The Lesson of the Roman Republic
Then, amazing as it may seem to-day, when we are able to look from a distance at these affairs and see them in their proper relations as parts of the picture, Rome straightway yielded to the same vice that had caused the downfall of her enemy. She gave herself up to internal political hostilities... . And so, throughout the years following, we find the "malefactor of great wealth" and the "common people," much as we do to-day, quarreling, abusing one another in no very choice terms, both of them rather right and both of them very wrong, just as if there had never been a great philosopher or a great teacher or a great religion on the face of the earth.
Here’s the thing about books. Remember “surfing the web?” Start up your computer. Go to a site and be linked to another and then the next? In 20 minutes you were going to be exposed to a classic movie and then the music of the movie and then the music’s composer and the charmingly little hamlet in which he was born and then the geography of the region and how that shaped its culture. Remember that? I dare say that doesn’t happen too often for anyone. You have your favorite sites and you venture off the reservation to follow through a link or two but you wind up back at your sites.
I started this morning checking my sites on the World Wide Web. I came across this about an English hamlet’s ordeal in dealing with the “immigrants.”
“It used to be beautiful around here,” said flight engineer Trevor Gordon, 64, seated at the bar under the low wooden beams of the White Horse pub.
Where had I read something like that before? A vague impression sharpens into, “Was it Ruskin?” I searched my library card catalog for ‘Ruskin’ and found Crown of Wild Olive. There it was in the Preface:
Twenty years ago, there was no lovelier piece of lowland scenery in South England, nor any more pathetic[*] in the world, by its expression of sweet human character and life, than that immediately bordering on the sources of the Wandle, and including the lower moors of Addington, and the villages of Beddington and Carshalton, with all their pools and streams.
I read a bit of that, discovered that Mr. Gordon’s hamlet of Longford is only thirty miles from Ruskin’s Carshalton, and flipped through to the essay on traffic, good taste, and morals– which you know.
Dadada. Have a Life. Returned to my library card catalog to be reminded that the search turned up three hits for Ruskin, the second being Our Wonder World, page 90 a story entitled “The King of the Golden River.” And now, knowing more about Ruskin and his sensibilities the story is even more delightful than it might have been. Can’t wait to finish it! [Added later. Finished during my 30 minutes of reading/nap time. Classic story vividly told.]
While in Our Wonder World, which I hadn’t looked at in several month, I wandered around looking at the wonder-ful drawings and pictures and stumbled across the section titled “Bird’s-Eye Views of History: The Contributions of the Old World Nations to Civilization” where I found the passage quoted above (page 316).
Quite appropriate for the day’s news, I thought.
And now to the third of the three hits on Ruskin which I have only just now located on an unmapped shelf in the Den: “Sesame and Lilies Lecture I.–Sesame: Of Kings’ Treasures” in Classics Selected Essays (Best Loved Classics) (1960).
From the first paragraph:
… and tell you plainly that I want to speak to you about the treasures hidden in books; and about the way we find them, and the way we lose them.
That’s the thing about books. On a lovely warm sunny day in late October they nearly fill a house on a Farm in rural Mississippi with the Whole Wide World.