The world as seen through the clarifying lens of the 9th Edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica (1875-1889).

Sunday, 29 November 2009

52. Strange contentment under his misfortunes

Saturday evening in the gloomily elegant dining room of Penrith's venerable George Hotel. As a coal fire, which may have been real or else a clever gas-fuelled contrivance, blazed, an elderly Scots widow maintained her dignity in the face of the insufficiently hushed over-familiarity of a retired carpet showroom manager from the Wirral ; glasses of chilled white wine chinked perfunctorily between a man old and wealthy enough to have the taste not to wear a baseball cap at table and yet persist in doing so, and a wife glamorous and witty and bored enough not to care ; and the tall stooped waiter served slowly and unhurriedly without provoking impatience ; and requests for more hot water for the silver service of tea were fulfilled with the same ceremony as a call for champagne ; and the early evening special was very reasonably priced, and the portions heroic, even if the full menu was more splendid yet ; and Mrs Barleycorn left me the shortbread that accompanied her creme brulee ; and three full English pounds felt princely and deserved as a tip.

Perhaps the George Hotel survives the modern indignities of what passes for good society in much the same manner it survived playing host to one of history's most tragic bufoons, for, as an enameled bronze plaque informs us, The Young Pretender "Bonnie Prince Charlie" is believed to have stayed there whilst leading the last invasion of England, in 1746.

Although fondly remembered in melancholic Scots folk song, Charles Edward Louis Philip Casmir (1720 - 1788), does not appear to be awarded the same level of excuse for his actions and ambitions as Britannica gives to the bloody father of Serbian nationalism, Black George. Where did the grandson of James II go wrong? We must look to his biography in volume 5 (CANON-CLEEVES) for the clews.
"The young prince was educated at Rome, his mother, by blood a Sobieski, superintending his studies for some years. On the whole his education was good ; he became conversant with the French, Italian, and Latin languages, and his religious training was watched with interest by the Pope."

(Clew #1 : unwholesome influences, i.e. mother, the continent, the Pope.)
[...]"In 1734, the duke of Liria, afterwards duke of Berwick, who was proceeding to join Don Carlos in his struggle for the crown of Naples, passed through Rome. He offered to the Pretender to take charge of his son, should Charles be willing to accompany him in his expedition. This offer was accepted, and the youth of fourteen, having been appointed general of artillery by Don Carlos, shared with credit the dangers of the successful siege of Gaeta."

(Clew #2 (ignoring the probable unwholesome influence of the adventurous duke) : early promise.)
"The handsome and accomplished youth, whose doings were eagerly reported by the English ambassador, was now introduced by his father and the Pope to the highest Italian society, which he fascinated by the frankness of his manner and the grace and dignity of his bearing. To these, more than any power of his mind or heroism of his career, are to be attributed the successes of his early life"

(Clew #3 : superficiality and easily-impressed continentals and diplomats.)
[...]"The [Old] Pretender himself calculated upon foreign aid in his attempts to restore the monarchy of the Stuarts ; and the idea of rebellion unassisted by invasion or by support of any kind from abroad was one which it was left for Charles Edward to endeavour to realize."

(Clew #4 : subjection to the ruthless and cowardly ambitions of dad.)
"Of all the European nations France was the one on which Jacobite hopes mainly rested, and the keen sympathy which Cardinal Tenein, who had succeeded Fleury as French minister of war, felt for the [Old] Pretender resulted in a definite scheme for an invasion of England to be timed simultaneously with a prearranged Scottish rebellion. Charles was secretly dispatched to Paris. [...]"

(Clew #5 : the French.)

Happily, this diabolical plan was confounded, as has happened to many of history's naval invasions against stalwart island nations, by a severe storm, and the invasion did not take place. Young Charles returned to France to nurse his wounded pride.
"He had at Rome already made the acquaintance of Lord Elcho and of John Murray of Broughton ; at Paris he had seen many supporters of the Stuart cause ; he was aware that in every European court the Jacobites were represented in earnest intrigue ; and he had now taken a considerable share in correspondence and other actual work connected with the promotion of his own and his father's interests."

(Clew #6 : political understanding distorted by the proximity of his own supporters.)
"Although dissuaded by every friend he had, he, on the 13th of July 1745, sailed for Scotland on board the small brig "La Doutelle," which was accompanied by a French man-of-war, the "Elizabeth," laden with arms and ammunition. [...]

(Clew #7, the big one : hubris.)

On 2d August, our hero landed on a small island in the Hebrides, where his ambitions were met by "a cool reception" from MacDonald of Boisdale, so the bonnie prince carried on to Inverness-shire.
"The Macdonalds of Clanranald and Kinloch Moidart, along with other chieftains, again attempted to dissuade him from the rashness of an unaided rising, but they yielded at last to the enthusiasm and charm of his manner, and Charles landed on Scottish soil in the company of the "Seven Men of Moidart," who had come with him from France. Everywhere, however, he met with discouragement among the chiefs, whose adherence he wished to secure ; but at last, by enlisting the support of Cameron of Lochiel, he gained a footing for more than a miniature rebellion. With secrecy and speed communications were entered into with the known leaders of the Highland tribes, and on the 19th of August, in the valley of Glenfinnan, the standard of James III. and VIII. was raised in the midst of a motley but increasing crowd."

