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ARCHIVED ENTRIES FOR MARCH 2012

March 31,  2012

Patrick: Lagniappe

Fred fancied that he saw to the bottom of his uncle Featherstone's soul, though in reality half what he was there was no more than the reflex of his own inclinations.  The difficult task of knowing another soul is not for young gentlemen whose consciousness is chiefly made up of their own wishes.

--Middlemarch by George Eliot

March 30,  2012

Patrick: Lagniappe

"But now, tell us exactly what sort of man he is."

"Oh, tallish, dark, clever--talks well--rather a prig, I think."

"I can never make out what you mean by a prig," said Rosamond.

"A fellow who wants to show that he has opinions."

"Why, my dear, doctors must have opinions," said Mrs. Vincy.  "What are they there for else?"

"Yes, mother, the opinions they are paid for.  but a prig is a fellow who is always making you a present of his opinions."

--Middlemarch by George Eliot

March 29,  2012

Patrick: Lagniappe

"I should be glad of any treatment that would cure me without reducing me to a skeleton, like poor Grainger," said Mr. Vincy, the mayor, a florid man, who would have served for a study of flesh in striking contrast with the Franciscan tints of Mr. Bulstrode.  "It's an uncommonly dangerous thing to be left without any padding against the shafts of disease, as somebody said--and I think it a very good expression myself."

--Middlemarch by George Eliot

March 28,  2012

Patrick: Lagniappe

The feminine part of the company included none whom Lady Chettam or Mrs. Cadwallader could object to, for Mrs. Renfrew, the colonel's widow, was not only unexceptionable in point of breeding, but also interesting on the ground of her complaint, which puzzled the doctors, and seemed clearly a case wherein the fulness of professional knowledge might need the supplement of quackery.

--Middlemarch by George Eliot

March 27,  2012

Patrick: Lagniappe

We know what a masquerade all development is, and what effective shapes may be disguised in helpless embryos.  In fact, the world is full of hopeful analogies and handsome dubious eggs called possibilities.  Will saw clearly enough the pitiable instances of long incubation producing no chick, and but for gratitude would have laughed at Casaubon, whose plodding application, rows of note-books, and small taper of learned theory exploring the tossed ruins of the world, seemed to enforce a moral entirely encouraging to Will's generous reliance on the intentions of the universe with regard to himself.  He held that reliance to be a mark of genius; and certainly it is no mark to the contrary; genius consisting neither in self-conceit nor in humility, but in a power to make or do, not anything in general, but something in particular.

--Middlemarch by George Eliot

March 26,  2012

Patrick: Lagniappe

[P]ride only helps us to be generous; it never makes us so, any more than vanity makes us witty.

--Middlemarch by George Eliot

March 25,  2012

Patrick: Lagniappe

We mortals, men and women, devour many a disappointment between breakfast and dinner-time; keep back the tears and look a little pale about the lips, and in answer to inquiries say, "Oh, nothing!"  Pride helps us; and pride is not a bad thing when it only urges us to hide our own hurts--not to hurt others.

--Middlemarch by George Eliot

March 24,  2012

Patrick: Lagniappe

But her feeling toward the vulgar rich was a sort of religious hatred; they had probably made all their money out of high retail prices, and Mrs. Cadwallader detested high prices for everything that was not paid in kind at the rectory : such people were no part of God's design in making the world; and their accent was an affliction to the ears.

--Middlemarch by George Eliot

March 23,  2012

Patrick: Lagniappe

"She says he is a great soul.--A great bladder for dried peas to rattle in!" said Mrs. Cadwallader.

"What business has an old bachelor like that to marry?" said Sir James.  "He has one foot in the grave."

"He means to draw it out again, I suppose."

--Middlemarch by George Eliot

[N.B.: Who says Miss Eliot does not have a wicked sense of humor?  Indeed, all of the great Victorian authors--Dickens, Thackeray, Trollope, James--are remarkably filthy in their humorous allusions.  We're just so coarse that we are unable to notice it under their thick Victorian opaque veneer.  And we're the lesser for it.]

March 22,  2012

Patrick: Lagniappe

Miss Brooke argued from words and dispositions not less unhesitatingly than other young ladies of her age.  Signs are small measurable things, but interpretations are illimitable, and in girls of sweet, ardent nature, every sign is apt to conjure up wonder, hope, belief, vast as a sky, and colored by a diffused thimbleful of matter in the shape of knowledge.  They are not always too grossly deceived; for Sinbad himself may have fallen by good luck on a true description, and wrong reasoning sometimes lands poor mortals in right conclusions: starting a long way off the true point, and proceeding by loops and zigzags, we now and then arrive just where we ought to be.  Because Miss Brooke was hasty in her trust, it is not therefore clear that Mr. Causabon was unworthy of it.

