I love a mystery, don't you? Doesn't everybody? Carolyn Greenberg, student of Latin and devotee of murder mysteries, certainly did. My late wife left shelves of detective stories, mainly English, on the downstairs bookshelves, lined up like Beefeaters at the Tower of London.
Among her favorites were the quartet of donnish novels by the (alas) late Sarah Caudwell, the British barrister who was called to the chancery bar before going over to Lloyds Bank -- to do tax planning, naturally. For the rise of the Inland Revenue has mirrored the decline of no longer Great Britain. There's an inverse ratio between taxation and greatness; it's a pattern amply illustrated by the history of every empire at least since Rome's.
Ms. Caudwell began the first of her Hilary Tamar quartet of detective novels, "Thus Was Adonis Murdered," with a few words about the fate of the scholar at the modern university. She knew something about the subject, having done her undergraduate work in classics at Aberdeen and read law at St. Anne's College at Oxford. The law, they say, narrows the mind by sharpening it. Counselor Caudwell seems to have been the exception to that rule, to judge by the opening lines of her book:
"Scholarship asks, thank God, no recompense but Truth. It is not for the sake of material reward that she (Scholarship) pursues her (Truth) through the undergrowth of Ignorance, shining on Obscurity the bright torch of Reason and clearing aside the tangled thorns of Error with the keen secateurs of Intellect. Nor is it for the sake of public glory and the applause of the multitude: the scholar is indifferent to vulgar acclaim. Nor is it even in the hope that those few intimate friends who have observed at first hand the labor of the chase will mark with a word or two of discerning congratulation its eventual achievement. Which is very fortunate, because they don't."
These days the scholar gets even shorter shrift at prestigious universities across the country -- as opposed to the academic climber who winds up either in administration or warming an endowed chair to no clear purpose.
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