(Clew #8 : the wrong sort of Scotsman.)
"On the same day Sir John Cope at the head of 1500 men left Edinburgh in search of Charles ; but, fearing an attack in the Pass of Corryarrick, he changed his proposed route to Inverness, and Charles thus had the undefended south country before him. In the beginning of September he entered Perth, having gained numerous accessions to his forces on his march. Passing through Dunbalne, Stirling, Falkirk, and Linlithgow he arrived within a few miles of the astonished metropolis, and on the 16th of September a body of his skirmishers defeated the dragoons of Colonel Gardiner in what was known as the "Canter of Coltbrig." His success was still further augmented by his being enabled to enter the city, a few of Cameron's Highlanders having on the following morning, by a happy ruse, secured the Netherbow Port. On the 18th he occupied Holyrood. "

(Clew #9 : blind luck, excusable in military endeavour, provided, however, that the final result is success.)
"Cope had by this time brought his disappointed forces by sea to Dunbar. On the 10th Charles met and defeated him at Prestonpans, and returned to prosecute the siege of Edinburgh Castle, which, however, he raised on General Guest's threatening to lay the city in ruins."

(Clew #10 : weakness of resolve, for which the citizens of Edinburgh and our Teutonic monarchy may be deeply grateful.)
"In the beginning of November Charles left Edinburgh, never to return. He was at the head of at least 6000 men ; but the ranks were being gradually thinned by the desertion of Highlanders, whose traditions had led them to consider war merely as a raid and an immediate return with plunder."

(Clew #11 : see clew #8.)

Following the successes above, the brevity of the description of the last invasion of England to date is poetically striking. The Sack of Penrith, alas, does not merit mention.
"Having passed through Kelso, on the 9th of November he laid siege to Carlisle, which capitulated in a week. On the 4th of December he had reached Derby and was within two days' march of London, whose inhabitants were terror-struck, and where a commercial panic immediately ensued."

(Clew #12 : terrifying Londoners. Ooh, that must have taken a lot! Pfft.)
"Two armies under English leadership were now in the field against him, - one under Marshal Wade, whom he had evaded by entering England by the west, and the other under the duke of Cumberland, who had returned from the continent. London was not to be supposed helpless in such an emergency ; Manchester, Glasgow, and Dumfries, rid of his presence, had risen against him, and Charles paused."

(Clew #13 : must we call this cowardice? Hesitation, then, in the face of a real challenge.)
"There was division among his advisers and desertion among his men, and on the 6th of December he commenced his retreat."

Clew #14 : if we are not to call this cowardice, then we must refer back to clew's #11 and #8.
"Closely pursued by Cumberland, he marched across the border, and at last stopped to lay siege to Stirling. At Falkirk, on the 17th of January 1746, he defeated General Hawley, who had marched from Edinburgh to intercept his retreat. A fortnight later, however, Charles raised the siege of Stirling, and after a weary though successful march, rested his troops at Inverness. Having taken Forts George and Augustus, and after varying success against the supporters of the Government in the north, he at last prepared to face the duke of Cumberland, who had passed the early spring at Aberdeen. On the 8th of April the duke marched thence to meet Charles, whose little army, exhausted with a futile night march, half-starving, and broken by desertion, he engaged at Culloden on the 16th of April 1746. The decisive and cruel defeat sealed the fate of Charles Edward and the house of Stuart."

(Clew #15 : failure. This is as much mention, incidentally, as I can find of the notorious massacre at the last battle to be fought on British soil. That it was still a sensitive issue in 1876 is perhaps hardly surprising in light of the fact that in 2009 Queen Elizabeth II has become the first British monarch to visit the site.)
"Charles fled. Accompanied by the faithful Ned Burke, and a few other followers, he gained the western coast. Hunted hither and thither, the prince wandered on foot or cruised restlessly in open boats among the many islands of the west. The barren Benbecula sheltered him for a month. In lack of food, unsightly in appearance, having a strange contentment under his misfortunes, and already betraying his weakness for liquor, Charles, upon whose head a price of £30,000 had a year before been set, was relentlessly pursued by the spies of the government."

(Clew #16 : cracking under pressure, and a weakening moral character. Curiously, this whole "Skye Boat Song" passage is considerably altered in the 1911 edition, and in place of the remarks about his 'strange contentment,' unsightly appearance and boozing, we read of the BPC "enduring the greatest hardships with marvellous courage and cheerfulness." Hm.)
"Disguised in women's clothes, and aided by a passport obtained by the devoted Flora MacDonald, he passed through Skye, and parted from his conductress at Portree."

(Clew #17 is rather easy : transvestism, and being saved by a girl.)
"[...][H]e at last heard that two French ships were in waiting for him at the place of his first arrival in Scotland - Lochnahuagh. He embarked with speed, and sailed for France."

