Sunday, January 20, 2019

 

Revellers



Amphora by Euthymides
(Munich, Antikensammlungen, inv. 2307)

Detail:


See Jenifer Neils, "Portrait of an Artist: Euthymides, Son of Pollias," in Kristen Seaman and Peter Schultz, edd., Artists and Artistic Production in Ancient Greece (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2017), pp. 23-36 (at 28, 31), and H. Engelmann, "'Wie nie Euphronios' (Euthymides, Amphora München 2307)," Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik 68 (1987) 129-134.

Saturday, January 19, 2019

 

Poor Scholars

Christopher Marlowe (1564-1593), Hero and Leander I.471-472:
And to this day is every scholar poor,
Gross gold from them runs headlong to the boor.

 

Made of Clay

Johann Gottfried Herder (1744-1803), Ideas on the Philosophy of the History of Mankind, Part II, Book 9, Chapter 4 (tr. Ioannis D. Evrigenis and Daniel Pellerin):
Nature raises families; the most natural state is therefore also one people, with one national character. Through the millennia, this national character is maintained within a people and can be developed most naturally if its native prince so desires, for a people is as much a plant of nature as a family, only with more branches. Nothing, then, seems to run so obviously counter to the purpose of governments as the unnatural expansion of states, the wild mixture of all types of races and nations under one scepter. The human scepter is much too weak and small for such contrary parts to be implanted into it; pasted together, they become a fragile machine called the machine of state, without inner life or sympathy of the parts for one another. States of this kind, which turn the name Father of the Fatherland into such a burden for the best of monarchs, appear in history like those symbols of the monarchies in the prophet's vision where the lion's head is united with the dragon's tail and the eagle's wings with the bear's claws into one unpatriotic state-structure. Like Trojan horses, such machines close ranks, vouching for each other's immortality, since without national character there is no life within them and only the curse of fortune could condemn the forcibly united to immortality. For the very statecraft that brought them into being is also the one that plays with peoples and human beings as with lifeless bodies. But history shows sufficiently that these instruments of human pride are made of clay, and like all clay on earth, they crumble and dissolve.

Die Natur erzieht Familien; der natürlichste Staat ist also auch ein Volk, mit einem Nationalcharakter. Jahrtausendelang erhält sich dieser in ihm und kann, wenn seinem mitgebornen Fürsten daran liegt, am natürlichsten ausgebildet werden; denn ein Volk ist sowohl eine Pflanze der Natur als eine Familie, nur jenes mit mehreren Zweigen. Nichts scheint also dem Zweck der Regierungen so offenbar entgegen als die unnatürliche Vergrößerung der Staaten, die wilde Vermischung der Menschengattungen und Nationen unter einen Zepter. Der Menschenzepter ist viel zu schwach und klein, daß so widersinnige Teile in ihn eingeimpft werden könnten; zusammengeleimt werden sie also in eine brechliche Maschine, die man Staatsmaschine nennet, ohne inneres Leben und Sympathie der Teile gegeneinander. Reiche dieser Art, die dem besten Monarchen den Namen Vater des Vaterlandes so schwer machen, erscheinen in der Geschichte wie jene Symbole der Monarchien im Traumbilde des Propheten, wo sich das Löwenhaupt mit dem Drachenschweif und der Adlersflügel mit dem Bärenfuß zu einem unpatriotischen Staatsgebilde vereinigt Wie trojanische Rosse rücken solche Maschinen zusammen, sich einander die Unsterblichkeit verbürgend, da doch ohne Nationalcharakter kein Leben in ihnen ist und für die Zusammengezwungenen nur der Fluch des Schicksals sie zur Unsterblichkeit verdammen könnte; denn eben die Staatskunst, die sie hervorbrachte, ist auch die, die mit Völkern und Menschen als mit leblosen Körpern spielet. Aber die Geschichte zeigt gnugsam, daß diese Werkzeuge des menschlichen Stolzes von Ton sind und wie aller Ton auf der Erde zerbrechen oder zerfließen.
Yoram Hazony, The Virtue of Nationalism (New York: Basic Books, 2018), pp. 112-113:
In this passage, Herder describes the imperial state as nothing other than a "curse" to all involved. According to this point of view, human government is inherently limited in what it can attain, and can be strong and effective only when it relies on the "bonds of sentiment" that unite a single nation in a national state whose leaders are drawn from the people. The "unnatural enlargement of states," which forces many nations together under a single rule, is not based on such bonds of sentiment. It only increases the burdens and difficulties piled on the state as "incongruous parts" that are not bound together by mutual loyalty are added to it, until eventually it survives only as a "patched up contraption" groaning under the weight of these troubles.

