Richard Jenkyns, a Fellow of Lady Margaret Hall, is Professor of the Classical Tradition at Oxford. His most recent book is Virgil’s Experience.(November 2001)

The Labyrinth of Arthur Evans

Rich archaeologists are different: they have more opportunity. That is true at least of archaeology’s heroic age, in the nineteenth century and well into the twentieth. Heinrich Schliemann, the excavator of Troy and Mycenae and the father of modern archaeology, used the vast wealth that he had accumulated in the …

China is Near

Jonathan D. Spence’s title is the imagining of an imagining. “The Chan’s Great Continent” is a phrase drawn from Hart Crane’s “The Bridge”—a phrase, moreover, which describes not China itself but Christopher Columbus’s fancy of the land which he expected to find. And that fancy is presented in the poem …

2001

Peter Mandelson, Prime Minister Tony Blair’s fixer, spin doctor in chief, and Minister for the Millennium, recently appeared before the members of a House of Commons select committee to tell them the purpose of the dome which the British government is currently building at Greenwich at a cost of one …

Cards of Identity

The trouble with the attempts to preserve various forms of “heritage,” David Lowenthal argues, is that they have become so unselective: nothing seems immune from preservation or museumification—buttons, barbed wire, the historic linoleum on the floor. His new book, Possessed by the Past, appears a little like that at times: …

Points of Order

“Measurement began our might,” said Yeats; and naming the animals was Adam’s first task in the Garden of Eden. To name, sort, label, classify, and categorize—these are among man’s earliest instincts; but as Harriet Ritvo observes in The Platypus and the Mermaid, naming and categorizing are so closely related that …

Lady Charlotte’s Bulls

Thomas Hardy called it Egdon Heath, and imagined its rough surface scarified by volcanic passions. Perhaps even then the heathland of Dorset was not quite as desolate or tragic as he fancied it: today the suburban tentacles of outer Bournemouth (Hardy’s Sandbourne—where Tess killed Alec d’Urberville) creep toward its eastern …

Child’s Play

Lawrence Weschler begins with the stink ant (where, he wants us to ask, is this going to lead?). Sometimes the stink ant of the Cameroonian rain forests inhales the spore of a fungus, which invades its brain and drives it crazy. For the first time it leaves its natural habitat …

But Is It True?

According to Heinrich Schliemann’s keenest detractors, his life was not merely stranger than fiction; it was fiction. But the facts accepted even by those who most strongly suspect his honesty make an amazing story. Born in poverty in 1822, the son of a dissolute and lecherous Lutheran pastor in the …

The Pleasures of Melodrama

It is hard now to realize how famous Cruikshank was in his own time, as caricaturist, illustrator, and artist. That fame began early and lasted throughout his long life (he was born in 1792 and died in 1878). He had virtually no formal training in art, but learned how to …

Victoria’s Secret

Sixty or seventy years ago the word “Victorian” was used by many cultivated people as a term of abuse: it seemed self-evident that the Victorians’ art was either hideous or odiously sentimental, and their prudishness a moral deformity. Walking through Kensington Gardens, the philosopher and historian R.G. Collingwood had a …

The Bellow & the Uproar

In 1515 the Venetians decided to take action against the Jews. As a great trading city, Venice could not expel them: they were too badly needed as moneylenders, doctors, and traders. But they could be segregated and kept out of sight, and the city’s unique topography offered a unique opportunity.