April 26, 2016

  • The Invention of Love.
  • Reading Tom Stoppard's play The Invention of Love kept me up last night. Aren't there some plays we need to read, as well as see?—because they go by too fast! Stoppard's A.E. Housman is so quick with a quip, usually based in Latin declension, that despite vivid memories of Miss Bertha Casey's fierce instruction in third year Latin I had to read and re-read. And the banter among rival professors Jowett, Pater, Ruskin, Pattison, as they play croquet (great image of professors treating as a game the lives and futures of their students) hinges on competing nineteenth-century theories of beauty and morality which seem arcane to us now—another reason to read as well as watch the play. Since Housman spent his life searching for the truest translation of Latin love poetry, it's only natural to find him, as death approaches, waiting for Charon at the Styx, and also somehow natural for Charon simply not to remember the lost line of Aeschylus which Housman aches to hear—a last frustration. The play centers on Housman's lost and unrequited love for a classmate, in the homophobic circumstances that led to Oscar Wilde's trial and imprisonment, and on which life—Wilde’s, or Housman’s—was more worth living. I do love this play and heartily recommend it, to be seen and read, read and seen.