Historians of the Ilkhanate

October 8 2014

One of the incidental and undesigned effects of the overthrow of the ʿAbbasids and devastation of ʿIrāq was, as we have noticed already in an earlier context, the birth, in a ci-devant Syriac World’s now derelict north-eastern provinces, of an Iranic Muslim Civilization, affiliated to the Syriac, in which, for most purposes other than the exposition of Islamic theology, a New Persian language and literature were to supplant the Arabic language and literature that had been dominant in all provinces of Dār-al-Islām during the six centuries intervening between the overthrow of the Sasanids by the Primitive Muslim Arab ghāzis and the overthrow of the ʿAbbasids by the pagan Mongols. When a previously oecumenical Arabic culture retreated westwards before the face of the oncoming Mongols into a fastness in Egypt with a glacis in Syria and an eastern frontier at the western elbow of the River Euphrates, a New Persian literature that, by this time, had been on the rise for some three hundred years now at last came fully into its own; and this was perhaps the only creative cultural activity in the conquered and devastated half of Dār-al-Islām that benefited from the disaster on the very morrow of it. During the lifetime of the survivors of a generation in Dār-al-Islām that was old enough to have completed its education in a classical Arabic language and literature before the catastrophe of A.D. 1258, the cultivation of the New Persian language and literature was already relieved of the incubus of the cultural ascendancy of Arabic without being yet impoverished by being cut off from the living sources of Arabic literary inspiration. The period of Mongol domination in Iran and ʿIrāq (currebat A.D. 1258-1337) was an age in which the leading Persian men of letters were still bilingual in the full sense of still being able not merely to read Arabic but also to write in it, as well as in their native Persian tongue; [footnote] and it was also an age which produced incomparably eminent Persian historians, in contrast to both the previous and the subsequent age, in which the brightest stars in the firmament of a New Persian literature were, not historians, but poets. [Footnote.]

[First footnote in last paragraph: This point is made by Browne in op. cit. [Browne, E. G.: A Literary History of Persia [...] (Cambridge 1928, University Press)], vol. iii, pp. 62-65. The historian Rashīd-ad-Dīn (vivebat circa A.D. 1247-1318), for example, made it his practice to arrange for the translation of his Persian works into Arabic and the translation of his Arabic works into Persian. Rashīd-ad-Dīn’s own account of these arrangements of his is quoted verbatim, from man. arabe No. 356, foll. 1 et seqq. in the Bibliothèque Nationale [ci-devant Royale] in Paris, by E. M. Quatremère in his life of Rashīd-ad-Dīn prefixed to his edition of part of Rashīd-ad-Dīn’s Jāmiʿ-al-Tawārīkh (“A Comprehensive Collection of Histories”), Histoire des Mongols de la Perse, vol. i (Paris 1836, Imprimerie Royale), pp. cxxxiv-cxxxvi. A student of History will be reminded of the cultural situation in Italy under an Ostrogoth domination (durabat A.D. 493-535), when the leading Italian men of letters were still conversant with Greek as well as with their native Latin.]

[Second footnote: The pre-Mongol age of New Persian literary history had been made illustrious by Firdawsī (vivebat circa A.D. 932-1020/1) and by Saʿdi (vivebat circa A.D. 1184-1292); the post-Mongol [Timurid] age was to be made illustrious by Hāfiz (obiit A.D. 1389) and by Jāmi (vivebat A.D. 1414-92). [...]]

Saadi was probably born a little later than Toynbee states and was surely not pre-Mongol: “the unsettled conditions following the Mongol invasion of Khwarezm and Iran led him to wander for thirty years abroad through Anatolia, Syria, Egypt and Iraq” (Wikipedia). And if he mentions Saadi, why not his contemporary Rumi, the most famous of all Persian poets in the West, who settled in Anatolia?

Later in the same volume he calls a Time of Troubles “an historian’s golden age”.

The ascendancy of the historians in the intervening Il-Khānī Age is significant; and it is no less significant that the two greatest members of this pleiad – ʿAlā-ad-Dīn ʿAtā Malik-i-Juwaynī (vivebat A.D. 1226-83) and Rashīd-ad-Dīn Fadlallāh Tabīb al-Hamadāni (vivebat circa A.D. 1247-1318) – were also eminent civil servants in the Mongol Il-Khāns’ service, and that two of the lesser lights, Wassāf-i-Hadrat ʿAbdallāh b. Fadlallāh of Shirāz and Hamdallāh Mustawfī of Qazwīn, both of whom were protégés of Rashīd-ad-Dīn’s, were officials of the Il-Khānī Government’s Internal Revenue Department.

The pagan barbarian conquerors of Iran and ʿIrāq, who held out for thirty-seven years (A.D. 1258-95) after their conquest of Baghdad before succumbing to Islam themselves, had found themselves from the outset unable to dispense with the services of their newly acquired Muslim subjects; for the conquerors’ purpose in invading Dār-al-Islām and overthrowing the Caliphate had been to step into the Caliph’s shoes; and the only means by which these interloping barbarians could ensure that, after they had extinguished the Caliphate, the Caliph’s government should be carried on for their benefit was by drawing upon an existing panel of native Persian Muslim professional administrators. The historian ʿAlā-ad-Dīn ʿAtā Malik-i-Juwaynī’s brother, Shams-ad-Dīn Muhammad Juwaynī, managed the administration of Hūlāgū’s appanage for the conqueror and for his first two successors during twenty-one years (A.D. 1263-84) of the Il-Khānī regime as their sāhib-dīwān, and the two brothers were the sons of a mustawfi’l-mamālik (minister of finance) and the grandsons of a prime minister of a by then already fainéant ʿAbbasid Caliphate’s Khwārizmian successor-state in the north-eastern marches of Dār-al-Islām, over against the Eurasian Steppe, on which the Mongol storm had broken in its full fury in A.D. 1220 at the fiat of a world-conquering Chingis.

A discussion of Rashid-al-Din and Juvayni follows.

A Study of History, Vol X, OUP, 1954


Treitschke on the Turks

October 7 2014

“A near future will, it is to be hoped, blot out the scandal that such heathendom should ever have established itself on European soil. What has this Turkish Empire done in three entire centuries? It has done nothing but destroy.”

TREITSCHKE.

The same front matter page in the same pamphlet quotes Gladstone.

The title page has

“THE LIBERATION OF THE PEOPLES WHO NOW LIE BENEATH THE MURDEROUS TYRANNY OF THE TURKS”; and “THE EXPULSION FROM EUROPE OF THE OTTOMAN EMPIRE WHICH HAS PROVED ITSELF SO RADICALLY ALIEN TO WESTERN CIVILIZATION.”

Joint Note of the Allied Governments in answer to President Wilson.

Which the body of the text clarifies thus:

President Wilson, in his note to all the belligerent governments, called upon both parties to state in the full light of day the aims they have set themselves in prosecuting the War. The Allied Nations, in their joint response made public on January 11th, 1917, explain that they find no difficulty in meeting this request, and make good their words by stating a series of definite conditions. Among them are:

The liberation of the peoples who now lie beneath the murderous tyranny of the Turks; and

The expulsion from Europe of the Ottoman Empire, which has proved itself so radically alien to Western Civilisation.”

The plan of the Allies for the settlement of Turkey is thus communicated to the world without reserve, and it is worth examining what it involves, and why it is right.

