Old folk at lunch

Thursday, October 24, 2013

A famous book arrives

For decades in English-speaking countries, the "Oxford Book of English Verse" (in either the 1900 or 1918 editions) reigned supreme as the most often prescribed school anthology.

Eventually, however, sales tailed off a bit and OUP decided to bring out a new edition.  Being politically correct these days, they chose a woman editor for the new edition.  It was not a success.  She chose to include a lot of poems by woman authors.  People wanted their poems to be chosen for quality, not for what the author had between her legs.

So after some years, OUP had another try.  This time they chose an American editor!  Bomb!  For all I know, the new edition sold well in America but practically nobody bought it in England.  Since most of the great poems in English were written by Englishmen, the idea of a non-English editor seemed absurd.

I imagine that there must have been a lot of dissension over it at  OUP but they did a little while ago bow to reality and reprinted the 1918 edition, edited by Sir Arthur Quiller Couch, a great authority on English poetry.  Sir Arthur also edited the original 1900 edition. As soon as I saw that the "real" OBEV was once again available I bought one for my son Joe, who has been poetry-deprived by a "modern" education.  And the re-run seems to have been snapped up generally.  It soon ran out and has not since been reprinted.

So earlier this year when I wanted to buy Paul an OBEV for his birthday, I was reduced to the secondhand market.  And such is the demand for a good edition of the OBEV that prices are sky-high.  I did however order one eventually but it was destroyed in the post by a flood in Germany!  I took a breather for a while after that but I eventually secured a first edition that arrived safely. It was an American reprint from the 1930s in reasonable condition. It arrived only a couple of days ago so Paul came over to collect it last night.

We had pizza on my verandah and lots of chats about the OBEV and poetry generally.  I read and explained "Sumer is icumen in" and Clough's "Say not the struggle naught availeth".  We also talked for a while about the amazing response to my post about Paul's electric car!  Susan, Matthew and baby Elise were of course also present and Elise was very good, not disturbing us at all.

I have often said that, in Susan, Paul has the perfect wife.  She proved it again in ordering the pizza.  I was about to look up the number of Pizza Hut in the phone book when she rattled off the number by heart.  She then made some remarks about the best deals at Pizza Hut.  I of course handed the phone to her at that point and she did manage to get me a "free" bottle of lemonade with our order.  Some women might be able to tell you the atomic number of the most common isotope of uranium but Susan knows the important stuff!


A small note:  In the Preface to OBEV, "Q" quotes on a couple of occasions ancient Greek sayings using the Greek alphabet.  The sayings are neither transliterated nor translated.  In the 19th century it was just expected that an educated man could at least puzzle out a Greek saying.  A "Greekless" man was held to be not fully educated.  What a far cry from today when even Latin is now known only to enthusiasts.  I can just manage in both Latin and Greek but I have not had time or energy to figure out Q's sayings.  For the benefit of people better educated than I am, the sayings are online here:  https://archive.org/stream/oxfordbookofengl00quiluoft#page/n15/mode/2up

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