on travel writing
Sed diu non retemptavi memoriam meam, itaque non facile me sequitur. Quod evenit libris situ cohaerentibus, hoc evenisse mihi sentio; explicandus est animus et quaecumque apud illum deposita sunt, subinde excuti debent, ut parata sint, quotiens usus exegerit. Ergo hoc in praesentia differamus; multum enim operae, multum diligentiae poscit. Cum primum longiorem eodem loco speravero […]
The historian’s relative choice, with respect to each domain of history he gives up, is always confined to the choice between history which teaches us more and explains less, and history which explains more and teaches less. The only way he can avoid the dilemma is by getting outside history: either by the bottom, if […]
Τὰ μὲν σπεύδει γίνεσθαι, τὰ δὲ σπεύδει γεγονέναι, καὶ τοῦ γινομένου δὲ ἤδη τι ἀπέσβη: ῥύσεις καὶ ἀλλοιώσεις ἀνανεοῦσι τὸν κόσμον διηνεκῶς, ὥσπερ τὸν ἄπειρον αἰῶνα ἡ τοῦ χρόνου ἀδιάλειπτος φορὰ νέον ἀεὶ παρέχεται. ἐν δὴ τούτῳ τῷ ποταμῷ τί ἄν τις τούτων τῶν παραθεόντων ἐκτιμήσειεν, ἐφ’ οὗ στῆναι οὐκ ἔξεστιν; ὥσπερ εἴ τίς τι […]
the foyer inside
This a juxtaposition of two quotations about interior architectures, from Henry James and George Eliot.
to the swift
This is a quotation from a writing manual about the tangled skein of thought, buttressed by two images of winding yarn.
bridging the gap
This a juxtaposition of two quotations about the philosophical necessity for cognitive leaps, from Claude Lévi-Strauss and Henri Bergson.
Laura Riding considers the tedium of the phallus.
Tolstoy takes on the magic of secret languages.
Isaiah Berlin makes a decision.
fits and starts
This a juxtaposition of three quotations about clothes, from Boswell, Hamann, and Thomas Carlyle.
Rebecca West, apostate of romantic love.
other fish in the sea
Two quotations on games of chance and serious intentions in Jane Austen.
upbuilding and edification
Kierkegaard and Heidegger learn to swim.
Diogenes the cynic, radical pragmatist.
Rousseau casts aspersions on crochet.
Montaigne, on gathering moss.
This a juxtaposition of three quotations about writing, practicality, and danger from Margaret Cavendish, Hegel, and Simone Weil.
Rousseau on ubiquitous reading.
This a juxtaposition of two quotations about self presentation, from Erving Goffman and Simone Weil.
Catherine the Great on self-government.
rather a chaos
Margaret Cavendish on the confusions of reading.
Mina Loy lights a candle.
caresses and lullabies
Natalia Ginzburg on vocations.
Montaigne on household memories.
I had never seen it either enjoined or practised, until that passage of Seneca fell into my hands, where, counselling Lucilius, a powerful personage and of great authority with the Emperor, to give up his life of pleasure and ostentation, and retire from worldly ambitions to a life of solitude and philosophic repose, to which […]
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 […]
‘Philosophy’ (1707) by Sébastien Leclerc (1637-1714) via Giornale Nuovo The other day somebody, turning over my tablets, found a memorandum of something I wished to be done after my death. I told him, what was true, that being but a league’s distance from my house, and healthy and robust, I had hastened to write it […]
A selection of ‘useful hints’ from Rambles in Rome (9th edition, 1903, page xiv) by S. Russell Forbes: Avoid bad odours. Do not ride in an open carriage at night. Take lunch in the middle of the day. This is essential. It is better to take a light breakfast an lunch, than a heavy breakfast […]
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 that […]
She had been on the fringe of the class called educated, with a mind sufficiently at leisure to enjoy noticing things, and speculating over them, and reading books from the public library in order to learn more exactly about them. But this was a long time ago, and the scraps of knowledge she had then […]
a wholesome note of doubt
‘With so little new reading-matter to distract us we were able to carry all the details in our head until the next issue.’
Action Comics #1, 1938 Anna Halsey was about two hundred and forty pounds of middle-aged putty-faced woman in a black tailor-made suit. Her eyes were shiny black shoe buttons, her cheeks were as soft as suet and about the same color. She was sitting behind a black glass desk that looked like Napoleon’s tomb and […]
in the study
Curie of the laboratory of vocabulary she crushed the tonnage of consciousness congealed to phrases to extract a radium of the word —Mina Loy (Corpses and Geniuses, ‘Gertrude Stein’) What is the use of a violent kind of delightfulness if there is no pleasure in not getting tired of it. The question does not come […]
of fictitious and real entities in motion and at rest
wide of the mark
I suppose after all that no one whose mind was not, to put it mildly, abnormal, ever yet aimed very high out of pure malice aforethought. I once saw a fly alight on a cup of hot coffee on which the milk had formed a thin skin; he perceived his extreme danger, and I noted […]
Although he never lose his heart exclusively to one philosophical sect and was also an eclectic, Horace’s sharply critical mind, with a subtle sense of humor on the surface and a tempered pessimism deeper down, was far more inclined towards the doctrines of Aristippus, Epicurus and Lucretius than towards the Stoa which he often mentions […]
Notes on Wittgenstein’s Remarks on Colour: Wittgenstein muddles his thinking about color – visualizing rather than looking: the dullness of phenomenology. The removal of colors from context, which changes the ‘meaning’ – what is at once ‘reddish green’ might, in other settings, be called ‘brown’. ‘I took a green painted lead cupola to be translucent greenish […]
