John Emerson is, of course, a frequent LH commenter; he also walks the hard path of the independent scholar, hacking his way through untraveled wildernesses of culture and history, asking questions none have asked before him, like “Could Friedrich Nietzsche have married Jane Austen?” Back in 2007 I wrote enthusiastically about his book Substantific Marrow; now he’s come out with a new one, The Sex Life of the Nineteenth Century: An Autobiographical Approach to the History of Western Civilization (you can see its handsome cover, badly photographed by me, at its LibraryThing page). Like its precursor, it has what John calls “interesting scraps of citations”; here are two from pp. 50-51:
“In spite of all this, my father sent me to school when I was ten. “Why”, I would say to myself, “learn Greek and Latin? I don’t know! There’s no need of it, anyway! What does it matter to me if I pass my exams? What’s the use of passing one’s exams? It is of no use at all, is it? Yes it is, though: they say there is no employment without a pass….Then take history: learning the lives of Chinaldon, and Nabopolassar, of Darius, of Cyrus, and of Alexander, and of their cronies, outstanding for their diabolical names (remarquables par leurs noms diaboliques) is a torture. What does it matter to me that Alexander was famous? What does it matter?…..How does anyone know that the Latins ever existed? Perhaps their Latin is some counterfeit language….What evil have I done that they should put me to the torture?”
“Le soleil etait encore chaude….”, Collected Poems, tr. Bernard, written in 1864 when Rimbaud was ten years old.
Sometimes [Rimbaud’s mother] would send them to bed supperless because they had been unable to recite, without a slip, the hundreds of Latin verses she had set them to learn from memory.
Bernard, “Introduction”, p. xxix
There are discussions of everything from Tocqueville to the Swedish Rosicrucians, from krakens and basilisks to oafs and wimps, from “Erik Satie and the sewing machine” to “the czarist regime in two anecdotes.” It’s available here; I urge you to check it out, and I hope he will eventually publish his long-promised book on Inner Eurasian history.