ON WRiTING WELL.

I’m not a big fan of writing manuals in general, having found them (when I’ve dipped into them) full of obvious tips mingled with personal quirks, but I’ve always heard William Zinsser’s On Writing Well mentioned with respect, and after reading Zinsser’s essay on how he came to write and revise it, I find myself wanting to read the book:

My model for On Writing Well was American Popular Song: The Great Innovators, 1900–1950, by the composer Alec Wilder.
Wilder’s book was one I had been waiting for all my life, the bible that every collector hopes someone will write in the field of his addiction. I was a collector of songs—the thousands of Broadway show tunes, Hollywood movie songs, and popular standards written in the 40-year golden age from Show Boat in 1926 to the rise of rock in the mid-1960s. As a part-time club pianist, I thought I knew them well—the oldest of old friends. Wilder showed me that I didn’t.
To write his book, Wilder examined the sheet music of 17,000 songs, selecting 300 in which he felt that the composer had pushed the form into new territory. Along with his text, he provided the pertinent bars of music to illustrate a passage that he found original or somehow touching. But what I loved most about Wilder’s book went beyond his erudition. It was his total commitment to his enthusiasms, as if he were saying: “These are just one man’s opinions—take ’em or leave ’em.” His pleasure was to praise. …
Thus I saw from Wilder’s American Popular Song that I might write a book about writing that would be just one man’s book. I would write from my own convictions—take ’em or leave ’em—and I would illustrate my points with passages by writers I admired. I would treat the English language spaciously, as a gift waiting for anyone to unwrap, not as a narrow universe of grammar and syntax. Above all, I would try to enjoy the trip and to convey that enjoyment to my readers.

And of course I’m interested in Wilder’s book as well. (Thanks for the link, Paul!)

Comments

  1. I’ve read it, and although it’s a good book as far as these books go, it didn’t really end up helping me very much. I was a much bigger fan of Lanham’s Style: An Anti-Textbook.

  2. A J P Crown says:

    It’s an odd title, that: Style: An Anti-Textbook. I suppose Lanham thought it was a bite-sized sample of the contents.

  3. Odd and intriguing, and given the source of the recommendation, I will have to investigate it.

  4. A J P Crown says:

    After three days of struggle, I have managed to put up one photograph on a blog site. It’s only for the curious.
    You’ll have to click here, I can’t get the address accepted in the LH address box, for some reason.

  5. marie-lucie says:

    AJP, a great display!I don’t know why anyone would think you looked like that British fellow you linked to earlier, except maybe your neighbours think that all English speakers look the same.

  6. Nice blog! And why would you put the URL in the address box? Put it in the URL box!

  7. Hurrah, Kron! you look … different … than what I expected.

  8. Hurrah, Kron! you look … different … than what I expected.

  9. AJP, that is so exciting.
    That guy with the chicken looks too young to be Kron, and he looks sort of Norwegian too. Maybe it’s somebody else.

  10. Second for Lanham, he’s quite fun. His other books aren’t very good though.

  11. Interesting that I had blocked out the URL box, I simply didn’t see it.
    Thank you Nij, for your advice and for urging me on. It is me & Dyveke & Alma. You probably mean I look younger, John, and I do on a fine summer’s day — but then so do you. Thank you, Marie-Lucie, I will think of it as a display from now on; that’s a great expression. Thank you, the newly-engaged Jamessal & Codfish, Thank you, Noetica and Dearie. Thank you all of my imaginary friends. Thank you Language — the world’s greatest and most interesting blogger — for bringing us together.

  12. Richard Hershberger says:

    I read the Zinsser several years ago and was unimpressed. The book is at best about how to write student essays and nonfiction articles for general interest magazines. On that level he has some good advice, but it is nothing so grand as the title suggests. He doesn’t seem to notice this himself. At one point he says that a piece of good writing should contain (paraphrasing from memory) one big idea. Elsewhere he cites the Bible as an example of good writing. I have wondered what he considers the Bible’s one big idea. My copy is a recent edition, but it is very lightly updated. The chapter on usage consists of the usual bugaboos. I too had heard this book cited as a particularly good example of the genre. I fear that this assessment is accurate.

