Magazine article The Spectator

Ancient & Modern

Magazine article The Spectator

Ancient & Modern

Article excerpt

THE encomia on Alan Clark, the colourful MP, provide an interesting example of the rhetoric of non-achievement. He was a good historian, but as an MP he left no mark on public life. That allowed him to assume the role of a 'character' and a 'one-off'. What this usually means is women, drink, general bolshiness and a few bons mots.

Mark Antony (83-30 BC ) comes to mind. The historian Plutarch's splendid life of Antony records his carly career as aI debauchee under the tutelage of his friend Curio, who taught him how to spend vast sums on drink and women, and, like George Best. to squander the rest. Of fine physique (the family claimed to be of Herculean blood), he was a keen dresser. walked with a terrific swagger and loved practical jokes. ribald talk and mixing with his men at mess. His weakness for women, Plutarch says. won him the admiration of his friends, for he often helped in their affairs, and always accepted with good humour the jokes they made about his'. He was a champion drinker, never afraid tO to turn Up drunk in the Senate and, on one occasion, vomiting into his toga at a public meeting after an all-night carouse. But he was also lazy Plutarch goes on, never dealing with complaints and too impatient to listen to those who wanted help. …

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