Lapham’s Quarterly Spring 2020: SCANDAL, Pt. 4

[CATEGORIES: Literature, Lapham’s Quarterly, Reading, Book Review]
[Click HERE to see my previous posts referencing Lapham’s Quarterly.]
[Some of LQ’s contents are available free.]
[L.Q. cover, quotes, and images from Lapham’s Quarterly Spring 2020: SCANDAL, except where noted.]
[Right-click on a photo may give the option to open it separately.]
[NEW to Lapham’s Quarterly? See the standard notes at the end of this review. After 45+ LQ summaries I jump right in.]

[This is a READING section, for those who may stumble in looking for photography. My summaries of Lapham’s Quarterly historical journal continue.]

Previous posts on SCANDAL:
Lapham’s Quarterly Spring 2020: SCANDAL, Pt. 1 – Overview
Lapham’s Quarterly Spring 2020: SCANDAL, Pt. 2
Lapham’s Quarterly Spring 2020: SCANDAL, Pt. 3

There is an online Table Of Contents. Underlined items are a link to free material.  Inquiring minds may explore.

The Voices In Time sections this issue are Smoke, Fire, and Ash.


The first extract, 2014, by Nigerian Onyinye Ihezukwu, is noteworthy because, by my count, there are FOUR sentences comprising 3 1/2 pages of text. There are a LOT of commas, but I’m not going to count those. It is actually readable and literate. It is not free in L.Q. online, but is fully reprinted HERE. (Note that each sentence has a separate section.) It is worth a read just to experience the structure.

“And so they meet for drinks at the open court in the shopping plaza, something that happens quite often, as they are wives with no jobs (depending on how you look at it) or wives with jobs (also depending on how you look at it), in the sense that the usual definition of job is work that (a) comes with a dress code, (b) is defined by a time range, and (c) is rewarded with a specified amount of money, which you must consider carefully now, for though these women’s duties did not come with any, not dress code, not time range, nor salaries, they were always busy, the explanation being that to them, husband and children were more than all of the above, …” (p. 75) You get the idea.

FIRE, second extract: Dangerous Liaisons (Les Liaisons dangereuses), by Pierre Ambroise François Choderlos de Laclos, ‘for a long time considered to be as scandalous a writer as the Marquis de Sade’ (Wikipedia). A French woman of means lures a gentleman to a dalliance ‘in flagrante’, only to have him exposed, as planned, and gossiped about. Superbly delicious.

“The evening only produced a very short note, which my discreet suitor managed to pass to me, and which I burned, according to my custom. In it he declared that I could count on him, and these important words were buried under the usual parasitical words like love, friendship, etc., which are invariably used on such occasions” (p. 80)

“As an epistolary novel, the book is composed entirely of letters written by the various characters to each other.” (Wikipedia) It is yet another intriguing format, supplementary to that of Ihezukwu.

Quentin Crisp, a life-long overt homosexual, relates the risks of getting busted for being gay in 1930s London.

Simone de Beauvoir outlines the tortures suffered by 1951 alleged Algerian bomber and woman Djamila Boupacha.

My coveted double-asterisk highlighted several of the following extracts.

Here’s a good one. It’s an actual, juicy scandal, in which the Author Notes say it all:

“From an article in the Baltimore Afro-American. The 1924 marriage of socialite Kip Rhinelander and working-class woman Alice Jones became a scandal after a New Rochelle, New York, newspaper published the story “Rhinelanders’ Son Marries Daughter of a Colored Man.” Kip filed for an annulment thirteen days later. The subsequent trial lasted for years, its dramatic twists receiving national attention. One article reported “five-to-one betting odds among townsmen and spectators that Rhinelander would win an annulment.” The jury—exclusively white, married, and male—sided with Alice, who received a settlement from the Rhinelanders and never saw Kip again.” (p. 89)

There’s a tale of infidelity from the classic A Thousand And One Nights, and another, alleged, from Honore’ de Balzac c. 1818:

“While the chateau, the faubourg, and the Chaussee d’Antin were discussing the shipwreck of aristocratic virtue; while excited young men rushed about on horseback to make sure that the carriage was standing in the rue de Tournon, and the duchess in consequence was beyond a doubt in M. de Montriveau’s rooms, Mme de Langeais, with heavy throbbing pulses, was lying hidden away in her boudoir.” (p. 95) A setup! No shame.

““My pearl,” said she, “in this world below, I know nothing worse calumniated than God and the eighteenth century.”” (p. 97) (Free.) Oh the calumny.