  13. bruessel says:

    I hope you realise, AJP, that now that we have seen your youthful appearance, any further complaints about your age will be met with incredulous laughter.

  14. Incredulous laughter is better than no laughter (probably).

  15. Oh, Kron you’re completely welcome. I’m just glad you have forgiven me for not minding my own business. The blog is everything I had hoped. It says who you are with great economy and at the same time shows off your goats. I would never have kept bringing it up, though, if Hat hadn’t chimed in and said it was a good idea, so I blame Hat.
    *raises a glass to toast Hat*

  16. Those are sort of foo-foo looking goats, though, sort of high-society social parasite looking goats.
    Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

  17. Those are sort of foo-foo looking goats, though, sort of high-society social parasite looking goats.
    Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

  18. The kind of goats who will eat only imported tin cans.

  19. Pondering Slawk’s recommendation of Landham’s Style: An Anti-Textbook
    From some Amazon reviews:

    ~Lanham inveighs at length against the prevailing pedagogic approach to prose style, commonly thought to emanate from logical thinking – a function of clarity and sincerity. He proposes “an alternative goal: . . . a self-conscious pleasure in words” in “the spirit of play,” delighting in “form for its own sake.” No longer subservient to ideas or facts, style becomes the subject matter itself, in the manner of writers such as Lyly, Joyce, or Nabokov. It can be evaluated according to euphony, rhythm, syntactical balance, shape, and grace.

    ~Lanham, an expert on classical rhetoric, has written a witty, counter-intuitive work that argues, plausibly, that English teachers have erred in trying to instill clarity in their students’ writings. What is needed, says Lanham, is to teach, not clarity, but delight–i.e., rhythm, euphony, word play, all the belletristic devices of classical rhetoric–before we can hope to see good writing in student compositions. Once students (and journalists and bureaucrats and everyone else) learn to enjoy writing as an aesthetic game, clarity will follow automatically.

    ~It’s an argument for bringing back rhetoric, particularly the study of literary ornamentation, to transmute the leaden prose and confused thinking all around us nowadays. According to Lanham, preaching “scientific” notions of clarity won’t cause students to write more clearly: it will only make matters worse.

    All right, here’s what’s bothering me. The typical American style of writing a composition is to start with a topic sentence and support it with reasons and examples. When I taught in the Middle East, I found that the students had not been taught this system. Other English teachers I met noticed this also. Apparently their system is to somehow write in a circle. I guess how they say something is more important than what they say. Who knows, maybe in this part of the world it’s the wisest course of action (or inaction) and the kind of thing I should be learning how to do. But now it occurs to me that this may be the reason why I don’t click with the same writers that so many of the posters (and Hat) seem to revere. Maybe this is the key? Or is it just a product of not having majored in literature? Does anyone have the slightest clue what I am trying to say?

  20. I think you’re onto something. The tyranny of the “topic sentence” and “logical organization” has been imposed on American students for many decades, and I think it’s done a lot of harm, making it much more difficult for them to appreciate other forms of good writing. There’s nothing wrong with Hemingway, but he inspired a lot of bad, boring writing in others (the same is true of Raymond Carver). The quotes you give from the Amazon reviews make me more than ever interested in reading the book; “not clarity, but delight” is an excellent manifesto.

  21. From time to time I imagine a contemporary writing teacher or editor being given a passage from “Moby Dick” or “Walden” or practically anyone from any earlier era.
    Poe or Stephen Crane might get by.
    Chinese and, I think Japanese, also have the practice of introducing and developing ideas gradually, a bit at a time, so only toward the end will you get a full statement of the thesis. And IIRC, often there’s a kind of coda after it so that the thesis isn’t to baldly exposed.

  22. From time to time I imagine a contemporary writing teacher or editor being given a passage from “Moby Dick” or “Walden” or practically anyone from any earlier era.
    Poe or Stephen Crane might get by.
    Chinese and, I think Japanese, also have the practice of introducing and developing ideas gradually, a bit at a time, so only toward the end will you get a full statement of the thesis. And IIRC, often there’s a kind of coda after it so that the thesis isn’t to baldly exposed.

