I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned it, but I’m currently a student librarian in my residential college. Now, our library is a bit out-of-date, and we’re still sorting through and cataloguing the many very old and very weird books we have down in Stack.
Witness this book K catalogued the the other day, and which I (foolish I) thought I would open up and have a look through:
The invading Saxons, a rude and barbarous people, but a stop to all this refinement [of Romano-British society]. Their own social customs were very different; they disliked town life: all the use they had for a town was to sack it and murder its inhabitants. Having successfully achieved this, they settled in the country outside it and built themselves uncomfortable log huts and villages, while the corpse-littered city mouldered in desolation. These rude yokels seldom occupied even the country villas of their victims; these were not the kind of dwellings they cared about or felt at home in; perhaps too they percieved them to be haunted by their slain owners, and thought it safer to keep their distance. Anyhow, they preferred to build timber houses in the clearings, which reminded them of the homes that had so bored them beyond the seas, and in these they settled down to agriculture and hunting. Like the British, the practised family life to savage excess; the social unit was the village community, and dwellers in other villages were rightly suspect; strangers entered the bounds of the tribal homestead at their peril. Such excessive solidarity made social life in some ways very awkward, violent and uneasy.
– Dame Rose Macaulay, Life Among the English (London: Collins, 2nd Impression 1946), p. 8
Next time I’m obliged to attend family reunions, I shall say until my relatives: “You practice family life to savage excess!”