Past TimesEd

3rd September 2004 at 01:00
75 years ago * september 7 1929

As soon as the European sees in the distance the Statue of Liberty and the misty background of skyscrapers he feels some of the emotion of Christopher Columbus when he first sighted the New World. The entrance to New York translates us to a world such as we vaguely imagined in reading of Babylon and Baghdad. The Woolworth Building is a dream ladder leading to a fairy realm. The atmosphere in that city of fantasy is like champagne, and the inhabitants boast of its qualities no less than the Athenians used to when they asserted the superiority of their air over that of crass Boeotia. In New York architecture tries its best to keep up with swift ideas; one night a thought flashes and by next morning it has crystallized into stone. It is when we go to the universities that we discover the nursery for these ideas and experiments.

50 years ago * september 3 1954

Before the triumph of Current Affairs our future statesmen were weaned, like other schoolboys, on a time-honoured diet of cuffs and the classics.

Of arms and the lifemen of Plutarch they sang. In a handful of academies debates might be held, solemn, infrequent, and usually in Latin. Thereafter those boys who felt the call of the hustings, or who smelt the attraction of a nicely rotten borough, passed on to the unions of Oxford or Cambridge, thence (with monotonous regularity) to the cabinet, and finally back to their alma mater in the guise of a stern but encouraging bust.

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