Saturday, August 22, 2020


An Athenian James Thurber

Anthony Grafton and Joanna Weinberg, "I Have Always Loved the Holy Tongue": Isaac Casaubon, the Jews, and a Forgotten Chapter in Renaissance Scholarship (Cambridge: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2011), pp. 4-5:
The figures Theophrastus describes, all of whom exemplify bad qualities, seem to have stepped out of the cartoons of an Athenian James Thurber. They include the Toady, who laughs so hard at a great man's jokes that he has to stuff his cloak into his mouth to control himself; the Superstitious Man, who will not step on a tombstone, approach a pregnant woman or a corpse, or pass a crossroads without making a libation; the Chatterbox, who is as likely to tell you "I threw up yesterday" as to give you the price of wheat, and does not care if either fact interests you; and the Talker, whose logorrhea menaces the entire city: "on a jury he prevents others from reaching a verdict, at the theatre from watching the play, at dinner from getting on with their meal."6 As so often, an ancient text turns out, like the Mad Gardener's rattlesnake, to be the Middle of Next Week—or at least next week's faculty meetings and dinner parties.

6. Theophrastus, Characters 7.1; 2.4; 16.5, 9; 3.3; 7.8, trans. Diggle 2004.

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