Friday, December 19, 2008

Ecce Gubernator

Writers engrossed in any literary task which is not an assault on perfection are their own dupes and, unless these self-flatterers are content to dismiss such activity as their contribution to the war effort, they might as well be peeling potatoes. (The Unquiet Grave, part I, page 1)

Comment: we must remember that, however true these words may appear to us, they are proposed not as truth but as a symptom of a troubled mind. They are the expression of a man in whom "something is badly wrong". They channel the disillusionment of Palinurus, whom it is plausible to believe adandoned Aeneas—jumped ship. It is also, of course, a weariness over "the spurns that patient merit of the unworthy takes" (Hamlet 3.1.73-4), a phrase that I never quite know how to parse but feel confident means roughly, "right perfection wrongfully disgraced" (Sonnet 66, i.e., patient merit is effectively spurned by unworthy people). It manifests a contempt for a corrupt society that does not strive to perfect itself. But, for Connolly, it ultimately expresses the sufferings of a "core of melancholy and guilt that works destruction on us from within" (TUG, p. xiii). From within. I am not yet ready to accept that judgment, which concretely traces indignation over "the war effort" to some "private sorrow" (xiv).

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