 

Pedosequus

Francis Grose (1731-1791), A Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue, 2nd ed. (London: S. Hooper, 1788), unpaginated:
FART CATCHER. A valet or footman, from his walking behind his master or mistress.

George Cardinal Pell, with cappa magna

Pedosequus is my own coinage, suggested by the following:
  1. Latin pĕdĭsĕquus = footman, man-servant, page
  2. Latin pēdo = break wind
  3. Greek παῖς, παιδός = child, boy (cf. pedophile and its apocopated form pedo)

Friday, January 18, 2019

 

Wish List

John Ruskin, letter to Charles Eliot Norton (December 28, 1858):
I want to get all the Titians—Tintorets—Paul Veroneses, Turners and Sir Joshuas—in the world—into one great fireproof Gothic gallery of marble and serpentine. I want to get them all perfectly engraved. I want to go and draw all the subjects of Turner's 19,000 sketches in Switzerland & Italy elaborated out myself. I want to get everybody a dinner who has'nt got one. I want to macadamize some new roads to heaven with broken fool's heads. I want to hang up some knaves out of the way: not that I've any dislike to them; but I think it would be wholesome for them; and for other people, and that they would make good crow's meat. I want to play all day long and arrange my cabinet of minerals with new white wool. I want somebody to nurse me when I'm tired. I want Turner's pictures not to fade. I want to be able to draw clouds, and to understand how they go—and I can't make them stand still—nor understand them—They all go sideways—πλάγιαι—(what a fellow that Aristophanes was—and and yet to be always in the wrong, in the Main—except in his love for Aeschylus and the country—Did ever a worthy man do so much mischief on the face of the Earth?) Farther, I want to make the Italians industrious—the Americans quiet;—the Swiss Romantic;—the Roman Catholics Rational—and the English Parliament honest—and I can't do anything and don't understand what I was born for.
Some items on Ruskin's wish list overlap with items on mine.

 

The Hyaenas

Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936), "The Hyaenas," The Years Between (Garden City: Doubleday, Page & Company, 1919), pp. 66-67:
After the burial-parties leave
    And the baffled kites have fled;
The wise hyaenas come out at eve
    To take account of our dead.

How he died and why he died
    Troubles them not a whit.
They snout the bushes and stones aside
    And dig till they come to it.

They are only resolute they shall eat
    That they and their mates may thrive,
And they know that the dead are safer meat
    Than the weakest thing alive.

(For a goat may butt, and a worm may sting,
    And a child will sometimes stand;
But a poor dead soldier of the King
    Can never lift a hand.)

They whoop and halloo and scatter the dirt
    Until their tushes white
Take good hold in the army shirt,
    And tug the corpse to light,

And the pitiful face is shewn again
    For an instant ere they close;
But it is not discovered to living men—
    Only to God and to those

Who, being soulless, are free from shame,
    Whatever meat they may find.
Nor do they defile the dead man's name—
    That is reserved for his kind.

 

More Obvious to the Nose Than Ears

Francis Grose (1731-1791), A Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue, 2nd ed. (London: S. Hooper, 1788), unpaginated:
FICE, or FOYSE. A small windy escape backwards, more obvious to the nose than ears; frequently by old ladies charged on their lap dogs. See FIZZLE.
Related posts:

Labels:


 

The Academic Study of Literature

Michel Houellebecq, Submission, Part I (tr. Lorin Stein):
The academic study of literature leads basically nowhere, as we all know, unless you happen to be an especially gifted student, in which case it prepares you for a career teaching the academic study of literature — it is, in other words, a rather farcical system that exists solely to replicate itself and yet manages to fail more than 95 per cent of the time.

Les études universitaires dans le domaine des lettres ne conduisent comme on le sait à peu près à rien, sinon pour les étudiants les plus doués à une carrière d'enseignement universitaire dans le domaine des lettres — on a en somme la situation plutôt cocasse d'un système n'ayant d'autre objectif que sa propre reproduction, assorti d'un taux de déchet supérieur à 95 %.
Id.:
I'd never felt the slightest vocation for teaching — and my fifteen years as a teacher had only confirmed that initial lack of calling. What little private tutoring I'd done, to raise my standard of living, soon convinced me that the transmission of knowledge was generally impossible, the variance of intelligence extreme, and that nothing could undo or even mitigate this basic inequality. Worse, maybe, I didn't like young people and never had, even when I might have been numbered among them.

