Agreeable eye.

an eudæmonistarchives

Generally: notes on reading

24.02.01

Up, coffee, bath, Love in a Cold Climate (it troubles me somewhat, being clever and charming and not especially brilliant, the characters remain, as intended I suppose, card-board cut-outs — Cedric, for instance, is an insult to one’s intelligence — though it is entertaining to ponder the actual schedule of the narrator), library (Greek Religion, […]

11.03.01

Overcast toneless gray, neither warm nor cold. Reading The Ambassadors, then up, out and to coffee. Purchased litre of orange juice, email, return to room, where reading Hellenistic history, Sophocles & Antiphon whilst trying to organize my bibliography. Dull and stupid, partook of tea & more Henry James, then tired at last, to bed.

2.09.01

Again, up early. Restless. Still reading the Letters of Rupert Brooke. Aside from having a perfectly splendid name and being a tremendously handsome (in the English manner, if you like that sort of thing) minor poet, I find he even manages to write amusing letters, about such interesting things as, well, life—which is nice (tho’ […]

19.10.01 – Friday

compare Scrutinizing my recent reading and find that I’ve been spending far too much time ambling through modern literature — which would, I suppose, be acceptable if I were reading Proust or Eliot or some other frightfully clever & dreadfully important authors, but I’m not — I’m reading the squabblers, with personalities more interesting than […]

29.10.01 – Monday

Reading Medea (γυνὴ γὰρ ὀξύθυμος, ὡς δ’ αὔτως ἀνήρ, // ῥάιων φυλάσσειν ἢ σιωπηλὸς σοφή. (319–20)). Ah, ionic elements! We are fond of our archaicisms — and might be in danger of descending to dactylic hexameters… give us a minute.

19.11.01 – Monday

Softly, softly. Malthakôs. The oak leaves are falling at last — air of unreality, setting a scene (tho’ not making one). Received two glorious letters — read them in the afternoon light while waiting for the bus. Invariably waiting for the inevitable bus. There really is something about reading Plato. I can’t explain it. The […]

14.01.02 – Monday

Returned some few books to the library, thank heavens, and read a few articles I’d meant to peruse in November. Still feel vastly, horribly behind — only the cruelty of my own ambition forces me on (which can be a good or a bad thing, as you will). Speaking of ambition — St. Augustine: hmmm. […]

30.01.02 – Wednesday

Just so you know, this post has been edited. Vergil is a hack. Homer (being collective) had it right; I don’t care if Iuno foments mishap for that man so blatantly remarkable for pietas (face it, Aeneas is a square — that’s what having a destiny does to people). I’d rather spend time with some […]

4.02.02 – Monday

Granulated brain, vocabulary running free like an hour-glass’s sands. To study, to know a thing, is to internalize it and make it one’s own; in short, to memorize it. In a different age, the classical education required massive rote memorization of poetry, prose — you know, the classics. Everything then becomes allusive, words acquire a […]

28.03.02 – Thursday

Woke this morning to the chiding of the sun. One always knows that it shall be a bad—or, at the very least, trying—day when distant instances of extreme combustion seem to have gained the power of speech. Moving on, however, to other things. Why is it that, as I read some few of Aemilia Lanyer’s […]

31.03.02 – Sunday

Still reading Waley’s translation of Genji, with which we ‘are not best pleased,’ to borrow Waley’s idiom. (There are also several printers’ errors sprinkled liberally throughout the text, tho’ in our generous spirit we pretend not to mind them — but I hear there’s a new translation on the market…) However: A simple Chinese verse […]

5.05.02 – Sunday

Time passes with a measured and memorable wing during the first period of a sojourn in a new place, among new characters and new manners. Every person, every incident, every feeling touches and stirs the imagination. The restless mind creates and observes at the same time. Indeed there is scarcely any popular tenet more erroneous […]

17.05.02 – Friday

Reading Halliwell’s book on Aristotle’s Poetics (University of Chicago Press, 1999): mimêsis, katharsis, etc. I paced across the deep red of the carpet, carefully keeping within the wool boundary, my attention buried in the book; to leave the rug would be to fall into the abyss of daily life — and also to risk running […]

17.06.02 – Monday

The greatest pleasure I find in life is reading. In the past few weeks I have found much longed-for enrichment in such a quantity of books as I had thought myself unable to consume. Yet it is true that one hungry will, if possible, eat and the thirsty will, given the chance, drink—so I must […]

Elenchus

Socrates was married, you know, and his wife, Xanthippe, was a shrew. Perhaps that’s why he liked to sit in the cobbler’s shop and talk with young aristocrats about the meaning of words. ‘The only thing I know is that I don’t know anything.’ How many a man has said that, in the course of […]

