Crambe repetita (12)
My Aunt Philip’s aunt, Mrs. Pring, complained bitterly to my aunt of the parson of her village (of which she was squire) who had come to see her during a serious illness, ‘and you know, my dear,’ she said, ‘he read the bible to me, just as if I had been any old woman in the village’.
Her gardener, Curtis, had consulted her as to how and where some cabbages were to be planted. Later on the gardener came again with a suggestion which was obviously an improvement. ‘Curtis’, said she, ‘if I tell you to plant the cabbages with their leaves in the ground and their roots in the air you will be pleased to do so.’ And yet, as she said to my aunt, she knew Curtis’s way was much better, but she was not going to have settled questions re-opened, and she was going to be mistress of her own house.
Samuel Butler. Notebooks,
Geoffrey Keynes & Brian Hill, ed.,
E.P. Dutton & Company, 1951, p. 14
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).1
I note this only because ‘Ich bin müde’ was also the first German sentence I was ever able to recall on the spur of the moment, without a pause for parsing. This amuses me now – as it amused me then – because it is curious to approach a new language with expressions of fatigue.
- translated by Celia Hawkesworth. [↩]
a quiet evening
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.1
- Brief critical introduction to and biography of Douglas. He also has the dubious honor of being somewhere commended by Ezra Pound. [↩]
Housman in his old age was a remote figure, one of the great men of Cambridge, and the subject of occasional speculation. Stories circulated about him and continue to circulate. Here is one, with a better pedigree than most as it comes from an ex-pupil of Housman’s friend, Andrew Gow:The philosopher Wittgenstein, who had rooms above Housman, had no private lavatory; Housman had. Wittgenstein had to go downstairs and cross Whewell’s Court to find one. Once, when Wittgenstein had an attack of diarrhoea, he asked through his bedmaker if he might make use of Housman’s lavatory. But the answer came back that Housman was a philosophical hedonist, and therefore refused Wittgenstein’s request.
– Richard Perceval Graves
A. E. Housman: The Scholar-Poet, p. 249.