--Middlemarch by George Eliot

[N.B.:  Note the comma splice in the penultimate sentence followed by starting the last sentence with "because."  Is Miss Eliot grammatically challenged or are we the equivalent of the Grammatical Mrs. Grundy?]

March 21,  2012

Patrick: Lagniappe

The fact is, human reason may carry you a little too far--over the hedge, in fact.  It carried me a good way at one time, but I saw it would not do.  I pulled up; I pulled up in time.  But not too hard.  I have always been in favor of a little theory: we must have Thought, else we shall be landed back in the dark ages.

--Middlemarch by George Eliot

[N.B.:  Have a little Thought for thy dark ages' sake.]

March 20,  2012

Patrick: Lagniappe

Flattered by the attention she had excited, the philosophic Berenza viewed her involuntarily with a feeling of encreased approbation; for true it is man is too apt to be guided in his estimate of things by the degree of estimation they may obtain from others, and to be influenced in his opinion by the standard (often depraved) of the public taste.

 --Zofloya, or the Moor by Charlotte Dacre

March 19,  2012

Patrick: Lagniappe

If improper tendencies are engendered by early neglect, education may still work a reform; for we are in a great measure the creatures of education, rather than of organisation: the former can almost always surmount the defects of the latter.  Thus, though Victoria in childhood gave proofs of what is termed, somewhat injudiciously, a corrupt nature, yet a firm and decided course of education would so far have changed her bent, that those propensities, which be neglect became vices, might have been ameliorated into virtues.  For example, haughtiness might have been softened into noble pride, cruelty into courage, implacability into firmness; but by being suffered to grow entirely wild, they overrun the fair garden of the mind, and prevented proper principles from taking root.

 --Zofloya, or the Moor by Charlotte Dacre

March 14,  2012

Patrick: Lagniappe

It's a general rule that however badly a first night goes in the first act, the second is always a bit better - the actors have got used to the house, the house has got used to not liking the play, everyone is halfway towards going home, or somewhere else where the evening will pick up - a bad evening at the theatre guarantees a good evening in the restaurant, so much to laugh at and be apoplectic about - 'I couldn't believe it, couldn't actually believe it when he began -' 'And that ghastly bit when she -' 'And that line, did you hear that line? and so forth.  I've had many happy dinners of that sort, pausing only sometimes to wonder about all the dinners I haven't been at, when my own play has provided the merriment and apoplexy.

--The Year of the Jouncer by Simon Gray

March 13,  2012

Patrick: Lagniappe

Anyway, now I'm alone again, the bar is empty again - I'd just written that - the bar is empty again - when lo! an elderly man, by which I mean older than myself, with a nose so bulbous and knotted and veined that if he's not an alcoholic he should sue it - there he is at the table next to mine, he has chosen it out of all the empty tables, there are ten of them, I've counted, just to sit beside me, attracted by the long shapelessness of my own nose, perhaps, or just by a muddled desire to be a nuisance - he's carrying an object the size and shape of a large book that I didn't at first notice which he fiddled with for a few moments and then, just as I turned away, he pressed a knob and a man's voice, plus music, both cackly, burst forth, yeas, a radio, the old bugger's got a radio, and he's sitting there, holding the radio to his mouth, like a sandwich, he's got very bushy eyebrows, by the way, thickets, actually, and a beard, also thickety, but just sticking out from the base of the chin - it's the head of a Pan, and he's holding the radio to his mouth no longer like a sandwich, like a flute, with hideous, unflutish noises emanating from it - he's conversing with Sam, the very neat and handsome young waiter, the one with the Eddie Murphy face, which he is bending to Pan's lips, so that he can hear him behind the music, no need - Pan's voice is loud, boisterous, slurred, he's requesting tea - 'Lots of good, strong tea, to wash the alcohol out,' he says, following his words with a coarse chuckle.

--The Year of the Jouncer by Simon Gray

[N.B.:  When you can write a sentence like that, I might read your book.  And keep in mind that over on this end of the Pond no one--and I do mean no one--knows who Simon Gray, the great, recently deceased, playwright is (or, more accurately, though also more sadly, was).]

March 12,  2012

Patrick: Lagniappe

The Great War was the psychological turning point, for Germany and for modernism as a whole.  The urge to destroy was intensified; the urge to create became increasingly abstract.  In the end the abstractions turned to insanity and all that remained was destruction, Götterdämmerung.

