“The Ideal Teacher of Literature”
Cicero Bruce, Modern Age
The old saying declares that those who can, do; those who cannot, teach. The unfortunate irony is that one must first be taught to distinguish what can and what cannot be. Writing for Modern Age, Cicero Bruce makes plain that the ideal teacher of literature is the one best suited to probe such questions. “Enduring literature is chiefly relevant,” he writes, to “humanity under the aspect of eternity.” The overwhelming consensus in academe today lives in a permanent now, only concerned with the past under the aspect of “what ‘they’ thought ‘then,’” to quote Wendell Berry. It is the ideal teacher of literature, by contrast, who can read life in the past because he fosters the “moral imagination” that Burke so praised. He collects and considers the cultural debris that an unhinged liberalism jettisons in the name of rationalist progress. For they relate back to permanent things—what Theodore M. Greene, cited by Bruce, describes as the “objective reality of beauty and its concrete embodiments, of goodness and its impact on human life, of God and His relation to man”—and only by examining them can one begin to judge what words and deeds are worth studying in the first place.
“How Van Gogh’s handwritten texts were tragically chopped up”
Martin Bailey, The Art Newspaper
It’s been a tough week for Vincent Van Gogh. On Monday, opportunistic thieves took advantage of the current pandemonium to filch the Dutch painter’s Parish Garden in Neuen, Spring (1884) from the Singer Laren Museum in the Netherlands. And just yesterday, Martin Bailey of The Art Newspaper broke a story on a previously unknown abuse which, though not technically a crime, is sure to make any art lover wince. It turns out that Van Gogh’s landlady in London, Annie Slade-Jones, kept an album in which she regularly invited family, friends, and tenants to write little notes for her keeping. “Van Gogh’s 5,000-word contribution was among the longest,” Bailey writes; his entries consisted of excerpts from famous texts in French, German, Dutch, and English. The album was passed down in Slade-Jones’s family until it was first sold in the 1970s. In the eighties, some conniving lout had the bright idea of chopping up Van Gogh’s entries to maximize his profits on the market. Many of these ended up at the Getty Museum in Los Angeles, and some have been traced to private collectors, but it’s hard to imagine that they’ll all wind up in the same place again.
“Journal de combat of the Cold War”
Gerald Frost, The Critic
Here at The New Criterion, we have long been admirers of the work done by Encounter magazine, that bastion of cultural excellence and civilizing influence in the throes of the Cold War. We may even boast of some affiliation with the monthly review, though claiming a direct link would be misplaced; more accurate to say that, like a good number of outfits today, we are doing our best to uphold the lofty precedent that the magazine left behind. Another such enterprise is The Critic, where the onetime Encounter contributor Gerald Frost has penned a brief résumé of the illustrious journal’s operations. Well worth the read.
“Music for a While #22: Music as balm—and delight”
Jay Nordlinger, music critic of The New Criterion, talks music—but, more important, plays music.
From the archive:
“The bolter, or the Chatwin case.”
Robert Messenger on Under the Sun: The Letters of Bruce Chatwin, edited by Elizabeth Chatwin and Nicholas Shakespeare.
“Chickens and eggs”
Timothy Jacobson on the “Edison of Medicine” and his contribution to the study of vaccines.