Posted by Eric » Add Comment »
In the entry for the Latin noun caput in Wheelock (ch. 11), several English derivatives are listed. Here are two good ones to add to your arsenal:
occiput: the back or posterior part of the head (ob + caput)
sinciput: the front part of the head or skull (semi + caput)
Also of interest is ‘kerchief’, consisting of ‘chief’ < ME chef, chief, < OF chef, chief (= Pr. cap, Sp. cabo, It. capo head):–Rom. type *capu-m:–L. caput head) (from OED entry for chief (n.)), and ker- (whole word from ME kerchef, syncopated form of keverchef, < OF cuevrechief (from OED entry for kerchief (n.)). ‘Cover’ (‘coverchief’ is an earlier form of ‘kerchief’), in turn, goes back via Old French to the Latin verb cooperire.
Posted by Dennis » Add Comment »
From the preface to volume one of his history of the Crusades:
It may seem unwise for one British pen to compete with the massed typewriters of the United States. But in fact there is no competition. A single author cannot speak with the high authority of a panel of experts, but he may succeed in giving to his work an integrated and even an epical quality that no composite volume can achieve. Homer as well as Herodotus was a Father of History, as Gibbon, the greatest of our historians, was aware; and it is difficult, in spite of certain critics, to believe that Homer was a panel. History today has passed into an Alexandrian age, where criticism has overpowered creation. Faced by the mountainous heap of the minutiae of knowledge and awed by the watchful severity of his colleagues, the modern historian too often takes refuge in learned articles or narrowly specialised dissertations, small fortresses that are easy to defend from attack. His work can be of the highest value; but it is not an end in itself. I believe that the supreme duty of the historian is to write history, that is to say, to attempt to record in one sweeping sequence the greater events and movements that have swayed the destinies of man. The writer rash enough to make the attempt should not be criticised for his ambition, however much he may deserve censure for the inadequacy of his equpiment or the inanity of his results.
I heartily agree. And if that makes me unfashionable, well, I just got my copy of Hardy Amies ABCs of Men’s Fashion, so there’s hope.
Posted by Dennis » Add Comment »
Another review of Archie Burnett’s edition of Housman’s letters has appeared, this time by Paul Johnson in the Literary Review. Johnson is wrong when he says that Last Poems was ‘reluctantly published’. Housman had no desire to publish for decades because he had nothing to publish, but once Last Poems began to present itself to him he surprised his friends and his publisher with the news that he had something. Housman rarely did anything reluctantly. He did it of his own accord or he curtly explained why he would not.
But Johnson does appreciate Housman as an epistolographer, and excerpts this fine specimen for his readers:
When the meaning of a poem is obscure, it is due to one of three causes. Either the author through lack of skill has failed to express his meaning; or he has concealed it intentionally; or he has no meaning either to conceal or express. In none of these cases does he like to be asked about it. In the first case it makes him feel humiliated; in the second it makes him feel embarrassed; in the third it makes him feel found out. The real meaning of a poem is what it means to the reader.
Not bad. But overall there’s nothing new in this review, and nothing that indicates any greater familiarity with the letters than one can get from a good biography (e.g., Housman, the Scholar-Poet by Richard Perceval Graves).
Now Frank Kermode’s review in the London Review of Books (which I can’t seem to access at the moment)–there’s one worth reading.