19 February 2009

'Stilled catastrophe'

...is a phrase used by Kathleen Jamie in an essay about a visit to the Surgeon's Hall in Edinburgh, one of Europe's great cabinets of misshapen beings.

She finds solace in a "mawkish piece of Victoriana", Rab and his Friends:
Don't think [the student surgeons] heartless...they get over their professional horrors and into their proper work, and in them pity as emotion ending in itself, or at least in tears and a long drawn breath, lessens -- while pity as a motive is quickened and gains power and purpose. It is well for poor human nature that it is so.

photo: Cephalothoracopagus twins by James Mundie

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