A listmember made a query about the reception of Howlett's text. I
forwarded the query to Howlett, who has responded as follows:
--- David Howlett <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> Dear Bill,
> There is a review of four of my books forthcoming from Allan Hood
> Early Medieval Europe, in which he refers to the lack of critical re-
> sponse to the entire list. Jane Stevenson in a review of the Patrick
> book, also in EME, mentioned the intrusive fussiness of the layout as
> something initially irritating, though persuasive once one worked
> it. Irritating it undoubtedly is, and unattractive to look at. If
> can suggest a better format I will adopt it. One needs to remember,
> ever, that a commercial publisher who takes on such a book, fully
> of other publishers' earlier rejections, and takes it on as a
> risk without a subsidy, cannot reasonably be asked to print in
> or in overlaid transparencies.
> The short answers to your questioner are that I have looked for
> found the style only sporadically in non-Insular texts, everywhere
> centuries in Insular texts, then in Continental texts influenced by
> sular traditions. And that looking for a critical consensus in this
> matter is a waste of time. There are two and only two classes of
> dents -- those who work their ways through the paradigms and discover
> the texts are composed as I suggest they were, thus and not
> otherwise, and
> those who don't or won't.
> There may come a time in which the critics hit a critical mass,
> those who affirm now that my work is worthless affirm then that it is
> orthodox. If they arrive at their view by repeating what the chief
> says, as distinct from having worked their own way toward
> their approval then will be as worthless as their criticism is now.
> As I think a few moments more about the objectionable fussiness of
> apparatus, it has a value, even in its irritating ugliness. The point
> to get beyond it, as beyond the use of colour in a computerized text,
> the putative mental state of author, reader, and hearer (exactly like
> who knows the Psalter, the Missal, and the Hymnal by heart), so that
> structures can be apprehended and understood fully without the visual
> we spend so much time tweaking for attractive web-sites.
> Remember that no ancient Biblical text separates words by space,
> not in
> Hebrew, not in Greek, not in Latin. No manuscript lays Aldhelm's
> wrought prose per cola et commata. Not one of 30,000 lines of Old
> verse is laid out in verse lines in a manuscript. One single
> manuscript of
> polyphony arranges the voices vertically (Cormac's colophon). All the
> others exhibit triplum, duplum, and tenor in three separate blocks.
> no one, ever, says, 'Notice now, I'm marking epitrite ratio with the
> epitritus and sesquioctave with the word epogdous', though smart guys
> exactly that.
> This mode of thought and the tradition of composition that issued
> it cannot be put on like clothes from the rack at Gap. There are no
> introductory manuals. It must be communicated from master to pupil,
> exactly the way a disease or religion is caught, from someone who has
> That is why Jerome wrote De Viris Illustribus, why Gennadius updated
> work, why the Irish classified their saints into ordines Sanctorum,
> the idea of the apostolic succession was once more than a bit of
> claptrap. Once the link is broken, recovery must proceed by fits and
> starts, with inefficient backtracking and revision, and produce, at
> only fragments of something once integrated, powerful, and almost
> inably beautiful, expanding the minds and enriching the lives of
> touched by it.
> THAT is part of the explanation of the response by our
> The work was kept out of print for fully twenty years. After a
> finally took it, bringing out one book each year since 1994, the
> among reviewers (with three notable exceptions) was to take the book
> know exactly how many copies have gone out and to which journals,
> to which reviewer) but not to supply a review, sometimes because it
> like hard work, sometimes because one fears to say that the system
> (in case another reviewer discovers a fatal flaw), sometimes because
> fears to say that it is trash (in case a big name pronounces it
> tionary and good), usually to hope that the whole claim will fall
> if ignored for long enough.
> Responses that reach me by other routes are exactly opposite. One
> that to a post-romantic sensibility the whole thing seems so
> difficult as to have been impossible at any time. The other is that I
> suggested so many ratios (notwithstanding that they are exactly those
> the accounts of Creation among both Hebrews and Greeks) that it is
> lously easy to find 'hits', which are random occurrences, not
> evidence of
> deliberate authorial strategies.
> That someone should be interested enough to post a network query
> gratifying. As I do not belong to that list I cannot reply, though
> are at liberty to forward this to him or anyone else.
> More later.
> Salve. David
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