Tuesday, October 16, 2007

The Lament of Books

At a Chaucer lecture today the lecturer, AC Spearing for those in the know, used the following quote as an example of the war of women with books and the inherent misogyny of the latter. It is from Richard de Bury's "Philobiblon", and yes, the books are doing the talking.

"Our place is usurped by pet dogs, or by hunting hawks, or by that two-legged animal with whom clerics were long since forbidden to live together, and whom we have always taught our pupils to shun even more than a snake or a cockatrice. For that reason she has always been jealous of any devotion to us: she cannot be placated. Eventually, when she spies us languishing undefended (except by some dead spider's web) in a corner, she begins to scowl, abusing us and scorning us in malignant language. She points out that we are the only items in the household that are unnecessary; she complains that we serve no domestic purpose whatever; and she advises that we should quickly be exchanged for expensive hats, fine silk fabrics and deep-dyed scarlets, frocks and fancy furs, wool and linen. And with good reason, if she could see what lies within our hearts, if she had attended our private deliberations, if she had read the book of Theophrastus or Valerius, or if she had only listened with comprehending ears to the twenty-fifth chapter of Ecclesiasticus."

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