wisdom of the Ape
    Who yelps beneath the Moon—
'Tis God who made me in His shape
    He is a Great Baboon.
'Tis He who tilts the moon askew
    And fans the forest trees,
The heavens which are broad and blue
    Provide him his trapeze;
He swings with tail divinely bent
    Around those azure bars
And munches to his Soul's content
    The kernels of the stars;
And when I die, His loving care
    Will raise me from the sod
To learn the perfect Mischief there,
    The Nimbleness of God.
Xenophanes, fragment 15 (tr. G.S. Kirk and J.E. Raven):
But if cattle and horses or lions had hands, or were able to draw with their hands and do the works that men can do, horses would draw the forms of the gods like horses, and cattle like cattle, and they would make their bodies such as they each had themselves.

ἀλλ᾽ εἰ χεῖρας ἔχον βόες <ἵπποι> τ᾽ ἠὲ λέοντες
ἢ γράψαι χείρεσσι καὶ ἔργα τελεῖν ἅπερ ἄνδρες
ἵπποι μέν θ᾽ ἵπποισι βόες δέ τε βουσὶν ὁμοίας
καί <κε> θεῶν ἰδέα ἔγραφον καὶ σώματ᾽ ἐποίουν
τοαῦθ᾽ οἷόν περ αὐτοὶ δέμας εἶχον <ἕκαστοι>.

Thursday, July 18, 2013


Adam and Eve Brush Their Teeth

John Julius Norwich, A Christmas Cracker, being a commonplace selection (Huntingdon: Satellite Press, 1987), [p. 12] (discussing Book IV of Milton's Paradise Lost):
The same Book also contains a description of our first parents retiring for the night — in which, however, it regrettably omits to mention whether or not they brushed their teeth. The Weekend Review accordingly announced, in September 1931, a competition to make good this omission. As was perhaps to be expected, the first prize was won by Sir Edward Marsh:
                        [... and eas'd the putting off
These troublesome disguises that wee wear,]
Yet pretermitted not the strait Command,
Eternal, indispensable, to off-cleanse
From their white elephantin Teeth the stains
Left by those tastie Pulps that late they chewd
At supper. First from a salubrious Fount
Our general Mother, stooping, the pure lymph
Insorb'd, which, mingled with tart juices prest
From pungent Herbs, on sprigs of Myrtle smeard,
(Then were not Brushes) scrub'd gumms more impearl'd
Than when young Telephus with Lydia strove
In mutual bite of Shoulder and ruddy Lip.
This done (by Adam too no less) the pair
[Straight side by side were laid...]
The mordacious Telephus and Lydia will be found in Horace, Odes, I, xiii.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013


The Spoken Word

Iris Origo (1902-1988), Images and Shadows (London: John Murray, 1970), pp. 98-99:
The second scene took place outside the walls of the sacred Algerian city of Kairouan, a few days before the beginning of Ramadan. The desert tribesmen were already gathering for the great annual festival and, squatting round a fire, soon after sunset, some of them were listening to a story-teller. I could not of course understand what he was saying, but this was hardly necessary. Every phase of the story, every dramatic moment, was reflected in the bearded faces of the listeners—taut with apprehension as some crisis approached, quivering with sensual delight over a love-scene or with cruelty and blood-lust at the climax of a fight, rising to their feet to shake their fists and interrupt the narrator with hoarse comments and cries, shaking with Gargantuan laughter over some Rabelaisian episode. This, I thought—as more and more listeners came from their tents or camels to join the circle, the firelight accentuating the lights and shadows on every face, the story-teller's voice quickened by his audience's response—this is how Homer must have told the story of Polyphemus or of the stealing of Helen; this is how men must have listened to the tales of the quarrels of the gods before the campfires of Troy, and, in a later day, the story of Tristan and Iseult and of Childe Roland's horn [sic, omit Childe and read Roland's horn?]. Every written word is only a thin substitute for this, and perhaps it is man's desire to return to it that has brought about the success of the radio and of television: the need to have beauty and terror and laughter brought to us, not by books, but by a human voice.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013


Men No Match for Gods

Homer, Iliad 5.438-442 (tr. Richmond Lattimore):
But as a fourth time, like more than man, he charged, Apollo
who strikes from afar cried out to him in the voice of terror:
"Take care, give back, son of Tydeus, and strive no longer
to make yourself like the gods in mind, since never the same is
the breed of gods, who are immortal, and men who walk groundling."

ἀλλ᾽ ὅτε δὴ τὸ τέταρτον ἐπέσσυτο δαίμονι ἶσος,
δεινὰ δ᾽ ὁμοκλήσας προσέφη ἑκάεργος Ἀπόλλων·
φράζεο Τυδεΐδη καὶ χάζεο, μηδὲ θεοῖσιν
ἶσ᾽ ἔθελε φρονέειν, ἐπεὶ οὔ ποτε φῦλον ὁμοῖον
ἀθανάτων τε θεῶν χαμαὶ ἐρχομένων τ᾽ ἀνθρώπων.

