Rebirth of Reason

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Sunday, July 29, 2018 - 3:08pmSanction this postReply

From Annals of the Parrish by John Galt:


“But a thing happened in this year [1761], which deserves to be recorded, as manifesting what effect the smuggling was beginning to take in the morals of the country side.  One Mr. Macskipnish, of Highland parentage, who had been a valet-de-chambre with a major in the campaigns, and taken a prisoner with him by the French, he having come home in a cartel, took up a dancing-school at Irville, the which art he had learnt in the genteelest fashion, in the mode of Paris, at the French court.  Such a thing as a dancing-school had never, in the memory of man, been known in our country side; and there was such a sound about the steps and cottillions of Mr. Macskipnish, that every lad and lass, that could spare time and siller, went to him, to the great neglect of their work.  The very bairns on the loan, instead of their wonted play, gaed linking and louping in the steps of Mr. Macskipnish, who was, to be sure, a great curiosity, with long spindle legs, his breast shot out like a duck’s, and his head powdered and frizzled up like a tappit-hen.  He was, indeed, the proudest peacock that could be seen, and he had a ring on his finger, and when he came to drink his tea at the Breadland, he brought no hat on his head, but a droll cockit thing under his arm, which, he said, was after the manner of the courtiers at the petty suppers of one Madam Pompadour, who was at that time the concubine of the French king.


“I do not recollect any other remarkable thing that happened in this year.  The harvest was very abundant, and the meal so cheap, that it caused a great defect in my stipend; so that I was obligated to postpone the purchase of a mahogany scrutoire for my study, as I had intended.  But I had not the heart to complain of this: on the contrary, I rejoiced thereat; for what made me want my scrutoire till another year, had carried blitheness into the hearth of the cottar, and made the widow’s heart sing with joy; and I would have been an unnatural creature, had I not joined in the universal gladness, because plenty did abound.”


Fortunately, his English had come along with the times by the time I read his words in Atlas Shrugged. But, to be serious, this real person with the name John Galt a couple of centuries ago had quite a life, as compiled in the Wikipedia link.

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Monday, July 30, 2018 - 2:27amSanction this postReply

I wondered if Ayn Rand's picking the name John Galt had any connection to that real life John Galt. Shoshana Milgram said any connection to the character is "highly unlikely" (link).

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Monday, July 30, 2018 - 6:25amSanction this postReply


Thanks for the additional link. It does seem unlikely Rand would have heard of the Scottish novelist. At least not until after she had her name Galt, and then perhaps looked up that name in the encylopedia or in the library card index out of curiosity or for assurance that no contemptible person had that name. The name Galt certainly did pass the sound test for that fictional character's name. Many of her characters' names have sonic and associative connections fitting the character. My own most common association with her name Galt is granite. Others associate with gilt. Then too there is the German word Geld


Rand's earlier draft of the first name for Galt as Iles is peculiar to me because of it being the plural of the French for island. But then, choosing the French singular Ile, likely to be read in English-language context with a long I, would result in some silliness: Ile Galt. There is an American surname Iles, but anyway this line for first-name choice is all too stumbling. The name John fits the common-man or any-man aspect of her character from Ohio, it has the virtue of simplicity, and in general I think people have a positive, warm feel about the name John.


The notice by Mr. Raimondo of the 1922 fiction by Garet Garrett is significant. Not only by his fictional character Henry Galt, but because of Garett's views and non-fiction writings not unknown among the old libertarians during the time Rand was writing Atlas. I first heard of Garrett by Rothbard quoting some non-fiction of Garrett. That writing was really good stuff. I'd not heard of (or remembered) Garrett's fiction writing until now.

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Monday, July 30, 2018 - 7:38amSanction this postReply

We can easily read too much into shared name. At most she would have seen it in The Driver and found it to her liking - short, consonant-forward, from the British isles. Even that is speculation, and anything further is out-of-bounds speculation.


Just the same, we can be confident that she read The Driver. At one point in the story Galt secretly builds, furnishes and stocks a house and presents it, ready to live in, as a surprise to his family. This shows up in Think Twice. Galt's daughter is an embittered rich girl who buys a statue and destroys it, just for the pleasure of not having to share it, as Dominique Francon later did.


(Edited by Peter Reidy on 7/30, 10:49am)

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