Monday, June 30, 2008

Paul Johnson on his favorite lecturers

Last bit from today's JWR column:

The best lecturers I have ever heard were, in order, Kenneth Clark and C.S. Lewis. Clark I heard give two courses, one on the painter he called 'Rumbrunt', the other on 'Tintorette'. Both were perfection. Lewis was close to that, and could fill the hall at Magdalen to overflowing, the girls squatting at his feet and showing flashes of nylon-tops. A.J.P. Taylor could fill the same arena but he attracted mainly men, so that the dimension of potential pick-ups, which was such a feature of Lewis's performances, was lacking. By contrast, old Tolkein was a poor lecturer, dull and hard to hear, keeping his head down, nose to text. He was almost as bad as Jean-Paul Sartre, towards the end, the worst lecturer I ever heard, becoming almost inaudible, head sinking, and interminable so that the room gradually emptied. Hope that never happens to me.

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