OLDIES BUT GOODIES 3: HORS D’OEUVRES OF FRENCH PHILOSOPHERS, APPETIZERS OF A. CONAN DOYLE

 

Sherlock Holmes Detective Stories by A. Conan Doyle. JH Sears & Co. 1923. This is in dodgy shape. Someone spilled liquid on it back in the day (which was a Wednesday — if you didn’t already know*). Can’t tell if it’s coffee or water. The pages are beautifully aged to a soft, antique golden sepia. The end papers’ design is pillars arranged in gothic layers.

Five detective stories in this collection:

  • The Sign of The Four
  • A Scandal in Bohemia
  • The Ring of Thoth
  • A Case of Identity
  • The Surgeon of Gaster Fell

Er…what’s a “fell”? If you know, please e-mail me.

I prefer to see Sherlock Holmes on tv than to read the stories. Victorian literature is a chore for me. However, The Ring of Thoth caught my eye as Thoth is a subject I’ve been reading about for a couple of years now. Scholar Patrick Boylan refers to Thoth as “The Hermes of Egypt”. In Egyptian mythology (and Atlantian – his first incarnation), Thoth/Toth is the scribe god and god of wisdom. What I find especially fascinating is the idea that wisdom and writing are deliberately paired like two halves of a whole. Atlantean/Egyptian Thoth was lucky. He was not punished for bringing writing and wisdom to the human race as Hellenic Titan Prometheus was punished for bringing fire to humans.

Egyptology was very popular in the 1920s. If I’m not mistaken, the tomb of King Tutankhamen (sp?) was discovered in or about that decade and influenced popular literature.  And a funny ditty by Steve Martin.

French Thought in The Eighteenth Century: Rousseau/Voltaire/Diderot. Rolland, R. Maurois, A., Herriot, E. Cassell & Co. London: 37-38 St. Andrew’s Hill, Queen Victoria St. EC4. 1953.

It just occurred to me that in high school and college, I loathed preparing bibliographies. The order of information was unmemorizable. This was a decade before public access Internet. Not only, but also, I hated writing book reports. I was a lazy writer. So $# years later, what am I doing? Writing frikkin’ book reports FOR FUN. Life makes less and less sense. On the bright side, less pressure to take things seriously.

I bought this book at Half-Price Books on Broadway in San Antonio — 1987, I think. Since it was printed in England, it has no ISBN. I would read it at work. It’s a very fulfilling read. It fed my curiosity. It explained several buzzwords associated with philosophy in clear English. The ideas explained within enhanced my understanding of numerous artistic, literary and philosophical concepts. Why Rousseau, Voltaire, and Diderot? Geoffrey Brereton writes in his introduction:

"These three men tower above their contemporaries, yet represent in their different ways all the main characteristics of the age."

According to this book, the chief legacies of the 18th century to the 19th and 20th were:

  • The concept of freedom… liberté
  • The concept of equality… égalité
  • The principle of tolerance… tolérance f.
  • The principle of pacifism… pacifisme
  • The idea of progress… progrès m.

Does that ROCK or what!!! I love this book. I return to it occasionally and read parts. My favorite is the story of Rousseau, who brought us the idea of the “noble savage”. It’s a simple enough idea in that man in his natural state (i.e. country living) is innately honest, uncorrupted and happier in his lifestyle than an artificial man surrounded by and responsible for material possessions. That idea inspired Edgar Rice Burroughs to write the “Tarzan” stories. Rousseau’s writings inspired Count Leo Tolstoi to work in the fields alongside his peasants. Even Goethe and Schiller were fond of R’s ideas. (A German own-goal in the great philosopher soccer game of life!) R. was the French Thoreau. His Rveries are France’s Walden with some Leaves of Grass tossed in.

R’s greatest, most indispensable influence was the Roman historian Plutarch, author of biographies of Roman political figures. Kinda like Nick Hornby is to me.

It’s incredible that one philosopher influenced other philosophers in such diverse countries as Germany, France, America, England, and Russia. It lends weight to my belief that everyone, regardless of where they come from, connects with the same wisdom eventually.


The Bruce’s Song, verse 1

The Bruce’s Song, verse 2 — Check out Steve’s 2 extra verses in the comments!!! Completely and utterly BRILLIANT.

Dane Cook — a comedian who keeps his handsomeness on the down-low

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One response to this post.

  1. Posted by Steve on August 5, 2008 at 11:55 PM

    These are such scholarly posts, Swetergrl.  All I can do to help the cause is cut and paste what I think a Fell might be in this context:
     
    fell
    –noun Scot. and North England.

    an upland pasture, moor, or thicket; a highland plateau.
     
    An expert on ACD surmised that Gaster Fell was a reference to Casterdon Fell near Masongill where his mother lived in her elder years.
     
    Oh, and I see my check arrived for PR services now rendered.  Thanks for the shout!
     

    Reply

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