Monday, November 26, 2012

Seven years

Being as it's generally taken as a sign that you're out of your first youth when you begin to scant your birthdays, I suppose the fact that the seventh anniversary of this blog slipped past without my noticing earlier this month is a signal: middle age, surely, has arrived for IBRL, and I therefore should probably keep a weather eye out for midlife crises and hints of senescence.

With the period of seven years in mind, I turned to Isaac D'Israeli and the Curiosities of Literature. Surely he wouldn't mind if I took a passage completely out of context and applied an account of a young boy to a blog instead, one that could be described as
a child of [my] misfortunes, . . born in trouble, and a stranger to domestic endearments.
Oh, but that's not simply unfair to D'Israeli, but to IBRL, too: it's far from one of misfortune's many children--rather, its parents are enthusiasm and obsession, and though that pair could often be excused for looking askance at their offspring, I like to think that in this case they're at least not embarrassed.

If that passage isn't quite suitable, even when repurposed, then how about this one, from D'Israeli's later (and, one assumes, less successful) work, The Literary Character, Illustrated by the History of Men of Genius, Drawn from Their Own Feelings and Confessions. The quotation is attributed to Boccaccio, praising himself as a prodigy while watering the grounds of his Decameron with modesty:
Before seven years of age, when as yet I had met with no stories, was without a master and hardly knew my letters, I had a natural talent for fiction, and produced some little tales.
There's been precious little fiction on this blog, but I do like the idea that seven years is the point at which one can say that he's begun to know some stories. In the Anatomy of Melancholy Robert Burton points out that, for a scholar, seven years is essentially nothing:
Most other Trades and Professions, after seven years' Prenticeship, are enabled by their craft to live of themselves. . . . only scholars, methinks, are most uncertain, unrespected, subject to all casualties and hazards.
Since I'm ripping quotations out at their roots and appropriating them inappropriately, I'll close with a few lines found in Holbrook Jackson's wonderfully strange and deliberately Burton-like Anatomy of Bibliomania. Nineteenth-century English scholar and librarian Henry Bradshaw, Jackson writes, donated his "famous collection of Irish books" to the Cambridge University library in gratitude for, Bradshaw explained,
the liberal manner in which the University enabled him for more than seven years to pursue the studies which he had most at heart.
Bradshaw's situation, of course, differed from mine in many ways, but the one that is perhaps the most salient is his gratitude that during that time  "no report during that time was ever demanded of him." No one, mind you, has been demanding the casual, modest, often silly reports I've been making here for seven years, but I've enjoyed writing them and hope you've enjoyed reading them. Thanks for taking the time to stop by over the years..

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