In the Garden

Books take up space, and libraries, being confined by walls, must occasionally weed the shelves of injudicious pamphlets and books unborrowed through the centuries. That this should astonish or dismay comes as something of a surprise. That, however, is not my theme. I would like to return to the metaphor of libraries as gardens. It […]

The Histories of Books

In order to write the much-lamented Cicero essay, I happened to check two small pamphlets out of the library, both Teubner editions of short works by Sallust (or an anonymous author in the style of Sallust). Both had been edited by A. Kurfess (who also edited the Teubner edition of Sallust’s other works [1956]) and […]

Found Objects

England, 12 November, 7:24 a.m. When I remember something I would rather forget, or when some unpleasant action or unwitting stupidity of mine forces its way forward into the present from the past, I think I don’t feel well. Oh happy past, which can so disorder the present. A people that grows accustomed to sloppy […]

Neither a borrower…

I have to remind myself it was only a book – mass-market paperback, pristine condition though bought used. I lent it to an acquaintance; I do not say she was a friend, because she was not. She was an acquaintance. At the time I would have compared her to a whirlwind, for wherever she went […]

Mysteriosa Femina

In an abrupt change of pace, I set aside the works of Walter Burkert just as he was about to show once and for all how human behavior really works, and read a mystery novel until all hours of the night. I had given up on the entire ‘reading in bed’ thing—there never seemed to […]

a Peculiar Longing

Alexander the Great was shorter than average height, with blond hair and one eye blue, the other brown. His first teacher was a demanding man called Leonidas, like the Spartan king who died at Thermopylae, who searched his student’s room every day, overturning trunks and ruffling linens to be sure Alexander was not in danger […]

Update

Spent the morning reading articles on Cicero’s De Oratore, all of which seem to say exactly the same thing: it’s too long by far, and not philosophical enough; in fact, it’s just plain too rhetorical. Which is, apparently, unexpected in a rhetorical treatise. Fun stuff, though, and only two were in German. Afternoon reading What […]

Sed Vitae Caesaris

Coin depicting the Emperor Augustus from A Visual Compendium of Roman Emperors. At last reading Ronald Syme’s famous book, The Roman Revolution (Oxford, 1939), a history of the end of the Roman Republic and the beginning of the principate. It begins slowly, with a grim overview of the career of C. Julius Caesar Octavianus (later […]

an Observation (2)

Somewhere in his letters to Atticus, Cicero says something to the effect of: I would rather fight with Pompey, and lose, than see him victorious. The death of Pompey signaled the end of the optimate cause, and the beginning of Caesar’s supremacy. Had Pompey won, though, the optimate cause, along with the Republic, would still […]

Historicity

History should have a sense of proportion—a human touch, if you please. From a biography of Petrarch (2003.8, p. 51): In Verona, and well before the middle of June, he made his greatest find. He discovered in the library of the cathedral a volume containing the sixteen Books of Cicero’s collection of his letters to […]

Incomplete Associations (Latin)

The prose of Cicero is a ripened plum, the dusky purple austerity concealing a rich and summery sweetness. The lines of Ovid are a silver ring; of Horace, a poet’s faded crown, gone gray and dusty down the centuries. Yet Vergil’s lines are as a shepherd’s staff, for cudgeling foes or correcting friends. The works […]

The Historicity of Peasants

Have been reading Michael Rostovtzeff’s A Large Estate in Egypt in the Third Century B.C. A Study in Economic History (Madison, WI: 1922), a short book in which the notorious Russian historian gives the Zenon archive his attention. Of course, in 1922 the Zenon archive, with early Ptolemaic documents numbering in the thousands, was bigger […]

Incomplete Associations (Greek)

The fragments of Sappho flutter like a silken ribbon caught in thorny centuries. Herodotus is the sound of nodding asleep amid the low murmur of unuttered secrets and improbable truths. The dialogues of Plato are a sly glance between clever friends. Thucydides marshals his words, setting them in trim, ordered lines, bristling and iron-edged. The […]

Epistulae Humaniores

A man who gets few letters does not open one lightly. He hefts it for weight, reads the name of the sender on the envelope and the address, looks at the handwriting, and studies the postmark and the date. – Steinbeck (East of Eden, p. 486) I’ve been reading a lot of letters lately; not […]

the end of English letters

April 9 [1937]: VirginiaWoolf’s The Years and F. Tennyson Jesse’s A Pine to See the Peep Show read at once—what with rain and fairies and walloping bells at Oxford and Missie dying of love for Teacher with a dash of beans and fish with the lower middle class—impress one again with the constipation of English […]

now that’s quality

Having finished reading Randall Jarrell’s first novel, Pictures from an Institution (1954), I now understand why people go ga-ga for Kerouac: general American fiction of the 1950s was rotten. Take offense if you will, but I stand by my statement. When seen against the backdrop of such insipid, feeble prose as Jarrell’s, where flashes of […]

