Tag Archives: Maurice Baring

Baring

Maurice Baring quotations – “Good things”

Maurice Baring with his
pet budgerigar 'Dempsey.'

Found in Paul Horgan's Maurice Baring Restored (Heinemann, London 1970) a collection of quotations - snippets from the work of the great (and somewhat neglected) writer. Horgan calls these pages 'Good Things.' Maurice Baring was very good on music and art, his Beethoven story has probably been told by others but is still poignant.

We have selected a few of the very best... There are many quotation sites on the web, most have just one 'quote' from him: 'Memory is the greatest of artists, and effaces from your mind what is unnecessary.' The following are from Paul Horgan's selection.

There is no amount of praise which a man and an author cannot bear with equanimity. Some authors can even stand flattery. (From the dedicatory letter of Dead Letters)

Whoever one is, and wherever one is, one is always in the wrong if one is rude.

Art was Flaubert's religion; he served it with all his might; and, although he wrote but little, he died of overwork. (French Literature)

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Baring

The Ponsonby-Baring Language

Maurice Baring with his
pet budgerigar 'Dempsey'

This private language, known as 'The Expressions,' was used by the writer Maurice Baring (1874 -1945) and his family and friends. It was started by his mother and her sister, Lady Ponsonby, when they were very young and developed over two generations. It is mentioned in Emma Letley's biography of Baring and there are a few pages on it in Sir Edward Marsh's A Number of People (London, 1939.) Marsh writes: '..in the course of two generations (they) had developed a vocabulary of surprising range and subtlety, putting everyday things in a new light, conveying in nutshells complex situations or states of feeling, cutting at the roots of circumlocution. Those who had mastered the idiom found it almost indispensable, and my stable-companion at the Colonial Office, Conrad Russell, when asked if he knew anyone who knew the Baring language, answered: 'I spend all my days with a Baring monoglot.' One or two words have already passed into the language: 'Pointful' (the opposite to 'pointless') which Desmond MacCarthy constantly uses in his critical writings, is of Baring origin…'

Some of the words are a little site-specific but could still have their uses (e.g. 'a Shelley Plain' for the sighting of a famous person*) others like 'loser' seem quite current, although M.B.'s 'loser' is more of a cad than a failure. Here is a glossary based on Letley/ Marsh:

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Hallucinations of Shakespeare

When English tourists abroad are accosted by foreigners on trains it is now more likely to be about Manchester United or Downton Abbey. According to the writer Maurice Baring, in his time it was often about Shakespeare, as in this intriguing account in his Lost Lectures (London, 1932):

Over and over again it has been my fortune to be told about English literature by foreign high-brows in trains, and to be initiated in the secrets of the literature of my country. I once met a Serbian professor who told me that he had written a book about Shakespeare. He spoke French (not Shakespeare—the Serb). Shakespeare was a well known case, he said, of self-hallucination. He knew, because he was a mind doctor. Hamlet was a well-known case of a man who thinks he sees ghosts.
“But”, I said, “the other people in the play saw the ghost.” “They caught his infection,” he said.
“But they saw it first,” I objected.
“It was Suggestion,” he said; “it often happens. The infection comes from the brain of the man who thinks he sees a ghost before he has seen the ghost, and his coming hallucination infects other brains. Shakespeare hallucinated, or he could not have described the case so accurately. All his characters hallucinated—Macbeth, King Lear, Brutus (he saw a ghost).”
I said enough things had happened to King Lear to make him go mad. “Not in that way,” he said. “Ophelia is mad; Lady Macbeth is mad; Othello is mad; Shylock is mad; Timon of Athens is very mad; Antonio is mad; Romeo is mad. The cases are all accurately described by one who has the illness himself.”
“Was Falstaff mad?” I asked.
“Falstaff,” said the doctor, “is a case of what we call metaphenomania.
He was a metaphenomaniac; he could not help altering facts and changing the facets of appearances.”
“What we call a liar?” I suggested.
The doctor said that was an unscientific way of putting it, but it was true. Then he got out.