according to the ninth

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

Sunday, 11 April 2010

Built by draughtsmen and boilermakers

In the opening passages of his essay SHIPBUILDING, Sir Nathaniel Barnaby, K.C.B (late Director of Naval Construction, Whitehall), paints a picture of a lost time of still earlier naval majesty, a picture imbued with those same glorious and sombre, sun-set colours that Turner used to depict "The Fighting Temeraire" being towed away to the breaker's yard. It is a long, elegiac preamble, such as has no proper place in a work of reference, and typical of the verbiage that would be culled from the 'definitive' 10th edition of Britannica.

"WITHIN the memory of the present generation shipbuilding, like many other arts, has lost dignity by the extended use of machinery and by the subdivision of labour. Forty years ago it was still a "mystery" and a "craft." The well-instructed shipbuilder had a store of experience on which he based his successful practice. He gained such advantages in the form and trim and rig of his vessels by small improvements, suggested by his own observation or by the tradition of his teachers, that men endeavoured to imitate him, neither he nor they knowing the natural laws on which success depended. He also had a good eye for form, and knew how to put his materials together so as to avoid all irregularity of shape on the outer surfaces, and how to form the outlines and bounding curves of the ship0 so that the eye might be compelled to rest lovingly upon them. He was skilled also in the qualities of timber. He knew what was likely to be free from "rends" and "shakes" and "cups" which would cause leakage, and which would be liable to split when the bolts and treenails were driven through it. He knew what timber would bear the heat of tropical suns without undue shrinking, and how to improve its qualities by seasoning. He could foretell where and under what circumstances premature decay might be expected, and he could choose the material and adjust the surroundings so as to prevent it. He knew what wood was best able to endure rubbing and tearing on hard ground, and how it ought to be formed so that the ship might have a chance of getting off securely when she accidentally took the ground or got on shore. Such men were to be found on all the sea-coasts of Europe and on the shores of the Atlantic in America.

"A great change came over the art when steam was introduced. The old proportions and forms so well suited for the speeds of the ships and for the forces impressed upon them were ill adapted for propulsion by the paddle, and still less so for propulsion by the screw. Experience had to be slowly gained afresh, for the lamp of science burned dimly. It needed to be fed by results, by long records of successes and failures, before it was able to direct advancing feet. The further change from wood to iron and then to steel almost displaced the shipwright. Ships for commercial purposes may be said to be built now, so far as their external hulls are concerned, by draughtsmen and boilermakers. The centres of the shipbuilding industry have changed. The ports where oaks (Italian, English, and Dantzic), pines from America and the north of Europe, teak from Moulmein, and elm from Canada were most accessible,-these marked the suitable places for shipbuilding. The Thames was alive with the industry from Northfleet to the Pool. It still lingers, but it is slowly dying out. Travellers along the Mediterranean shores from Nice to Genoa mark the completeness of the change which a few years have made. The Tyne and the Clyde and the Mersey have become the principal centres of the trade. [...]"

The many pages that follow detail the new science of shipbuilding , its remarkable advances and achievements (even to the thickness of ironclad armour). The opening remarks imbue this with a strange resonance for the modern reader, who might ponder the vanishing traces today of the dignified labours of the draughtsmen and boilermakers of Liverpool, Glasgow, or Sunderland.

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Till the burden of existence has become universally unbearable

"PESSIMISM is a word of very modern coinage, employed to denote a mode of looking at and estimating the world, and especially human life, which is antithetical to the estimate designated by the term (a much older one) "Optimism." Both terms have a general as well as a special application. In their non-technical usage they denote a composite and ill-defined attitude of mind which gives preponderating importance to the good or to the evil, to the joys or to the sorrows, respectively, in the course of experience. The optimist sees everything in couleur de rose ; the pessimist always turns up the seamy side of things."

The six page discourse which follows this introduction is deeply thought-provoking, and I may see if I can find the time to quote it at length, as it is a joy to read. However, for the present and working on the assumption that I may be too lethargic to continue the transcription any time within the next six months, I will cheat by cutting straight to Wm. Wallace, M.A. (Whyte's Professor of Moral Philosophy, University of Oxford)'s closing remarks :
"[...]But in the meanwhile, till the burden of existence has become universally unbearable, it may be well to remember that we shall be as likely to benefit the Absolute by doing our work well as by macerating ourselves, and that the sum of existence is a big thing, of which it were rash to predicate either that it is altogether and supremely good or altogether and supremely bad."


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 fiancĂ© 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