03 August 2007

A Gibbonesque footnote in Pocock

One learns many things reading J.G.A. Pocock, some more surprising than others. From the postscript to the reissue of The Ancient Constitution and the Feudal Law (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1957, 1987²), pp. 376-77 and fn. 95, discussing the opposition of the country party to George III:
The kings aristocratic opponents saw themselves playing the roles of Russell and Somers, Pym and Hampden, Simon Montfort and Stephen Langton; the Whig interpretation of history entered its third volume; and again much was heard (as it had never ceased to be) about the liberty-loving and sturdy (if uncouth) barons of Runnymede.*

*This image of the barons
as representing both sides of the “Gothic” personality—had been around for some time and had a long life before it. John Cleland's Fanny Hill on one occasion—which it is unnecessary to describe in as much detail as she does—is reminded of their ancient vigour, and their battle-axes.
Sadly, my copy of Fanny Hill is not at hand to check the reference.

’s footnote is not quite equal in coy prurience to Gibbons comments on Theodora (chap. XL, fn. 24, II:565 in Wormersleys edition), but surely up to some of the quality of some of the masters other sallies. Of course, by now Pocock is at work on volume five of Barbarism and Religion.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

from wiretap archives, don't have pg#

"Mr. H . . ., whom no distinctions of that sort seemed to disturb, scarce gave himself or me breathing time from the last encounter, but, as if he had task'd himself to prove that the appearances of his vigour were not signs hung out in vain, in a few minutes he was in a condition for renewing the onset; to which, preluding with a storm of kisses, he drove the same course as before, with unabated fervour; and thus, in repeated engagements, kept me constantly in exercise till dawn of morning; in all which time he made me fully sensible of the virtues of his firm texture of limbs, his square shoulders, broad chest, compact hard muscles, in short a system of namliness that might pass for no bad image of our ancient sturdy barons, when they wielded the battle-ax: whose race is now so thoroughly refin'd and frittered away into the more delicate and modern-built frame of our pap-nerv'd softlings, who are as pale, as pretty, and almost as masculine as their sisters."