Friday, September 16, 2005

The Consolation of Unphilosophy

I learn new words every day (although I sometimes suspect I forget them as I sleep), but my current research is throwing up a number of interesting Regency terms, many of them cant.

One is "unphilosophize," a transitive verb. It was actually first used (so far as we know) by Alexander Pope, in a letter of 1713: "Our passions, our interests, flow in upon us, and unphilosophize us into mere mortals."

That makes its meaning clear enough. But just over a century later, Byron adds a sexual sense. Writing to his half-sister, he is explaining why he failed to hold to a resolve to keep his sexual distance from a woman who has been pursuing him (and who in fact followed him from London to Geneva):

Now--don't scold--but what could I do?--a foolish girl--in
spite of all I could say or do--would come after me--or
rather went before me--for I found her here . . . I could
not exactly play the Stoic with a woman--who had scrambled
eight hundred miles to unphilosophize me.

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Blogger Gregory Feeley said...

Hmm . . . Is "Wayne" one of those blogging spambots that led Madeleine to install a little Turing Test on the comment page of her own blog? (I can't imagine that "he" is anything else.)

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