Monday, July 15, 2013


Stout Friends

Vita Sackville-West (1892-1962), The Land (from the "Autumn" section):
Tools have their own integrity;
The sneath of scythe curves rightly to the hand,
The hammer knows its balance, knife its edge,
All tools inevitably planned,
Stout friends, with pledge
Of service; with their crotchets too
That masters understand,
And proper character, and separate heart,
But always to their chosen temper true.



G. Lowes Dickinson (1862-1932), letter to C.R. Ashbee (October 20, 1901), quoted in E.M. Forster, Goldsworthy Lowes Dickinson and Related Writings (London: Edward Arnold, 1973), p. 107:
The two things rubbed into me in this country are (1) that the future of the world lies with America, (2) that radically and essentially America is a barbarous country....The "life of the spirit"—the one and only thing which justifies and dignifies the life of men on earth—is, not accidently or temporarily, but inevitably and eternally killed in this country. All that man has achieved in this region, from Buddha to Goethe, is just non-existent for Americans. They have, in their own phrase, "no use for it"! (I don't count the purely adventitious fringe of cultured people who cling to the skirts of Europe, and are despised and hated by true Americans.) And this American spirit, alias the "Chicago spirit", is to dominate the world! Don't reply with the usual excuse that the country is "young" etc. It was much better when it was younger still! This is its adult age, its deliberate choice now it has broken loose from Eastern traditions. It is a country without leisure, manners, morals, beauty, or religion—a country whose ideal is mere activity, without any reference to the quality of it; a country which holds competition and strife to be the only life worth living.
As they say these days, "Tell us what you really think, Goldie." Forster compares G. Lowes Dickinson, A Modern Symposium (New York: McClure, Phillips & Co., 1906), e.g., pp. 99-101:
The questions that have occupied Europe from the dawn of her history, for which she has fought more fiercely than for empire or liberty, for which she has fasted in deserts, agonized in cells, suffered on the cross, and at the stake, for which she has sacrificed wealth, health, ease, intelligence, life, these questions of the meaning of the world, the origin and destiny of the soul, the life after death, the existence of God, and His relation to the universe, for the American people simply do not exist. They are as inaccessible, as impossible to them, as the Sphere to the dwellers in Flatland. That whole dimension is unknown to them. Their healthy and robust intelligence confines itself to the things of this world. Their religion, if they have one, is what I believe they call 'healthy-mindedness.' It consists in ignoring everything that might suggest a doubt as to the worth of existence, and so conceivably paralyse activity. 'Let us eat and drink,' they say, with a hearty and robust good faith; omitting as irrelevant and morbid the discouraging appendix, 'for to-morrow we die.' Indeed! What has death to do with buildings twenty-four stories high, with the fastest trains, the noisiest cities, the busiest crowds in the world, and generally the largest, the finest, the most accelerated of everything that exists? America has sloughed off religion; and as, in the history of Europe, religion has underlain every other activity, she has sloughed off, along with it, the whole European system of spiritual life. Literature, for instance, and Art, do not exist across the Atlantic. I am aware, of course, that Americans write books and paint pictures. But their books are not Literature, nor their pictures Art, except in so far as they represent a faint adumbration of the European tradition. The true spirit of America has no use for such activities. And even if, as must occasionally happen in a population of eighty millions, there is born among them a man of artistic instincts, he is immediately and inevitably repelled to Europe, whence he derives his training and his inspiration, and where alone he can live, observe and create. That this must be so from the nature of the case is obvious when we reflect that the spirit of Art is disinterested contemplation, while that of America is cupidous acquisition. Americans, I am aware, believe that they will produce Literature and Art, as they produce coal and steel and oil, by the judicious application of intelligence and capital; but here they do themselves injustice. The qualities that are making them masters of the world, unfit them for slighter and less serious pursuits. The Future is for them, the kingdom of elevators, of telephones, of motor-cars, of flying-machines. Let them not idly hark back, misled by effete traditions, to the old European dream of the kingdom of heaven. 'Excudent alii,' let them say, 'for Europe, Letters and Art; tu regere argento populos, Morgane, memento, let America rule the world by Syndicates and Trusts!' For such is her true destiny; and that she conceives it to be such, is evidenced by the determination with which she has suppressed all irrelevant activities.
Why (now as then) do we keep inviting these snooty, priggish lecturers from abroad, like missionaries to the heathen, to tell us how boorish and inferior and uncivilized we are?

Excudent alii...tu regere argento populos, Morgane, memento ("Others will be, J.P. Morgan, remember to rule the nations with money") is a parody of Vergil, Aeneid 6.847-850 (tr. H. Rushton Fairclough):
Others, I doubt not, shall beat out the breathing bronze with softer lines; shall from marble draw forth the features of life; shall plead their causes better; with the rod shall trace the paths of heaven and tell the rising of the stars: remember thou, O Roman, to rule the nations with thy sway.

excudent alii spirantia mollius aera,
(credo equidem), vivos ducent de marmore voltus;
orabunt causas melius, caelique meatus
describent radio et surgentia sidera dicent:
tu regere imperio populos, Romane, memento.

