Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Old is the new new

I welcome my good readers to these new online lodgings of mine. I hereby introduce my blog to all the visitors at Blogger, no doubt the finest gewgaw of its kind on the internet. 

Indeed, my readers should be prepared, in these new online lodgings, to hear more of such railings against our modern technological world. And don't be surprised if, in the course of my scribblings, I venture to nominate myself the pioneer of a certain new-found socio-cultural movement, which I shall call Post-Modern Luddism. Yet more on that later.

Now that you are here, you will be pleased to find that I have prepared for you a hearty meal containing most enlightening quotations (having nothing to do with Luddism) from Monsieur Hippolyte Taine's 1872, "History of English Literature." Yet I went even further in my desire to please my readers, for I decided to select only those quotations that come from the footnotes of that dusty tome. 

And here you have the fruits of my labors. This first footnote quotation is about the inferior moral values contained in an earlier style of literature---

What is the character of most of these novels which were to correct follies and regulate morality ? Of a great many of them, and especially those of Fielding and Smollett, the prevailing features are grossness and licentiousness. Love degenerates into a mere animal passion. . . . The language of the characters abounds in oaths and gross expressions. . . . The heroines allow themselves to take part in conversations which no modest woman would have heard without a blush. And yet these novels were the delight of a bygone generation, and were greedily devoured by women as well as men. Are we therefore to conclude that our great-great-grandmothers . . . were less chaste and moral than their female posterity ? I answer, certainly not ; but we must infer that they were inferior to them in delicacy and refinement. They were accustomed to hear a spade called a spade, and words which would shock the more fastidious ear in the reign of Queen Victoria were then in common and daily use.

Remember, I read these wee footnotes so that you don't have to. The second quotation presents the idea of the "voice of the people"--
Sterne, Goldsmith, Burke, Sheridan, Moore, have a tone of theirown, which comes from their blood, or from their proximate or distantparentage--the Irish tone. So Hume, Robertson, Smollett, Scott,Burns, Beattie, Reid, D. Stewart, and others, have the Scottish tone.In the Irish or Celtic tone we find an excess of chivalry, sensuality,expansion; in short, a mind less equally balanced, more sympatheticand less practical. The Scotsman, on the other hand, is an English-man, either slightly refined or narrowed, because he has suffered moreand fasted more.

Forsooth, the "voice of the people," as it is called by Mr.Taine. What is the voice of your people? What would you sound like if your voice could represent theirs? Meditate on these questions before going to sleep.

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