Sunday, October 31, 2010

Playing fair

for Daniel Mendelsohn 

"To my mind the fierceness of [Housman's] scholarly invective is simply a mutation of the fierce protectiveness he felt for the lads he euologised .. If Stoppard's interest in intellectuals and their lives and passions extended beyond his desire to use them as garnish for his essentially romantic, pop vision - if, for instance, he'd taken more seriously, and investigated more closely, the contexts for and nuances of Housman's utterances about classical learning and the rôle of the scholar - he'd have found many things to admire. (And would have had to write a different play.) Not least of these would have been the very trait which, in [his] play, is too often an object for fun: Housman's insistence on 'scientific' scrupulousness in dealing with ancient texts."

We are not yet so close to Mr Rupert Murdoch's ideal state, freed from language's inherent hunger for adoption by an honest and well tested mind, as this press lord's oppressive hegemony would suggest. He has only avarice on his side.

We have love.

Daniel Mendelsohn
The Tale of Two Housmans
The New York Review of Books
August 10, 2000

On Tom Stoppard's
The Invention of Love

Debated in NYRB
September 21, 2000


  1. A living brother, an entitlement of humanity.

  2. A God ! (Memoires d'Hadrien !!)

  3. We differ regarding my point of view but not importantly regarding yours - assuming the divine sinecure in which you situate him is where Yourcenar recalls Flaubert's seeing him -- "when the gods had ceased to be, and the Christ had not yet come .. between Cicero and Marcus Aurelius when man stood alone." (MH, author's appendix).

  4. Peut-être est-ce justement grâce à cette 'absence des dieux', qu'Hadrien s'est retrouvé dans la possibilité d'en créer Un, Antinoüs:

    " Au retour, je visitai le temple près duquel s'était consommé le sacrifice; je parlai aux prêtres. Leur sanctuaire rénové redeviendrait pour toute l'Egypte un lieu de pèlerinage; leur collège enrichi, augmenté, se consacrerait désormais AU SERVICE DE MON DIEU. Même dans mes moments les plus obtenus, je n'avais jamais douté que CETTE JEUNESSE FUT DIVINE ."

  5. Sorry , but my english is not enough good for a translation ...

  6. You may steep me and bathe me in the structures of French but you can't expect me to reply in its flux, anymore; it has been too long since I could be heard in it.

    We are at this point, however, saying the same thing, as I should have supposed. You are adopting the perspective of a previous generation, I am adopting the perspective of the same generation, but we are responding to the same .. quality.