Thursday, August 24, 2006

A couple of anniversaries ...

On this date in 1872, Max Beerbohm was born in London. What better memorial that Joseph Epstein's The Beerbohm Cult: Why Max Beerbohm is the world's greatest minor writer.

And Max himself: "Only mediocrity can be trusted to be always at its best. "

Also on the-is date, in 1899 in Buenas Aires, Jorge Luis Borges was born.


  1. An interesting factoid I came across once is that when Borges and Anthony Burgess, who had an amzing gift for languages, once met, they conversed in Old English, the only language they had in common. I hope that's true.

  2. "My favorite account of this apocrypha [i.e., that Burgess 'spoke Anglo-Saxon with Jorge Luis Borges'--DL] is in Henry Root's World of Knowledge, by William Donaldson (1982): 'Though both these great polyglots could speak each other's language better than a native, they found it more agreeable [when they met] to converse in ancient Norse.' Actually, what they did, at a conference on Shakespeare in Washington in 1976, was to recite the Old English 'Caedmon's Hymn', which Burgess will have known from studying Henry Sweet's Anglo-Saxon Reader at Manchester University. In You've Had Your Time he misquotes it (though admits 'I may have got the dialect wrong'), a fact which speaks for itself."

    This is the footnote on page 37 of Anthony Burgess, by Roger Lewis (New York: Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin's Press, 2004; originally published London: Faber and Faber, 2002).

  3. Rats! I KNEW my (mis)remembering of this incident had to be wrong.