Saturday, 19 November 2011

O tempora! O mores! Juvenal would have had fun with Sally Bercow's sex toy

I am having the experience people said they had when Diana died and the English went wild with grief, that they no longer recognised their country.

Quentin Letts today in the Daily Mail:

Asked by 'Total Politics' magazine to name her favourite gadget, she did not, as some might have done, mention the Corby trouser press or the Teasmade.
She opted for a certain type of battery-operated sex toy. Classy.

Michael Wharton could not have invented it (and anyway would have considered it very much too rude for a family newspaper). That whirring sound is Selwyn Lloyd and George Thomas, unmarried men, spinning in their graves. 

The Society for the Prevention of Progress

The Society for the Prevention of Progress would now be considered racist, sexist and homophobic (although not Islamophobic). Fiscal conservatism though no doubt wicked can be discussed in public but social conservatism is no longer acceptable and possibly a hate crime.

The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis, Vol. II: Books, Broadcasts, and the War, 1931-1949, ed. Walter Hooper (HarperSanFrancisco, 2004), pp. 613-614, with the editor's introductory note (in italics) and footnotes:
In his unpublished 'biography' of his brother, which later became the 'Memoir' to Letters of C.S. Lewis, Warnie wrote:

In May 1944 Jack received an amusing letter from the Society for the Prevention of Progress, of Walnut Creek, California, inviting him to become a member and requesting him to forward his credentials. The signature on his reply was instigated by one of the Society's rules to which his attention had been called:—Membership and the privileges of the Society are denied to such individuals as Henry A. Wallace30and this fellow Beveridge.31


[Magdalen College
May 1944]

Dear Sir,

While feeling that I was born a member of your Society, I am nevertheless honoured to receive the outward seal of membership. I shall hope by continued orthodoxy and the unremitting practice of Reaction, Obstruction, and Stagnation to give you no reason for repenting your favour.

I humbly submit that in my Riddell Lectures entitled The Abolition of Man you will find another work not at all unworthy of consideration for admission to the canon.

Yours regressively,
C.S. Lewis

Beverages not Beveridges
(my motto) 


Sunday, 6 November 2011

Donald Dunham on the Romanians

(Donald Dunham an American diplomat stationed in Bucharest submitted his doctoral dissertation Rumanian Profile: A Study of National Character as Reflected in the Visual Arts, on May 20th, 1948, in the midst of the Communist takeover. It begins magnificently. I wish I could find a copy of the book whcih someone once lent me.)

The Romanians are a social phenomenon. As a nation among nations, they are westerners evolved in the East. They are Latins surrounded by Slavs. They are Romans two thousand years away from Rome. They are contemporaries re-produced on Trajan’s Column. 

They are peasants with the utmost in sophistication. They farm instinctively, but are suspicious of machinery. They speak a language like Italian but the majority of their words are Slavonic. They are superstitious but religious at the same time. They are astutely intelligent, but refuse to be intellectual. They submit to invasion but preserve their identity. They support great wealth and extreme poverty. They produce striking beauty yet can live in filth. 

As a collective personality, the Romanians are Oriental in their souls although Latin on the surface. Their patience is almost unending but they are quick to explode in argument; they are peace-loving yet would disintegrate without controversy. They are passive but strong in their resistance; spontaneously adaptable, still difficult t influence. They are romantic but never escape from reality. 

They are charming yet cruel in their ridicule, warmly emotional but calculating, generous yet concentrate on the ‘main chance.’ They are opportunistic but lose interest after they have gained the advantage; they seize the moment, still adopt the long view. 

The Romanians are a people of colorful contrasts and extreme extremes, born in classic times, ravaged by barbarians, indentured to the Turks, dominated by the Byzantines, the Greeks, dictated to by the Hungarians, Poles, Austrians and others, seduced by the French and not recognized as a country until 1878. Yet they emerge with a character that defies this confusion, that is definitely, emphatically, unmistakably Romanian. This character was born of a Dacian shepherd and a Roman lass, whose progeny became dwellers with nature itself, epicureans with earthy values and a tough constitution. 

It developed in composition and grew in strength under the invasions of waves of barbarians. Slavs were added to the original Dacians and the Roman colonizers. Christianization was extended in Wallachia and Moldavia by the Byzantine Church and intrigue was introduced as a science by the Greek ruling emissaries of the Sublime Porte. With the intrigue came the Greek culture of the mind – the analytical clarity of the Mediterraneans – which evaporated as Greek, as it was quickly absorbed as Romanian. Following this permeation came the magnetic seduction by Paris and the synthetic adoption of French-Western artistic values, by those classes who would afford to visit the “Rive Gauche” and return. 

Today you find the cult of the mind imbedded as an element of character in all classes second only to emotional spontaneity as a national characteristic. The Greeks were more successful than the French because they came to Romania and did not make Romanians come to them, and because their main influence was middle class and thereby could infect those classes both above and below them. The French appealed to aristocracy; the upper and wealthy classes of Romania went to Paris yearning to prove themselves by Gallic standards, perhaps eventually to return to the country of their birth to demonstrate their cultural acquisitions.