OLDIES BUT GOODIES, PARTE THE SECONDE

 

This is the next bit in my fledgling BOOK-READERS’ BOOKS series.  Series seems to be a theme — quite unintentionally.  Still, with a generation starved of connections to the past, series books are a good way to make connections.  That’s one thing I’ve always found massively boring about uber-modernists (I’m not calling them "thinkers", mind you.) is that they think ALL connections to the past are pointless.  Relationships with the past are critical to one’s psyche.  I guess "foundation" is just something that happens to other people.

Anyway, enough banter. Books, yeah, let’s go…

The Latin Poets. Godolphin, ed. Random House The Modern Library. 1949. Bennett Cerf was one of the owners of TML. How did I end up with 2 copies of this book?  I really need to catalogue this stuff.  This is a fantastic portable reader. Many of the translations are by giants in the field of writing: John Dryden translating some Eclogues of Virgil; Leigh Hunt translating Catallus’s Atys: John Milton translating Horace’s To Pyrrha. Selections from 18 Latin poets are presented in English verse trans. only. It’s rare that I say this, but I like the introduction. Godolphin wrote a description of each poet. This really helped me to, first of all, tell them apart. Second, he managed to combine biography, sociology and literary criticism in each mini-essay. Wonderful!

I’d been interested in Classical Latin and Greek because I love mythology, and one day I hope to atone for this incredibly crap research paper I wrote in Freshman Comp about Greek philosophers. But I saw this movie called Never Been Kissed with Drew Barrymore and Michael Vartan. Her character was talking about how Shakespeare drew ideas for his plays from the Eclogues of Virgil.  Vartan’s character, the teacher, freaked out at hearing language like that from a “teenager” in a public school. I’m a teacher, and I get freaked out when one of my students has an idea that involves words of 3 or more syllables. So his shock is my shock.

The New Hudson Shakespeare. The Merchant of Venice. Henry Norman Hudson, LLD. The Aetheneum Press. 1906. This edition spent time at the Morningside Meadows Library and belonged to a Miss Ella Mae of Yoakum, Texas during 1918-1919, and a Miss Evangeline of Hays St. who penciled in notes throughout the book and filled the back end papers with doodles, questions, lists and comments. There’s even bits of spilled fountain pen ink. This is a book that got used!

It has extensive annotations at the page bottoms as well as tons of student material – at the beginning of the book where I like it. Nine chapters of scholarly material. The Chronological Chart is the BEST part. It’s absolutely magnificently organized. (Sorry, too much Charlie and Lola.) As it traces the publication of the plays, it correspondingly traces Shakespeare’s major life events, what was going on in other European literature, and history/biography of major personages of the times. It’s a masterpiece of brevity and organization combined. As someone who designs databases for fun, it was art to my eyes. Good-ish index to particular words at the end.  Miss Evangeline marked the lines she had to learn. She surrounded the lines with parentheses and wrote “learn” beside them.

The original wording from the Roberts Quarto of 1600.

image

The London Book of English Prose. Selected and ordered by Herbert Read and Bonamy Dobree. Macmillan Co. 1949. Printed in GB. I really like that this book has a chronological list of authors at the beginning. The organization is also helpful.

Ch. 1 – Narrative: story-telling, history, autobio & journals, bio & characters, letters.

Ch. 2 – Scientific: 8 sections including sport, criticism, strategy & tactics, and natural science.

Ch. 3 – Emotive: 8 sections including Pathos, Comedy, Oratory, and “Occasional Writing”. And then an index of authors.

The organization alone teaches much about what writing is and the possibilities available to a student if they will just try something. While I enjoy reading this book, I’m aware that the English is inescapably stolid. This classically-trained artistry has fallen out of favor in public schools. I know a lot of teachers of English/Language Arts who would not be able to handle this elevated style of language for the sad reason that they themselves are not literary. And so they fall back on whatever has a movie attached to it. Shame, really.

 

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