Je n'avais jamais eu la moindre vocation pour l'enseignement — et, quinze ans plus tard, ma carrière n'avait fait que confirmer cette absence de vocation initiale. Quelques cours particuliers donnés dans l'espoir d'améliorer mon niveau de vie m'avaient très tôt convaincu que la transmission du savoir était la plupart du temps impossible; la diversité des intelligences, extrême; et que rien ne pouvait supprimer ni même atténuer cette inégalité fondamentale. Peut-être plus grave encore, je n'aimais pas les jeunes — et je ne les avais jamais aimés, même du temps où je pouvais être considéré comme faisant partie de leurs rangs.

 

Factions

Sallust, Jugurthine War 41.5 (tr. William W. Batstone):
For the aristocracy twisted their 'dignity' and the people twisted 'liberty' towards their desires; every man acted on his own behalf, stealing, robbing, plundering. In this way all political life was torn apart between two parties, and the Republic, which had been our common ground, was mutilated.

namque coepere nobilitas dignitatem, populus libertatem in libidinem vertere, sibi quisque ducere, trahere, rapere. ita omnia in duas partis abstracta sunt, res publica, quae media fuerat, dilacerata.
See D.C. Earl, The Political Thought of Sallust (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1961), pp. 53-57.

Id. 41.9:
And so, joined with power, greed without moderation or measure invaded, polluted, and devastated everything, considered nothing valuable or sacred, until it brought about its own collapse.

ita cum potentia avaritia sine modo modestiaque invadere, polluere et vastare omnia, nihil pensi neque sancti habere, quoad semet ipsa praecipitavit.
Id. 42.4:
In general, this is what destroys great states: one group wants to overcome the other in any possible way and then to take a bitter vengeance on the defeated.

quae res plerumque magnas civitatis pessum dedit, dum alteri alteros vincere quovis modo et victos acerbius ulcisci volunt.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

 

Burckhardt's Philosophy

H.R. Trevor-Roper (1914-2003), "The Faustian Historian: Jacob Burckhardt," Historical Essays (London: Macmillan & Co Ltd, 1963), pp. 273-278 (at 275):
For if one looks for the heart of Burckhardt's philosophy, it always comes back to this: civilisation is a delicate and precarious thing which only an educated and perhaps unscrupulously self-preserving hierarchy can protect against the numerical revolt of the masses with their materialism, their indifference to liberty, their ready surrender to demagogic power; and the crises of civilisation consist in precisely that revolt of the masses which, however, can never prevail against the strength of conservative institutions unless it is aided from within by moral and intellectual decay.

 

The Best Part of Waking Up

John Ruskin, letter to Charles Eliot Norton (October 5, 1876, from Venice):
I wake as a matter of course, about half-past five, and get up and go out on my balcony in my nightgown to see if there's going to be a nice dawn.

That's the view I have from it—with the pretty traceried balcony of the Contarini Fasan next door. Generally there is a good dawn (nothing but sunshine and moonlight for the last month). At six I get up, and dress, with, occasionally, balcony interludes but always get to my writing table at seven, where, by scolding and paying, I secure my punctual cup of coffee, and do a bit of the Laws of Plato to build the day on. I find Jowett's translation is good for nothing and shall do one myself, as I've intended these fifteen years.

Charles Spencelayh, Morning Chapter

Related post: Necessary to My Existence.

 

Wish

Du Fu (712-770), "Hiding My Traces," last two lines (tr. Stephen Owen):
May I attain a hundred years of general drunkenness
and not comb my hair for a whole month.

 

Charlatans in Charge

Xenophon, Memorabilia 1.7.5 (tr. E.C. Marchant):
The man who persuades you to lend him money or goods and then keeps them is without doubt a rogue; but much the greatest rogue of all is the man who has gulled his city into the belief that he is fit to direct it.

ἀπατεῶνα δ' ἐκάλει οὐ μικρὸν μὲν οὐδ' εἴ τις ἀργύριον ἢ σκεῦος παρά του πειθοῖ λαβὼν ἀποστεροίη, πολὺ δὲ μέγιστον ὅστις μηδενὸς ἄξιος ὢν ἐξηπατήκοι πείθων ὡς ἱκανὸς εἴη τῆς πόλεως ἡγεῖσθαι.
Marchant's translation omits μηδενὸς ἄξιος ὢν. The translation of Hugh Tredennick (rev. Robin Waterfield) is closer to the Greek:
It was no slight deception, he said, even to deprive another person by persuasion of a sum of money or an article of value, but it was the grossest deception of all for a good-for-nothing person to convey the false impression that he was capable of directing the State.

