Wednesday, March 18, 2009

To be a temperature

On the occasion of the centenary of Robert Browning's birth, Henry James gave a talk under the auspices of the Academic Committee of the Royal Society of Literature. In the talk "The Novel in The Ring and the Book" James described the sense of place--Tuscany and Rome--in Shelley, Swinburne and Browning:

Shelley, let us say in the connection, is a light, and Swinburne is a sound--Browning alone is a temperature. 

I think that is a mighty fine way of putting things. It makes me want to be a temperature too, with its associations of temper, temperament, tempered. To be a temperature is to touch the whole skin, and through the skin, to get under it, and not just appeal to the eyes or ears. It is to be a whole climate. 


Eshuneutics said...

Interesting. Temperature is a key word in the writings of Marechera. He was interested in the temperature of texts.

Jee Leong Koh said...

Another good reason to read Marechera.