Sunday, July 14, 2013


A Splendid Table

Xenophanes, fragment 1, lines 1-12 (tr. M.L. West):
For now the floor is clean, and everybody's hands
  and cups; a servant garlands us with wreaths;
another offers fragrant perfume from a dish;
  the mixing-bowl's set up, brimful of cheer,
and further jars of wine stand ready, promising
  never to fail—soft wine that smells of flowers.
The frankincense sends out its holy scent all round
  the room; there's water, cool and clear and sweet;
bread lies to hand, gold-brown; a splendid table, too,
  with cheeses and thick honey loaded down.
The altar in the middle's decked about with flowers;
  festivity and song pervade the house.

νῦν γὰρ δὴ ζάπεδον καθαρὸν καὶ χεῖρες ἁπάντων
  καὶ κύλικες· πλεκτοὺς δ᾽ ἀμφιτιθεῖ στεφάνους,
ἄλλος δ᾽ εὐῶδες μύρον ἐν φιάλῃ παρατείνει·
  κρητὴρ δ᾽ ἕστηκεν μεστὸς ἐϋφροσύνης·
ἄλλος δ᾽ οἶνος ἑτοῖμος, ὃς οὔποτέ φησι προδώσειν,
  μείλιχος ἐν κεράμοις, ἄνθεος ὀζόμενος·
ἐν δὲ μέσοις ἁγνὴν ὀδμὴν λιβανωτὸς ἵησιν,
  ψυχρὸν δ᾽ ἔστιν ὕδωρ καὶ γλυκὺ καὶ καθαρόν·
παρκέαται δ᾽ ἄρτοι ξανθοὶ γεραρή τε τράπεζα
  τυροῦ καὶ μέλιτος πίονος ἀχθομένη·
βωμὸς δ᾽ ἄνθεσιν ἀν τὸ μέσον πάντη πεπύκασται,
  μολπὴ δ᾽ ἀμφὶς ἔχει δώματα καὶ θαλίη.

Saturday, July 13, 2013


Reserve Opinion

Iris Origo (1902-1988), Images and Shadows (London: John Murray, 1970), p. 53 (on her grandfather Hamilton Cuffe):
Though a man of strong moral convictions, his mind was always open to the 'other fellow's' point of view. I remember my mother telling me that, when the news of the Jameson Raid had just reached England and all her young friends were ardently championing the 'gallant raiders', she wrote to her father, who was then abroad, a youthful letter reflecting this enthusiasm and received, by telegram, a damping reply: 'Facts not yet ascertained: reserve opinion.'

I think, too, that this natural impartiality was reinforced by an aristocratic conviction that too great vehemence, or too extreme an expression of opinion, were slightly ill-bred. I remember exclaiming as a child, in full assurance of being approved of: "I hate so and so; he says Ireland should break away from England at once!"—and being suppressed, as he glanced at me over his spectacles, by the quiet reply: "But, my dear, one doesn't hate people on account of their political opinions!"
There is a misprint in the index on p. 274:
Cuffe, Hamilton, see Desert, Earl of
For Desert read Desart.


Nothing That Brings Man to Mind

Théophile Gautier (1811-1872), "Dans la Sierra," my translation (not in verse, but with line divisions corresponding to the French original):
With a crazy passion I love mountains, proud and majestic!
Plants dare not place their delicate feet
On the silver shroud covering their summits;
The plowshare would blunt itself on their crooked peaks.

No vine there with twining arms, no golden wheat, no rye,
Nothing that brings man and accursed toil to mind.
In their free and pure air swim convocations of eagles,
And the echo of the rock whistles the outlaw's song.

They produce nothing and are not useful,
They have only their beauty, not worth much, I know,
But as for me, I prefer them to rich, fertile fields
So far from heaven that God is imperceptible there!
The French, from Gautier's Poésies complètes (Paris: Charpentier, 1862), p. 332:
J'aime d'un fol amour les monts fiers et sublimes!
Les plantes n'osent pas poser leurs pieds frileux
Sur le linceul d'argent qui recouvre leurs cimes;
Le soc s'émousserait à leurs pics anguleux.

Ni vigne aux bras lascifs, ni blés dorés, ni seigles,
Rien qui rappelle l'homme et le travail maudit.
Dans leur air libre et pur nagent des essaims d'aigles,
Et l'écho du rocher siffle l'air du bandit.

