Arthur Platt, 1860-1925

In The Ethnography of Rhythm (p. 42) I briefly mentioned one Arthur Platt who responded with incredulity to one of Antoine Meillet’s best ideas, that the Homeric epics were composed out of stock elements passed down in professional lineages. “Things are said about the epic on p. 61 which make one stare,” was his brief verdict. I had a vague impression that I knew something, or should have, about Arthur Platt, but didn’t follow up at the time. I now make amends. The great A. E. Housman writes in his memorial piece that Platt

was a Fellow of the Zoological Society, frequented its Gardens, and inspired a romantic passion in their resident population. There was a leopard which at Platt’s approach would almost ooze through the bars of its cage to establish contact with the beloved object; the gnu, if it saw him on the opposite side of its broad enclosure, would walk all the way across to have its forelock pulled; and a credible witness reports the following scene. “I remember going to the giraffe-house and seeing a crowd of children watching a man who had removed his hat while the giraffe, its neck stretched to the fullest capacity, was rubbing its head backwards and forwards upon the bald crown. When the object of this somewhat embarrassing affection turned his head, Platt’s features were revealed.” (Housman, Selected Prose [Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1961], pp. 156-57)

Si monumentum requiris…