A downbeat Brexiteer
Sir: Alexander Chancellor (Long Life, 22 October) wondered why Brexiteers were not more upbeat about their victory. I suspect many, like me, were worried about Remainers trying anything they can to overturn the vote. The news that the judges have ruled that Brexit cannot be triggered without a parliamentary vote shows how sadly right we are to be downbeat.
Pury End, Northants
Sir: Charles Moore comments upon the difficulty of selecting just one word to sum up Shakespeare’s poetry. Like Cordelia, I would suggest ‘nothing’. The word occurs 654 times in his works, with greater frequency in the great plays, and provides the hinge upon which perhaps his greatest, King Lear, turns: ‘“Nothing, my lord.” “Nothing?” “Nothing.” “Nothing can come of nothing. Speak again.”’ Shakespeare plays with it, loving its range of meanings, from innuendo to existential despair, to growing spiritual greatness in the embrace of ‘nothing’. It suggests the unencompassable quality of Shakespeare’s thought, as well as his worldly humour and the importance of the numinous in his plays. Lastly, it also occurs in many of his most celebrated speeches: ‘A tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.’ I hereby cast my vote for nothing.
The ‘aye’ has it
Sir: ‘Aye’ was perhaps the word Charles Moore was searching for in ‘getting’ Shakespeare. He much preferred it to ‘Yes’ in comparison to his peers.
Edinburgh and Strathpeffer
Oh dear, oh dear
Sir: I have sympathy for Melanie McDonagh and her complaints over the early arrival of holidays (‘Ghosts of the Seasons’, 22 October). In December, it has become depressing to observe well-educated people singing about ‘The Twelve Days of Christmas’ with no clue where those days land on a calendar. May I offer a thought for consolation? While we may despair when hearing ‘Good King Wenceslas’ belted out on a day other than Stephen’s, at least we can enjoy peace and quiet in the true festive season. Peace and quiet from a commercial culture that misses the significance of Christmas, to the point of allocating it the wrong part of the year.
Sir: I am a contented Church of England priest. Over the years your magazine has been a feast of stimulating variety gladdening my heart. Up until now its least stimulating fare has been to do with the faith I love. No longer. Jeremy Clarke’s article of 5 November so resonated an oblique, gentle Christian charity, I read it to one of my congregations in place of a sermon. Not for the first time either. What a lovely fellow Jeremy must be. A low-lifer of the sort surrounding Jesus of Nazareth, bowled over by his charity sufficient to turn the world upside down. Thank you.
Canon Andrew Neaum
Canvassing in a Bentley
Sir: Spectator Life’s cover story (‘Mogg’s Millions’, 5 November) contains one quote from Jacob Rees-Mogg that undermines his tightly rolled reputation for good judgment. Denying that he ever canvassed Fife in a Bentley, he says it was a Mercedes, because ‘a Bentley would be most unsuitable for canvassing’. In 1959 I helped Alan Lennox Boyd canvas Mid-Bedfordshire. He always used a dark-blue Bentley Mk VI Drophead Coupé, preceded by me in a Land Rover towing a blue caravan from which champagne or gin and tonics were dispensed to interest constituents. He was re-elected for the seventh successive time in 25 years.
Sir John Weston
Sir: Growing up in the vicarage in a beery Midlands industrial town in the 1980s, we were frequently visited by those hoping for donations towards their travel ‘to see their sick granny’ (‘Vicar, can you spare a dime?’, 5 November). On one memorable occasion my father called the chap’s bluff and walked him to the station, bought him a ticket to Birmingham, where said granny apparently resided, put him on the train and waved him goodbye. My father described the man’s face to us as the train pulled out. He never troubled us again.
Call me Mrs
Sir: Though it is sadly rare these days to be asked for one’s ‘Christian’ name, (Letters, 5 November) when asked for my first name, I find that ‘Mrs’ is effective yet inoffensive. This of course has nothing to do with the incredulity with which my actual Christian name is usually greeted…
Mrs Fanny Prior
Incorrect form of address
Sir: When it comes to forms of address, things are even worse than Charles Moore (Notes, 29 October) imagines. I am well over 80 and I find it infuriating to be addressed by young shop assistants or waitresses as ‘my love’ or, even worse, ‘my lovely’! My immediate reaction is to reproach the girl for her over-familiarity, but I don’t. I say as little as possible and leave. This happens often, and I wonder why shops and supermarkets do not have rules that guide staff on how to address customers. I would also love to have a ready rebuke which I could use, gently but firmly, to give offenders a clear idea of where they have gone wrong. Any suggestions?
Irene Slade Crombie
Tunbridge Wells, Kent