Ils ne rapportent rien et ne sont pas utiles,
Ils n'ont que leur beauté, je le sais, c'est bien peu,
Mais, moi, je les préfère aux champs gras et fertiles,
Qui sont si loin du ciel qu'on n'y voit jamais Dieu!
A verse translation by Henry Carrington:
I love the glorious mountains, proud and bleak!
    No tree, not e'en a flower, dares set its foot
On the white shroud that clothes the lofty peak,
    Whose bare crags give no holding to a root.

No vine's love-clinging arm, no golden wheat,
    Nothing that tells of man and servile toil;
In their pure air and free, sail eagles fleet,
    No vulgar sound their majesty to spoil.

They are not useful. True! No profit yield.
    Their might, their beauty is their only boast;
Yet please me more than the fat fertile field
    So far from heaven, that sight of God is lost.
Another verse translation, by Charlotte Fiske Bates:
Wild is my passion for these summits proud!
Their shivering feet plants never dare to set
Where lofty heads hide ’neath a silver shroud;
On these sharp peaks how blunt the plough would get!

No wanton vine, no golden grain is here;
Naught hints of man or of his curse of care;
An eagle-host sails their free atmosphere,
And echo hisses back the bandits’ air.

Their dower, beauty, only pleasure yields,
They are not useful, send no gifts abroad,
But I prefer them to the fertile fields,
So far from heaven we never can see God!


Critical Method

John Grote (1813-1866), A Few Remarks on a Pamphlet by Mr. Shilleto, Entitled "Thucydides or Grote?" (Cambridge: J. Deighton, 1851), p. 82:
The method—ascertain first, your author's politics and education; if different from your own, first wither him by airs of affected contempt, and pretend not to see him, or make your reader laugh with an account of the way in which he has, at last, come to your notice; then put on the humour of state, and in large words announce a mighty and indefinite purpose; find from the periodical critics where your author will have made mistakes, open his book upon them, taking care to choose those most easily shown to be so, and intersperse these with a sufficient flow of gossip to make your readers forget what you at first had promised to do for them. Put this into language borrowed at first from newspapers, but such as respectable newspapers have generally now discarded; it will tell the better: season with witticisms from your schoolboy days, but which most likely you have not been able in society to use, and serve up with a title mixed of assumption and absurdity, which will at once strike, impose upon, and amuse those whose eye it catches. And then your work is done.

Friday, July 12, 2013


Let's Spoil the Wilderness

Robert Wernick, "Let's Spoil the Wilderness," Saturday Evening Post 138 (November 6, 1965) 12, 16 (at 12):
The trumpeting voice of the wilderness lover is heard at great distances these days. He is apt to be a perfectly decent person, if hysterical. And the causes which excite him so are generally worthy. Who can really find a harsh word for him as he tries to save Lake Erie from the sewers of Cleveland, save the redwoods from the California highway engineers, save the giant rhinoceros from the Somali tribesmen who kill those noble beasts in order to powder their horns into what they fondly imagine is a wonder-working aphrodisiac?

Worthy causes, indeed, but why do those who espouse them have to be so shrill and intolerant and sanctimonious? What right have they to insinuate that anyone who does not share their passion for the whooping crane is a Philistine and a slob? From the gibberish they talk, you would think that the only way to save the bald eagle is to dethrone human reason.

I would like to ask them what seems to me an eminently reasonable question: Why shouldn't we spoil the wilderness?

Have these people ever stopped to think what the wilderness is? It is precisely what man has been fighting against since he began his painful, awkward climb to civilization. It is the dark, the formless, the terrible, the old chaos which our fathers pushed back, which surrounds us yet, which will engulf us all in the end. It is held at bay by constant vigilance, and when the vigilance slackens it swoops down for a melodramatic revenge, as when the jungle took over Chichen Itza in Yucatán or lizards took over Jamshid's courtyard in Persia. It lurks in our own hearts, where it breeds wars and oppressions and crimes. Spoil it! Don't you wish we could?

Of course, when the propagandists talk about unspoiled wilderness, they don't mean anything of that sort. What they mean by wilderness is a kind of grandiose picnic ground, in the Temperate Zone, where the going is rough enough to be challenging but not literally murderous, where hearty folk like Supreme Court Justice Douglas and Interior Secretary Udall can hike and hobble through spectacular scenery, with a helicopter hovering in the dirty old civilized background in case a real emergency comes up.

Well, the judge and the Secretary and their compeers are all estimable people, and there is no reason why they should not be able to satisfy their urge for primitive living. We ought to recognize, however, that other people have equally strong and often equally legitimate urges to build roads, plow up virgin land, erect cities. Such people used to be called pioneers; now they are apt to be called louts.