“As nouns the difference between slander and calumny is that slander is a false, malicious statement (spoken or published), especially one which is injurious to a person’s reputation; the making of such a statement while calumny is a falsification or misrepresentation intended to disparage or discredit another.” (

Machiavelli is as aphoristic as ever on how The Prince avoids scandal:

“If a prince manages to avoid the things that would make him hated and scorned, he will have accomplished his duty, and will not face any risk should he perpetrate other infamies. What will make him hated above all is rapaciousness and seizing the property and women of his subjects, which he must ref rain from. Men will generally live contentedly so long as their property and honor are not touched, and the prince need only counter the ambition of a few, which can be done easily and in many ways.” (p. 99)

Rose Allatini expounds on the slander and shame of a conscientious objector in 1918.

“Lily snorted.“Well,it would be a nice thing if these precious pacifists of yours were allowed to run loose and enjoy themselves while all the really decent people have to suffer.”

“No, you’d like to see them punished just for having ideas that are different from other people’s. You rampant militarists at home can’t endure the thought of any joy or freedom being left in the world. You seem to take a ghoulish pleasure in crushing it all out. It galls you to think of anyone escaping with a lesser share of the general misery.”

“Frankly, I don’t see why the COs should escape. Why should men enjoy the freedom and the rights of citizenship that they won’t fight for?”

“They’re not given their rights of citizenship as a free gift or a charity; they pay for them in rates and taxes: that’s fair. But why should they also be expected to pay in flesh and blood?”

“You’ve a very lofty idea of patriotism, I must say!”” (p. 104)

“Although its sympathetic portrayal of gay and lesbian characters was considered taboo at the time, it was the novel’s pacifist views that ultimately led to its prosecution.” (p. 104) It all caused a bit of a stink. Wikipedia enlightens. Allatini was yet another prolific writer of whom I’ve never heard, authoring nearly forty novels.

C. 750, Ibn al-Muqaffa has words for the wise:

“If you are a ruler, beware of becoming enamored of being praised and commended, and of people learning of this, or it will be a breach through which they will assail you, a door they will open to get at you, and an occasion for them to slander and ridicule you.” (p. 103)

Nobel laureate Mario Vargas Llosa’s lengthy extract is mostly a cat-and-mouse conversation between an important industrialist and a scandal-sheet ‘yellow-journalist’ about a thinly disguised threat to reveal past indiscretions. Other than the well-expressed distaste for the muckraker, I don’t find any immediate nuggets of wisdom to impart. The complete novel, The Neighborhood, sounds like a captivating murder mystery.

Speaking of scandal, it’s noteworthy that in 2015 then-79-year old Vargas Llosa left his SECOND wife, married FIFTY years, for the alluring socialite Isabel Preysler (three previous marriages of her own, ex-wife of Julio Iglesias and mother of Julio Jr. and Enrique). Celebrity publications (a kind inference) must have had a field day. I am still salivating at the infamy.

I am NOT salivating at the lewd, smutty language in the 1637 rhyming piece by John Wilmot, earl of Rochester. Included for the shock value, I suppose. I’m not offended, but I’m unimpressed.

Speaking of scandal (again) (this is the FIRE section), movie-stardom gets its foot in the door via historical fiction circa 1907. Notes on the author preface:

“E.L. Doctorow, from Ragtime. Model and showgirl Evelyn Nesbit was sixteen years old in 1901 when she met the forty-seven-year old architect Stanford White, who groomed her to be his mistress. Five years later Harry K. Thaw, who had married Nesbit in 1905, told White, “You have ruined my wife,” and shot him dead before a crowd at Madison Square Garden. During the ensuing “trial of the century,” President Theodore Roosevelt attempted to ban reportage of it from circulating in the mail, considering it pornographic. Doctorow called Ragtime “a novelist’s revenge,” a book that “defies facts” in its mix of fiction and history.”


“When the trial of Harry K. Thaw began, Evelyn Nesbit was photographed arriving at the courthouse.

She took the witness stand and described herself at fifteen pumping her legs in a red velvet swing while a wealthy architect caught his breath at the sight of her exposed calves.

Her testimony created the first sex goddess in American history. Two elements of the society realized this. The first was the business community, specifically a group of accountants and cloak and suit manufacturers who also dabbled in the exhibition of moving pictures, or picture shows, as they were called.

The businessmen wondered if they could create such individuals not from the accidents of news events but from the deliberate manufactures of their own medium. If they could, more people would pay money for the picture shows. Thus did Evelyn provide the inspiration for the concept of the movie-star system and the model for every sex goddess from Theda Bara to Marilyn Monroe.” (p. 113)

Thaw, Nesbit, and White are real people, and the circumstances real. Wikipedia enlightens all around. Ms. Nesbit’s entry is titillating. (FIRE!)