No source is given for the Treitschke. Treitschke’s main historical work is Deutsche Geschichte im neunzehnten Jahrhundert (up to 1848), Leipzig, Hirzel, five volumes, 1879-94:

Bis zum zweiten Pariser Frieden

Bis zu den Karlsbader Beschlüssen

Bis zur Juli-Revolution

Bis zum Tode König Friedrich Wilhelms III

Bis zur März-Revolution.

The propagandist (old post).

“The Murderous Tyranny of the Turks”, with a Preface by Viscount Bryce, Hodder & Soughton, 1917


Rat pie

October 6 2014

[The writer] could remember [...] how in March 1897, on a visit to some friends of his family’s towards the end of his eighth year, he had broken out into exclamations of dissentient surprise when one of the grown-up people present had begun to expatiate on the goodness, abundance, and variety of the fare on a Transatlantic voyage from which he had just landed. The listening child could not accept a statement that was irreconcilable with what he had heard, time and again, straight from the mouth of his own great-uncle Harry [old post], who was then still alive and who surely must be regarded as a greater authority, considering that he had been, not just a passenger on his own ship, but her captain. The child was never tired of hearing the old man telling how the mouldy taste of ship’s biscuit was welcomely relieved by the sharp taste of a weevil when the eater’s teeth happened to bite through one of the biscuit’s living occupants, and how, when captain and crew from time to time lost patience with their fellow-travellers the rats, they would entertain themselves by organizing a rat hunt which would bring them in tasty rat-pie to supplement for the next few days their dull normal fare of salt beef and plum duff. These, the child knew for certain, were the facts, so this talk of high feeding on board ship could be nothing but a mendaciously spun traveller’s yarn; and it was a revelation to him when the present traveller, just ashore from one of the Cunard or White Star liners of the day, explained good-humouredly, to the child who had been calling his veracity in question, that there had been a good deal of change in the conditions of sea-travel during the thirty-one years that had gone by since Captain Henry Toynbee’s retirement from the sea in A.D. 1866. Thanks to this convincing explanation of the discrepancy which had startled the child’s mind, it dawned upon it for the first time that human affairs were on the move, and that this movement might run so fast as to produce sensational changes within the span of a single lifetime.

A Study of History, Vol X, OUP, 1954


Confrontations in Hong Kong

October 5 2014

1925-26 Canton-Hong Kong strike

1941:

1949:

1956 riots

1966 riots

1967 riots

1981 riots

1997- July 1 marches

2003 protests against Basic Law article 23

2005 protest for democracy

2009-10 Hong Kong Express Rail Link controversy

2011 Free Ai Weiwei street art campaign

2011-12 Occupy Central

Early 2012 protests

2013 dock strike

2014 class boycott

2014 Occupy Central

Occupy Central with Love and Peace (anti-Beijing)

Silent Majority for Hong Kong (pro-Beijing)

Alliance for Peace and Democracy (pro-Beijing)

___

Tiananmen Square memorials

Goddess of Democracy replicas

Tiananmen Square massacre anniversary protests:

1999

2009

2010

2013

2014

I was in Hong Kong straight after Tiananmen Square. The city was in a state of shock and almost empty. The most unsettling moment for Hong Kong after that was probably the SARS crisis of early 2003.

___

Old posts:

Hong Kong 1949

Confrontations in Singapore.


Three monsters

October 5 2014

Qunfuz. Yassin al-Haj Saleh: “Three monsters are treading on Syria’s exhausted body.”

And here.


Eisenstein filmography

October 4 2014

1923 Дневник Глумова (Glumov’s Diary) (short)

1925 Стачка (Strike), set in 1903

1925 Броненосец Потемкин (The Battleship Potemkin)

1927 Октябрь «Десять дней, которые потрясли мир» (October: Ten Days That Shook the World)

1929 Старое и новое «Генеральная линия» (The General Line, or Old And New)

1930 Romance sentimentale (France, with Grigori Aleksandrov)

1932 Да здравствует Мексика! (¡Que viva México!, released in 1979)

1937 Бежин луг (Bezhin Meadow)

1938 Александр Невский (Alexander Nevsky), score by Prokofiev

1944 Иван Грозный 1-я серия (Ivan The Terrible, Part I), score by Prokofiev

1945 Иван Грозный 2-я серия (Ivan The Terrible, Part II), score by Prokofiev

Not complete.


1905

October 4 2014

Eisenstein’s Battleship Potemkin, made in 1925, is about a mutiny that occurred during the 1905 revolution.

Fiftieth anniversary edition with a Shostakovich soundtrack, mainly the fifth symphony (which opens and closes the film), but there are also passages from 4, 8, 10 and 11 (analysis here):

In hi res here with a different soundtrack (not sure by whom, but here is information on all its soundtracks).

Shostakovich’s eleventh symphony, The Year 1905, was premiered October 30 1957, close to the fortieth anniversary of the October revolution, by the USSR Symphony Orchestra under Natan Rakhlin.

Adagio (The Palace Square)Allegro (The 9th of January) (Julian calendar), Adagio (Eternal Memory)Allegro non troppo (Tocsin).

BBC Symphony Orchestra, Jukka-Pekka Saraste, Royal Albert Hall, August 16 2005:

1905 (other post).


Октябрь

October 3 2014

Eisenstein’s October: Ten Days That Shook the World, made in 1927, with the soundtrack composed by Shostakovich in 1966 for the fiftieth anniversary of the revolution:

Shostakovich made a tone poem, October, from the soundtrack in 1967; Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra, Neeme Järvi:

Shostakovich’s second symphony, To October, was produced for the tenth anniversary of the revolution, like Eisenstein’s film. Shostakovich described the second of its four sections in a letter to Boleslav Yavorsky as the “death of a child” killed on the Nevsky Prospekt. It has a choral finale by Alexander Bezymensky praising Lenin and the revolution. London Philharmonic, Bernard Haitink:

Shostakovich’s purely orchestral twelfth symphony, composed in 1961 and not one of his best, is called The Year 1917, but doesn’t seem to cover both revolutions.

The first movement describes revolutionary Petrograd, the second Lenin’s headquarters at Razliv outside the city. The third movement is called Aurora, after the battleship that fired at the Winter Palace. The last, The Dawn of Humanity, describes Soviet life under the guidance of Lenin.

This is the premiere, October 1 1961 (YouTube says 1960), Leningrad Philharmonic, Yevgeny Mravinsky:

The Julian or Old Style October 25 1917, the date of the armed insurrection in Petrograd, corresponds to November 7 in the Gregorian or New Style calendar. On January 24 1918 the Council of People’s Commissars decreed that Wednesday January 31 was to be followed by Thursday February 14.

The rather moving last October revolution parade on November 7 1990, two days before the anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall; the USSR was dissolved on December 26 1991; there had been no parade that year, the year of the attempted coup (the vodka coup):

On June 12 1991, before the attempted coup, Yeltsin was elected by popular vote to the newly-created post of President of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic, one of the fifteen constituent republics of the USSR. He had previously been Chairman of the Presidium of its Supreme Soviet.

On the resignation of Gorbachev and the dissolution of the USSR, Yeltsin remained in office as the President of the Russian Federation, one of the USSR’s successor states. Putin succeeded him in 2000.


English composers and women

October 2 2014

Twentieth-century English composers were to an above-average degree interested in, or inspired or motivated in their work by, women.

Think Bax, Delius, Elgar, Vaughan Williams, Walton.


