春夜夢を売る

Sorting through my late stepmother's effects, I came across the following clipping...

"A Fragment"

"Those who, intent on proving that all in life and in history is transitory and will fade, search the past for examples of men who, great enough in their own era to seem immortal, have in time's slow turn been utterly forgotten, need look no further for an outstanding (if that indeed is the apposite word) example than the fifth baron of the Shimosuwa line, Shimosuwa Senji, to find the very archetype of forgotten greatness. After all, the final historical measure of greatness—which may in fact be seen as irrelevant by the great man still living, depending on his temperament—is to be remembered. That the fact that to be remembered, for however many subsequent generations or even, rarely enough, millennia, is of no practical benefit to the one long dead, seems not to have curtailed one whit the tendency, the longing, to seek historical immortality in influential and mighty men, has before been noted and expounded upon most learnedly (by Whitley, Morrison, Turner and others—see bibliography*), so that no need exists to repeat old observations here, except to note that just this cavalier attitude seems to have been held by Shimosuwa himself—ultimately ironic, in that a man who saw no value in seeking the eternal life, by proxy as it were, of historical remembrance should have been forgotten so completely.

"[Ed. note: the bibliography mentioned here and elsewhere, evidently an appendix to the original edition, is not extant.]

"It comes as a surprise, bordering even on disbelief, for a student of the history of the Orient to learn that the annals of Tokugawa-era Japan, in most respects fastidious in their comprehensive recording of the births and deaths, if not doings, of the noble class, contain not a single reference to Shimosuwa, with the exception of just one imperial receipt, a sort of feudal bill-of-lading that mentions the baron, not by name, but rather cryptically as 'the party in question'—so much so that the particularly excitable among the younger members of the Historical Society have even been drawn rather comically into suggesting all manner of shady conspiracies to 'remove' the man from the popular consciousness, theories the sheer impracticability of which make them unfit even for rebuttal, except to note that, unlike the most formidable enemies of remembrance today (one thinks most notably of the Promptist governments of recent memory) whose inclinations to remove from the historical record all traces of political enemies or of truths inconvenient to the regime were intended to manipulate the beliefs of an educated middle class without whose coöperation the ruling elite had little hope of retaining power, the government of feudal Japan faced no such threat, the populace being largely sub-literate, and at any rate the only men with access at all to official historical records would have been too entrenched in the social order to need any further doctrinal 'protection' from dangerous opinions or movements—all of this of course assuming that 'the party in question' was in fact involved in activities somehow inconvenient or even threatening to the ruling order, a supposition for which not one shred of credible evidence has come to light. I recommend this fact in particular to Schneider and Feldman, whose conjectural essays have in the past graced these pages.*

"[Ed. note: no copies exist of any issue of the Journal containing works credited to authors of either of these names. The possibility remains of pseudonymous or anonymous authorship.]

"Nevertheless, the rather stunning fact remains that all record of the baron has vanished without a trace. What we do know now of the man comes to us largely thanks to the reconstructive efforts of Clyve and Browning, whose research, though at times veering into unsupported speculation, has been in the main a model of balanced and well-grounded historical inquiry. The facts of Shimosuwa Senji's life, few as they are, follow: Born at some time between the—"

It is here, unfortunately, that the only surviving manuscript of this article ends. Authorities in identifying authorship have not yet been able with any certainty to put a name to this fragment, though even as an anonymous work, its contribution to our understanding of the state of historical studies at the time it was written is considerable. That it was indeed a work of serious scholarship can be inferred from the two surviving editorial notes, indicating that the original work had been considered important enough to merit serious study and republication. The further possibility has been entertained by some researchers that our only surviving manuscript of the fragment was in fact hand-copied from an earlier source, now lost, though the identity of the conjectured copyist remains unresolved.

~~~Dear Kim,

Thought you might be interested in this. I tore it out of an old magazine, though I can't remember where.

XO Louise

This note scrawled at page bottom has me basically stumped. My stepmother's name was Carole. Who were Kim and Louise? How did this make its way into my stepmother's chest of drawers?

Well, I don't suppose it really matters...