Recent links of note:

“Keep Calm and Parry On”
Anna Picard, The Times Literary Supplement

This year’s BBC Proms was a surreal affair. In case you’re not up to speed, the patriotic classics “Rule Britannia” and “Land of Hope and Glory” were briefly on the chopping block, rescued at the last minute at the prime minister’s insistence, then sung to an empty Royal Albert Hall. Even Charles Parry and William Blake’s “Jerusalem” was adjusted in order to tone down the hymn’s “patriotic nature” and make it more “reflective,” as the reviser put it. Anna Picard gives a skeptical but even-handed rundown of this year’s festival for The Times Literary Supplement

“Sheets of Fire and Leaping Flames”
Thomas Jones, London Review of Books

The actions of Pliny the Elder and his nephew Pliny the Younger on August 24, 79 A.D. are strongly indicative of their divergent personalities. As Mount Vesuvius erupted above them, Pliny the Elder set out in his boat to observe the ash cloud and, later, rescue survivors. The renowned general and philosopher, scourge of the German tribes and author of the ten-volume Naturalis Historia, never returned. His young nephew, on the other hand, had homework to catch up on and opted to stay home, a decision that saved his life. This was the first and most eventful chapter in Pliny the Younger’s rather unadventurous life as a wealthy nobleman and career bureaucrat. Surviving to this day, however, are ten books of the latter Pliny’s letters, providing extensive insight into his life, friendships, neuroses, and musings. Thomas Jones explores the contents of these letters in the London Review of Books.

“‘The roll call of artists who donned a uniform in 1870 is remarkable’’’
Tom Stammers, Apollo

World War I was the last major war around which a somewhat cohesive canon of art coalesced, fueled by a generation of young artists who served in the trenches. By World War II, the generic fractures of modernism and abstraction were already deeply set. Civic duty as well, both in terms of taking up a gun for one’s country and producing art in service of it, was a spirit not so readily found among the artistic caste of that time. It’s hard to imagine something along the lines of the Hall of Remembrance, commissioned from cutting-edge British artists at the close of the First World War, drawing from the ranks of the avant-garde after the Second. France’s artists once took up the cause of national defense en masse as well, believe it or not—turn back a few decades to the Franco-Prussian War of 1870–71. Tom Stammers in Apollo follows the lives of a number of French artists who served, from academicians such as Alphonse de Neuville to symbolists such as Odilon Redon.


“Music for a While #33: ‘Great are companions such as these’”
Jay Nordlinger, The New Criterion’s music critic, talks music—but, more important, plays music.


“Palazzo Bonaparte and the Mother of Kings,” by Stephen Schmalhofer. On Napoleon’s mother and her life in the Eternal City.

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