Still lifes

October 1 2014

Would anyone go to a blockbuster still life exhibition? I would, even if by the end I longed to escape and hungered for a landscape or figure. It’s hard to find a book on still life, but it might be soothing to indulge oneself in something so limited. Still life, or it could equally be Roman Britain, the history of Australia, French tapestries or the Palliser novels.

Small differences would become important. And there’s a lost language of allegory and symbols to learn.

And seventeenth-century lemons, pomegranates, loaves and fish have more DNA, more layers of reality, than their etiolated supermarket descendants.

We rarely see a butcher (or butchery, as they call them in Africa), never mind abattoir. In the middle east, even urban families are about to start slaughtering animals in their own bathrooms for Eid al-Adha.

Joachim Beuckelaer, Kitchen scene with Jesus in the house of Martha and Mary

Joachim Beuckelaer (1533-75), Kitchen Scene with Jesus in the House of Martha and Mary (1566)

Jacopo da Empoli, Still Life

Jacopo da Empoli (1551-1640), Still Life (c 1625)

Luis Meléndez, Still Life with Apples, Grapes, Melons, Bread, Jug and Bottle

Luis Meléndez (1716-80), Still Life with Apples, Grapes, Melons, Bread, Jug and Bottle

Odilon Redon, Flowers

Odilon Redon (1840-1916), Flowers (1903)

George Clausen, Michaelmas Daisies and Cornflowers in a Jug

George Clausen (1852-1944), Michaelmas Daisies and Cornflowers in a Jug (1940), exuberant piece painted at the age of 88

The Chinese Pot (still life by Clausen, old post).


The abomination of desolation

September 30 2014

An Englishman of the generation that has lived through the General War of 1914-18 may remind himself [...] of an incident which struck him, at the time, as painfully symbolic. As the War, in its ever-increasing intensity, made wider and wider demands upon the lives of the belligerent nations – like some great river that has burst its bounds in flood and is engulfing field after field and sweeping away village after village – a moment came in England when the offices of the Board of Education [1899-1944] in Whitehall were commandeered for the use of a new department of the War Office [1684-1964] which had been improvised in order to make an intensive study of trench warfare. The ejected Board of Education found asylum in the Victoria and Albert Museum, where it survived on sufferance as though it had been some curious relic of a vanished past. And thus, for several years before the Armistice of the 11th November, 1918, an education for slaughter was being promoted, in the heart of our Western World, within the walls of a public building which had been erected in order to assist in promoting an education for life. As the writer of this Study was walking down Whitehall one day in the spring of that year 1918, he found himself repeating a passage from the Gospel according to Saint Matthew:

“When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the Prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand) … then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the World to this time … And, except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved …” [Footnote: Matt. xxiv. 15 and 21-2.]

No reader can fail to understand that when the Ministry of Education of a great Western country is given over to the study of the art of war, the improvement in our Western military technique which is purchased at such a price is synonymous with the destruction of our Western Civilization.

The War Office building was completed in 1906. In 1964, the Admiralty, War Office, Air Ministry, Ministry of Aviation (not the same) and the earlier MOD were merged into the Ministry of Defence, which retained it, though not as its main headquarters. In 2013 it was decided to sell it on the open market. So first war expelled education (presumably from another building: which?), and now business is taking over from war.

A Study of History, Vol III, OUP, 1934


Order of professions

September 30 2014

Top three: teacher, architect, doctor.


Antitypes of cosmic dawns

September 29 2014

The joy of dawn is the emotional charge in some of the most famous scenes in Western history – the Latin Christian warriors’ shout of “Deus le volt” in response to Pope Urban II’s preaching of the First Crusade, the ministry of Saint Francis of Assisi seen through Giotto’s and through Saint Thomas of Celano’s eyes, the landfalls of the Pinta [footnote: Though the first member of Columbus’s first expedition to sight land was a sailor on board the Pinta, this vessel’s name had not won equal renown with the Santa Maria, which was the Admiral’s flagship.] and the Mayflower, the signing of the Declaration of Independence, the taking of the Tennis Court Oath – and the poetry in some, at least, of these historic events has been uttered in lines that speak more eloquently than volumes. The poetry in the American Revolutionary War has been distilled by Emerson into one quatrain:

By the rude bridge that arched the flood,
Their flag to April’s breeze unfurled,
Here once the embattled farmers stood
And fired the shot heard round the World.

[Footnote: Emerson: Concord Hymn, stanza 1.]

The poetry in the French Revolution has been distilled by Wordsworth into two lines:

Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive,
But to be young was very Heaven.

[Footnote: Wordsworth: The Prelude, Book XI, ll. 108-9, incorporating The French Revolution as it appeared to Enthusiasts at its Commencement.]

It is no wonder that, in these rejoicings at a dawn, the historians should have had to let the poets be their spokesmen; for the joy awakened by the dawn of a new era of History is the Soul’s response to an epiphany that is something more than a merely temporal event. The dawns that awaken such joy as this are irruptions into Time out of Eternity. What has happened on these historic occasions likewise happens at the birth of every child:

“A woman when she is in travail hath sorrow, because her hour is come; but, as soon as she is delivered of the child, she remembereth no more the anguish, for joy that a man is born into the World.”

[Footnote: John xvi. 21.]

In a mother’s joy the Soul hails an incarnation; and, since “alles Vergängliche ist nur ein Gleichnis”, [footnote: Goethe: Faust, ll. 12104-5.] the dawns of mundane eras that have this poetry in them are antitypes of cosmic dawns in which a Divine Light breaks into This World. A radiance which shines in upon us through Botticelli’s picture, in the National Gallery in London, of the birth in the stable at Bethlehem is likewise manifest in the enlightenment under the Bodhi Tree, in the descent of the Dove at the baptism in Jordan, in the transfiguration on the mountain, in the vision on the road to Damascus, and in the imprinting of the stigmata in the wilderness; and, as Milton’s voice strikes up in a Franciscan ode on the morning of Christ’s nativity, Gibbon’s voice dies away.

A Study of History, Vol X, OUP, 1954


Revelation

September 28 2014

Then felt I like some watcher of the skies
When a new planet swims into his ken,
Or like stout Cortez when, with eagle eyes,
He stared at the Pacific, and all his men
Look’d at each other with a wild surmise,
Silent, upon a peak in Darien.

Keats, of course. From On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer. A Petrarchan sonnet written in iambic pentameters.

The planet was Uranus, identified by Hershel in 1781, the year of the Iron Bridge, before Keats was born, and the first to be added to the list since antiquity. It is visible to the naked eye, but had been thought to be a star.

The discovery of four moons of Jupiter by Galileo, and of five of Saturn, one by Huygens, four by Cassini, preceded Hershel’s discovery. Jupiter’s Ganymede and Callisto may just be visible with the naked eye.

Herschel went on, after a few years, to discover two Uranian moons, followed by two more of Saturn.

The first four asteroids were discovered during Keats’s boyhood. Three of them are at the extreme margin of visibility with the naked eye. The first was observed on the first day of the nineteenth century.