(Clew #18 : historical irony, and also see clew #5.)
"Ere long he was again intriguing in Paris, and even in Madrid. So far as political assistance went his efforts were in vain ; and he plunged eagerly into the gaieties of Parisian society, of which he was the hero for some years."

(Clew #19 : Fashionable dissipation, and yet more of clew #5.)

Unfortunately for the still young prince, peace between England and France in 1748 ended his Parisian diversions.
"Charles had forestalled the proclamation of the treaty by an indignant protest against its injustice, and a declaration that he would not be bound by its provisions. But his indignation and persistent refusal to comply with the request that he should voluntarily leave France had to be met at last with force ; he was apprehended, imprisoned for a week at Vincennes, and on the 17th of December conducted to the French border. He lingered at Avignon ; but the French, compelled to hard measures by the English, refused to be satisfied ; and Pope Benedict XIV., alarmed by the threat of a bombardment of Civita Vecchia, advised the prince to withdraw."

(Clew #20 : becoming a political embarassment to the French, a fate spared convicted Czech paedophiles in the 21st century.)
"Charles simply and quietly disappeared ; and for years Europe watched for him in vain. It is now established, almost with certainty, that he returned to the neighbourhood of Paris ; and it is supposed that his residence was known to the French ministers, who, however, firmly proclaimed their ignorance. In 1750, in 1752 and again, it is thought, in 1754, he was in London, hatching futile plots and risking his safety for his hopeless cause."

(Clew #21 : obscurity, and supposed outlandish schemes befitting a penny opera.)
"During the next ten years of his life Charles Edward had become a confirmed profligate. His illicit connection with a Miss Walkinshaw, whom he had first met at Bannockburn House while conducting the siege of Stirling, his imperious fretful temper, his drunken habits and debauched life, could no longer be concealed. He wandered over Europe in disguise, alienating the friends and crushing the hopes of his party ; and in 1766, on the death of his father, he was treated even by the pope with coldness, and his title as heir to the British throne was openly repudiated by the great powers."

(Clew #22 : oh, dear. Being deeply embarassing in pretty much any company, even the pope's. Wearing disguises, and more pantomime villain behaviour. May well have still been rather a fun chap to sink a few pints with, but best to part company with before getting to the taxi stand.)

The end is sorrier still.
"It was in 1772 that France, still intriguing against England, arranged that Louise, Princess of Stolberg, should marry the besotted prince (now passing himself under the title of Count Albany) who twelve years before had so cruelly maltreated his paramour that she had left him forever. Six years afterwards, however, the countess had to take refuge in a convent. Her husband's conduct was brutal, and her own life was in danger at his hands. Her suspected attachment to Alfieri the poet, and the persistant complaints of the prince at last brought about a formal separation, and Charles Edward, lonely, ill, and evidently near death, remained at Florence. In remorse he wrote for his daughter, the child of Miss Walkenshaw, and she remained with him, under the name of duchess of Albany, during the last two years of his life. He died at Rome on the 31st of January 1788, and was buried in the Grotte Vaticane of St Peter's."

(Clew #23, if it be needed : caddishness, thorough and complete disgrace.)

A sad story, in all. I hope he enjoyed his stay at The George.

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

51. Wild Adventure

There follows an article which has survived in a butchered form throughout various editions of Britannica. I feel that the original article really deserves to be read in full, and also perhaps that it may be beneficial in understanding the complex and bloody issue of Serbian nationalism. May I also point out that the Wikipedia article on Karageorge is very weak water in comparison. It does carry a rather splendid portrait, however.
"CZERNY GEORGE (? 1766-1817), or KARDJORDJE, or Black George, as he is always called, though his name was properly George Petrovitch, a Servian who freed his country from the domination of the Turks, born about 1766, was the son of a Servian peasant. He was about twenty when, having killed a Turk in some wild adventure, he was forced to flee into Austria. It has been said that he forced his father, or his stepfather or father-in-law, to accompany him ; but the old peasant could not be persuaded to leave his country, and, to prevent him falling into the pitiless hands of the Turks, Czerny George put him to death with a pistol-shot. In the Austrian army Czerny George fought against the Turks from 1788 to 1791, and rose to the rank of sargeant ; but either unwilling to submit to discipline or disgusted by some slight, he left the service for the life of a heyduc, or bandit who preyed only upon the Mahometans. He afterwards, however, is said to have held an appointment as inspector of forests to a monastery in Austria.

"For a time Servia was under the mild rule of Hadji Mustapha, and Czerny George lived on his farm in peace. But the Janissaries overran the country, killed the Pasha, and began to murder the Servian chiefs. Many escaped, however, and, headed by Czerny George, who was chosen commander-in-chief, summoned every male Servian to arms. The sultan sent troops against the Janissaries, who were overwhelmed, and their leaders executed. But the Servians now refused to receive again the yoke of the Turks, Russia supported their claim to independence, and war commenced. Czerny George commanded his countrymen with a fiery enthusiasm, rough vigour, and considerable ability. Several victories over the Turks were won ; and, in October 1806, the independence of Servia was recognized by the Porte, a tribute only being exacted, and the sign of Turkish sovereignty maintained by the residence at Belgrade of a Turkish officer with a very small force. The Turks refusing, however, to give up Belgrade anf Schabaz, both towns were taken by Czerny George by assault, and the Janissaries and Turks in both were massacred in cold blood.