Neither this nor any of the mines we own in Yugoslavia is being worked for the first time. First the Greeks worked them, and then the Romans; then in the Middle Ages the Serbs brought in the Saxons to work them. Then under the Turks the work stopped, stopped dead, for five centuries, until we […]
The thought of what America would be like If the Classics had a wide circulation Troubles my sleep, The thought of what America, The thought of what America, The thought of what America would be like If the Classics had a wide circulation Troubles my sleep. Nunc dimittis, now lettest thou thy servant, Now […]
added too freely
In his ‘History of Ancient Art,’ of which the first edition appeared in 1764, Winckelmann gave to the study of the antique an impulse along a line which it has never wholly deserted; his theory of the ‘beautiful’ as manifested even in these Græco-Roman copies to which his imagination often added too freely the missing […]
in a style to endure
In the world of literature and art, Goldsmith and Johnson had gone; Cowper was not yet much known; the most prominent poets were Hayley and Darwin; the most distinguished prose-writer, Gibbon. […] Miss Burney, afterwards Madame D’Arblay, surprised the reading world with her entertaining, but somewhat vulgar novels; and Mrs. Inchbald, Mrs. Charlotte Smith, and […]
(8) Finger-prints of any value to the police are seldom found on anybody’s skin. (9) The pupils of many drug-addicts’ eyes are apparently normal. (10) It is impossible to see anything by the flash of an ordinary gun, though it is easy to imagine you have seen things. (11) Not nearly so much can be […]
pleasant & agreeable
It’s dreary out. He is a learned man, and has a power of college-books by heart: his greatest fault is, that he incessantly quotes passages from them in conversation, which is not agreeable to everybody. —Alain-Renée Lesage (Gil Blas, vol. 1, p. 149 (II.ix))1 Years ago my mother used to say to me, she’d say, […]
The reproductive instinct urges the poet to scatter his seeds beyond his boundaries. I repeat it: poorly transmitted, they fructify. Certain species (Pushkin) refuse transmission. But this does not prevent them from scattering at large and even when reduced to insignificance, from fructifying. Shakespeare remains the model of the explosive plant. His seeds have taken […]
Having got to know Liska the way a man gets to know a woman only if he lives with her for years, sleeping with her all that time – well, he’s got not to know her again. It’s like reading a wonderful poem, and learning it off by heart because you like it so much […]
portrait of a bookbinder
Roger Payne, 1739–17971 Image taken as-is from Bookbinding Then and Now. [↩]
From Darley’s Bookbinding Then and Now (1959; printed opposite p. 85).
Your novel has been read by several of us, and we are very sorry that we have had to conclude that we cannot make an offer of publication. It is quite readable and has vitality, but, in general, it is our impression that you have not yet sufficiently mastered the technique which is necessary to […]
William Hazlitt on cleverness.
adventures and misadventures
Like everything that had to do with him, the narration of his past depended on a complex alchemy of humors, climates, and correspondences, and only when it had been fully achieved would the floodgates of his memory open, launching him into long recollections that did not take into account either time or the disposition of […]
the dim view
By sacrificing thought, which in its reified form as mathematics, machinery, organization, avenges itself on a humanity forgetful of it, enlightenment forfeited its own realization. By subjecting everything particular to its discipline, it left the uncomprehended whole free to rebound as mastery over things against the life and consciousness of human beings. But a true […]
a definite achievement
Wittgenstein on organizing one’s library
Annoyed at having first to turn his pullovers the right side out every time he puts them on, he decides to turn them around as soon as he has taken them off. Surely, this is rational. But since this decision does not override the decision automatically to turn out his pullover when he puts it […]
Let all such fancies, illusive and destructive, be banished henceforward from your thoughts for ever. Resolve, and keep your resolution; choose, and pursue your choice. If you spend this day in study, you will find yourself still more able to study to-morrow; not that you are to expect that you shall at once obtain a […]
This is as far as we can get on the assumption that the scholar and the man of taste are connected by nothing more than a common interest in literature. If this assumption is true, the high percentage of sheer futility in all criticism should be honestly faced, for the percentage can only increase with […]
Adorno laments the writer’s living situation.
The opposite of showy excess was neatness. Neatness was an utterly positive quality with many nuances of meaning. Indeed, neat emerges as a Georgian keyword of unexpectedly wide social purchase, which could be applied to towns, houses, objects, personal appearance, and even events. […] Neat conveyed a simple elegance of form, finely made and proportioned, […]
In which Boswell observes some annotations.
goats and sheep
books and souls, sheep and goats.
a spring febricitation
on overstimulation and minor authors and spring-time
Sow seeds for flowers right now, I thought this spring, and sowed many more than usual
weak tea and memory
From Asterios Polyp, in a passage on memory.
