Thursday, May 15, 2008

Father Brown Friday: The Sins of Prince Saradine

In the absence of the President I have been commissioned to supply your Father Brown Friday.


Anyway, here it is.

“Like a true philosopher he had no aim in his holiday; but, like a true philosopher he had an excuse.”

Why would it be especially like a true philosopher to have no aim in ones holiday?

Why would it be like one to have an excuse?

Is there any significance in the green ink? Has it any thing to do, for instance, with the “green carnation”?

Point of interest:
Flambeau, a Frenchmen, says “by Jove” and “by George”; two very English phrases. This is also done by another Chestertonian Frenchmen, Colonel Ducroix, in The Man Who Was Thursday.

Another point of interest:
It’s interesting how the way people think about fairies has changed over time. It’s also interesting how the idea varies depending on story telling medium. For instance, in fairy tales the fairies are strictly divided into good fairies and bad fairies and no matter which they are, are very regal and human. In folk tales, however, the fairies are wild and wicked and uncivilized, much different from the bad fairy tale fairies who, though wicked, are nevertheless refined. To illustrate, the bad fairy from the fairy tale will turn you into a mouse and chain you on a table and inch from a crumb of meatloaf, but a folk tale fairy will abduct you or your child.

And now, I hand it to you.


Lucia said...

point of interest 3.: I wonder if G.K. did this on purpose, ( and if so, WHY?) or did he just forget that Flambeau would most likely use French phrases for his exclamations?

point of interest 4.: Nice insight. May I also add that most recently, in the 21st century, fairies have changed even further! Most seem exactly like humans, in their ability to be good, bad, or both. (see Artemis Fowl Series). However,a few modern fairy tales still give fairies folk-tale qualities, (Spiderwick Chronicles) or the good old fashioned kind of personality(like in The Changeling, or at least I think it was The Changeling, I can't remember exactly).

So it seems that nowadays anything goes for fairies!

Lewis the Editor said...

Point 3:
Flambeau does live in England for a while. Perhpas he picked them up there.

Algernon said...

Anything does!

I suppose he would, impersonating Englishmen and all that.

Mapaz said...

Point 1: Maybe, true philosophers don't have an aim in their holiday as healthy people musn't lie in bed with a justification if they don't want to become a hypochondriac, as Ria posted a few weeks ago.

Ria said...

From Dr. Thursday:

Here are some comments on your "Saradine" discussion:

1. true philosopher: this is curious. In some ways it is a poke at the philosophers. In others it is something to ponder. I am sure you know that I am NO philosopher, but I do read GKC, and I am a Doctor of Philosophy... (so that might mean me here.) But there is an extremely wonderful book about philosophy, very small, and VERY dense, called In Defence of Philosophy by Josef Pieper - one of the
points he makes, or tried to make, is that philosophy "has no
purpose"... meaning that it is not about doing, or accomplishing, or
proving - or even discovering, as science does... it is a purely mental thing, and its result is mental, and so it cannot even be taught! At best its history
or perhaps its literature - can be taught. It is about acquiring a
mental vision of the Real... but its purpose is thus almost mystic, and certainly not something silly like getting a book or journal article written, or telling a class, or even a friend, about one's thoughts. Very tough matters here.

So, in ONE sense, as GKC says, and Pieper supports, a TRUE philosopher
has no aim; he cannot. He is busy with something that is in all the
normal senses of the word, purposeless, and so it has no aim at all.(Certainly not getting paid: that voids any HOPE of being a philosopher!)

But, again, as a true philosopher, he has an excuse. He is busy, with
his writing: his book or journal article or blogg - or with his
teaching or talking... because he is on a journey to something, and he has to be "doing" something, since sitting under a tree, or in a chair, or in bed, gets rather boring, and people think you are asleep or drugged. So true
philosophers "explain" their apparent absense of mind by telling people they are pondering a thought or whatever. They provide an excuse.

Or, in the OTHER sense, he is poking fun. He doesn't put the quote marks around "true"... but you might feel them. He's telling them (and even Pieper) that they forgot about the robe worn by Philosophy in the book The Consolation of Philosophy by Boethius. There was a border
made of the letters Theta (in the upper row) and Pi (in the lower row) with "stairs" of some kind leading from Pi up to Theta. Pi stands for"praxis" - the practical, and Theta stands for "theoria" - the
theoretical, which are the TWO branches of Philosophy. It is absurd for a philosopher to pretend he is a TRUE one unless he works in both branches even while he knows that the one is lower and the other is higher... It's a gentle poke, but a poke nonetheless.