Notes on not Englishing Homer

῎Ανδρα μοι ἔννεπε, Μοῦσα, πολύτροπον, ὃς μάλα πολλὰ πλάγχθη, ἐπεὶ Τροίης ἱερὸν πτολίεθρον ἔπερσε· Man, Muse — tell me about that trickster, tossed topsy-turvy since the time he torched Troy’s sacred towers… The main problem with it being (aside from its awfulness ) that the Greek is primarily plosive, while the translation is terribly dental.

Qualitative

It was very weak of Harold Biffen to come so near perishing of hunger as he did in the days when he was completing his novel. But he would have vastly preferred to eat and be satisfied had any method of obtaining food presented itself to him. He did not starve for the pleasure of […]

Periplus

From Francis Yates’s The Rosicrucian Enlightenment (p. 202): The years of peaceful life in his native country came to an end for Comenius with the defeat of Frederick at the Battle of the White Mountain in 1620 which meant, for Bohemia, the suppression of the national religion. The Bohemian Brethren were proscribed. In 1621 the […]

errare humanum est

I picked up a copy of the book by chance the other day, and started reading it last night. Not that I’ve gotten very far enough to say anything about it, save that it is provoking: Being wrong is also about being displaced, about wandering, dissenting, emigrating, and alienating. The professionalization of the scholar, and, […]

revilement

It bodes no good to identify with the mother in Sons and Lovers.

Note

After reading Adam Bede and Paul Clifford I think it’s safe to say that Tess of the d’Urbervilles is a really good book.

An Errant Academic

I mentioned Seth Lerer’s Error and the Academic Self more than a month ago and, having finally finished reading it, there are a few more comments I would like to make. To begin, though, with a summary: errô, errare, erravi, erratus – to wander, to go astray, to err. The record of scholarship, particularly of […]

formicae

From a review (via A&L Daily) of a biography of Hans-Georg Gadamer (of whom I am as ignorant as a newborn): Was Gadamer really like Socrates? Or did he lack the courage that made the Greek drink poison rather than submit to the mob? Uh, Mr. Reviewer, sir? Socrates drinking the poison? Uh, that was […]

at the circumlocution office

How to evade the tendency to view an individual life as somehow symbolic or representative of the lives of an entire group of people (or subculture); for instance: repressed homosexuality (‘abnormal sexual desires’) the root of all Corvo’s problems according to

diction

Wherefore, I beckoned to Gioffredo to take the ankles: but I myself took the hollow armpits; and terribly the head waggled between. In this manner we flung the dead slave from the balcony: but, after we had heard the splash of his fall in Tiber, we returned, expecting new events. (chapter xii) ‘Terribly the head […]

poena sine fine

After reading Donna Wilson’s Ransom, Revenge, and Heroic Identity in the ‘Iliad’ (based on the dissertation she prepared for the University of Texas, Austin) the largest question I have for the author concerns her relationship with her father. Her discussion of the character of reparation in the Iliad emphasizes the role of the father in […]

‘could it be J— H— herself?’

Jane Ellen Harrison, 1850–1928 Independent lecturer in London, later a fellow of Newnham College, Cambridge, Jane Harrison was author of (among other things): Prolegomena to the Study of Greek Relgion (1903) and Themis: a Study of the Social Origins of Greek Religion (1912). She is also one of the few women mentioned in the who’s […]

practical wisdom

Dickinson is not known to have met with the new and exciting novels by American women that dominated the market in the 1850s, many of them patterned after The Wide, Wide World by Susan Warner: perhaps they were secured out by Amherst’s tastemakers. Whatever the explanation, most of the women’s books that crossed Dickinson’s path […]