 

Corybungus

The word corybungus isn't in the Oxford English Dictionary.

Albert Barrère and Charles G. Leland, A Dictionary of Slang, Jargon & Cant, Vol. I (London: Ballantyne Press, 1889), p. 274:
Corybungus (pugilistic), backside.
History of the Great International Contest between Heenan and Sayers (London: George Newbold, 1860), p. 163 (describing the "Fight between Tom Sayers and George Sims, for £75, (£50 to £25) on Tuesday, the 28th of February, 1854, at Longreach"):
Round 1.—Sims, although much taller than Sayers, seemed quite a lath before him, and as soon as he held up his hands, displayed such extreme awkwardness that it was evidently "sovereigns to sassingers" on Sayers, and Dan Dismore immediately offered 4 to 1 on him, which was taken by Jem Burn on the off chance. Sims, after a little unartistic squaring, lunged out awkwardly, and caught Tom on the chest with his left. Tom, who was evidently waiting to find out what his adversary could do, returned smartly on the gob, and in getting back, fell on his corybungus.
Sassinger (meaning sausage) isn't in the Oxford English Dictionary either.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

 

Custom

Cyprian, Letters 74.9 (tr. Rose Bernard Donna):
Nor ought custom which has crept in among some hinder us from letting truth prevail and conquer. For custom without truth is the antiquity of error.

nec consuetudo quae apud quosdam obrepserat impedire debet quo minus veritas praevaleat et vincat. nam consuetudo sine veritate vetustas erroris est.

 

People Are Idiots

A.L. Rowse (1903-1997), "Vanishing Britain," Portraits and Views, Literary and Historical (London: The Macmillan Press Ltd, 1979), pp. 234-239 (at 235):
Myself, I see no reason why anybody should have a car unless he needs one for his business: four hundred people in one train are better for the landscape, fuel, etc., than four hundred people in separate cars. There are far too many people anyway in an overcrowded island — fancy importing more, simply because the whites won't work, and here people have 'never had it so good', in that revealing phrase. With too many people there is naturally pollution of every kind — in the air, the rivers and streams, around the coasts, with consequent destruction to bird and animal-life. I am less concerned about the disappearance of the natterjack toad than I am about the destruction of sea-birds, and the recession of wild-flowers from the hedges within miles of towns — the motor-car again. Mr Christian rightly notices the diminishing primroses. When I was a boy the hedges all round my native town were starred with them in spring — not so today, for the hundreds of idiots picking them. (Why must they do it? Answer: because people are idiots.)

 

Remembrance

Alexander Pushkin (1799-1837), "Remembrance," tr. Maurice Baring, Have You Anything to Declare? A Note Book with Commentaries (1936; rpt. London: William Heinemann Ltd, 1951), p. 244:
When the loud day for men who sow and reap
   Grows still, and on the silence of the town
The unsubstantial veils of night and sleep,
   The meed of the day's labour, settle down,
Then for me in the stillness of the night
   The wasting, watchful hours drag on their course,
And in the idle darkness comes the bite
   Of all the burning serpents of remorse;
Dreams seethe; and fretful infelicities
   Are swarming in my over-burdened soul,
And Memory before my wakeful eyes
   With noiseless hand unwinds her lengthy scroll.
Then, as with loathing I peruse the years,
   I tremble, and I curse my natal day,
Wail bitterly, and bitterly shed tears,
   But cannot wash the woeful script away.

 

Deference

Xenophon, Memorabilia 2.3.16 (tr. E.C. Marchant):
Is it not the general opinion that a young man should make way for an older when they meet, offer his seat to him, give him a comfortable bed, let him have the first word?

οὐ γὰρ καὶ ὁδοῦ παραχωρῆσαι τὸν νεώτερον πρεσβυτέρῳ συντυγχάνοντι πανταχοῦ νομίζεται καὶ καθήμενον ὑπαναστῆναι καὶ κοίτῃ μαλακῇ τιμῆσαι καὶ λόγων ὑπεῖξαι;
Plato, Laws 879 c (tr. R.G. Bury):
Therefore let the law stand thus:—Everyone shall reverence his elder both by deed and word...

ὧδε οὖν ἔστω· πᾶς ἡμῖν αἰδείσθω τὸν ἑαυτοῦ πρεσβύτερον ἔργῳ τε καὶ ἔπει...

