By Abbie Spears
I love horror, and I have spent an awfully long time listening to people list their favourite horror films, and I’ve noticed that horror films from the United Kingdom are rarely mentioned. I am partially guilty of this myself because British cinema can be easy to overlook when it’s not thrown in your face like the movies we’re all talking about. But I am British, and I take pride in the fact that my country has produced some excellent motion pictures. Continue reading
Brief life of a Victorian enthusiast: 1825-1896
Francis James Child, A.B. 1846, was a model of nineteenth-century academic achievement. Named Harvard’s Boylston professor of rhetoric and oratory at 26, he was one of his century’s leading Chaucer scholars and received honorary degrees from his alma mater, Columbia, and Göttingen. His close friends included Oliver Wendell Holmes, Henry and William James, and Charles Eliot Norton. Yet today he is better remembered than many distinguished colleagues because, at the height of his career, he decided to apply a gift for scholarship honed on the study of traditional literature to the oral traditions of the folk ballad.
That a sailmaker’s son achieved eminence of any sort was largely because the Boston of his youth was progressive enough to offer free public educationat least for white boysand small enough to spot and foster talent. His record at Boston Grammar and Boston English came to the attention of Epes Sargent Dixwell, A.B. 1827, headmaster of Boston Latin, who facilitated his admission to that school and then to Harvard College.
Child graduated first in his class and became a College tutor in mathematics and then in history, political economy, and English. When a benefactor lent him funds for a trip to Europe, he took a leave of absence from 1849 to 1851 to study in Berlin and Göttingen, an extraordinary opportunity given his youth and background. On his return, he became Boylston professor, a post he held for a quarter-century before becoming Harvard’s first professor of English, in 1876. He served as general editor of the British Poets, a popular series that ran to 150 volumes. He issued a five-volume edition of Spenser’s poems and the influential Observations on the Language of Chaucer. And he introduced generations of undergraduates to these poets, to Shakespeare, and to the Romantics.
He combined scholarship with a gift for friendship. He corresponded for three decades with James Russell Lowell“Jamie,” even when Lowell was ambassador to Great Britainand for near-ly two decades with Miss Emily Tuckerman of Stockbridge, Mas-sa-chusetts, in each case combining his love of literature with a sense of humor and humility not always associated with his fellow academics. Time remained for his rose garden, his family, and more worldly demands. Though ill-suited by nature to the rough and tumble of politics, he canceled classes to canvass for Lincoln during the Civil War and joined in local political battles on behalf of his adopted Brahmin class with enthusiasm, if not success.
But increasingly his life was dominated by one great and abiding passionthe preservation of a ballad tradition that was dying even as Child struggled to record it. His first collection of ballads appeared in eight small volumes (1857-58) in the British Poets series, but he had something far more ambitious in mind: the comprehensive recordation of all known English and Scottish ballads and their American and Canadian variants. That demanded patience in tracking manuscripts across continents, judgment in interpreting and clarifying textual discrepancies, and persistence in dealing with collectors ranging from the high-born Lord Rosebery to the eccentric Devon clergyman Sabine Baring-Gould.
In all, Child collected 305 ballads, ultimately published in five volumes (1882-98), including “Lord Randall,” “Sir Patrick Spens,” and a good three dozen variations on the adventures of Robin Hood. Some, like “Barbara Allen,” had been in print for generations and were sung from London to Appalachia. Others, like “Thomas the Rhymer” or “Tam Lin,” evoke a world of magic that survived outside the written record for centuries. Child’s enthusiasm and erudition shine throughout his systematic attempt to set the British ballad tradition in context with others, whether Danish, Serbian, or Turkish. He made no attempt to conceal or apologize for the sexuality, theatrical violence, and ill-concealed paganism of many ballads, but it is characteristic of the man that in his introduction to “Hugh of Lincoln,” an ancient work about the purported murder of a Christian child by a Jew, he wrote, “And these pretended child-murders, with their horrible consequences, are only a part of the persecution which, with all moderation, may be rubricated as the most disgraceful chapter in the history of the human race.”