Socrates Silenos

Began reading The Mask of Socrates: the Image of the Intellectual in Antiquity, and was struck by the following passage: The earliest portrait of the philosopher originated about ten to twenty years after his death and shows him in the guise of Silenus. In flouting the High Classical standard of beauty so blatantly, this face […]

a well lerned gentylwoman

Margaret More Roper (Holbein, ca. 1535, Met.) Erasmus wrote many epistels to her, and dedicated his commentaries on certaine hymnes of Prudentius to this gentlewomen, and calleth her the flower of all learned matrones of England. Nor was she meanlie learned. She compounded in Greeke and latyn both verse and prose, and that most eloquentlie. […]

notify me

Powell’s promises to tell me when these books come back in stock: Indexing Books by Ruth Canedy Cross Travels in Arabia Deserta, 2 volumes, by C. M. Doughty Garland of Philip, 2 Volumes, by A. S. F. Gow Book of Trances by Güneli Gün On the Road to Baghdad by Güneli Gün Alpha and Omega […]

dedication

Although the new A. S. Byatt collection Little Black Book of Stories is something of a disappointment because three of the five stories have been published before, the last paragraph in the book book almost makes up for it: Finally, this book is dedicated to my German translator and to my Italian translators, all good […]

pedant

One of the strangest footnotes I have ever written: On the knee as a seat of power, see Deonna (1939); on the knee as a gathering place for seminal fluids, see Onians (1951): p. 173–86. This lends credence to the theory that one channels the powers beyond when writing, because really, I don’t think I […]

de pumilis libellis

…by falsifying him into something monstrously charming and extraordinary they hope to be able to keep him alive forever. — Pär Lagerkvist (2002.47, p. 159) Owing to my best efforts to keep an open mind and my almost miraculous attempts to overcome my aversion for the word ‘snark’ and most people who use it, the […]

colonoscopy

As the abandonment of periodic arrangement really makes the colon useless, it would be well (though of course any one who still writes in formal periods should retain his rights over it) if ordinary writers would give it up altogether except in special uses, independent of its quantitative value, to which it is being more […]

splitted in the midst

Currently (and actively) reading (in no particular order): François Rabelais. Gargantua and Pantagruel. trans. J. M. Cohen. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1955. J. Innes Miller. The Spice Trade of the Roman Empire, 29 BC to AD 641. Oxford: Clarendon, 1969. Michel Foucault. The Archeology of Knowledge. trans. A. M. Sheridan Smith. London: Routledge, 1989 (1969). Goethe. Die […]

the world discovered

I seem to be collecting Theophrastian anthologies. By which I mean the text of John Earle’s Microcosmography (1628) is available here for the amusement and edification of all and sundry. Here’s an excerpt from ‘A Down-right Scholar’: The time has got a vein of making him ridiculous, and men laugh at him by tradition, and […]

the mind diseased

Modern Greece, in history and literature, has been viewed as a transitory moment squeezed between two larger and more important entities. Viewed chronologically, modern Greece rests between the glory of the classical Greek past and the hope of a resurrected Greek future, which in many Western minds ought to resemble the democracies of Western Europe […]

de arte poetica liber

To my great embarrassment, I mistook this overview of William Blades’s Enemies of Books (via) for a poem; e.g.: Bagford the biblioclast. Illustrations torn from MSS. Title-pages torn from books. Rubens, his engraved titles. Colophons torn out of books. Lincoln Cathedral Dr. Dibdin’s Nosegay. Theurdanck. Fragments of MSS. Some libraries almost useless. […] The care […]

noted

Started reading The Museum of Unconditional Surrender by Dubravka Ugrešić. The novel proper begins as follows: 1. ‘Ich bin müde,’ I say to Fred. His sorrowful, pale face stretches into a grin. Ich bin müde is the only German sentence I know at the moment (3). I note this only because ‘Ich bin müde’ was […]

Seinsverfassung

from the Cowley Image Archive All was sunshine and flowers until the library delivered the wrong book for an interlibrary loan. I don’t care what the critics say, Allen Mandelbaum is no Gavin Douglas.

Curses! Foiled again!

obstinate.

commerce

Relics of the book trade; but see also a more impressive collection. O. W. Holmes, The Poet at the Breakfast Table: Joyce Kilmer, Trees and Other Poems: ibidem H. W. Auden, Greek Prose Phrase-Book: A. Kiesling, ed. Seneca Rhetor: Newton & Treat, Outline for Review: Roman History: Lord Houghton, Life and Letters of John Keats: […]

east of Eden in the land of Nod

A sleepless night, drowsing over Samson Agonistes. Dalila dandled forth, almost more specious than Helen among the Trojan Women, and the blind man missing his apotheosis, but not heroization. And then there are certain beautiful infelicities; I hesitate to say Milton loses his tone, but perhaps he clings rather too fiercely: Chorus. But we had […]

lost illusions

& gout

notes on reading: social

19th century London & medieval Iceland

a pounding

http://www.eudaemonist.com/images/168.jpg

spoiler

The houses between which the action uncertainly scuttles have the ungenial impersonality of the re-used backdrop, and at the corner of the garden one feels the outlines of a gazebo, lattice white, meant to suggest gentility to less subtle minds. Finally, it is shocking – so to fall off as precisely to say that this […]

