Commonplace 2010


The Whig View of History Alive

“I believe that progress is inevitable, and the Taliban are doomed because they are on the wrong side of history.” (Sgt. First Class Jeff Courter, quoted in NYT, January 4)

“This is a good man who has always been on the right side of history.”                                                                    (President Obama of Harry Reid, in an ABC television interview on January 11)


“Mr Sevcenko once wrote that historians fell into two categories: ‘the brightly colored butterfly flitting about over a flower bed’ and ‘the crawling caterpillar whose worm’s-eye view covers the expanse of a single cabbage-leaf’.”                                                                                                                              (from the obituary of Ihor Sevcenko, Byzantine historian, in NYT, January 5)


“We are trying to make that driving experience one that is very engaging. We also want to make sure it is safer and safer. It is part of our DNA and will be going forward.”                                                                                                                                                          (Jim Buczkowski, director of global electrical and electronics systems engineering at Ford, quoted in NYT, January 7)


“Serialism is long dead. It was killed by the same people who wrote it.”                                                                                                                              (Pierre Boulez, quoted in NYT, January 10)


“First, a simple rule of investing that has always served me well: Never short a country with $2 trillion in foreign currency reserves.”                  (Thomas L. Friedman in NYT, January 13)


Neelie Knows Best

“If markets are not delivering as they should, then I want to understand the problems, and find solutions.”                                                  (Neelie Kroes, then Europe’s competition commissioner, in a  speech in June 2008 in Brussels to Open Forum Europe, quoted in NYT, January 14)


“This place, Kosovo, is our Jerusalem; you just can’t treat it any other way than our Jerusalem.”                                        (Vuk Jeremic, Serbia’s foreign minister, quoted in NYT, January 16)


“If you are getting attacked by [Paul] Krugman, you must be doing something right.”                                                                                                        (Eugene Fama, ‘veteran finance specialist’ at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business, quoted in New Yorker, January 11)


“The father of Surrealism was dada; its mother was an arcade.”                                           (Walter Benjamin, according to Lynn Yaeger in Atlantic Monthly, January/February 2010)


“The Senate is full of ‘rotten boroughs’. We’d be better off with a House of Lords.”                                                                                                                                 (James Galbraith, of the University of Texas, quoted by James Fallows in Atlantic Monthly, January/February 2010)


“… companies are creations of the state that exist to make money. They are given special privileges, including different tax rates, to do just that.”    (from NYT editorial, January 22)


“An idealistic approach works best with the privileged of America. It would be almost impossible to recruit the working class … but easy to win recruits among the intellectual and middle class. Communism appeals to the elite. What can it offer? Great ideas. The freedom of all time. Marxism. A different economic system. Thoughts. New medical experiments. The world … the world.”                                                                                                                     (Hede Massing, ex-Communist agent, quoted in William Stevenson’s Intrepid’s Last Case, Chapter 23)


“The Germans have a good intelligence corps. But look what a narrow base they have: Germans. In England – Germans. In America – Germans. Even in Japan – Germans! Suppose there was war tomorrow, all these Germans would be in a concentration camp the first day and the whole of German intelligence would fly apart in soap bubbles… Anybody can be a Soviet agent, as you have already learned: English. Italians, Eskimos and even millionaires.”                                                                                                                                       (Soviet RIS instructor in Igor Gouzenko’s The Fall of a Titan, quoted in Bill Stevenson’s Intrepid’s Last Case, Chapter 29)


“They’re very good at duchessing you, the British Establishment. You’re duchessed when you get bowled over by invitations to take tea with a duchess – or a duke, baron, bishop or king. You’ve entered the magic circle, and after that you’re frightened to say something that shows you don’t belong inside the circle.”                                                                                                                                         (Dick Ellis, quoted in Bill Stevenson’s Intrepid’s Last Case, Chapter 30)


“According to Mr. Granger [Jean Simmons’s husband], Ms. Simmons called Audrey Hepburn after she saw her in “Roman Holiday” — in a role Ms. Simmons might have had — to say, “I wanted to hate you, but I have to tell you I wouldn’t have been half as good.”                                                                                                     (from Jean Simmons’s NYT obituary, January 24)


