Quote of The Week

“All sorts of allowances are made for the illusions of youth; and none for the disenchantments of age.”

Robert Louis Stevenson


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Rediscoveries

This occasional page, added in September 2019, will feature authors and fragments of writing that I have “rediscovered” by searching the odd corners and hidden places on my own dusty bookshelves, or that have been recalled to mind by something I have read, or by one of my clever friends.

These will include fiction, essays, and non-fiction works of all kinds. There is no intention to convey a ‘theme’ or a ‘message.’ Each offering is separate and self-contained, but all of them have appealed to me in a special way – sometimes intellectually, and sometimes emotionally. In each case I will try to explain, in a few words, why the author or the piece was chosen.

Here is the first.

Richard Mitchell (1929 – 2002)

Professor extraordinary of English and classics at Glassboro State College, N.J. and creator of a unique free newsletter about life and language called “The Underground Grammarian” from 1976 to 1992. I was honored to be one of the chosen recipients of this newsletter in the 1980s. Excerpts are published in several collections including The Graves of Academe, Less than Words Can Say, and The Gift of Fire. They may also be found on the web.

One of his readers and colleagues wrote the following appreciation, and I cannot possibly improve on it.

“There exists in every age, in every society, a small, still choir of reason emanating from a few scattered thinkers ignored by the mainstream. Their collective voices, when duly discovered a century or so too late, reveal what was wrong with that society and age, and how it could have been corrected if only people had listened and acted accordingly. Richard Mitchell’s is such a voice. It could help make a better life for you or, if it is too late for that, at least for your children. Ignore it at your and their peril.”

John Simon

And here are the first two paragraphs from The Graves of Academe. Draw your own conclusions.

“In the country of the blind, the one-eyed man is, as we all know, king. And across the way, in the country of the witless, the half-wit is king. And why not? It’s only natural, and considering the circumstances, not really a bad system. We do the best we can.

But it is a system with some unhappy consequences. The one-eyed man knows that he could never be king in the land of the two-eyed, and the half-wit knows that he would be small potatoes indeed in a land where most people had all or most of their wits about them. These rulers, therefore, will be inordinately selective about their social programs, which will be designed not only to protect against the rise of the witful and the sighted, but, just as important, to ensure a never-failing supply of the witless and utterly blind. Even to the half-wit and the one-eyed man, it is clear that other half-wits and one-eyed men are potential competitors and supplanters, and they invert the ancient tale in which an anxious tyrant kept watch against a one-sandaled stranger by keeping watch against wanderers with both eyes and operating minds. Uneasy lies the head.”