Lapham’s Quarterly Spring 2020: SCANDAL, Pt. 6 and Final

[CATEGORIES: Literature, Lapham’s Quarterly, Reading, Book Review]
[Click HERE to see my previous posts referencing Lapham’s Quarterly.]
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[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
Lapham’s Quarterly Spring 2020: SCANDAL, Pt. 4
Lapham’s Quarterly Spring 2020: SCANDAL, Pt. 5


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

After the three sections of Voices In Time, Further Remarks concludes the issue, such as this for Scandal:

The essays are usually complete in themself, or fuller extracts. I like them all this issue. They are always free online.

The Woman In Black is Marguerite de Carrouges, who in 1386 France has accused a man of rape and whose vassal husband (a landholder, above serfs but below counts/lords and kings) will defend her honor in what turns out to be the last ‘judicial duel’ permitted by the French king and Parlement of Paris, a fight to the death. After a lengthy and well-documented inquiry (chronicler Jean Froissart and his 1.5 million-word illuminated manuscripts are worth a side study):

“The Parlement ultimately failed to reach a verdict, and in September it officially ordered a trial by combat, where—in theory—God would assure a just outcome. If Carrouges won the duel, the couple would go free, their claims vindicated. But if Marguerite’s husband and champion lost, thus “proving” her accusation to be false, she too would be put to death. And not just any death. In accord with ancient tradition, she would be burned alive as a false accuser.” (p. 188-189) By the time of the duel Marguerite has a newborn son, by the way.

Sir Jean de Carrouges, “a reputedly jealous and violent man”, slays his opponent, “a large and powerful man”, and wins the duel, exonerating his wife. The essay reads like a bit of a thriller, but what is noteworthy is that it segues into a discussion of mistaken identity.

Uncertainty, as to ‘he said, she said’, is present from the onset. Parlement can’t decide, thus the duel. The rapist’s attorney’, in his journal, says “No one really knew the truth of the matter.” (p. 188) Is it a case of mistaken identity, and perhaps false accusation?

One good thing about history is that we often find a current parallel.
  “To be ignorant of what occurred before you were born is to remain always a child.” -Cicero.
  “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” -George Santayana

This incident occurred in 1386. Eric Jager’s book The Last Duel was published in 2004. RE: J’ Accuse (not the Emile Zola one), in modern times we have Anita Hill vs. soon-to-be Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, Gennifer Flowers, Paula Jones, Juanita Broaddrick, Monica Lewinsky, and others, consensual or not, vs. President Bill Clinton, countless (!) women vs. current sitting President Donald Trump, Christine Blasey Ford and others vs. soon-to-be Supreme Court Justice Bret Kavanaugh, and most recently, Tara Reade vs. Democratic Party presumptive presidential nominee Joe Biden. What a list that is.

I’m not going to examine these, but it’s notable that the current Reade vs. Biden situation must be hugely upsetting to those who so desperately want to see the ‘erratic’ President Trump voted out of office next November. What a quandary.

Back to the duel. By 1400, rumors are recorded that someone else has confessed to the crime. Throughout the centuries:

‘Diderot’s Encyclopédie [1751-1772] and Voltaire’s Histoire du Parlement de Paris [1769] used the 1386 affair to denounce the supposed ignorance and cruelty of the Middle Ages. By the early nineteenth century, the notion that it all had been a case of mistaken identity was firmly established, as typified in an 1824 retelling by Norman historian and politician Louis Du Bois…” (p. 190)

Numerous other accounts in the 19th and early 20th centuries are mentioned. Does conjecture, bias, personal agenda, come into play? Such is the dilemma of history.

“And if the Parlement of Paris could not establish even the basic facts, there’s little chance of our discovering hidden motives all of these centuries later. But the doubts greeting Marguerite’s scandalous story, the initial rejection of her claims in court, and the shadow cast over her reputation by the later chronicle accounts are not so different from the skepticism and prejudice faced by more recent victims of sexual assault.” (p. 195)

This essays is ‘a good read’. I recommend it. Free online.

Speaking of six degrees of separation, or several, at least, Nancy Lemann authors the next essay. Somehow, and I’ve lost the search path, I saw she had been married to Mark P. Clein, a co-founder of Precision Medicine Group and occasional film producer (don’t those two things go together?), the same last name as Emmeline Clein, who authored an excellent article I happened to read in the March 2020 Smithsonian Magazine: Madame Yale Made a Fortune With the 19th Century’s Version of Goop, before I read Ms. Lemann in Lapham’s Quarterly. Emmeline is Nancy’s daughter and attended Columbia University, where her uncle/mother’s brother is a journalism professor. I take it writing is in their blood. But I digress.

