Can This Be Me?


Guillaume Budé

In 1503 he married the daughter of an ancient Norman house, and it is said that, on his wedding-day, by an exceptional act of self-denial, he limited his time of study to three hours only. In his studies he was aided in every possible way by the devotion of his wife. Once, when he was busy reading in his library, one of the servants suddenly rushed in to inform him that the house was on fire. The scholar, without lifting up his eyes from his book, simply said to his informant:—allez avertir ma femme; vous savez bien que je ne m’occupe pas des affaires du menage! (Translated as: “Go tell my wife. You know I don’t concern myself with household matters.”) His health was seriously impaired by his prodigious industry, and the surgeons of the day vainly endeavoured to cure him of his constant headaches by applying a red-hot iron to the crown of his head. Happily he was enabled to find a safer remedy by taking long walks and by cultivating his garden.—John Edwin Sandys, A History of Classical Scholarship, Vol. II, Entry on “Guillaume Budé”

Iceland 2001: Watch a Whale, Eat a Whale

The Port of Husavík in Northern Iceland

The Port of Husavík in Northern Iceland

There is a controversy still going on in Iceland between fisherman who catch whales for domestic consumption and those who run whale-watching cruises for foreign tourists who are dead set against hunting whales.

Although, in general, I am against hunting whales, I think that a small island that has depended on whale meat for over a thousand years deserves a break. Many of the old Icelandic sagas, such as Grettir’s Saga, feature family feuds that began when one family group cut up a beached whale for itself while another claimed the rights to it.

The whales that Icelanders hunt are Northern or Common Minke Whales (Balaenoptera acutorostrata), which are small and relatively common—by no means the endangered species that American, Russian, and Japanese vessels in the Pacific hunted to the point of no return.

During my 2001 to Iceland, I took a whale-watching cruise out of Husavík, along Iceland’s north coast. We only saw a couple of Minke Whales (I guess it was a bad day), but we had a good time. And the galley prepared delicious hot chocolate and sweet rolls for all the passengers.

There is also a decent-sized whaling museum in Husavík that I visited and enjoyed twelve years ago.

If you want me to translate the sign in the above picture, I believe it goes, “If you can read this, you’re too darn close.”