~ Posted by Robert Butler, May 10th 2013
You don't need to be interested in books to read the Times Literary Supplement. It's impossible to work your way through a 32-page issue without coming away with some detail that you want to pass on. I've had last week's TLS in my bag for several days—here are 10 things I didn't know:
1. New words: laymanising, sofalising and adorkable.
2. Edwardians liked to have society portraits done of themselves standing next to their cars. They included their chauffeurs and mechanics to stand in for the grooms and horse handlers of an earlier age.
3. Hazlitt thought Dr Johnson's writing was monotonous but when Dr Johnson spoke, "he became not only learned and thoughtful, but acute, witty, humourous, natural, honest."
4. Lady Mary Wortley Montagu travelled to Constantinople in 1716 as the wife of the British ambassador. When Lady Mary visited the hot baths in Sofia, she was received by ladies sitting on rich carpets and cushions with their slaves behind them. All were stark naked except for Lady Mary, who wore her riding habit.
5. The British naturalist Richard Mabey tried to follow the isophene, the line of seasonal flowering that moves at roughly walking pace from east to west. He discovered there was "a mad cat's cradle" of micro-climates that could delay spring in some places by two months.
6. Jane Austen's aunt was arrested for shoplifting and spent eight months in jail (she might have been hanged).
7. A 223-page book has been written about one concert: Benny Goodman playing at Carnegie Hall in 1938.
8. The "Bulgarian atrocities" of 1876—which spurred Gladstone's return to politics—provoked a surge of outrage in Britain comparable to the recent "Save Darfur" campaign.
9. Fiction is often a verbal compensation for something lacking in actuality. Non-fiction is a way of tackling excess.
10. The cure for loneliness is solitude.
(1. From Hugo Williams's "Freelance" column 2. From Patrick McCaughey's review of "Edwardian Opulence" 3. From Kate's Chisholm's review of "Samuel Johnson" Hazlitt 4. From Norma Clarke's review of the "Turkish Embassy Letters" 5. From Richard Hamblyn's review of "Turned out Nice Again" 6. From Peter J. Conradi's review of "The Real Jane Austen" 7. By Catherine Tackley 8. From Jonathan Benthall's review of "The Golden Fleece" (ed. Antonio Donini) 9. From Jerome Boyd Maunsell's review of "The Book of My Lives" 10. Marianne Moore)
Robert Butler is online editor of Intelligent Life