Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched

Dalrymple on historian A. L. Rowse:

For many years before [his death]… he was eaten by a resentment that he no longer had a motive to conceal. He believed he had solved the problem of the identity of the Dark Lady of Shakespeare’s Sonnets, but not everyone agreed, and in book after book he inveighed against their stupidity, their envy, their obtuseness, their blindness caused by social prejudice against someone such as he who had not been born with the silver spoon in his mouth…

[H]e was much in advance of his time. I am not thinking of his self-advertised combination of scholarship and intuition, but rather that of his resentment and boastfulness which seems so prevalent today.

Read the rest at The Hilarious Pessimist

Note: This piece has since been renamed “Rowse and the Worm that Gnaweth”.

5 thoughts on “Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched

  1. dave

    I don’t disagree, but it’s amusing to think of the ultra-reactionary Rowse turning in his grave to hear he was ahead of his time in any respect.

  2. Jaxon

    Jonathan Bate might be an able Shakespeare scholar, or at least he could well be right regarding Rowse and the Dark Lady, but I think the man rather suspect.
    Not that TD’s article is concerned with Bate I feel compelled to point out that in his Song of the Earth he quotes Edmund Burke (quite a substantial quote) and calls into question the myth of English tradition and custom. Okay, I could take issue with a lot of what Burke had to say but what I do know of him I find it hard to fault his underlying wisdom.

    Bate’s reasoning, if I understand correctly, is roughly that given the major overhaul, as it were, that Britain underwent thanks to William the Conqueror and the various upheavals continuing through to, and including, civil war in the 17th century… The Glorious Revolution etc, it’s plainly absurd to be pedalling such an ideological myth of constancy. Something along those lines.

    So what does the wonderful Mr Bate approve of, what’s the alternative errm… Cultural narrative that we should draw meaning from? Well doubtless he approves of much of Shakespeare and that ought to be more good than bad but I have my doubts.
    More notably he seemed to be keen on Byron’s Don Juan. Supposedly it was a good example of ‘Tuism’… What? I think I’ve spelt that right, I’ve never heard of it before and I don’t really care to know, I’m sure I smell the rat it conceals. Apparently it resists systematisation, oh yippy… Hippy. I dare say Foucault would have approved and I’m quite sure you’ll find it endorsed in Shakespeare if you’re so inclined.

    1. Jaxon

      I’ve known resentment, intensely. It was instrumental, I think, in motivating me to find, and even create, a better life; an ongoing process though I’m sure there are many who’d disagree…

      Anyway, this leads me to the err, conspiracy theory impulse, as it were.
      Consider Thin Slicing
      I’ve not read the Wikipedia entry on this so maybe there is indeed some rather surprising findings. For me what is surprising is that anyone should really be surprised by the amount of information conveyed by gesture, facial expression, even the subtle and the quick.

      Now consider this Loren Carpenter experiment.


      The idea of relatively spontaneous organisation without an obvious coordinator. Again, really so surprising? Maybe I was just hyper aware of this sort thing in my social interactions.

      I can understand conspiracy theories, I’m not generally so dismissive of them, even the silliest ones, because I think there is a lot subtle collaboration that can more or less amount to insidious conspiracy… I suppose ‘Pornism’ is basically my conspiracy theory.

  3. Jaxon

    Try this for ‘tiny, tiny, tiny wealthy minority’ http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=9resCYpkU2o&feature=related

    I’ve not watched it all but I feel like I’ve had a pretty good sense of it (the uneconomy) most of my life.
    Back in 1996 I lived in fairly close proximity (a live-in work place) to a nineteen year old girl. She was on her gap year and getting ready to study journalism. She openly admitted to wanting to dig the dirt on people in what, it seemed clear to me, was, well, not the worst (for it gets very bad) but pretty cheap tabloid fashion.
    She was this annoying ‘happy go lucky’ blond (someone remarked how she reminded him of Phoebe from Friends. She reminded me more of Paula Yates) one day after having been to a party the previous night she cheerfully reported how she ‘snogged’ some guy she didn’t know and and said “I’m such a tart”.

    Granted this was intended to wind me up, I had recently had the audacity to pour cold water on her nonsense when really I, a young man, was suppose to be telling her what she wanted to hear; I was surprised when a day or two following that she was by her standards in somewhat depressed spirits… and she said, in passing and as though she was half joking, “it’s all your fault” I wasn’t sure how seriously to take that for whilst I do indeed put, what I might vainly call a ‘TD’ perspective on things, I was far from severe. So it definitely was not my fault, fancy having a conscience, if I can call it that, so wrapped up in cotton-wool? What a frivolous corrupting luxury.

    Once when discussing her Journalist interests I was somewhat exasperated by her attitude, there was, among other reading material, a few National Geographic’s to hand, I grabbed one as an example of a far superior form of journalism (though perhaps not the best example under the circumstances, regrettably I wasn’t then aware of TD). Her response, with some obvious justification, was basically that you had to be really specialised to do that and even if you are it’s really hard to get the work.
    Regarding her current trajectory she summed it up with “if I don’t do it someone else will”.

    One day the subject of ‘lousy’ pay in unskilled jobs (supermarkets, specifically) came up. Knowing only too well which way the wind was blowing, what I call the ‘uneconomy’ I insisted on the unpopular line of reasoning that raising pay is pretty much hopeless because people don’t know how to live, how to spend their money wisely… I didn’t explicitly say this but far too many people were like her (and yes there was and still is room for improvement on my own part… I’m more likely to be held to account where I hold others to account) but especially there will be plenty of guys who’ll be only too happy to lie and fake, to get into debt, to be eligible for the sexual favours of people like her.
    She may have been ‘easy’ but she doubtless had a pretty savvy (street-smart/life-foolish) idea of her ‘market value’ indeed I witnessed about two or three weeks of ‘negotiations’. She was acutely aware of guys who weren’t ‘on script’ and boy did she set about letting me know it.

    I know I’m notorious for going off topic… feel free to not allow this comment, of course… It’s just that this theme of resentment, especially when it manifests in some abstract agenda or conspiracy theory… I don’t know much about Rowse (a Socialist? The sort that would increase wages indefinitely?) I do think though that I can probably sympathise with a resentment that is, frankly, quite justifiable but because people can be so subtle and conniving it can be very difficult to err track what’s really going on, perhaps I fail.

    1. Jaxon

      Actually ‘market value’ and ‘two or three weeks of negotiations…’ Surely sounds like straight forward prostitution and admittedly I don’t think these ‘negotiations’ were really that far from it… It definitely wasn’t the blossoming of a loving relationship, no rather something quite cynical, and really, just sad. In fact whilst I don’t agree with prostitution it does at least seem to be more honest than what passes for so many so called relationships.


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