"Czerny George, as commander-in-chief, now became the ruler of Servia ; and till 1813, despite strong opposition in the Servian senate and constant danger from the Turks, he maintained his position. His elevation made no change in his habits. He continued during peace to cultivate his farm at Topola with his own hands, and he never laid aside his coarse peasant's dress. He had received no school education, and was never able to write. In general, he was moody and taciturn, though, when excited, he was fond of joining in the village dances. His passion was terrible ; he killed his warmest adherent in a fit of anger. His execution of justice was stern and prompt ; he hanged his own brother for assaulting a girl, and forbade his mother to make any signs of mourning. In war he displayed marvellous energy and valour, and he had the power of inspiring his followers with the fierce enthusiasm with which he himself was animated.

"In 1809, on the outbreak of war between Russia and Turkey, Czerny George, who had formed the scheme of achieving the independence of all the SLavonic countries under the rule of Turkey, took up arms against the Turks, and, after attempting to excite a revolt in Bosnia, marched on Herzegovina. The Turks at this juncture invaded Servia, and Czerny George, though wishing to place the country under the protection of Austria, was forced to seek the aid of Russia. A vigorous attempt was now made to dispossess him of the supreme power ; but he forced his opponents to submit or flee the country. The treaty of Bucharest (May 1812), however, while depriving the Servians of the protection of Russia, failed to claim for them sufficient guarantees from the Turks, in whose hands all the Servian fortresses were placed. In June 1813 the Turks again entered Servia, and Czerny George, in despair, with almost all the Servian chiefs, took refuge in Austria.

Four years after, having been persuaded that his countrymen were only awaiting his signal to burst into revolt, he ventured tyo return in disguise to Servia. He discovered himself to Vuitza, an officer who had served under him, by whom he was basely murdered (27th July 1817), at the instigation of Milosch Obrenovitch, a Servian senator, who had come to a compromise with Turkey and obtained the chief power, and was jealous of the popularity of the old chief. See SERVIA, and Ranke's Die Serbische Revolution."

Saturday, 17 October 2009

Have you been paying attention? Part two

Part two of the According to the Ninth beginning of term quiz. Please remember to check your answers yourself by referring to the posting numerically corresponding to the question answered. Diplomas will be awarded at the end of examinations.
Q 11.) What meaningless incantation was once believed to be effective against agues and fevers?
a)      Ague be gone!
b)      Abracadabra!
c)      By the Hoary Hosts of Hoggoth!
d)      Ia! Ia! Cthulhu fhtaghn!
Q 12.) “Where Englishmen remember, Americans…
a)      …forget.”
b)      …anticipate.”
c)      …contradict loudly and obnoxiously.”
d)      …agree cravenly.”
Q13.)  The author of the lines  “Welcome kindred glooms, /Congenial horrors hail!” found fame when…
a)      …a literary clergyman rushed into the coffeehouses to proclaim his genius.
b)      …he was struck down with brain fever whilst declaiming his poetry in the streets of Bath.
c)      …his obscure and depressing poetry and life were recounted in a widely read and highly regarded “weblog.”
d)      …his monkey behaved in a most indecorous manner during a garden party held by the Countess of Huntingdon.
Q14.) In English law, who was considered the victim in the case of the seduction of an unmarried woman?
a)      The woman
b)      The swiving gent
c)      The parents of the seducee
d)      The fianc√© of the seducee
Q15.)  What does Dave believe reduces the value of a full set of 1884 Encyclopaedia Britannica?
a)      Their weight and thus their postal cost
b)      The advent of the Internet since 1984
c)      The existence of a poorly conceived “weblog” that selectively quotes from said reference work, presumably for comic effect
d)      Ben Schott’s Miscellany
Q16.) The institution of the poet laureate might best be compared to which mediaeval entertainer?
a)      The minstrel
b)      The gleeman
c)      The troubadour
d)      The gleeman
Q17.) Which of the following events in the life of Mr John Barleycorn has resulted in a selection of articles being quoted from in this electro-aetheric journal without further explanation?
a)      Experiencing salvation from a life of fashionable dissipation whilst being captivated by the ephemeral beauty of a towering bank of clouds lit orange by the dying light of the setting sun.
b)      Breaking the collar-bone after tumbling head-over-heels from a bicycle whilst racing through the park on the way home from work.
c)      Being accosted on the way to a wedding by a crazed old sailor who recounted a fantastic tale of a terrible and doomed voyage.
d)      “Mr John Barleycorn” is in fact a cunning contrivance built from the parts of a Singer sewing machine, three rolodex, and a small and unreliable steam engine. No events of any kind, other than mundane malfunctions, have ever occurred to it.
Q18.) Relating to the subject of race, which hypothesis is not questioned by Britannica’s essayists?
a)      That all races of men share a common ancestor.
b)      That inter-breeding between all races is possible, whether or not approved.
c)      That white and negro children are equally intelligent.
d)      That negro adults are morally capable of emulating whites.
Q19.) With what words did the mighty Jenghiz Khan order his troops to sack the unfortunate Persian town Bokhara?
a)      “Fill yer boots, lads!”
b)      “Let the world know the wrath of the mighty Jenghiz Khan!”
c)      “The hay is cut : give your horses fodder.”
d)      “Please wash your hands after pillaging .”
Q20.) Which of the following adjectives could not be fairly applied to the poetical works of Henry Vaughan, “the Silurist”?
a)      crabbed
b)      tortured
c)      tuneless
d)     worthless

