Tuesday, November 29, 2022

"Had nothing to say and said it": John Cage and the Circumlocution Office in Charles Dickens's "Little Dorrit"

John Cage wrote his "Lecture on Nothing" in 1949 and published it in "Silences: Lectures and Writings" in 1961. I have long known one passage from it: "I have nothing to say / and I am saying it / and that is poetry / as I need it." I was surprised to find an anachronistic "reference" to Cage in Charles Dickens's "Little Dorrit" (1857) when the "Circumlocution Office", with its principle of "How not to do it", is first described in the chapter "Containing the Whole Science of Government", in one of the Office's reactions to being challenged in Parliament: "[...] the Circumlocution Office had nothing to say and said it." (Andrew Shields, #111words, 29 November 2022)

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