This is a must read for the Anglophiles.
Fred Reed, in one essay, explains both his family tree and the precipitous decline of a civilization.
We were part of a thing brief but of immense value. The literacy, the attention to language, was of one cloth with that of the English, whose mastery has never been equaled and seldom approached. It has lasted in the family. In evenings with my grandfather at Hampden-Sydney, a parlor game was to call out three numbers–“746, 2, 7”–page 746, column 2, seventh entry of a huge dictionary on onion-skin paper–whereupon the caller-out had to spell the word, define it, pronounce it correctly, and give the etymology.
Tidewater was in the current of the English stretching from at least Sir Philip Sydney through Lewis Carol, Milne, Galsworthy, Kipling, Tolkien, Churchill and a hundred others. A thousand others. This virtuosity is now lost beyond redemption as American society, once determined from the top down, has come to be determined from the bottom up. Can you imagine an American politician writing—well, anything literate, but especially the equal of Churchill’s A History of the English Speaking People?
But we were speaking of the curious continuity of families. Come the war, Charles Scott Venable served on Lee’s staff, and Andrew Reid Venable on Jeb Stuart’s. This was a continuation of the aristocratic sense of duty. Their country was being invaded by alien people and they, like Lee, like Jackson, determined to defend it. Both were graduates of Hampden-Sydney, as am I, as were my father and uncle.
After the war Charles Venable was an astronomer and professor of mathematics at the University of Virginia. My grandfather processed mathematics at Hampden-Sydney and served as dean. My paternal uncle passed the bar but chose journalism, my father being a mathematician. I am whatever I am–for years I worked my way through math texts because I liked them–and my daughters are, aside from being smart, a musician and an artist. One of them popped ninety-ninth percentile in math on some standardized test and was invited to attend a math camp. A weird continuity.
America is not, or was not, ever, a “nation of immigrants”, a “proposition nation”. Ronald Reagan and a thousand shrieking loony liberals and cuck apologists aside, this country was an extension of Old England. Until the early 1800s, this was a land of the English. For another 100 years or so it was a land of the English and those of European descent who closely approximated the English tradition and experience. It is only since 1966 that the character has changed. And the change is noticeable.
I have seen, firsthand, the change and decline. The Lovetts came to America in two waves. One assigned to New England and the Puritan settlements. The other, my closest kin, like Fred’s people, settled in Virginia. Unlike his folks, mine departed South for the Carolinas and Georgia.
My family history (much of it) strangely tracks that path Fred lays out, from at least 1066 and on-wards. It ends with me and my daughter in the 21st Century. My little girl was born into a society which somewhat resembled the one I witnessed in the 70’s and 80’s – a little.
I saw the changes as they unfolded. I would like to go back. Whether that is possible remains to be seen. If it is not, then damn it. All of it.