fruits & spoils
The nourishing fruit of the historically understood contains time as a precious but tasteless seed.1 While content and language form a certain unity in the original, like a fruit and its skin, the language of the translation envelops its content like a royal robe with ample folds.2 —Walter Benjamin (Illuminations) ‘Theses on the Philosophy of […]
a glance from Solomon
The hoopoe. At this stage, full of fervour, leapt forward the Hoopoe […] she had on her bosom the crest symbolizing her spiritual knowledge and on her head shone the crown of faith. […] She had the gift of divining underground sources of water and had directed the genii to them by pecking the earth. […]
Water in the millrace, through a sluice of stone, plunges headlong into that black pond where, absurd and out-of-season, a single swan floats chaste as snow, taunting the clouded mind which hunger to haul the white reflection down. The austere sun descends above the fen, an orange cyclops-eye, scorning […]
From Imagined Communities: It is always a mistake to treat languages in the way that certain nationalist ideologues treat them – as emblems of nation-ness, like flags, costumes, folk-dances, and the rest. Much the most important thing about languages is their capacity for generating imagined communities, building in effect particular solidarities. (133) But also: If […]
A short story I like: They have a small bedroom. The bed is small, but they are not fat and they love each other. She sleeps with her knees neatly inside his knees and when they get up they do not get in each other’s way. She says, ‘Put on the shirt with the blue […]
the ugly byzantine
Byzantine diplomacy was very expensive. Dowries, gifts, subsidies to whole nations, all involved the treasury in enormous sums. Even economic blockades, sometimes effectively employed towards the Saracens, were costly for the Empire also. The Government was moreover perfectly willing to pay its enemies direct not to invade its territory. Lawless princes across the frontier thus […]
Upon a Sunday morning, then, my father was walking round the lake which he had caused to be created, regretting that he had not moved the old river bed further back, and thinking out possible fantasies in stone, torrents to fall through the hanging woods above, pavilions upon islands and decorative effects generally (a few […]
We always associate the word ‘book’ with printing, and think of it in terms of format and typographical convenience, but such mechanical criteria do not apply to notebooks, whose beginning and end are determined only by the unity of the poetic impulse which gives birth to a given series of poems. In other words, a […]
This people lives on the smell of wild apples that grow there; and if they go far from home, they take some of these apples with them, for as soon as they lose the smell of them they die. —Travels of Sir John Mandeville (p. 181)
at a loss
There is something outrageous in a person’s misdirecting a traveller who has lost his way and then leaving him to himself in error, yet what is that compared with causing someone to go astray in himself? The lost traveller, after all, has a consolation that the country around him is constantly changing, and with every […]
at the mercy of confusion
In Jerusalem, I had spent much of my time among the books of Gulbenkian library, following the loose threads of Armenian history. But the massacres, I put off until the end. What I’d been reluctant to start absorbed me at once; it was that that I had been afraid of. Everything else seemed meaningless when […]
In 1938 let us say, a bloke with small means wants the best of Europe. Once he cd. have done a great deal on foot. I dare say he still can. In 1911 there was an international currency (20 franc pieces) twenty such in jug-purse and no god-damned passports. (Hell rot Wilson AND the emperor, […]
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).1 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 […]
A book, June 2002. There is the fear of exposure (as if one would be exposed as, really, nothing), or the general theme of exposing (the debutante ritual, or the pretense of initiating someone into ‘something’ that isn’t really ‘there’). There is the anxiety of being out of place (an ‘American in Europe’) especially and […]
But memory’s sudden release of the genie held captive inside matter, like a spirit bottled by an evil witch, is much more often for me both generator and principle of a happy feverish fugue than the quietism of a Proustian illumination. Resparked, the precious images kept so long in darkness – all of them – […]
There was something about her good friend T. S. Eliot that seemed to amuse Marianne [Moore]. On Eliot’s first visit to Brooklyn after his marriage to Valerie, his young wife asked them to pose together for her for a snapshot. Valerie said, ‘Tom, put your arm around Marianne.’ I asked if he had. Marianne gave […]
gothic victorian sea monsters
The first time I heard Marianne [Moore] read poetry in public was at a joint reading with William Carlos Williams in Brooklyn. I am afraid I was a little late. There was a very small audience, mostly in the front rows, and I made my way as self-effacingly as I could down the steep red-carpeted […]
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’ […]
He had told me himself more than once that he never got up before twelve, and seldom earlier than one. Constitutionally the laziest young devil in America, he had hit on a walk in life which enabled him to go the limit in that direction. He was a poet. At least, he wrote poems when […]
We find under the weather a layer of sun, wrapped tidily around that parcel of time we call today. The year therefore rounded itself as a receptacle of retarded knowledge – a cup brimming over with the sense that now at least she was learning. —Henry James, What Maisie Knew, ch. IX
fiction of ideas
Between the limits of affection and antipathy for the author’s personality, the relationship of author and reader may take a score of different forms: admiration and respect without affection, as in the case, perhaps, of Thomas Hardy; exasperated affection as in the case of Kipling; devotion for Jane Austen; sheer worship or utter dislike for […]
I was working one day for a poetry competition and had written one line – ‘Beauty makes crime noble’ – when I was interrupted by a criticism flung at me from behind by T.S. Eliot. ‘What does that mean? How can crime be noble?’ He had, I noticed, grown a mustache. —Graham Greene A World […]
modern moral life
A new way of making and accumulating money, a dizzying new form of social mobility tied to this new economy, a new culture obsessively dedicated to work and financial success, consumerism, a cult of celebrity and fame, a mass culture based on journalism and advertising, a new conception of individuals as untrustworthy centers of self-interest, […]
… of undarkness
The adequacy of the cultural categories of, in this case, university England, to provide a frame of intelligible reasonings, creditable values, and familiar motivations for such oddities as poison oracles, ghost marriages, blood feuds, and cucumber sacrifices recommends those categories as of somehow more than parochial importance. Whatever personal reasons E-P may have had for […]
Daily experience shows that it is energetic individualism which produces the most powerful effects upon the life and action of others, and really constitutes the best practical education. Schools, academies, and colleges, give but the merest beginnings of culture in comparison with it. Far more influential is the life-education daily given in our homes, in […]
To Mervyn Noseigh, M.A. Dear Mr. Noseigh: When you put the question to me so baldly – ‘What led you to become a writer?’ – I am momentarily nonplussed. On what level do you expect me to answer? The objective? If so, I became a writer because it looked like easy money. But that won’t […]
These days I spend a lot of time crossing bridges. Partly because we moved across the river from practically everything we are interested in; partly because, well because my feet are getting itchy again. It’s amazing how deadlines work – one puts things off, doesn’t think about them, and then the time creeps up when […]
Good writers are so rare that if I were a critic, I would only try to point out what I think makes them reliable and enjoyable. For how can anyone explain the mystery of creation? Hemingway can take any amount of criticism – from himself; he is his own severest critic, but, like all his […]
It was a most comfortable house to visit. Gertrude Stein liked it, she could stay in her room or in the garden as much as she liked without hearing too much conversation. The food was excellent, scotch food, delicious and fresh, and it was very amusing meeting all of the Cambridge dignitaries. We were taken […]
An exaggerated personal morality is often mistaken for a social morality, and until it attempts to minister to a social situation its total inadequacy is not discovered. To attempt to attain a social morality with a basis of democratic experience results in a loss of the only possible corrective and guide, and ends in an […]
The hand press printer should make his own ink, as the painter should make his own paints. Ink is not a raw material. Oils and pigments are the raw material of ink; patience in grinding is the only virtue required in the craftsman. Of patience there is this to be said. To be patient is […]
At the long dinner table laid in the garden were the various traveling guests, the grown-up daughters, and the younger children with their governess. The countess presided over the usual European dinner served by men, but the count and the daughter, who had worked all day in the fields, ate only porridge and black bread […]
After about two hours of reading or discussion, we would go for a walk and then have tea at Lyons, or in the restaurant above the Regal cinema. Sometimes he came to my house in Searle street for supper. Once after supper, Wittgenstein, my wife and I went for a walk on Midsummer Common. We […]
return to stacks
books, libraries, and necromancy
some people get cranky about Hegel
lines written in Oregon
Thomas Malthus waxes sentimental
the way to wealth
the cow as an object of taste
A view (17)
cricket, criticism, & Clytaemnestra
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 […]
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 […]
A view (15)
point of view.
