Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Where the Elite Meet to Aesthete (part the last)

The next article (by Walter Scott…(that's him downstage right in the picture...talking to Byron)...though nothing is ever signed in the Quarterly, which means they have to give no Quarter…I bet somebody made that joke already, and it got just as big a laugh then…)is a review of a book called
"Reliques of Robert Burns"

So, I suppose, it's proved again
that every book radiates outwards
and reaches every other book
every theme

It also brings us close to these writers
and their audience
when we hear them chat

Chat...in the present tense
opine, argue, criticize

(The book of Burns holds nothing new, says Scott)

The Quarterly Review is dependent on what happens to be new

But it is new in itself that so much is being published
that a rival to the Edinburgh Review can be sustained
a thousand pages of book reviews a year
for two hundred years

The editors also offer
for our gentlemanly consideration:

A new book of anecdotes from the lives of English painters;
a slagging off of a new Gothic Novel from Miss Owenson;
a Grammar of Sanskrit
(Indian Sanskrit...
intellectual loot from an Empire
which does not yet call itself an Empire
This latter article recommends that a full translation of the Vedas
should be made,
so we may cease from puerile comparisons with the glories
of the Hebrew scriptures,
and reveal Hindu culture as
"an unmeaning chaos of grave but fantastic nonsense...
[They] should be given to Europe in the languages
familiar to everyone...
that we may not be blinded by the erroneous admiration
of credulous and misjudging enthusiasts");
A worthy new translation of Virgil's Georgics,
(which comments on the decline of classical education these days
"an indifference to classical education seems
to be gaining ground in this country");
memoirs of Sir Phillip Sidney;
a defence of the historical truth of the Biblical Account
of Exodus against some remarks of Edward Gibbon and the Edinburgh Reviewers;
an attack on John Curran, the Irish Nationalist politician
and lawyer who defended the United Irishmen in treason trials
"no beauty of diction or manner
could have made the ideas contained
[in his speeches] tolerable in the mouth
of a leading member of
the English House of Commons...
he owed much to his clients
but still more to the laws of the country
by which he lived...we expected
therefore, to have found SOME disavowal
of the principles under which
those misguided men were associated,
SOME expression of attachment
to those laws which afford a fair trial
even top the blackest of traitors"
We demand that you condemn yourself!
Is everything in here familiar?
What does it mean that everything is familiar?;
"theorie de l'action capillaire"
by the great Frendch mathematician
Ferdinand Laplace,
book ten of his "Celestial Mechanics"
...which has got far too much algebra in it
"we are persuaded, on the contrary,
that those who enter with ardour
on a life of science, copuld not
p[ursue a more eligible path...
from the academical study
of the great BRITISH mathematicians";
an essay on Greek, Roman and British
coins and medals, fun for the collector;
a book of Gossip haughtily dismissed;
Robert Southey's translation of
Il Cid;
a book of minerology, more hobbies;
a life of Swift;
a tourist guide to Scotland
(trashed...again by Scott);
Periodical Accounts of the Baptist Missionary Society
By Robert Southey…apparently he was supposed to do the stuff on Spain, but landed poor Murray with THIS instead
(every issue must have something that NO ONE
is going to read);
and last, back to Spain and the war,
"Narrative of the siege of Zaragoza"

Okay, that's a fairly substantial list
but a gentleman would not be expected
to read the whole thing.

Current events top and tail it,
(everybody wants to know about the war)
and special interests fill the rest.

The tone is decidedly Tory,
sceptical, patriotic,
pragmatic, dismissive of cleverness
and foriegners in general

It's entirely recognizable,
in fact.

(What does it mean that the past is recognizable?)

And like our journals of opinion now
will seem quaint and funny soon,
my favourite bits are quaint and funny.

It contains no masterpieces of the critical art
but you're not reading it for that
oh mighty customer,
oh magpie playwright.
You're reading it, actually,
because second rate minds
will give far more accurate impressions
of their times
than a genius ever could.

The editors want you to feel included
in a conversation
and you do.

And feeling a bit superior
is part of the fun of that.

But seriously,
you could read the history of England
in almost real time
by reading the Quarterly Review...

Not what happened
that's not history...

But what people thought, talked about, shared
with people just like them
That’s history
As well as facebook

They're not writing it for me
They're not writing for the ages
They're writing for right now
But back then

And that can tell you more and differently
than any prose ambitious for eternity
that the past is a foriegn country
where human possibilities
are exactly the same.

No comments:

Post a Comment