Saturday, February 18, 2012

Kurp on Blanshard on Macaulay and Santayana

I always learn something from Patrick Kurp but today is special: he recalls Brand Blanshard and in particular, Blanshard's lethal skewering of  Thomas Babington Macaulay, .  More, Patrick links back to an earlier item in which Blanshard does a number on George Santayana.

I admit it: in my youth I was drawn to both of these worthies--especially Santayana--and as the years have passed, I've come to realize that they are, if a pleasure, at least a guilty pleasure.  Funny, they aren't really all that much alike in particular: Macaulay with a bumptious, almost breezy self-assurance and Santayana with a chilly irony that does not well conceal its disdain. I do suspect there is a common fault: in both cases we have men of enormous talent, just a little too comfortable in their own superiority.   And in both case, if you are alert, you find yourself reading more for how they say it than for what they say.    The style, in short, is the man, in each case rather more damningly than the utterer understands.

I admit I still keep a good bit of Santayana under roof.  In all the numberless cullings, he continues to make the cut, although I can't remember the the last time I actually read much of him (well,  come to think of it, I can: about 1996).  There probably is a copy of that one-volume Penguin edit of Macaulay's History of England around here somewhere, although I'm not sure just where.  Not any Blanshard, though, a writer who up to now has been little more than a name to me.  Thanks to Patrick, I now promise myself to give Blanshard a more serious look.

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