Collected Thoughts

September 2017
September 1, 2017

Hester Thrale (recently become Mrs. Piozzi) visiting Lyons in the fall of 1784, was strongly impressed by the good taste of the city, and emphasized how genuine taste is a matter of distinctive imagination: “It is observable that the further people advance in elegance, the less they value splendor; distinction being at last the positive thing which mortals elevated above competency naturally pant after.”

She’s right about that (though I don’t much like the metaphor “pant after”). She adds to this judgment her contempt for “the paltry distinction which riches alone can bestow.”

In the United State now we need a contemporary Hester Thrale to point out more carefully than it has been done heretofore that the current president is degrading American taste even below what it was before he became a major political player. One might say that’s far from the worst thing he’s doing, but I would argue that deplorable taste is a significant feature of all his political stances.

The driving motive of Mr. Trump’s presidency is to destroy the sense that his predecessor is a more elegant man than he is. And the more Trump tries, the more pathetically he fails. His unawareness is stupendous.

I wonder if Hester Thrale could imagine a prominent figure like Trump. Was there in the 18th century any political leader as vulgar as he? Maybe; but I can’t think of one.

September 13, 2017

On Thursday night, the 14th, Shirley and I are flying to London.

We’ll spend three nights in London at the Tavistock Hotel. Then on the morning of the 18th, we’ll go out to Heathrow, get a rental car, drive up to Market Bosworth just to the east of Lichfield, and explore Samuel Johnson country for three days. Much as I have tracked Johnson over the past years, I’ve never been to his home town. So now I’m going to rectify that mistake.

On the 21st, we’ll curve back around to the southeast, to Deal, on the coast of Kent, and for three days visit places nearby -- Canterbury, Rye, Sandwich, et cetera.

On the 24th, we’ll head west, and spend two nights on the south coast of Devon at Abbotsbury. I don’t know exactly what we’ll do there. It’s beautiful country, so it will be pleasant just to sit around. There’s a gigantic swannery nearby, but I doubt I’ll go there again. I’ve been twice before and each time had experiences with unfriendly swans. But if you have ever wished to see more swans than you ever imagined, closeup, it’s a good place to go.

Our final two nights we’ll stay at St. Just, a village on the southern coast of Cornwall, just up from Lands End. We’ve been to St. Just many times, but we’ve never spent the night there. This time we’ll have a cottage right down on the water, where we can watch the waves smashing the cliffs.

Then, on the 28th, we’ll drive back to Heathrow and come home.

I’m not taking a computer with me, so there will be no posting while I’m away. I am taking my Kindle, and I set up an e-mail account on it so that anyone who wishes can write to us. The address is

I hope nothing more horrible than usual happens in the United States while we’re away.

©John R. Turner

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