Monday, June 03, 2013

A letter from Oakeshott

Early in 1990, I wrote a review of Michael Oakeshott’s essays on education, edited by Timothy Fuller and published by Yale University Press as The Voice of Liberal Learning, for the American Scholar. (The review eventually appeared in the autumn number of the quarterly, which was edited then by Joseph Epstein.) I sent a draft copy to Oakeshott, who replied the same day he received it.

19 March 1990
       Dear Professor Myers,
          Thank you for your letter which arrived this morning: it was most kind of you to write and I look forward to your piece in The American Scholar. Now I know that there is at least one person in the world who has understood & appreciates what I have had to say. What you are doing in respect to literary criticism is something I have never attempted, but I can see how it would go & it needs to be done. And what a delight it was to see the name of Sir Philip Sidney. The Liberty Press are bringing out, this summer, a new & enlarged edition of my book of essays called Rationalism in Politics which was first published a long time ago. I think there may be something in it to interest you & I will see that you get a copy.
                              Yours sincerely,
                                        Michael Oakeshott
Ever since receiving it, I have displayed this letter, in a modest green-matted frame, on my office wall. It is, I tell visitors who ask, my charter as a literary critic. Michael Oakeshott died nine months later, almost to the day.

5 comments:

Gene Callahan said...

You killed him! It just took a while for the effect to take hold.

D. G. Myers said...

Yes, Gene, the nine-month time lag cannot have escaped notice.

Anonymous said...

Isn't it "how it would go", i.e. not "how it might go"?

D. G. Myers said...

Stupid error of transcription on my part. Now corrected. Many, many thanks!

sueddie said...

Really lovely piece... And inspiring. Sad that we don't have too many hand written letters these days with e-mails and all...

Talking of how you killed him... Hmmm. Nine months like the time of a pregnancy! Gene Callahan said it all! :)