Fri, 04 Feb 2022
An unexpected turn of phrase from Robertson Davies
Dave Turner has been tinkering with a game he calls Semantle and this reminded me of Robertson Davies' novel What's Bred in the Bone, which includes a minor character named Charlie Fremantle. This is how my brain works.
While I was looking up Charlie Fremantle I got sucked back into What's Bred in the Bone which is one of my favorite Davies novels. There is a long passage about Charlie and what he was like around 1933:
A Grail knight of social justice! A social justice warrior! And one of a subtype we easily recognize among us even today. Davies wrote that sentence in 1985.
(But now that I look into it, I wonder what he meant to communicate by that phrase? In 1933, when that part of the book takes place, the phrase “social justice” was associated most closely with Father Charles Coughlin, founder of a political movement called the National Union for Social Justice, and publisher of the Social Justice periodical. Unlike Charlie, though, Coughlin was strongly anti-communist, which makes me wonder why Davies attached the phrase to him. Coincidence? I doubt that Davies was unaware of Coughlin in 1933, or had forgotten about him by 1985.)
[ A reader asks if Davies, as a Canadian, would have been aware of Father Coughlin. I think probably. Wikipedia says Coughlin's radio show reached millions of people, perhaps as many as 30 million a week. The show was based in Detroit, so many of these listeners must have been Canadian. At that time Davies was a university student in Kingston, Ontario. Coughlin, incidentally, was also Canadian. ]
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