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Library pickings

I have spent the entire day going through old issues of the Athenæum and The Bookman, both literary journals based in London. I was looking for comments on Thackeray's plans for his unfinished novel, Thackeray's death, Stevenson's unfinished novels, Stevenson's death, and other things of a similar nature; but the thing with going through this types of journals is that I always end up spending a disproportionate amount of time reading stuff completely unrelated to what I am supposed to be doing. In an attempt to make it somehow justifiable, I share it with you.

The first caught my eye because Nietzsche always does. It is from the ``Notes from Paris'' section of the 1896 Bookman, and is written by Robert H. Sheard.

I see that an English edition of Nietzsche's works is in progress of publication in London. It should be well received by students of philosophy. I think it nonsense to write, as I saw it written the other day in some French review, that Nietzsche's doctrine ``systematises all the worst instincts of human nature''. The same writer added, ``The credit which this doctrine enjoys among the young generation seems to me singularly dangerous and menacing''. The [sic] is exaggerated alarm. The student of philosophy is de facto a hard-headed man, who is unlikely to allow himself to be influenced one way or another by the teachings of any one of the philosophers whom he reads. The weak youth does not read the philosophers (147-8).

Oh, so true.

This one, from ``Our Weekly Gossip'', a column in the Athenæum, specifically from September 26, 1863, caught my eye simply by being insane.

Sensation novelists may assert that they do not outstrip nature. Last week, a man named Hagan, in the county Antrim, cruelly maltreated his wife from making away with a dead man's finger. The terrible finger was a talisman cherished by Hagan, because it rendered him invisible. As his wife asserted that he was a thief, the loss of such a powerful piece of magic upset the safety of his vocation (402).

And finally (possibly because my brain had had the wrong dust/oxygen ratio for a while) this one, because I giggled at finding sticklers are not a new phenomenon (well, no surprises there), and my heart warmed at the language, which is so deliciously different from the classic youtube comment of "you misspelled definitely, you moron". This from 9th of April 1864:

On the title of Mr. Dickens' new story, ``Our Mutual Friend'', we have received many protests which would more usefully have been directed to the story-teller. ``In the interest of the Queen's English'', one gentleman writes, ``is it not to be regretted that Mr. Dickens should have chosen this phrase as the title of his new book? What is a mutual friend? If A has friendly feelings towards B, and B reciprocates them, their friendship is mutual; and they may without impropriety be called mutual friends. But if A and B are two persons, each of whom enjoys the friendship of a third person, C, there is no ``mutuality'' in the case. C is in this case their common friend; and the use of the word mutual to express the relation is which any of them stands to either of the others is manifestly incorrect. Two brothers cannot be said to have a mutual parent. Their father is their common parent''. Another gentleman reminds us that Macaulay has made a particular and emphatic protest against this expression. Mr. Dickens, it is admitted, has the power, and the right, to raise a mere colloquialism out of the dust, and to confer upon it the dignity of a literary idiom. But where there is a great power there is equal responsibility. At present we can only write in the dark, for Mr. Dickens's story is not published, and, for anything we know his use of the term may be perfectly sound. We have the right to assume it is so' (511).

To be fair I should also note that there was a voice of reason a week or so later who said something to the effect that language changes over time. He gave a lot of examples. Like "it cannot be helped", which appears counter-intuitive.

I love how Dickens is allowed to change language, but no one else is.

I don't see how Dickens' book title could ever be interpreted as being in harmony with the stickler's demands, though.