optimist

Since selling off most of the books earlier this year, I’ve been trying to avoid purchasing more, which has led to increased, or perhaps simply more self-conscious library usage. The following are the books I have most recently checked out of the public and local university libraries (including three interlibrary loans): Aksakov: Years of Childhood […]

dialogue in solitude

Once again, why Spinoza? When I was talking to Dime T. from Ohrid, Macedonia, one afternoon about parapsychology, he asked me: ‘Why do you think you are writing about Spinoza?’ Had it been a conversation with a philosopher, I would have said something like: ‘Because of his unique philosophy, because of his divergence from Descartes’ […]

all the baggage

So I was reading Paul Fussell’s book about travel, Abroad. Of course it’s not just about travel, though he does spend some thirty-odd (or more or less, I’ve returned it to the library and cannot refer to it now) pages lamenting the impossibility of true travel in this degraded age of tourism, it’s about literary […]

hold my coat and snicker

I remember being told by a teacher not to read Jane Eyre, because I would be reading it in her class in the fall. Of course I read it that summer. Propped in bed, or curled in a corner, but finally finishing peripatetic. That’s how I remember it, anyway. I walked the three miles from […]

Ho yuss! Vurry true.

Properly, we shd. read for power. Man reading shd. be man intensely alive. The book shd. be a ball of light in one’s hand (55). Reading Pound’s Guide to Kulcher, I was perplexed; partially because it is an odd book, aimed at those who don’t mind attending the university of the brain of Ezra Pound […]

Swann’s Way

A few notes on Swann’s Way: ‘Combray’ is high-modernist fancy, a lush novella of remembered childhood within the the clear framework of our narrator trying to fall asleep. Interesting in not being tied to a particular bout of insomnia – though still tightly bound with insomnia at Combray as a child. How is this going […]

of an age

I find nothing objectionable in the fact that the young scholar, as may be observed even in my retelling, was flirting a bit with erudition. Later on, scholars began to flirt with illiteracy and achieved in this regard a suspiciously natural effect. – Fazil Iskander, ’The Story of the Prayer Tree’ (Sandro of Chegem, p. […]

Within a Budding Grove

Racine isn’t telling a story about love among the sea-urchins (185). Again, this does not aspire to the level of essay, and will be simply some notes from reading this particular volume. Within a Budding Grove is a more thoroughly conventional novel than Swann’s Way, and presents the late childhood and early adolescence of our […]

The Guermantes Way

Everything we think of as great has come to us from neurotics. It is they and they alone who found religions and create great works of art. The world will never realise how much it owes them, and that they have suffered in order to bestow their gifts on it. We enjoy fine music, beautiful […]

Sodom and Gomorrah

Probably the most titillating volume, but certainly one of the most dull. One imagines the narrator as a carbuncular, crepuscular teenager, creeping at the edges of the shadows and undercurrents of desire, without actually entering into the depths he peers in. This is rendered more obnoxious when we are told that the fawning ladies at […]

edifying

Design for a chimneypiece (ca. 1762) A few months ago, I was reading Nikolaus Pevsner’s 1968 article on ‘The Architectural Setting of Jane Austen’s Novels’ and it got me to thinking. It must have, for here I am, still muddled by it months after the fact, which is not something that normally happens after my […]

the common reader

…or observations on using a digital reader. My brain hasn’t figured out the digital reader yet. It doesn’t know how to process the small swiping screen of text with the same efficiency as even the most crabbed, cramped printed page. Of course that efficiency is the product of decades of practice, which obviously haven’t been […]

the doubtful guest

Mrs. Boswell reacts to a visitation by Samuel Johnson.

hope against hope (1)

in which nothing much is said, especially about Hope Mirrlees.

hope against hope (2)

on Mirrlees and extravagant biographies; briefly.

hope against hope (3)

a counter reformation.

substantiation

I was almost exactly halfway through Céleste Albaret’s recollections of Monsieur Proust when I realized I had erred in the matter of genre. I had supposed it was merely a servant’s memoir of her eccentric employer. Given the pains she takes to clarify her stances on her employer (not crazy, not malingering, not a bit […]

sssllyyynnxxx

a few remark’s on Tatyana Tolstaya’s dystopian novel, The Slynx.

on biography (3)

Karl Popper & Michel Foucault looking suitably philosophical. After reading Didier Eribon’s biography of Foucault, I turned with some relief to Karl Popper’s memoir Unended Quest. The biography of Foucault was maddening because it did what good biographies should do, and didn’t speculate, especially where speculation was warranted. Popper, meanwhile, positively disinvites speculation. There’s nothing […]

terra incognita

Charles Reade, under the banner of imagination, departs from everyday life to parts unknown. Charles Reade shows up in Jean Strouse’s biography of Alice James: Her improving health allowed Alice to enjoy a greater range of intellectual life than before. She went to the theater […] and she was reading a great deal, particularly the […]

