Daily Archives: September 14, 2009

Frye and Newman


Just for the sake of  general edification, if not just my own, this helpful note from Russell Perkin:

Joe, The quotation you are referring to is from John Henry Newman’s “English Catholic Literature,” one of the essays from the second part of The Idea of a University. (These essays on “University Subjects” are not very well known; they are not included in the recent Yale University Press edition of The Idea. ) Newman wrote:  “I repeat, then, whatever we be able or unable to effect in the great problem which lies before us, any how we cannot undo the past. English Literature will ever have been Protestant.”

Newman, one of the Victorian sages Russell Perkin alludes to in an earlier post, is discussed in Frye’s essay “The Problem of Spiritual Authority in the Nineteenth Century,” along with Carlyle, Mill, and Arnold. The essay was originally published in The Stubborn Structure, and is reprinted in Northrop Frye’s Writings on the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries, CW17

Frye and Music


“Thank God for Bach and Mozart, anyway. They are a sort of common denominator in music,—the two you can’t argue about.  Beethoven, Chopin, Wagner—they give you an interpretation of music which you can accept or not as you like.  But Bach and Mozart give you music, not an attitude toward it.  If a man tells me that Beethoven or Brahms leaves him cold, I can still talk with him.  But if he calls Bach dull and Mozart trivial I can’t, not so much because I think he is a fool as because his idea of music is so remote from mine that we have nothing in common” (The Correspondence of Northrop Frye and Helen Kemp 1:43.)

About Bach, Frye writes the day after his twentieth birthday: “I have shelved the Temperamental Clavichord for a week or so in favor of the Three-Part Inventions. I have owned them for years and never realized it. The ones I am going after now are those in E minor, A major, B-flat major and C minor—four of the loveliest little pieces I know. You should look at the B minor fugue in Book One of the W.T.C. [Well-Tempered Clavier] too. It’s the longest of them all and covers the whole nineteenth century” (ibid. 41)

“Music was the great area of emotional and imaginative discovery for me” (Interview with Deanne Bogdan, see below)

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Today in the Frye Diaries, 14 September


1942:Frye scoffs at “Senior Common Room” anti-Semitism, which, unfortunately, seems to have been common enough at the time.

[113] I’d like to do a New Yorker type story with echoes from a club like our S.C.R [Senior Common Room]. Krating: “…you see it isn’t the Espiani Jew, the real Jews, that are the trouble; it’s the Polish kind that cause…” “So when the inspectors arrived they found the coal all stacked up in the bathtub. You see, you just can’t…”

[Bob Denham’s note (103): “Apparently a reference to the controversial depiction of the Jews by Alfonso de Espina (15th century), the chief originator of the Spanish Inquisition. Alan Mendelson notes that NF is ridiculing Krating for expressing a common prejudice at the time – that the Sephardic Jews are acceptable because they are good candidates for assimilation and converstion, but the more recent immigrant Jews from Eastern Europe are not, because they are ignorant of ‘our ways.’ The prejudice was common also in England at the time. Mendelson points out that George Grant also refers to ‘the coal in the bathtub’ example in one of his own journal entries at about the same time (28 October 1942).”]

Below is a clip from the notorious Nazi propaganda film, Der ewige Jude (German with English subtitles).