The first Europeans to see the east coast of the Pacific were members of Vasco Núñez de Balboa’s expedition. Wikipedia: “Keats had been reading William Robertson’s History of America and [...] conflated two scenes there described: Balboa’s finding of the Pacific [1513] and Cortés’s first view of the Valley of Mexico [1519]. The Balboa passage: ‘At length the Indians assured them, that from the top of the next mountain they should discover the ocean which was the object of their wishes. When, with infinite toil, they had climbed up the greater part of the steep ascent, Balboa commanded his men to halt, and advanced alone to the summit, that he might be the first who should enjoy a spectacle which he had so long desired. As soon as he beheld the South Sea [Mar del Sur] stretching in endless prospect below him, he fell on his knees, and lifting up his hands to Heaven, returned thanks to God, who had conducted him to a discovery so beneficial to his country, and so honourable to himself. His followers, observing his transports of joy, rushed forward to join in his wonder, exultation, and gratitude’ (Vol. III).”

Wikipedia:

“Keats’ generation was familiar enough with the polished literary translations of John Dryden and Alexander Pope, which gave Homer an urbane gloss similar to Virgil, but expressed in blank verse or heroic couplets. Chapman’s vigorous and earthy paraphrase (1616) was put before Keats by Charles Cowden Clarke, a friend from his days as a pupil at a boarding school in Enfield Town. They sat up together till daylight to read it: ‘Keats shouting with delight as some passage of especial energy struck his imagination. At ten o’clock the next morning, Mr. Clarke found the sonnet on his breakfast-table.’” No source given for the quotation.

The earlier lines:

“Much have I travell’d in the realms of gold,
And many goodly states and kingdoms seen;
Round many western islands have I been
Which bards in fealty to Apollo hold.
Oft of one wide expanse had I been told
That deep-browed Homer ruled as his demesne;
Yet did I never breathe its pure serene
Till I heard Chapman speak out loud and bold:”

Landscapes (old post).

A Study of History, Vol X, OUP, 1954


Insatiability

September 27 2014

[The] Faustian insatiability of inquiring Western minds [...]. The impetus of a curiosity that had pressed on from an exploration of a physical ocean in the fifteenth century of the Christian Era to the sounding of the psychic abyss of the Subconscious in the twentieth century [...].

A Study of History, Vol X, OUP, 1954


The good things about Gregory

September 26 2014

Gibbon’s treatment of Gregory the Great is a monument of the historian’s virtuosity in the unamiable art of bestowing praise in terms that are more devastating than a candid censure:

“The pontificate of Gregory the Great … is one of the most edifying periods of the history of the Church. His virtues, and even his faults, a singular mixture of simplicity and cunning, of pride and humility, of sense and superstition, were happily suited to his station and to the temper of the times. …

“Experience had shown him the efficacy of these pompous rites … and he readily forgave their tendency to promote the reign of priesthood and superstition. …

“The most abject ideas must be entertained of their [the sixth-century Italians’] [bracket in original] taste and learning, since the epistles of Gregory, his sermons, and his dialogues are the work of a man who was second in erudition to none of his contemporaries.”

These are three fair samples of the laudatory arrows with which Gibbon has nailed his mighty victim to his sarcastic page in the forty-fifth chapter of his work.

A Study of History, Vol X, OUP, 1954 (footnote)


Not a wisp of Islamic glory

September 25 2014

Dubai.

Original post.


Faust

September 24 2014

Habe nun, ach! Philosophie,
Juristerei und Medizin,
Und leider auch Theologie!
Durchaus studiert, mit heissem Bemühn.
Da steh’ ich nun, ich armer Tor!
Und bin so klug als wie zuvor …
Und sehe dass wir nichts wissen können!
Das will mir schier das Herz verbrennen.

[Footnote: Goethe: Faust, ll. 354-9 and 364-5.]

Tor means fool.

A Study of History, Vol X, OUP, 1954


Marcus

September 23 2014

Recluse in the palace and hermit in the camp [...].

A Study of History, Vol X, OUP, 1954


Roman Internet

September 22 2014

Architectural style: a kind of postmodern neoclassical, esp one characterised by broken pediments, split gables and brightly coloured faux-balconies with X railings. Used in corporate headquarters from the London suburbs to Bangalore.

