Corona Diary, Day 16

Tuesday, 31 March After a good night’s sleep and waking early, life feels more optimistic. My new printer arrives and I manage to hear the phone call and get down to open the door before the delivery firm carts it off to some distant storage place beyond the Uppsala equivalent of the pillars of Hercules. I manage to get it started but not connected to my desktop (I suspect there is something wrong with the USB connection) or wirelessly (I suspect there is something wrong with DK’s neural connections) but I anyway have a printer that works and my feeling of powerless panic subsides.

Starting another project, I stamp my Dorset books with the fine Ad libris stamp that I was given by my daughter-in-law. I’ve had a bad conscience about this as I started stamping enthusiastically when I received it but then the project fell into abeyance under the pressure of everything else. But now I’ve made a serious start and am going to work through my library a section at a time (Corona has done wonders for my library maintenance, a “tröst i bedrövelse”). Handling my treasured books about Dorset makes me long to be there and it may be a while yet before that’s possible. I decide to work intensively a few days on my Dorset church project, to write up what I have and to plan future trips. But I’m also impatient to move on to other aspects of the county – its geology, its history from the Ancient Britons onwards, its country houses and families, its agriculture and numerous other topics, to go beyond my deceptive feeling of familiarity with the county to learn a lot more.

Finished stamping, I do a bit of commercial work and then look at a Times Literary Supplement that I hurriedly looked at the evening before and was prepared to consign to the bin. Looking again in a more harmonious frame of mind, the TLS from 14 February with its focus on Donne captures my attention. A lot about his poetry which arouses my interest (I’ve never seriously studied Donne) but I concentrate here on the associations from the articles. To start with, there’s an article by Brian Vickers. I can’t find the section of the TLS with details about its contributors (I hope it hasn’t been purged) but from the net, he has specialised on sixteenth-seventeenth literature and is an Emeritus Professor at ETH Zurich (it seems a rather scientific institution for a literary person but there was presumably a reason). Brian Vickers reviews The Variorum Edition of John Donne. I haven’t come across “variorum” before but, according to Wikipedia, “A variorum, short for (editio) cum notis variorum, is a work that collates all known variants of a text. It is a work of textual criticism, whereby all variations and emendations are set side by side so that a reader can track how textual decisions have been made in the preparation of a text for publication. The Bible and the works of William Shakespeare have often been the subjects of variorum editions, although the same techniques have been applied with less frequency to many other works”. And the variorum on Donne is in Vickers words “a formidable achievement” Vickers goes on to mention that Donne wrote in many genres, both secular (Elegies, Epicedes and Obsequies, Epigrams, Epithalamiums. Satires, Verse Letters) and sacred. Here are some members of the “epi” family I haven’t met before. An epicede is, like an obsequy, an elegy or ode to a deceased person, the difference between them being that an epicede is made in the presence of the deceased and has more the character of a lament while an obsequy takes place later and has more the character of a celebration. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/296505811_The_epicede_and_obsequy An epithalamium is a poem in celebration of a marriage or more specifically addressed to the bride on her way to the marital chamber (not something that I’ve come across yet in my limited number of brushes with marital chambers). Welcome additions to my knowledge of the “epi” family. It would be quite fun to have a picture or screen with depictions of the various epis (and another one for, for example, the pans, the hydros and the teles etc.). Quite a lot of the epis are rather technical though, which might complicate matters (even visually distasteful..).

Vickers takes up satire, the subject of this volume of the Variorum. He tells about the popularity of satire in the late sixteenth, early seventeenth century (which eventually incurred the displeasure of the authorities) and how the etymology of satire was mistakenly thought to be from “satyr” (rough and hairy like a goat) rather than satura, a mixture or miscellany. According to Vickers “Even J.C. Scaliger accepted it [the incorrect etymology]. I’d never heard of J.C. Scaliger before but according to Wiki, Julius Caesar Scaliger. 1484 – October 21, 1558), or Giulio Cesare della Scala, was an Italian scholar and physician, who spent a major part of his career in France. He employed the techniques and discoveries of Renaissance humanism to defend Aristotelianism against the New Learning. In spite of his arrogant and contentious disposition, his contemporary reputation was high”. The reference to his disposition makes alarm bells ring for me, as does his desire to defend Arisototelianism, but this is clearly a man I should know about.

I’ve also found that John Donne had the living of St Dunstan in the West in London from 1624 to 1631 when he was Dean of St Pauls, In my copy of Mervyn Blatch’s “A guide to London churches”, I read that the dedication to St Dunstan makes it probable that there was an Anglo-Saxon church on this site before the conquest, as Lanfranc, the Norman-appointed Archbishop of Canterbury forbade dedication of new churches to Anglo-Saxon saints (Dunstan had been Abbot of Glastonbury in the 10th century). As well as Donne, the church is associated with Tyndale, the translator of the Bible, and Izaak Walton, who had been scavenger, quistman and sidesman at the church. “Quistman” I can’t find anywhere but Webster has “questman” as synonym for sidesman, a person authorised to seek alms.

And finally, there is a pic in TLS of a cottage once owned by Derek Jarman in Dungeness with John Donne’s “The Sun Rising” painted on the wall. This strengthens my wish to explore the coastal landscape between Rye and the sea and the wander around in Dungeness (probably trying to ignore the nuclear power station). And I will (at some point) read Donne and more about Donne although the variorum is probably over the top for my needs.

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