"Under the debris of our shattered cities," wrote Joseph Goebbels in 1945 with a breathless intoxication reminiscent of expressionist plays of the twenties, and indeed of his own diaries of that decade,

the last so-called achievements of the middle-class nineteenth century have been buried . . . Together with the monuments of culture there crumble also the last obstacles to the fulfillment of our revolutionary task.  Now that everything is in ruins, we are forced to rebuild Europe.  In the past, private possessions us to bourgeois restraint.  Now the bombs, instead of killing all Europeans, have only smashed the prison walls which held them captive . . . In trying to destroy Europe's future, the enemy has succeeded in smashing its past; and with that, everything old and outworn has gone.

These statements were meant for public consumption on radio and in the press.

--Rites of Spring by Modris Eksteins

March 11,  2012

Patrick: Lagniappe

In personal as well as social terms Hitler was a failure.  There was nothing natural or straightforward about him.  He was humorless, always awkward, always performing.  Even his eroticism, said Putzi Hanfstaengl, was "purely operatic, never operative."  Everything was artificial and surreptitious.  He was incapable of friendship or love or even a genuine smile.  Authenticity, which he advertised to the nation, was completely foreign and frightening to him.  If he was provoked to laugh, he always put his hand in front of his face.  He took pills for gas, terrified as he was of farting.  He changed his underwear as often as three time a day.  All was symbol, substitution, abstraction.  At the center there was nothing, an utter vacuum.  Only an audience could give Hitler meaning; he had none himself.

--Rites of Spring by Modris Eksteins

March 10,  2012

Patrick: Lagniappe

Early on, to arouse a sense of belonging, of "community," the party began to emphasize the importance, above everything else, of ritual and propaganda -- the flags, the insignia, the uniforms, the pageantry, the standard greetings, the declarations of loyalty, and the endless repetition of slogans.  Nazism was a cult.  The appear was strictly to emotion.  The assault was on the senses, primarily visual and aural.  The spoken word took precedence over the written.  Drama, music, dance, and later radio and film were accorded more importance than literature.  Nazism was grand spectacle, from beginning to end.

--Rites of Spring by Modris Eksteins

March 9,  2012

Patrick: Lagniappe

Many of Remarque's generation shared his apocalyptic post-Christian vision of life, peace, and happiness in death.  George Antheil would, when appearing in concert to play his own music, carry a pistol in his evening jacket.  As he sat down to play, he would take out the pistol and place it on the piano.  The .25 caliber Belgian revolver that Harry Crosby used in December 1929 to kill himself and his mistress had a sun symbol engraved on its side.  A year earlier, while saluting Dido, Cleopatra, Socrates, Modigliani, and Van Gogh among others, he had promised soon "to enjoy an orgasm with the sombre Slave-Girl of Death, in order to be reborn."  He yearned to "explode . . . into the frenzied fury of the Sun, into the madness of the Sun into the hot gold arms and hot gold eyes of the Goddess of the Sun!"

--Rites of Spring by Modris Eksteins

March 8,  2012

Patrick: Lagniappe

"Kill Germans!  Kill Them!" bellowed the Right Reverend A. F. Winnington-Ingram, bishop of London:

. . . not for the sake of killing, but to save the world . . . kill the good as well as the bad . . . kill the young men as well as the old . . . kill those who have shown kindness to our wounded as well as those fiends who crucified the Canadian sergeant . . . As I have said a thousand times, I look upon it as a war for purity, I look upon everybody who dies in it as a martyr.

Clergymen dressed Jesus in khaki and had him firing machine guns.  The war became one not of justice but of righteousness.  To kill Germans was to purge the world of the Antichrist, the great beast from the abyss, and to herald the New Jerusalem.  At the Madison Avenue Baptist Church in New York the Reverend Charles Aubrey Eaton attacked Woodrow Wilson for not avenging the Lusitania.  It had to be done "if it took ten million men, if our cities were laid in the dust and we were set back a hundred years."  Not since the wars of religion of the seventeenth century, and perhaps even the crusades, had men of the cloth encouraged killing for the greater glory of God with such enthusiasm.

--Rites of Spring by Modris Eksteins

March 7,  2012

Patrick: Lagniappe

Near Béthune, at the end of November 1914, Brigadier P. Mortimer recorded in his diary:

Our chief anxiety seems to be to clear German corpses from in front of our trenches -- as the latter are becoming untenable through stench.  Men are being offered rewards and promotion for going out and burning them and many gallant deeds are being performed.  One man in the 2/39th after disposing of 3 corpses out in the open and 50 yards from the German trenches -- was shot dead in the fourth attempt -- cold blooded pluck.