On another illicit journey some months later he [Broz-Tito] traveled by way of Denmark, using, this time, a Canadian passport. In Copenhagen, a policeman, noticing this, spoke to him in English. He managed a few halting words of broken English in reply. But the Dane was not taken in. Fortunately for Broz he happened to be an easy-going fellow of left-wing sympathies. ‘Next time you travel on a false passport, Comrade,’ he said with a wink, ‘choose a country whose language you speak.’”                                    (from Fitzroy Maclean’s The Heretic, Chapter 3)


“No one was more anxious than he [Archbishop Stepinac] to see the Orthodox population of Croatia converted to Catholicism and the last traces of ‘Byzantium’ removed from Croat soil. ‘the Schismatics’, he had written some months earlier, ‘are the curse of Europe – almost worse than the Protestants’. But the means by which the new regime was seeking to achieve these ends could scarcely command his approval.

The Ustaše’s favorite method of religious unification was, as we have seen, the wholesale massacre of the Orthodox population. But, in their more merciful moments, they would sometimes offer their victims immediate conversion to Catholicism as an alternative to annihilation.”                                                            (from Fitzroy Maclean’s The Heretic, Chapter 6)


“Stalin once told him [Broz-Tito] that his battle with the Russian peasants over collectivization in the early thirties had been a more perilous undertaking even than the battle for Stalingrad.”                                                                          (from Fitzroy Maclean’s The Heretic, Chapter 10)


“Vodka and sweet Soviet champagne flowed freely. Some selected members of the Soviet State Ballet had been flown in from Moscow. The atmosphere was pleasantly relaxed. ‘A ballerina’, said Tito to Bulganin, as they sat watching the dancing, ‘is a more agreeable sight than a negotiator’. ‘Yes’, said Bulganin jovially, ‘Khruschev never had legs like that.’”                                                                                                     (from Fitzroy Maclean’s The Heretic, Chapter 10)




“Compassion and love — we agree with all that stuff, too,” said Brandon Beals, 37, the lead pastor at Canyon Creek Church outside of Seattle. “But what led me to find Christ was that Jesus was a fighter.”                                                                                                                  (from report on the phenomenon of martial arts in evangelical churches in NYT, February 2)


“On a superficial level, Mr. Hoagland’s poems – he writes in an alert, caffeinated, lightly accented free verse – resemble those of many writers in what one is tempted to call the Amiable School of American Poets, a group for which Billy Collins serves as both prom king and starting point guard.”                                                                   (Dwight Garner in NYT, February 5)


“I’m English, and we don’t do ‘uplifting’” (Historian Tony Judt, suffering from A.L.S., to his friends who advised him to talk about his disease at a lecture hall, quoted in NYT, February 8)


“Imperfect improvements upon unsatisfactory circumstances are the best we can hope for, and probably all we should seek.”                           (Tony Judt, quoted in NYT, February 8)


“I see this idea of just killing civilians and targeting civilians as being unethical, through the most unethical act in World War II would have been allowing themselves to lose.”                                                                                                          (military historian Conrad Crane, commenting on the morality of Allied bombing, in American Experience TV series on PBS)


“One way to locate an unsafe investment is to find out whether Mark Twain has been permitted to get in on the ground floor.”                                     (The Washington Post, according to Janet Maslin’s review of Mark Twain: Man In White, by Michael Shelden, in NYT, February 11)

“He wrote little fiction after becoming a teacher, a major exception being ‘On Venus, Have We Got a Rabbi,’ published in 1974 in a Jewish-themed anthology called ‘Wandering Stars,’ which tackles the question of whether a Hebrew-speaking alien that looks like a ‘wrinkled and twisted’ brown pillow with short gray tentacles can be considered a Jew. “                                                                                                                 (from NYT obituary of William Tenn, February 14)

“As the critic John Leonard wrote, ‘Not to read Dick Francis because you don’t like horses is like not reading Dostoevsky because you don’t like God.’”                                                                                                                                        (from Dick Francis’s NYT obituary, February 15)

“Dagestanis can tell ethnic jokes for hours, returning to beloved themes like the muscle-bound denseness of the Avars, the naked commercialism of the Dargins, the bookish pusillanimity of the Lezgins, the slyness of Lakhs and so on. And that’s not counting jokes about especially dumb villages.”                                                                                                         (NYT, February 17)

