Tuesday, July 08, 2014



H.J. Massingham (1888-1952), Letters to X (London: Constable & Company Ltd., 1919), p. 210:
I divine that you are a little impatient at the way I thrust the Elizabethans, Jacobeans, and Carolines in front of your nose; you complain that with Lamb, Hartley Coleridge, Carew Hazlitt, Swinburne, Symonds and others ahead of me I might show a little more originality. I feel you observe with justice that I hardly mention the Middle Ages or the nineteenth century. So that I suppose you are inclined to expect an apology. Well I have no syllogisms or ratiocinations to present you. I have hardly analysed the matter myself. It is partly because I collect books and like 'em old and rare. It is partly because I am intrigued by the period, its enthusiasms, discoveries, pedantry, crudities, quaintnesses, strength, sweetness, terrors, furies, ecstasies, youth, gravity, penetration, literary passion, zest, merriment, plain-spokenness, labyrinths of thought, curiosities, naivetés, freshness, freakishness, fandangoes—yes, even its excesses, puerilities, archaics, grotesqueries, and stuffiness. I like the old people personally, and there is an end of it.
Id., p. 211:
Yet I confess another reason for my allegiance is their remoteness. "Hey nonny no"—how distant, how strange, how incomprehensible, how appealing! As a factory girl goes to a Lyceum melodrama, so I to them—to escape from the intolerable pressure of Now—I hatch myself out of the egg of the present, that slays the spirit with the flesh, that is the victim of the Dance of Death, not of skeletons, but clanging and maddened machines—to escape from a democracy that is cajoled, swindled and coerced by an incompetent bureaucracy for which it toils and clamours, and from an autocracy of quacks, demagogues, money-hunters, and muddlers that treats the democracy as it almost deserves to be treated. Anguish of the present, in which the spirit is the shrivelled babe that rides upon the blast!

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