Sunday, May 01, 2016


Haunts of Ancient Peace

Alfred Austin (1835-1913), Haunts of Ancient Peace (London: Adam and Charles Black, 1908), pp. 17-19:
'I shall be taken nowhere, see nothing, and converse with nobody, that is not ancient. I wish to see Old England, or so much of it as is left.'

'Yet,' I ventured to plead, for this particular conversation was between Lamia and me only, 'is there not much in it that is more or less new, well worth seeing, and strongly appealing to the intelligent mind?'

'That may or may not be. Not being myself intelligent, but radically, or should I not rather say conservatively, stupid, I cannot say. But there is one thing I do know, which is known but to few, especially to few women, I know what I want; and I do not want paper-mills with the newest machinery for turning the pages of yesterday's immortal works into fresh paper on which to print the equally enduring works of to-morrow. I can equally dispense with tubular bridges, whatever they may happen to be, the latest thing in motor-cars, model farms, and elementary schools conducted on an entirely novel system, in which everything is taught except the elements of sound morals and good manners, and the rudiments of universal knowledge are instilled, which resolutely refuse to take root in the mind of the bucolic British boy. May I hope, too, that now Peace has happily been restored throughout His Majesty's dominions, we may see no newspapers older than Addison's Spectator?'

We had got down to gather a hedge posy, and at this point of the conversation Veronica and the Poet, who had been similarly employed not far off, joined us; when Lamia, not changing the theme, but somewhat altering its tone, continued:

'I confess I crave for the urbanity of the Past, for feminine serviceableness, for washing-days, home-made jams, lavender bags, recitation of Gray's Elegy, and morning and evening prayers. One is offered, in place of them, ungraceful hurry and worry, perpetual postman's knocks, an intermittent shower of telegrams, reply not paid, dithyrambic vulgarity or life-not-worth-living lamentations, and individual infallibility accompanied by universal incredulity. Look round at this rustic old-world scene. Work is going on everywhere, but how quietly, how undemonstratively! Tell me, Veronica, we shall stay nowhere except at old inns, shall we, or with old people, and give utterance to none but the very oldest and most out-of-fashion ideas.'
The phrase "no newspapers older than Addison's Spectator" puzzles me. I would have expected "no newspapers newer than Addison's Spectator" or "only newspapers older than Addison's Spectator."

Dear Mike,

Here's a simple emendation of "no newspapers older than Addison's Spectator" that should appeal to a classical philologist. "Older" is a compositor's misreading of Austin's handwritten "other".

As ever,

Ian [Jackson]

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