by Tom Stoppard
Arcadia Literature and Writing Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Act.Scene)
Bernard: There is a platonic letter which confirms everything – lost but ineradicable, like radio voices rippling through the universe for all eternity. "My dear Hodge – here I am in Albania and you're the only person in the whole world who knows why. Poor C! I never wished him any harm – except in the Piccadilly, of course – it was the woman who bade me eat, dear Hodge! -- what a tragic business, but thank God it ended well for poetry. Yours ever, B. -- PS. Burn this." (2.5)
While Bernard is right on one level – the play does show us a lost, burned letter by Byron – his made-up letter suggests that history-making can be as much an act of imagination as of fact-finding.
Septimus: I cannot be called to account for what was written in private and read without regard to propriety. (2.6)
Is any writing private in this play? It does seem that anything written down can at least potentially be passed down through history. Letters and other documents can be read by people its writer never imagined – and given meanings the writer never intended.
Septimus: Now there's a thing – a letter from Lord Byron never to be read by a living soul. (2.6)
Plot-wise, Septimus burns this letter out of respect for Lady Croom, but it seems there's something deeper going on here, especially in light of Bernard's crack about the lost, burned letter of Byron. The unread letter could symbolize the necessary incompleteness of the written historical record – there could always be something disproving our theories that we don't know about. This raises the question, how can we form theories responsibly, knowing that we've always got blind spots?