  23. marie-lucie says:

    In France it is considered uncouth to begin a paper with a direct statement of your purpose in writing it. It is better to start with a general statement giving little inkling of what you intend to write about, and to get to the topic little by little. Your ending should also be something general, if possible veering off the topic, and certainly not a summary of what you just wrote.
    In the Memoirs of the late scholar, novelist and columnist Robert Escarpit, he tells how he and a friend, about to sit for a very competitive exam (including several essays over a period of days), dared each other to begin and end one essay (regardless of topic) with the following sentences, respectively (I quote from memory): Le merveilleux instinct des insectes supérieurs leur permet de subvenir à leurs besoins dans toutes les circonstances de leur existence and Au fond, ce n’est qu’une angoisse qui se cherche (“The wonderful instinct of higher insects lets them find everything necessary to their needs in all the circumstances of their lives” and “Basically, it is but an anguish in search of itself”). (He succeeded, and did pass the exam, but the friend could only manage to include one of these sentences).
    In Robert Barnard’s satirical novel Posthumous Papers (American title Death of a literary widow) one character is an American literary scholar, and several examples are given of his heavy-handed, plodding paragraphs, in implicit contrast to the more elegant style expected of a British scholar.

  24. Where’s Kron? I haven’t seen him around here for a while and I sort of miss him.
    D’oh.
    I’ve created a monster.

  25. marie-lucie says:

    p.s. “Basically, it is but an anguish in search of itself”
    I think I should have translated au fond by When all is said and done…

  26. J. Emerson: Those are sort of foo-foo looking goats, though, sort of high-society social parasite looking goats.
    Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
    Language: The kind of goats who will eat only imported tin cans.
    Kindly note that these comments have recently been addressed at my blog…

  27. I have a theory about the mystery of Kron’s young appearance. I think he may have cheated and used an old photo (as I did recently when I briefly put up an old photo of myself with a goat).

  28. marie-lucie says:

    Nijma, on your photo it is barely possible to make out a goat, let alone a person.

  29. Okay I put back the URL with the goat pictures. I had to edit myself out though because of blog stalkers.

  30. What are blog stalkers? No, never mind.
    Or maybe you mean blog’s talkers. Ok, I’ll take a close-up picture of myself and put it up. Only you’ll just have to take my word that it’s recent, because I’m pretty good at photoshopping if I need to.

  31. Oh, Kron, don’t worry about it, you’ve said so many things about how old you are no one can keep track any more. I’m 29 and I have been 29 for quite some time. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

  32. There’s nothing wrong with Hemingway, but
    I’ll have to investigate Hemingway then, I’ve taken a copy of “for whom the bell tolls” and moved it from the bottom of my reading stack to the top.
    “not clarity, but delight” is an excellent manifesto.
    It seems like reading pleasure is highly subjective. What one person *likes* another person will not. And what is popular in one era, like the ponderous ‘bad poetry’ from the 19th century that sometimes found its way into public spaces, will be ridiculed in another. How can a universal “enjoyment” be defined, much less taught? For dogs I know the answer. They like sounds like d, t and g, and dislike “s” (hardwired to avoid snakes?), but for people I can’t think of anything universal.
    From time to time I imagine a contemporary writing teacher or editor being given a passage from “Moby Dick” or “Walden” or practically anyone from any earlier era.
    Poe or Stephen Crane might get by.
    I don’t know that I can hold myself up as typical–ESL is a little different–but Walden, Crane and Poe get by fine, Poe is actually fun on different levels-but Moby Dick, not so much. I once ran across a used juvenile edition and forced myself to read it on the spot, having never been able to get more than a few pages into it before. I can’t say I’m a better person for having done that.
    Chinese and, I think Japanese, also have the practice of introducing and developing ideas gradually, a bit at a time, so only toward the end will you get a full statement of the thesis. And IIRC, often there’s a kind of coda after it so that the thesis isn’t to baldly exposed.
    I ran across this technique in a tape of a speech by Louis Farrakhan that was being passed around. In the first twenty minutes he said obvious stuff that everyone could agree with, like the black community needs to be developed economically, etc., but gradually eased into hate speech. A more recent example is a North American Union/Illuminati conspiracy video with scary bass notes in the beginning. Those who have been able to get through the first hour say the second hour gets into an anti-Semitic diatribe. So here at least, the non-linear (non-logical organization)(?) style is used as a technique to introduce material whose legitimacy might be questioned.
    In France it is considered uncouth to begin a paper with a direct statement of your purpose in writing it.
    I wonder if the French admire the passive voice as well, like the Jordanians do.

