Read this book by a toff

I stumbled on the above in Waterstone’s, Perth, on holiday last week. Yes that’s the level of excitement you get on my holiday jaunts.

I knew then next to nothing about Homer beyond enjoying those 60s ‘sandals and swords‘ film epics like ‘Jason and the Argonauts‘, with my school pals, aged 12/13.

The title sent me back to schooldays. Turns out it’s from Keats.

Anyhow, it has gripped me and you might like to know that the author relates the Homeric tales to those of the Celtic bards of Scotland and Ireland.

What particularly caught me were fascinating details.

For example, the first concrete evidence of Homeric words is in a ‘dad joke’ on a wine cup, given to an adolescent, coming of age.

And, he reports a French woman archaeologist who notes that Homer talks of the soul ‘fluttering‘ away from the dead, that pottery engravings show a little moth on the shoulder of dead warriors and then she sees reports of a German scientist who, using a very sensitive scale is able to weigh the dying and demonstrates that we lose around 20 grams in the moment of death! Bit heavy for a moth?

There’s more, much more.

Right at the beginning my image of Homer is corrected. Not a grey old man, bearded and blind but this from an excavated floor in Mycenae more than 3 000 years ago:

Young, gifted and black (?) ‘singing’ words into flight.

A quarter of the way in, I thought I’d find out more about the author:

Adam Nicolson, 5th Baron Carnock FSA FSA Scot FRSL (born 12 September 1957) is an English author who has written about history, landscape, great literature and the sea. He is noted for his books Sea Room (about the Shiant Isles, a group of uninhabited islands in the Hebrides); God’s Secretaries: The Making of the King James Bible; The Mighty Dead (US title:Why Homer Matters) exploring the epic Greek poems; The Seabird’s Cry about the disaster afflicting the world’s seabirds; and The Making of Poetry on the Romantic Revolution in England in the 1790s. Adam Nicolson is the son of writer Nigel Nicolson and his wife Philippa Tennyson-d’Eyncourt. He is the grandson of the writers Vita Sackville-West and Sir Harold Nicolson, and great-grandson of Sir Eustace Tennyson d’Eyncourt and Arthur Nicolson, 1st Baron Carnock. He was educated at Eaton HouseSummer Fields School,[1] Eton College where he was a King’s Scholar, and Magdalene College, Cambridge. He has worked as a journalist and columnist on the Sunday Times, the Sunday Telegraph, the Daily Telegraph, National Geographic Magazine and Granta, where he is a contributing editor. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, the Society of Antiquaries and the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland.

I’m not sure I’ve ever read a book by an aristocrat before but this guy, unlike Boris, is academically, intellectually, the real deal so, having sprayed some ibuprofen on the working-class chips on both my shoulders, I read on happily.

Join me.

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23 thoughts on “Read this book by a toff

  1. Thanks for the recommendation. I enjoyed his “Sea Room” a good few years back. I’ve never been to the uninhabited Shiants, but seen them so often on the ferry crossing to Lewis.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’ve been to the Shiants and Monachs. Shiants are not easy to land on and used to be infested with rats, but I think they were erradicated as they were culling the seabirds by eating their eggs and chicks.


  2. I have The Odyssey and The Iliad on my shelves (courtesy of a charity shop). Perhaps I should get round to reading them, as well as the Nicolson book.

    A holiday in Perth? Good going, John.
    I got to Cumbria, but that was a year ago.
    Hope to get to Worcester soon, to see one of my daughters.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Rather than lauding a toff, you could have watched a programme by the rapper, Akala, in which he travelled to Greece and to places Homer wrote about, before composing a long and highly literate rap based on the Odyssey.

    Akala considers himself to be black and identifies strongly with Black Lives Matter and has researched and written extensively about the black experience of the empire and of living in England. His mammy is from Dundee.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I read Homer’s Odyssey when I was about 10 or 11 years old. I found it on the shelves in the school library. I remember it was a small book compared to the others around it and that is probably why I noticed it in the first place. Decided to read it because it was so different to the books I normally read at that time. Really enjoyed it.

    T E Lawrence, aka Lawrence of Arabia, was the translator of the volume that I read. The original, limited edition book of his translation was considered to be one of the most beautiful books of the 20th century. Needless to say the volume in the school library was not to that standard but still a good read.


  5. O/T–
    The Daily Supress is running a story (based on a Euronews interview) that Brigid Laffan, Director of the Robert Schuman Centre states that “Scotland… meets the EU criteria… and would join with relative ease…and that Spain would NOT veto membership, as Scotland would apply as an independent country, unlike Catalonia”.

    This is the second Daily Supress story hinting that Scotland will soon be gone—is the Daily Supress welcoming this outcome, now?

    Velvet Divorce, anyone?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. OR . . . is it intended to rouse Yoons , get them out on street stalls and knocking doors. . . . They’ll be good at it . . . Obviously.


  6. Have you seen this.Twisted Barstewards as if we did not already know.

    JACOB Rees-Mogg has defended his government’s decision to funnel emergency Covid cash towards efforts to stop Scottish independence.

    The Commons leader claimed the move by Michael Gove’s Cabinet Office, during the height of the pandemic, was “completely proper and justifiable”.


    1. Jacob Greased-Moggy.

      Fings aint wot they used to be in old Blighty.

      Parliament of Engurlund.
      Used ter be, cricket rules applied.
      Honest civil service doing their stuff, for pennies and an MBE.
      Run by gentlemen for the genteel folks.
      Old school ties and the right stuff!
      Rum do’s? Hand over a revolver and point to the library door.
      Bounders, cads and scoundrels? Hounded out!

      Now they are not just welcome, but run the show.
      What have things come to, when the lower orders are put in charge, shirking their duties, bragging and telling auld Queen Betty porky pies?
      Gone to the dogs!

      Liked by 1 person

    2. “The Commons leader claimed the move by Michael Gove’s Cabinet Office, during the height of the pandemic, was ‘completely proper and justifiable’.”


      Is there some sort of link please? I’d be interested to know how he managed to justify it.


  7. I’m feeling somewhat illiterate among you guys, although I did an O level Latin. Very little retained now I’m afraid.


  8. Does anyone remember this by The Herd with Peter Frampton from 1967 From the Underworld
    The song is based on the ancient Greek legend of Orpheus and his wife Eurydice in their flight from Hades which, according to the blog, is used as a metaphor for the death of the Mod subculture. Mojo Magazine voted ‘From the Underworld’ one of the 100 greatest psychedelic songs.
    Amazing what you learn looking back. Me I just liked it as a song then.


  9. “Legerwood. Tbh, you strike as being a bit of an intolerant wheester. What have you ever done to advance Scottish interests, and do you still support the woo woo?”

    REALLY ?
    It can only be presumed this disgraceful comment is not down to Legerwood’s interesting post but childish reaction to her liking Barpe’s comment, and 12 hours later not the slightest attempt at apology.
    Like on Barpe’s post seconded.


    1. No Sir, you are an obnoxious intellectual with a huge burr up your arse.
      Please don’t let the door hit your brain on the way out…


  10. Danny Dyer related to Cromwell, Edward 111 and William the Conquer. Doesn’t like Brexit,

    Shaggy Bain

    Hancock cuddles


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