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  1. #1
    Richard Togher is offline Junior Member
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    Default Latinate orotundities

    I'm not sure if this is the correct forum to ask this question, please accept my apologies if it's not.

    I read that the novelist Evely Waugh used "mock-augustan idioms" and "Latinat orotundites"

    Can anyone give me one or two examples from Waugh, and if possible some true Augustan orotundities.

  2. #2
    MrPedantic is offline Moderator
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    Default Re: Latinate orotundities

    Hello Richard,

    Here is a characteristic passage from Waugh's Brideshead Revisited:

    ...I was aghast to realize that something within me, long sickening, had quietly died, and felt as a husband might feel, who, in the fourth year of his marriage, suddenly knew that he had no longer any desire, or tenderness, or esteem, for a once-beloved wife; no pleasure in her company, no wish to please, no curiosity about anything she might ever do or say or think; no hope of setting things right, no self-reproach for the disaster. I knew it all, the whole drab compass of marital disillusion; we had been through it together from the first importunate courtship until now, when nothing remained to us except the chill bonds of law and duty and custom. I had played every scene in the domestic tragedy, had found the early tiffs become more frequent, the tears less affecting, the reconciliations less sweet, till they engendered a mood of aloofness and cool criticism, and the growing conviction that it was not myself but the loved one who was at fault. I caught the false notes in her voice and learned to listen for them apprehensively; I recognized the blank, resentful stare of incomprehension in her eyes, and the selfish, hard set of the corners of her mouth. I learned her, as one must learn a woman one has kept house with, day in, day out, for three and a half years; I learned her slatternly ways, the routine and mechanism of her charm, her jealousy and self-seeking, and her nervous trick with the fingers when she was lying. She was stripped of all enchantment now and I knew her for an uncongenial stranger to whom I had bound myself indissolubly in a moment of folly...
    It isn't particularly Latinate; but it has some similarities of tone and rhythm with the "periodic" style e.g. Gibbon:

    It was at Rome, on the 15th of October 1764, as I sat musing amidst the ruins of the Capitol, while the bare-footed fryars were singing vespers in the
    temple of Jupiter, that the idea of writing the decline and fall of the city first started to my mind. But my original plan was circumscribed to the decay of the city rather than of the empire: and though my reading and reflections began to point towards that object, some years elapsed, and several avocations intervened, before I was seriously engaged in the execution of that laborious work.
    You might also want to look at the essays of Samuel Johnson, e.g. in The Rambler.

    All the best,

    MrP

  3. #3
    Richard Togher is offline Junior Member
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    Default Re: Latinate orotundities - Mr Pedantic

    Thank you Mr Pedantic for the passage from 'Brideshead Revisited'

    To me, Waugh's passage seems more obviously 'periodic' (with use of such words as 'aghast' and 'slatternly') than the Gibbon passage you supplied.

    Would you consider such phrases as 'circumscribed to the decay of the city' and 'several avocations intervened' archaic.

    I was also wondering if the use of such language in the 20th century was peculiar to Waugh, or do you know of other novelists from his period - or even later - who wrote like this

  4. #4
    MrPedantic is offline Moderator
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    Default Re: Latinate orotundities

    Hello Richard,

    I think you're right; it was the first passage by Gibbon that came to mind; there are passages more elaborate in his Decline & Fall of the Roman Empire.

    I wouldn't consider "several avocations intervened" archaic; if intended seriously, it might be classified as "mandarin" (i.e. the kind of English favoured by the older civil servant); or it might have a mock-humorous tone, in the right context.

    "Circumscribed to the decay of the city" I would call "unusual", rather than archaic, in historical writing. It's probably sufficient in itself to identify the passage as Gibbon's.

    Other 20th century writers of English prose who resemble Waugh are Ronald Firbank, Lytton Strachey, and Saki. I would say though that the style of Brideshead Revisited is a relatively late development, in Waugh: his earlier works were not quite so elaborate (see for instance the telephone conversations in Vile Bodies; David Lodge presents an interesting commentary on these in his Art of Fiction).

    An essay by Cyril Connolly in his 1938 volume Enemies of Promise may interest you. It's called The Mandarin and the Vernacular, and deals with this subject (though it predates Brideshead).

    All the best,

    MrP

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