Thursday, 15 October 2009

50. The triumph of sanctity, and the terrible engine of her power

Part two of the According to the Ninth beginning of term exam will be posted shortly. To help clarify and focus your ganglionic organ, here are some considered thoughts and observations on the subject of CELIBACY.

"CELIBACY is the condition of those who are living a single life. The word is derived from caelebs, which means, not necessarily, as is very commonly supposed, a bachelor, but one who has no existing wife, whether he be a bachelor or a widower. (For authorities on this point, see Facciolati, Totius Latinitatis Lexicon.) Scaliger and Voss derive the word from *GREEK*, a bed, and *GREEK*, to leave. Some more fanciful etymologists, imagining that caelebs leads a celestial life, have suggested a derivation from coelum. the word is sometimes written coelebs, but the better authorities are in favour of the dipthong ae"

Accordingianists will of course know better than to follow the whims of fanciful etymologists.
"From the remotest times, those who have given their attention to the study of the conditions of human life in this world have deemed the married state to be a better thing both for the individual and the society to which he belongs than celibacy ; while from an equally early period those who have professed to understand man's destinies in a future world, and the most proper means of preparing for them, have, though in no wise condemning marriage, conceived that celibacy is the better, purer, nobler, and higher condition of life. Lawgivers, sociologists, statesmen, philosophers, and physiologists have held the former view ; devotees, ascetics, priests, the latter.


"Any endeavour to give a satisfactory account of the investigations of physiologists, as bearing on this subject would lead us too far afield into the discussion of topics which fall more conveniently and appropriately under other headings. But it appears from recent statistics that married persons,-women in a considerable but men in a much greater degree,-have at all periods of life a much greater probability of living than the single."

In short, celibacy may be a splendid ideal for a supposed next world, but is unscientific and ill-advised in this. The anonymous author continues his (or her) piece with "the utmost brevity" by considering the historical development of celibacy within the Christian church. With some regret (especially as the full article does not yet seem to have been previously submitted to the digital aether) I will apply a yet further degree of ut.

[...]"[I]t was a prevalent opinion among the earliest Christians that if Adam had not fallen by disobedience, he would have lived for ever in a state of virgin purity, and that a race of sinless beings would have peopled Paradise, produced by some less objectionable means than the union of the first pair of mortals. Marriage was considered by them as a consequence of the Fall, the brand of the imperfection it had entailed, and a tolerated admission of an impure and sinful nature. To abstain from it, therefore, was the triumph of sanctity and at the same time the proof and the means of spiritual perfection."

The author notes how celibacy was not originally a requirement of priesthood, and that various Popes and churchmen had argued persuasively against it.
"[...]But when the church stood at the diverging of the ways, fabled in the apologue, and at the Council of Trent decided once and forever which of the two paths open before her she should follow, whether that of progressive reformation and amelioration, or that of a sint-ut-sunt-aut-non-sint persistance in her old ways and policies, the abolition of the celibacy of the clergy was discussed among other proposed measures of reform, and more peremptorily rejected than almost any other suggestion brought forward. The church understood too well what was around her, and too little what was ahead of her ; was too clear-sighted, yet too shortsighted ; and determined to retain the terrible engine of her power, which makes of her a caste, with a gulf between her ministers and the rest of humanity."

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Have you been paying attention? Part One.

It is difficult to get myself back in the habit of writing again after this long break. I cannot complain, however, of any dearth of material. In only perusing the C volumes of The Ninth, I have learned this week about the threefold significance of the Celtic stream of legend, of a royal scandal terminating in death by mortification, a female academic who overcame her natural ineptitude for learning by the use of snuff and green tea leaves, a king who disdained to learn how to read, but who tilled the soil and joined enthusiastically in village dances, that an over-reliance on statistics can be misleading when considering the causes and possible cures for the social affliction that is crime...

And much else besides.

However, before getting on to all that, wouldn't it be a splendid idea to check if my esteemed and highly educated readership have learned anything from previous ramblings?

It would be especially splendid to post one of those interactive multiple choice quiz thingumajigs that while away the tedious hours for office drones around the globe. Sadly, the interactivity would require a degree of coding-savvy and also patience currently beyond my capabilities. Instead, however, here are 10 questions, the answers to which are contained in those excerpts from the Ninth Edition of Encyclopaedia Britanicca weblished on the preceding etheric pages.

