Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Fuller on Fame

In the current context, a couple of amusing takes. I note that Thomas Fuller (1608-1661), a clergyman and scribbler, observed: “Fame sometimes hath created something of nothing.” This line is widely quoted and remembered. The context in which it appears takes a bit of searching. He follows that sentence, used as a header, by saying:

She hath made whole countries, more than ever nature did, especially near the poles; and then hath peopled them likewise with inhabitants of her own invention,—pigmies, giants, and Amazons. Yea, fame is sometimes like unto a kind of mushroom, which Pliny recounts to be the greatest miracle in nature, because growing and having no root as fame no ground of her reports.
You can find this quote here. Another one I found quite amusing in the same spot is this one. It shows that the modern is ancient. Only the context changes:

Politicians sometimes raise fames (reports) on purpose,—as that such things are done already, which they mean to do afterwards. By the light of those false fires, they see into men’s hearts; and these false rumors are true scouts to discover men’s dispositions. Besides, the deed, though strange in itself, is done afterwards with the less noise, men having vented their wonder beforehand; and the strangeness of the action is abated, because formerly made stale in report. But if the rumour startles men extremely, and draws with it dangerous consequences, then they can presently confute it, let their intentions fall, and prosecute it no further.
I observe here that the language, English, is easily understood but phrased in such a fashion that it sounds quite old and oddly venerable even though it speaks of ordinary behavior easily observed on CSPAN and breathlessly reported on CNN. And it isn’t even metered and rhymed.

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