March 18th 1899
Baffling Strathearn quotations!Victorian letter writers were for the most part discursive, theologically well informed and hard hitting. Though local problems and grievances naturally concerned most of the writers, the decline in moral standards, particularly of the lower orders, was also a perennial favourite. “The farmers still drive to church but the up-to-date farm servant journeys to town on his bicycle on Sundays and his first calling place is invariably in some hotel where the ‘spirits’ he absorbs are not of a divine order…” On March 18th in the Strathearn Herald, there appeared a letter, clear enough in many ways, but of baffling theological obscurity. It appeared under the headline ‘A little Sermon.’
Verse 2 of the quotation reads ‘What mean ye that ye use the proverb concerning the land of Israel saying the fathers have eaten sour grapes and the children’s teeth are set on edge.’ This of course explains the passage within the letter regarding the sour grapes and the children’s teeth, but the reasoning towards the end of the letter is difficult to comprehend.
The Editor merely makes a passing reference to “the somewhat peculiar views of our correspondent” and quickly heads for firmer and less controversial ground. “We have reason to believe that more than Academy boys go to the Knock on Sunday and do even worse things as we learn that numbers of young trees there have been damaged and other depredations done. Why the police do not look after such we cannot understand.” (That has a somewhat modern ring to it.)
Unfortunately the letter did not spark off any further correspondence and no one attempted to explain why the children of “degraded parents” should be so pure in spirit not to mention sometimes in body too.