Reference > The Library > Helen Rex Keller > Reader’s Digest of Books

C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
H. R. Keller.  The Reader’s Digest of Books.
The Loves of the Triangles
George Canning (1770–1827)
Loves of the Triangles, The, by George Canning. In 1797 George Canning, then Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, planned in conjunction with George Ellis, John Hookham Frere, and others, the Anti-jacobin, a political paper edited in the interests of the Tory party.  1
  Satire and parody were the vehicles by which editors and contributors tried to effect their end; and among the various articles and poems, none were wittier than those written by Canning, then barely twenty-seven. One object of these contributions was to cast ridicule on the undue sentimentality of various literary men of the day, in their alleged false sympathy with the revolutionary spirit in France.  2
  ‘The Loves of the Triangles’ was presented as the work of a quasi-contributor, Mr. Higgins, who says that he is persuaded that there is no science, however abstruse, nay, no trade nor manufacture, which may not be taught by a didactic poem…. And though the more rigid and unbending stiffness of a mathematical subject does not admit of the same appeals to the wanner passions which naturally arise out of the sexual system of Linnaeus, he hopes that his poem will ornament and enlighten the arid truths of Euclid and algebra, and will strew the Asses’ Bridge with flowers.  3
  This is of course a satire on the Botanic Garden of Dr. Darwin, to whom indeed the parody, ‘The Loves of the Triangles,’ is dedicated. Only about three hundred verses in rhymed iambics were published of this poem, forming one canto; yet argument, notes, as well as the body of the poem itself, are the perfection of parody, and in the midst of it all are several lines assailing Jacobins.  4
  A portion of the invocation may serve as a specimen of the style:—
  “But chief, thou nurse of the didactic Muse,
Divine Nonsensia, all thy sense infuse:
The charms of secants and of tangents tell,
How loves and graces in an angle dwell;
How slow progressive points protract the line,
As pendent spiders spin the filmy twine.
How lengthened lines, impetuous sweeping round,
Spread the wide plane and mark its circling bound;
How planes, their substance with their motion grown,
Form the huge cube, the cylinder, the cone.”

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