Our own period doesn’t readily lend itself to an undertaking such as Child’s, but the timing was right for him, as for other Victorian obsessives. He could attack a subject thatinstead of being studied half to deathwas in danger of disappearing entirely, with a level of knowledge and self-confidence that eludes our more specialized age. For half a century, scholars and musicologists embraced his collection, but added little to it. Then, in the 1950s, the ballads were taken up as part of the folk-music revival, so that Time magazine, writing about Joan Baez in 1962, would note, “Folkupmanship absolutely requires that a ballad be referred to as Child 12, Child 200, or Child 209….” In succeeding decades, new interpretations have appeared regularly, remarkably fresh and original given the ancient sources of the lyrics. Child passed on to subsequent generations of audiences and performers a legacy of scholarship that they have been able to enjoy on their own terms and express in their own fashion. In doing so, he preserved the continuing vitality of the ballad tradition that he loved so much.
John Burgess, J.D. ’76, is a senior partner in the Boston office of Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr, where he practices corporate and international law.
HAVE you not been very successful with the ladies recently?
I have bad news for you — it might be your accent.
After Big Travel 7 surveyed 1.5million people, Britain’s sexiest (and least sexy) accents have been revealed.
Well gentlemen, take a look through the list below and find your accent.
Maybe its ranking will explain why you haven’t been getting any action recently… Or just stop wearing Crocs.
Here we go [ . . . ]
Continue at source: Top 50 sexiest British accents ranked from worst to best
Comedy experts position series set in a chaotic hotel above Father Ted and I’m Alan Partridge
Fawlty Towers has been named the greatest ever British TV sitcom once again by a panel of comedy experts compiled by the Radio Times.
The comedy series set in a chaotic Torquay seaside hotel managed by an incompetent and highly strung hotelier played by John Cleese, was ranked above Father Ted, which chronicled the lives of three dysfunctional Irish priests and their housekeeper, and I’m Alan Partridge, in second and third place respectively.
Although Fawlty Towers ran for only two series, the popularity of its 12 episodes has endured and it is often re-broadcast, with the co-writer, Connie Booth, saying the show succeeds because it allows “infantile rage and aggression” to flourish even within “well-mannered English society”.
Basil Fawlty’s one-liners have gone down in comedy folklore. In one episode, a hotel guest complained that he was not satisfied, to which he replied: “Well, people like you never are, are you?”
During another, a guest asked if anywhere serves French food. Fawlty retorted: “Yes, France, I believe. They seem to like it there. And the swim would certainly sharpen your appetite. You’d better hurry, the tide leaves in six minutes.”
In a thinly veiled jibe at the broadcaster’s current management, Cleese said he was lucky to be working at the BBC when decisions were taken by people who had actually made programmes and paid tribute to his co-stars and producer, John Howard Davies, who directed the first six episodes of Monty Python’s Flying Circus.
“I’m proud we are up there with Porridge and Only Fools and Ab Fab and Blackadder and The Office and Reggie Perrin and The Thick of It,” he told the Radio Times.
Fawlty Towers co-writer Connie Booth told the magazine: “It’s unique in being a farce, with all the plot surprises and precision that the style requires. And it doesn’t hurt that the star of the show is a six–foot-five comic genius; if he was shorter I can’t imagine how it would have worked.”
Richard Curtis and Ben Elton’s historical sitcom, Blackadder, starring Rowan Atkinson, was fourth on the list, with Jimmy Perry and David Croft’s 80-episode, half-century-old Dad’s Army in fifth.
Only Fools and Horses, featuring Peckham wheeler-dealers the Trotter family, was named sixth best sitcom of all time, ahead of Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais’s prison-based comedy drama, Porridge, in seventh.
Fawlty Towers was also named the best British sitcom of all time in a survey of comedians, comedy writers and actors in 2017.