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Whatever you say

Consider this ending to a recent post by Theodore Dalrymple in the New English review:

Perhaps, on thinking of the limits to what we can rightfully say, we should ever recall the lines of the immortal Swift, towards the end of his Verses on the Death of Dr Swift:

Yet, Malice never was his Aim;
He lash’d the vice, but spar’d the Name.
No Individual could resent,
Where Thousands equally were meant...
For he abhorr’d that senseless Tribe,
Who call it humour when they jibe...

The problem is, of course, that of no writer of the century in which he wrote was this less true than of himself.

I almost broke my brain trying to figure out what that last sentence meant.


( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
Mar. 10th, 2010 07:43 pm (UTC)
Does it make it less valid if it wasn't true of himself? If what we can rightfully is limited by what is true, and if writers aren't allowed to be flagrant hypocrites, then there will be markedly fewer of them.

I love deciphering sentences like that! It's like untangling a particularly delightful knot. And also, incidentally, why I want to go to grad school.
Mar. 10th, 2010 07:47 pm (UTC)
No, you want to go to grad school so you can write sentences like that and then laugh because you know better.
Mar. 10th, 2010 07:50 pm (UTC)
Too true! Or so I can write sentences like that and feel wicked because they're like a secret code of indecipherability. My writerly side has a decidedly diabolical bent some days.
Mar. 10th, 2010 09:53 pm (UTC)
My thesis probably has way too many of those sentences. Rereading my writing so many times has made me realize just how many clauses I love to string together into one sentence.
Mar. 10th, 2010 10:22 pm (UTC)
There is no such thing as too many sentences like that in academia.
Mar. 11th, 2010 12:53 am (UTC)
or too many clauses. It's a runaway clause train!
Mar. 11th, 2010 02:39 am (UTC)
True, but I don't want to be one of *those* academics.
Mar. 11th, 2010 03:09 am (UTC)
Oh, c'mon, what's the point of being an academic if you can't garnish your conversations with phrases like "patristic exegesis"?
( 8 comments — Leave a comment )

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