“So you’re the honky who stole my song and got a hit out of it?” (Nina Simone to Eric Burdon of the Animals, on her song Please Don’t Let me be Misunderstood, reported in NYT, February 19)

“Global warming is bad, but it doesn’t make us feel nauseated or angry or disgraced, and thus we don’t feel compelled to rail against it as we do against other momentous threats to our species, such as flag burning. Moral emotions are the brain’s call to action. If climate change were caused by gay sex, or by the practice of eating kittens, millions of protesters would be massing in the streets.”         (psychologist Daniel Gilbert in a 2006 op-ed article in the Los Angeles Times)

“She herself had all the qualities of greatness except greatness.”                                                                                                      (A. N. Wilson on Iris Murdoch, in the Spectator, February 13)

“It’s very important not to have a rigid distinction between what is flippant and what is serious.” (Harold Macmillan to his biographer Alistair Horne, in Harold Macmillan, Volume 1, Preface)

‘With one daughter already married to a brewer, Cobbold, the Duke [of Devonshire] is said to have remarked gruffly: ‘Well, books is better than beer’.” (on Harold Macmillan’s engagement to Lady Dorothy Cavendish, from Alistair Horne’s Harold Macmillan, Volume 1, Chapter 3)

“He [Macmillan] would often site Wellington’s simple wisdom in declining to inflame Spanish-American revolutionaries against Napoleon: ‘I always had a horror of revolutionizing any country for a political object. I always said, if they rise of themselves, well and good, but do not stir them up; it is a fearful responsibility.’” (from Alistair Horne’s Harold Macmillan, Volume 1, Chapter 9, quoting Philip Henry Stanhope’s Notes of a Conversation with Wellington, pp 68-69)

“’Thinking this [that Richard Nixon, Vice-President, might attend a Paris NATO meeting in place of the President], I told him [John Foster Dulles] of the famous music-hall joke. “Poor Mrs Jones, what a terrible things has happened to her!” “What happened to her?”…. “Why. She had two fine sons. One of them went down in the Titanic. The other became Vice-President of the United States. Neither of them was ever heard from again…”’ The stern and unbending Dulles did not immediately respond to Macmillan’s peculiar sense of humour.”                                                                                                (from Alistair Horne’s Harold Macmillan, Volume 1, Chapter 14)

“Khruschev is a kind of mixture between Peter the Great and Lord Beaverbrook.”                         (Harold Macmillan, quoted in Alistair Horne’s Harold Macmillan, Volume 2, Chapter 5)

“Considering that when I was a lad I swam bare-arsed in the Makabusi with the piccanins, I think I know something about Africans.”                                                                      (Sir Roy Welensky, on British television, quoted in Alistair Horne’s Harold Macmillan, Volume 2, Chapter 7)


Autres temps….

“How pleased my mother would have been. She regarded a Senator of the United States as almost the highest degree of dignity and felicity to which mortals could aspire.”                      (Harold Macmillan, quoted in Alistair Horne’s Harold Macmillan, Volume 2, Chapter 8)

“Max Beerbohm once said that history does not repeat itself; it is the historians who repeat one another.”                                     (Harold Macmillan, quoted in Alistair Horne’s Harold Macmillan, Volume 2, Chapter 9. It is from Beerbohm’s 1880, but Beerbohm cites it as ‘as it has been said’)

“Mountbatten was already beginning to show one of the failings of old age: ‘an inability to distinguish between what had happened and what he would have liked to have happened’.”                                                                                             (Philip Ziegler, Mountbatten’s biographer, being quoted in quoted in Alistair Horne’s Harold Macmillan, Volume 2, Chapter 17)

“In war, a bounder is a chap who goes to the Front, wins the VC, then seduces the Colonel’s wife; but a cad seduces his colonel’s wife, and never goes to the Front. Women can be cads, though curiously enough, I don’t think ever bounders..”                                                      (Harold Macmillan, quoted in Alistair Horne’s Harold Macmillan, Volume 2, Chapter 20)


“There is nothing wrong with communism. The problem here is that no one works. People think manna will fall from heaven, but manna only falls from heaven in the Bible. If people would work, then communism would be a success.”                                                                            (Meyer Chaimovich in Belarus, quoted in Anne Applebaum’s Between East and West, p 96)



