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Welcome to the web, Rev. Knox

You might be interested to know that there’s a new weblog out there that you might enjoy — Winter Evenings: or, Lucubrations on Life and Letters. The author’s been writing for years in many forums; perhaps more than anything, against war and despotism. Here, for example:

Despotism delights in war. It is its element. As the bull knows, by instinct, that his strength is in his horns, and the eagle trusts in his talons; so the despot feels his puissance most, when surrounded by his soldiery arrayed for battle. With the sword in his hand, and his artillery around him, he rejoices in his might, and glories in his greatness. Blood must mark his path; and his triumph is incomplete, till death and destruction stalk over the land, the harbingers of his triumphant cavalcade.


The total abolition of war, and the establishment of perpetual and universal peace, appear to me to be of more consequence than any thing ever achieved, or even attempted, by mere mortal man, since the creation.

His aims with the new blog, though, are a bit more modest, and more varied. He’s promised upcoming posts on everything from the titles of miscellaneous papers, the abuse of biography, modern heroism, and the influence of militarism on manners. Here’s a bit from one of the introductory posts:

However I may be disposed to self-delusion, I am not so simple as to imagine that a book which has nothing to recommend itself can be recommended by a preface. I think it indeed at once a mean and vain attempt to deprecate a reader’s displeasure, by preliminary submission. The avowal of conscious defects, of involuntary publication, of youth and inexperience, and of inability to resist the importunate solicitations of discerning friends, is ever supposed to be insincere; and, if it is true, ought in many instances to operate in the total suppression of the work for which it means to apologize. Great pretensions and bold professions, on the other hand, justly raise the contempt of a judicious reader. The liberal spirit of learning should scorn the language of self-commendation, and leave the soft and flowing diction of puffery to the pulpit of the auctioneer, and the stage of the empiric.

This new blogger is the Rev. Vicesimus Knox (1752–1821), an English essayist and minister known for his writing on morals and literature, and his preaching against war and despotism. The source is a decaying hardback volume from the early 19th century British Essayists series, which I stumbled across on the $1.00 rack of a used bookstore in SoHo just before leaving New York City last Thursday. The plan is currently to post each essay in sequence, at a pace of somewhere between one post a day and one post a week; we’ll see how well that is maintained.

I’ve been interested for a while now in the idea of what you might call a retro-blog — the word being my own contribution to the store of cutesy web neologisms, and the thing being an old book, especially a collection of short essays, a periodical, or a diary, serialized into the format of a weblog for easy and pleasant reading online. I first came across it with The Diary of Samuel Pepys, and ran across it again with the Diaries of Lady of Quality (maintained by Natalie Bennett), and The Blog of Henry David Thoreau. It’s an interesting experiment, because of the ways that it may help make public domain literature online easier to publish and easier to manage (since it offers the same advantages for publisher that weblogging software normally offers to authors), and also more accessible, useful, and pleasant for readers (since it breaks up the work into readable chunks, and makes use of a successful convention for periodic reading, easily takes advantage of standard features such as syndication feeds, categories, and reader comments). Winter Evenings is my first stab at implementing the idea. If it goes well, I hope that I can follow it with more.

Let me know what you think. And enjoy!


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1 reply to Welcome to the web, Rev. Knox Use a feed to Follow replies to this article

  1. Alex Gregory

    Great idea! If I had time I’d have a go with Godwin, but unfortunately I don’t :(

    Good luck with it anyway!


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