Andrew Cover, a friend of mine, coined this c 2000.


~~~

September 15 2014

Back September 22.


Abandoned virtuosity 2

September 14 2014

First post.

Primitive African art (it was called primitive), therefore, was the second non-European subverter of Europe’s academic tradition. It dealt the death blow. The first subversive influence, starting half a century earlier, had been the more widely-, sometimes unconsciously-assimilated art of Japan. Toynbee constantly writes about the impact of the West on Japan in the nineteenth century, but he never once mentions the profound influence out of Japan, which operated at a high-cultural, not a political, economic or religious level.

He never mentions Ife, nor shows any taste for the primitive. On the contrary, in 1939 he sees European engagement with barbarous African art only as a sign of a loss of vitality in Europe’s own art.

He cannot see modern art as a revitalised art. I don’t think his visual or musical sensibilities were highly developed; they were in any case Victorian. Victorians of his background and education were not known for visual or musical sophistication. He can think only of a breakdown.

One could make a fascinating anthology of reactionary writing about modern art, and especially about jazz. High learning, high culture were opposed to popular culture and to barbarous art. The mish-mash of high and low that almost all educated people embrace today was outside his and his generation’s experience. There are Economist pieces about modern mish-mash here and here.

In a late dialogue, Toynbee says:

“Recreation” in the present-day Western sense has always seemed to me to be an unhealthy regression to childishness. I have therefore despised it, and I believe I have been right.

European art wasn’t moribund in 1900. It was vital because it was changing. Artists, even relatively conservative ones, were caught up in a great movement. Academic establishments were becoming trivial or dull. (Even Brahms could seem dull, and when Britten said that he played Brahms once a year to remind himself how bad he was, and a friend of mine spoke to me about “eine verdammt tote Musik” without naming a composer, they perhaps had at the back of their minds some of his late piano pieces. I suspect Britten of thinking of opus 117, no 1. Re-enter rhythm with the Rite of Spring and jazz.)

In Vol IV “Benin” meant barbarism in art. But he had modified his views slightly by the time he got to Vol IX.

The Kingdom of Benin, including the site of the modern Benin City, was in modern Nigeria, east of Ife, and further east of the country called Benin. It was destroyed by the infamous Punitive Expedition of 1897 (last post). The only reason the new country called Benin has that name is that Dahomey was not considered neutral for all ethnic groups; and Benin referred to the Bight or Bay, not to the Edo kingdom.

I am sure he would have gone on to study African history had he lived longer. A travel book called Between Niger and Nile, published in 1965, does not count, and he does not seem to have noticed Ife, though he warmed to Nigeria. He spoke loudly and consistently against white settlement in Kenya and apartheid in South Africa and in the US, and was quoted approvingly by Malcolm X in his autobiography for having referred, in the New York Times on September 29 1963, to the white race as the “bleached” race. Perhaps he would even have come to see something in African art worth absorbing, but before post-colonialism it was thought reasonable to place cultural attitudes in a different compartment from racial and colonial ones.

Experiences, OUP, 1969


The Benin massacres

September 13 2014

I mentioned Benin City in Nigeria in the post before last. This is from from David Attenborough’s seven-part BBC series The Tribal Eye (1975). The Benin Empire lasted from 1440 to 1897. The ruler was called the Oba.

Southern Nigeria (old post).


Dread of birth

September 12 2014

Among people who have believed in the reality of rebirth, the dread of it has always been stronger than the dread of death.

Surviving the Future, OUP, 1971


Abandoned virtuosity

September 11 2014

We may [ask ourselves] why our own traditional Western styles of music and dancing and painting and sculpture are being abandoned by our own rising generation. In our own case, is the explanation a loss of artistic technique? Have we forgotten the rules of rhythm and counterpoint and perspective and light and proportion which were discovered, or invented, by that Italian and Flemish creative minority which carried our Western Society out of the second chapter in its history into the third chapter some four or five centuries ago? In this case, in which we happen to be first-hand witnesses, the answer to our question is palpably in the negative. In these days of mass-education our Western World is more amply supplied than ever before with virtuosi who are masters of these techniques and who could put them into operation again any day if they felt the impulse in themselves and received the demand from their public. The prevailing tendency to abandon our Western artistic traditions is no involuntary capitulation to a paralytic stroke of technical incompetence; it is the deliberate abandonment of a style of art which is losing its appeal to the rising generation because this generation is ceasing to cultivate its aesthetic sensibilities on the traditional Western lines. We have wilfully cast out of our souls the great masters who have been the familiar spirits of our forefathers; and, while we have been wrapt in self-complacent admiration of the spiritual vacuum which we have discovered how to make, a Tropical African spirit of music and dancing and statuary has made an unholy alliance with a pseudo-Byzantine spirit of painting and bas-relief, and has entered in to dwell in a house that it has found empty and swept and garnished. [Footnote: Matt. xii. 43-5, Luke xi. 24-6.] The decline which betrays itself in this revolutionary change in aesthetic taste is not technical but is spiritual. In repudiating our own native Western tradition of art and thereby reducing our aesthetic faculties to a state of inanition and sterility in which they seize upon the exotic and primitive art of Dahomey and Benin as though this were manna in the wilderness, we are confessing before all men that we have forfeited our spiritual birthright. Our abandonment of our traditional artistic technique is manifestly the consequence of some kind of spiritual breakdown in our Western Civilization; and the cause of this breakdown evidently cannot be found in a phenomenon which is one of the subsequent symptoms.

From the fourth volume of the Study. From “We have wilfully cast out” onwards, he sounds like the headmistress Miss Strudwick, whom he would quote twenty years later: see August 26 post. He started work on Vol IV in the summer of 1933. She made her speech that June. I am sure he filed a cutting. We know from the same volume what he thought about the state of universal education, and from Vol IX his views (expressed just after the Strudwick quotation) on neo-barbarian city-dwellers and their entertainments.

See an old post on dated pessimism.

Benin bronzes became known in the West somewhat earlier than the historically-earlier stone, bronze and terracotta heads of Ife. But they have nothing to do with the country of Dahomey, now called Benin. This looks like a howler. The Empire of Benin was in what is now Edo state. Ife was in Yoruba country, further west.

Toynbee, like many of his English class and generation, had, when he wrote this, no grasp of what modern art was or of what made it happen. His taste in modern literature, such as it was, was also unreliable.

For all his awareness of the impact of the West on Japan, he does not mention in a single place, even a caption in the Caplan abridgement, and may not even have known about, the effect on art in the West in the nineteenth century of the West’s discovery of Japanese aesthetics.

In the passage I have quoted, he sees a “breakdown” of the culture that had come before, rather than a prescient response to what was approaching or a dynamic response to what was new. European culture had never been something static and therefore liable to break down. It was breaking down all the time. Why, nevertheless, did things change so dramatically when even comparatively conservative artists seemed unexhausted? I asked that question, in relation to music, here and here.

Was he so ignorant of modern art in his old age? Perhaps not. An artist such as Epstein (August 27), whom I took as a bogeyman for his class and generation, should have had great appeal for him. Epstein wasn’t even avant-garde at the end. He was quasi-religious and humane, like Toynbee.

Toynbee’s travel in his retirement (1955-75) included Latin America several times between 1956 and 1966, India in 1956-57 and 1960, the US repeatedly during the civil rights struggle, Japan in 1956 and 1967, Nigeria in 1964. His perspectives on art must have changed. From April 1970 to August 1972, he worked on an illustrated abridgement of A Study of History with Jane Caplan, which contained images by Raoul Hausmann, Rivera, Franz Wilhelm Seiwert, CRW Nevinson, Magnus Zeller, Bruno Caruso, Picasso, Dix. He was ready at the end of his life to take African and southeast Asian history seriously, about which he had known nothing earlier. He quotes TS Eliot on the title page of his Gifford lectures (published 1956).

We have evidence of a pre-retirement change of outlook in the ninth volume of the Study (1954). There is a section about renaissances of the visual arts of a dead civilisation in the history of an affiliated civilisation of the next generation. The Sumeric style of carving in bas-relief was revived under the Neo-Assyrian Empire (911-612 BC). The style of sculpture and painting of the Old Kingdom was revived in the Saite age (Twenty-Sixth Dynasty, the last before the Persian conquest). The Hellenic style of carving in bas-relief (see Attic masterpieces of the fifth and fourth centuries BC) was nostalgically revived on Byzantine diptychs carved not in stone but in ivory in the tenth, eleventh and twelfth centuries CE. The Babylonic civilisation was indeed, in Toynbee’s scheme, affiliated to the Sumeric, and the Orthodox Christian civilisation to the Hellenic. But why is he suggesting that Saite Egypt was part of a civilisation affiliated to the Egyptiac?