As for the balance of nature, this is simply an arty phrase to denote the status quo, whatever exists in a certain place at a certain time. In truth, the status quo is always changing. On the Great Plains, for example, the balance of nature consisted for centuries of immense herds of bison browsing thunderously on buffalo grass. In the late 18th century the balance consisted of Indians, who had acquired Spanish horses, slaughtering bison. Nowadays, it consists of strip-farming, beauty shops, filling stations, beer cans, etc.
There is a revised version of Wernick's essay on his web site. Sadly, this is neither a parody nor the eccentric opinion of one man. These views are all too widespread. See, e.g., Eric Hoffer, "The Return of Nature," Saturday Review (February 1, 1966), rpt. in The Temper of Our Time (New York: Harper & Row, 1967), pp. 79-96 (at 94):
My feeling is that the humanization of billions of adolescents would be greatly facilitated by a concerted undertaking to master and domesticate the whole of the globe. One would like to see mankind spend the balance of the century in a total effort to clean up and groom the surface of the globe—wipe out the jungles, turn deserts and swamps into arable land, terrace barren mountains, regulate rivers, eradicate all pests, control the weather, and make the whole land mass a fit habitation for man. The globe should be our and not nature's home, and we no longer nature's guests.
A fictional treatment of this attitude, by C.S. Lewis, in That Hideous Strength:
At dinner he sat next to Filostrato. There were no other members of the inner circle within earshot. The Italian was in good spirits and talkative. He had just given orders for the cutting down of some fine beech trees in the grounds.

"Why have you done that, Professor?" said a Mr. Winter who sat opposite. "I shouldn't have thought they did much harm at that distance from the house. I'm rather fond of trees myself."

"Oh yes, yes," replied Filostrato. “The pretty trees, the garden trees. But not the savages. I put the rose in my garden, but not the brier. The forest tree is a weed. But I tell you I have seen the civilised tree in Persia. It was a French attaché who had it made because he was in a place where trees do not grow. It was made of metal. A poor, crude thing. But how if it were perfected? Light, made of aluminium. So natural it would even deceive."

"It would hardly be the same as a real tree," said Winter.

"But consider the advantages! You get tired of him in one place: two workmen carry him somewhere else: wherever you please. It never dies. No leaves to fall, no twigs, no birds building nests, no muck and mess."

"I suppose one or two, as curiosities, might be rather amusing."

"Why one or two? At present, I allow, we must have forests, for the atmosphere. Presently we find a chemical substitute. And then, why any natural trees? I foresee nothing but the art tree all over the earth. In fact, we clean the planet."

"Do you mean," put in a man called Gould, "that we are to have no vegetation at all?"

"Exactly. You shave your face: even, in the English fashion, you shave him every day. One day we shave the planet."

"I wonder what the birds will make of it?"

"I would not have any birds either. On the art tree I would have the art birds all singing when you press a switch inside the house. When you are tired of the singing you switch them off. Consider again the improvement. No feathers dropped about, no nests, no eggs, no dirt."

"It sounds," said Mark, "like abolishing pretty well all organic life."

"And why not? It is simple hygiene. Listen, my friends. If you pick up some rotten thing and find this organic life crawling over it, do you not say, `Oh, the horrid thing. It is alive,' and then drop it?"

"Go on," said Winter.

"And you, especially you English, are you not hostile to any organic life except your own on your own body? Rather than permit it you have invented the daily bath."

"That's true."

"And what do you call dirty dirt? Is it not precisely the organic? Minerals are clean dirt. But the real filth is what comes from organisms—sweat, spittles, excretions. Is not your whole idea of purity one huge example? The impure and the organic are interchangeable conceptions."

"What are you driving at, Professor?” said Gould. "After all we are organisms ourselves."

"I grant it. That is the point. In us organic life has produced Mind. It has done its work. After that we want no more of it. We do not want the world any longer furred over with organic life, like what you call the blue mould—all sprouting and budding and breeding and decaying. We must get rid of it. By little and little, of course. Slowly we learn how. Learn to make our brains live with less and less body: learn to build our bodies directly with chemicals, no longer have to stuff them full of dead brutes and weeds. Learn how to reproduce ourselves without copulation."

"I don't think that would be much fun," said Winter.

"My friend, you have already separated the Fun, as you call it, from the fertility. The Fun itself begins to pass away. Bah! I know that is not what you think. But look at your English women. Six out of ten are frigid, are they not? You see? Nature herself begins to throw away the anachronism. When she has quite thrown it away, then real civilisation becomes possible. You would understand if you were peasants. Who would try to work with stallions and bulls? No, no; we want geldings and oxen. There will never be peace and order and discipline so long as there is sex. When man has thrown it away, then he will become finally governable."


Negative Reading List

Dear Mike,

Oscar Wilde's list of books not to be read reminds me of Leo Spitzer's "Negative Reading List," said to have been passed out in mimeographed form to his students at Johns Hopkins. I've never seen a copy, but he prints the black list in a footnote to his "unrelenting attack" (the victim's words) on Stephen Gilman's The Art of "La Celestina" (University of Wisconsin Press, 1956) in Hispanic Review vol.25 no.1 (January 1957), p.19 (note 13):
Mr. Gilman confesses his qualms at applying contemporary philosophy to older texts, but in general he appears satisfied with the attitude video meliora proboque, deteriora sequor. I should like to establish once and for ever a "negative reading-list" (that is a list of books not to be read) for our younger scholars who deal with older literature:

Buber Freud Scheler
Bergson Heidegger Spengler
Dilthey Ortega Unamuno
In his obituary of Spitzer in Comparative Literature vol.12 no.4 (Fall 1960), p.324, René Wellek notes that this is "pedagogical advice that Spitzer happily did not himself follow as a young man. What would he have become without, at least, three names on the list: Freud, Dilthey, and Bergson?"

