Friday, May 18, 2018

On Opinionated Books and Book Titles

I finished A. L. Rowse’s Oxford in the History of the Nation.  And it proved to be a good overview of the subject.  I can recommend it with qualifications to be mentioned.

One of the stronger passages of the book looked at the impact of World War I on the students of Oxford.  It was certainly the most poignant.  As he wrote:

…There was no conscription until 1916, and all the finest young men volunteered for service.  There followed the massacre of a generation . . .: hundreds of names of the dead are inscribed on the walls of the bigger colleges. . . . at Christ Church, New College, Balliol and Magdalen . . . .

He includes poetry from young Oxford men who served.

In a previous post I mentioned this is an opinionated book.  Rowse went a bit far in his opinions in his chapter on the 19th century.  He descended into unedifying catty speculations about the sexuality of this and that important figure.

But as a whole, I found his openness about his opinions refreshing.  I’ve long thought that if one has strong opinions and agendas, it is usually best to be open about it.  That is one reason I and so many have contempt for the “mainstream” “news” media and for academia – instead of taking pains either to be balanced or to be honest that they are not being balanced, they push slanted propaganda as scholarly or as “news”.  It can get downright fraudulent.  I much prefer, even enjoy as I did Rowse’s book, openness in expressing well one’s opinions.

Many of the older books have such honesty even in the titles, which can be quite fun.  Anyone recognize An Universal History of Christian Martyrdom, Being a Complete And Authentic Account of the Lives, Sufferings, and Triumphant Deaths of the Primitive as Well as Protestant Martyrs, in All Parts of the World from the Birth of The Blessed Saviour to the Latest Periods of Pagan and Catholic Persecution, Together With a Summary of the Doctrines, Prejudices, Blasphemies and Superstitions of the MODERN CHURCH OF ROME?  That is the title of the 1837 edition of the work originally written by . . . John Fox.

A prized book in my library is a 1713 edition of The Indictment, Arraignment, Tryal, and Judgement, at large, of Twenty-Nine REGICIDES, the Murtherers of His Most Sacred Majesty King Charles the First, of Glorious Memory . . . .  I enjoy reading that title, with appropriate emotion, to visitors.

After Sunday Mass at Pusey House, take a look at the books on the shelves in the reception room as you drink your sherry.  The vehemence of the titles from opposing sides of the Tractarian controversy may amuse.

Certainly there is an important place for balanced dispassionate books.  But if one decides to promulgate opinions and agendas instead, one might as well be honest about it.  That is more fun anyway.

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