“We brought the Word, and we brought Western civilization here in the fourteenth century. It is our task to do it again.”                                                                                                              (Father Andrrzej, a Pole in Belarus, quoted in Anne Applebaum’s Between East and West, p 101)


“All idealization makes life poorer. To beautify is to take away its character of complexity – it is to destroy it.”                           (Michaelis, in Joseph Conrad’s The Secret Agent, Chapter 3)


“The way of even the most justifiable revolutions is prepared by personal impulses disguised into creeds.”                                               (from Joseph Conrad’s The Secret Agent, Chapter 5)


“No man engaged in a work he does not like can preserve many saving illusions about himself. The distaste, the absence of glamour, extend from the occupation to the personality. It is only when our appointed activities seem by a lucky accident to obey the particular earnestness of our temperament that we can taste the comfort of complete self-deception.”                                                                                                           (from Joseph Conrad’s The Secret Agent, Chapter 6)


“ of those courts hidden away from the charted and navigable streets … approached by an inconspicuous archway as if by a secret path; a Dickensian nook of London, that wonder city, the growth of which bears no sign of intelligent design, but many traces of freakishly somber phantasy the Great Master knew so well to bring out by the magic of his understanding love.”                                          (Joseph Conrad in Poland Revisited; Notes on Life and Letters, p 152)

“If you want to achieve true mastery of English prose, read Gibbon and Orwell, then shoot yourself.” (advice from ‘a professor of mine’, in reader Quade Winter’s letter, NYT, February 28)

“The more successful you are in asserting yourself, the more everybody will have an interest in disowning you, even in suppressing you, because you will be cutting across the conventions of power politics. Principles are so damagingly definite, which is why they get nowhere in this compromised world of ours.”                                                                                                                                                 (Nicholas, in The Stranger’s View, by David Pryce-Jones, Chapter 9)

“Those who are governed by principles can cut but not heal, they are surgeons not doctors.”          (the anonymous story-teller in The Stranger’s View, by David Pryce-Jones, Chapter 14)



“If I did not include the anticipation of terror in my architecture, it would not be worth anything.”                                                                                   (architect Raimund Abraham, in a 2001 interview with the Austrian Cultural Forum, reported in his NYT obituary, March 6)


“The business of a university is not to equip students for professional posts, but to train them in disinterested intellectual habits, to give them a vision of what real learning is, to refine taste, to form judgement, to enlarge curiosity and to substitute for a low and material outlook on life a lofty view of its resources and demands.”                                                                   (H. A. L. Fisher, President of the Board of Education, in 1919, quoted in History Today, March 2010)


“I was out on the roof last night and I’ve got a hangover like seven Swedes.”                                                                     (Bill Chess, in Raymond Chandler’s The Lady In The Lake, Chapter 5)


“I separated another dollar from my exhibit and it went into his pocket with a sound like caterpillars fighting.”                                                                                                                                                    (Phillip Marlowe, in Raymond Chandler’s The Lady In The Lake, Chapter 13)


“The clerk snapped at Degarmo’s back like a terrier.

‘One moment, please. Whom did you wish to see?’

Degarmo spun on his heel and looked at me wonderingly. ‘Did he say “whom”?’

‘Yeah, but don’t hit him’, I said. ‘There is such a word.’

Degarmo licked his lips. ‘I knew there was,’ he said. ‘I often wondered where they kept it.’”                                                        (from Raymond Chandler’s The Lady In The Lake, Chapter 35)


“He [Vint Cerf] explained that one day everything would be connected to the Internet, including his socks, and if one should fall behind the washing machine while he was doing laundry, it would be able to notify the other sock of its whereabouts. The basis for this concept is called ‘the Internet of things.’”                                                                                  (from the NYT, March 8)



“We have no choice – we are genetically haunted by what happened to our people and our families. One point about genocide is that the witnesses never die.”                                                                      (from a letter to the NYT, March 12, on the Armenian Genocide, by James Bashian)


“I should like some socialist pundit to explain to me why it is that in England a man can be a member of the proletariat by every definition of the proletariat (that is, by nature of his employment and his poverty) and yet obviously belong to Class X, and why another can be a bulging capitalist or cabinet minister and never get nearer to Class X than being directed to the Saloon Bar is he enters the Public.” (from Geoffrey Household’s Rogue Male, p 34)