The example on which he dwells, however, is a further one, namely

the renaissance of Hellenic visual arts in Western Christendom which made its first epiphany in a Late Medieval Italy and spread thence to the rest of the Western World during a Modern Age of Western history. This evocation of ghosts of Hellenic visual arts was practised in the three fields of Architecture, Sculpture, and Painting; and, in every one of these three fields, the revenant style of art made so clean a sweep of the style that it found in possession of the corresponding sector of a Western artistic arena that, by the time when the aggressive ghost had spent his formidable force, Western Man had become so thoroughly used to living his aesthetic life under this alien ascendancy that he did not know what to do with a liberty that was not recovered for him by his own exertions, but was reimposed upon him by the senile decay of a pertinaciously tyrannical intruder. When the evaporation of an Hellenic spectre presented Western souls with an aesthetic vacuum, they found themselves at first unable, for the life of them, to say what was the proper visual expression for the West’s long-suppressed native artistic genius.

Hellenism had been an “intruder”. Now he seems to want modernism to hurry up, as if it might be the expression of “the West’s long-suppressed native artistic genius”. “Vacuum” now means something different.

The most extraordinary episode [had been] the triumph of an Hellenic revenant over the native genius of the West in the province of Sculpture in the Round; for, in this field of artistic endeavour, the thirteenth-century Northern French exponents of an original Western style had produced masterpieces that could look in the face those of the Hellenic, Egyptiac, and Mahayanian Buddhist schools at their zeniths, whereas in the field of Painting, by the time when a revenant Hellenic style invaded it, Western artists had not yet shaken off the tutelage of the more precocious art of a sister Orthodox Christian Society, while in the field of Architecture the Romanesque style – which, as its latter-day label indicates, was a nascent Western World’s variation on an architectural theme inherited from the latest age of an antecedent Hellenic Civilization – had already been overwhelmed by an intrusive “Gothic” style which, contrary to the implication of its misnomer, had originated, not among the barbarians in a no-man’s-land beyond the European limes of the Roman Empire, but in a Syriac World which, in articulo mortis, had made a cultural conquest of the savage Western Christian military conquerors who had seized upon fragments of a dissolving ʿAbbasid and a dissolving Andalusian Umayyad Caliphate.

So Gothic had been another alien intrusion. This nativism seems out of place in a man who had never been taken in by racial theory. Whatever the eastern influences in Gothic, to suggest that its small debt to something external made Hellenism’s subsequent triumph over it less surprising than its triumph over an “original” Medieval sculpture is extreme sophistry.

[...]

The sterility with which the Western genius had been afflicted by a renaissance of Hellenism in the domain of Architecture was proclaimed in the West’s surprising failure to reap any architectural harvest from the birth-pangs of the Industrial Revolution. In Great Britain at the turn of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and in the Western World as a whole before the nineteenth century reached its close, a mutation in industrial technique that had begotten the iron girder had suddenly thrust into the Western architect’s hands an incomparably versatile new building-material; and this gift of the grimy gods might have been expected to inspire the favoured Western human recipient to break even the toughest cake of inherited architectural custom in an eager exploration of the potentialities of a hitherto untried instrument. As it happened, no great effort was required of a Western architect of that generation to break a Hellenizing architectural tradition that was then already crumbling between his fingers; yet the architect who had been presented by a blacksmith with the iron girder, and by Providence with a clean slate, could think of no better ways of filling an opportune vacuum than to cap an Hellenic Renaissance with “a Gothic Revival” and to recoil from the “Gothic” ironmongery of Ruskin’s Science Museum at Oxford [1855-61] and the Woolworth Building in New York [1910-13] into a “Colonial” brickwork [equivalent of our Georgian] reproducing the Hellenizing Western style of architecture as this had been practised during an eighteenth-century North American “Indian Summer”.

Ruskin had deemed the use of iron improper in neo-Gothic buildings, but it became increasingly common. In France, Viollet-le-Duc made a virtue of it.

The first Westerner to think of frankly turning the iron girder to account as a building material without bashfully drawing a “Gothic” veil over his Volcanic vulgarity was not a professional architect but an imaginative amateur; and, though he was a citizen of the United States, the site on which he erected his historic structure overlooked the shores of the Bosphorus, not the banks of the Hudson. The nucleus of Robert College – Hamlin Hall, dominating Mehmed the Conqueror’s Castle of Europe – was built by Cyrus Hamlin in A.D. 1869-71; [footnote: “The building is 113 feet by 103. … The stone is the same as that of the fortress built in A.D. 1452-3. … It is fire-proof, the floors being of iron beams with brick arches” (Hamlin, Cyrus: Among the Turks (London 1878, Sampson Low), p. 297). [...]] yet it was only within the life-time of the writer of this Study, who was born in A.D. 1889 and was writing these lines in A.D. 1950, that the seed sown by Hamlin in Constantinople bore fruit in a Western World that was Brunel’s as well as Hamlin’s homeland.

Toynbee had known Robert College since 1921 and had written about it before that, but was it really the first non-Gothic architectural marriage of stone and iron?

Iron had been married to glass in the revolutionary Crystal Palace and had been used in bridges earlier still. By about 1890, steel frames would enable skyscrapers.

It is true that modernism had a delayed entrance. The steel-framed Woolworth Building, and much of early twentieth-century New York, was a halfway house. But while it was going up, so were the earliest examples of modernism in the US.

Toynbee’s generation had been taught to despise neo-Gothic. The generation which valued it – which included, among English taste-makers, Evelyn Waugh, Kenneth Clark and John Betjeman – was a little younger.

This sterilization of the West’s artistic genius, which was the nemesis of a Hellenizing renaissance in the realm of Architecture, was no less conspicuous in the realms of Painting and Sculpture. Over a span of more than half a millennium running from the generation of Dante’s contemporary Giotto (decessit A.D. 1337), a Modern Western school of Painting, which had unquestioningly accepted the naturalistic ideals of an Hellenic visual art in its post-archaic phase, had worked out, one after another, divers methods of conveying the visual impressions made by light and shade until this long-sustained effort to produce the effects of photography through prodigies of artistic technique had been stultified, on the eve of its consummation, by the invention of photography itself. After the ground had thus inconsiderately been cut away from under their feet by the shears of Modern Western Science, Modern Western painters made a “Pre-Raphaelite” Movement, in the direction of their long since repudiated Byzantine provenance, before they thought of exploring a new world of Psychology which Science had given them to conquer in compensation for the old world of Physical Nature which she had stolen from the painter in order to hand it over to the photographer. After the invention of photography the best part of a century had to pass before the rise of an apocalyptic school of Western painters who made a genuinely new departure by frankly using paint – veritably more Byzantino – to convey the spiritual experiences of Psyche instead of the visual impressions of Argus; but the increasing sureness of foot with which the Western painters were advancing along this new road by the close of the first half of the twentieth century seemed to augur that the Western sculptors, in their turn, would eventually set their faces in the same direction after discovering, by trial and error, that the broken road to Athens, which they had been following ever since a Niccolò Pisano had swerved into it in the thirteenth century, could not, after all, be regained by a detour through either Byzantium or Benin.

So they would abandon the road altogether? Was it a road to Athens?

More Byzantino. Byzantine art is about the expression, or rather holding or representation, of spiritual reality, not (pace the Medieval ivories) about the representation of surfaces. The bronzes of Benin influenced modern artists. I don’t know whether there were Benin bronzes at the Palais du Trocadéro in May or June 1907, when Picasso experienced his African revelation there.

Thus, at the time of writing, it looked as if, in all three visual arts, the sterilization of a native Western genius by an exotic Hellenizing renaissance might eventually be overcome; but the slowness and the difficulty of the cure showed how serious the damage had been.

Sterilization of a native Western genius! Cure! Damage! This is the kind of thing that made Trevor-Roper write off Toynbee.

A footnote after the reference to Argus shows that his thinking on modern art has advanced:

