Three years ago today, I started the Blog of the Courtier with the encouragement of several friends, notably author Dawn Eden and the American Papist, Thomas Peters, for whose encouragement and guidance I will always be grateful. Posting five days a week (give or take), every week, for three years gives you a lot of content to sift through as you look back over how the blog has developed – particularly since, as my readers know, my posts tend to be on the long side, and oftentimes deal with complicated subjects. To give you some idea of statistics, the blog presently stands at 760 posts in over 1,000 categories, and has received over 1,000 posted comments from readers. Not bad for a somewhat esoteric publication which does not aspire to be all things to all people.
Of course, all blogs differ greatly, in that they serve different purposes – whether as commentary on current affairs, sharing humor and personal experiences, publishing photographs, giving tips on how to do something, etc. Yet what all hold in common is the fact that they are, by definition, informed by the views of their creator. Factors such as the writer’s background, education, and experiences are going to provide a certain point of view to the material created for publication.
When I write a blog post on this site, it is not intended to be a newspaper article or an encyclopedia entry, where the goal is to try to remove the personality of the author from the writing as much as possible. Rather, a blog post here is predominantly composed of this scrivener’s thoughts on matters which he finds interesting. I doubt that those of you who are regular readers visit these pages because you are looking for news reporting: you are looking for commentary, and in the case of regular readers, you are looking for my commentary in particular.
The more you read these pages, the more clear it becomes that I have certain views about how we ought to bring back our society from the depths to which it has sunk, and instead encourage the exercise of virtue, intellectual curiosity, and good manners practiced by the best of the courtiers of old. Yet when you read my commentary, gentle reader, keep in mind that I am no paragon myself. I am far from being the ideal courtier, even if that lofty ideal has served as an inspiration to me in my own life for many years, long before I began this blog.
As a matter of fact, it was an ideal that Count Castiglione himself, the patron of this blog, did not believe he fully lived up to either. Rather it was something he strove to achieve, and did his best to aim for. In the introduction to his “Book of the Courtier”, Castiglione penned a few words to his friend, the Portuguese Cardinal Miguel Da Silva, addressing the question of why he was trying to hold up such a lofty (and to many minds) unattainable standard. I think it is important for us to read his words today, when our society has adopted such a lowest common denominator as the standard for our behavior, entertainments, morality, and the like. I could not hope to craft a better apologia for my work than what Castiglione himself wrote about his own writing:
Some say that since it is so difficult and nearly impossible to find a man as perfect as I wish the Courtier to be, it was superfluous to write of him, because it is folly to teach what cannot be learned. To these I answer that I am content to have erred in company with Plato, Xenophon and Cicero, leaving on one side all discussion about the knowable world and ideals; among which, just as are included (according to those authors) the ideal of the perfect State, of the perfect King and of the perfect Orator, so also is the ideal of the perfect Courtier. And if in my style I have failed to approach the image of this ideal, it will then be much easier for courtiers to approach in deeds the aim and goal that I have set them by my writing; and even if they fail to attain that perfection, such as it is, which I have tried to express, then he that approaches nearest to it will be the most perfect; just as where many archers shoot at a target and none hit the mark dead center, then he that comes nearest to it is better than the rest.
Still others say that I attempted to paint my own portrait, as if I were convinced that I possessed all the qualities that I attribute to the Courtier. To these I shall not indeed deny having tried everything that I should wish the Courtier to know, and I think that a man, however learned, who did not know something of the matters discussed in the book, could not really have written about them; but I am not so lacking in self-discernment as to fancy that I know everything I have the desire to know.
My defense then, against these and perhaps many other accusations, I leave for the present to the verdict of public opinion, for while the many may not perfectly understand, yet more often than not they detect by natural instinct the aroma of what is good and what is bad, and without being able to explain exactly why, they relish one thing and like it, and reject another and hate it. Therefore if my book wins general favor, I shall think it must be good and ought to live; but if it fails to please, I shall think it must be bad and soon to be forgotten.
And if my critics are not satisfied with the verdict of public opinion, then let them rest content with that of time, which in the end reveals the hidden defects of everything, and being the father of truth and a dispassionate judge, ever passes on men’s writings a just sentence, of life or death.
Thank you for your patronage of this blog, gentle reader, and I hope to continue to provide you with worthwhile commentary, practical information, and the like in the year ahead.
The Count and The Widow