Even before its Preface, Muir sets the book’s tone with a quote from W. Somerset Maugham’s novel The Gentleman in the Parlour: “Make him [the reader] laugh and he will think you a trivial fellow, but bore him in the right way and your reputation is assured.”
In the Preface, Muir writes, “There have been many descriptions of what history is, e.g., ‘A vast Mississippi of falsehood’ (Matthew Arnold), ‘Fables that have been agreed upon’ (Voltaire), ‘A confused heap of facts’ (Lord Chesterfield), ‘Little more than the crimes, follies and misfortunes of mankind’ (Gibbon), ‘The biography of a few stout and earnest persons’ Ralph Waldo Emerson, ‘A cyclic poem written by Time upon the memories of man’ (Shelley), ‘Bunk’ (Henry Ford), but there are probably as many ways of looking at the past as there are writers and historians prepared to look. This book is an attempt to look at social history from the people who were alive at the time and were not at all happy about what was going on.”
Here, in Parts 1 and 2 today and tomorrow, are tidbits focused on the subject of music gleaned from the Muir collection. I offer them in no particular order.
George Ade: “The music teacher came twice each week to bridge the awful gap between Dorothy and Chopin.”
“She was a town-and-country soprano of the kind often used for augmenting grief at a funeral.”
Tomorrow in Part 2, we encounter the views of an English Lord, an American tavern-keeper, a Prussia king, and others, all thanks to Frank Muir’s collection.