 

Angry Old Men

Euripides, Andromache 727-728 (tr. David Kovacs):
Old men are a thing unrestrained
and are hard to control because of their quick tempers.

ἀνειμένον τι χρῆμα πρεσβυτῶν γένος
καὶ δυσφύλακτον ὀξυθυμίας ὕπο.
Aristotle, Rhetoric 2.13.13 (1390 a, on old men; tr. John Henry Freese):
Their outbursts of anger are violent, but feeble.

καὶ οἱ θυμοὶ ὀξεῖς μὲν ἀσθενεῖς δέ εἰσιν.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

 

The Elites

Euripides, Andromache 699-702 (tr. Deborah Roberts):
Sitting solemnly in office they think bigger thoughts
than the common people, although they are nobodies.
But if the people could only plan and dare,
they would be a thousand times wiser than the great.

σεμνοὶ δ᾿ ἐν ἀρχαῖς ἥμενοι κατὰ πτόλιν
φρονοῦσι δήμου μεῖζον, ὄντες οὐδένες·
οἱ δ᾿ εἰσὶν αὐτῶν μυρίῳ σοφώτεροι,
εἰ τόλμα προσγένοιτο βούλησίς θ᾿ ἅμα.


699-702 del. Karl Busche, "Zu Euripides Andromache," Neue Jahrbücher für Philologie und Paedagogik 137 (1888) 457-471 (pp. 464-465)

 

Dissatisfaction

Jane Austen (1775-1817), Pride and Prejudice, chapter XXIV (Elizabeth Bennet speaking):
There are few people whom I really love, and still fewer of whom I think well. The more I see of the world, the more I am dissatisfied with it...

 

Nit-Picking

With my "small Latine and lesse Greeke," it would be presumptuous of me to criticize the work of eminent classical scholars. The following notes aren't really criticisms, just my attempts to understand better the passages quoted.

Euripides, Andromache 89-90 (tr. David Kovacs):
I will go, since in any case if something happens to me the life of a slave is not much to envy.

ἀλλ᾿ εἶμ᾿, ἐπεί τοι κοὐ περίβλεπτος βίος
δούλης γυναικός, ἤν τι καὶ πάθω κακόν.
More literally:
I will go, since in any case if something bad happens to me the life of a slave woman is not much to envy.
Id., 94-95:
It is natural for women to get pleasure from their present misfortunes, by constantly having them on their lips.

                                            ἐμπέφυκε γὰρ
γυναιξὶ τέρψις τῶν παρεστώτων κακῶν
ἀνὰ στόμ᾿ αἰεὶ καὶ διὰ γλώσσης ἔχειν.
More literally:
It is natural for women to get pleasure from their present misfortunes, by constantly having them in the mouth and on the tongue.
Id., 117-118:
Woman, seated all this time upon the floor of Thetis' shrine, never leaving it...

ὦ γύναι, ἃ Θέτιδος δάπεδον καὶ ἀνάκτορα θάσσεις
δαρὸν οὐδὲ λείπεις...
δάπεδον καὶ ἀνάκτορα form a hendiadys. Cf. the rendering of Gregory Nagy:
My lady, you who have been sitting there on the sacred ground and precinct of Thetis for some time now, unwilling to leave...
Id., 1208:
To die, to die before your children did—this would have been right!

θανεῖν θανεῖν σε, πρέσβυ, χρῆν πάρος τέκνων.
More literally:
To die, to die before your children did—this would have been right, old man!

 

Down Come the Tall Trees

Dear Mike,

I wonder if Rowse was thinking of the section below?

W.G. Hoskins, The Making of the English Landscape (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1955), pp. 231-232:
The industrial revolution and the creation of parks around the country houses have taken us down to the later years of the nineteenth century. Since that time, and especially since the year 1914, every single change in the English landscape has either uglified it or destroyed its meaning, or both. Of all the changes in the last two generations, only the great reservoirs of water for the industrial cities of the North and Midlands have added anything to the scene that one can contemplate without pain. It is a distasteful subject, but it must be faced for a few moments.

