Thursday, April 18, 2013
A History of the English-Speaking Peoples, volume I: 62% Complete
My apologies for going so long between updates. I'm really enjoying A History of the English-Speaking Peoples. Churchill's writing is funny, engaging and opinionated. I do a lot of my reading in between classes at school and a couple of times, I have nearly laughed out loud while sitting in my classroom.
There haven't been many vocabulary words that I haven't known, but I do have one for you. The word is "hypocaust" which is "a hollow space under the floor of an ancient Roman building, into which hot air was sent for heating a room or bath" (definition from The New Oxford American Dictionary). I was familiar with this concept, but I didn't know that word for it.
I have run across so many quotes which are entertaining or interesting or both, but I have to choose a few to share with you.
First, from the beginning of the book, as the Bronze Age gives way to the Iron Age:
"At this point the march of invention brought a new factor upon the scene. Iron was dug and forged. Men armed with iron entered Britain from the continent and killed the men of bronze. At this point we can plainly recognize across the vanished millenniums a fellow-being. A biped capable of slaying another with iron is evidently to modern eyes a man and a brother. It cannot be doubted that for smashing skulls, whether long-headed or round, iron is best."
(On a side note, shouldn't the plural of millennium be millennia? But who am I to correct Churchill...)
On the subject of King Arthur:
"And wherever men are fighting against barbarism, tyranny, and massacre, for freedom, law, and honour, let them remember that the fame of their deeds, even though they themselves be exterminated, may perhaps be celebrated as long as the world rolls round."
Could it be that perhaps Churchill saw himself as a second Arthur, if you will?
In the next quote he has just related a rather romantic (in the older sense of the word) story of a love triangle involving Henry II, his wife Eleanor, and a woman simply called "Fair Rosamond."
"Tiresome investigators have undermined this excellent tale, but it certainly should find its place in any history worthy of the name."
I love how Churchill, while writing a history book, puts the excellence of the tale above the "tiresome" factual history. He seemed to be rolling his eyes in disgust at anyone who might suggest that this story didn't actually happen.
And lastly, not a quote, but an interesting tidbit. I was, of course, familiar with the name Plantagenet, applied as a sort of surname to the kings and queens of England from Henry II to Richard III. But apparently this name comes from the emblem of Henry II's house, the broom (plant, not cleaning instrument specifically), which in Latin is called the planta genesta, literally broom plant.
Before I close, I want to send out my sympathies to all those affected in the bombings in Boston and the plant explosion in Texas. May you be embraced by peace and comfort.