Denton J. Snider


I am pretty safe in assuming that this name is not familiar to you, although it should be.

Denton J. Snider (1841-1925)

Denton J. Snider (1841-1925)

For me, it’s one of the great things about the internet that old books and authors can be given new life, and that’s what happened with Snider (1841-1925).  Apparently pretty well-known in his day, he had fallen into obscurity, but recently turned up on my Kindle as the author of a number of books on the Homeric epics, Shakespeare–even Emerson.  Sounds like my kind of guy.  Although I must say that as of this moment I’ve read only his Commentary on the Odyssey and that long stretches of it did make my eyes glaze over.  However, I think he does have a good sense of it as an allegory, and in fact has interpreted the passage in which Menelaus describes to Telemachus his encounter with Eidothea (Image Goddess) and Proteus (Before God) while in Egypt in a way that had not occurred to me.  Here is an excerpt:

The etymology of the names of these two deities indicates their meaning and relation. The grand dualism of the world is clearly suggested: Appearance and Substance, the Transitory and the Eternal, that which seems and that which is. Menelaus had gone astray, he had neglected the Gods, he had followed Appearance, Delusion, Negation; the result could only be death. But even Appearance points to something beyond itself, something true and eternal. So Eidothea suggests Proteus, who is her parent; that is, she is the manifestation of his being. She is the many, he is the one underneath and in the many; she is change, he is the permanent in all change. He may well be designated as her father, whose transformations she knows and declares. These transformations are called his tricks or stratagems, the shapes he puts on in the world of Appearance; they are indeed Eidothea herself along with her voice telling what is higher than herself.

When this one first principle is clearly revealed, then all is revealed; the future becomes transparent, and the distant becomes near. But you must hold fast to the one true Proteus; he will turn to fire–hold fast; he will become running water–hold fast; he will change to tree, beast, reptile–hold fast. Then he will show himself in his right shape, and will speak the fact. Hold fast; the One is under all, and is a God, who will lift the veil of Space and Time from the visage of Truth. But unquestionably the man in his desperate struggle must never forget the injunction. Hold fast to old Proteus.

In other words, don’t let appearances deceive you–hold onto what doesn’t change and you will find the truth.


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