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Old Friends - Essays In Epistolary Parody - LETTER: From Professor Forth to the Rev. Mr. Casaubon Post by :techperson Category :Essays Author :Andrew Lang Date :August 2011 Read :3572

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Old Friends - Essays In Epistolary Parody - LETTER: From Professor Forth to the Rev. Mr. Casaubon

LETTER: From Professor Forth to the Rev. Mr. Casaubon

The delicacy of the domestic matters with which the following correspondence deals cannot be exaggerated. It seems that Belinda (whose Memoirs we owe to Miss Rhoda Broughton) was at Oxford while Mr. and Mrs. Casaubon were also resident near that pleasant city, so famed for its Bodleian Library. Professor Forth and Mr. Casaubon were friends, as may be guessed; their congenial characters, their kindred studies, Etruscology and Mythology, combined to ally them. Their wives were not wholly absorbed in their learned pursuits, and if Mr. Ladislaw was dangling after Mrs. Casaubon, we know that Mr. Rivers used to haunt with Mrs. Forth the walks of Magdalen. The regret and disapproval which Mrs. Casaubon expresses, and her desire to do good to Mrs. Forth, are, it is believed, not alien to her devoted and exemplary character.

Bradmore-road, Oxford, May 29.

Dear Mr. Casaubon,--In the course of an investigation which my researches into the character of the Etruscan "Involuti" have necessitated, I frequently encounter the root Kad, k2ad, or Qad. Schnitzler's recent and epoch-making discovery that d in Etruscan = b2, has led me to consider it a plausible hypothesis that we may convert Kad or Qad into Kab2, in which case it is by no means beyond the range of a cautious conjecture that the Involuti are identical with the Cab-iri (Cabiri). Though you will pardon me for confessing, what you already know, that I am not in all points an adherent to your ideas concerning a "Key to All Mythologies" (at least, as briefly set forth by you in Kuhn's Zeitung), yet I am deeply impressed with this apparent opportunity of bridging the seemingly impassable gulf between Etrurian Religion and the comparatively clear and comprehensible systems of the Pelasgo- Phoenician peoples. That Kad or Kab can refer either (as in Quatuor) to a four-footed animal (quadruped, "quad") or to a four- wheeled vehicle (esseda, Celtic cab) I cannot for a moment believe, though I understand that this theory has the support of Schrader, Penka, and Baunder. {10} Any information which your learning can procure, and your kind courtesy can supply, will be warmly welcomed and duly acknowledged.--Believe me, faithfully yours,


P.S.--I open this note, which was written from my dictation by my secretary, Mrs. Forth, to assure myself that her inexperience has been guilty of no error in matters of so much delicacy and importance. I have detected no mistake of moment, and begin to hope that the important step of matrimony to which I was guided by your example may not have been a rash experiment.

From the Rev. Mr. Casaubon to James Forth, Esq., Professor of Etruscan, Oxford.

Dear Mr. Forth,--Your letter throws considerable light on a topic which has long engaged my earnest attention. To my thinking, the Cab in Cabiri = CAV, "hollow," as in cavus, and refers to the Ark of Noah, which, of course, before the entrance of every living thing according to his kind, must have been the largest artificial hollow or empty space known to our Adamite ancestors. Thus the Cabiri would answer, naturally, to the Pataeci, which, as Herodotus tells us, were usually figured on the prows of ships. The Cabiri or Pataeci, as children of Noah and men of the "great vessel," or Cave-men (a wonderful anticipation of modern science), would perpetuate the memory of Arkite circumstances, and would be selected, as the sacred tradition faded from men's minds, as the guides of navigation. I am sorry to seem out of harmony with your ideas; but it is only a matter of seeming, for I have no doubt that the Etruscan Involuti are also Arkite, and that they do not, as Max Muller may be expected to intimate, represent the veiled or cloudy Dawns, but rather the Arkite Patriarchs. We thus, from different starting-places, arrive at the same goal, the Arkite solution of Bryant. I am aware that I am old-fashioned--like Eumaeus, "I dwell here among the swine, and go not often to the city." Your letters with little numerals (as k2) may represent the exactness of modern philology; but more closely remind me of the formulae of algebra, a study in which I at no time excelled.__

It is my purpose to visit Cambridge on June 3, to listen to a most valuable address by Professor Tosch, of Bonn, on Hittite and Aztec affinities. If you can meet me there and accept the hospitality of my college, the encounter may prove a turning point in Mythological and Philological Science.--Very faithfully yours,


P.S.--I open this note, written from my dictation by my wife, to enclose my congratulations on Mrs. Forth's scholarly attainments.

From Professor Forth to Rev. Mr. Casaubon. (Telegram.)

Will be with you at Cambridge on the third.

