More Barely-Burlesqued Quotations and Paraphrases from a Reputedly Great History of Western Culture (Part 3)

From Jacques Barzun’s Dawn to Decadence:  500 Years of Western Cultural Life (c. 2000).  See posts from May 24th and May 30th for Parts I and II.  Annotations are printed in italics.

• When the world gets Romanticist, and becomes less Classicist, that’s when we get Tacitus back at us (pp. 9, 247, 295, and 503).

• England has not had an English king since 1066 (p. 240).

Stupid gits

• Modern manners are an amalgam of the ideals of chivalry and mercantile rigor (p. 245).

Take sneezing for instance:  the “God bless you” part is chivalrous; the failure to offer a cloth handkerchief is mercantile.

• The reasserted Divine Right of Kings in the 17th Century led to the political marginalization of divine institutions (p. 247-248).

So if we just remove the Sanctity from marriage, divorce rates would plummet.

• Absolute power is never really absolute (p. 250).

And yet so many are absolutely corrupt

• Rimbaud, like Rambo, was bent on utter destruction (p. 618-620).

• Sexual liberation and women’s emancipation were parallel and intertwined (p. 626-627).

Men just used women’s lib. to get their freak on.

• There was no such thing as antiques until the 1890’s (p. 600).

• By the 1890’s “there was no such thing as the leisure class” because “everybody is now busy at all times, even on holiday” (p. 595).

Yeah, I feel so sorry for those bastards every time I see them sweating over their I-Phones on Cape Cod.

• History is not really a science (pp. 299, 568-570, and 578). And neither is anthropology (p. 578).

• Nurses were rightly associated with drunkenness and loose morals before Florence Nightingale (p. 580).

‘Reminds me of what old Radical Bill told me back in Gainesville:  “In my vast experience, the liveliest women in bed were nurses and Jewish women.”  If only there were more Jewish nurses…

• Some Westerners became Communist for the sex (p. 747).

• One should not read beyond one’s intelligence (p. 770)

Now he tells me–on page 770!

• Hasty intellectual judgments about scholars from the past are as deplorable as hasty moral judgments about other people in the present (p. 253).


What an asshole…

• Hamlet never vacillated, nor was he indecisive (p. 254).

And Lady MacBeth didn’t have a guilty conscience–she was just OCD.

• Machiavelli was not Machiavellian given his Italian origins (p. 256).

The enz justify the meanness when you’re waist-deep in guidos. Barzun anticipated The Jersey Shore by 10 years.

• The Puritans in England and America were not dour killjoys. They only shut down the theaters because of all the whores and hook-ups (pp. 261-262, and 278).

• Modern democracy originated with the Puritans (pp. 265 and 277).

Shit, that means that Romney’s a shoe-in!

• John Lilburne had prison-glow (p. 268-269). Defoe, the father of modern journalism, also had it (p. 310).

Jesus still has prison-glow…and Cross-glow… and grave-glow…

• It was the Libertarian ideas of the Puritans that led them to persecute each other and everyone else (p. 271)

So vote for Ron Paul!  

And kill everyone else!

• Just because Fundamentalists suppress free thought does not mean that they’re anti-intellectual–persecuting ideas and speech shows that you really care (p. 272).

• Both Ceaser and Cromwell were full of clemency (pp. 274 and 276).

Mao and Stalin were veritable push-overs.

• Converting to Calvinism causes deep psychological depression–e.g. Cromwell and Bunyan (p. 275).

• The old Calvinist/Protestant Head-Trip:

Step 1:  get depressed about your moral salvation

Step 2:  feel morally justified and act semi-evil

  The new Calvinist/Protestant Head-Trip:

Skip step 1  (p. 275).

• Like anti-Communism during the Cold War, “anti-Popery” in England was justified at least until the early 19th Century (p. 276).

I never realized that fragrant flowers and leaves in an open bowl could be so offensive or dangerous.

• The Puritans were big fans of dry-humping, which they called “bundling” (p. 279-281).

• The 13th Century was the real Age of Enlightenment (p. 281).

• The reason the Puritans were so uptight was because they foresaw the modern condition of materialism, atheism and Hobbesianism that so disquiets our current age (p. 282).

• Louis XIV was raised by a single mom (p. 285-286).

Shit, that means Obama’s a shoe-in!

• Nobles used to be rebels, but Louis XIV kept them in line with etiquette and entertainment.  Versailles was so polite and entertaining that “everyone was on tenterhooks” (pp. 286-288, and 296).

• Versailles was constructed to get away from the mobs and intellectuals of Paris (p. 287-288).

They could have just moved to Florida, I mean, he was the Sun King after all…

• Louis XIV could scan the crowd at Versailles and tell at a glance who was absent (p. 287).

He missed his true calling as a leader of one of those so-called “Million-man marches.”

• Louis XIV only lost his temper twice. His most severe rebuke (besides “Hey, where’s so-and-so?”) was “I was almost kept waiting!” (p. 281-291).

And that’s why he never bothered to get a driver’s license. Or vote. Or shop. Or go out on a second date.

(p. 290:  “He obtained a succession of mistresses without the use of tactics.”)

• Louis XIV’s best mistress (Athenais de Mortemart) was a Satanist. When he shacked up with a truly pious woman (Mme. de Maintenon), his kingdom went to Hell (pp. 291, and 300-301).

• The aristocrats of pre-Revolutionary France were too Germanic (p. 295).

• Modern societies have “recklessly prolonged life” (p. 525)

This from a guy who was born in 1907 and still isn’t dead.

• Regarding the disappearance of court jesters:  the increase in Rationalism at the onset of the Monarchical Age (1648–1789) meant the end of the role of “the inspired idiot” (p. 302).


Alan Brech, 2012


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