An extract from the novel Disgrace by Booker Prize and Nobel Prize for Literature awardee J.M. Coetzee is worth mentioning just for the laurels of the author, though I found the piece a short testament to the tribulations of integrity amongst accusations of teacher/student misconduct. The protagonist pleads guilty to the charges but the school authorities want a repentance of sort. An exchange with reporters in the street is titillating:

“Are you sorry?” says the girl. The recorder is thrust closer. “Do you regret what you did?”

“No,” he says. “I was enriched by the experience.”

The smile remains on the girl’s face. “So would you do it again?”

“I don’t think I will have another chance.”

“But if you had a chance?”

“That isn’t a real question.” (p. 119)

As usual, Wikipedia enlightens in depth on Disgrace.

In 1897 Emile Zola robustly protests the treason charges of Alfred Dreyfus, eloquently attributing excessive sensationalism to various categories of the press, as well as anti-Semitism:

“Anti-Semitism is the guilty party. I have already stated how this barbarous campaign, which drags us back a thousand years in time, goes against my craving for brotherhood and my passionate need for tolerance and the emancipation of the human mind. In this century of ours, this century of liberation, it strikes me as such utter nonsense to revert to the wars of religion— beginning religious persecutions all over again and urging one race to exterminate another— that I find any such attempt idiotic. It can only be the brainchild of some fuzzy-minded, unbalanced believer; it can only be motivated by the tremendous vanity of some obscure writer desperate to play a role, any role, even an odious one. And I still refuse to believe that any such movement will ever be of decisive importance in France, the country of open-minded inquiry, fraternal goodness, and limpid rationalism.” (p. 123)

Zola died in 1902, ‘payback’ for his support of Dreyfus. What would he have thought of the WWII Holocaust? Sad.

George Eliot (Mary Ann Evans) attempts to reaffirm her friendship with a women friend in an 1857 letter. Author notes edify:

“George Eliot, from a letter to Cara Bray. Born Mary Ann Evans, the author of Middlemarch moved in with the married writer George Henry Lewes in 1854. The decision to live openly as man and wife shocked their acquaintances, and she found herself no longer accepted in mixed society. “Because they were not respectable, they were spared the burdens of respectability,” wrote the author Phyllis Rose.” (p. 127)

I’ve lost count of liberated women from the 19th and early 20th centuries, found in the pages of Lapham’s Quarterly.

The FIRE section concludes with a Shakespeare extract, from Measure By Measure, that I can almost understand. (A first, ladies and gentlemen.) A man wants the pleasures of a woman’s body in exchange for the release of her brother from imprisonment and death. She refuses:

“Isabella: As much for my poor brother as myself.
That is, were I under the terms of death,
Th’ impression of keen whips I’d wear as rubies,
And strip myself to death as to a bed
That longing have been sick for, ere I’d yield
My body up to shame.

Angelo: Then must your brother die.” (p. 128)


“I’ll to my brother.
Though he hath fall’n by prompture of the blood,
Yet hath he in him such a mind of honor
That, had he twenty heads to tender down
On twenty bloody blocks, he’d yield them up,
Before his sister should her body stoop
To such abhorred pollution.
Then, Isabel, live chaste, and, brother, die:
More than our brother is our chastity.
I’ll tell him yet of Angelo’s request,
And fit his mind to death, for his soul’s rest.” (p. 131)

Eliot and Shakespeare are free online.

Next up: ASH.

To be continued…

The standard notes:
1. Since L.Q.’s inception with the Winter 2008 issue its size is always 7″ x 10″ x 1/2-17/32″. It is white-covered, printed on high quality paper throughout, with richly printed reproductions of fine art from time immemorial, and 221 pages up to a page or two of addenda at the back.
2. Each issue contains extracts about the title topic from great authors and thinkers spanning all recorded history. It begins with an eloquent, to a fault, preamble/introduction by editor Lewis Lapham. The main body is called Voices In Time and contains 3 or 4 subcategories of the topic with about 25 extracts per section. Noteworthy sidebars, side quotes, and depictions of appropriate art from the ages are liberally distributed throughout. Several extended contemporary essays bring up the rear. There are several other small sections every issue (Among the Contributors, Conversations, Miscellany, ‘The Graphic’).
3. Per the L.Q. website:
“Lapham’s Quarterly embodies the belief that history is the root of all education, scientific and literary as well as political and economic. Each issue addresses a topic of current interest and concern—war, religion, money, medicine, nature, crime—by bringing up to the microphone of the present the advice and counsel of the past.”
4. I encourage all to subscribe to this fine publication. It is a rich supplement to anyone’s reading.

4 thoughts on “Lapham’s Quarterly Spring 2020: SCANDAL, Pt. 4

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