CRUEL critics:"Heywood Broun's review of a certain actor's...

salmagundi

May 26, 1994

CRUEL critics:

"Heywood Broun's review of a certain actor's performance said that it was the worst he had ever seen on any stage. The actor sued but lost. When he appeared in another play the following season, the whole fraternity of critics waited to see how Broun would handle the delicate situation. He handled it perfectly, they all agreed. His review said, 'Mr. ...'s performance was not up to his usual standard.' "

-- J. Bryan III, in "Hodgepodge: A Commonplace Book"

***

THE SPECTATOR (of London) is little circulated in the United States, but a wag in our offices wonders, on the basis of the following excerpt from a column by Charles Moore, if it is in Anne Arundel schools' library system:

"Ingrams [editor of a rival publication] seems to think that any sexual or violent appetite in a teacher is so wicked that it should be shown up and punished. Such puritanism is itself cruel, and also stupid.

"Think of the grinding boredom of teaching adolescents, of having to confront their ignorance, their low cunning, their bad manners and moods, their conformism, their idleness, their ugliness. Think of growing old in the service of the unappreciative young, paid by the unappreciative middle-aged. It must be hell, and most of us would not stick with the job for a week.

"It is in the nature of things that many of the people who are best at it are quite odd. And, since imaginative gifts are vital for good teaching, and since sexual desire stimulates the imagination, it is not surprising that many great teachers are driven, in part, by desire for their pupils. "This is so obvious, surely, and so important, that a good teacher should get the benefit of a great deal of doubt. His bad behaviour must be very horrible or very public before it undoes all his good work, and means he has to go."

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