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The Mimesis of Memes. - Wemyss's Appalling Hobby:
From the Party Guilty of Committing 'Gate of Ivory, Gate of Horn'
The Mimesis of Memes.
‘This is how it works: Comment on this entry and I will give you a letter. Write ten words beginning with that letter in your journal, including an explanation what the word means to you and why, and than pass out letters to those who want to play along.
From magic_at_mungos, who – rashly – gave me the letter ‘C’:
  1. Cricket. The great game. The concepts of sporting-ness and sportsmanship are sometimes said to be part of the English legacy to the world, along with Shakespeare, Bunyan, the Prayer-Book, the Common Law, and the herbaceous border; and these concepts derive from this gracious game. No one has ever heard of a cricket hooligan, I note. But that is not the root of its appeal. Its appeal, even on an urban or suburban pitch amidst the noises of traffic and industry, is the same, always and everywhere, timelessly, and even where the pitch burns beneath an Indian sun or is cool amidst the glaring tropical lights of sea and jungle-flower in some West Indian isle or is set against the frangible edges of white marble pillars, fluted and chaste, long since cast down by time, beneath an Ionian sky. It is the artificial Elysium, the village Arcady, of the lush emerald turf and the white purity of flannel and pipe-clay, the eternal Springtide and Summer on the village green of myth where neighbouring XI meets neighbouring XI, hamlet to hamlet, county to county, nation to nation, in a combat without conflict. It is idyll, and it attests that Peace and Righteousness have kissed. It is iconic.
  2. Cathedral. Bach Canons in building materials, songs and psalms in stone, graced with glass, heaven-reaching aspirations made solid: the cathedrals of England, and the lost cathedrals of Scotland, are testament to the hopes of humankind. They were the lamps of learning in the encroaching dark, and lighthouses of faith in season and out, and they point the horizon and punctuate the sky as superbly as their changes, ringing, comfort the ear.
  3. Christ Church. Ædes Christi. Here referenced, not chauvinistically, but symbolically, of all the colleges of Oxenford (you will not that my alphabet contains no ‘C-for-Cambridge’): tower and quad and hall and the sky and clouds that wreathe them, the Classical learning of old and the culture of intellectual enquiry and intellectual honesty: the legacy, from Varanasi to Victoria to Virginia, of what learning is, what a cultivated mind is. And of course The House is a cathedral also.
  4. Conservative. At once intellectually and imaginatively, emotionally, I am a Conservative and a conservative; emotionally, because there is so much to conserve, and so much of that so much has become part of my mental imagery, Burke’s metaphoric cattle ’neath the ancient oak, Betjeman’s country lanes and churches and village greens.
  5. Choir. The English choral tradition is unsurpassed, ever new and ancient of days, a link to the deep past and as fresh as the dew on the turf outside the church porch at Matins. 
  6. Countryside. Perhaps the ultimate C-word for me. Cattle and cottages of Chilmark stone, Cotswold villages and country churches, cloudscapes – and I am as fond of a good sky as were Ruskin and my beloved Constable – against the curve of the downs’s horizon or the spires of churches or the towers of colleges; village green and market square, farm and hamlet and manor, lanes white with may, hedgerow and coppice. It is St George’s Day; the cuckoo is heard in the land.  If I cannot see the countryside ‘with mine own eyes and not as a stranger’, I find myself searching for it in other scenes or calling up painting and photograph to drink it in. I am, as it happens, a member of the British Beekeepers Association and a governor of the Royal Agricultural Society of England: both societies welcome, I hasten to add, urbanites who have never so much as seen an allotment or listened to Gardeners Question Time, and are (ahem) delighted to acquire Overseas Members, and I also hasten to add that being a governor of the RASE simply means one has paid an extra membership tariff: but the countryside is or ought be important to all of us. If nothing else, it informs so much of who we are and have been, not in Britain only but wherever the legacy of Britain is found, and without some understanding of and love for it – and the countryside in Great Britain is an artefact, the creation of millennia of human interaction with wilderness – one cannot hope to appreciate Constable or Turner, Elgar or Vaughan Williams, Adrian Bell, Cranmer’s and Bunyan’s prose and Purcell’s music, the rhetoric of Churchill and Burke, the works of Blake and Chesterton, the poems of Housman and Betjeman, or much else of the historic fabric of common life. And what a life it would be were one never to smell turf and soil after a rain, or see the apple in blossom, or know the early morning ritual of the sweet-breathed cow waiting to be milked whilst the piglets suckle, the hen broods, the cat insinuates herself near the milking pail, the farm-dog listens for any challenge, and the sheep begin to stir, their exhalations misty in a frosting air.
