Morning Read: Temió…acobardose…tuvo pavor


¶ Choice extracts from Lord Chesterfield’s letter of 24 November 1749:

…and were I either to speak or write to the public, I should prefer moderate matter, adorned with all the beauties and elegancies of style, to the strongest matter in the world, ill-worded and ill-delivered.


It is a very true saying, that a man must be born a poet, but that he may make himself an orato; and the very first principle of an orator is, to speak his own language particularly, with the utmost purity and elegancy. A man will be forgiven even great errors in a foreign language; but in his own, even the least slips are justly laid hold of and ridiculed.

¶ In Moby-Dick, a chapter of which I’ve often heard mention: “The Doubloon.” I didn’t understand a word, except for the part that I did understand, and that was astrological drivel.

Indeed, Moby-Dick has become an almost toxically depressing experience. How on earth can this dreadful rubbish be so highly regarded? Or regarded at all? It is pulp pure and simple — pulp dressed up in Joseph’s coat of many colors. .

¶ In Don Quixote, an excellent joke. Our hero becomes so engaged by a puppet show about Charlemagne’s son-in-law that he leaps to the aid of the beleaguered knight, laying waste to (pasteboard) Moors.

But this did not keep Don Quixote from raining down slashes, two-handed blows, thrusts, and backstrokes. In short, in less time than it takes to tell about it, he knocked the puppet theatre to the floor, all its scenery and figures cut and broken to pieces: King Marsilio was badly wounded, and Emperor Charlemagne’s head and crown were split in two. The audience of spectators was in a tumult, the monkey ran out the window and onto the roof, the cousin was fearful, the page was frightened, and even Sancho Panza was terrified, because, as he swore when the storm was over, he had never seen his master in so wild a fury. When the general destruction of the puppet theatre was complete, Don Quixote calmed down somewhat and said…

Although Don Quixote pays liberally for the damages, he insists that he was beset by enchanters. Whereas it was only a case of excellent theatre.

¶ In Squillions, Noël Coward goes to the opera.

Went to hear Albanese as Manon Lescaut and it was a grave grave mistake on account of she didn’t ought to have attempted it for several reasons. Time’s Wingèd Chariot being the principal one. She sang most softly and looked like a neckless shrewmouse. Jussi Bjoerling did a Mary Martin and belted the living fuck out of her. He contrived this very subtly by the simple device of gripping her firmly by her shrinking shoulders, turning her bum to the audience and bellowing into her kisser.