(If you want to get all interactive, you can jot down your answers on a piece of paper, fold it up and keep it in your pocket until such time as you might bump in to me on a train or bus, and badger me excitedly to verify your answers. Or, you can find the answer yourself by reading the entry number in this very blog that corresponds to the question number. Clever, I'm sure you'll agree.)

So :

1.)The 9th Edition of Encyclopaedia Britanicca is also known as ...
a) The pedant's edition
b) The pedants' edition
c) The "Scholar's Edition"
d) Web 0.01

2.) Which of the following is not a form of torture once recognized under law?
a) The rack
b) The boot
c) The hat
d) Water boarding

3.) What does Andrew Lang, MA, advise on entering the cloudland of folk-lore?
a) caution
b) optimism
c) to wear stout boots
d) not to take the brown acid

4.) What did French law fix with an exact time limit that English law did not?
a) How long a gentleman might beat his horse (15 minutes)
b) How long to engage in a war with Germany before capitulating (6 months)
c) The limit of utero-gestation (300 days)
d) The length of time permissable to bathe (15 minutes)

5.) Which is the odd one out of the following list?
a) Infant
b) Lunatic
c) Adulterer
d) Married Woman

6.) Where did Mrs Fawcett look to see models of Communism at work in the world?
a) England
b) Russia
c) Germany
d) USA

7.) And where would be the best place to find cretins?
a) At a hospice for the victims of Acquired Insanity
b) Sat typing away in front of a computer screen at approaching 3am
c) Writing the appraisal that cost me my last job
d) Chiselborough in Somerset

8.) What benefited Edward Gibbon in his first authorial endeavour?
a) Resolve
b) Original learning
c) Habits of thinking
d) The arts of Composition

9.) How thick was the 1877 Ironclad Inflexible's armour?
a) 4 1/2 to 5 1/2 inches
b) 6 to 8 inches
c) 8 to 12 inches
d) 16 to 24 inches

10.) The following options rank exports of India to Great Britain from 1877 to 1888 in order of value (from greatest to least). Which is correct?
a) Tea, Cotton, Grain, Opium
b) Opium, Grain, Cotton, Tea
c) Cotton, Tea, Opium, Grain
d) Grain, Opium, Cotton, Tea

Sunday, 10 May 2009

Please move along quietly, there is nothing to see here

In response to precisely no queries at all, I feel it is my duty to explain (make excuses) to loyal Accordingianists the long and unaccustomed silence that has befallen this august corner of Interwebshire.

Sadly, owing to circumstances entirely beyond the bounds of what may be considered fair or just, your humble correspondent has, during this difficult epoch that history will surely remember as The Great Crunch, been cruelly deprived of his lucrative post as Keeper of Discipline at a venerable finishing school for Wayward Young Ladies.

After consulting with prominent but fictional medical specialists, I have determined that I am presently suffering from an acute malaise, brought on by a surfeit of leisure. For some months now I have neglected to open a single volume of the dear old Ninth, instead primarily occupying my time by banjo picking, board game playing, and reading the most lurid pulp fiction and revolting Victorian pornography that I can find to download from the wonderful (free) Manybooks website.

Whilst I would not wish to seek any justification for these utterly contemptible activities, I am nonetheless drawn, in the manner of a schoolboy who peels back a dirty plaster to reveal the purple, pus-filled scab on his elbow, to share the leprous fruits of my unwholesome obsession. Until such time as I am fit and well to re-enter the society of learned and polite gentlemen, I may be found ranting and terminally digressing at an altogether more suitable environment, WHEN SUPER-APES ATTACK. Should my sleep become restful and my waking hours once more lucid and calm, ACCORDING TO THE NINTH may yet return to active duty. For the present, file as INACTIVE. Thank you.

Thursday, 5 March 2009

49. When did you last paint your father?

Gripping news on page 3 of yesterday’s Guardian , finally ending years of fevered speculation, with “Constable’s parents finally identified.” Reading the article, one learns that the curators of an exhibition of Constable’s portraits at the National Gallery believe that two early paintings previously thought to be of other subjects might, following what was know doubt a very considered and painstaking process of academic enquiry, show his mother and father. Father, being a painting of a proud and grumpy looking man has inspired Constabologist Anne Lyles to imagine him as “barely having the patience to sit for him, snapping ’Oh get on with it!’” The far more lifeless portrait of ‘mother’ for some reason suggests her devotion and “willingness to sit for hours.”

Naturally, one turns to CONSTABLE, John in the ninth edition of Encyclopaedia Britannica for further insight into what may be the most unexpected revelation about an English landscape painter's parentage to have hit the newspapers on a slow news day in living memory.
“Under the guidance of a certain John Dunthorne, a plumber, he acquired in early life some insight into the first principles of landscape art, together with a habit of studying in the open air that was afterwards of much service to him. His father, who was a yeoman farmer, did not care to encourage this tendency, and set him to work in one of his windmills. […]”

Initially, this appears to further support the National Gallery’s theory. I can certainly see the disapproval in the face of Constable’s ‘father,’ and can indeed almost hear him grumbling “Harrumph, your time would be better spent in a windmill, sir.”

