Happy Chinese New Year, and welcome to the Year of the Snake.

Quite coincidentally, I spent the weekendre-watching the 13-part classic BBC series I, Claudius from 1976, the opening credits of which feature a snake (which appears to be a viper) undulating across a mosaic containing the series title (pictured left). The DVD extras, which date from various years, are first-rate.

I’ve also been watching Derek Jacobi (who starred as Claudius) in the Cadfael mystery series, set in 1100s England. It’s pretty thin stuff (and much changed from the books by Ellis Peters). I’ve read two of the omnibus print collections, and they’re much richer.


On 1 February, Abigail Nussbaum had some new Pride and Prejudice thoughts

Among them that Darcy is “an introvert desperately trying to tamp down [his] anxiety at being forced into company with so many strangers” when he brusquely declines to dance with Lizzie at their first meeting, not “a depressive who needs Lizzie to be his Prozac,” as a Guardian post I referred to on 30 January would have it.

Jessa Crispin, editor of the Bookslut site, has written a number of posts lately about depression and anxiety and about their being, in part, caused by our culture and, oops, our social media are rapidly making things worse. On 5 February, Ms. Crispin interviewed Ann Cvetkovich, author of Depression: A Public Feeling (Duke University Press, 2012). At one point in the interview, Dr. Cvetkovich said, “I do have a hunch that as someone whose experience of ‘clinical depression’ (although I resist that diagnosis) emerges from anxiety, I may belong to that class of people who don’t need the stimulant qualities of Prozac and is made more agitated by it.” So for her as for Darcy, Prozac would be exactly the wrong treatment. On 6 February, Ms.… continue reading


Remains dug up in Leicester were those of Richard III

I’d known via The History Blog that coming out today was an announcement on whether the remains dug up in Leicester were those of Richard III, and I wasn’t surprised that the skeleton did turn out to be his. I wasn’t happy, however, that the remains will be reinterred in Leicester Cathedral rather than in the cathedral of York Minster. After Richard was killed on Bosworth Field in 1485, the city of York wrote in its records, according to Josephine Tey, “This day was our good King Richard piteously slain and murdered; to the great heaviness of this city” (p. 186, 1982 Penguin reprinting of The Daughter of Time). The King had been well thought of in the North of England.

It was Tey’s novel, published in 1951 and never out of print since, that made me think well of Richard III, many decades ago. I’ve scanned the cover of my edition because I’ve never found a cover I liked so well (and the portrait is referred to in the book, so the image is essential). The book’s title is derived from a saying of Francis Bacon (1561–1626): “Truth is the daughter of time—not of authority.”… continue reading


Set back the cause of feminism and female suffrage

I was dismayed to learn from the 24 January 2013 issue of The London Review of Books that the Titanic sinking of 15 April 1912 set back the cause of feminism and female suffrage. In an essay and seven-book review entitled “Why Name a Ship After a Defeated Race?”, Thomas Lacqueur said, in part:

“When the collision happened there was no evacuation plan…. Contingency, chaos and prejudice had as much to do with who was saved as class. The highest mortality rate was not in steerage but among the men in Second Class, who died at twice the rate of men in steerage and five times the rate of women there….

“In fact, this still misses the big story: gender. First-class passengers were indeed 37 per cent more likely to survive than third-class. But men in all classes were 58 per cent more likely to die than women. Since there were three times as many women as men in Third Class and more or less even numbers in First, sexual selection took its greatest toll there…. The reason for gender disparities is clear.

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