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Web Letter

One word lacking from Daniel Brook's review is "Lamarckian," as in "the inheritance of acquired characteristics." Although that wasn't the only idea Lamarck contributed to the debate about natural selection/evolution, it's the one we all associate with him, because it was wrong.

"Patience, delayed gratification, the ability to work hard, ingenuity, innovativeness, and education": these are all acquired during one's lifetime and are not transmissible to one's offspring. Clark's thesis sounds ludicrous.

Carol V. Hamilton

Pittsburgh, PA

Nov 21 2007 - 7:47am

Web Letter

Did this chap ever read the works of Thomas Hardy? I am thinking ofTess of the d'Ubervilles, "Justice was done, and the President ofthe Immortals, in Æschylean phrase, had ended his sport withTess." Indeed, Wessex, en masse, seems to have escaped the "Joy throughWork" ethos adumbrated here.

John Clarke

Baltimore, MD

Nov 19 2007 - 1:03pm

Web Letter

It's traditional for genetically dead-end aunts and uncles to tease their nieces and nephews; the teasing from the dead-enders builds character and strengthens society. I bet Mr. Brook can do blackface too.

W.D. Wagner

St. Francisville, LA

Nov 16 2007 - 12:22pm

Web Letter

I loved this article. I laughed at the statement that "Clark does not even attempt to address the paradox of Spain, which, though it never developed a Protestant work ethic--workers there have national nap time every afternoon--remains wealthier than every one of its former colonies." I easily agree with the author that Spain lacks the work ethic of Anglo-Saxon countries ; I am not that sure, however, if real hard working is more difficult to be found over here. But what is just incorrect is to say that workers here have national nap time every afternoon.

Some workers here (sure, more here than in Anglo-Saxon countries) go home for lunch, a custom that has to do with strong family ties (sure, stronger here than in Anglo-Saxon countries). But only people who do not need to work, such as the very affluent or retired, can afford an afternoon nap. Most workers, both blue-collar and white-collar, cannot afford to go home for lunch. Note that most of them work in big cities (Madrid, Barcelona...) and spend a long time commuting. And, believe me, we do not have "nap-rooms" at work!

Julio Perez

Oviedo, Asturias, Spain

Nov 16 2007 - 9:31am

Web Letter

How good of American academics to write about little old England! However, please can they be accurate? The article states: "Clark's argument hinges on extensive archival research on the wills of medieval Englishmen. Over the course of twenty years of research in dusty archives, Clark compiled data from more than 2,000 wills. He chose a time period (1585-1638)..." A good time to choose, but this is not "medieval." The medieval period is normally said to have ended about 1500, though some historians date it at 1492 because of a voyage of a certain fellow from Genoa to some obscure part of the globe.

The article also refers to the Catholic ban in England on reading the Bible. No source is given for this because there is none. It is a myth. However, over here in little old England quite a difference was made by the invention of printing, which a chap called Caxton introduced into England. It's quite taken on now and a lot of us read rather more the Bible, among other things.

Eric Hester

Bolton, England

Nov 16 2007 - 4:23am

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