Filed under: brave new world | Tags: circus, city, crime, England, entertainers, London, mystics, scandal, sexually deviant, the poor, xenophobia
Here is a list of the kinds of people you should avoid. It’s from a travelogue written by Richard of Devizes warning about the dangers of 12th century London, but it reads a bit like a contemporary American political campaign.
Mr. Devizes says the people you should avoid mostly live in the city, no surprise there. To him, crime in the city is pervasive, a pastime that will let noone merely spectate. He thinks that the worst crooks are esteemed the highest, an idea that could catch on now – as our worldwide banks tip like dominoes – but probably won’t. He also says the evil company you keep will corrupt you – where have we heard this recently?
The corruptions of the city dwellers fall into several broad categories: entertainers, foreigners, the poor, mystics, the sexually deviant. In a sense the city described sounds like a circus – with its itinerant clowns, freaks and sideshows. Or like a tabloid version of the scandal of Hollywood.
Thankfully, we – you and I and the writer and the written to – are observers of these corruptions. We sit safely out of the ring and its bright lights and scandal, in our ring side seats. We can laugh at or judge them, depending on our predilections, and at the end, get up and leave to our normal outside lives.
I actually think the corrupt, in the circus or the city, could be laughing at us. Or maybe more likely shaking their heads at their judges, briefly, in disbelief, and returning to their lives.
Here is Devizes’ warning:
When you reach England, if you come to London, pass through it quickly, for I do not at all like that city. All sorts of men crowd together there from every country under the heavens. Each race brings its own vices and its own customs to the city. No-one lives in it without falling into some sort of crime. Every quarter of it abounds in grave obscenities. The greater a rascal a man is, the better a man he is accounted. I know whom I am instructing. You have a warmth of character beyond your years, and a coolness of memory; and from these contrary qualities arises a temperateness of reasoning. I fear nothing for you, unless you live with evil companions, for manners are formed by association.
Well, be that as it may! You will arrive in London. Behold, I prophesy to you: whatever evil or malicious thing that can be found in any part of the world, you will find in that one city. Do not associate with the crowds of pimps; do not mingle with the throngs in eating-houses; avoid dice and gambling, the theatre and the tavern. You will meet with more braggarts there than in all France; the number of parasites is infinite. Actors, jesters, smooth-skinned lads, Moors, flatterers, pretty boys, effeminates, pederasts, singing and dancing girls, quacks, belly-dancers, sorceresses, extortioners, night-wanderers, magicians, mimes, beggars, buffoons: all this tribe fill all the houses. Therefore, if you do not want to dwell with evildoers, do not live in London. I do not speak against learned or religious men, or against Jews: however, because of their living amidst evil people, I believe they are less perfect there than elsewhere.”
2 Comments so far
Leave a comment