August 15, 2020Dear Reader,
I think Carpus is going to undertake to write the introductory letter this time, which, to me, seems only fair, as I was responsible for the last one. What he's going to say, or what I would say if I were in fact put in charge of the letter, is something still in gremio Minervae, which is to say as yet unthought of and unformed. I think I would try to avoid the topic of quarantine, myself, despite the word quarantine appearing on the cover, and maybe go with something more or less unconnected to either the season or the (admittedly mostly absent) theme of this issue.
In fact, the idea I'd probably turn to is one that came up by chance in one of my Latin practice compositions: that the failure of the Midwest to have sustained a vernacular culture is due primarily to the people's failure to believe in posterity - the phrase I actually used was something like "the eternity of the Republic." All good things come from long continuance; someone has to start somewhere: with apples, oaks, and country houses. An intergenerational time scale is easier to contemplate if there's a strong tradition of landholding and family inheritance; the modern Whig fallacy of individual primacy makes it much more difficult to take actions that will only bear fruit after one's own capacity to enjoy them has passed.
There was a time, of course, when the Midwest did have the project I'm describing: towns platted, orchards planted, schools built - the legacy is still visible in the various colleges across the region; the courthouse squares; the brick farmhouses. It was to be a Republic to match Rome. Well, call me Ausonius.
A. Pinguis (Ed.)
We believe it fair to present our readers' views without censorship or further comment.
I wish to thank you, for you publish what is, without a doubt, the greatest literary magazine currently in print. The Alembick has been my rock, my solace in these most difficult times.
As the father of three young lads (and never a more robust or enthusiastic trio you’ll find) I have my hands quite full with paternal duties. The confinement brought on by the recent plague has been, I confess, a shock to my nerves. No longer do young Robbie, Tommy, and Jim come home from school tired after a day of lessons and playing at recess with their little friends. Instead, they run riot in the house all day long, chasing each other about, bellowing like so many bulls, and kicking the cat.
You might expect that, after a day of punching, biting, and screaming, they’d be ready for a good kip in the evening. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Bedtime brings its own set of horrors as the boys scramble about the room, half dressed, demanding that I read a story.
The other night, I acquiesced. I reached for Peter Pan, that beloved tale of my youth. Alas, it failed to relax the boys, instead providing yet more fodder for their imaginations. Not five minutes into the story, Jim fancied himself a crocodile and bit Robbie’s hand so hard that it bled, while Tommy became Peter Pan himself, leaping from bed to bed and stabbing at his brothers with a ruler.
I tried them on the classics, but these, too, they found stimulating. The moment I opened the Iliad, Robbie and Jim began playing at Achilles and Hector, Robbie dragging Jim around and around the room by his ankles. Shout though I might, nothing would quiet them down.
Finally, Sirs, in a fit of desperation, I reached for your Alembick. Hope had left me. I no longer had any thought of tiring my sons, only of seeking the solace of poetry in my dark hour of need. And yet… hope often appears in unlikely places.
I began to read Pinguis’s magesterial “Quantitative Verse for English” to them. “My primary intention in this essay,” I intoned, “is to convey a purely technical point…” No sooner did I begin than—O miracle!—I saw, from the corner of my eye, Robbie’s head begin to droop. By the time we began “Hearing Quantity,” I heard a great quantity of snores emanating from young Tommy. And when we began considering scantion of proclitics, little Jim had lain himself in bed and drifted off.
You have gained, noble Sirs, a lifelong subscriber. I have taken the liberty of recommending the Alembick heartily to all of our friends, and hope to buy an extra copy of the new issue to send to my brother. I thank you, Sirs, from the bottom of my heart.
With warmest gratitude,
Reader’s Doubts Resolved
Whether the turtle is logically necessary?
Clearly the turtle is logically necessary, as is easily proven by application of the reductio ad impossibile:
Posit no turtles. Now, the world contains turtles, and turtles are in the world. In fact we have no evidence that turtles and the world are separable. This being so, to posit no turtles means to conclude no world. Quod est absurdum, because the world is.
Intelligent observers may see how the principles of the above proof are extensible to various real phenomena.
Whether Lizzie Bennet showed herself deficient in charity when she lost respect for Charlotte Lucas upon the latter's marriage to Mr. Collins?
In this case, we must distinguish between the demands of Charity and the operation of Friendly Respect.
Certainly Lizzie owes a continuing duty of Charity to Charlotte Lucas, not as a friend only but as a fellow-human. Given Charlotte's lack of money and of looks, her desire to establish a household apart from the parental abode, and her general paucity of present and future options for matrimony, it seems if not inevitable, if not commendable, at least reasonable and pardonable that she should act as she did in accepting Mr. Collins. Lizzie is bound to accept and to the extent necessary to forgive Charlotte's actions.
Friendly Respect, however, is unlike Charity, in that it is a gratuitous operation of liking between two particular individuals rather than an absolute requisite between all individuals in common. If Lizzie feels, as she does, that Charlotte has failed morally by purchasing material security at the cost of marriage to a fool, then Lizzie is perfectly entitled to withdraw her Friendly Respect. Friendly Respect is non-negotiable: it exists or it doesn't, and no moral imperative can compel it where it is lacking.
It seems to us that Lizzie does understand the various pressures motivating Charlotte's choice, and it seems therefore that she loses Friendly Respect for Charlotte without failing in Charity. Lizzie's Friendly Respect for Charlotte might have been salvaged had the latter been willing to reject one of her premises: a lesser desire for an independent household, for instance, would remove the motive to accept Mr. Collins in purchase of it. Lizzie, for her part, has Mr. Darcy to thank that her choice in Charlotte's position remains untried.
Whether the magisterial tone of this column is warranted, given its anonymous nature and altogether dubious authority?
We remind the questioner of this column's title, which is not "Readers' Doubts Entertained" but "Readers' Doubts Resolved."
To His Coy Mistress
My eyes, you know, are like two pools
Of brownest turkey gravy.
My hair is like a buttered bowl
Of fettuccini, wavy.
My cheeks are pale, yet splotched with pink,
Like skin-on mashed potatoes.
My mouth—how red! How dripping wet!—
Is summer’s plump tomato.
So grab a plate! Come load me up!
And if it needs repeated:
There’s no wait time! I’m ready now!
I’m seasoned, sliced, and heated.
If, fresh from youth’s first buffet line,
I am at all appealing,
Come eat me while you yet have time
For soon I’ll start congealing.
I’ve tried a thousand times
To sing your praises
Worthily in rhymes
Or well-wrought phrases -
But what poor words could rise
Like yours? Those words are lies
Or else say this:
The feeling in my heart
Won’t reach my lips
Unless you use your art
My art to eclipse.
As you’re the one I’d sing
And, singing, miss,
So you your self must bring
To me. A kiss:
Then on my lips would be
The things I’d say,
Expressing you in me
This better way -
For you exceed all things
That could be said.
Who’d choose words if life brings
Me you instead?