Monday, May 7, 2012

I love reading essays from the past. The comments on that time's current culture and conundrums prove that there is nothing new under the sun.

For instance, in my 1934 copy of Derby Day and Other Adventures, author and bibliophile A. Edward Newton has this to say in his essay about the Grand National steeplechase:

"In a word, we (Americans) do not know how to enjoy life; we work like the devil and save our money, only to be robbed of it by our politicians and the bookmakers who call themselves bankers."

Doesn't that sound familiar.

Mr. Newton has nothing good to say about bankers or brokers. He lets slip little asides that one stumbles upon in the body of the essay. And don't even mention Prohibition, which at this time he is happy to refer to in the past tense.

He chats on in one essay about racing at Ascot and greyhound races, which were just coming into fashion, in another. He then moves on to a stroll through London. Recognizable landmarks are still standing today. Newton quotes Dr. Samuel Johnson quite often and I see from the book jacket that he has written a play about the distinguished British author.

A well-written essay is like having a spirited conversation with its author - the topic wanders here and there and comes back to here...usually. But if it doesn't, where's the harm.

No comments:

Post a Comment