“Retirement”

Wills Hall Gardens

It is often joked about when I return home, “Are you going to get a proper job before you retire, kid?” Strangely enough, this does not come from my parents, but their ‘witty’ friends. “Yep. I’m making sure that I don’t end up doing what you do”. <Chortles all round>. The question is funny, even if it does sting a little. Perhaps the subject has its moments too.

This notion of ‘retirement’ is curious. Of course, it features heavily in my research capacity. Marvell, by his own admission, favoured ‘modest retirement’. There are entire realms of conscience and casuistry to be explored when examining someone’s choice of the passive, private life over the active, public life.

It has somehow grown to mean more than that, though. ‘Retirement’ is no longer a clean split. It is an ending of some description, perhaps a celebrated one, but not necessarily a definitive one. Most students will be familiar with ‘Emeritus’ Professors, who, having eventually retired, retain their affiliation and research capacity. As such, retirement is a discharge of duties, but not a definitive vale/valete.

But it is more visible in occupations where careers are considerably shorter. Two highly celebrated players in women’s tennis, Justine Henin and Kim Clijsters, have both ‘retired’ once before, only to announce their return to the game within two years. Plenty of press, sporting obituaries and so forth later, both were able to return and perform at the top level. Was ‘retirement’ ever really ‘retirement’ here? Hardly likely. Henin has now had to retire for a second time owing to injury. Unfortunate, yes, but thankfully it passed without any great bombastic prelude.

What about writing? A retired writer might sound like a paradox. But there is still the idea of putting a writing portal to rest. A respected blogger in early modern studies stated his ‘farewell’ in November last year.

I should like to thank everyone who has visited this blog over the last three years and, especially, those who have become its followers. I do appreciate your generosity very much indeed. I am only sorry that I could not have constructed a more appealing blog. But the time has come for me to move on and to do something else. There will, therefore, be no new posts here and, in January, the blog will disappear. I wish everyone well for 2011.

Half-a-dozen or so comments, several nameless, invited him to reconsider. The foretold retirement lasted one week. With the post still intact, the blog is now pretty much at full velocity again (3-4 posts per day). It’s a fabulously informative blog, but how much appeal is likely to be garnered from pictures of historical figures and/or random academics?

I have done something similar. In April 2006, I stated the intention to end an old journal, and have since, albeit scarcely, continued to post there (29 public posts in almost five years since). But it has never been the same. It is a miscellany of the past.

It’s not for me to speculate, but if you need acclaim from a readership, you might as well just ask for it. Endings… Valedictions… ‘Retirement’ – as is becoming apparent in this all too public world – are becoming all too much like attention seeking.

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