Well, it’s been quite a week for education in the UK, with chaos stretching across schools and universities. Lots of people are having a very difficult time right now.
So, as is my wont, I intend to dodge the unpleasantness entirely, in favour of focusing only on frivolous things.
Yes, that’s right: books again!
I’ve been working, over the last few weeks, on sprucing up the Downstairs Library. (There will eventually be an Upstairs Library, but right now that’s just a spare room piled high with books, and we don’t talk about it.) The Downstairs Library needed a lot of painting, which required many books to be removed and relocated, and which involved the deployment of the Big Ladders. Let’s just say it’s been … dusty. But in the process I’ve rediscovered a lot of old cloth-bound myth books which (having been inaccessible for quite some years) I’d completely forgotten I owned.
Naturally that makes me feel guilty.
To expiate my guilt, I will now introduce you to some of my forgotten books, which have been amusing me greatly over the last few days. Some of them are quite weird.
First up, this lovely brown and gold copy of Hypatia by Charles Kingsley, with lots of classical-ish illustrations. I haven’t read the whole novel (so do correct me if I’m wrong!), but it seems truly awful. But at least it’s pretty!
Then there’s my old copy of Guerber’s Myths of Greece and Rome. I’d forgotten all about this; but I vaguely remember finding it in a second-hand bookshop when I was a teenager, and buying it with the money from a school prize. Partly for its content, of course; but also because the same book had been given to another girl, 70 years earlier, as a prize from my school! I love a good coincidence.
Guerber’s book is interesting, with a section at the end on the origins of myths which – for its time – was quite cutting-edge. However, some statements do rather make me wince…
Guerber dwells (here and elsewhere) on primitive ‘grossness’. Other books I’ve rediscovered have a slightly different way of talking down to the Ancients. Take a look at this one, from Amy Cruse, which is particularly cringeworthy…
‘Just wonderful children’. On behalf of Ovid, I would like to throw a copy of the Metamorphoses at Amy’s head.
Other books are simply pretty, like Tales of Greece and Rome by Andrew Lang, illustrated by H.J.Ford. My copy is falling apart, and has been scrawled on enthusiastically by a child who should have been kept away from crayons – but I love these line drawings…
Other books aspire to be pretty but just don’t quite pull it off… like this beautifully gold and shiny volume by the well-known classicist (well-known to me, at least, since he did a lot of work on Tacitus) Professor Church. The cover is impressive, the pages are gilt, but the illustrations don’t quite live up to the hype!
The books I like most, though, are the ones with personal quirks. Take this one, for instance – a child’s book of myth and folktales from Greece, bought by an enterprising Margaret with her ‘saved money’. Good on you, little Margaret!
So yes, it’s been a dusty week (the cat coughed so hard he threw up), and my legs are covered with bruises from the Big Ladders – but I’ve enjoyed getting reacquainted with the books I’d forgotten.
Oh – here are some Downstairs Library photos for you. Please appreciate my domestic skills: I have dusted, and also hoovered.
Next week’s post may be a little short, because I have a Birthday (it ends in a zero, so it gets a capital letter). There may be cake. There will definitely be idleness. Hope you all have a great week!
This week from around the Classical Internet
British Museum deep clean – The Independent
Roman gaming counter in Chester – Cheshire Live
The University of Manchester joins with ACE – ACE Classics
Hypatia gets a statue –Egypt Independent
Digging the tomb of Aratus – Greek City Times
Comfort Classics This Week
Comment and opinion
Hadrian: Rome’s absent ruler – History Hit
More on investigating Hercules – Autism and Classical Myth
Modern China’s ancient heritage –Eidolon
Egotist gladiators – The Big Smoke
“Reading” undeciphered signs – It’s All Greek To Me
Greek slaves did not like being enslaved – Tales of Times Forgotten
“My route into Classics” – Mixed up in Classics
Supergirl once became Medusa – Screen Rant
Marsyas: hubris or free speech? – Roman Times
Good words from bad people – Sententiae Antiquae
An ethics of citation – Classics at the Intersections
Remembering William Nethercut – Society for Classical Studies
Fitting the pieces together – Classically Inclined
Podcasts, video and other media
Jason and the Golden Fleece – Spartan History Podcast
Vindolanda – Dan Snow’s History Hit
Beauty, brutes and battles – The Forum
War elephants – The Ancients