Books to be packed. She sat rather glumly looking at her own hands, her chin drawn in as though suffering from indigestion, or a surfeit of English. —Patrick White The Vivisector, p. 317. I am, as it were, at sea. The most difficult part of packing books is deciding which ones I am most likely […]
καὶ μικρὸν μὲν ἀνεκάθισεν, ἀνθρώπων τοσούτων ἐπερχομένων, καὶ διέβλεψεν εἰς τὸν ᾿Αλέξανδρον. ὡς δ’ ἐκεῖνος ἀσπασάμενος καὶ προσειπὼν αὐτὸν ἠρώτησεν, εἴ τινος τυγχάνει δεόμενος, ‘μικρὸν’ εἶπεν· ‘ἀπὸ τοῦ ἡλίου μετάστηθι’. —Plutarch Alexander 14.41 τὸ μὲν γὰρ ἀνθρώπους ὄντας παραλόγως περιπεσεῖν τινι τῶν δεινῶν οὐ τῶν παθόντων, τῆς τύχης δὲ καὶ τῶν πραξάντων ἐστὶν ἔγκλημα, τὸ […]
Postcard (from the editor of the text to his godmother) found in a copy of ‘Urne Buriall’ and ‘The Garden of Cyrus’ … according to the notion I have of reason, neither the written treatises of the learned nor the set discourses of the eloquent are able of themselves to teach the use of it. […]
The Sacred Font
and other puzzles
In a backward bin.
we like sheep
a versifying Pet-lamb.
quis autem non magis solos esse…
give pearls away and rubies
From my new copy of A. S. F. Gow’s A. E. Housman, a Sketch.1 It was Housman’s custom to spend three weeks or a month every summer in France, choosing each year a new district, exploring it by car, and studying the architecture, the local dishes and the local wines. Usually he flew to Paris, […]
Put down the apple Adam
Mortality is fatal Gentility is fine Rascality, heroic Insolvency, sublime […] A coward will remain, Sir Until the fight is done; But an immortal hero Will take his hat and run… —Emily Dickinson No. 21 This entry’s title is from the same poem; the stanza runs: Put down the apple Adam And come away with […]
they say it’s May
cf. She schools the flighty pupils of her eyes, With levell’d lashes stilling their disquiet; And puts in leash her pair’d lips lest surprise Bare the condition of a realm at riot. If he suspect that she has ought to sigh at His injury she’ll avenge with raging shame. She kept her love-thoughts on most […]
…once we have recognised that knowledge in itself is good for man, we shall need to invent no pretexts for studying this subject or that; we shall import no extraneous considerations of use or ornament to justify us in learning one thing rather than another. If a certain department of knowledge specially attracts a man, […]
‘As is’ he she we they you you you I her so pronouns begin the dance called washing whose name derives from an alchemical fact that after a small stillness there is a small stir after great stillness a great stir —Anne Carson
Agfa Silette. Agfa Ultra 100, 3.4/30 8 May 2004 locus ille animi nostri stomachus ubi habitabat olim concalluit. privata modo et domestica nos delectent, miram securitatem videbis; cuius plurimae mehercule partes sunt in tuo reditu. nemo enim in terris est mihi tam consentientibus sensibus.1 —Cicero, ad Atticum, iv.18.2.15ff. (emphasis mine) Incidentally, does it worry anyone […]
ex magna turba…
Nihil mihi nunc scito tam deesse quam hominem eum, quocum omnia, que me cura aliqua adficiunt una communicem, qui me amet, qui sapiat, quicum ego cum loquar nihil fingam, nihil dissimulem, nihil obtegam. abest enim frater ἀφελέστατος et amantissimus. †Metellus† non homo, sed ‘litus atque aër’ et ‘solitudo mera’. tu autem, qui saepissime curam et […]
A Man may make a Remark – In itself – a quiet thing That may furnish the Fuse unto a Spark In dormant nature – lain – Let us divide – with skill – Let us discourse – with care – Powder exists in Charcoal – Before it exists in Fire – —Emily Dickinson913 (1865) […]
Happily Miss Carridge was a woman of few words. When body odour and volubility meet, then there is no remedy (43). * * * Her mind was so collected that she saw clearly the impropriety of letting it appear so (79). —Samuel Beckett Murphy (1938)
…the judgement that someone is unliterary is like the judgement ‘This man is not in love’, whereas the judgement that my taste is bad is more like ‘This man is in love, but with a frightful woman’. And just as the mere fact that a man of sense and breeding loves a woman we dislike […]
Crambe repetita (7)
Alexander Pope, Martinus Scriblerus.
