Tuesday, January 29, 2013

An old story from a great English novelist

Robert Bage died 1 September 1801. He left behind six novels. He was a novelist of ideas and in that respect has been compared to Aldhous Huxley. As a progressive writer he took on many issues of his day: human rights, slavery, the futility of war, the futility of duelling, the lack of provision for education for the poor and the lack of women's rights being among these causes. It is a wonder that most people have not heard of him but the truth is, even though he was one of the best-selling novelists on William Lane's list, he was almost forgotten fifty years after his death.

He wrote at a time of world transition, from 1782 to 1796, and his novels spanned two revolutions. Bage rarely missed an opportunity to use in his works illustrative stories usually with a moral. This link tells the story of Carthage and the Hesperides. It is short and comes from his first novel Mount Henneth (1782). Its purpose was to draw a comparison between England's mistreatment of its colonies, particularly its mistreatment of America, and a fictional plundering of the Hesperides by Carthage, though perhaps not so fictional after all, since before the Punic Wars the Carthaginian Empire covered most of Mediterranean Africa and the city in Libya now called Benghazi was once called Hesperides after the heavenly gardens and those who tended them. It was a city renowned for its beauty.

Today Benghazi is having to fight off another imperialist intrusion into its country. Sadly the culprits are NATO countries defending neo-colonialist oil-magnates. After wars created specifically for the purpose the UK and USA have invested heavily in the theft of oil from north Africa and the Middle East, and spent huge sums of money in defending their ill-gotten gains through private military armies run by evil mercenaries whose personal histories are without a vestige of morality. Bage finishes his short story on Carthage and the Hesperides by writing that "Carthage sent out fleets and armies, and spent as much of her own money in five years, as she had expected to get of her colonies in one hundred."

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