As ever,

Ian [Jackson]



St. Augustine, Confessions 4.8.13 (tr. Henry Chadwick):
There were other things which occupied my mind in the company of my friends: to make conversation, to share a joke, to perform mutual acts of kindness, to read together well-written books, to share in trifling and serious matters, to disagree though without animosity—just as a person debates with himself—and in the very rarity of disagreement to find the salt of normal harmony, to teach each other something or to learn from one another, to long with impatience for those absent, to welcome them with gladness on their arrival. These and other signs come from the heart of those who love and are loved and are expressed through the mouth, through the tongue, through the eyes, and a thousand gestures of delight, acting as fuel to set our minds on fire and out of many to forge unity.

alia erant quae in eis amplius capiebant animum, conloqui et conridere et vicissim benivole obsequi, simul legere libros dulciloquos, simul nugari et simul honestari, dissentire interdum sine odio tamquam ipse homo secum atque ipsa rarissima dissensione condire consensiones plurimas, docere aliquid invicem aut discere ab invicem, desiderare absentes cum molestia, suscipere venientes cum laetitia: his atque huius modi signis a corde amantium et redamantium procedentibus per os, per linguam, per oculos et mille motus gratissimos, quasi fomitibus conflare animos et ex pluribus unum facere.

Thursday, July 11, 2013


The Difficulty of Translation

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882), quoted in Christoph Irmscher, Public Poet, Private Man: Henry Wadsworth Longfellow at 200 = Harvard Library Bulletin 17.3-4 (Fall/Winter 2006), pp. 165-166 (footnote omitted):
The difficulty of translation lies chiefly in the color of words. Is the Italian "Ruscelletto gorgoglioso" fully rendered by "Gurgling brooklet"? Or the Spanish "Pájaros vocingleros" by "Garrulous birds"? Something seems wanting. Perhaps it is only the fascination of foreign and unfamiliar sounds; and to the Italian or Spanish ear the English words would seem equally beautiful.


Three Classes of Books

Oscar Wilde (1854-1900), Essays (New York: Cosmopolitan Book Corporation, 1916), pp. 596-597:
Books, I fancy, may be conveniently divided into three classes:—

1. Books to read, such as Cicero's Letters, Suetonius, Vasari's Lives of the Painters, the Autobiography of Benvenuto Cellini, Sir John Mandeville, Marco Polo, St. Simon's Memoirs, Mommsen, and (till we get a better one) Grote's History of Greece.

2. Books to re-read, such as Plato and Keats: in the sphere of poetry, the masters not the minstrels; in the sphere of philosophy, the seers not the savants.

3. Books not to read at all, such as Thomson's Seasons, Roger's Italy, Paley's Evidences, all the Fathers except St. Augustine, all John Stuart Mill except the essay on Liberty, all Voltaire's plays without any exception, Butler's Analogy, Grant's Aristotle, Hume's England, Lewes's History of Philosophy, all argumentative books and all books that try to prove anything.

The third class is by far the most important. To tell people what to read is, as a rule, either useless or harmful; for, the appreciation of literature is a question of temperament not of teaching; to Parnassus there is no primer and nothing that one can learn is ever worth learning. But to tell people what not to read is a very different matter, and I venture to recommend it as a mission to the University Extension Scheme.

Indeed, it is one that is eminently needed in this age of ours, an age that reads so much, that it has no time to admire, and writes so much, that it has no time to think. Whoever will select out of the chaos of our modern curricula 'The Worst Hundred Books,' and publish a list of them, will confer on the rising generation a real and lasting benefit.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013


Claims of General Hardhead

Ambrose Bierce, Antepenultimata (New York: The Neale Publishing Company, 1912), pp. 157-158:
"In the first place, I claim the right to own and enclose for my own use or disuse as much of the earth's surface as I am desirous and able to procure. I and my kind have made laws confirming us in the occupancy of the entire habitable and arable area as fast as we can get it. To the objection that this must eventually, here, as it has actually done elsewhere, deprive the rest of you of places upon which legally to be born, and exclude you, after surreptitious birth as trespassers, from all chance to procure directly the fruits of the earth, I reply that you can be born at sea and eat fish.

"I claim the right to induce you, by offer of employment, to colonize yourselves and families about my factories, and then arbitrarily, by withdrawing the employment, break up in a day the homes that you have been years in acquiring where it is no longer possible for you to procure work.