  33. marie-lucie says:

    I wonder if the French admire the passive voice
    I don’t recall ever receiving advice on the subject. In English, there are only active and passive sentences, but in French there are two equivalents to English passive sentences, besides using a regular passive form: start with on (“one”) as the subject, or use a theoretically “pronominal” verb. These two alternatives are equivalents to using verbs with se (and other pronouns) in Spanish. The result is that there is much greater flexibility in French than in English about how to present an event. “One” in English is definitely not part of casual speech, but in French on is ubiquitous (and in fact is – or perhaps used to be – frowned upon in writing if used as an equivalent to nous “we” as in casual speech). Unfortunately, with the current pervasive availability of more or less competent translations from English, for instance in the media (and the current imperfect knowledge of English in a large part of the population), English passives are often translated by French passives, among other literal types of translation infelicities if not errors. This leads to a much greater use of passives in French prose.

  34. Nijma, you can take anything and cherry-pick a couple of scary examples. “Hitler took that attitude!” is a rhetorical trick rightly mocked in better internet circles. The fact that two pieces of hate speech use a particular style of discourse is utterly irrelevant to Chinese and Japanese literature, or indeed anything aside from those two pieces of hate speech.

  35. I don’t think it’s accurate to invoke Godwin’s law in this case; the attitude is more of a cultural thing.
    For example, if you say “taxes were raised”, this might go over all right in some cultures, especially where isn’t healthy to ask questions, but Americans would be more likely to see the passive voice as a weasel mechanism. They would want to know WHO raised the taxes. Of course there are legitimate uses of passive voice, like a theater production, where who produced the play would not be the most interesting fact about it–at least for the public. We argued about this incessantly in Jordan, the Jordanians we had nicknamed Gucci and Channel were very adamantly enthusiastic about passive voice, claimed educated American used it exclusively, and that its use was proof of erudition.
    The form-trumps-content way of presenting material seem to me the same setup. If someone wants to hide objectionable material, it’s the way to go. But there must be legitimate, if less common, usages as well.

  36. “better internet circles”–there’s a better internet circle than LH?

  37. michael farris says:

    “Poe is actually fun on different levels-but Moby Dick, not so much”
    I’m thrilled and honored to find someone else who didn’t like it. I remember being on a reading jag (averaging a novel a day from pulpy trash to popular but good stuff) when I decided to give Moby Dick a try. It took three weeks (much of it absolute torture).
    I’m willing to agree to anything nice anyone says about it as long as I don’t have to read it again.
    The _only_ book I found as tedious was “Penguin Island” (which I tackled at too a young age and was totally unprepared for because I didn’t realize what was being satired).
    Moby Dick never gave me the idea that I was unprepared, just that it was overblown and turgid (again I’m willing to admit to any flaw of character that doesn’t make me look at the damned thing again)

  38. Thank you, Marie-Lucie. I’m filing that, it’s very interesting.
    About Moby Dick, I had a rant here about that awful book only a couple of weeks ago. You just aren’t paying attention, Michael. It’s just a wild guess, but you know who probably love Moby Dick are John Emerson, MMcM and Language, himself. Hell, I wouldn’t even put it past Jamessal. There maybe more.

  39. Three passive levels in French–what does it say about their value system? Conflict avoidance? (Americans probably value directness more than other nationalities.)
    equivalents to using verbs with se (and other pronouns) in Spanish
    I thought this was just “reflexive”, example gustarse. “me gusta chocolate”–I like chocolate, (literally, chocolate pleases me)

  40. Ivanhoe.
    I once had an assignment to choose a novel to report on. Ivanhoe was on the list. When I went to the high school library to look at it, a small note fell out. The note said something like “Dear fellow student, I am going to do you a favor and tell you this is the worst book you will ever read. Do not waste your time. Put this book back on the shelf right now.” I did, with the note still inside. No one else did Ivanhoe for the class either.

