Walter Scott Against Historicism

Walter Scott’s historical novels were wildly popular in the century that saw the rise of historicism. But Scott himself was not an historicist. Nature remains the same, despite the flux of fashion and custom:

Considering the disadvantages inseparable from this part of my subject, I must be understood to have resolved to avoid them as much as possible, by throwing the force of my narrative upon the characters and passions of the actors;—those passions common to men in all stages of society, and which have alike agitated the human heart, whether it throbbed under the steel corslet of the fifteenth century, the brocaded coat of the eighteenth, or the blue frock and white dimity waistcoat of the present day. Upon these passions it is no doubt true that the state of manners and laws casts a necessary colouring; but the bearings, to use the language of heraldry, remain the same, though the tincture may be not only different, but opposed in strong contradistinction. The wrath of our ancestors, for example, was coloured gules; it broke forth in acts of open and sanguinary violence against the objects of its fury. Our malignant feelings, which must seek gratification through more indirect channels, and undermine the obstacles which they cannot openly bear down, may be rather said to be tinctured sable. But the deep-ruling impulse is the same in both cases; and the proud peer, who can now only ruin his neighbour according to law, by protracted suits, is the genuine descendant of the baron who wrapped the castle of his competitor in flames, and knocked him on the head as he endeavoured to escape from the conflagration. It is from the great book of Nature, the same through a thousand editions, whether of black-letter, or wire-wove and hot-pressed, that I have venturously essayed to read a chapter to the public.

Waverley

Alchemy, Ambition, and Revolution

I had been meaning to read Samantha Cohoe’s A Golden Fury for a long time. When I finally took it up I read it straight through in breathless haste. It is marvelously exciting and beguiling. Afterwards I read some of the reviews on Goodreads, and was amused to see that some readers found the pacing “on the slower side.” It all depends on one’s frame of reference. I suppose I haven’t been keeping up with developments in young adult historical fiction. But if one compares A Golden Fury to the leisurely pace of the classics of historical fiction— Walter Scott’s Waverly novels, for instance— the pace is positively frenetic. I found it thrilling.

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The Meaning of Words

Chad Pecknold gave a brilliant a brilliant summary of De Koninck on the common good at a panel at a recent conference in Dallas (embedded above). The discussion that followed, moderated by Ryan Anderson, was also very good. Anderson’s questions were quite trenchant.

Pecknold’s Gegenüber was Daniel Burns who raised a question about the love of one’s country, including love of one’s regime (in the Straussian sense of politeia) as a prerequisite to effective political action. I think that Pecknold and Anderson answer it quite correctly: To love one’s politeia rightly is to love what is good in it and wish to improve it by correcting what is not good. This is also a point that Gladden Pappin made at a recent conference in Steubenville: following Aristotle, he argued that action taken to “preserve” a “regime” in the right way actually changes it for the better. And, as Pecknold argues so persuasively, to make something better you need to have the right standard. How such “preservation” might be done in the current American was indicated with much insight by Patrick Deneen in another panel at the same conference.

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Circus Belloni

I visited the Circus Belloni today. The Ringmaster, Carlos, gave me a little tour. His family has had this circus for seven generations, but now they are in danger of going down on account of the pandemic. They they haven’t been allowed to have any performances. They usually winter at stables in Germany, but the pandemic has now stranded them here in Austria. They have been calling up parishes, asking for donations, so I brought them a small one today.

An Allegorical Representation of Stift Heiligenkreuz

On the ceiling above the stairs leading to the abbot’s apartments in Heiligenkreuz there is an allegorical representation of the monastery. Stift Heiligenkreuz is represented by a lady in armor with shield and spear. Above the monastery are the three theological virtues: Faith, represented by a lady with the cross and chalice; hope with an anchor; and love, nursing a baby. A ray of light from the faith bounces off Heiligenkreuz’s shield, and drives away the powers of evil: demons, heretics, and deceitful women.