“I think I wrote in some other context which I have forgotten that the Almighty looks after rogue males.”                                                           (from Geoffrey Household’s Rogue Male, p 107)


“It’s easy to make a man confess the lies he tells to himself; it’s far harder to make him confess the truth.”                                                           (from Geoffrey Household’s Rogue Male, p 139)


“He who has learned not to intrude his emotions upon his fellows has also learned not to intrude them upon himself.”                                              (from Geoffrey Household’s Rogue Male, p 142)


“..we love the place we hate, then we hate the place we love. We leave the place we love, then spend a lifetime trying to regain it.”                  (Terence Davies, in his film Of Time And The City)


“What truly indicates excellent knowledge is the habit of constant, sudden, and almost unconscious allusion, which implies familiarity, for it can arise from that alone.”              (Walter Bagehot [where?], quoted by Benjamin Schwarz in Atlantic Monthly, April 2010)


Religious News

“If you get divorced and remarry you can’t take communion, but someone convicted of molesting children can celebrate Mass for the rest of his life.”                                                                                                                                               (Eva Wankerl, churchgoer in Bad Tölz, reported in article on Rev. Peter Hullerman, convicted of sex-abuse crimes, in NYT, March 16)

“If we can no longer believe in forgiving sins, we might as well close the whole store.”      (Father Frania, priest in charge at Bad Tölz, referring to Mr. Hullerman, quoted in NYT, March 16)

“The shopping mall has become the new cathedral in Poland.”                                 (Adam Bogoryja-Zakrzewski, who made a documentary about ‘mall girls’, quoted in NYT, March 16)


“Anyone who wishes to make an impression on me by ascribing my inclination to prejudice must first persuade me that he has made a serious attempt to distinguish between prejudice and judgment.”                      (Sir Kenneth Dover, according to Peter Jones in the Spectator, March 13)


“The world is a comedy to those that think, a tragedy to those that feel.”                                                                         (Horace Walpole, according to Martin Gayford in the Spectator, March 13)


“I’ve got the three things I wanted most – a Churchill gun, a Hardy rod, and a beautiful wife.”                                                                                                                             (Macdonald Hastings, according to his wife Anne Scott-James, quoted by Byron Rogers in the Spectator, March 13)

“Ever since Israel occupied the West Bank and its Palestinian population in 1967, Israelis have faced a dilemma: Do they want a Jewish state, a democratic state and state in all of the land of Israel (Israel plus the West Bank)? In this world, they can have only two out of three. Israel can be Jewish and democratic, but not if it keeps the West Bank, because the Palestinians there plus all the Israeli Arabs will eventually outnumber the Jews. It can be Jewish and keep the West Bank, but then it can’t be democratic; Arabs will be the majority. It can be democratic and keep the West Bank, but then it can’t be Jewish.”                    (Thomas L. Friedman, in NYT, March 16)

“Frankly, my dear, I don’t want a dam.”                   (Jeff Tittel, director of the Sierra Club’s New Jersey chapter, which does not like power from dams in Canada, quoted in NYT, March 16)

“Either capitalism dies or Planet Earth dies.”                                                                      (Bolivian president Evo Morales, quoted by Lawrence Wright in the New Yorker, March 22)

“Christianity is the best kindergarten of Communism possible.” (Ayn Rand, in her Journals, quoted by Jennifer Burns in Goddess of the Market: Ayn Rand and the American Right, p 43)

“Tyrannies come from above and below. The great middle is the class of Freedom.”                                                                                                           (Ayn Rand, in Manifesto of Individualism, quoted by Jennifer Burns in Goddess of the Market: Ayn Rand and the American Right, p 62)

“Most of the harm in the world is done by good people, and not by accident, lapse, or omission. It is the result of their deliberate actions, long persevered in, which they hold to be motivated by high ideals towards virtuous ends.”                                                                                                    (Isabel Paterson, paraphrasing William Graham Sumner perhaps, in God of the Machine, p 235, quoted by Jennifer Burns in Goddess of the Market: Ayn Rand and the American Right, p 89)