In IV. iv. 52, this positive aim [Byzantinist rather than Beninist?] of a revolutionary twentieth-century school of Western painting has not been given due recognition.

He has come, in other words, as far as Expressionism, which is a fair way.

In Mankind and Mother Earth, we have:

Artists have psychic antennae that are sensitive, in advance, to portentous coming events.

They did before 1914. But this isn’t a historical law either. Did Athenian artists have the jitters before the Peloponnesian War, which is Toynbee’s Hellenic First World War?

Perhaps northern European artists on the eve of the Reformation had presentiments of an end of an order.

And in the illustrated abridgement of A Study of History, we have an illustration of Picasso’s Woman with a Fan of 1907, with a caption probably written by Caplan:

The camera’s conquest of the visual world left twentieth-century artists free to explore the hidden worlds of the mind and its modes of perception; art finally exorcized its Hellenic ghost: Picasso, Woman with a Fan, 1908 [pablopicasso.org says 1907].

Picasso, Woman with a Fan,1907

Archaism in art (old post).

A Study of History, Vol IV, OUP, 1939

A Study of History, Vol IX, OUP, 1954

Mankind and Mother Earth, A Narrative History of the World, OUP, 1976, posthumous

With Jane Caplan, A Study of History, new one-volume abridgement, with new material and revisions and, for the first time, illustrations, and with a Foreword by Toynbee, Thames & Hudson, 1972


The Brahms of Brahms

September 10 2014

Horn Trio. Barenboim, Perlman, Clevenger. Second movement, 2:58-3:32.


The screen

September 9 2014

When it rises to [an] active response, the Soul finds that the effacement of the characteristic form of the disintegrating civilization has brought it face to face, not with a Chaos void of any form at all, but with a Cosmos whose circumambient form and divine architecture are now at last coming into view through the rents in the screen of lath-and-plaster work with which Man has sought to shut out an overwhelming vision of Eternity and Infinity.

A Study of History, Vol V, OUP, 1939


Shades of the prison-house

September 9 2014

When it rises to [an] active response, the Soul finds that the effacement of the characteristic form of the disintegrating civilization has brought it face to face, not with a Chaos void of any form at all, but with a Cosmos whose circumambient form and divine architecture are now at last coming into view through the rents in the screen of lath-and-plaster work with which Man has sought to shut out an overwhelming vision of Eternity and Infinity.

[Footnote: An almost naïvely self-complacent boast of juvenile proficiency in this art of self-protective spiritual jerry-building is made in the following passages from Mr. H. G. Wells’ Experiment in Autobiography, vol i (London 1934, Gollancz), pp 78-9, 96, and 144:

“I was glad to think that between the continental land masses of the World, which would have afforded an unbroken land passage for wolves from Russia and tigers from India, and this safe island on which I took my daily walks, stretched the impassable moat of the English Channel. I read, too, in another book, about the distances of the stars, and that seemed to push the All Seeing Eye very agreeably away from me. …

“I felt it must be rather empty and cheerless beyond the stars [Victorian “beyond”], but I did not let my mind dwell on that. My God, who by this time had become entirely disembodied, had been diffused through this space since the beginning of things. He was already quite abstracted from the furious old hell-and-heaven Thunder God of my childish years. His personality had faded . …

“It must be hard for intelligent people nowadays to realize all that a shabby boy of fifteen could feel as the last rack of a peevish son-crucifying Deity dissolved away into blue sky, and as the implacable social barriers, as they had seemed, set to keep him in that path unto which it had pleased God to call him, weakened down to temporary fences he could see over and presently hope to climb over or or push aside.”

The unconscious irony of these passages is heightened by the very expressiveness of the author’s literary genius. Mr. Wells here reveals himself building up defensive screens and fancying all the time that he is pulling down constricting barriers; contracting the spiritual bounds of his microcosm and imagining that he is enlarging the span of the Universe because he is pushing the physical frontiers of his macrocosm out to a mathematical infinity. To all appearance he is unaware of the truth that, as God dissolves into blue sky, the shades of the prison-house are closing around the growing boy [Wordsworth, Intimations of Immortality].]

On the other hand, Wells in his teens sees God as having been “diffused“ through the Universe “since the beginning of things”.

Wells was an atheist in most of his later life, but went though a quasi-religious phase in the 1910s.

Surely God’s disembodiment was merely an instance of the human tendency to etherialise.

A Study of History, Vol V, OUP, 1939


Music of the forest

September 8 2014

The story of Colin Turnbull. BBC Radio 4, with Kwame Anthony Appiah, Steven Feld, Roy Richard Grinker, Terese Hart. Producer Martin Williams. Broadcast August 26 and September 7.

Mbuti pygmy music, Congo, possibly a Turnbull recording; the point of this post is the radio documentary above, not this:

Cf Colin McPhee and, I suppose, Bruce Chatwin. And Wilfred Thesiger.

Appiah’s review, NYRB, November 16 2000, of Roy Richard Grinker, In the Arms of Africa: The Life of Colin M Turnbull, New York, St Martin’s Press, 2000.


Guarantee 2

September 7 2014

It is useless to fortify our new European organism by guarantees of the old order, because we cannot fortify such guarantees themselves against the sovereign national state. Whenever it chooses, the sovereign unit can shatter the international mechanism by war. [...]

“You ask,” the Germans say, “why we broke our contract towards Belgium? It would be more pertinent to ask how we were ever committed to such a contract at all.

“The heart of modern Germany is the industrial world of the Rhineland and Westphalia. The Belgian frontier and the Belgian tariff-wall rob this region of its natural outlet at Antwerp, yet the contract expressly forbids us to right this economic and geographical wrong by uniting the sea-port to its hinterland.

“The chief need of modern Germany is a source of raw produce and a market for her finished products in the tropical zone. Belgium has staked out for herself the one important region in Africa which was not already occupied by France or Great Britain. She can do nothing with it, while we –– but this contract expressly forbids us to kick the Belgian dog out of the manger.

“Because of this Belgian guarantee we must go in want of almost everything we need, yet meanwhile our great neighbours on either flank have conspired to take from us even the little we possess already. The struggle with France and Russia on which we are now engaged has been impending for years, and on our part it is a struggle for existence, but even here the same remorseless contract operates to paralyse our efforts. On the scale of modern warfare the Western battlefront must extend from Switzerland to the North Sea, yet the greater part of this immense zone is neutralised by natural and artificial obstacles on either side. From Switzerland to the Ardennes there will be stalemate: the decision will be reached in the open country between the Ardennes and the coast. Here, as soon as war broke out, France and our own fatherland had to concentrate the terrific energy of their armaments, yet we had contracted away our initiative in this vital area, for it lies within the frontiers of the Belgian state. The government we had guaranteed might prepare the ground for France and ruin it for ourselves, yet because of the guarantee we must look on passively at the digging of our grave.

“Why, then, had we suffered ourselves to be bound hand and foot? We had not: our grandfathers had entailed the bonds upon us. When they signed the contract in 1839, they knew not what they did. At that time Germany had no industry, Belgium had no colonies, and the Franco-German frontier between the Ardennes and the Jura was not closed to field operations by two continuous lines of opposing fortifications. Had their signature been demanded in 1914, they would have refused it as indignantly as we should have refused it ourselves. To us no choice was offered, and if we have asserted for ourselves the right to choose, who dares in his heart to condemn us? Who will impose a changeless law upon a changing world?”

Nationality and the War, Dent, 1915


Guarantee

September 6 2014

Guarantee! The formula coined in 1814 rings ironical to-day. Belgium was guaranteed [Treaty of London, 1839] in order to secure the stability of Europe, yet on account of that guarantee Great Britain and Germany, two of the greatest sovereign units in the European complexus, are at this moment engaged in a life-and-death struggle. Germany violated the Belgian guarantee deliberately in her attempt to destroy the European system by war. The effect of the guarantee may still prove momentous: it has drawn us into the war, and our intervention may turn the scale. Yet even if the Allies are victorious, and the new Europe is fashioned by them after their own hearts and not by Germany after hers, this will not save the credit of the guarantee itself. Germany may be punished for her work, but the work cannot be undone. Europe must drink the cup of war to the dregs – the pain, the hate, the waste, the pure evil that is not diminished one drop by cause or consequence. The guarantee was invented to avert that catastrophe from Europe. The catastrophe has happened and the invention is bankrupt.

See The question of a general guarantee in Mark Jarrett, The Congress of Vienna and Its Legacy, IB Tauris, 2013.

Ukrainian sovereignty would be guaranteed by NATO if Ukraine were a member of NATO, but see 1994 Budapest Memorandum.

Nationality and the War, Dent, 1915


