August 21, 2002
Another Watch Botch

Amir Butler, now of WarbloggerWatch, quotes this bit of good, if hackneyed, advice:

Oh, what a tangled web we weave, when we practice to deceive.

Of course, what Sir Walter Scott actually wrote was (emphasis added):

Oh what a tangled web we weave,
When first we practice to deceive!

It doesn't actually scan as misquoted. I hope Butler checked his other references more carefully. Checking this one took me all of 30 seconds on Google.

Of course, I only mention this relatively trivial error as an excuse to quote the anonymous sequel:

But when we've practiced for a while,
How vastly we improve our style.

That could also be applied to quite a few bloggers and anti-bloggers.

It's possible that the error has already been pointed out in WBW's comments. I can't tell, because comments have been down damned near all the time for the last several days. Enetation seems to be in near-total collapse. Time to move the site to something more reliable like Movable Type? That would involve spending money -- as much as $2.00 per month per WBWatcher. And renting a domain name would also force 'Eric A. Blair' to come up with a name and address to register it.

Posted by Dr. Weevil at August 21, 2002 10:59 PM

Although I don't have a source handy, I'm pretty sure Kingsley Amis wrote that sequel. It sounds like him at least.

Posted by: Aaron Haspel on August 22, 2002 09:28 AM

Possibly: I think I read the lines in his New Oxford Book of Light Verse (1978). My copy is in storage in another state at the moment, so I can't easily check. I do seem to recall that he attributed it to 'anonymous'. I've read that some of his 'anonymous' quotations were actually by friends of his that did not want their names known, but those were mostly obscene poems, which doesn't apply to this one. All in all, the question is too complicated for me at this point.

Posted by: Dr. Weevil on August 22, 2002 09:33 AM

Oxford Book of Light Verse, of course! That's why I was thinking of Amis. He attributes it there to one J.R. Pope (? - 1941), who gets no other citations. And the line is actually: "But when we've practiced quite a while." Your misquotation, however, unlike Butler's, improves the line.

Posted by: Aaron Haspel on August 22, 2002 11:05 AM

Thanks for the correction. At least my mistake scans. I'll be so glad when I can get finally get my books out of storage . . . .

Posted by: Dr. Weevil on August 22, 2002 12:00 PM

Wasn't Kingsley Amis a friend of Philip Larkin? Not that it takes a great poet to write the follow-up verse.

Posted by: Joanne Jacobs on August 23, 2002 04:03 AM

Yes, Kingsley Amis and Philip Larkin were best friends. Amis was also an excellent poet, and although it may not take a great poet to write the sequel, I for one wish I'd written it.

Posted by: Aaron Haspel on August 23, 2002 10:50 AM

As for Enetation, it apparently never recovered from its Denial of Service attack, one of the factors that pushed me into implementing Movable Type a week earlier than I'd planned.

Posted by: CGHill on August 24, 2002 11:21 AM