2666

‘Ejemplar Acontecimiento! Un Espiritu maligno en figura de mujer bonita’ (cf.) The style was strange. The writing was clear and sometimes even transparent, but the way the stories followed on after another didn’t lead anywhere: all that was left were the children, their parents, the animals, some neighbors, and in the end, all that was […]

the arrow of time

An enlightened voyage: ‘The Vessel of the Constitution steered clear of the Rock of Democracy, and the Whirlpool of Arbitrary Power’ From antiquity to fascism, Homer has been criticised for garrulousness – both in the hero and in the narrator. – Theodor Adorno (Dialectic of Englightenment: ‘Excursus 1: Odysseus or Myth and Enlightenment’, p. 53) […]

it would do beautifully

The inconstant reader. … I reminded him how often we had talked about my travels on the five continents and sixteen seas, and my inability to stay very long in one place. Although I was living peacefully in Pollensa, there was not guarantee it would be permanent. – Álvaro Mutis (Triptych on Sea and Land, […]

from that other place

Downstream they have killed the river—built a dam; by that power they write to here a light: a turbine strides high poles to spit this flame at this flume going down. A spot glows white where an old man looks at the ghosts of the game— flickering twilight deep dumb shapes that glide. So many […]

under the look of fatigue

Auden at home. Behind the corpse in the reservoir, behind the ghost on the links, Behind the lady who dances and the man who madly drinks, Under the look of fatigue, the attack of migraine and the sigh There is always another story, there is more than meets the eye. – Auden, from ‘At Last […]

Montaigne 1.1

beware of pity

the long road

Robert Adam, Ruins of the palace of the Emperor Diocletian at Spalatro in Dalmatia (1764) From time to time out of the text there emerged little black figures which postured on the white paper beside it, achieved a group which was magical, an incantation to death, and ran back again into the text, which carried […]

Montaigne 1.2

crusted over and hardened by reason

Montaigne 1.3

from Albrecht Dürer’s Portrait of Maximilian I We are never at home with, but always beyond, ourselves. Fear, desire, and hope impel us into the future, and rob us of the sense and consideration of that which is, in order to keep us musing over that which will be, even when we shall cease to […]

Montaigne 1.4

But, in good sooth, when the hand is raised to strike we feel hurt if it misses its aim and falls on empty air; so also, if the sight is to have a pleasant prospect, it must not be lost and scattered on vacant space, but have an object to sustain it at a reasonable […]

Montaigne 1.5

Aegidius Albertinus, Hirnschleiffer (1645), p. 94 As to ourselves, who, not being so overscrupulous, give the honour of the war to him who has the profit of it, and who say, with Lysander, that ‘when the lion’s skin is too short, we must eke it out with a bit from that of the fox’, the […]

Montaigne 1.6

The dangers of conferring with the ‘enemy’ – both if one goes on one’s own or with one’s cohorts: dangers on all sides. Circumstances create their own consequence, and lead naturally to a certain course of action; the refrain from that action becomes difficult (specifically to do with the difficulty in restraining a conquering army […]

Montaigne 1.7

It is perhaps the result of reading too many detective stories, but Montaigne’s notes on the importance of intentions was full of possibilities: They do still worse who reserve for their last will the declaration of some spiteful intention against a neighbour after having concealed it during life; thereby manifesting little regard for their own […]

Montaigne 1.8

When lately I withdrew to my own home, resolved, as far as in me lay, to think only of spending in rest and retirement the little time I still have to live, it seemed to me that I could do my mind no greater favour than to allow it, in idleness, to entertain itself, to […]

Montaigne 1.9

From Pierre L’Estoile’s Les belles Figures et Drolleries de la Ligue We are human beings, and hold together, only by speech (30). When thinking back over the essay ‘On Liars’ I find myself thinking of it in terms of memory, for the first third of it is taken up with Montaigne’s concern about his own […]

Lost Horizons

A bit of light reading from Terry and the Pirates. I’ve been spending much of March reading Will Eisner’s The Spirit (as reprinted by DC Comics), and trying to put it in some sort of context, which involves more reading (of Milton Caniff’s Terry and the Pirates and Chester Gould’s Dick Tracy). It hasn’t been […]

Montaigne 1.10

As we advise ladies to take up those games and bodily exercises which will show off their particular beauty to the best advantage, so I would give the same advice with regard to those advantages in eloquence (33) […] I know by experience that natural disposition which is impatience of earnest and laborious premeditation, and […]

hope against hope (4)