~~~

August 29 2014

Back September 6.


Straight

August 29 2014

Who wrote: “Out of the crooked timber of humanity no straight thing was ever made”?

Kant in Idea for a Universal History with a Cosmopolitan Purpose, or rather, it is Isaiah Berlin’s translation of Kant’s ungainly

Aus so krummem Holze, als woraus der Mensch gemacht ist, kann nichts ganz Gerades gezimmert werden.


Bailecito

August 29 2014

Carlos GuastavinoBailecito, Valentina Diaz-Frenot, time and place of recording not stated:

Bailecito: traditional Argentinian dance. There’s a duet version with Freire and Argerich here (better played, of course).


Jewish legion

August 28 2014

Epstein at war, 1917. Silent Pathé clip. He served briefly in the 38th Battalion of the Royal Fusiliers, aka the Jewish Legion. Did he fight in Palestine? Where is his reputation now? It seems uncertain.


Jacob Epstein

August 28 2014

Short film from the BBC television programme Monitor, broadcast in 1958, the year before Epstein’s death. Huw Wheldon introduces it. The music is Sibelius 7.


Epstein in the Strand

August 27 2014

Re the last post but oneJacob Epstein’s sculptures were not really like the ill-defined “pre-Romanesque” sculpture to which Toynbee alludes, but Toynbee’s phrase “clumsy stiffness” is likely to refer to his work.

Through Epstein’s 1908 figures for the façade of the new British Medical Association building in the Strand, now Zimbabwe House, the British public had its first and formative encounter with a version of Modernism.

The encounter was unsettling because it took place in a street. It was known that strange things had been happening in painting, but paintings were in galleries. Sickert painted some of his Camden Town nudes in the same year.

The Epstein sculptures epitomised the modern. Their stripping away of an academic veil, not the subject-matter, made the reaction to them prudish. They might have been at the back of Toynbee’s and Strudwick’s minds a quarter of a century later. The BMA resisted the campaign for their removal.

The Evening Standard warned that Epstein had erected “a form of statuary which no careful father would wish his daughter, or no discriminating young man his fiancée, to see”. Half a century later Mervyn Griffith-Jones would ask during the Lady Chatterley trial: “When you have read it through, would you approve of your young sons, young daughters – because girls can read as well as boys – reading this book? Is it a book that you would have lying around in your own house? Is it a book that you would even wish your wife or your servants to read?”

The building became Rhodesia House (or the High Commission of Southern Rhodesia) in 1923.

Wikipedia: “London was not ready for Epstein’s first major commission – 18 large nude sculptures made in 1908 for the façade of Charles Holden’s building for the British Medical Association on The Strand (now Zimbabwe House) were initially considered shocking to Edwardian sensibilities, [...] mainly due to the perception that they were over-explicit sexually. In art-historical terms, however, the Strand sculptures were controversial for quite a different reason: they represented Epstein’s first thoroughgoing attempt to break away from traditional European iconography in favour of elements derived from an alternative sculptural milieu – that of classical India. The female figures in particular may be seen deliberately to incorporate the posture and hand gestures of Buddhist, Jain and Hindu art from the subcontinent in no uncertain terms. The current, mutilated condition of many of the sculptures is also not entirely connected with prudish censorship; the damage was caused in the 1930s when possibly dangerous projecting features were hacked off after pieces fell from one of the statues.” Not entirely?

If Toynbee and Strudwick had forgotten about the Ages of Man, they were thinking of the likes of Epstein’s Tomb of Oscar Wilde (1912) in the Père Lachaise Cemetery, and the reliefs of Epstein, Henry Moore, Eric Gill and others (1928) for the London Electric Railway headquarters (Moore’s first public commission)

figure06figures07-09figures10-11

BMA figures post-mutilation (first two images), photographs of original plaster casts (last four); credit: Nick Maroudas, Spike Magazine

Epstein BMA

Partial photo collage, Flickr credit: Dr Chester Chu

More shots at Flickr. I can’t find good images of the female figures.


Hammersmith

August 26 2014

Since I mentioned Hammersmith and Gustav Holst in the last post (including comments), here is Holst’s enigmatic Hammersmith (1930): a prelude and a scherzo. Eastman Wind Ensemble, Frederick Fennell. I wonder what Miss Strudwick thought of it.


Miss Strudwick

August 26 2014

“Over against the ever more amazing inventions of Science we see a kind of childishness creeping over our thoughts, our modes of expression, our art, our music, our morals. We talk in words from a very limited vocabulary, we produce pictures and statues of a more than ungainly ‘neo-primitiveness’, we croon nigger songs while we push one another round a room in dances that need no brain, no zest, and no vitality for their successful performance. Many of our buildings have as their chief merits the fact that they can be rushed up quickly and finished within a few weeks. We tear over the Earth’s surface along roads of brick-box straightness, past rows of houses of brick-box exactitude and hideousness, in order to get somewhere, it does not much matter where, in record time. Finally, the novels we read, apparently with pleasure, for there are many of them, show men and women as ill-conducted children whose one concern is that which they share with the animal world.

“There is to me something grim and horrible in an essentially mature civilisation playing at savage immaturity when it knows better. We cannot go back to the beginning of things any more than a mature mind can change into that of a child.”

[Footnote: Miss E. Strudwick, the Headmistress of St. Paul’s Girls’ School, Hammersmith, London, England, in a presidential address delivered on the 17th June, 1933, at Liverpool, at a Conference of the British Association of Head Mistresses. The text quoted here has been taken from the report in The Manchester Guardian of the 19th June, 1933.]

He must have kept the cutting. Quoting this was not, perhaps, Toynbee’s finest moment. He was consistently and passionately anti-racist and did not constantly complain about the modern world, but in 1954 his views on culture were still uncompromising. The N word could be introduced, in a quotation, in that context. No doubt those views were modified. His granddaughter Polly must have told him about pop music. Those were the conversations that happened in the ’60s. The older generation wasn’t entirely unaffected by the Zeitgeist.

“Roads of brick-box straightness [and] rows of houses of brick-box exactitude and hideousness” reminds one of dystopian cartoons of the time and of passages in novels such as Orwell’s Coming Up for Air.

As for neo-primitiveness, I wrote in an earlier post: “Englishmen of Toynbee’s generation and education probably thought, c 1935, of the sculptures of Jacob Epstein, with their ‘lines [...] cunningly reduced to the clumsy stiffness of the pre-Romanesque Dark Ages’, before they thought of buildings in the clean, anti-archaising International Style when Modernism was mentioned.”

See John CareyThe Intellectuals and the Masses, Pride and Prejudice among the Literary Intelligentsia, 1880-1939, Faber, 1992 and Richard Overy, The Morbid Age, Britain between the Wars, Allen Lane, 2009 (subsequently renamed).

Ethel Strudwick CBE (1880–1954) was the daughter of a Pre-Raphaelite painter, John Melhuish Strudwick. She read Classics at Bedford College, London and taught at City of London School for Girls from 1913. She was High Mistress of St Paul’s Girls’ School from 1927 to ’48. She has a DNB entry and apparently had a sense of humour.

Ethel Strudwick

Image at spgs.org, artist not stated

A Study of History, Vol IX, OUP, 1954


Descensus Averni

August 25 2014

Frederick’s unprincipled attack on the dominions of Maria Theresa in A.D. 1740, within Gibbon’s [...] lifetime, was the first step in a German descensus Averni which was to reach the bottom of the infernal pit in A.D. 1933-45.

A Study of History, Vol IX, OUP, 1954


The burning of Washington

August 24 2014

Britain burned down the White House two hundred years ago today. Madison was President. Here’s Peter Snow’s book.

Post about the White House.


The Berlin Airlift 2

August 24 2014

From an unidentified British documentary.