Saturday, October 05, 2013


Horace and Stendhal Again

On Saved by Horace and Saved by Horace: Update, Eric Thomson comments:
I may be completely wrong but I read 'Ce trou a été fait dans le campagne de Iéna' as a joke involving implicature. Did Stendhal even participate in the Jena campaign? Certainly not in a military capacity. He only left Paris two days after the battle was fought and by the time he reached Berlin it was all over. Nor, as far as I know, is there any mention in the letters of an incident in which he might have lost his life. I wonder if he didn't skewer his own Horace? Perhaps it was a self-aggrandizing gesture (a painless version of the soldier-manqué's self-inflicted wound) or did Horace just bore him ('je ne l'ai guère lu')?


There's perhaps another more plausible explanation, one suggested by Sir Walter Scott's scouring of Waterloo for mementos and by Goethe's inscribing the date of the battle of Jena on his wedding ring. The Horace might have been a souvenir of the campaign that Beyle just missed, acquired from some soldier whose life had indeed been saved by it (or not). The fact that it wasn't the only volume of Horace that he owned would lend albeit feeble support to this explanation.

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