The Rest Is History

Kierkegaard’s love life, Shakespeare’s co-author, and T.S. Eliot’s look.

By Angela Serratore

Friday, October 28, 2016

 T.S. Eliot with his sister, 1934. National Portrait Gallery

• Considering Kierkegaard in 2016: “Kierkegaard is widely considered the most important religious thinker of the modern age. This is because he dramatized with special intensity the conflict between religion and secular reason, between private faith and the public world, and he went so far as to entertain the thought that a genuine reconciliation between them is impossible. Society, for Kierkegaard, is a place of leveling conventions, and the ethical principles that bind us together ignore the genuine self. It is faith alone, uncontaminated by public understanding, that distinguishes the authentic individual, and faith is something wholly interior, a leap into paradox.” (New York Review of Books)

• Whaling historians solve the mystery of the woggin. (Atlas Obscura)

• The image of T.S. Eliot: “Let us halt for a moment and consider this image: Eliot, the austere banker with a bowler hat, was actually walking around London in the 1920s with his cheeks powdered green and his lips rouged. No wonder that his friends were astonished. Neither Sitwell nor Woolf ‘could find any way of explaining this extraordinary and fantastical pretence; except on the one basis that the great poet wished to stress his look of strain.’” (Humanities)

• Shakespeare gets a co-author. (New York Times)

• The Princess Diana Beanie Baby as totem of the late ’90s: “There’s a rich history of spooky death dolls, from the ushabti figurines placed in ancient Egyptian tombs and intended to serve as minions for the deceased to voodoo dolls and The Twilight Zone’s Talking Tina, which had the power to kill. A ballad about a young woman freezing to death in a speeding carriage inspired the popular Victorian-era Frozen Charlotte doll, a ceramic corpse that came in its own coffin and was baked into cakes and puddings as a surprise for children. Each of these totems has a fabular, cautionary air about it, and Princess tapped into this same mood. A poem on the inside of its heart-shaped tag read, ‘She only stayed with us long enough to teach / The world to share, to give, to reach.’” (Paris Review Daily)

• A recently discovered 2,700-year-old scrap contains the oldest-known mention of Jerusalem. (Times of Israel)