Friday, June 19, 2020

The Pen is mightier than the Internet

It may be that the first blogger was Robert Southey, Britain's tenth Poet Laureate.  You know some of his many works.  One is the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears; another is this:
What are little boys made of?
What are little boys made of?
Snips and snails
And puppy-dogs' tails
That's what little boys are made of

What are little girls made of?
What are little girls made of?
Sugar and spice
And everything nice
That's what little girls are made of
The complete version of that has stanzas for young women, young men, old women, and old men.  It's pretty clever.

Bust of Southy in London's National Gallery  
But Southey was a man of wide interests, who wrote about all of them.  That sounds like a blogger to me.  He wrote the first (and still published) history of Brazil, in which the word "zombie" made its first appearance in the English language.  He wrote epic poems, mostly forgotten today.  He wrote criticism of other's epic poetry, most notoriously a scathing review of his friend's Samuel Coleridge's Rime Of The Ancient Mariner* which he said was like "a Dutchman's attempt at German profundity."

Lord Byron accused him of being a sell-out, giving up his youthful republicanism for a well paid social conservatism.  But Southey was instrumental in getting rid of Dr. Johnson's ponderous and self-satisfied prose style and introducing a clear, direct style in its place.   He wrote many biographies, most famous of which was about Lord Nelson and which was turned into a film.

Oh yeah - he and Coleridge were buddies with scientist Humphry Davies and participated in Nitrous Oxide experiments.  Groovy, baby.

I had never heard of him until this morning.  I remarked that The Queen Of The World truly was made of sugar and spice, and wondered when that line had been written.  She consulted the Oracle of Wikipedia, and then said This would make a good post for you.  Sure did.

* You've heard this as well - Water, water everywhere with not a drop to drink.


squeeky's mom said...

Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner. 2nd line - and all the boards did shrink. Only two lines that have stuck since high school

Ken said...

Southey also wrote one of my three favorite poems, "The Battle of Blenheim:"

But things like that, you know, must be
After a famous victory

AuricTech Shipyards said...

One fact in your post reminds me of a button I used to have:

"People have always laughed at genius. They laughed at Galileo. They laughed at Einstein. They laughed at nitrous oxide."

Unknown said...

"It may be that the first blogger was Robert Southey..."

It may be, indeed. But I think you could make a legitimate argument that Samuel Pepys precedes him.

As a matter of fact, Pepys's diaries are being rendered in blog form here. I've been reading them since the quarantine started and...there's a lot of stuff that sounds kind of familiar. Especially in the recent entries.

And Tom Standage (a writer I greatly admire) makes an argument in his book Writing on the Wall: Social Media - The First 2,000 Years that Cicero was a proto-blogger. I think this is a fairly decent summary.