There are many things in life that rankle me: harem pants are one, my mother’s political persuasions another (but we’ll save that for another time). But one that quietly nags is the fact I do not have a classical education.
It’s one of those things that I day dream about. Me, a tousle-haired firebrand of a lass, trying the patience of my Governess who dreams only of an awkward kiss with nice Mr Shackleton the barrister. Trussed up in a corset and mood, storming the British Museum before nipping over the road for a nice cup of tea at elevenses. Yes, I have put some effort into this 19th Century daydream, in fact more than that one where I star in an Interpol music video as the object of Paul Bank’s smoky attentions.
There have been attempts at acquiring said education. I studied Latin alongside my Archaeology (aka Arts) degree. My French was once passable enough to read Baudelaire in the original French but as an upcoming post will show, is no longer smooth enough to order a drink at a Parisian bar. I have read some of the classics but have struggled or snored (and occasionally been scintillated). My debating skills are patchy, I am awkward with grammar and let’s not even discuss logic. In short, I’m a pathetic dilettante with a long way to go.
I’ll be following the trivium, also known as the three ways. I will also delve into a rather daunting reading list. As part of this, I’m going to revive an old tradition which has some connection to the modern art of blogging: the Commonplace book.
The Commonplace book was a way people used to compile their knowledge. They would summarise novels and worthy tomes, note down quotations and relate their new-found knowledge to their own life in some way (see EM Forster for more). As such, from time to time, this blog will turn into a Commonplace Blog – a modern way for me to discuss what I’m learning and my response to it. Feel free to join in between tweets and tumblrs.
The desire for a classical education is undoubtedly an exercise in bourgeois narcissism and a sincere desire for self improvement but also a reaction to the non-stop information that assaults us. The never-ending vitriol of editorialising, the shifting shadows of spin and the cacophony of facts, events and opinion is disorientating. I need to navigate my way and hope the pursuit of classical education will provide that map.