“Of all the statist violations of individual rights … the military draft is the worst. It negates man’s fundamental right, the right to life, and establishes the fundamental principle of statism – that a man’s life belongs to the state, and the state may claim it by compelling him to sacrifice it in battle. Once that principle is accepted, the rest is only a matter of time.”                                                                                               (Ayn Rand, in Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal, pp 223-224, quoted by Jennifer Burns in Goddess of the Market: Ayn Rand and the American Right, p 229)


“The worst of all crimes is the acceptance of opinions of others.” (Ayn Rand, in Journals, p 86, quoted by Jennifer Burns in Goddess of the Market: Ayn Rand and the American Right, p 285)


”The gulf between what a man is and achieves and what he thinks of his own abilities and achievements is pitilessly revealed. Daydreams of a ‘fair’ world which would treat him according to his ‘real worth’ are the refuge of all those plagued by a lack of self-knowledge.”                                                                       (Ludwig van Mises, in The Anti-Capitalist Mentality, p 15)


“Limousines with liveried chauffeurs delivered earnest ladies to the picket lines, sometimes in strikes against businesses which helped to pay for the limousines.”                                                                                                                                      (Eugene Lyons, in The Red Decade, p 186)


“The essential content of history is the struggle of the material productive forces to be freed from the social bonds by which they are fettered.”                                                                                                                                       (Ludwig van Mises, in The Anti-Capitalist Mentality, p 37)


“Liberty in a laissez-faire society is attainable only by those who have the wealth or opportunity to purchase it.”                         (Harold Laski, in article Liberty in the Encyclopaedia of the Social Sciences, IX, p 443, quoted by Ludwig van Mises, in The Anti-Capitalist Mentality, p 95)


“The intellectuals were the first to hail the ideas of Sorel; they made then popular. But the tenor of Sorel was obviously anti-intellectual. He was opposed to cool reasoning and sober deliberation. What counts for Sorel is solely the deed, viz., the act of violence for the sake of violence. Fight for a myth whatever this myth may mean, was his advice. ‘If you place yourself on the grounds of myths, you are proof against any kind of critical refutation.’”                                                                                                                                                     (Ludwig van Mises, quoting G. Sorel’s Réflexions sur la Violence, p 49, in The Anti-Capitalist Mentality, p 109)


“There exists today a sham anti-communist front. What these people who call themselves ‘anticommunist liberals’ and whom sober men more correctly call ‘anti-anticommunists’ are aiming at is communism without those inherent and necessary features of communism which are still unpalatable to Americans. They make an illusory distinction between communism and socialism and – paradoxically enough – look for a support of their recommendation of noncommunist socialism to the document which its authors call The Communist Manifesto.”                                                         (Ludwig van Mises, in The Anti-Capitalist Mentality, p 110)


“One of history’s most useful tasks is to bring home to us how keenly, honestly and painfully, past generations pursued aims that now seem to us wrong or disgraceful.”                                                                                                                             (Professor John Carey, quoted by Margaret MacMillan in The Uses and Abuses of History, extracted in Oxford Today, Hilary 2010)


“If I may paraphrase Lamarck, he said that if Nature could think of a way in which environmental experience could be passed in to benefit the next generation, She would use it. It turns out that Lamarck was right, at least conceptually.”                                                                                                                                                             (Professor George Ebers of the Wellcome Trust for Human Genetics, on epigenetic markers, quoted in Oxford Today, Hilary 2010)


“This is an Egyptian monument; if you do not restore a part of your history you lose everything,” said Zahi Hawass, the general secretary of the Supreme Council of Antiquities [in Cairo], which approved and oversaw the project [to restore the synagogue and office of Maimonides]. “I love the Jews, they are our cousins! But the Israelis, what they are doing against the Palestinians is insane. I will do anything to restore and preserve the synagogue, but celebration, I cannot accept.”                                                                                             (from the NYT, March 22)

Vatican Logic

“The Vatican has rejected such a link. Senior church officials have said that if celibacy was the cause of these scandals [sexual abuse by priests], then there would not be problems of child sex abuse outside the priesthood.”                                                 (from NYT report, March 23)


“When an interest group asks for special legislation in the name of competition, competition is usually what it is trying to prevent.”                               (Michael Kinsley in the New Republic, ca. 1980, quoted by John Rodden in Scenes From an Afterlife: The Legacy of George Orwell, p 26)