  41. marie-lucie says:

    Nijma: Three passive levels in French
    That is not what I said: I mean that there are other ways of translating English passives than just passive forms.
    (Spanish) “reflexive”, example gustarse. “me gusta chocolate”–I like chocolate, (literally, chocolate pleases me)
    This is not reflexive at all. gustarse would mean ‘to please … self’. “Chocolate pleases me” is an active sentence (the passive equivalent would be “I am pleased by chocolate”).
    An example of true Spanish reflexives is Se afeita antes de vestirse “He shaves [lit. himself] before getting dressed [lit. dressing himself]“. A sentence where the reflexive is used as a virtual passive (see my comment above) would be Se usa para cortar carne “It is used to cut meat” (literally ‘it uses itself’). And se is an equivalent of French indefinite on in Se bailo’ toda la noche “People/everyone danced all night”, or “There was dancing all night”.

  42. marie-lucie says:

    MF: “Penguin Island”
    This is L’Ile des Pingouins, by Anatole France. I too read it when I was much too young to understand what it was about, even though my father said it was a satire of French history. You have to be very familiar with that history (as well as old enough to understand the “adult themes”). Most of the book satirizes the events and personalities of the nineteenth-century Third Republic, which I don’t know well enough to appreciate all the subtleties.

  43. marie-lucie says:

    Nijma: Ivanhoe
    Perhaps the student who wrote the note wanted to keep the book available to just him or her and was making sure that no one else would read it? It may not be the world’s greatest masterpiece, but it is certainly not the worst novel you would want to read, especially if you like plenty of action set among the pageantry of the chivalrous age. It takes place shortly after the Norman conquest, and among other things it contains a famous dialogue about the inequality between Normans and Saxons as reflected in recent (at the time) additions to the English language.

  44. A J P Crown says:

    Most of the book satirizes the events and personalities of the nineteenth-century Third Republic, which I don’t know well enough to appreciate all the subtleties.
    It sounds good. Though Proust isn’t satire, it sounds like similar knowledge would help.
    ‘Ivanhoe’ was well-known to children in the early nineteen-sixties, because it was the title of a children’s weekly tv adventure series about sword-wielding knights on horseback. Therefore the note might have been a warning that the book was going to be a disappointment to those who only knew the name from television.

  45. marie-lucie says:

    AJP,
    Penguins and Proust: the Penguins novel is much more about political history, with (for the initiated) thinly disguised references to actual political actors, Proust (in spite of such personal references) about the description and mores of a social class. The tone (and length!) of the two works is also exremely different. But I certainly would not call Penguin Island boring for an adult, even without understanding all the references.
    Ivanhoe: that makes sense. I didn’t know about the TV show.

  46. Looks like Ivanhoe was a movie too:
    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0118354/usercomments
    I don’t think I would have been terribly interested in it at the age of 16, although who knows, I read Tale of Two Cities in the 6th grade.
    Some of the comments make it look pretty bad though:

    This production captures Scott in all his romantic glory, and makes a great attempt at historical accuracy, with the inherent problem that the division of Norman and Saxon was mostly gone by this point in history.

    You’ve got a Saxon woman from a culture Christianised for centuries calling on Scandinavian deities that even her pagan ancestors never worshipped. The portrayal of the Templars is slanderously inaccurate and reflects Scott’s antifreemasonry far more than any historical fact. Nor would they have tried Rebecca for witchcraft; it would have been for heresy. And since Jews weren’t really recast as heretics until the Fourth Lateran Council, even that is pushing it by about two decades. Also, the antisemitism in the book is pretty intense, and hard to read these days.

