Monday, March 29, 2004

Langland was dismissed as an eccentric, but much of the English genius resides in quixotic or quirky individuals who insist upon the truth of their independent vision in the face almost universal derision. Langland rambles; he wanders into theological speculation and effortlessly mixes the comic and the sublime; he will list the various foodstuffs of the poor, and then has a vision of the crucified Christ. He will portray himself as a dazed and helpless narrator but will then introduce the characters of Do-well, Do-bet and Do-best, who migrated into the imagination of John Bunyan. His genius was in fact of such thoroughly English kind that his work was immediately recognised for what it was; it has the deep momentum of the English imagination.

Peter Ackroyd, Albion: The Origins of the English Imagination (172)

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

Lord Edward married Emma Lascelles in 1885. She was a remarkably ugly, fat, old woman, with a long upper lip and a protruding lower one. She talked incessantly and sourly about her family and wore a black bonnet in the country and the same bonnet in London with a veil added, and a cape covered in black sequins. She was known in the family as the Slammoth - a mixture between a sloth and a mammoth. They had three sons, Victor, Richard and John. Lord Edward died in 1891 so the eldest son, Victor, eventually became Ninth Duke on the death of his Uncle Cav in 1908.

Deborah Vivien Freeman-Mitford Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire, The House: Living at Chatsworth (34)

Sunday, March 21, 2004

The texts of the Anglo-Saxon schools included the Evangelia of Juvencus, the Carmen and Opus Paschale of Sedulius and Arator's De Actibus apostolorum together with other works from the corpus of Christian Latin literature. Virgil's Aeneid was also widely known and quoted, as well as the work of other classical writers such as Lucian and Persius; it is an impressive list for scholars of any period, but it direct evidence for the beginning of "classics" in the English educational system. It is often remarked, with some surprise, that the administrators and politicians of the nineteenth century were accustomed to take quotations from, and make allusions to, the authors of classical antiquity. Yet as early as the seventh century the English bishops and abbots, who were the true administrators of the nation, were equally capable of making reference to Ovid, Virgil, Cicero, Pliny and others. There, again, is a continuity.

Peter Ackroyd, Albion: The Origins of the English Imagination (37)

Saturday, March 20, 2004

One night, at a wedding reception, an extremely drunk man ordered the band to perform “The Ballad of the Green Berets,” then, a half hour later, demanded that it be played again. That night, Arrival struck back with the hydrogen bomb of retaliation songs: “In the Year 2525,” the relentlessly ugly Zager and Evans song with the disturbingly weird lyrics (You won’t find a thing to chew! Nobody’s gonna look at you!). Some guests actually fled the room.

Dave Barry, Tricky Business (50)

Monday, March 08, 2004

Eventually he was posted as a junior to one of the larger Rajput states. To the dismay of the Paramount Power the maharajah had a taste for the sexually bizarre, and a series of rape claims had been brought against him. Privett-Clampe immediately found himself embroiled in the details of the maharajah's private life, in which Argentinian tango dancers, Borzoi dogs, and a ceratin regimental harness-maker in Jaipur all featured. Gus was shocked. The farther he delved, the worse it got. English women. English breeds of dog. He had to keep a French dictionary at his elbow just to decipher the reports. When he found out it was his job, not to give the fellow a sound thrashing but actually to smooth things over, he had a fit of despair and embarked on a mammoth drinking binge.

Hari Kunzru, The Impressionist (126-27)