Idem classi praefectus circumvehens Peloponnesum, Laconicen populatus, classem eorum fugavit, Corcyram sub imperium Atheniensum redegit sociosque idem adiunxit Epirotas, Athamanas, Chaonas omnesque eas gentes, quae mare illud adiacent. quo facto Lacedaemonii de diutina contentione destiterunt et sua sponte Atheniensibus imperii maritimi principatum concesserunt, pacemque iis legibus constituerunt, ut Athenienses mari duces essent. quae victoria tantae […]
Among the Romanes a Poet was called Vates, which is as much as a diviner, foreseer, or Prophet, as by his conjoyned words Vaticinium, and Vaticinari, is manifest, so heavenly a title did that excellent people bestowe uppon this hart-ravishing knowledge, and so farre were they carried into the admiration thereof, that they thought in […]
8. Philaletheia, the disinterested love of scholarly truth, can lead one into some strange places. The connection of the two marginalia is the urge to recover the sense of an ancient text in full and accurately; to probe past the obscurity of poet and translator alike, to what Lycophron’s persona thought was to happen in […]
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.1 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 […]
χρύσειοι <δ’> ἐρέβινθοι ἐπ’ ἀϊόνων ἐφύοντο1 and golden chickpeas were growing on the banks —Sappho (Voigt fr. 143) trans. Anne Carson. I once sat through a lecture wherein the speaker claimed that the presence of an imperfect verb was sufficient to prove the presence of a narrative. Though that notion seems a bit silly to […]
when in Rome
διόπερ οἱ μὲν ἄνδρες τὰ τείχη προκατελάμβανον καὶ τοὺς πρὸ τῆς πόλεως εὐκαίρους τόπους, αἱ δὲ γυναῖκες περιπορευόμεναι τοὺς ναοὺς ἱκέτευον τοὺς θεούς, πλύνουσαι ταῖς κόμαις τὰ τῶν ἱερῶν ἐδάφη· τοῦτο γὰρ αὐταῖς ἔθος ἐστὶ ποιεῖν, ὅταν τις ὁλοσχερὴς τὴν πατρίδα καταλαμβάνῃ κίνδυνος. —Polybius (9.6.3–4) ploratus mulierum non ex priuatis solum domibus exaudiebatur, sed undique […]
Μὴ οὖν προδόται γένησθε ὑμῶν αὐτῶν, γενόμενοι δ’ ὅτι ἐγγύτατα τῇ γνώμῃ τοῦ πάσχειν καὶ ὡς πρὸ παντὸς ἂν ἐτιμήσασθε αὐτοὺς χειρώσασθαι, νῦν ἀνταπόδοτε μὴ μαλακισθέντες πρὸς τὸ παρὸν αὐτίκα μηδὲ τοῦ ἐπικρεμασθέντος ποτὲ δεινοῦ ἀμνημονοῦντες. κολάσατε δὲ ἀξίως τούτους τε καὶ τοῖς ἄλλοις ξυμμάχοις παράδειγμα σαφὲς καταστήσατε, ὃς ἂν ἀφιστῆται, θανάτῳ ζημιωσόμενον. τόδε γὰρ […]
On the whole we may conclude that Casaubon had strained his narrow means in this one direction of expense. Pinched everywhere else, he spent all he could save on books. Book-buying was to him not the indulgence of a taste or a passion, it was the acquisition of tools. While mere bibliomania is insatiable, the […]
grave & weatherworn
Scaliger was far from untouched by the religious troubles of his day, but the way they bedevilled the scholarship of the sixteenth century is more starkly illustrated in the case of his friend and younger contemporary Casaubon. Born in Geneva of refugee Protestant parents, obliged to learn his Greek hiding in a cave in the […]
Into my heart an air that kills From yon far country blows: What are those blue remembered hills, What spires, what farms are those? That is the land of lost content, I see it shining plain, The happy highways where I went And cannot come again. (from […]
Tangier has been mentioned in history for three thousand years. And it was a town, though a queer one, when Hercules, clad in his lion skin, landed here, four thousand years ago. In these streets he met Anitus, the king of the country, and brained him with his club, which was the fashion among gentlemen […]
Talk of religion, it is odds you have infidel, blasphemer, atheist, or schismatic, thundered in your ears; touch upon your politics, you will be in luck if you are only charged with a tendency to treason. —Richard Porson, from the Orgies of Bacchus (1797) qtd. 2003.145, p. 47.
the emphasis was helped
Menas: These three world-sharers, these competitors, Are in thy vessel: let me cut the cable; And, when we are put off, fall to their throats: All there is thine. Pompey: Ah, this thou shouldst have done, And not have spoke on’t! In me ’tis villany; In thee’t had been good service. Thou must know, ’Tis […]
Prisoners in Bangladesh pleading for their lives in a news photograph from the London Daily Express, 20.xii.1971.
It takes an odd sort of mind to give the title ‘A Gallery of Pigeons’ to a slender volume of light verse, especially if it includes a poem called ‘A Tragedy’ which contains the word ‘plop’ (more than once). So it was with some surprise I found a passage I almost liked in Marzials’ aforementioned […]
Loud plaid trousers are not so much an abomination as a gross error in judgment; one must be wary of persons who wear such things. Also — Emily Dickinson deconstructs: Finding is the first Act The second, loss, Third, Expedition for the ‘Golden Fleece’ Fourth, no Discovery – Fifth, no Crew – Finally, no Golden […]
All overgrown by cunning moss, All interspersed with weed, The little cage of ‘Currer Bell’ In quiet ‘Haworth’ laid. The Bird — observing others When frosts too sharp became Retire to other latitudes – Quietly did the same – But differed in returning – Since Yorkshire hills are green – Yet not in all the […]
European historians peek at colonialism: After the discovery of America the civilized nations of Europe vied with one another in sending out expeditions and forming settlements there; and the new settlers when located amidst barbarians recognized their common character and common interests as Europeans more strongly than they had done in their former home. So […]
Report from the Jungle
It was a war of each against all, and the devil take the hindmost. You did not give feasts to other people, you waited for them to give feasts to you. You went about with your soul full of suspicion and hatred; you understood that you were environed by hostile powers that were trying to […]
Shoot the messenger
I think not so, my lord
Lord Sainsbury of Turville: My Lords, I totally agree. These statistics on accidents are extremely fascinating; they prove that the British public can use practically anything in this world to hurt themselves with. It is understandable that there are an estimated 55 accidents a year from putty, while toothpaste accounts for 73. However, it is […]
Mine heart began to weep within my breast, silently, very bitterly: but the crowds which came in and the crowds which went out were ignorant of my grief. To the genuinely aggrieved, there is nothing more distracting (and consoling) than the knowledge that he is keeping his grievance to himself. —Don Tarquinio, chapter iii, p. […]
