Thursday, April 5, 2007

"Harington Is Often Regarded as a Trivial Writer"

To Feel and Be Felt

While the title of this post -- Harrington as a trivial writer -- could certainly apply to me, it's actually a quote from this piece in The Proceedings of the Bath Royal Literary and Scientific Institution of Bath, England, about my 10th-great grandfather, Sir John Harrington (also spelled with a single r -- in those days, spelling was less a discipline than it was a creative art.)

Sir John's epigrams were to the day what "reality shows" or certain tabloids are to us today: clever, leering exploitations of the privileged or spotlighted, often wandering off into the scatological or pornographic. (His more serious works, especially as concerns the relationship between church and state, are less well-remembered. Pity, that.) His godmother, Queen Elizabeth, banished him repeatedly from her court (meaning, of course, that she also took him back repeatedly) for such indiscretions, writing once that he
shouldn't come back "till he hath grown sober, and leaveth the ladies sportes and frolicks."

Here's the piece unearthed by the Bath folks, with spelling updated to modern (original spelling can be found in the above link to the BRLSI). It will help to know that Bath was a resort destination:

Of Going to Bath

A common phrase long used here has been,
And by prescription now some credit has:
That diverse ladies coming to Bath,
Come chiefly but to see, and to be seen.
But if I should declare my conscience briefly,
I cannot think that is their errand chiefly.
For as I hear that most of them have dealt,
They chiefly came to feel and to be felt.

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