Saturday, July 28, 2012


You Are an Eccentric Female

Letter from H.J. Rose to Dorothy Sayers (November 9, 1954), quoted in Domenico Accorinti, "Herbert Jennings Rose (1883–1961): The Scholar and His Correspondents," Illinois Classical Studies 33–34 (2008–2009) 65-107 (at 101):
You are an eccentric female to expect poets to mean something. The modern trend of criticism (or is it yesterday’s trend? Fashions succeed with dizzying haste these days) seems to be that poets should signify nothing much, but evoke emotions after a manner which to my ear suggests the remarks of Frère Jehan during the storm. As Gilbert might have said if he had been born later,
The meaning doesn’t matter if it’s only idle chatter
Of a Freudo-Jungian kind.
But of course you are interested in Dante, who was so höchst unmodern that he actually believed something and could reason about it intelligibly. Consequently he committed the gross solecism of writing verses which conveyed some kind of meaning to a reasonably careful reader. Perhaps, in his corner of the Elysian Authors' Club, he now amuses his fellow-members by remarks, not too polite, on sundry productions of the last thirty of forty years.
For "the remarks of Frère Jehan during the storm" see Rabelais, Gargantua and Pantagruel, book V, chapters 19-24. Rose modernizes "The meaning doesn't matter if it's only idle chatter of a transcendental kind," from Gilbert and Sullivan's Patience.

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