Hours of Idleness
I will not advance, by the rules of romance, To humour a whimsical fair; Though a smile may delight, yet a frown won’t affright, Or drive me to dreadful despair. While my blood is thus warm I ne’er shall reform, To mix in the Platonists’ school; Of this I am sure, was my passion so […]
No philosopher and hardly any novelist has ever managed to explain what that weird stuff, human consciousness, is really made of. Body, external objects, darty memories, warm fantasies, other minds, guilt, fear, hesitation, lies, glees, doles, breathtaking pains, a thousand things which words can only fumble at, coexist, many fused together in a single unit […]
You might consider trying to duplicate your institution’s colors in the flower and candles, unless they are something like pomegranate and puce. Columbia’s blue and white lend themselves very well to table decorations, especially in the spring when the little blue irises are available, and have been known to bring a tear to the eye […]
‘I am strong!’ he cried. It is true. Ford has no right to be strong, but he is. He never did his dumb-bells or played in his school fifteen. But the muscles came. He thinks they came while he was reading Pindar. —E. M. Forster, ‘Other Kingdom’ (2003.93, p. 68)
The truth is, unless a man can get the prestige and income of a Don and write donnish books, it’s hardly worth while for him to make a Greek and Latin machine of himself and be able to spin you out pages of the Greek dramatists at any verse you’ll give him as a cue. […]
He was good-natured, inoffensive, and weak; and if he was not an incomparable citizen, he was, at least, an excellent vegetable. (2003.85, p. 94)
one of the oldest jokes in the book
Καππαδόκην ποτ’ ἔχιδνα κακὴ δάκεν, ἀλλὰ καὶ αὐτὴ // κάτθανε γευσαμένη αἵματος ἰοβόλου. A nasty asp once bit a Cappadocian girl; one taste of her arrow-slinging blood, though, and the snake died. —Demodocus (III; 4 B. & D.) Epigrammata Graeca (ed. Page)
In a papyrologist’s dream world, every office would have a recent monograph devoted to it; so would every institution, every tax, every contract type, and so on. Many of these monographs, it must be admitted, are not very interesting to read, and most of them are undoubtedly cited far more often than they are read. […]
The trouble with Shakespeare
The spirit of contrariety indulged in the boy, leads the man into serious quarrels, into brawls, fights, and duels. I have known a most tragic duel to arise from a dispute about a passage of Shakespeare. The parties were friends when they began. One quoted the passage, the other asserted he had misquoted it. Instead […]
The Fiendish Belly
How good one feels when one is full — how satisfied with ourselves and with the world! People who have tried it tell me that a clear conscience makes you very happy and contented; but a full stomach does the business quite as well, and is cheaper and more easily obtained. One feels so forgiving […]
Gaston, however, was planted in his path on the way to the door. ‘And if she goes again and does the very same?’ ‘The very same— ?’ Waterlow thought. ‘I mean something else as barbarous and as hard to bear.’ ‘Well,’ said Waterlow, ‘you’ll at least have got rid of your family.’ —Henry James, ‘The […]
A lyrical, a scholarly, a fastidious mind might have used seclusion and solitude to perfect its powers. Tennyson asked no better than to live with books in the heart of the country. But the mind of Elizabeth Barrett was lively and secular and satirical. She was no scholar. Books were to her not an end […]
A dark and stormy night
It is a melancholy thing, which none but those educated at a college can understand, to see the debilitated frames of the aspirants for academical honours; to mark the prime—the verdure—the glory—the life—of life wasted irrevocably away in a labor ineptiarum, which brings no harvest either to others or themselves. For the poet, the philosopher, […]
Terrible learning, Mr. Newman
Correctly,—ah, but what is correctness in this case? This correctness of his is the very rock on which Mr. Newman has split. He is so correct that at last he finds peculiarity everywhere. The true knowledge of Homer becomes at last, in his eyes, a knowledge of Homer’s ‘peculiarities, pleasant and unpleasant.’ Learned men know […]
The Diseases and Casualties this Week
London 39 · From the 12 of September to the 19 · 1665 Abortive23 Aged57 Bedridden1 Bleeding1 Cancer1 Childbed39 Chrisomes20 Collick1 Consumption129 Convulsion71 Dropsie31 Drowned 3. one at Stepney, one at St. Katharine near the Tower, and one at St. Margaret Westminster(3) Feaver332 Flox and Small-pox8 Found dead in the street at St. Olave Southwark1 […]
Men who have an eye for trouble, men who know that tiny causes have given birth to very great disasters, are full of worry at every unusual event, and, when their troubles are at the zenith, they fear for the outcome and tremble at every harassing rumour. Even if their luck turns, they still cannot […]
Poor, obscure, plain & little
Spring, 8:39 a.m. May 16 : Thinking of modern education (such as Lake Erie) which is to instruct a person how to be unable to survive alone—exact opposite of original purpose. How to get along with the community; how to mask your differences and to whittle off your superior gifts to level down with the […]
Consumers of Culture
It is only through difference that progress has been made. What threatens us right now is probably what we may call overcommunication—that is, the tendency to know exactly in one point of the world what is going on in all other parts of the world. In order for a culture to be really itself and […]
of Vices and Virtues
Library, sunlight, nine a.m. Our breach of hospitality went to my conscience a little: but I quickly silenced that monitor by two or three specious reasons, which served to satisfy and reconcile me to myself. The pain which conscience gives the man who has already done wrong, is soon got over. Conscience is a coward, […]
In a word, my work is digressive, and it is progressive too,—and at the same time. This, Sir, is a very different story from that of the earth’s moving round her axis, in her diurnal rotation, with her progress in her elliptic orbit which brings about the year, and constitutes that variety and vicissitude of […]