  47. marie-lucie says:

    Most of the comments above concern the historical accuracy of the novel, something different from its literary appeal of as a rousing action tale full of pageantry and suspense.
    The “division of Norman and Saxon” might have been gone officially but people tend to have a long memory about their ancestors, witness the number of Americans who after several generations are still very aware of their ethnic origins, and have ideas and prejudices about their origins and those of others. In the case of noble families, especially those linked to former royalty, whether they were Norman or Saxon or a mix of both would still have been important to some of them – the novel takes place barely 130 years after the conquest (that is shorter than the time between the definitive fall of the Bourbons in France and the present, but there are still descendants who are official “pretenders to the throne”, and monarchist ideas – even if definitely in the minority – reemerge whenever there is civil unrest).
    Regarding the Saxon woman from a culture Christianised for centuries calling on Scandinavian deities that even her pagan ancestors never worshipped, many examples from rural Europe as well as some other cultures attest that adopting an official religion does not necessarily destroy the old one, only drives it more or less underground, so the “Scandinavian deities”, or rather old Germanic ones, might still have been invoked in moments of great stress, when obviously the Christian God was not responding to one’s prayers. As for the alleged antisemitism, if there is some, in my recollection it is not “pretty intense”. The one thing I thought was overdone and unrealistic was having Rebecca go through a crowd decked out in her finest jewels – an opportunity for a nice description of her beautiful attire, but those jewels would have been most likely kept in a safe at home, not paraded through a crowded street (the narrow medieval streets being notorious for thieves and pickpockets, especially on festive days when everyone was out in the streets, in addition to the jealousy that this exhibition of wealth would no doubt excite). Both Rebecca and her father are helpful and generous to Ivanhoe and those on his side, and at the end they are able to leave England for a safer place. An antisemitic author would no doubt have made at least one of them suffer and even perish for some vile deeds.

  48. Ah well, maybe I’m old enough to read it now. Since it has Normans in it, it might be okay. If I like the book, maybe even the movie.

  49. Marie-Lucie: (Bourbon) monarchist ideas – even if definitely in the minority – reemerge whenever there is civil unrest
    I’d no idea that was going on — is that what you mean: Bourbon monarchists in France? Can you give us an example? Is it funny, pathetic, r. wing extremists, or what?

  50. marie-lucie says:

    AJP, it is more pathetic than anything else, and I don’t think it includes right-wing extremists.
    Until his death in 1999 (age 98) the Comte de Paris (who went by this legally unrecognized noble title) was the pretender, who maintained a “political bureau” and wrote a number of books (or perhaps pamphlets, I haven’t read any of them) but did not really have much of a chance of getting anywhere. For a long time the descendants of the royal family had been banned from France and lived in exile, but the fact that they were able to come back legally shows that modern governments didn’t see any threat to their legitimacy from that quarter. But at the time of the Algerian war, when the then government called on De Gaulle to come out of retirement in order to avoid a potential coup d’état or even civil war, monarchist pamphlets started to circulate, with the slogan Un Roi, pourquoi pas? (“A King: why not?”). The Comte was actually not a real Bourbon (except through distant ancestors) but an Orléans, a descendant of Louis XIV’s brother, not from that king himself (who outlived his sons and grandons – Louis XVI and his brothers Louis XVIII and Charles X were the grandsons of his great-grandson, Louis XV). The Comte’s wife the Comtesse de Paris was Isabelle d’Orléans-Bragance, an even better connected lady, with ancestors among the Orléans and the kings of Portugal and of Brazil. They had eleven children, most of whom married into other European nobility and produced grandchildren who themselves married into more nobility, etc. When I was young, some of the children of this couple were about my own age, and the family was frequently featured in popular magazines, but probably no more than the families of other celebrities.
    The plot thickened after the death of the old Comte de Paris. I am indebted to Wikipedia (French section) for the following information, as I had not followed the fortunes of the family. Apparently there are now two pretenders, one the present Comte de Paris, an elderly gentleman named Henri d’Orléans like his father, and the other a younger man descended from the first Spanish Bourbon king (a grandson of Louis XIV), who is therefore a distant member of the royal family of Spain! Each of the two has his partisans, who can’t be very many. This is not because of the two men’s personal qualities: it seems that according to the strictest interpretation of the rules of “male primogeniture” (dating from the Salian Franks), which were kind of bent at the time of the last King, Louis-Philippe, who was an Orléans (to the dismay of the “legitimists” who wanted another Bourbon), if this latest Bourbon prince, young enough to only have a two-year-old daughter as an heir, were to die before producing a male heir, the next male in line for the throne of France would be his second cousin King Juan Carlos, another Bourbon descendant! But it is very unlikely that circumstances would allow a return to the monarchy in France, so these dynastic quarrels are only of concern to a very small circle of ultra-traditional noble families, who seem totally out of touch with the contemporary political world.

