Friday, 14 October 2011

Blogs in history

One of the main spurs to me to get this blog going has been The Spectator, published in London every couple of days during the period 1709-15 that enjoyed enormous circulation for its time, and was highly influential in developing ideas about behaviour and social mores in the public sphere, traces of which can still be observed today.  The authors achieved this by being highly idiosyncratic, gently mocking of fashion and fads, and of easily identifiable social types, slightly cynical and ironical but wearing their liberal values on their sleeves. The word 'lucubration' in the my Blog's strapline comes from the Spectator: it means 'laborious and intensive study' - of course used ironically in the original, as well as by me!  What Joseph Addison and Richard Steele, the main authors, were doing, though they didn't know it, was blogging....I am slowly reading the complete lucubrations of Isaac Bickerstaffe, the Spectator himself, in the Everyman Edition, which fills four volumes, so it will keep me going a good while!

While on this subject I will provide a quote from the said Bickerstaffe's ruminations, of relevance to educationists. After complaining about the widespread use of beating by school teachers, he goes on: 'Tis pity, but we had a Set of Men, polite in their Behaviour and Method of teaching, who should be put into a Condition of being above flattering or fearing the Parents of those they instruct.  We might then possibly see Learning become a Pleasure, and Children delighting themselves in that, which now they abhor for coming upon such hard Terms to them: What would be still a greater Happiness arising from the Care of such Instructors, would be, that we should have no more Pedants, nor any bred to Learning who had not Genius for it.'

It occurs to me that Montaigne's essays (1588), one of the few books known to have been in Shakespeare's library, are also very like a blog.

Other examples of historical blogs will be referenced here when I come across them: any contributions will be gratefully received

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