Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Gibbon's Decline and Fall

Before I begin, a reminder of my current Ebay thingies. Perhaps it's peculiar to recount, but I've never got round to Gibbon before. I am not unique in Classicists, since Mum's not read it. It feels an unread book, so I can't rule out that it isn't another series bought by Dad to fill up bookcases in the early '80s. The whole is in eight volumes, says this edition's introduction, and that accords with the fuzzy memory of several volumes I saw earlier. I was reading Ghost Stories, and broke off because the stories were a little short for my inclination. In I trotted, and what could look more imposing than a multi-volume, critically-renowned history covering over a millennium of Mediterranean and European history? Indeed.

I remarked the other day on the possibility of having nary a clue what Shakespeare or Lawrence Sterne are on about, modern English being so removed. I can happily report there is no need to flee Gibbon on that score. His English is perfectly pellucid. Good word, that: never seen it outside of Arthur Conan Doyle, The Lost World. Er, yes. I am but two chapters in, and thus still in the scene-setting portion of the work. These areas saw the introduction of this foodstuff; a legion had this many men; Herodes Atticus is an example of a patron; &c, &c. He's frightfully fond of the Empire, in a way that inclines me to a slight distrust: the problem of modern sensibilities!

More on that in a future post. The other work, Ghost Stories, is a selection of the titular tales. I read some of them last night, badgers rustling through the shrubbery by my mattress, as I'm sleeping outside, and a burglar alarm mysteriously going off despite no human agency and it not having been set. Yes. :-D Anyway, I must admit that R. L. Stevenson's use of Scottish dialect had me scratching my head at times. I can only mispronounce a word so many times before I have to give up. How chauvinistic I am for a man who pronounced Magellan incorrectly not 24 hours ago! Heh! The most interesting thing I have remarked on so far is not the stories themselves, but the biography of one of their authors. His name is Lafcadio Hearn, born to an Irishman and a Greek lady on Leucas, and who ended up a professor in Japan. A rather fascinating life, I should say! Lacking more to say, I shall cease now. I've been working on a pair of Griffons, but they are as yet unfinished. So until next time, farewell!

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