"In determining your rate of wages when I employ you, I claim the right to make your necessities a factor in the problem, thus making your misfortunes cumulative. By the law of supply and demand (God bless its expounder!) the less you have and the less chance to get more, the more I have the right to take from you in labor and the less I am bound to give you in wages.

"I claim the right to maintain a private army to subdue you when you rise.

"I claim the right to make you suffer, by creating for my advantage an artificial scarcity of the necessaries of life."


Proof-Reading Parties

Louise Creighton, Life and Letters of Thomas Hodgkin (London: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1917), pp. 107-108:
When the proofs first began to come in, his daughter Violet, then only ten years old, found him reading them with her mother and begged to be allowed to help. He told her, smiling, that she was not quite old enough yet but should help with the next volumes. When she entreated to be at least allowed to look over and know what it was all about, he told her the story of Alaric and Stilicho so clearly that her childish mind seemed to see it all. Following on the printed page she noticed some confusion in the names which did not seem to fit with what he had told her and pointed it out. He stopped, looked for a minute, and then said, 'Magnificent child! What sharp eyes she has! That mistake would have given me many bad half-hours when the reviews began.' Ever after, she was allowed to read every proof with him. He did not in early days wish her to see his manuscript before it went to press, but wanted her to come to it with a fresh eye when it was in print, that he might discover how what he had written would strike one who did not know the period before. As time went on she was made specially responsible for technical mistakes, misprints, dates, and such matters as the uniform use of capital letters. Though she [sic, read he?] was proof reader in chief, he never liked to pass a proof without her. It was also a case of the more the merrier. Sometimes there were proof-reading parties with parents, children, governess and visitors all taking part, and it became a kind of game in which the crude suggestions of the young ones always received polite consideration.
Hat tip: Ian Jackson.


Lingering Over the Iliad

Louise Creighton, Life and Letters of Thomas Hodgkin (London: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1917), p. 13 (on Henry Malden, Professor of Greek at University College, London):
Hodgkin recalls a year when they had to get up the first six books of the Iliad. Malden proposed to read them with his class. The first line of the Iliad occupied the first lecture; the word οὐλομένην the second and half the third. Even though the Professor was induced to quicken his pace, he did not get through the whole of the first book, but the impression made by his scholarship on Hodgkin's mind remained for life.
See also W.W. Wroth and Richard Smail, "Malden, Henry (1800–1876), classical scholar," Oxford Dictionary of National Biography:
His scholarship was 'singularly elaborate and minute'. A tribute by a former pupil, probably R. H. Hutton, recalled his 'fastidious method', deliberately cultivated to counter contemporary critics of the new university in London who alleged that it would dispense superficial instruction (Bellot, 93–4).
The reference is to H. Hale Bellot, University College, London, 1826–1926 (London: University of London Press, Ltd., 1929), which I haven't seen.

Tuesday, July 09, 2013


Half an Hour a Day

Louise Creighton, Life and Letters of Thomas Hodgkin (London: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1917), p. 101:
His method of work was to read first the original sources, acquiring for this purpose all the books he could get hold of, and spending, whenever possible, hours at the British Museum or the Bodleian Library. He liked to get thoroughly filled with his subject before attempting to write, and would say sometimes, 'I am now so full I must disgorge.'
Id., p. 102:
His daughter Violet says, 'Looking back on those early Benwelldene days, I don't ever seem to find a time when he was not writing a "book" at his big table in the library before breakfast and after tea and most of the morning on Fridays.' He could use even scraps of time, and when full of his subject would sit down to write before his half-past eight breakfast or when he had only twenty minutes to spare. The way in which he found and used time for his work is illustrated by the advice he gave to his younger brother Jonathan to start writing a book saying, 'half an hour a day steadily devoted to a job of this kind would in a year accomplish a great deal.' His library was under the children's room, an arrangement which only a long-suffering parent would have tolerated, but he never minded the noisiest games overhead. Steady practice on the piano he called 'rather stimulating,' the only noise that ever brought remonstrance was strumming. When what he called the filling process, that is, the careful study of his authorities, had gone on long enough, he would begin to write, and his pen ran easily and swiftly as he poured out what he had read in the form that it presented itself to his imagination. He lived with the people about whom he was writing, and talked about them so graphically as to make them real to others also. His desire for companionship made him eager to share his interests; he never kept his work to himself but wanted others to care for what meant so much to him. He enjoyed his work intensely, it was his hobby and not his business. Whilst working steadily at his big book he found time for some bits of special work connected with his general subject. Much thought was given to two lectures on Claudian, which were finally published in 1875, when he wrote: 'I am just now parting company with my old friend Claudian. I shall feel quite lost without him for a bit.'
Hat tip: Ian Jackson.


