Tuesday 23 July 2013

When, in history, would you most like to have lived?


This came up in a dinner table conversation the other day - and I found it hard to answer. Most of my thoughts turn to fantasy - some rural idyll like Tolkien's Shire, Wootton Major, or Little Kingdom; or Lloyd Alexander's Prydain; or Carol Kendall's Land Between the Mountains - rather than actual history.

But then I tried to think of a time when I sensed that the people - by which I mean writers - were most like myself, when I might have fitted-in - and I came up with the middle seventeenth century in England with characters like Robert Burton, John Aubrey, Izaak Walton, Thomas Browne, George Herbert...

These may not be my absolute favourite authors, but they are perhaps the most congenial to my spirit.



Elijah Armstrong said...

18th century

Arakawa said...

For whatever reason, I'm fairly immune to the 'what time in history would you like to have lived' daydream. The entire point is to live in an interesting time with the proper perspective to appreciate why it is interesting, and it's much easier to look at other times with an eye to using them to provide perspective on the current time I live in, rather than to nurse a desire to actually live there.

(It's a bit different with fantasy worlds, of course, but because those are often best understood as a distorted mirror of Heaven, the desire to enter them is understandable.)

To make up for this, I suppose, I have a cripplingly strong desire to experience what it's like to be other people besides myself. I either have to assume this is a temptation (i.e. a desire that can't be satisfied in principle), or assume that Heaven will work a lot more strangely than most people give it credit for.

Kevin Nowell said...

1950s California

Anti-Democracy Activist said...

Here I must agree with John Derbyshire - the height of the western civilization was in the century between the end of the Napoleonic Wars and the beginning of the Great War: 1815 to 1914. Here, just the right balance between science and faith, between Romanticism and Rationalism, was struck. Everything before was prologue; everything after a slow and steady decline.

My second choice would be an eternal America in 1962 - the age of the Beach Boys, of cars with tailfins, of surfer girls, of Googie architecture, and of men with fedoras. That last bit of the Golden Age that existed between 1945 and 1965, before Vietnam came, and Woodstock came, and swept it all away. But non-Americans can be forgiven for not having the same answer.

Third choice would be Holy Constantinople between Justinian and Leo the Wise.

Bruce B. said...

Any time when pornography, simulated graphic violence and a general embrace of ugliness isn’t a daily part of our lives looks pretty good right now.

JP said...

I dunno, I looked at my family tree on ancestry dot uk, and every single one of my male forebears before my parents were either "agricultural laborer" or "mill worker" or "coal miner". Not a single Earl or Oxford Don in the lot, blast it.

I would have been one of those grubby proles... so the late 20th century looks pretty good in comparison. =)