Statius’ Silvae

Statius’ Silvae

Specifics regarding the life of Publius Papinius Statius (c.45 AD-96 AD) are for the most part derived from material in the Silvae. Scholars believe that Statius’ biography is recoverable. Perhaps, but most scholarly conclusions are of the speculative kind. The questions surrounding his date of birth and death have not resulted in secure answers. The birth dates vary widely over a decade long period. All statements that allege that ‘he probably did this or probably did that’ reveal little more than an author’s agreement or disagreement with certain passages or with a historian’s ingenuity with details: only in rare cases do the learned judgments bring us closer to the truth.

Indeed, the bare bones facts are these: he was born of Italian stock, educated well in Greek and Latin, won a number of prizes for his poetry, even married a widow with children, although he himself remained childless. Much else is debatable. His present fame now is attended by specific volumes of poetry yet extant: Thebaid, an epic poem based on the classic Seven against Thebes, another unfinished epic entitled Achilleid, and his Silvae, a five book series of verse compositions. Continue reading

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The Party’s Over

The Mexican-American Barrier

The Party’s Over

by Ilana Mercer

No good deed goes unpunished. Jeff Sessions wants to restore to America the “sound principles of asylum” and long-standing tenets of immigration law, abandoned by American leaders over the decades.

That makes the attorney general a Hitler, to use liberal argumentation. Condemned for all eternity.

As the left sees it, if America isn’t going to police the world; it must at least provide shelter to all people from unpoliced parts of the world. Continue reading

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Aldeburgh Festival 2018

The Mule Track, Paul Nash

Aldeburgh Festival 2018

Snape Maltings Concert Hall, Suffolk, concert given on Friday 8th June, reviewed by TONY COOPER

The ongoing theme in this year’s Aldeburgh Festival (the 71st) focuses on Britten and America reflecting the year of 1948 when the festival laid down its roots not only enriching the cultural life of Suffolk and its environs but the country as a whole.

Britten and Bernstein (the centenary of the latter’s birth falls this year) were both towering figures in the world of music working not just as composers, pianists and conductors but also as educators at a time when education was in its infancy in the creative world.

Both men were celebrated and revered and here their music can be heard side by side. Many connections resonate across this festival including the likes of Peter Grimes, W H Auden, the Revd Walter Hussey and their bosom friend, Aaron Copland, whom, incidentally, Britten met for the first time at the 1938 ISCM Festival in London where El Salón México and Variations on a Theme of Frank Bridge were played at the same concert. Continue reading

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What’s in a Name?

Lohengrin, by Ferdinand Leeke

What’s in a Name?

Lohengrin, Romantic opera in three acts, music and libretto by Richard Wagner, directed by David Alden, orchestra of the Royal Opera House conducted by Andris Nelsons, Royal Opera, Thursday 7th June 2018, reviewed by LESLIE JONES

In expressionism, the presentation of the world is distorted for emotional effect. The buildings of the tiered sets that depict Antwerp, in director David Alden’s new production of Lohengrin, accordingly, are lopsided, even vertiginous, reminiscent of a recent staging of Korngold’s Die Tote Stadt. The military costumes of the crowd, generally grey and drab, evoke the turbulent Europe of the post 1918 era. But also the Third Reich of the 1940’s, for in Act 1, an earlier German führer, Heinrich der Vogler (Georg Zeppenfeld), is recruiting troops to resist an invasion from the east. The Nazi/fascist sub-text is unmissable. As critic Richard Morrison noted in The Sunday Times, Mussolini once staged Lohengrin with 10,000 singers on a 300 foot wide stage. Continue reading

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Antiquity Matters


Antiquity Matters

Antiquity Matters, Frederic Raphael, Yale University Press, 2017, £20, 376 pp., $26.00, reviewed by STODDARD MARTIN

At first glance, this is a work of almost bewildering erudition. Reminded of Roberto Calasso’s Cadmus and Harmony, one prepares to sit back and enjoy a flow of superior knowledge, relinquishing desire for too many sign-posts and reposing faith in the pilot to steer the bark he sets us in towards a sound destination. Shoals and rapids will be crossed, and you may have to hang on. Indeed, at some moments, as in a riverine disaster film, survival may oblige you to bail out the bottom and caulk holes in the planks.        

Frederic Raphael is an author who has penned numerous screenplays, novels, studies of gestural romantics – Byron, for example, to whom he alludes, as befits what is in part a paean to Greece. Raphael came of age in an era when the fictive odyssey of James Joyce was seen as a ne plus ultra of the Word. Now ostensibly nearing his end – he is 87 – he does not have the time or urge to write for pedestrian intellects. Men of wit are his chosen: notably those trained in the classics, or at least familiar with them. A dying breed these days, they were alive and well when Wittgenstein impressed him at Cambridge; and nostalgia for the back and forth of ephebes and cognoscenti speaks through his remarkable book.

Continue reading

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Demonising Whites

Ilana Mercer

Demonising Whites

by Ilana Mercer

Melinda Gates, a silly woman with an enormously wealthy husband, has decided to reinvent herself as a venture capitalist with a difference.

With her husband’s billions, Mrs. Gates announced her intention to venture into funding start-up companies that are likely to fail.

In an interview with Fortune Magazine, Gates “bashed ‘white guys,’” and vowed to favor women and people of color in her investment choices.

Using pigment and gender as criteria in allocating her abundant resources is hardly a prudent investment strategy.

But Mrs. Gates can afford to lose money. Her husband is Bill Gates, a lily-white billionaire (with lots of liver spots).

From the vertiginous heights of ignorance, Mrs. Bill Gates has scolded the venture-capital industry:

“Enough with your love for ‘the white guy in a hoodie’” (whatever that means). Continue reading

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ENDNOTES, June 2018

Paul Nash, Wittenham Clumps

ENDNOTES, June 2018

In this edition: a world première at the English Music Festival; preview of the 2018 Welsh Proms.

For those of us driving from the South East, via Wokingham and Henley, the road to Dorchester-on-Thames (home of the English Music Festival) takes in some of England’s most beautiful scenery – a route which, in late May, is garlanded in white by roadside Queen Anne lace and the full canopy of green on the stately tree-lined road out of Henley. The town’s bridge marks the border with Oxfordshire, and from then on, a rolling landscape – with hints of an ancient past (Iron Age hill-forts, Saxon churches) – unfolds. Wallingford, with its associations of King Alfred, soon comes into view; and a few miles on, the famous Wittenham Clumps – a wooded ridge (memorialised by the 20th century artist, Paul Nash) looks down upon Dorchester, whose ancient Abbey is the main concert venue for the English Music Festival.

The visitor is, therefore, immediately put into the right frame of mind for a weekend of Vaughan Williams, Holst, Bliss, Elgar and Peter Warlock. But for the Festival’s founder, Em Marshall-Luck, English music does not begin and end with these famous names: instead, the equivalent of an archaeological dig has been initiated, one which has brought to light lost or rare masterpieces; and a host of composers – such as Sir George Dyson, Sterndale Bennett, Ethel Smyth, Arwel Hughes, Ivor Gurney – who have suffered years of neglect in our country’s concert programmes. Continue reading

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Marriage Matters

The Split Man – Victoria’s Way, by Daniel Dudek

Marriage Matters

by Bill Hartley

Periodically the question of divorce reform features in the media. The last serious attempt to bring about change was by John Major’s government which apparently ignored what students of constitutional law are taught: that no minority administration should ever attempt to legislate on a moral issue. Admittedly Major’s government wasn’t quite in a minority but his majority following the 1992 general election was only 21 and the government should have first calculated how many Roman Catholic MPs there were in the Parliamentary Conservative Party; the sort of people likely to have viewed it as a moral issue. Anyway it was all rendered academic because Major lost the 1997 general election. Tony Blair’s government was smart enough to sidestep a moral issue. As a consequence, the Matrimonial Causes Act (1973) remains the law on divorce in this country.