Contemptor Divum

Apuleius, Apology 56 (tr. H.E. Butler):
For I learn from certain men of Oea who know him, that to this day he has never prayed to any god or frequented any temple, while if he chances to pass any shrine, he regards it as a crime to raise his hand to his lips in token of reverence. He has never given firstfruits of crops or vines or flocks to any of the gods of the farmer, who feed him and clothe him; his farm holds no shrine, no holy place, nor grove. But why do I speak of groves or shrines? Those who have been on his property say they never saw there one stone where offering of oil has been made, one bough where wreaths have been hung. As a result, two nicknames have been given him: he is called Charon, as I have said, on account of his truculence of spirit and of countenance, but he is also—and this is the name he prefers—called Mezentius, because he despises the gods.

nam, ut audio partim Oeensium qui istum novere, nulli deo ad hoc aevi supplicavit, nullum templum frequentavit, si fanum aliquod praetereat, nefas habet adorandi gratiam manum labris admovere. iste vero nec dis rurationis, qui eum pascunt ac vestiunt, segetis ullas aut vitis aut gregis primitias impertit; nullum in villa eius delubrum situm, nullus locus aut lucus consecratus. ecquid ego de luco et delubro loquor? negant vidisse se qui fuere unum saltem in finibus eius aut lapidem unctum aut ramum coronatum. igitur adgnomenta ei duo indita: Charon, ut iam dixi, ob oris et animi diritatem, sed alterum, quod libentius audit, ob deorum contemptum, Mezentius.


A Most Painful Subject

Philip Magnus, Gladstone: A Biography (New York: E.P. Dutton & Co., Inc., 1954), p. 84:
But a week or two after her cure, her brother had occasion to administer one final rebuke to her for a misdemeanour by which he was most profoundly shocked. He wrote from Fasque (24 November, 1848):
My dearest Helen,

    I write to you with the greatest reluctance on a most painful subject. I have lately been engaged in arranging the books in my father's library ...

    I have this morning seen with my own eyes that which, without seeing, I would never have believed: a number of books upon religious subjects in the two closets attached to your sleeping apartments, some entire, some torn up, the borders or outer coverings of some, remaining—under circumstances which admit of no doubt as to the shameful use to which they were put.

    I do not enter into any discussion. The subject does not bear it ... You have no right to perpetrate these indignities against any religion sincerely held.
Gladstone threatened to inform his father, unless Helen gave an undertaking never again to tear up the works of Protestant theologians for use as toilet-paper in the lavatories at Fasque, or Carlton Gardens.
Hat tip: Ian Jackson.

Related posts:


Monday, July 08, 2013


Out of Context

Apuleius, Apology 82 (tr. H.E. Butler):
There are many things which, produced apart from their context, may seem open to a slanderous interpretation. Any speech may be attacked, if a passage depending for its sense on what has preceded be robbed of its commencement, or if phrases be expunged at will from the place they logically occupy, or if what is written ironically be read out in such a tone as to make it seem a defamatory statement.

multa sunt, quae sola prolata calumniae possint videri obnoxia. cuiavis oratio insimulari potest, si ea quae ex prioribus nexa sunt principio sui defrudentur, si quaedam ex ordine scriptorum ad lubidinem supprimantur, si quae simulationis causa dicta sunt adseverantis pronuntiatione quam exprobrantis legantur.


The Work of the Gods

Euripides, Trojan Women 612-613 (tr. David Kovacs):
I see the work of the gods: they raise high what is nothing and destroy what is esteemed.

ὁρῶ τὰ τῶν θεῶν, ὡς τὰ μὲν πυργοῦσ᾽ ἄνω
τὸ μηδὲν ὄντα, τὰ δὲ δοκοῦντ᾽ ἀπώλεσαν.


Too Servile and Illiberal for Me

Christopher Marlowe (1564-1593), Doctor Faustus, B-Text, 1.1.32-34:
This study fits a mercenary drudge
Who aims at nothing but external trash—
Too servile and illiberal for me.

Sunday, July 07, 2013


What Happiness Did They Suggest!

Charles Dickens (1812-1870), Martin Chuzzlewit, chapter V:
But what were even gold and silver, precious stones and clockwork, to the bookshops, whence a pleasant smell of paper freshly pressed came issuing forth, awakening instant recollections of some new grammar had at school, long time ago, with "Master Pinch, Grove House Academy," inscribed in faultless writing on the fly-leaf! That whiff of russia leather, too, and all those rows on rows of volumes, neatly ranged within—what happiness did they suggest! And in the window were the spick-and-span new works from London, with the title-pages, and sometimes even the first page of the first chapter, laid wide open; tempting unwary men to begin to read the book, and then, in the impossibility of turning over, to rush blindly in, and buy it! Here too were the dainty frontispiece and trim vignette, pointing like hand-posts on the outskirts of great cities, to the rich stock of incident beyond; and store of books, with many a grave portrait and time-honored name, whose matter he knew well, and would have given mines to have, in any form, upon the narrow shelf beside his bed at Mr Pecksniff's. What a heart-breaking shop it was!

Newer›  ‹Older

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?