Monday, May 5, 2008

People have written about Hamlet

The title quotation was said, not so long ago, by a distinguished scholar of 17th century English literature. I don't want to go into the context too much, but if you are giving a paper in a graduate seminar and you hear this, you're doing something wrong.

I think of this line routinely when writing about old books, or reading about them on other blogs. Meine Frau suggests the metaphor of arriving at a party late and trying to join an ongoing conversation. Perhaps it would be polite to listen a bit before jumping in - maybe someone has already said what you're dying to say.

At some point, though, we go ahead and plunge in. By, say, writing a blog post. Perhaps we have acquired some real knowledge, or perhaps our enthusiam just gets the best of us. Reading Jane Eyre, I occasionally stop to puzzle around what or how (or if) I will write about it. People, it turns out, have written about Jane Eyre. My unmediated first reading is full of insights that are new, exciting, and of the highest interest - to me. To you, indulgent reader - we'll see.

It's actually much easier to write about the shadowy and obscure. People have written about Thomas Lovell-Beddoes, but hardly to the same degree. My insights are no more original, but somehow the competition is less fierce. Not like Jane Eyre. Not like Hamlet.

Beginning Thursday, I think, Nigel Bene will be hosting a discussion of Hamlet in which I will participate. People will be writing about Hamlet. Nigel has invited one and all to stop by. I don't expect to contribute anything especially original, but I do plan to have a good time.


  1. quite certain we will enjoy your unmitigated reaction to Jane Eyre - looking forward to it!
    Thanks for the link to the Hamlet discussion, will be stopping by!

  2. Jane Eyre special edition, all next week.

  3. It is difficult to write about a work as well known and loved as Hamlet or Jane Eyre. I'm looking forward to your thoughts on it.

  4. Loved - that's a key word. I don't want to insult anyone's beloved Jane Eyre. But it's hardly perfect. Neither is Hamlet.