The country houses decay and fall: hardly a week passes when one does not see the auctioneer's notice of the impending sale and dissolution of some big estate. The house is seized by the demolition contractors, its park invaded and churned up by the tractors and trailers of the timber merchant. Down comes the house; down come the tall trees, naked and gashed lies the once-beautiful park. Or if it stands near a town, the political planners swarm into the house, turn it into a rabbit-warren of black-hatted officers of This and That, and the park becomes a site for some "overspill" — a word as beastly as the thing it describes. We may indeed find the great house still standing tidily in a timbered park: but it is occupied by what the villagers describe detachedly as "the atom men," something remote from the rest of us, though not remote in the sense they themselves like to think. And if the planners are really fortunate, they fill the house with their paper and their black hats, and their open-cast mining of coal or iron ore simultaneously finishes off the park. They can sit at their big desks and contemplate with an exquisite joy how everything is now being put to a good use. Demos and Science are the joint Emperors.

Beyond the park, in some parts of England such as East Anglia, the bull-dozer rams at the old hedges, blots them out to make fields big and vacant enough for the machines of the new ranch-farming and the business-men farmers of five to ten thousand acres. Fortunately, the tractor and the bull-dozer cannot easily destroy the great hedgebanks and stone walls of the anciently-enclosed parts of England; nor is it worth doing, for the good farmer knows the value of these banks and walls as shelter, and of the hedges for timber. Much of the old field pattern therefore remains, with its tangle of deep lanes and thick hedges.

What else has happened in the immemorial landscape of the English countryside? Airfields have flayed it bare wherever there are level, well-drained stretches of land, above all in eastern England. Poor devastated Lincolnshire and Suffolk! And those long gentle lines of the dip-slope of the Cotswolds, those misty uplands of the sheep-grey oolite, how they have lent themselves to the villainous requirements of the new age! Over them drones, day after day, the obscene shape of the atom-bomber, laying a trail like a filthy slug upon Constable's and Gainsborough's sky. England of the Nissen hut, the "pre-fab," and the electric fence, of the high barbed wire around some unmentionable devilment; England of the arterial by-pass, treeless and stinking of diesel oil, murderous with lorries; England of the bombing-range wherever there was once silence, as on Otmoor or the marsh-lands of Lincolnshire; England of battle-training areas on the Breckland heaths, and tanks crashing through empty ruined Wiltshire villages; England of high explosive falling upon the prehistoric monuments of Dartmoor. Barbaric England of the scientists, the military men, and the politicians: let us turn away and contemplate the past before all is lost to the vandals.
In a similar vein, he excoriates 20th century Exeter (his native city).

W.G. Hoskins, Two Thousand Years in Exeter (Chichester: Phillimore & Co., 1960; rpt. 1974), pp. 133-135:
Eighteen years and more have gone by since the city was devastated. Much has been rebuilt in a commonplace style that might belong anywhere: it is not distinctive as the old Exeter was, with its rich regional flavour. Once more Exeter is the capital of South-Western England, and its shops and streets are as crowded as they ever were. It is still the same kind of city, with seven out of ten of its occupied population providing services of one kind or another. In numbers it grows very slowly, but with the clearing of the congested areas it spreads more and more into the surrounding country. Yet green fields are still visible from most of its streets even today, and it remains one of the most attractive cities in England to look at and to live in.

Its two greatest enemies are the motor-car and the speculative builder. In 1947 there were rather fewer than four thousand private cars registered in the city. Now there are more than twice as many, and more than twice as many commercial vehicles. The narrow streets are being torn apart and much of old Exeter is being lost because everything must be sacrificed to enable the motorist to go one mile an hour faster or to save his withered legs from a moment's walking. The motorist's demands upon our city are endlessly greedy and selfish. But people are more important than vehicles. The motorist must be kept firmly in his place, for he brings the kiss of death wherever he goes.

As for the speculative builder, he seizes daily upon the large houses that were built in late Georgian and early Victorian days, in their large, well-tree'd gardens, and clears the whole site in order to make the maximum profit. The old house comes down, and the beautiful trees, inherited from our grandfathers and great-grandfathers, are sacrificed in order to cram two or three more tatty little houses into the old garden. In twenty years' time, the opulent and seemly houses that were built in an age of elegance will have been replaced by a desert of bricks and concrete.

