This week's acquisitions
The book sale is still on at the British Museum, and they've got lots of new stock ...
* Oral and Literate Culture in England 1500-1700, Adam Fox, OUP - which was on my Amazon "to buy" list anyway - surprising that it is being remaindered.
*Philip Sidney: a double life, Alan Stewart, bought mostly because I'm interested in his sister, Mary, Countess of Pembroke, the poet.
From it I learned that their grandmother "had been a learned woman, taught by the famed Spanish humanist Juan Luis Vives. In 1553 she commissioned two tracts by the scientist John Dee: 'The Philosophical and Poetical Original occasions of the Configurations & names of the heavenly Asterisms' and 'The true cause & account (not vulgar) of Floods & Ebbs.' Evidently encouraged by her mother, the young Mary Dudley [the poets' mother] was taught penmanship and learned Latin and French (as witnessed by her annotations on her copy of Hall's Chronicles). She also spoke fluent Italian and, like her mother, corresponded with Dee." P. 40
I also note that one of Philip's tutors in 1572 and 1573 was "Mistress Maria, the Italian" - interesting a woman tutor (p. 41)
* Shame and Necessity, Bernard Williams. He takes on what he describes as the "progressivist" view of philosophical development - "the Greeks had primitive ideas of action, responsibility, ethical motivation and justice, which in the course of history have been replaced by a more complex and refined set of conceptions that define a more mature form of ethical experience". (p. 5)
He says in the introduction that Nietzsche has a lot to offer on the subject, in addition to the famous "The Greeks were superficial out of profundity", noting that: "One thought that impressed Nietzsche was that in lacking some kinds of reflection and self-consciousness the Greeks - whom he was willing to compare to children - also lacked the capacity for some forms of self-deceit." (p. 10)
But, "rejecting the progressivist view ... had better not leave us with the idea that modernity is just a catastrophic mistake and that outlooks characteristic of the modern world, such as liberalism, for one are mere illusion. As more than one philosopher has remarked, illusion is itself part of reality, and if many of the values of the Enlightenment are not what their advocates have taken them to be, they are certainly something." (p. 11)
Isn't it wonderful - and oh so rare - to read a philosopher writing in comprehensible English!
My evening is now mapped out ... with Bernard.
P.S. Should add, in case I sound excessively scholarly, my final purchase of the week was Colin Watson's Coffin Scarcely Used, a pleasant rush through a Thirties English body-strewn town - plot definitely Christie-ish, but with wry, subversive humour all his own. He's not nearly as good as Dorothy L. Sayers, on whom I have rhapsodised elsewhere, but miles above most of his contemporaries.
And that's what I spent the first half of the evening reading, while recovering from a squash game.
[books] (a tag)