A Freedom Almost Forgotten

Sigurd Olson, The Lonely Land (New York: Alfred Knopf, 1961):

The movement of a canoe is like a reed in the wind. Silence is part of it, and the sounds of lapping water, bird songs, and wind in the trees. It is part of the medium through which it floats, the sky, the water, and the shores. A man is part of his canoe and therefore part of all it knows. The instant he dips his paddle, he flows as it flows, the canoe yielding to his slightest touch and responsive to his every whim and thought…. There is magic in the feel of a paddle and the movement of a canoe, a magic compounded of distance, adventure, solitude, and peace. The way of a canoe is the way of the wilderness and of a freedom almost forgotten, the open door of waterways of ages past and a way of life with profound and abiding satisfactions.

J. E. H. MacDonald, The Solemn Land (1921)

This book led me to several accounts of the North-West fur trade that remain untranslated, such as Benjamin Sulte’s Les coureurs de bois au lac Supérieur, 1660 (Ottawa: Societé Royale du Canada, 1912) and Nicolas Perrot’s Mémoires sur les moeurs, coustumes et religion des sauvages de l’Amérique septentrionale (Paris: A. Franck, 1864). I’m a little surprised that some publisher hasn’t picked up Perrot’s memoir, which looks like an important primary source. I am busy plucking artists from the fast-running waters of Lethe, so I am not sure when or if I will be able to rescue the voyageurs…

The Herdist

Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn, The Menace of the Herd, or Procrustes at Large (Milwaukee: The Bruce Publishing Co., 1943), pp. 16-17:

The true herdist, the man truly dominated by that inferior instinct, will not only rejoice in marching amongst twenty thousand uniformly clad soldiers, all stepping rhythmically in one direction, but he will find an almost equal gratification in contemplating the show from a balcony. He will not only be happy in sitting amidst two hundred other bespectacled businessmen, drinking beer and humming one chant in unison, but the aspect of a skyscraper with a thousand identical windows will probably impress him more than a picture by Botticelli or Zurbarán.

The herdist is the born enemy of all personal hierarchies as well as of most hierarchies of value. The modern political philosophies and the Industrial Revolution have strengthened the herdist element in all civilized countries; a Parteitag in Nuremberg, the beach of Brighton during a bank holiday, a military parade on the Red Square in Moscow or a subway train during the rush hours in New York afford voluntary or involuntary manifestations of the herdist spirit or the herdist order of our days. It is needless to emphasize that the herdist is a convinced egalitarian, that he has an inveterate suspicion regarding everything original or unique, a hatred for everything beyond his comprehension, a hostile uneasiness for things which are “low” or organically natural. The peasant with his strong personality is no less a target for his contempt and scorn than the “stuffed shirt,” the “high-hatted” aristocrat, or the “high-brow” intellectual.

The ideal dwelling place for the herdist is the city, the megalopolis with its apartment houses, clubs, cinemas, theaters, offices, factories, and restaurants. Here the herdist has ample opportunity to live the life of the masses, to lead an impersonal and lonely existence in a truly dehumanized ant heap, to love and like nobody but himself and perhaps those similar to him.

Caspar David Friedrich, Der Wanderer über dem Nebelmeer (c. 1818)

Aside: I picked up a copy of Andreas Aubert’s monograph on Caspar David Friedrich (a hefty imperial quarto published by Bruno Cassirer in 1915), which did much to revive the painter’s reputation. It is one of the books I plan to translate next year.

Henri Le Sidaner in London

Camille Mauclair, Henri Le Sidaner (Newmarket: Obolus Press, 2019), pp. 46-47:

The dome of St. Paul’s Cathedral rises above the mists and against the pale sun like a giant balloon. The silhouettes of statues and trees in Trafalgar Square are outlined in a misty evening when the lamps have just been lit. The noble front of Hampton Court Palace appears purplish-red, and the trimmed rectangular gardens evoke Versailles, damp with a humidity that makes the vermillion and greens hum. Not since Claude Monet, who painted some of his greatest works in London, has an artist seen the British capital with such originality.

Henri Le Sidaner, St. Pauls from the River — Morning Sun (1908)
Henri Le Sidaner, Trafalgar Square (1908)
Henri Le Sidaner, The Great Gate at Hampton Court (1908)
Henri Le Sidaner, Hampton Court — Summer Morning (1908)

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