30 JANUARY 1942, Page 10


By HAROLD NICOLSON ORACE, when one comes to think of it, was a most

remarkable man. The fact that he was able, without becoming either a snob or a toady, to master his own social disadvantages shows that his common sense amounted to genius. Venusia can scarcely have been a school for courtiers, and there must have been a prolonged phase in Horace's life when he spoke with a strong Apulian accent and was none too natty when it came to eating eels. Even if one discounts the reaction against the patricians which set in during the -reign of Augustus (as during our own Tudor period), it is remarkable that the son of an ex-slave should have established with a man like Maecenas relations of such affectionate intimacy. My respect for Hoyace's character may have led me to attach exaggerated weight to his pronouncements upon human conduct. For years I have taken it for granted that he was correct in stating that men were less excited by what they heard than by what they saw. Since becoming connected with the B.B.C. I have had reason to revise this judgement. Lenius excitant, indeed . . . nothing can be further from reality. People can read a thing without so much as a twitch of the eyebrow, yet when they hear the same thing upon the wireless they foam and shout with rage. It would be improper for me to examine the more important aspects of this phenomenon, since the comments which I could make upon the matter might cease to be marginal. Yet there is one subordinate symptom of this great neurosis of the elderly in their relations with the wireless which, without impropriety, might well be discussed. , It is the symptom of nervous derangement provoked in quite sane people by the correct or incorrect pronunciation of foreign names.