Thursday, March 27, 2014

"I suppose you are clearing nettles at Eydon"

When last we left our vigilant, cheery Conservatives, they were posturing in the yard, disposed upon a rifle muzzle for a shooting stick, boasting of hiding our concealed handguns from the police. That rarity of cheek deserves, need I say, to be balanced by a nod to the breed's flair for the derivative, which I don't think can be better exposed than by a nifty undergraduate computer scan of their works - never neglecting broadcast transcripts - for quotations handed down to them from the real Augustan age. Or, one could simply plop one of their toadies into a club chair in a lobby bar, and ply his downy maw with trendy physic.

The process of weeding the political garden of nettles - fraudulent authorities and spurious invasions of irrelevancy, i.e., demagoguery - is not worth the bother for its own sake, because as we are advised, nettles do recur. What is advised, is the exorcism of their incubi, as Trevor-Roper put it to Catto, from our own mind. Gardens and politics are inherently nettlesome, the mind is our only resort. Meanwhile the pomposity persists, of poseurs in American Conservatism's clotted patch of precepts, and needs from time to time a virile fork. We'll always have nettles. The notion is to limit their penetration.

    I know of only two ways .. One is sodium chlorate, which
    kills everything in the ground, and seeps, carrying its
    universal death, in all directions, and leaves the ground
    poisoned for six months; the other is digging them up,
    root by root, and all their subterranean tentacles. This
    is by far the best way, and very therapeutic to the mind
    if it is congested by such extraneous matter as Oriel
    College, the Provost, Wyclif, Watergate, etc. Of course
    they come again, but fewer, and then you have the pleas-
    ure of a further spell of therapy.

Trevor-Roper goes on to implore Catto's patience with a number of scholarly questions then confounding him, for lack of genuineness in documents entrusted to his authentication. Then, elegantly, he closes his letter with reference to a lately published denunciation of one pompous poseur by another -- I enjoyed the phrase, 'her ego-ism was a bore'. Here, unwittingly, Trevor-Roper endows our talkshow twits of American Conservatism with a phrase from the satires of Juvenal, which you may rely implicitly on hearing recited very soon, given the recent publication of these letters. A free jpg of my dog's first birthday party, to the intrepid reader who first roots this out. Living in the country, I have no Fox.

Quis tulerit Gracchos de seditione querentes?

Who could endure the Gracchi
complaining of sedition?

Hugh Trevor-Roper
27 August 1973©
Richard Davenport-Hines
  and Adam Sisman, editors
op. cit.

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