Ms. Lemann’s essay is very short and talks about the considerable scandal and corruption in her hometown New Orleans’ political circle. “Scandal is not endemic to Louisiana. It’s more of an epidemic, I have to admit, after looking into it.” (p. 199) From her laundry list of city and state corrupted officials, it seems both terms apply. Have a look at her laundry list if you like. I thought it was a rather bland coda to this issue, but I’m just a paying consumer.

The final essay, by Jack Beatty, is superb, juicy scandal at it’s finest. The Cleopatra’s Nose of 1914 title refers to the aphorism of Blaise Pascal:

““The nose of Cleopatra: if it had been shorter, the whole face of the earth would have changed” ~ Blaise Pascal, Pensées 162.

On the basis of portrait coins struck by Cleopatra, philosophers such as Blaise Pascal (1623-1662 CE) assumed that the queen’s prominent nose was an element of the physical attraction with which she seduced Julius Caesar and Marc Antony – and thus changed the course of world history.” (Ref. link.)

In this essay a woman, suspecting certain indiscretions will be revealed, shoots a man, and as a result, Mr. Beatty postulates, World War I is NOT avoided. The first paragraph:

“From a muff linking the sleeves of her fur coat, the lady pulled an automatic pistol and fired. The editor who was her target sought cover beneath his desk. Witnesses heard a gap between the last two shots, suggesting she had pursued the man and shot him while he cowered under the desk. “When I fired the first shot, I had only one thought at the moment—to aim low, at the floor, to cause a scandal,” she said at her trial. The editor just happened to occupy the patch of floor where she pointed. When asked, “And the other five shots, Madame?” she answered, “They went off by themselves.” (p. 202)

“Of the millions of bullets fired in 1914, only two changed history: the bullet fired on June 28 in Sarajevo by Gavrilo Princip’s Browning automatic that killed Archduke Franz Ferdinand, and the bullet fired on March 16 in Paris by Henriette Caillaux that killed Gaston Calmette.” (p. 203)

“As premier in 1911, her husband had by back-channel negotiations defused a war-charged crisis with Germany, grounds for believing he could have worked his magic again three years later, when he would have all but certainly been elected premier again—but for the bark of Henriette’s Browning. Months before the war, anticipating that Caillaux, then the finance minister, would soon be premier, Belgium’s ambassador to Paris assured Brussels: “Caillaux’s presence in power will lessen the acuteness of international jealousies and will constitute a better base for relations between France and Germany.” That was heresy in “official Paris,” where “everybody that you meet tells you that an early war with Germany is certain and inevitable.” Months into the war, the Kölnische Zeitung stated, “If Monsieur Caillaux had remained in office, if Madame Caillaux’s gesture had not been made, the plot against the peace of Europe would not have succeeded.” (p. 204)

Insightful, informative, entertaining. I definitely recommend it. Free online.

Finally, we have an Endnote, The Fatted Calf, by L.Q. founder Lewis H. Lapham. It was first published in the November 1997 issue of Harper’s Magazine, for which Mr. Lapham was the decades-long editor. To my knowledge this Endnote is the first in the twelve year history of Lapham’s Quarterly. It’s about the aftermath of the death of Diana, princess of Wales, and the general feeding frenzy of the press on all things celebrity.

“Diana, princess of Wales, died in Paris shortly before dawn on August 31, 1997, and less than an hour later in Cape Town, South Africa, heralds of the Olympian news media ap- pealed to her brother Charles Edward Maurice, ninth Earl Spencer, for a sound bite of farm- fresh grief. Lord Spencer didn’t read from the standard script. Instead of supplying the hoped- for sentiment, he said he always knew that “the press would kill her in the end,” and then, not yet satisfied with what seemed too plain and obvious a statement, he went on to say that “every proprietor and editor of every publication that has paid for intrusive and exploitative photographs of her, encouraging greedy and ruthless individuals to risk everything in pursuit of Diana’s image, has blood on their hands today.”” (p. 215)

A very short piece, very recommended.

If you eschew celebrity scandal and the misfortunes of others, give yourself a break. Dip a toe in these muddy pools of mayhem and read the final essays. It’s history, and it does effect us.

My work here is done. The next issue of Lapham’s isn’t due for a month.

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.

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