There is another profound difference between the city of 1960 and that of a hundred years ago. A century ago, two centuries ago, Exeter was a cultured place, the social and intellectual capital of a rich and varied province. Look how highly Richard Ford spoke of it in the 1830s, when he came to live here! Today the city library, burnt out nearly twenty years ago, is still a shambles. The failure to rebuild it is the greatest disgrace in the post-war history of the city. It is clear that books are not considered to be important in modern Exeter. How vastly different from our Victorian forefathers when they founded the Free Library in 1869! (see the Preface)

This failure to provide a good library for the people of Exeter is only the most obvious symptom of some obscure disease that goes very deep. Somewhere between 1860 and now, Exeter ceased to be a cultured city. It would be instructive to trace exactly when and how this profound rot set in, a fascinating and melancholy problem for some social historian. I suspect that the rot was going on rapidly during the later years of the nineteenth century: but what brought it about? Were late Victorians so different from their fathers and grandfathers? Why did the learned societies of Exeter disappear one by one? Why does the Devon and Exeter Institution, that learned library which Richard Ford so greatly admired, gather dust silently, and struggle to make ends meet? The people of Exeter seem to be able to exist happily without any good music: the theatre, centuries old as a tradition in the city, staggers from crisis to crisis. We cannot blame the cinema or television: the rot had set in long before either made its appearance. George Gissing noted in the early 1890s that Exeter people did not support good music even then. In a letter to his sister (December 30, 1892), written from No. 1, St. Leonard's Terrace, where he was living, he says: "We went to hear the Elijah, but it was very poorly done. Curious that the people of Exeter will not support anything good in drama or music." In another letter he complains of Exeter that "intellectually it is very dull". This could never have been said forty years earlier.

For the last two generations or more Exeter has ceased to care about any of these things. It has changed greatly for the worse in this respect. The new university, established in 1956 after its abortive start so many centuries ago, cannot fail in time to bring the ancient culture of Exeter back to life. Two or three generations are after all a very short time. Caerwysc, Isca, Exancester, Exeter — more than seventy generations of people have opened their eyes and closed them for the last time in this ancient city of ours.

And there remains much that is beautiful to look at. There are still dark ilex trees overhanging old stone walls, and there are the little sandstone churches up and down the main streets, with their startling red towers against the blue-and-white sky. And though the river-front has been despoiled in part, there is still the long-deserted quay with its noble Warehouses, built just before the coming of the railways; and the canal, probably the most beautiful ship-canal in England, carrying very little traffic but providing the most peaceful of walks along its banks down to Topsham and beyond, to, where the Exe scents the open sea: the same shining river that brought the pre-historic ships up to earliest Exeter more than two thousand years ago.
Best wishes,
Eric [Thomson]

Labels:


Monday, January 14, 2019

 

Isn't It?

A.L. Rowse (1903-1997), "Rudyard Kipling," The English Spirit: Essays in Literature and History, rev. ed. (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 1966), pp. 229-245 (at 231):
Lionel Curtis, who knew Kipling well, used to tell me that he was really two men: there was the Morning Post reactionary, who hated everything about the modern world and thought it was going to the dogs (isn't it?); and, on the other side, there was the visionary, with his extreme intuitive senses, the gift of second sight, the prophetic, the truly inspired.
Cf. Rowse himself, quoted in Time magazine (November 13, 1978):
This filthy twentieth century. I hate its guts.
Rowse, "Vanishing English Landscapes," Portraits and Views, Literary and Historical (London: The Macmillan Press Ltd, 1979), pp. 140-146 (at 142-143):
No doubt there are prefigurations of a new kind of society forming — in the creeping suburbia that is the real landscape of contemporary England, the TV culture that goes with it, the TV masts at every house (TV is the contemporary religion), the high-rise tenements to accommodate a madly inflated population for so small an island, the neuroses that go with over-population, the pushing and shoving, the violence, the drugs, the wish to escape. All I can say is that I agree with Hoskins in detesting everything about contemporary society (except its dentistry).

 

Abode of Despair

Edmund Spenser (1552-1599), The Faerie Queene, Book I, Canto 9, Stanza 35 (lines 307-315):
That darkesome cave they enter, where they find
That cursèd man, low sitting on the ground,
Musing full sadly in his sullein mind;
His griesie lockes, long growen, and unbound,        310
Disordred hong about his shoulders round,
And hid his face; through which his hollow eyne
Lookt deadly dull, and starèd as astound;
His raw-bone cheekes through penurie and pine,
Were shronke into his jawes, as he did never dine.        315
A.C. Hamilton ad loc.:
3 sullein: gloomy; morose; cf. 'solein' (OED 5). Despaire displays the outward symptoms of melancholy described by Burton, Anat. Mel. 1.3.1.1, and therefore of Saturn (see II ix 52.8-9n). 4 griesie: grey, grizzled; horrible, hideous; filthy. 8-9 Cf. the appearance of the Red Cross Knight upon emerging from Orgoglio's dungeon at viii 41. penurie and pine: lack of food and the suffering that follows.

 

Passive Periphrastic

George Will, "Referenda Delenda Est," National Review (January 13, 2019).

