Sunday: May 9, 2010
On a Latin play about Richard III by the master of Caius College, Cambridge (1579):
. . . Legge’s was a poverty-stricken mind; his Latin versification might crimson the cheek of a preparatory schoolboy, and but for the sad fact that by the time they have read sufficiently to write on English literature, scholars have only too often lost the gift, unhappily for their readers, of knowing what is boring and what is not, this fatuous production of a shallow pedant would have been treated with as little respect as it deserves.
(F. L. Lucas, Seneca and Elizabethan Tragedy, 1922, page 97)
He adds a footnote on the last word:
It may be added that John Palmer of St John’s who took the part of Richard “had his head so possest with a prince-like humour” that he behaved like a potentate ever after, and died in prison as a result of his regal prodigalities.
Sunday: May 2, 2010
Elaine Fantham’s new translation of Seneca: Selected Letters (Oxford World Classics, 2010) is described on the back cover as “the largest selection of Seneca’s letters currently available” (in translation, that is). The Note on the Text (xxxv-xxxvi) is more specific: “The present selection of 80 letters comprises nearly two-thirds of the collection”. It goes on to list 80 letters, book by book. However, if I have counted correctly, one of those listed (105) is not included in the translation, while eight more (49, 59, 70, 75, 80, 103, 112, and 115) are translated but not listed. So “nearly two-thirds” should be “more than two-thirds” (87 of 124).
I have updated my List of Commentaries on the Epistulae Morales to include Fantham’s selection. Unlike Inwood’s, her brief end-notes do not constitute anything like a commentary, so I have put her selection in a separate column. It is interesting to see which letters get the most, and least, attention. If my data are accurate, there are still 15 wallflowers waiting for some scholarly affection: 13, 17, 20, 30, 32, 45, 69, 74, 81, 89, 98, 102, 105, 109, and 111.
As always, I will be very glad to hear of any corrections or additions to my list. As my bibliography shows, a trickle of commentaries and other works has become a torrent, so I have probably missed something. Since the earliest selection (Summers) was first published in 1910, I have also renamed the page ‘One Hundred Years of Commentaries on Seneca’s Epistulae Morales‘.
Saturday: September 19, 2009
The American Shakespeare Center is currently doing four plays in rotation at the Blackfriars Playhouse in Staunton: I Henry IV, Merry Wives of Windsor, Much Ado About Nothing, and Titus Andronicus. All are delightful in their different ways. Unfortunately, Titus is not the Saturday matinee either today or a week from today. If it were, theatergoers could see Titus Andronicus at the Blackfriars at 2:00, take a break for dinner, then drive up to Verona (6-7 miles north) for the 8:00 show of Sweeney Todd at Shenanarts. I’ve only seen one of their shows, That Scoundrel Scapino, adapted from Molière, but it was very well done by a cast of high school students, with grade-schoolers for the chorus of ‘Zanni’.
I don’t know whether any of the local restaurants serve beef and kidney pie, but that would be the perfect culinary accompaniment to my hypothetical Saturday outing. Oh, well, there will probably never be another opportunity for this particular multi-sensual aesthetic adventure. There is at least one other play I know that features a cannibal feast (Seneca’s Thyestes), but it is rarely performed today, and the dinner in it is apparently some kind of stew or casserole, not a meat pie.
Monday: September 3, 2007
I’ve updated the list of twentieth-century commentaries and other works on Seneca’s Epistulae Morales (link on the left) with four or five recent works. It’s a busy field, though there are still three dozen letters in which the reader is on his own except for the occasional notes in the Loeb and Budé translations, neither recent.
Sunday: October 23, 2005
I have added a category in the left column for ‘Lists of Commentaries’. So far, the only one is for Seneca’s Epistulae Morales, though Ovid’s Heroides will follow. This is not a complete bibliography, but a cross-reference of letters against commentators. I made it for my own use, since it is so hard to keep track of who comments on which letter, and post it now since others may find it useful. Similar lists would be very helpful for (e.g.) Pindar: if anyone has one I would be glad to link it or host it.
I have previously posted a one-page PDF version of the Seneca list, and that will be updated soon to reflect the latest information: I only recently learned of the commentaries on Epistles 22 and 23 by Laudizi and 93 and 99 by Op het Veld.
The list is not just a practical tool. It is interesting to see which letters have attracted multiple commentaries, and which (about a third) have attracted none. Editors have their own prejudices: for instance, Motto’s school commentary has a strong preference for the shortest letters, while Summers has a strong preference for those in the range 76-90, commenting on no fewer than 10 1/2 of the 15. If I have missed any, I hope someone will let me know.
Monday: October 17, 2005
Not much, to judge by E. M. 22.15, where Natura addresses those dying old:
‘Sine cupiditatibus uos genui, sine timoribus, sine superstitione, sine perfidia ceterisque pestibus; quales intrastis exite.’
“I engendered you without desires, without fears, without superstition, without treachery and the other curses; go out as you were when you came in.”
Very eloquent, but since when are babies born sine cupiditatibus? They have very little else in mind except a few basic desires: to be fed, held, kept clean and warm, and allowed to sleep, all with very little notice and the expectation of immediate obedience. What was Seneca thinking when he wrote this?
I’ve been leafing through the Epistulae Morales, rereading the two dozen or so I’ve read before and dipping into others. Time to read them through? Perhaps not: there are an awful lot of them.
Sunday: October 9, 2005
Helmuth, Graf von Moltke (the Elder):
No battle plan survives contact with the enemy.
Seneca (the Younger):
Vetus proverbium est gladiatorem in harena capere consilium; aliquid adversarii vultus, aliquid manus mota, aliquid ipsa inclinatio corporis intuentem monet. Quid fieri soleat, quid oporteat, in universum et mandari potest et scribi; tale consilium non tantum absentibus, etiam posteris datur: illud alterum, quando fieri debeat aut quemadmodum, ex longinquo nemo suadebit, cum rebus ipsis deliberandum est.
There is an old adage about gladiators, — that they plan their fight in the ring; as they intently watch, something in the adversary’s glance, some movement of his hand, even some slight bending of his body, gives a warning. We can formulate general rules and commit them to writing, as to what is usually done, or ought to be done; such advice may be given, not only to our absent friends, but also to succeeding generations. In regard, however, to that second question, — when or how your plan is to be carried out, — no one will advise at long range; we must take counsel in the presence of the actual situation.
Epistulae Morales 22.1-2, tr. Richard C. Gummere, Loeb Classical Library, 1917
Saturday: April 30, 2005
I have made up a one-page handout cross-referencing Seneca’s Epistulae Morales against the various 20th-century commentaries, each of which covers a different selection. The Word 2000 for Windows (.doc) version is here, the Adobe Acrobat (.pdf) version here.
Besides showing at a glance which commentaries cover which letters, and (very interesting) which letters are more or less popular among commentators, I also use it as a check-off list to keep track of which ones I’ve read. With 124 letters and a substantial fragment of another, it’s easy to lose track. If anyone wants to see how I did it, or is curious about which ones I’ve read, the color-coded personalized versions are here (.doc) and here (.pdf).
Feel free to print out any of these files and use them yourselves. As always, comments and queries are welcome. I should probably mention that the unfortunate language in 47 and 56 is a purely coincidental result of listing commentators by the first letters of their last names and in order of publication.
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