Dear Margaret,

It’s not that I think anatomy and medicine are wrong. There must be something to the former or painters wouldn’t bother with it. For all I know, the current conclusions of natural science are true, but I choose to believe that the body functions as it does by magic. The intestines defy reason, never mind the brain (what’s called neuroscience is a pagan superstition – men worshiping machines and flashing lights). I’m not so sure that what we are is the same sort of creature as earlier men. Can you imagine an autopsy of Achilles?

Sometimes I imagine all of intellectual history is a struggle against Leucippus (ἔσχατ᾽ ἐσχάτων κακά) – and that it is my duty to stand against them, whatever the cost. (Aristotle turns out to be an ally in this struggle, however much it pains me to say it. There are a lot of unlikely allies.) The Marxist uxoricide Louis Althusser writes about a ‘hidden history of materialism’ as if the followers of Leucippus were a persecuted few, rather than continual victors. What Althusser means is that their victories are never total. The few opponents of materialism carry on through the centuries, despite every defeat and failure. If ever we are to prevail, we will look back in wonder at how people still believed in things like atoms more than two millennia after the death of Democritus.

Which brings me to the political question in your letter. What about a king? I have nothing to say. Suppose you’re right? Where would we find a suitable monarch? And for what country? They still have a king in Thailand, I think, and Leucippus holds sway there just as well as he does in Maryland or Kent. The sort of thing you’re talking about cannot be achieved by man.

Be patient and write to Helen. She’s written a long poem that touches on all of this. You used to write poems once. I’d say the time is right to begin again.

vale basilice,