Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Books: Another Coda

Diehard Thought Experimenters might recall my post, The Books, about my rummage in the library of my late old friend and mentor. I'm now reading one of the books I made off with - Helen Waddell's The Wandering Scholars, an illuminating study of a whole swathe of European cultural history of which I was barely aware. It is also quite beautifully written - of how many similarly scholarly works could that be said today? What's most remarkable, though, is that this study of medieval thought and poetry was virtually a bestseller. In its year of publication, 1927, it was twice reprinted, and by 1938, when my old friend bought and read it, it was in its eighth impression (and much revised). Truly the market for books was very different in that lost prewar time, before social engineering destroyed popular education.
The book is also margin-marked - a habit he encouraged in me, but which I soon found pointless, as every time I returned to a book I'd marked, I'd be entirely mystified as to (a) why I'd marked a particular passage and (b) what my cryptic annotations meant. Still, it is touching to have the marks of his reading mind still on those 70-year-old pages.


  1. A book, meriting the word, book.
    Nige, in an earlier post mentioned the Pangor Ban, he may well have encountered the same beautiful work.

  2. A truly great work, one of my favourites. It's especially nice that it grew accidentally out of her main work on Medieval Latin poetry. It's one of these books that couldn't be published now, and would be utterly unacceptable in academia, but anyone with a smidgen of taste will read & re-read.

    Her novel, 'Peter Abelard', is also very good.

  3. Ah the Pangor Ban, Vince - a great favourite of Bryan's, that...
    I've read Peter Abelard, but it's high time for a reread, I think.
    Meanwhile, Frank Wilson and I appear to be fusing into a single, polo-neck-wearing, ocean-bestriding entity. The FrankNige perhaps...