  51. Thank you. Very interesting, of course. I love the way that, despite the remoteness of the possibility of their claim ever leading anywhere, they’ve still managed to group themselves into Bourbon and Orléanist factions, like children fighting in a sand box. ‘Comte de Paris’ is a title with a good ring to it; it covers a large area, like ‘Vicar of Rome’ or ‘King of Mars’.

  52. And of course I presume there are still Bonaparte pretenders to the imperial throne.

  53. marie-lucie says:

    LH, there are still Bonaparte descendants but it does not seem that any of them are serious about their chances of claiming the throne, unlike the descendants of the kings.
    I think that the Bonaparte descendants have been a little more interesting than those of the kings. For one thing, they were not affected by centuries of inbreeding (eg the former Comte and Comtesse de Paris were cousins, and so were the parents of the Comte, and there were more such connections in their respective genealogical trees; that two of their children were mentally handicapped may have had something to do with a concentration of bad genes, as with the hemophilia of the last tsarevich).
    The most interesting recent Bonaparte was Marie Bonaparte, who became a psychoanalyst, along with being married to a prince of Greece and Denmark. She had a lot of her own money, inherited from her commoner maternal grandfather, and apparently used it to get Freud and his family to England during the Third Reich. I knew of her as a psychoanalyst (the author among other things of a book about Edgar Poe) long before I learned that she was a member of the famous Bonaparte clan, and I did not know of the princely connection until I looked her up in Wiki to double-check.

  54. there are still Bonaparte descendants but it does not seem that any of them are serious about their chances of claiming the throne
    Tsk. What would Napoleon say? De l’audace, encore de l’audace, et toujours de l’audace!

  55. marie-lucie says:

    LH: De l’audace, encore de l’audace, et toujours de l’audace!
    That was not Napoleon, that was Danton, a famous orator during the revolution, and a man with a massive head, who said to the executioner, while on the scaffold in front of the guillotine: Tu montreras ma tête au peuple, elle en vaut la peine! “Be sure to show my head to the people, it’s worth it!”).

  56. I know, but it’s a sentiment Napoleon approved of.

  57. marie-lucie says:

    He did, but he also planned everything to the smallest detail.

  58. M-L: Marie Bonaparte, who became a psychoanalyst, along with being married to a prince of Greece and Denmark.
    Marie Bonaparte was a mensch. A great, though not especially famous figure of the 20th C., whom it would have been fun to have known. Look how she avoided getting bored (from Wiki):

    On 2 June 1953*, Marie and her husband represented their nephew, King Paul of Greece, at the coronation of Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom in London. Bored with the pageantry, Marie offered to psychoanalyse the gentleman seated next to her, who was the future French president François Mitterrand. Mitterrand obliged Marie, and the couple barely witnessed the pomp and ceremony, finding their own activity far more interesting.

    There are lots more snippets of info at wiki.
    * I should say that this was six days before my own birth.

  59. marie-lucie says:

    AJP: the words “the couple” in this quotation give the wrong impression. Marie Bonaparte was 71, Mitterrand 37. I guess both were glad to have another French person to talk to in this most British ceremony. It would have been quite a conversation to be able to eavesdrop on.

  60. marie-lucie says:

    And Marie Bonaparte is quite well-known in France in psychoanalytical literature. I knew her name from way back, although I thought her name being Bonaparte was just a coincidence.

  61. Yes, I thought that ‘couple’ was a peculiar way to describe them. Isn’t she one of Freud’s famous then-anonymous analysands, to whom he gave a name, like ‘the Wolf Man’? I can’t remember what she’s known as, though.

  62. marie-lucie says:

    That I wouldn’t know.

  63. On 2 June 1953*, …* I should say that this was six days before my own birth.
    After seeing the real Kron’s photo, I would have to conclude that this is a spambot as well.

  64. marie-lucie says:

    It’s because Kron lives such a healthy life, surrounded by nature and animals, not the fog and grime of the city.

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