On the English, by Santayana; for St George’s Day


“Hannah Bint”, an extract from Sketches of English Life and Character

This extract is from the sketch,“Hannah Bint”, included in Some Sketches of English Life and Character, by Mary R Mitford.

Mary Mitford (1787-1855) was a successful author and dramatist whose work is now, unfortunately, little known. She specialised in writing about English rural life.

More on Mary R Mitford – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mary_Russell_Mitford

Image: “A Village by the Sea”, by Stanhope Forbes (one of the Newlyn School); as included in the above book.

Dumbing down at universities?

This is an excerpt from an exam I took in my first year at Leeds University in 1974. I have to say that I think most of my own students (and probably those at other institutions) would have great difficulty coping with these questions.

FIRST YEAR ENGLISH LITERATURE, Paper II: Renaissance Drama, Leeds University 1974.
Closed book.
Time allowed: 3 hours. (Three questions, one hour per question).

3. Either: (a) The idea of time seems to be very important in Shakespeare’s last plays. Describe the presentation of this idea, and indicate the nature and effect of its operation. You may, if you wish, restrict your answer to any one play.
Or: (b) ‘Her [Nature’s] World is brazen, the poets only deliver a golden.’ (SIR PHILIP SIDNEY). In what ways might this comment be applied to the works of the English Renaissance dramatists? Discuss at least two dramatists.
Or: (c) Outline the features which, in your view, are characteristic of Shakespeare’s ‘Romances’.

4. Either: (a) ‘The progress of the minds of the central figures towards deeper and deeper self-knowledge, the approach to the impenetrable mystery of fate perceived in the moments of intensest suffering and action, which are also the moments of clearest insight.’ (ELLIS-FERMOR). Illustrate and discuss this aspect of The Duchess of Malfi.
Or: (b) Examine, with reference to Hamlet or to The Revenger’s Tragedy, the ways in which imagery and symbolism are used to create, and sustain, a particular tragic mood.
Or: (c) What are the features which commonly distinguish the Tragedy from the Revenge Play?

Jeremy’s Wall


POOR OLD JEREMY Corbyn didn’t have time to take a closer look at Kalen Ockerman’s mural, “Freedom of Humanity”, a few years ago, thus missing its anti-Jewish message and later embroiling him in accusations of being soft on anti-Semitism in his party. Mind you, when the first spat happened in 2012 Jeremy was merely an insignificant backbencher so he had no reason to fear it would redound on him six years afterward. Nobody at the time, including the sea-green incorruptible himself, could have imagined him as leader of the party…


The satisfaction of seriousness: the Peterson Phenomenon.


“SERIOUSNESS,” SAID LEONARD COHEN in a TV interview, “is profoundly satisfying to the human soul.” The truth of that statement is borne out by the popularity of Dr Jordan Peterson, who has emerged as the most unlikely intellectual celebrity of our day. Just watch a couple of his videos – either his university lectures or his talks and interviews, it doesn’t matter – and you’ll see what I mean. This man is serious. He talks about serious things: life is painful and tragic; the monsters of malevolence and totalitarianism are not only found outside of ourselves but inside our own psyches; happiness is a worthless goal whereas meaning is supremely important; people should stop whingeing they’re victims and take responsibility for their own lives before trying to change the world.

Read on.

“On Being Nearly Dead ” – latest in The Fortnightly Review.

I’VE SEEN PEOPLE who were ill, nursed people who were ill, known people who were so ill they died but I’d not been seriously ill myself. Until, just recently, I got hit with flu. People had told me that flu was bad (real flu, as opposed to a bad cold, that is). They were under-describing it. This was the nearest I have come to dying, for 48 hours anyway.

Read on..