The bristly brute

On Reddit on 2/22, posted by u/Tom7454:

“On the anniversary of Arthur Schopenhauer’s birth, David Bather Woods, a Schopenhauer expert at the University of Warwick, recommends five books on Schopenhauser.”

The typo was quoted on Facebook on 2/22  by Wendy Thrash, who explained the intervention of Schopenhauser:

“Because nobody wants to read about Schopenhauer.”

The pointer is to Five Books, a site with book recommendations from authorities; each recommendation is for five books on a specific subject, in this case David Bather Woods on Arthur Schopenhauer:


Which inspired me to light verse:

Was a schnauzer
A bristly brute that
Played the flute

Three things.

One, on Schopenhauer, who was at times an unpleasant and insensitive person, a brute; given to reacting angrily and defensively, to bristling at critics, to acting bristly; and who played a flute throughout his life.

Two, on the standard schnauzer, an animal (specifically, a dog) rather than a human being, a mere brute; with fur that stands upright away from its skin, fur that naturally bristles, that is bristly.

Three, on the poetic form of my light verse: the clerihew.

Lexical notes. From NOAD:

— verb bristle: [no object] 1 [a] (of hair or fur) stand upright away from the skin, especially in anger or fear: the hair on the back of his neck bristled. [b] make one’s hair or fur stand on end: the cat bristled in annoyance. [c] react angrily or defensively, typically by drawing oneself up: she bristled at his rudeness. …

[c] is the Schopenhauer sense, [a] the schnauzer sense, without the anger or fear (it’s the dog’s natural state).

— adj. bristly: [a] (of hair or foliage) having a stiff and prickly texture. [b] covered with short, stiff hairs: he rubbed his bristly chin.

[b] is the schnauzer sense, except that the dog’s hairs are fairly long:

(#2) A standard schnauzer / Standard Schnauzer (to dog people)

— noun brute: [a] a savagely violent person or animal: he was a cold-blooded brute. [b] informal a cruel, unpleasant, or insensitive person: what an unfeeling little brute you are. [c] an animal as opposed to a human being. …

[b] is the Schopenhauer sense, [c] the schnauzer sense.

Notes on the philosopher. Two things from the Wikipedia entry on the German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer (1788 – 1860).

First, on his inclination to be both bristly and a brute, consider this excerpt from a letter from Schopenhauer’s mother to her son:

“You are unbearable and burdensome, and very hard to live with; all your good qualities are overshadowed by your conceit, and made useless to the world simply because you cannot restrain your propensity to pick holes in other people.”

The philosopher’s relationship with his mother was never an easy one.

Second, the flute, one of the few enduring pleasures of the obsessive and disputatious philosopher’s life, as in these Wikipedia quotes:

… As early as 1799 [the year he became 11] , Arthur started playing the flute.

… During his days at Göttingen [1809-11], he spent considerable time studying, but also continued his flute playing and social life

… Schopenhauer considered music the highest art, and played the flute during his whole life.

[Digression. Schopenhauer expressed a strong opinion about virtually every topic under the sun. Wagner admired his philosophy, but the music-lover Schopenhauer detested Wagner’s operas, preferring Mozart instead.

And then, from the voluminous Wikipedia entry:

In the third, expanded edition of The World as Will and Representation (1859), Schopenhauer added an appendix to his chapter on the Metaphysics of Sexual Love. He wrote that pederasty [referring to sexual relations between men and boys] has the benefit of preventing ill-begotten children [and he commended it for that reason].

He seems not to have considered sexual relations between two females, or heterosexual sexual relations other than vaginal intercourse (in particular, heterosexual anal intercourse), and I don’t know whether he extended the sense of pederasty to cover anal intercourse between males in general, though the OED reports that extension.]

On the dog. From the American Kennel Club site  on the Standard Schnauzer:

breed hallmarks: a wiry, tight-fitting coat of pure black or “pepper and salt”; a robust, square-built frame; and an elongated head furnished with arched eyebrows and bristly whiskers, framing eyes gleaming with keen intelligence.

Standards are sociable companions, alert watchdogs, enthusiastic backyard squirrel chasers, and are good with kids and protective of loved ones.

Finally, on the clerihew. In my 4/26/15 posting “A playful poetic footnote”, on E. C. Bentley and the murder mystery Trent’s Last Case, this poetic footnote from Wikipedia:

A clerihew is a whimsical, four-line biographical poem invented by Edmund Clerihew Bentley. The first line is the name of the poem’s subject, usually a famous person put in an absurd light. The rhyme scheme is AABB, and the rhymes are often forced. The line length and meter are irregular. Bentley invented the clerihew in school and then popularized it in books.

I feel pretty confident that my clerihew above is the first ever on Schopenhauser.


2 Responses to “The bristly brute”

  1. Robert Coren Says:

    I no longer remember where I encountered it, or to whom it was attributed, but Bentley was himself apparently the subject of a somewhat self-referential clerihew:

    E.C. Bentley
    Should not be treated gently.
    To give the devil his dues:
    He invented clerihews.

  2. Stewart Kramer Says:

    Hyacinth Bucket, recently blogged about, echoes the surname etymology of Schopenhauer (scoop- or bucket-maker).

    Conversely, I envy his given name:
    A future in the international business trade was envisioned from the day Arthur was born, as reflected in how Schopenhauer’s father carefully chose his son’s first name on account of its identical spelling in German, French and English.

    My name is now the less-common spelling because of Mary Stuart (Mary, Queen of Scots), who kept the French non-W spelling after her years as Queen consort of France. Oh, Mary, it’s been a plague on both spellings of your house!

    Opera-wise, she got Italianated as Maria Stuarda by Donizetti

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