By GEORGE BERRIDGE
The internet is a terrible tool for the easily distracted. How can I possibly respond to emails when the "Random Page" button on Wikipedia exists? Then there’s the time lost on sub-articles, essays and dusty corners of the Amazon bookstore. But occasionally, there can be some real reward in pulling on the thread.
Readers of this week’s issue may have noticed the wonderful letter on The Magic Flute in our "From the Archives" section. Sent to the TLS from the Somme in July 1916 by Lieutenant John Brande Trend, it is an archetype of the form: incisive, informative and witty. Printed when contributions to the paper were anonymous, he signs off MONOSTATOS, B.E.F. (British Expeditionary Force). When you read the date, the worry strikes: did he make it through to the day the guns fell silent? Yes, it emerges, and then some. Not only did he survive the war, but he also went on to pursue his love of Hispanic studies, becoming the first professor of Spanish at Cambridge, a position he held until 1953. (He died in 1958.)