Tag Archives: Ben Jonson

Farrage (from Latin: farrago — mixed fodder for cattle)

I see that Farage (according to James Forsyth) is coming over all wimpy over a Newark by-election:

Nigel Farage told me on Monday how closely he was watching the situation in Newark. He introduced the subject by saying, “there’s one other thing that could change everything”.

But Farage’s comments to me yesterday make me think that he’s unlikely to stand in Newark. He said that he’d ‘been looking at candidates’ and mused on how just one MP would make such a difference.

There then follows a convoluted comparison of the UK (2014-15) with Canada (1989—).

So, two observations:

  1. The Canadian parallel is guff to a factor of Xⁿ. History, especially political history, doesn’t replicate itself, even less so across national and temporal barriers.
  2. What is not surprising is that Farage, as he did at Eastleigh last year, looks like bottling it — he must be acutely aware he has only the single shot: fire it at Newark, and fail …

The bottom of the whole matter is that UKIP, and Farage in particular, are one-trick ponies. Once the public becomes bored with over-exposure of that trick, the circus moves on, and Farage is left diminished. On the other hand, it may well be the case that when UKIP folds (as in the medium term it must — and probably back into the Tory libertarian wing, where it properly belongs), something far nastier may emerge to take its populist, nihilist place.

Wednesday morning afterthought:

I enjoyed reading Benedict Brogan’s Morningbriefing, and comparing his views and word-choice with mine:

Good morning. He’s bottled it. That will be the snap verdict of Nigel Farage’s decision not to stand in Newark. “I’m a fighter, I’m a warrior,” he laughs on Today, dismissing the charge. Arguably, the Ukip leader has made the right calculation. As he says he is not local, and he can read the numbers as well as any of us. He also acknowledges that if he lost, “the bubble would burst”. Too right. The Tories are well entrenched in Newark, even after the harm done to the image of politics by Patrick Mercer. Ukip’s prospects, even in a by-election, are not great. It’s not really their turf. Mr Farage says that the best tactic is to select someone local who stands a chance. As Nottinghamshire man Ken Clarke said on Today, “whatever else Nigel is, he’s not an idiot”.

Meanwhile …

 The statutory Malcolmian literary analogy:

Now, a previous post introduced me to the character of “Nestor Ironside”. Captain Ironside, A Souldier, is also a character in Ben Jonson’s satire The Magnetic Lady, or Humours Reconciled.

In Act 1, scene vii of that largely-forgotten drama we have:

Sir Diaphanous Silkworm (a Courtier):

I ha’ seen him wait at Court, there, with his Maniples
Of papers, and petitions.

Mr. Practise (a lawyer):

He is one
That over-rules tho’, by his authority
Of living there; and cares for no man else:
Neglects the sacred letter of the Law;
And holds it but a dead heap,
Of civil institutions: the rest only
Of common men, and their causes, a farrago,
Or a dish made in Court; a thing of nothing …

They are speaking of Mr. Bias, a Vi-politique, or sub-secretary, soon to be lauded (ironically) by Sir Moath Interest, a Usurer, or Money-bawd, as:

Apply him to your side! or you may wear him
Here o’ your breast! Or hand him in your ear!
He’s a fit Pendant for a Ladies tip!
A Chrysolite, a Gem: the very Agate
Of State, and Politie: cut from the Quar
Of Macchiavel, a true Cornelian,
As Tacitus himself! and to be made
The brooch to any true State-cap in Europe.

The Vi-, by the way, is a shortening of “vice-“. It wasn’t only Bill Shagsper would/could coin neologisms.

Nice — if confusing — pun on Cornelian (the gemstone, the various Corneliuses of history) there. It works even better post-Jonson, because — in drama — there is the Cornelian dilemma, named after Pierre Corneille, which amounts to choosing the better of two weevils (another pun, much employed in Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey–Maturin series).

Somewhere in all that nonsense I sense representations of the puffery and flummery that differently but alike infects

  • self-promoting, would-be Vi-politiques, such as Farage,


  • jobbing journos, such as the indefatigable and over-stretched James Forsyth, in search of an instant paragraph or two.

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Filed under Benedict Brogan, History, James Forsyth, Literature, politics, The Spectator, Theatre