Pinkoes, bards, and librarians

I’m reading at the moment Jean Seaton’s terrific account of the BBC in the late 1970s and 1980s, [amazon_link id=”1846684749″ target=”_blank” ]Pinkoes and Traitors[/amazon_link]. One note took me this morning to Keynes’s [amazon_link id=”161427326X” target=”_blank” ]Essays in Biography[/amazon_link]. It’s best-known for his description of Lloyd George at the Versailles peace conference: “This extraordinary figure of our time, this syren, this goat-footed bard, this half-human visitor to our age from the hag-ridden magic and enchanted woods of Celtic antiquity.”

[amazon_image id=”0230249582″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]Essays in Biography[/amazon_image]

I happened to read instead today the essay on Mary Paley Marshall, wife of Alfred, first female lecturer in economics at Cambridge, creator of the Marshall Library. She sounds a wonderful person – Keynes describes the deep intellectual partnership between husband and wife. I liked best, though, the bit about the library: “It was an essential part of Marshall’s technique of teaching to encourage his pupils to read widely in their subject and learn the use of a library. To answer a question on price index numbers, a 3rd or 4th year student would not be expected just to consult the latest standard authority. He must glance right back to Jevons and Giffen, if not to Bishop Fleetwood; he must look at any articles published on the subject in the Economic Journal in the last 20 years; and if he is led to browse over the history of prices since the Middle Ages… no harm will have been done.” Hence Mary’s donation of Alfred’s books  and her endowment of the Marshall Library. She was its Honorary Assistant Librarian until nearly 90.

It’s a delightful tribute – how nice to read Keynes being so warm and generous. I see there’s a (well-reviewed) new book about Keynes out – [amazon_link id=”B00LZGBGM4″ target=”_blank” ]Universal Man[/amazon_link] by Richard Davenport-Hines.

[amazon_image id=”B00LZGBGM4″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]Universal Man: The Seven Lives of John Maynard Keynes[/amazon_image]

No doubt the role of history of thought will be one of the subjects for discussions at next week’s Economics Network conference on teaching economics.

3 thoughts on “Pinkoes, bards, and librarians

  1. Pingback: Pinkoes, bards, and librarians | Homines Economici

  2. Keynes could sure spin a phrase.

    I always loved his essay on Newton:

    “Newton was not the first of the age of reason. He was the last of the magicians, the last of the Babylonians and Sumerians, the last great mind that looked out on the visible and intellectual world with the same eyes as those who began to build our intellectual inheritance rather less than 10,000 years ago.”

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