My Photo


  • Creative Commons License

« Eddie Izzard ... in LEGOS | Main | I Drank Obama's Milkshake »

Monday, 11 February 2008


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.


Hey, why doesn't The New York Times print when I have a bad day? I'm sick! (sniffle) There seems to be no national outpouring of concern over my health. Humph!

After all, I'm working on scholarship of real importance, not Una and Duessa and mastodons and whatnot ...

(grumble grumble grumble grah...)


I wrote this post specifically at your request. It's the entertainment you crave! (Though, sadly, it's quite fleeting. But Terminator: The Sarah Connors Chronicles starts in less than an hour! Excitement!)

Jeremy Young

That is simply awesome. The end.

What do I have to do to get the NYT to write that stuff about me?

Mike Russo

If it helps at all, pretty much everyone who's ever been a law student knows who Spencer is, because there's a famous Supreme Court case in which Oliver Wendall Holmes declaims "The Fourteenth Amendment does not enact Mr. Herbert Spencer's social statics." At which all the students go what the hell is a social static and who's Spencer, and the prof says "social Darwinism," so maybe this isn't a great example in terms of making you feel better, but he does live on in this one surprisingly-derogatory (surprising because I think OWH was amenable to Spencerian thought) reference.


You know we can't read the NYT bits.

Or I can't.



Oh, and those of us in the social sciences have heard of him. Heck, I think I even read excerpts at some point!

The question from those like me would most likely be "Well, what's Spencer got to do with literature?"

Not necessarily from me though, since I was one of those interdisciplinary types who tried to jump disciplines from English to Anthropology & Sociology [and managed to jump right out of most teaching positions because I lacked the standard disciplinary specialties. *sigh*]


Who the hell is Edmund Spencer? Never heard of him. Did he get played by Humphrey Bogart.... no, that was African Queen, never mind.

(The graphic images definitely need some alt-text for non-graphical readers)

The Necromancer

Wasn't he the editor of The Economist? You know, when people actually read it...

Adam Roberts

Herbert Spencer? Wasn't he in all those old movies with Katharine Hepburn?


I'm confused. How did Spencer have a bad day in 1903, after he'd been dead for 304 years?

Tim Lacy


Pedant. Don't you realize that you're hanging with a privileged crowd when a significant number of folks even know a hint about who Edmund Spenser was? How many people apart from Tolkien fans have any clue about the Faerie Queen? ;)

What's amazing about Herbert is how he's kind of gotten off scott free. I mean, people keep accusing Darwin of the ideas that were really lousy Spencerian extensions of Darwin. But perhaps I'm reciting the sophomoric view of Spencer?

- TL



I think he wasn't quite dead at the point these articles were written. I think this was a Connor Macleod-like situation where he poses as a child or grandchild of himself after disappearing for a few years at a time. At one point he was a poet, then a social theorist. I think it isn't too great a leap.

This illness was simply another ruse, so that he slip away, let the whole thing blow over, and then re-emerge 90+ years later having adopted the name of John, only to start a Blues Explosion.


Aw, thanks SEK for the excitement and entertainment! (Now, the "underscrewed" post is worthy of putting up on next year's highlights list.)

BTW, this wasn't a reference to you yourself having a very bad day, was it? Hope the dissertation is going swimmingly.

Rohan Maitzen

That's awesome.

Spencer is well known to George Eliot people, of course, not just for his intellectual influence but for rebuffing her romantically. When I tell the story to my classes I quote his dismissive remark that "the lack of physical attraction was fatal" and then (in the spirit of meeting one cheap shot with another!) put up a good head shot of the great man.... On the bright side, if he'd been able to appreciate her, we might never have had Middlemarch, so in the end it's all for the best.

Doctor Slack

"I mean, people keep accusing Darwin of the ideas that were really lousy Spencerian extensions of Darwin."

Technically I think they were actually lousy Spencerian extensions of Lamarckianism, vaguely and tangentially influenced by Darwin. What an insult to old Charles that they got labeled "Social Darwinism."

The Constructivist

I blame this post and comment thread for causing me to confuse Ben Jonson and Samuel Johnson in a (thankfully) private conversation with our first 18thC candidate. Please be less funny in the future. Humor hurts!


I thought Spenser was famous for founding a chain of stores with his friend Marx.

Ben Johnson's "Stanozolol" may be the most moving poem ever written about losing a gold medal.

Roderick T. Long

It happened to Spencer too! One of his bios tells how he was in a shop and the shopkeeper was falling all over him and treating him like royalty, and Spencer was briefly flattered until he discovered that the shopkeeper (whose sense of chronology was apparently a bit weak) thought he was the Faerie Queene Spenser.


I was just reading about something connected to this last night. Maybe it's an answer to your WTF about the NYT article about Spencer's bad day. It's from "William James: In the Maelstrom of Modernism" by Robert D. Richardson (p.443). "In December Herbert Spencer died, and James -- in luck for once -- furnished the New York Post with a long piece on Spencer he had written nine or ten years earlier, when Spencer was thought to be dying."

I figure that Spencer wasn't the Britney Spears of his day. Instead, he was the Generalissimo Francisco Franco, whose protracted death was played for yucks for weeks on SNL back in the day.

The comments to this entry are closed.