And yet, might that not be the face of a proud plumber, contemplating the bucolic glories of the English landscape, whilst yet breathing the disagreeable vapours of a particularly badly-blocked drain?

One can only hope not, as the last thing our great land needs at this troubled moment in its history is an academic scandal of such unthinkable proportions. Accordingianists who may be contemplating a visit to the National Gallery, are asked to consider the state of the nation before venturing the opinion "Constable's father? Plumber, more like."

Monday, 2 February 2009

48. ii) Progressing to cosmopolitanism

Who could have predicted that, less than a year after boldly promising "British jobs for British people," Mr Brown would have his words come back to bite him in his prudently ample arse? That such an innocuous phrase might be interpreted by some as "Read my lips : no new jobs for Johnny Foreigner"? Listening to various government bods arguing the semantics of the Caledonian Charmer's rhetoric on Radio 4's Westminster Hour helped shorten a motorway drive through the falling snow last night, and the consequent cockle-warmth provided for the heart is much appreciated in the unseasonably seasonable weather we are currently experiencing.

As well as containing fascinating insights into the continent's bugs and critturs, EB9's EUROPE article finds time to remark on the phenomena of Nationalism : then a novel concept, as yet unsullied by darker notions.

"We have seen that nationalism is powerfully at work ; the tendency to give practical application in the political domain to the principal familiarly expressed in the phrase qui se ressemble s'assemble, birds of a feather flock together. The so-called nations of Europeare still in painful process of formation, -some in one stage and some in another, but all without exception very imperfectly organinized."

Imperfectly organized? One hundred and thirty years later, it is difficult to recognize the Europe so described. (For the benefit of younger readers, please insert a winking smiley face here).
"As a mere vocable the word nation is old enough, but the thought which it now expresses is a thought that men are but beginning to think. Europe has had its tribes and its kingdoms, its village-communities, its cities, its Achaean leagues, its Hanseatic confederations, its republics, its empires ; it is only developing its nations. [...] [The priciple of nationalism] sometimes appears as a restorative and conservative, sometimes as an innovating and creative force ; and any attempt to insist that it shall be exclusively this or that is certain to be abortive. Here it is on the side of the weak and oppressed, and seems humane and benign ; there on the side of the strong and despotic, and seems stern and cruel. In spite of all difficulties and opposition it is making rapid progress, and is likely to be a powerful factor in Europe for generations to come,-building up political unities, rehabilitating decadent languages, and calling new literatures into life. Greece and Italy, Belgium and Bohemia, Hungary and Roumania, are testimonies of its power in the past decades of the century : who will say what it will have accomplished before the century is done?"

Here, however, is another concept to consider, at a time when more Britons than ever are employed in and doing business with our neighbours on the continental mainland, whilst others struggle to come to terms with alien sausages and jam finding their way onto supermarket shelves, and skilled, literate workers from the Czech Republic and Poland unaccountably fill jobs that somebody who struggles with the motivation to sign on once a fortnight might otherwise have occupied:
"As a natural complement of nationalism we have internationalism, which in certain aspects may be regarded a stage in the progression to cosmopolitanism. Just in proportion as the various nations develop and recognize their national individuality they become conscious of their true relations to each other, and find the necessity of regulating their mutual intercourse and common activity ; isolation is impossible. Reciprocity must increase with the capabilities and desires of each : there are many things which can be attained only by concerted action or division of labour."

The phrase "division of labour" was clearly intended differently from the association which now forms in my mind when considering Europe and the notion that "reciprocity must increase with the capabilities and desires of each." Here's a thought for all the noble demagogues from UKIP contemptuously filing their expense claims as MEPs in Brussels:
"The tendency of internationalism is displayed in the purely political domain by the growth of international law, and the gradual endeavours after a system by which international disputes may be settled by arbitration and discussion rather than by armaments and devastation. That it will end before long in something like a confederation of European states the optimist believes and the philanthropist hopes. Every European congress familiarizes the idea and establishes the habit."

If the term "before long" can be taken to mean "after one hundred years and two world wars," then both optimist and philanthropist would have cause for celebration. Nonetheless, H. A. Webster's vision remains inspiring, now that it has in many respects been realized.
"In the social domain, the tendency is equally potent. Facilities of travel and accumulation of wealth are annually leading a greater proportion of the citizens of one country to make personal acquaintance with the citizens of another. Ignorance and bigotry are naturally lessened, though there are indeed an ignorance and a bigotry which return from abroad more ignorant and bigoted than before."

A statement with which I would expect we can all readily concur, requiring no heavy-handed references to stag weekends, easy jet, nor the Twilight Zone facility of finding egg and chips on the Costa del Sol and tapas in the East End of London.

Vive l'Europe.