raptores orbis, postquam cuncta vastantibus defuere terrae, mare scrutantur: si locuples hostis est, avari, si pauper, ambitiosi, quos non Oriens, non Occidens satiaverit: soli omnium opes atque inopiam pari adfectu concupiscunt. auferre trucidare rapere falsis nominibus imperium, atque ubi solitudinem faciunt, pacem appellant. Ravagers of the world, having by their universal plunder exhausted the land, […]
Now I pretend to read. I raise my book, till it almost covers my eyes. But I cannot read in the presence of horse-dealers and plumbers. I have no power to ingratiate myself. I do not admire that man; he does not admire me. Let me at least be honest. Let me denounce this piffling, […]
When I contemplate the common lot of mortality, I must acknowledge that I have drawn a high prize in the lottery of life. The far greater part of the globe is overspread with barbarism and slavery; in the civilized world the most numerous class is condemned to ignorance and poverty; and the double fortune of […]
And, unrelated: ‘They’re hopelessly vulgar,’ said Mrs. Costello. ‘Whether or no being hopelessly vulgar is being ‘bad’ is a question for the metaphysicians. They’re bad enough to blush for, at any rate; and for this short life that’s quite enough.’ — Henry James, Daisy Miller
Writ in water
Goethe, ‘Am Flusse’ – Ihr wart ins Wasser eingeschrieben; So fließt denn auch mit ihm davon. You were engraved upon the water; and flow, too, with the water away. Keats’s epitaph, in the Protestant cemetery, at Rome:1 Here lies one whose name was writ in water. Keats died 23 February 1821. Goethe’s son, Julius, who […]
From an English rhyming dictionary, with Latin translations, compiled by Peter Levins in 1570 (EETS #27, 1867): In arke An Arke, archa, æ. ye Barke of a trée, cortex, icis, hic. Carke, care, cura, cogitatio. A Clarke, clericus, i. A Larke, alauda, æ, galarita, æ. A Marke, signum, scopus, i. A Parke, damarium, vivarium. A […]
Epicurus, ratae sententiae xxvii
Ὧν ἡ σοφία παρασκευάζεται εἰς τὴν τοῦ ὅλου βίου μακαριότητα πολὺ μέγιστόν ἐστιν ἡ τῆς φιλίας κτῆσις. Of the things wisdom furnishes for bliss1 throughout life, by far the greatest is the possession of friendship. The ancient Greek adjective makarios, which appears as a superlative in this text, is difficult to translate into English. It […]
Balance of Power
From The Roman Revolution (1939): The official version of the cause of the War of Actium is quite simple, consistent and suspect—a just war, fought in defence of freedom and peace against a foreign enemy: a degenerate Roman was striving to subvert the liberties of the Roman People, to subjugate Italy and the West under […]
Sed Vitae Caesaris
Coin depicting the Emperor Augustus1 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 […]
His innate conservatism, extreme caution, and habitual temporizing were possible obstacles to the achievement of true political virtuosity, and in a state and age dedicated to war his failure to display military talent or to become a soldier of distinction may have been no less a hindrance. Of the seven premier statesmen of the century […]
Reading the Alexiad (or life of the Byzantine emperor, Alexius Comnenus), which was written by his daughter, Anna Comnena, when she was an old woman. She describes everything homerically, from the Odysseus-like Alexius, to his Nausicaa-bride, Irene; and Robert of Lombardy, his foe during the first few books, is obviously nothing more (or less) than […]
Concerning the Impiety of Andocides
Νῦν οὖν ὑμῖν ἐν ἀνάγκῃ ἐστὶ βουλεύσασθαι περὶ αὐτοῦ· εὖ γὰρ ἐπίστασθε, ὦ ἄνδρες ᾿Αθηναῖοι, ὅτι οὐχ οἷόν τε ὑμῖν ἐστιν ἅμα τοῖς τε νόμοις τοῖς πατρίοις καὶ ᾿Ανδοκίδῃ χρῆσθαι, ἀλλὰ δυοῖν θάτερον, ἢ τοὺς νόμους ἐξαλειπτέον ἐστιν ἢ ἀπαλλακτέον τοῦ ἀνδρός. Now, indeed, it is necessary for you to make some decision about him, […]
Treasons, Strategems, &c.
‘Most of the people I like,’ she said, ‘listen to the same sort of music I do—it’s how we find out what we have in common.’ Most of the people I like do not listen to the same sort of music as I do—mainly, I think, because the sort of music I really like is […]
I am trying to find a way to explain this place, and failing completely. It’s not because the place is inconstant, or over-large, or complicated, or anything like that, but just that it is, in fact, so very simple that there is no way to explain it without making it seem more complicated than it […]
Twists & Turns
I am a part of all that I have met; Yet all experience is an arch wherethrough Gleams that untraveled world whose margin fades Forever and forever when I move. How dull it is to pause, to make an end, To rust unburnished, not to shine in use! As though to breathe were life! Life […]
Within this field, which no single scholar can create but which each scholar receives and in which he then finds a place for himself, the individual researcher makes his contribution. Such contributions, even for the exceptional genius, are strategies of redisposing material within the field. Even the scholar who unearths a once-lost manuscript produces the […]
If we can abstract pathogenicity and hygiene from our notion of dirt, we are left with the old definition of dirt as matter out of place. This is a very suggestive approach. It implies two conditions: a set of ordered relations and contravention of that order. Dirt then, is never a unique, isolated event. Where […]
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 […]
Codes of Misconduct
‘Entrance into the sanctuary is allowed: forty days after the miscarriage of a woman, a dog, or a donkey; forty-one days after sexual intercourse with a virgin; forty-one days after a death in the family; seven days after washing a corpse; three days after entering [the house where a death has occurred?]; three days after […]
Pacem supplices petunt
Explorers of the past are never quite free. The past is their tyrant. It forbids them to know anything which it has not itself, consciously or otherwise, yielded to them. —Marc Bloch (Apologie pour l’Histoire, ou Métier d’Historien, (194–) From the translation of P. Putnam, p. 59. * Livy II.49.12, of the Veientes in the […]
I know it is in bad taste to quote from one’s own letters, but this really is too absurd: Am reading some of the letters exchanged by Mommsen1 and Wilamowitz,2 the latter always offering to be of service in scrounging up inscriptions. I do wish I could totter about Italy complaining about the lack of […]
[Bloom] claims to be of the school of aesthetic critics, remarking that, in an ideological age, ‘I feel quite alone these days in defending the autonomy of the aesthetic.’ Yet he himself doesn’t seem to have a clue about how to produce anything approaching the aesthetically pleasing in his own writing. In an interview in […]
