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Showing posts from April 27, 2014


Perhaps Yeats was right, and beggary and poetry appear and disappear together. The argument for their deep connection can be divined in Daniel Tiffany’s argument for the form and function of obscurity in poetry, made in Infidel Poetics (see review here) . Or at least I can borrow certain of his images and arguments to support the Yeatsian intuition. First, however, one has to concede that poetry does something – it in fact does something about the way one thinks about doing things, what that activity if for, the matrix of exchanges in which it is enmeshed. To switch to Hegel-ese for a moment, beggary, outside of traditional society – the ancien regime stretching back to the paleolithic – loses its form, not its substance. It loses its hobo honor. Poetry, another artifact of that regime, is rivaled in modernity by journalism (under which I would include novels) and driven into a corner, where to save its form it has to resort to dodges that begin to displace its substance. Like the

on being cowed

In the footnotes to his 1780 edition of Johnson’s life of Joseph Addison, John Hawkins took the opportunity to defend his own character sketch of Addison, which had appeared in a book published in 1770, against the accusation that he had besmirched Addison’s character by describing him as "sheepish".  In his defense, Hawkins reported  two anecdotes about Addison's time as the under-secretary of State under Queen Anne. In the first anecdote, the Secretary of State gave Addison the job of writing the official announcement of Queen Anne’s death to  Hanover (George I). Apparently, faced with the idea of announcing something so grave to a personnage so high, Addison agonized over the wording to the extent that he was paralyzed. After a couple of days had passed and he still hadn’t composed the communication, the Secretary of State gave the task to Addison’s secretary, Southwell, who dispatched it with ease. The second anecdote concerns the time Addison was summoned to testify