Saturday 17 December 2016

A Rational World

In terms of your professional life, what particularly attracted you towards the eighteenth century? 
The Enlightenment, and the fact that it might just have come out right. The Romantic movement came along and bowled it all over. I do like a rational world, rational explanations and good humour and fearlessness [...] Kitty Maule says about Romanticism that in certain situations reason doesn't work, and that's the most desolating discovery of all.
Haffenden, Novelists in Interview, 1985

During her three postgraduate years in Paris in the Fifties, sitting daily in the old Bibliothèque Nationale in the rue Richelieu, Brookner read her way across and through the eighteenth century. (Her days in the library were powerfully described in an article in the Times Literary Supplement I no longer have a reference for; she was once, I remember, the recipient of a bunch of flowers from a gentleman admirer.)

In my own way, though I've gained more pleasure from the Victorians, I have tried to pay my tribute to the eighteenth century. I once bought a Kindle for the sole purpose of reading not 'At the Hairdresser's' but Richardson's Clarissa.

Last week I purchased in a charity shop for £2.50 a 1793 copy of a volume of Johnson's Rambler. One sees on every page the rational world, the good humour, the fearlessness Brookner revered.

Having written this blog for a number of weeks now, and having never previously contributed to the blogosphere, I wonder about the form. What are its analogue analogues? I wonder whether a blog is rather an eighteenth-century form, akin to the original Spectator or Johnson's Rambler: little familiar essays issued every few days for the amusement of a coterie of readers, literary Londoners in their case, and Brooknerians across the world in mine.

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