A bit of Caravaggio’s painting of ‘Saint Jerome Writing’ It’s taken me a while to get through Hope Mirrlees’ Collected Poems, perhaps because it confounded my expectations (which were admittedly a bit confused). Eager readers of Mirrlees’ work or those interested in her life should, of course, pick up a copy, as it is contains […]

Montaigne 1.11

It is at this point in reading the Essays that I notice the running heads do not contain the titles of the essay but rather an arbitrary key point for the page – for the shorter essays this usually results in the title appearing as the running head, but the longer compositions generally have a […]

Montaigne 1.12

I cannot deny that if the loud report of an arquebus suddenly strikes on my ear in a place where I have no reason to expect it, I am startled; which I have seen happen to others more valorous than I. – Montaigne (Essays, ‘On Steadfastness’) Is steadfastness then to apply only in those circumstances […]

Montaigne 1.13

An engraving by Matthäus Merian the Elder (1710) For my part, I often neglect both of these empty formalities, since I curtail all ceremony in my own house. If any take offence, what shall I do? Better to offend him once than myself every day; that would be a perpetual slavery. […] Not only every […]

Montaigne 1.14

I live from day to day, and am content with having sufficient for present and ordinary needs; for the extraordinary all the provision in the world will not suffice. And it is madness to expect that Fortune could ever sufficiently arm us against herself. With our own arms must we fight her. – Montaigne (Essays, […]

Montaigne 1.15

The bombardment of the Acropolis in 1687 via the Ottoman Imperial Archives (formerly on Flickr, but now not) So above all things a man should take heed, if he can, against falling into the hands of an enemy judge who is victorious and armed. – Montaigne (Essays,‘One does notwith impunity defend a placeobstinately and against […]

Montaigne 1.16

The Gunpowder plot conspirators, Crispin de Passe the Elder 1605 via Giornale Nuovo (ca. 2007) The recurring theme of willfulness, and the conflation of cowardice and ignorance as two pernicious forms of weakness one can, in part, lay at the feet of Nature, but only in part: It is reasonable indeed to see difference between […]

Montaigne 1.17

…when I read history, which is written by all sorts and conditions of men, I usually consider what kind of man the author is: if his profession is that of letters only, he teaches me principally style and language; if he is a physician, I am the more ready to believe what he says of […]

Montaigne 1.18

They who have had a good drubbing in a fight may be led back to the charge on the morrow, though still wounded and bleeding; but if they have been given a good fright by the enemy, you will not induce them even to look at them. – Montaigne (Essays, ‘Of Fear’) The consideration of […]

Montaigne 1.19

Solon the Athenian, from the Nuremberg Chronicle But in this last act, where death and ourselves each play there part, there must be no more pretending: we must speak plainly, and disclose what there is of good and clean at the bottom of the pot. – Montaigne (Essays, ‘That we should not judge of our […]

Montaigne 1.21

Steel engraving by J.B. Bourgois, 1808, after ‘The Hermaphrodite’ in the Louvre. We sweat, we tremble, we turn pale and blush through the shock of our imagination and lying back in our feather-bed we feel our body agitated by its power… –Montaigne (Essays ‘Of the Power of Imagination’) The power of imagination – excesses of […]

Montaigne 1.22

Hieronymus Brunschwig, Liber Pestilentialis de venenis epidemie The tradesman thrives only by the extravagance of youth, the husbandman by the dearness of grain, the architect by the ruin of houses, the officers of justice by lawsuits and men’s quarrels; even the honour and practice of ministers of religion depend on our death and our vices. […]

Montaigne 1.23

‘Philosophy and Christian Art’ (1868) by Daniel Huntington What can be more barbarous than to see a nation where, by lawful custom, the office of a judge is sold, and judgements are paid for in good ready money, and where justice is by law denied to him who has not the wherewithal to pay for […]

Montaigne 1.24

Now, I say that not only in medicine, but in several more certain arts, there is a good deal of luck. Why should we not attribute the poetic flights which ravish and transport their author out of himself to his good luck, since he himself confesses that they exceed his power and ability, and acknowledges […]

Montaigne 1.25

We labour but to cram our memory, and leave the understanding and the conscience empty. Even as the birds sometimes fly in search of grain, and bring it in their beaks without tasting it, to feed their young, so do our pedants go picking knowledge out of books, carrying it at the end of their […]

Montaigne 1.26

Vanity & Vexation And besides, I do not compete wholesale with those old champions, and body to body; I do so by repetitions, by frequent and light attacks. I do not stubbornly grapple with them, but only try their strength, and if I try to keep pace with them, I do so hesitatingly. If I […]