From Mrs. Forth, Bradmore-road, Oxford, to David Rivers, Esq., Milnthorpe, Yorkshire.

He goes on Saturday to Cambridge to hear some one talk about the Hittites and the Asiatics. Did you not say there was a good Sunday train? They sing "O Rest in the Lord" at Magdalen. I often wonder that Addison's Walk is so deserted on Sundays. He stays over Sunday at Cambridge. {11}

From David Rivers, Esq., to Mrs. Forth, Oxford.

Dear Mrs. Forth,--Saturday is a half-holiday at the Works, and I propose to come up and see whether our boat cannot bump Balliol. How extraordinary it is that people should neglect, on Sundays, the favourite promenade of the Short-faced Humourist. I shall be there: the old place.--Believe me, yours ever,


From Mrs. Casaubon to William Ladislaw, Esq., Stratford-on-Avon.

Dear Friend,--Your kind letter from Stratford is indeed interesting. Ah, when shall I have an opportunity of seeing these, and so many other interesting places! But in a world where duty is SO MUCH, and so ALWAYS with us, why should we regret the voids in our experience which, after all, life is filling in the experience of others? The work is advancing, and Mr. Casaubon hopes that the first chapter of the "Key to All Mythologies" will be fairly copied and completed by the end of autumn. Mr. Casaubon is going to Cambridge on Saturday to hear Professor Tosch lecture on the Pittites and some other party, I really forget which; {12} but it is not often that he takes so much interest in mere MODERN history. How curious it sometimes is to think that the great spirit of humanity and of the world, as you say, keeps working its way--ah, to what wonderful goal--by means of these obscure difficult politics: almost unworthy instruments, one is tempted to think. That was a true line you quoted lately from the "Vita Nuova." We have no books of poetry here, except a Lithuanian translation of the Rig Veda. How delightful it must be to read Dante with a sympathetic fellow-student, one who has also loved--and RENOUNCED!- -Yours very sincerely,


P.S.--I do not expect Mr. Casaubon back from Cambridge before Monday afternoon.

From William Ladislaw, Esq., to the Hon. Secretary of the Literary and Philosophical Mechanics' Institute, Middlemarch.

My Dear Sir,--I find that I can be in your neighbourhood on Saturday, and will gladly accept your invitation to lecture at your Institute on the Immutability of Morals.--Faithfully yours,


From William Ladislaw, Esq., to Mrs.


Dear Mrs. Casaubon,--Only a line to say that I am to lecture at the Mechanics' Institute on Saturday. I can scarcely hope that, as Mr. Casaubon is away, you will be able to attend my poor performance, but on Sunday I may have, I hope, the pleasure of waiting on you in the afternoon?--Very sincerely yours,


P.S.--I shall bring the 'Vita Nuova'--it is not so difficult as the 'Paradiso'--and I shall be happy to help you with a few of the earlier sonnets.

From Mrs. Casaubon to Mrs. Forth.

June 5.

Dear Lady,--You will be surprised at receiving a letter from a stranger! How shall I address you--how shall I say what I ought to say? Our husbands are not unknown to each other, I may almost call them friends, but we have met only once. You did not see me; but I was at Magdalen a few weeks ago, and I could not help asking who you were, so young, so beautiful; and when I saw you so lonely among all those learned men my heart went out to you, for I too know what the learned are, and how often, when we are young, we feel as if they were so cold, so remote. Ah, then there come TEMPTATIONS, but they must be conquered.--We are not born to live for ourselves only, we must learn to live for others--ah! not for ANOTHER!

Some one {13} we both know, a lady, has spoken to me of you lately. She too, though you did not know it, was in Magdalen Walk on Sunday evening when the bells were chiming and the birds singing. She saw you; you were not alone! Mr. Rivers (I am informed that is his name) was with you. Ah, stop and think, and hear me before it is too late. A word; I do not know--a word of mine may be listened to, though I have no right to speak. But something forces me to speak, and to implore you to remember that it is not for Pleasure we live, but for Duty. We must break the dearest ties if they do not bind us to the stake--the stake of all we owe to all! You will understand, you will forgive me, will you not? You will forgive another woman whom your beauty and sadness have won to admire and love you. You WILL break these ties, will you not, and be free, for only in Renunciation is there freedom? He MUST NOT come again, you will tell him that he must not.--Yours always,


{10} Mr. Forth, we are sure, is quite wrong, and none of the scholars he quotes has said anything of the kind.

{11} "He" clearly means, not Addison, but Professor Forth, the lady's husband.

{12} It was not Asiatics, but Aztecs; not Pittites, but Hittites! Woman cares little for these studies!--A.L.

{13} The editor has no doubt that some one was--Miss Watson. Cf. 'Belinda.'

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