Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Origins of Wednesday lxi: Navigating 2018

Judging by the books that have 
landed here lately in the hor-
izontal state, I have my work
cut out for me in remedying a
protracted supineness of one's
own. I still very much prefer
to read in printed volumes, by
the way, despite embracing the
sudden cheapness of digital
facsimiles. Having launched
this blog some years ago, how-
ever, I find the digital stor-
age of information to impose a
terrible handicap on recollec-
tion, and I had thought this
was supposed to work the other
way. From this desk, I am un-
interruptedly reminded of com-
prehensive reading lists in the
spines of books arrayed about
me, their verticality confirm-
ing no longer their mass, but
their conditional absorption 
in the past, augmented some-
times by new peers and revi-
sions, gladly. Say what I may,
flicking a finger on a tablet
strikes me as a very primitive
way of traveling through the
contexts and relationships of
reflective assimilation. Yes,
a fashionable child could set
one straight, but I couldn't
spare the time. A speech, for
example, in Shakespeare, might
come to mind in assessing the
new American government, but
why lose track of its illumin-
ation in the commentaries, of
the alert delectation of years?

My college professor on the
ton, has given himself such a
second life in the apostleship
half feel the breeze of a mech-
anical axe against my neck, to
offer this distinction. But at
least I can look up to a shelf
on that revolution, not far at
all from that of Beethoven's,
Bukharin's, and Balanchine's, 
too, and feel I might begin to
revisit what I'd like to grasp.

Beyond all measure, it's the
writers whose perspectives em-
brace a cultivated syllabus,
who account for a place in
print. Probably the leading
exemplar of this is history's
greatest victim of exception's
proof of the rule, Hugh Trevor-
Roper, once fooled by forgery,
but never by shabby argument.
In himself he's a shining city,

Trevor-Roper was gorgeously good
to his mind, for which the famous
companionship of his Letters is
generally accepted in evidence;
but they are no less infused 
than his Essays by a concert
of information in phenomenally
harmonious orchestration. One
is better off, conditioning
oneself for 2018, to read one
of his essays on the 17th Cen-
tury, than by following contem-
porary hysteria down its well-
bored rabbit hole. In him we
break not merely tautology; we
break its mold, and dine grate-
fully on his civet de lapin.

More than supported, his
style is inspired by the dili-
gent exercise of lifting fine
titles off the tabletop, even-
tually as upright companions -
enablers, yes, but also inter-
locutors of wit one can trust.
The real curse of the nitwit
is his genius for hauling down.
Anyone may denounce him, 
loosed in corridors of power.
To survive his stain is good,
to salvage followers, better.
Letters of love from our lib-
rary, to share in plain sight.

        The fact that Whig resistance broke Stuart despotism
        does not mean either that the Whig theories of the
        constitution and liberty were intellectually right or
        even, in themselves, progressive. Nor does it mean
        that such theories, of themselves, entailed the con-
        sequences which followed the victory of the party 
        professing them. Similarly, the fact that Calvinist
        resistance was necessary to the continuation and de-
        velopment of the intellectual tradition does not en-
        tail any direct or logical connection between them.
        A philosopher, in a time of crisis, may have to put
        on a suit of armour .. but that does not make the ar-
        mour the source of his philosophy.

The Crisis of the Seventeenth
  Century: Religion, Reformation,
  and Social Change
    The Religious Origins of the Enlightenment
Harper & Row, 1967©

No comments:

Post a Comment