Critics of the existing law (and Major’s government based its intentions on this) insist that divorce shouldn’t be ‘fault based’. They are presumably in favour of a petitioner being able to approach the county court and see the marriage dissolved without any evidential checks being left in place. Of course there are the financial and child care arrangements and doubtless a court would wish to be satisfied that these had been established. Overall the desired approach would be to reduce divorce to an administrative process lightly overseen by the courts whose task would be to record that the marriage had been dissolved. However, just because the current law has been in operation for 47 years doesn’t necessarily mean it is bad law. The Law of Property Act for example, a far more complex piece of legislation, continues to regulate the sale of houses and no-one is crying out for it to be reformed simply because it is nearly a hundred years old and society has changed. Continue reading

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White Lines

The grave of Wilhelm Fliess, Cemetery Dahlem, Berlin

White Lines

Freud, the Making of an Illusion, Frederick Crews, Henry Holt and Co., New York, 2017, pp 746, HB, US 40$, reviewed by LESLIE JONES

Frederick Crews is Professor Emeritus of English at the University of California. Once an acolyte, he now competes with Jeffrey Masson and Michel Onfray for the coveted title “King of the Freud debunkers” (see “Sigmund Freud, from myth to counter myth”, QR, Autumn 2010).

In Freud, the Making of an Illusion, extensive use is made of the Brautbriefe, the engagement letters of Freud and Martha Bernays, written between 1882 and 1886. Hitherto, some of these letters were unavailable or only available in redacted form. Three of the five planned volumes of this revealing and unexpurgated correspondence have already appeared. Crews contends that they will revolutionize Freud scholarship. The attempts by Freud’s disciples and relatives (especially his daughter Anna) to censor the compromising material therein, including alleged breaches of medical ethics, is a major theme of this book.

The eldest child of Jacob and Amalie Freud, Sigmund was born in Freiberg, Moravia, in 1856. It was here that his father’s wholesale wool business went belly up. He never worked again. In 1860, the family re-located to a Leopoldstadt, a poor, predominantly Jewish quarter of Vienna. Crews maintains that this background of economic insecurity and poverty imbued Sigmund with an insatiable ambition for material success and social advancement. He had five younger sisters and a younger brother (another boy Julius died in early childhood). The family’s hopes rested on the “goldener Sigi”. His uncle Josef’s imprisonment for forging rubles, in 1865, doubtless reinforced his sense of being an outsider. Referring to Freud’s stellar, subsequent career as anatomist, paediatric-neurologist, research scientist, family doctor and scientific author, Crews remarks, “None of those achievements and honours… would slake his appetite for greatness or earn him more than temporary peace of mind” (page 12). Continue reading

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Pickled in Formaldehyde

Pickled in Formaldehyde

ILANA MERCER dissects the liberal brain

“There are no more civil libertarians left,” warned celebrated attorney Alan Dershowitz.

The topic was the left. The location was Tucker Carlson’s TV studio, May 30.

Dershowitz, a life-long liberal and civil-libertarian, has refused “to allow partisan politics to pre-empt his views on the Constitution,” in general, and in the matter of Grand Inquisitor Robert Mueller and his tribunal, in particular.

Conversely, the  American Civil Liberties Union has supported the FBI’s manifestly unconstitutional raid on Michael Cohen’s offices, even asserting that the seizing of client-attorney privileged files from the Trump attorney was kosher.

“… all indications thus far are that the search was conducted pursuant to the rule of law,” crowed the ACLU, in “stunning rebuke to the basic concepts behind the [organization’s] mission.”

To ACLU silence—and in contravention of that quaint thing called the Fourth Amendment—Mueller had previously taken possession of tens of thousands of emails exchanged among President Donald Trump’s transition team. Continue reading

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