Montaigne 1.27

Vainglory and curiosity are the two scourges of our soul. The latter prompts us to thrust our noses into everything, and the former forbids us to leave anything unresolved and undecided (182). Doubt concerning the ‘miraculous’ spread of information – such one knowing the results of a battle three days away within the hour. Odd […]

Montaigne 1.28

I cannot allow those other common friendships to be placed in the same line with ours. I have as much knowledge of them as another, and of the most perfect of their kind, but I should not advise any one to measure them with the same rule; he would be much mistaken (190). anachronism –entry […]

Montaigne 1.29

Medice, cura teipsum. And what are these essays but grotesque and monstrous bodies, pieced together of different members, without any definite shape, without any order, coherence, or proportion, except they be accidental? – ‘Of Friendship’ (183) * * * These poems may be seen elsewhere. – Dedication of 29 sonnets (196)

Montaigne 1.30

vos conturbemini. For to him whom fasting would make more healthful and more sprightly, and to him to whose palate fish were more acceptable than flesh, the prescription of these would have no curative effect; no more than in the other sort of physic, where drugs have no effect upon him who swallows them with […]

Montaigne 1.31

America (1580), by by Theodor Galle after Jan van der Straet …but hold! they don’t wear trousers (215). Montaigne’s essay ‘Of Cannibals’ covers a great deal of ground and, if it does not reach the heights of ‘Of Moderation’, nonetheless typifies his style. In the course of the essay he considers bravery, relative morality, difference […]

Montaigne 1.32

‘Contre les astrologues’, Gilles Corrozet, Hecatomgraphie (1540) We can neither understand the arbitrary and personal meaning of the stars, nor why Heliogabalus died in a privy. Montaigne seems to suggest that we should be content with not knowing and, while he would believe in a greater meaning for these things – a meaning perceptible only […]

tautologous

At this point it is unlikely I will finish reading any more books this year, so I might as well make a list of the books I most enjoyed reading in 2015: Rebecca West, Black Lamb and Grey Falcon Dashiell Hammett, The Thin Man Rebecca Solnit, The Faraway Nearby Anne Garréta, Sphinx Mary Lascelles, Jane […]

indulge me

No one is telling me that I must like this book, and that is just as well because I do not. This book, Marguerite Duras’ Yann Andréa Steiner is not a bad book, but it is a self-indulgent one, and it approaches the reader with the watery over-familiarity of acknowledged eminence and suffering, for which […]

ennui ensues

Sunshine, from The Illustrated London News (1865) Peter Toohey’s Boredom: A Lively History is a competent bit of work, hitting the key surface points of the topic, from Aristotle to Heidegger, with an obligatory early twenty-first-century excursus on neuroscience. It is, as the acknowledgements give away, a commissioned book – an editor’s idea of something […]

bears with swords

Plate with loversIn the same sense that The Need for Roots is primarily concerned with finding reasons for the fall of France and the Vichy government, Mavrogordato’s introduction to Digenes Akrites – while still an entertaining and enlightening excursion through the manuscript tradition and historical context of the poem – is less about Byzantine poetry […]

tautologous (2)

These are by no means all of the books I read this year that I found enjoyable or good, but they are the ones that, when thinking back over the year, stood out to me as some of the better ones – or at least the ones that were the right books for me at […]

savoir-faire

The novel is made up of a series of the sort of letters it is generally not prudent to send. Break-up letters: familiar, contradictory, unpleasant. I need you. I detest you. Thank you. How could you?

those unheard

…she was like a book without any pictures. In other words, the kind of person who, unless you brought your whole soul to bear in reading them, would remain forever unknowable (116). A fall through the ice shapes the story. It is dramatic, inexplicable – and unexplained. The narrator is walking a dog, and then, […]

the will to be peeved

Drawing (with self portrait) from one of William James’s notebooks I don’t quite remember what led me to read William James. It could have been PF talking about him, or the mention in The Dead Ladies Project, or it could have been something I’ve forgotten about entirely. In any case, I settled in and read […]

Montaigne 3.11

Truth and lies are faced alike; their port, taste, and proceedings are the same, and we look upon them with the same eye. I find that we are not only remiss in defending ourselves from deceit, but that we seek and offer ourselves to be gulled; we love to entangle ourselves in vanity, as a […]

Montaigne 3.12

Four (of eight) heads of Socratesfrom Lavater’s Lectures on Physiognomy (p. 160) It is a great thing to have been able to put such order into ideas as pure as those of a child that, without altering or stretching them, he produced from them the finest results of our mind. The mind he shows us […]

marginal

Notes on reading Judith Butler as a tonic to Rousseau.

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