Your independent source for Harvard news since 1898

Your independent source for Harvard news since 1898

Montage

Chapter & Verse

Correspondence on not-so-famous lost words

September-October 2017

Jeffrey Tigay hopes someone can provide the source of an anecdote involving a Latin correspondence between Catherine the Great and Voltaire (or another Enlightenment figure) in which the two competed to see who could write more concisely. Eventually one sent a one-word letter, possibly rusticabo (I shall go to the country). The other won the day, though, by replying with a single letter, i (Go!—the imperative of ire).

Wayles Brown asks whether William S. Gilbert was thinking of a real example of a public figure changing nationality when he penned the H.M.S. Pinafore lines, “For in spite of all temptations / To belong to other nations / He remains an Englishman!” “Some of the motifs in Pinafore,” Brown writes, “are known to be based on current events of 1877-1878, such as the choice of W.H. Smith, the non-sea-going bookseller and stationer to be First Lord of the Admiralty.”

“When the action gets heavy, keep the rhetoric cool” (July-August). Jim Henle identified this advice from President Richard M. Nixon, in response to a question about then vice president Spiro Agnew during a press conference on May 8, 1970. According to the American Presidency Project™ transcript, Nixon said, “I would hope that all the members of this administration would have in mind the fact, a rule that I have always had, and it is a very simple one: When the action is hot, keep the rhetoric cool.”

“the boredom of living” (July-August). Dan Rosenberg was the first to identify this assertion by Samuel Beckett. It appears—in a passage about the dangers and mysteries of transitional periods during a person’s life—in the essay “Proust,” printed in various editions of the book Proust and Three Dialogues with Georges Duthuit. Such periods, Beckett writes, are “perilous zones…when for a moment the boredom of living is replaced by the suffering of being.”

Send inquiries and answers to “Chapter and Verse,” Harvard Magazine, 7 Ware Street, Cambridge 02138 or via e-mail to chapterandverse@harvardmag.com.

You Might Also Like:

Tracy K. Smith

Photograph © Rachel Eliza Griffiths

Library of Congress names Harvard alumna Tracy K. Smith as new Poet Laureate

Barack Obama listening to his advisors, in the Oval Office, April 2010.

Barack Obama listening to his advisors, in the Oval Office, April 2010.

Official White House photograph by Pete Souza

In “Renga for Obama,” an exquisite corpse and a literary wake

You Might Also Like:

Tracy K. Smith

Photograph © Rachel Eliza Griffiths

Library of Congress names Harvard alumna Tracy K. Smith as new Poet Laureate

Barack Obama listening to his advisors, in the Oval Office, April 2010.

Barack Obama listening to his advisors, in the Oval Office, April 2010.

Official White House photograph by Pete Souza

In “Renga for Obama,” an exquisite corpse and a literary wake