Mortimer made the entry, without further comment, obviously in all seriousness.  How long would it be before men sensed the horrible ironies of a world in which gallantry was called upon to fight corpses, in which the living died trying to destroy the already dead?

--Rites of Spring by Modris Eksteins

March 6,  2012

Patrick: Lagniappe

In a war in which men buried themselves so as to live, in which soldiers went fishing with bombs, in which Senegalese troops at first ate the grease sent to lubricate trucks, in which a dead carrier pigeon was decorated with the Légion d'honneur, in which the British commander in chief declared, on June 30, 1916, the day before the "big push" at the Somme, that "the wire has never before been so well cut," in which, on March 20, 1918, the eve of the last mighty German offensive, a French general remarked, "More and more confirmation is coming in for the opinion that the Boche will not attack"; in such a war and such a world the jackal of Kilimanjaro and the sniggering footman of Prufrock appeared to be the only suitable inhabitants. 

--Rites of Spring by Modris Eksteins

[N.B.:  What a sentence!  By the bye, if you like Modris Eksteins, he has a new book out:  Solar Dance: Van Gogh, Forgery, and the Eclipse of Certainty.]

March 5,  2012

Patrick: Lagniappe

Early in the nineteenth century Schopenhauer had defined history as "the long, difficult and confused dream of mankind," and derided all pretensions to objectivity and universality.  He did not receive much attention during his lifetime, but in the second half of the century his star began to rise.  In 1870 an admirer of Schopenhauer's, the historian Jacob Burckhardt, who, though Swiss, was trained in Berlin and exerted his greatest influence on German colleagues, wrote, "If anything lasting is to be created it can only be through an overwhelming powerful effort of real poetry."  Poetry, he said in agreement with Aristotle, is more profound than history.  In Burckhardt, history and art moved together.  Theodor Mommsen, the historian of Rome, who earlier in his career had had positivistic inclinations, was following a similar path by 1874 when he suggested in his rector's address to the University of Berlin that "the writer of history is perhaps closer to the artist than to the scholar."

--Rites of Spring by Modris Eksteins

March 4,  2012

Patrick: Lagniappe

In the Paris of Henri IV, duelling had become all the rage among galants, often taking place in the Place Royale.  Each year several hundred members of the gentry perished in duels.  Now Richelieu showed himself ruthlessly determined to stamp out what, to him, was a particularly heinous sin.  Pour encourager les autres, in June 1627 a well-known noble, the Comte de Montmorency-Bouteville, arrested for duelling, was refused a pardon and beheaded.  This causes a major sensation.

--Seven Ages of Paris by Alistair Horne

[N.B.:  The story of Comte de Montmorency-Bouteville would make a great movie today (he was quite the shot--and villain).]

March 3,  2012

Patrick: Lagniappe

On 27 May, still protesting that he had acted as a free agent on a divinely inspired mission, Ravaillac was put to death.  Before being drawn and quartered, the fate of a regicide, on the scaffold erected at the Place de Grève, he was scalded with burning sulphur, molten lead and boiling oil and resin, his flesh then being torn by pincers.  After this hors d'oeuvre of inhumanity, his arms and legs were attached to horses which then pulled in opposite directions.  One of the horses "foundered," so a zealous chevalier offered his mount; "the animal was full of vigour and pulled away a thigh."  After an hour and a half of this cruelty, Ravaillac died, as the mob tried to prevent him from receiving the last rites and urged the horses to pull harder.  When what remained of the regicide finally expired, "the entire populace, no matter what their rank, hurled themselves on the body with their swords, knives, sticks or anything else to hand and began beating, hacking and tearing at it.  They snatched the limbs from the executioner, savagely chopping them up and dragging the pieces through the streets."  Children made a bonfire and flung remnants of Ravaillac's body on to it.  According to a witness, one woman actually ate some of the flesh.

--Seven Ages of Paris by Alistair Horne

March 2,  2012

Patrick: Lagniappe

It was the time of the early scramble for colonies in the New World, but Sully saw France's map of the world lying entirely in Europe.  "Things which remain separated from our body by foreign lands or seas will only be ours at great expense and to little purpose" was his view.

--Seven Ages of Paris by Alistair Horne

March 1,  2012

Patrick: Lagniappe

To be considered truly great, a leader of men needs to be able to attract the best of talents to his side.  If it was true of Napoleon, it was certainly true of Henri IV in his choice of Maximilien de Béthune, Baron de Rosny and--later--Duc de Sully to run his affairs.

--Seven Ages of Paris by Alistair Horne