I think it quite apt. In the old days, you know, a philosopher might
have to scrape out his own chimney if he needed ink, and skin his own
goat if he needed parchment... I wonder how many modern philosophers
build their own laser printers or write their own word processors - orskin their own goats.

2. One thing about the green ink is to give a character of uniqueness to the writing. It is a curious little idiosyncracy for the Prince to have.
I don't know if there is something odd about green ink of that
day-and-age, there may have been. One other curious cross-reference I
found was this: according to a footnote in the printed edition of the
ILN, a newspaper called The Westminster Gazette - a penny
evening paper started by Sir G. Newnes - was originally printed on
green paper. [see ILN Aug 18 1906 CW27:260] And then there is an
interesting combination of "green ink" and "philosopher" in this essay,
which I offer without further comment:

One of those modern philosophers who seem consumed with a
positive and passionate hatred of the elementary ideas of manhood [402]
and honour, once undertook to prove to me that there was no moral harm in a journalist writing against his convictions in a newspaper. He said
that after all it was only the same thing as a barrister taking any
tolerable brief from any client who came. I told him, of course, that
he could convince me that the two things were the same, I should
immediately conclude, not that the lying journalist was right, but that
the ordinary barrister was wrong. But I also pointed out to him that
two things are not the same; they are not the same because of this
ritual of which I have spoken: the wig and gown only exist to prevent
their being the same. If Society says that for the purpose of hearing
both sides of all cases it is necessary for a certain set of men to say
things they don't believe, at least Society says that the thing shall
only be done in a particular place, and in a particular uniform, so
everyone may know quite well that it is being done. If a lawyer wears a
wig and gown, he may say what he does not think. But then, if he wears
wig and gown, no one need think that he thinks it. If he wore a top hat
and a frock coat and said it in the street outside, everyone would
assume, in the absence of anything against his character, that he meant
things when he said them. And if he wrote it in a newspaper, everyone
would assume the same. In order to make my philosopher's parallel
correct it would be necessary to assume that all Journalists writing
against their convictions distinguished their work in the paper in some
especial way; printed the article in some manner which explained to the
public that it was most probably a lie. If all dishonest articles were
printed in green ink, the thing might be worked. Only in the case of a
certain paper I know (which is said to have a particularly large
circulation) the amount of green print there would be in it would be
rather trying to the eyes.
[ILN Feb 23 1907 CW27:401-2]

3. Lewis and Algernon had a good point; Flambeau is now working in
England... I don't know that I recall any proof one way or the other (a
research question for you!) but we seem to have the sense that he
English as a native; during his criminal phase, he may have gotten used
to these mild profanities. I've also heard it said that such jargon is
one of the first things people learn when they begin to "acquire" (as
opposed to "study") a language. There are some funny examples of this
some of the "Sir Henry Merrivale" mysteries by John Dickson Carr.

4. The issue of Fairy (in both the special sense of being, and the more
general of a form of writing) is a VERY interesting topic, and very
vast... you will get to hear my thoughts on some of it on upcoming
Thursdays over on the ACS blogg. If you have not yet read Tolkien's
essay on Fairy Story, you ought to read it ASAP. We could easily have
entire blogg JUST to talk about that - and how GKC ties in - much less
the big matters you hint at. But I cannot go into it further at the

don pedro said...

Furthermore, foreigners attempting to be truly assimilated into a different culture tend to overuse common expressions. I would know, as I do that all the time. Mapaz should be able to testify to that, if not, some true porteños can. =)

And so my guess is that Flambeau is trying a bit too hard not to reveal his national origin =)

Hans Lundahl said...

I am glad I did not pot my hunch about "like a true philosopher ..." - after the second to last post before this, it is too humdrum.

Old Fashioned Liberal said...

Although I like Ria's post much better, when I read the phrase about the philosopher having no reason for his vacation but having an excuse, I thought of the fact that if he has a reason, his vacation is no longer leisure, and if he doesn't have an excuse, he will have a hard time ahswering those foolish people who ask "Why are you going on vacation?"

Hans Lundahl said...

now, that was precisely my humdrum reason ...

Hans Lundahl said...


The Oracle of the dog now exists in French translation. I read part 5/5 in La Croix today.

Mapaz said...

Regarding point of interest number 3, I thought you may find this at least interesting: