Friday, January 31, 2014

A talent to abuse

I think it is probably not widely
understood that the cultivation of
invective in the practice of his-
toriography is as indispensable as
a reading fluency in Latin, German,
and French. With as few or as many
of my generation as you may care
to cite, formal education exposed
me to this prerequisite at the age
when one would have been loitering
in a paddock somewhere, not very
uncomfortably, in visual charity
to one's friends. By chance I was
also one of a minority cultivated
by one of the truly great exponents
of these talents of the last cen-
tury, whose shattering humiliation
at his first university became the
stroke of luck of mine, whence he
emigrated instantly to the highest
circles of power in American academ-
ia, charismatically indulging some
of us with a brilliant bitterness.

Now I come to find, that his glam-
orous nemesis, while openly and ex-
uberantly cruel when it pleased him,
is not mysteriously at all one of
the most lovingly remembered intel-
lectuals of the British establish-
ment before the age of Murdoch, un-
der whose thumb his reputation was
most ungenerously shattered. Look-
ing back through his published let-
ters, I can see how our unsuspect-
ing gang were much undereducated in
to history in the first place, by
virtue of a grievance which never
did heal, against a complex mental-
ity of prodigiously far-seeing na-
ture, despite its joy in rivalry.

I am not going to publish anything
more about that relationship in
which I was steeped, in high prox-
imity to one of its two poles; but
I do interlineate this background
into the blog, forgetful as the
form incurably is, to enable the
reconciling introduction of that
second polar personality in the
next posting here - an extract of
a letter to another Englishman of
high influence upon my education,
formal and otherwise, at a time
of his grieving. How genuinely in-
timate it was of him to embrace
his friend in argument, I don't
think anyone from his time would
fail to recognise or trust. 


Benjamin Eidem

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