  7. Cider. The true taste of the West, of sunlight and blossom and bee-song all compound, at once earthy and pure. Not for nothing is Avalon simply the Place of Apples, and what paradise more could one wish for?
  8. Canal. Oddly, the salt fervour of sailing has never absorbed me so much as one should have expected, and the gull’s cry has never rapt my soul. Punting on the River is in a class of its own, and like many another university experience, wants to be left peculiar to that gilt time, preserved after in memory and not promiscuously repeated: such fatal attempts to extend one’s youth being a besetting sin to which dons and other university people too often fall prey. But the canals, ah, that is another matter. The Kennet & Avon, the North Wilts, the Somerset Coal Canal, the Wilts & Berks, the Gloucester & Sharpness, the Bridgwater & Taunton…. Relics of a faded era of perhaps brutal industrialisation, relics sometimes of failed schemes and bankrupt companies, time has mellowed these works of man’s hand. And how can one resist the siren’s song? The gaily painted barge, the calm water, the towpath and the infrequent horse, the heron and the swan begging bread, duck and goose and leaping fish, willow and sky and the endless, white-flannelled Summer; and always the gentle ghosts of Rat and Mole and Three Men in a Boat, to say nothing of the dog Montmorency…. He leadeth me beside the still waters; He shall feed me in a green pasture, and lead me forth beside the waters of comfort.
  9. Cheese. Caerphilly, Cheddar, Double Gloucester; Dorset Blue Vinny; Cornish Yarg. I could go on. You are not eating a salted food made from milk, you know: you are consuming, in almost a sacramental way, history and tradition, regional distinctiveness, the countryside and its culture.
  10. Creel. And rod.  And fly. A great and contemplative pleasure reserved only to anglers and very honest men.
And dolorous_ett’s books meme:
‘I will post the first sentence or couple of sentences of five books. Your job: guess what the books are. With the option of posting something similar in your own journal, if you have nothing better to do.’
  1. [from the Introduction:] The Treasures Gallery of the British Library is an extraordinary place. [from the first actual chapter:] This was a time when a labourer was paid a penny a day, and when an income of ten pounds a year was enough for a country gentleman to maintain a comfortable lifestyle.
  2. [from the Introduction:] I was not fated to be a warrior. [from the first actual chapter:] War is not the continuation of policy by other means.
  3. It will appear full plain in this narrative that Mr Wedderburn, the writer from Edinburgh, is as guileful as he’s douce – and that he has need of all the guile that Eve passed on from the Serpent may be supposed, him with his living to make among the lawyers. Gleg he is.
  4. [from the Prologue:] India is a land of vanished supremacies.
  5. [from the Introduction:] There are two ways of getting home; and one of them is to stay there. [from the first actual chapter:] Far away in some strange constellation in skies infinitely remote, there is a small star, which astronomers may some day discover. At least I could never observe in the faces or demeanour of most astronomers or men of science any evidence that they have discovered it; though as a matter of fact they were walking about on it all the time.
And two just for fun:
  1. Dominus et Domina Dursley, qui vivebant in aedibus Gestationis Ligustrorum numero quattuor signatis, non sine superbia dicebant se ratione ordinaria vivendi uti neque se paenitere illius rationis.
  2. SAMUEL JOHNSON was born in Lichfield, in Staffordshire, on the 18th of September, N.S. 1709; and his initiation into the Christian Church was not delayed; for his baptism is recorded in the register of St. Mary's parish in that city, to have been performed on the day of his birth: His father is there stiled Gentleman, a circumstance of which an ignorant panegyrist has praised him for not being proud; when the truth is, that the appellation of Gentleman, though now lost in the indiscriminate assumption of Esquire, was commonly taken by those who could not boast of gentility. His father was Michael Johnson, a native of Derbyshire, of obscure extraction, who settled in Lichfield as a bookseller and stationer. His mother was Sarah Ford, descended of an ancient race of substantial yeomanry in Warwickshire.


