June 7, 2012

Tweeting Fathers

I didn't used to be interested in American history.  For one thing, there isn't as much of it as there is of - well, just about any country in Europe and Asia.  Besides, I had The Landmark History of the American People for an American course years ago, from which I learned that there have not been such things as Color or Life from the Revolution to date.  (All the pictures in that massive tome are black and white, and to a child, it felt like reading the obituaries.)  Needless to say, not much was got out of that course.

However, about the time I started reading histories and biographies in some degree of earnest, I decided that I ought to incorporate at least some works on America's past.  So I read David McCullough's John Adams, and discovered that the founding of the United States was actually interesting.  The men had voices and personalities; through the writing of an another like McCullough, you can see the world of the times unfolding - and the writers of The Landmark History got it wrong: there was color.  It was quite the breakthrough for me, I assure you. 

So after a short jaunt to the Roman Republic in April, I've picked up Ron Chernow's Alexander Hamilton and returned to the United States in its early years.  One thing I especially love about these books, and the time period in general, is the insults that men hurled at each other.  (I know I'm supposed to be appalled, but I'm more inclined to wonder why on earth such wit ever went out of style.)  Reading the invectives used by Hamilton when he was just getting his start in the States - one man's writing was "puerile and fallacious" - and the fact that just the other day I opened a Twitter account gave me the amusing thought, Whatever would the Founding Fathers have done with social media?  I can't help but feel it would have curbed their wit; I'm not sure Hamilton could ever have managed to fit any of his thoughts into 140 characters.  One can imagine the butchery of the English language that would have inevitably resulted -

@TJefferson - Sir, ur grasp of ecnmc thry is abysml.  I hmbly submit to u that u r an idiot.  #washingtonscabinet  #federalbank

@JAdams - Yes, I sabotged the elect'n.  Get ovr it.  #election  #chump

@GWashington - Receivd notes @ 11 pm.  Emailing 65 pg treatise 2 u now.  Dont think adqutly addressd pt 22 on pg 59.  What u thnk?  #sleep?

@JMadison @JJay - I allude to the fishries. #federalistpapers #random  

@Seabury - Such is my opnion of ur ablties as a critic, that i vry much prfr ur disapprbtion 2 ur applause.  #awestchesteridiot
(Real quote from Alexander Hamilton, if you un-butcher the English.)

The beauty of Hamilton's wit is lacking, as you can see.  And amusing as it is, the humor comes in a bitter way - for, judging from the popularity of Twitter, people nowadays don't struggle at all with reining in their thoughts to 140 characters.  There is no wit to be lost.  I can't say I want us to go back to speaking in quite the same flowery language that the men of the 18th and 19th Centuries used; sometimes it's hard to sort out the fellow's meaning from his blathering.  There is, however, one thing that ought to be preserved, and that is the beauty of thought and its expression. We are, after all, writers, and that should make both things doubly dear to us.

"There's a moral somewhere in that, if you like morals."

- the eagle of the ninth, rosemary sutcliff

8 comments:

  1. Hahaha! Good point, Abigail. I, for one, have always loved American history. Perhaps that comes from my close proximity to Jamestown, Williamsburg, etc. And I do so love reading all the cleverness of those men. That's one of the reasons I like the film, Amazing Grace--I love seeing how men spoke and insulted each other back then. :)

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  2. Too funny! Especially the first one.

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  3. @AHammy - Disapprobate THIS! #pwnd

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  4. @AbigailHartman i vrly vrly, u r hilarious.

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  5. It still kills me. Founding Fathers with social media. I keep coming back to this post just to giggle at it. I'm a terrible, childish person...

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  6. Rachel - Well, I do feel that if my honorable friend continues to scrape the bottom of the barrel for arguments, he's in danger of getting splinters under his fingernails.

    That is one of the best parts of "Amazing Grace" - the insults. Which is probably terrible of me.

    Anne-girl - I had too much fun writing them up!

    Chewie and Ashley - You make me laugh. In a pained, oh-my-eyes-the-English-language-augh! sort of way.

    Jenny - But is it more childish for you to giggle over it, or for me to have written it?

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  7. Heehee... this is great. It would be very interesting to see what would have resulted if these illustrious figures had the social networking of today at their fingertips. ;) *movie idea*

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  8. This was truly a novel idea, Abigail. I am not very well acquainted with twitter vocabulary, but I am sure great men of days gone by would have rather been at a loss at how to communicate in the social network we dabble with without thought and without any of their wit.

    The third tweet was truly hilarious!

    As seen in comments above, I agree that Amazing Grace (more accurately, William Wilberforce) was great at that; I wish people could talk a bit like that from to time!

    ..."Revolution is like the pox. It spreads from person to person."

    ..."I bow to my honorable friend's superior knowledge and experience in all matters regarding the pox."

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meet the authoress
I am a writer of historical fiction and fantasy, scribbling from my home in the United States. More importantly, I am a Christian, which flavors everything I write. My debut novel, "The Soldier's Cross," was published by Ambassador Intl. in 2010.
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The Soldier's Cross: Set in the early 15th Century, this is the story of an English girl's journey to find her brother's cross pendant, lost at the Battle of Agincourt, and of her search for peace in the chaotic world of the Middle Ages.
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Tempus Regina:Hurled back in time and caught in the worlds of ages past, a Victorian woman finds herself called out with the title of the time queen. The death of one legend and the birth of another rest on her shoulders - but far weightier than both is her duty to the brother she left alone in her own era. Querying.
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