Referendum delendum est, or Referenda delenda sunt, but not, please, the ungrammatical Referenda delenda est, even if you want the reader to recall Carthago delenda est.

 

Risky

Xenophon, Memorabilia 3.6.16 (Socrates to Glaucon; tr. E.C. Marchant):
Don't you see how risky it is to say or do what you don't understand?

ἢ οὐχ ὁρᾷς, ὡς σφαλερόν ἐστι τὸ ἃ μὴ οἶδέ τις, ταῦτα ἢ λέγειν ἢ πράττειν;

 

Tory Anarchists

Max Beerbohm (1872-1956), "Servants," And Even Now (New York: E.P. Dutton & Company, 1921), pp. 163-185 (at 185):
...I am a Tory Anarchist. I should like every one to go about doing just as he pleased — short of altering any of the things to which I have grown accustomed.
George Orwell (1903-1950), "Politics vs. Literature: An Examination of Gulliver's Travels," Polemic 5 (September-October, 1946) 5-21, rpt. in The Collected Essays, Journalism and Letters of George Orwell, Vol. 4: In Front of Your Nose, 1945-1950 (London: Secker & Warburg, 1968), pp. 205-223 (at 216):
We are right to think of Swift as a rebel and iconoclast, but except in certain secondary matters, such as his insistence that women should receive the same education as men, he cannot be labelled "left". He is a Tory anarchist, despising authority while disbelieving in liberty, and preserving the aristocratic outlook while seeing clearly that the existing aristocracy is degenerate and contemptible.
Hat tip: Patrick Kurp.

 

The Distorting Background and Unequal Scholarship

H.R. Trevor-Roper (1914-2003), "Twice Martyred: The Engish Jesuits and Their Historians," Historical Essays (London: Macmillan & Co Ltd, 1963), pp. 113-118 (at 116-117):
For what is the technique of these new manipulators of devoted lives? The basic principles are simple. First, there is the distorting background. Nowadays, to carry conviction, a historian must document, or appear to document, his formal narrative, but his background, his generalisations, allusions, comparisons remain happily free from this inconvenience. This freedom is very useful: against an imaginary background even correctly stated facts can be wonderfully transformed. If Elizabethan government, for instance, is regularly described as 'totalitarian', if priests are sent to 'concentration-camps', if Catholic plots are darkly compared with the burning of the Reichstag, then an image is created which, though undocumented, dominates the mere detail for which alone the author takes responsibility. Moreover, such a background does not even need imagination. Pedestrian apologists who play for safety can construct it very effectively by mere omission. Just as Fr. Philip Hughes has contrived to write a portentous three-volume history of that 'immensely harmful' movement, the English Reformation, in which the great religious movement for reform of the Church is unobserved and such details as the burning of Cranmer, Latimer and Ridley are never explicitly mentioned, so Fr. Devlin, in his new biography of Robert Southwell,1 contrives never to make clear the interesting and relevant fact that throughout Southwell's mission England and Spain were at war. This is a remarkable achievement. Needless to say, it greatly helps his argument. The argument, it may be added, can do with such help.

The second principle of this new technique is more positive. It is the principle of unequal scholarship: the scrupulous straining at small historical gnats which diverts attention from the silent digestion of large and inconvenient camels. How choosily these Jesuit historians nibble when the matter is of no great significance (thus winning tributes to their scholarship from lay reviewers), and yet what enormous gulps they take when no one — they think — is looking! How learnedly Fr. Caraman, for instance, annotates those minor recusant gentry, tracing their manors, their marriages and their movements; and yet, when it comes to a significant point — say, Sir Robert Cecil's attitude to the Spanish claims — he unhesitatingly gives us an answer which, though convenient to him, can be blown sky-high by mere reference to the sources. How learnedly Fr. Devlin refutes his own misquotation from Professor Conyers Read (whose name he regularly mis-spells); and yet, when a document is inconvenient, he summarily declares it first a probable, then, by an inconspicuous transition, a known forgery! Whenever the Jesuits are involved in controversy, their version of the facts, we are told, is 'the only accurate account', 'far closer to the truth' than any other, contemporary or modern. On the Babington Plot, for instance, through whose intricacies Fr. Devlin has led the grateful Fr. Caraman, modern scholars receive 'serious reproach' for accepting 'a whole edifice of lies ... in violation of the known truth' — i.e. what a Jesuit said was the truth.

1Christopher Devlin, S.J., The Life of Robert Southwell: Poet and Martyr (London 1956).

‹Older

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