Lines of Work
A friend from New York calls and says that she has just read an essay about one.
She was not deliberately setting out to follow a distant row about whether a TV creator of rural fantasy should be suspended from work for not including ethnic minorities in his Midsomer Murders. See past post: and much else besides.
My friend had merely stumbled on our little English spat after reading the latest elegant edition of Lapham's Quarterly in which an English writer called Peter Stothard had written an essay about Roman slavery, beginning with a bucolic idyll starring a black woman slave. She just followed the links.
Did I have any comment about that?
This is the link to the Lapham piece. Its opening concerns the Latin poem called Moretum, a minor bucolic idyll once thought to be by Virgil, in which a woman called Scybale helps a poor Italian farmer make pesto for his breakfast.
It is a delicate little poem, successful in a limited way as I tried to describe. Though nothing like as powerful as the least of Virgil's Eclogues, his genuine subversive versions of the idyll, (nor in any way intending to be) it is a useful example of a genre in which the known and the unknown, the familar and the unfamiliar, recognisable fact and created fantasy are kept in artful balance.
In the Lapham Quarterly essay, I likened Moretum to the country cottage decoration of a china cup. But, if I had been prescient, I could have used Midsomer Murders instead, a show which after this week's fuss will doubtless become a little different, a little less exclusively white.
For the sake of all who enjoy it, I hope MM will be more successful than ever, overcoming the perils of introducing artistic change for reasons of greater reality alone, remembering always that 'latet anguis in herba', as one might say.
Meanwhile, try a copy of Lapham's Quarterly - a wonderfully artful concept in itself, like nothing that we have here on this side of the Atlantic, and like most good things a vivid reflection of the character of its creator.