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Posted: 06 December 2013 01:00 PM   [ Ignore ]
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Reading an essay written around 1855 by an Englishman, I came across this phrase: “The Madonna of Albert Dürer, with its air of the matron rather than the virgin, … its German and borough candour….” I’ve never seen the word “borough” used in this way before – I infer that the writer is using it as a synonym of “bourgeois”.  Does the OED have anything to say about this? None of the dictionaries available to me do.

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Posted: 06 December 2013 08:54 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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lionello - 06 December 2013 01:00 PM

Reading an essay written around 1855 by an Englishman, I came across this phrase: “The Madonna of Albert Dürer, with its air of the matron rather than the virgin, … its German and borough candour….” I’ve never seen the word “borough” used in this way before – I infer that the writer is using it as a synonym of “bourgeois”.  Does the OED have anything to say about this? None of the dictionaries available to me do.

I’m guessing that it is a poetic use of “borough” to mean something like “pedestrian” or perhaps “quotidian” in the sense of one who lives comfortably within the quite ordinary boundaries of her small town or neighborhood--possessed of the kind of honesty and forthrightness that would come of being in comfortable surroundings. She is not royalty perhaps. As he says earlier, she has “fatigued features more interesting that beautiful.”

The OED doesn’t have anything with this shade of meaning AFAICT.

[ Edited: 06 December 2013 08:58 PM by Oecolampadius ]
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Posted: 06 December 2013 11:34 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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There’s nothing like the condescension of a half-rate critic shown toward a full-rate genius. Swingleton here.

Dürer never got much credit, even today when his art seems utterly modern.

I think perhaps when travelling in Germanic countries it is easy to see that bürgerlich and bourgeois are inter-related and translate into English as borough, perhaps.

Try this instead:

http://books.google.com/books?id=YvY0AAAAIAAJ&pg=PA80&lpg=PA80&dq=its+German+and+borough+candour+durer&source=bl&ots=gbdpKUhAeT&sig=En412hupb66sMzqd_vEDzAwI2IU&hl=en&sa=X&ei=NcuiUu76BpLgoATE9oDoCQ&ved=0CC0Q6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=its%20German%20and%20borough%20candour%20durer&f=false

[ Edited: 06 December 2013 11:40 PM by Iron Pyrite ]
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Posted: 07 December 2013 01:38 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Thanks, Iron Pyrite. I agree with you about Dürer, though I’d say “ageless” rather than “modern”. “Modern” isn’t always a term of praise as far as I’m concerned.

(It’s Swinglehurst, by the way, not Swingleton.)

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Posted: 07 December 2013 07:14 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Thanks on both counts, Lionello. “Ageless” is much more, well, ageless, as all the past “modernism” movements have borne out. And Swinglehurst may have been a fine critic for all I know.

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Posted: 07 December 2013 08:40 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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There’s nothing like the condescension of a half-rate critic shown toward a full-rate genius.

I didn’t get condescension from the Swinglehurst quote. I heard appreciation for rendering a Madonna that is accessible to the average viewer living an average life. Not so much bourgeois (at least in the Marxist and condescending meaning of that word) but at ease in ordinary settings--not a peasant, but not royalty.  Not so much beautiful in an idealized Greek Parthenon rendering, but in an ordinary and honest (read: borough candour) sort of way.

Singlehurst does, after all, suggest that the rendering (is it a painting or a lithograph to which he refers?) well represents “the genius of the artist. As she is his Madonna, so she also might be his muse.”

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Posted: 07 December 2013 01:28 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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Not so much bourgeois (at least in the Marxist and condescending meaning of that word) but at ease in ordinary settings--not a peasant, but not royalty.

No, I was indeed reading it as “bourgeois” in a more Marxist vein. Reading it your way it lacks the snarky tone of Nabokov commenting on Joseph Conrad’s delightful bourgeois sentiment, or words to that effect, and is more pleasing too.

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Posted: 07 December 2013 02:09 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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Thank you too, Oecolampadius (did you get my private message?). I don’t think the writer was being condescending. I believe that (being of working-class origins) he was very proud of having attained a position where he could write, with some degree of appreciation (even if not with the authority of someone like his contemporary, Ruskin), of fine art and artists. That’s why he lays it on a bit thick.

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