The relevant point
How Rome came to acquire a monopoly of Aeneas, how his mythical connection with neighbouring Latin cities, especially Lavinium and Alba, grew up over the succeeding centuries, and how the chronological complication resulting from an attempt to harmonize the rival legends of Aeneas (traditionally c. 1175 BC) and Romulus (traditionally c. 750 BC) were resolved […]
28.06.02 – Friday
‘I can always tell when you’re reading somewhere in the house,’ my mother used to say. ‘There’s a special silence, a reading silence.’ I never heard it, this extra degree of hush that somehow travelled through walls and ceilings to announce that my seven-year-old self had become about as absent as a present person could […]
7.06.02 – Friday
In a case like this, it would have been a godsend, I thought, had either of the three gentlemen, Captains Burton, Speke, or Grant, given some information on these points; had they devoted a chapter upon, ‘How to get ready an Expedition for Central Africa.’ The purpose of this chapter, then, is to relate how […]
31.05.02 – Friday
When you want to make money by Pegasus (as he must, perhaps, who has no other saleable property), farewell poetry and aerial flights: Pegasus only rises now like Mr. Green’s balloon, at periods advertised beforehand, and when the spectators’ money has been paid. Pegasus trots in harness, over the stony pavement, and pulls a cart […]
30.05.02 – Thursday
At Oxford his personality expanded and developed in a remarkable way. Never in the strict sense of the word a clever man—even by the academic standard (he took only a third in Mods. and a second in Greats, and worked hard for them, too)—he became an extraordinarily well-educated one. His passion for literature was intense. […]
28.05.02 – Tuesday
Warrington and Paley had been competitors for University honours in former days, and had run each other hard; and everybody said now that the former was wasting his time and energies, whilst all people praised Paley for his industry. There may be doubts, however, as to which was using his time best. The one could […]
24.05.02 – Friday
Quickly, quickly to college. Mortification. The dean read out more than five hundred names within the close confines of the lecture hall – we sat and chattered and waited. CLASS PICTURE – a dully composed image of a people who can scarce bear the sight of each other sitting very close together and squinting into […]
21.05.02 – Tuesday
Laundry. The sun shining brightly, but with high clouds. She stood straight and calm, Her somewhat narrow forehead braided tight As if for taming accidental thoughts From possible pulses… —E. B. Browning Aurora Leigh
19.05.02 – Sunday
Sunshine and late rising, then baroque. Her early impressions were incurable. She prized the frank, the open-hearted, the eager character beyond all others. Warmth and enthusiasm did captivate her still. She felt that she could so much more depend upon the sincerity of those who sometimes looked or said a careless or a hasty thing, […]
14.05.02 – Tuesday
Another means of preserving health, to be attended to, is the having a constant supply of fresh air in your bed-chamber. It has been a great mistake, the sleeping in rooms exactly closed, and in beds surrounded by curtains. No outward air that may come in to you is so unwholesome as the unchanged air, […]
13.05.02 – Monday
Suppers are not bad, if we have not dined; but restless nights naturally follow hearty suppers after full dinners. Indeed, as there is a difference in constitutions, some rest well after these meals; it costs them only a frightful dream and an apoplexy. Nothing is more common in the newspapers, than instances of people who, […]
9.05.02 – Thursday
No, never use a girl as the point of projection, dear! Girls are still traditionally supposed to be idiots. (2001.87, p. 227) And who was it that said ‘A man’s reach should exceed his grasp’ and where (and why) on earth did I hear of it?1 ‘…or what’s a heaven for?’ – Robert Browning, of […]
8.05.02 – Wednesday
A man’s power to connect his thought with its proper symbol, and so to utter it, depends on the simplicity of his character, that is, upon his love of truth, and his desire to communicate it without loss. The corruption of man is followed by the corruption of language. When simplicity of character and the […]
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 […]
4.05.02 – Saturday
‘What’s all this about sin, eh?’ ‘That,’ I said, very sick. ‘Using Ludwig van like that. He did no harm to anyone. Beethoven just wrote music.’ And then I was really sick and they had to bring a bowl that was in the shape of like a kidney. ‘Music,’ said Dr Brodsky, like musing. ‘So […]
28.04.02 – Sunday
History is not a discipline but something that is not yours – which is the main definition of beauty. Hence, the sentiment, for it is not going to love you back. —Joseph Brodsky (‘Homage to Marcus Aurelius’) How tiresome it must be, to reduce the essential story of the world to nothing by a case […]
23.04.02 – Tuesday
This gives me the shivers, because I don’t think it’s actually about painting: In these places, though the stroke may be incomplete, yet the intention is carried out. Only when you realize that there are two styles of painting, the free and the detailed, may you join in discussions about painting. —Chang Yen-Yüan This, on […]
16.04.02 – Tuesday
A funny color has settled on the trees, a noxious youthful green promising both the plenitude of fall and the mishaps of summer. Idle much of the morning. And the rest of the day, too. O mind of man that does not know the end or future fates, nor how to keep the measure when […]
8.04.02 – Monday
There are moments when in connection with the sensitively imaginative or morbidly anachronistic—the mentality assailed and the same time not of any great strength and the problem confronting it of sufficient force and complexity—the reason not actually toppling from its throne, still totters or is warped or shaken—the mind befuddled to the extent that for […]
17.03.02 – Sunday
On being made, per Alfred Russel Wallace.
06.03.02 – Wednesday
For once Vergil moved.
03.03.02 – Sunday
This a juxtaposition of three quotations about pride and anger and suffering.
22.01.02 – Tuesday
The tension between possibility and ability.
5.12.01 – Wednesday
Bulgakov on one’s eternal reward: sleep.
Huizinga on games and pity.
Ishiguro considers memory.