Wednesday, 28 January 2009

48. Inconspicuous, unostentatious, but hardly insignificant

"Insects do not play so conspicuous and ostentatious a part in Europe as in some of the warmer regions of the globe ; it is only in special localities or exceptional seasons that their destructive or irritating influence becomes formidable to man. There are not many towns like Fasano, where the inhabitants have in summer to leave their usual residences to the occupancy of flies ; and if the European horticulturist has a hard battle to fight with caterpillars, earwigs, and wasps, he generally succeeds in gaining a fair crop after all.

[...]The three insects of the greatest economic importance are the silk-moth, the bee, and the cantharis. The silk-worm, since its introduction in the 6th century, has become an important object of cultivation in Italy, Turkey, Greece, France, Spain, and Portugal, and has even proved remunerative in Prussia, Bavaria, and central Russia ; and recently a new species from Japan, which feeds on the oak and not on the mulberry, has been successfully reared in the Baltic provinces. Bee-keeping is an extensive industry in Italy, France, Switzerland, Russia, and Sweden ; and in Greece, the tax on bees furnishes £1600 to the revenue. The cantharis is a native, not only of Spain, as its popular name of Spanish fly imports, but also of France, Germany, Italy, Hungary, and South Russia, and even occurs in the south of England."

I hope that the above extract from the extensive EUROPE article, by H. A. Webster, in volume 8, can be of practical use to regular readers of this blog. You will now be able to remark, should the occasion justify, that the town of Fasano is given over to the occupation of flies in summer. If conversation is lagging, or idleness threatens mischief, ask your companions, charges, or fellow passengers on the omnibus, whether they can name the three most profitable insects in Europe. They are sure to struggle to think of the Spanish fly, and should they name the bee, you can concur with the observation that it has on occasion furnished a significant contribution to the Greek exchequer.

Tuesday, 6 January 2009

47. A sufficient residuum of sea-serpents

Readers contemplating a sea voyage may be reassured by the accompanying figures from the article SEA-SERPENT by W. E. Holmes, M.A., of the "Challenger" Expedition Office. Figure 2 is (Admiral?) Bing's drawing of the sea-serpent reported by the "well-known missionary to Greenland" Hans Egede ; figure 3 shows how a squid rearing out of the water and spouting a jet of water could easiy be mistaken for the same.

Mr Holmes' article, complete with numerous footnotes referencing a wide selection noted journals and publications, offers nine explanations for the sea-serpent phenomena. Seven of these rely upon the observer mistaking some other creature for a giant aquatic worm (porpoises, basking sharks, a flight of sea-fowl skimming the surface, ribbon fish, sea-lions, sea weed, our friend the giant squid), options eight and nine are more intriguing.
"(8) A pleiosaurus, or some other of the huge marine reptiles usually believed to be extinct, might certainly have produced the phenomena described, granting the possibility of one having survived to the present time. Newman and Gosse have both supported this theory, the former citing as evidence in its favour the report of a creature with the body of an alligator, a long neck, and four paddles having been seen by Captain Hope of H.M.S. "Fly" in the Gulf of California. (9) No satisfactory explanation has yet been given of certain descriptions of the sea-serpent ; among others of this class may be mentioned the huge snake seen by certain of the crew of the "Pauline" in the South Atlantic Ocean, which was coiled twice round a large sperm whale, and then towered up many feet into the air, and finally dragged the whale to the bottom. Perhaps the most remarkable, however, is Lieutenant Hayne's account of a creature seen from H.M. yacht "Osborne." Two different aspects were recorded,-the first being a ridge, 30 feet in length, of triangular fins, each rising 5 to 6 feet above the water, while the second view showed a large round head 6 feet in diameter, with huge flappers, which moved like those of a turtle. It would thus appear that, while, with very few exceptions, all the so-called "sea-serpents" can be explained by reference to some well-known animal or other natural object, there is still a residuum sufficient to prevent modern zoologists from denying the possibility that some such creature may after all exist."

Thursday, 1 January 2009

46. The octave of Christmas Day

"NEW YEAR'S DAY. The first day (calends) of January, as marking the beginning of the year, was observed as a public holiday in Rome from at least the time of the Julian reformation of the calendar. Ovid (Fas., i. 63 sq.) alludes to the abstinence from litigation and strife, the smoking altars, the white-robed processions to the Capitol ; and later writers describe the exchanges of visits, the giving and receiving of presents (strenae), the masquerading, and the feasting with which the day was in their time celebrated throughout the empire. [...]

"When about the 5th century the 25th of December had gradually become a fixed festival commemorative of the Nativity, the 1st January ultimately also assumed a specially sacred character as the octave of Christmas Day and as the anniversary of the circumcision of our Lord, and as such it still figures in the calendars of the various branches of the Eastern and of the Western Church, though only as a feast of subordinate importance. The practice of giving and receiving "strenae" for luck about the beginning of the year survives in such institutions as the French "jour d'étrennes" and the Scottish "Handsel Monday." The Persians also, it may be mentioned, celebrated the beginning of the year (nev-ruz) by exchanging presents of eggs."

From vol. 17 (Motanabbi - Ormuzd) of the ninth edition of Encyclopaedia Britannica (1884).

Henceforth I will be celebrating the octave of my birthday on the 1st of November, and will be expecting strenae, thank you.