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. Manners maketh man and all that. Are you elect? But always just a tinge of insecurity, the taint of, well, ‘brutishness’ — alas.
Also reading Alfred Russel Wallace’s A Narrative of Travels on the Amazon and Rio Negro, e.g. (p.3):
My previous wanderings had been confined to England and a short trip on the Continent, so that everything here had the charm of perfect novelty. Nevertheless, on the whole I was disappointed. The weather was not so hot, the people were not so peculiar, the vegetation was not so striking, as the glowing picture I had conjured up in my imagination, and had been brooding over during the tedium of the sea-voyage.
His style reminds my of Gissing, while his descriptions of people are unutterably European, with that unconscious, worrisome sense of his own ability as an observer of ‘other’ things. (This is palpable, in slightly altered form, in Brown’s biography of Augustine, which makes rather too many points about ‘Africanness’ — in my own ignorance of the particulars, I cannot tell if he is following his prejudice or is making a valid historical point.)