19 comments or Leave a comment
From: lunaedraconis Date: April 23rd, 2006 06:06 pm (UTC) (Link)
I *believe* the first one is from 1215: The Year of Magna Charta, but I don't know any of the others from the first list! *feels woefully ignorant*

Oh--! and the "Dominus et Domina Dursley" one is of course from HPSS, and the "Samuel Johnson" one is Life of Johnson.

Do I get a letter?

wemyss From: wemyss Date: April 23rd, 2006 06:09 pm (UTC) (Link)

VERY Clever.

You are perfectly right. And I was a bit worried that that wd be the really obscure one.

Your letter is, 'G'.
From: lunaedraconis Date: April 23rd, 2006 06:13 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: VERY Clever.

no, no, I was being silly--the "india is a land of vanished supremacies" was teasing at my mind, and it comes from "raj," doesn't it? my father gave that to me for my birthday and i dropped it halfway through.
From: lunaedraconis Date: April 23rd, 2006 06:15 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: VERY Clever.

Also, #5 sounds like CSL or GK Chesterton.
wemyss From: wemyss Date: April 23rd, 2006 06:18 pm (UTC) (Link)

Ding, ding.

GKC it is. You ARE hitting everything I bowl today, aren't you.
wemyss From: wemyss Date: April 23rd, 2006 06:16 pm (UTC) (Link)

Indeed it is.

James's Raj it is. Of course, the sneaky bit is that 'vanished supremacies' immediately suggests Sir Lewis Namier.
executrix From: executrix Date: April 23rd, 2006 06:17 pm (UTC) (Link)
#3 is Sir Walter Scott, I think The Antiquary--"writer" in this case means "Writer to the Signet" rather than *our* sort of writer.
wemyss From: wemyss Date: April 23rd, 2006 06:19 pm (UTC) (Link)

Right about the Writer to the Signet...

... Wrong abt the source, actually. I was crafty on this, yet it is a perfect choice for me. Perhaps ajhalluk will get it.
executrix From: executrix Date: April 23rd, 2006 06:22 pm (UTC) (Link)

Beam Me Up

Wrong book or wrong author, then?
wemyss From: wemyss Date: April 23rd, 2006 06:26 pm (UTC) (Link)

It's no' Surrrr Walterrrrrrr, lass. Nor his centurrrrry, what's mair.

A UK author of the XXth Century.
executrix From: executrix Date: April 23rd, 2006 06:33 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: It's no' Surrrr Walterrrrrrr, lass. Nor his centurrrrry, what's mair.

Ah. Then I surrender entirely to your power to confound, 'cause I didn't get any of the other ones either.
wemyss From: wemyss Date: April 23rd, 2006 09:30 pm (UTC) (Link)

That probably speaks well of you.

My mind is not a place you wd wish to claim as feeling like home.
magic_at_mungos From: magic_at_mungos Date: April 23rd, 2006 07:16 pm (UTC) (Link)
I feel woefully ignorant. I don't know any of those books on the second meme.
wemyss From: wemyss Date: April 23rd, 2006 09:31 pm (UTC) (Link)

That means only...

... That you are not as truly odd as I am. This is not a bad thing.
eagles_rock From: eagles_rock Date: April 23rd, 2006 07:18 pm (UTC) (Link)
I can't resist the Wemyss equivalent of Educating Rita's 'How would you stage Ibsen's "Peer Gynt"?'...

So, no. 2 is John Keegan, 'A History of Warfare'; which is unfortunately languishing in my 'half-read' bookcase. Shameful really; it's obviously memorable and was a cracking good read until I stopped. I think it cannot be eaten whole; his take on women has stopped me in my tracks twice, (and is still the first thing I read when I lift the book), much as I love his absolutist logistical views on everything else.
wemyss From: wemyss Date: April 23rd, 2006 09:32 pm (UTC) (Link)

Sir John it is.

And, well, we can't all be Bellatrix, now, can we.
eagles_rock From: eagles_rock Date: April 24th, 2006 12:20 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Sir John it is.

I rejoice in not being Bella every day. :-)

No, I'm not bothered that Sir John doesn't say 'I'm sure women would be great warriors if only they had the chance'; no, it's the implication that the great majority of women who are not creating warfare, leading it from behind a bloke or in their own right, are sitting around saying "save me" or "better die a hero than live a coward"; there's a selfishness implied there that I don't care for, and certainly in the latter case, a support for war that I don't feel is representative. (And I don't mean to say that women don't support certain wars, I'm not at all arguing that women are raving pacifists at all costs.) The frustrated waiting that a lot of women go through just doesn't get a look in, nor the potential grievance that some bloke has started a war that their bloke will have to fight.

Ah well. Glad to see you're back. I hate the internet sometimes.

wemyss From: wemyss Date: April 26th, 2006 02:36 pm (UTC) (Link)

Good to be back.

... sitting around saying 'save me' or 'better die a hero than live a coward'....

Yes, well, that's the price we all pay for having only the men's versions, in history, of Spartan mums and Roman matrons and their attitudes. One is stuck with the records one inherits. Still, I quite see yr grounds of annoyance.
eagles_rock From: eagles_rock Date: April 26th, 2006 10:12 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Good to be back.

Would you mind saying what #3 is? (Mr. Wedderburn being gleg). I like the sound of it.
19 comments or Leave a comment