Hell Freezes

Commentary lavishes fulsome praise on President Trump's foreign policy vision: defend the postwar liberal world order wherein free, sovereign nations become allies with the United States in the cause of Freedom. But Trump's vision rejects the cookie cutter idea that freedom means "be more like us--secular, relativistic, etc" and returns to the traditional foreign policy of working as allies, each with an Enlightened Self-Interest to pursue as well. And that means standing up for the allies against bullies.

Should We Dishonor Lee?

Historian Bruce Catton, comparing Grant and Lee:

Lastly, and perhaps greatest of all, there was the ability, at the end, to turn quickly from war to peace once the fighting was over. Out of the way these two men behaved at Appomattox came the possibility of a peace of reconciliation. It was a possibility not wholly realized, in the years to come, but which did, in the end, help the two sections to become one nation again . . . after a war whose bitterness might have seemed to make such a reunion wholly impossible. No part of either man’s life became him more than the part he played in this brief meeting in the McLean house at Appomattox. Their behavior there put all succeeding generations of Americans in their debt. Two great Americans, Grant and Lee–very different, yet under everything very much alike. Their encounter at Appomattox was one of the great moments of American history.

And here’s The Columbia Desk Encyclopedia, Fifth Edition. 1975

Of admirable personal character, Lee was idolized by his soldiers and the people of the South and soon won the admiration of the North. He has remained a Southern ideal and an American hero.

To these considered judgments, add the fact that Lee opposed slavery all his life and acted from a sense of duty to his family and friends in the agrarian society into which he was born. His vision called not for exploitation, but for a dutiful paternalism we reject today but cannot dismiss out of hand.


Coleridge's Nights

from Samuel Taylor Coleridge to Tom Wedgwood on September 16, 1803

For 5 months past my mind has been strangely shut up. I have taken the paper with the intention to write to you many times; but it has been all one blank Feeling, one blank idealess Feeling. I had nothing to say, I could say nothing. How dearly I love you, my very Dreams make known to me. I will not trouble you with the gloomy Tale of my Health. While I am awake, by patience, employment, effort of mind, and walking I can keep the fiend at Arm's length; but the Night is my Hell, Sleep my tormenting Angel. Three nights out of four I fall asleep, struggling to lie awake--and my frequent Night-screams have almost made me a nuisance in my own House. Dreams with me are no Shadows, but the very Substances and foot-thick Calamities of my Life. Beddoes, who has been to me ever a very kind man, suspects that my stomach "brews vinegar."… I myself fully believe it to be either atonic, hypochondriacal Gout, or a scrophulous affection of the mesenteric Glands. In the hope of drawing the Gout, if Gout it should be, into my feet, I walked, previously to my getting into the Coach at Perth, 263 miles in eight Days, with no unpleasant fatigue: and if I could do you any service by coming to town, and there were no Coaches, I would undertake to be with you, on foot, in 7 days. I must have strength somewhere; my head is indefatigably strong; my limbs too are strong; but acid or not acid, Gout or Scrofula, something there is [in] my stomach or Guts that transubstantiates my Bread and Wine into the Body and Blood of the Devil-Meat and Drink I should say for I eat but little bread, and take nothing, in any form, spiritual or narcotic, stronger than Table Beer... .

To diversify this dusky letter I will write as a Post script an Epitaph, which I composed in my sleep for myself, while dreaming that I was dying. To the best of my recollection I have not altered a word. Your's dear Wedgewood, and of all, that are dear to you at Gunville, gratefully and most affectionately,

S. T. Coleridge.



Here sleeps at length poor Col. and without Screaming,

Who died, as he had always liv’d, a dreaming

Shot dead, while sleeping, by the Gout within,

Alone, and all unknown, at E'nbro' in an Inn.

It was on Tuesday Night last at the Black Bull, Edinburgh.


The Cockatrice According to STC

"The Cockatrice is a foul dragon with a crown on its head. The Eastern nations believe it to be hatched by a viper on a cock's egg.... The cockatrice is emblematic of monarchy, a monster generated by ingratitude or absurdity." -- Samuel Taylor Coleridge in a letter to Robert Southey July 6, 1794. STC, aged 22, was walking in Wales at the time.

Jane Austen Wrote His Epitaph

 From The Guardian:              
from Northanger Abbey
“Dear Miss Morland, consider the dreadful nature of the suspicions you have entertained. What have you been judging from? Remember the country and the age in which we live. Remember that we are English, that we are Christians. Consult your own understanding, your own sense of the probable, your own observation of what is passing around you. Does our education prepare us for such atrocities? Do our laws connive at them? Could they be perpetrated without being known, in a country like this, where social and literary intercourse is on such a footing, where every man is surrounded by a neighbourhood of voluntary spies, and where roads and newspapers lay everything open? Dearest Miss Morland, what ideas have you been admitting?”
They had reached the end of the gallery, and with tears of shame she ran off to her own room.

I first read this passage in 1965 at the age of 17 and it made a great impression on me. The heroine’s unruly imagination is suddenly tethered by this vigorous remonstration from General Tilney. What’s striking is that in the very early 19th century, before the railways had transformed the country, long before the telegraph, the General evokes a society that is intricately connected, where no one can hide from public scrutiny when a network of communications and media can “lay everything open”. No place here for wild and foolish imaginings. Perhaps this is the very essence of the condition of modernity – always to believe one has arrived in one’s time at the summit of the modern.

Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey profoundly influenced my novel Atonement. General Tilney’s resounding words form the epigraph.
Ewan McEwan explains an arresting speech from Jane Austen.