“Idealism is the utopiate of the apparatchik.”                                                                                                            (John Rodden in Scenes From an Afterlife: The Legacy of George Orwell, p 62)


“To expect the unfree state to educate its people would be equivalent to expecting it to commit suicide.”                                                                         (Wilhelm Liebknecht in 1872 speech, quoted by John Rodden in Scenes From an Afterlife: The Legacy of George Orwell, p 100)


“A spectre is haunting Europe, the spectre of humanistic socialism, the spectre of the third way.”                                                                                                  (Robert Havemann, GDR academic, quoted by John Rodden in Scenes From an Afterlife: The Legacy of George Orwell, p 120)


Department of Spartism and ‘We Are All Guilty’

“And given his aversion to cant and his reluctance to march in parade, Orwell might have made an unexpected remark or two on the subject of Sept. 11, 2001. He might, in particular, have wondered aloud why the heinous terrorist murder of 3,00 Americans was a turning point in history, while the death of several times that number of non-Americans every day from the effects of malnutrition, inadequate sanitation, lack of medical care and other poverty-related conditions – a state of affairs that the amount earmarked for the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans by the Bush administration’s tax cuts would go a long way toward remedying – is simply … history.”                              (George Scialabba, in  Washington Post, 20 October, 2002, quoted by John Rodden in Scenes From an Afterlife: The Legacy of George Orwell, p 237)

“During a frustrating argument with a Roman Catholic cardinal, Napoleon Bonaparte supposedly burst out: ‘Your eminence, are you not aware that I have the power to destroy the Catholic Church?’ The cardinal, the anecdote goes, responded ruefully: ‘Your majesty, we, the Catholic clergy, have done our best to destroy the church for the last 1,800 years. We have not succeeded, and neither will you.’”                                                            (Ross Douthat, in NYT, March 29)


“’In Michigan, I don’t think it’s that big of a deal to be in a militia,’ said Tom McDormett, a neighbor of members of the Hutaree militia.”                            (from NYT, March 30)


“Q. Where do the English cricket team stay when they tour South Africa? A. With their parents.”                                    (‘joke doing the rounds in Capetown’, from letter in the Spectator, March 20)


“I had never attended a service of the Church of England and was astonished when first I entered the College chapel. I soon cried off attendance as an atheist. The dean said to me: ‘Do come and talk to me about your doubts.’ I answered: ‘I have none.’”                                        (A. J. P. Taylor, in Accident Prone, or What Happened Next, from Politicians, Socialism and Historians)


And with a PC, chapters?

“With a pen you write words. With a typewriter you write sentences. With an electric typewriter, which I use now, you write paragraphs.”                                                                        (A. J. P. Taylor, in Accident Prone, or What Happened Next, from Politicians, Socialism and Historians)


“Inside every historian there lies a concealed biographer struggling to get out.”                           (A. J. P. Taylor, in The Historian as a Biographer, from Politicians, Socialism and Historians)

“Historians, it seems, do not make good biographers.”                                                                      (A. J. P. Taylor, in Sly, Sir: Devilish sly! from Politicians, Socialism and Historians)


“Little successes are magnified and failures passed over unless of course they are blown up into monstrous grievances. Memory becomes selective. Often you remember what you ought to have done rather than what you did. In retrospect everything can be explained, usually to your own credit.”          (A. J. P. Taylor on writing autobiography in The Historian as a Biographer, from Politicians, Socialism and Historians: compare Alistair Horne on Lord Mountbatten)


“Perhaps all history ought to have been the history of class struggles, but things did not work out that way.”                                                                                                                   (A. J. P. Taylor, in Accident Prone, or What Happened Next, from Politicians, Socialism and Historians)

“Where would historians be without the concept of class struggles and class characteristics?”  (A. J. P. Taylor, in The Historian as a Biographer, from Politicians, Socialism and Historians)


“The meddling of values in world history is as if in the sea of time one wave wanted to shout insults against all the other waves.” (Jacob Burckhardt in Judgements on History and Historians, quoted by A. J. P. Taylor in Acton Eclipsed from Politicians, Socialism and Historians)


“Civilisation, of course, has its ups and downs, but the present talk  about its decline means only that university professors used to have domestic servants and now have to do their own washing-up.”                  (A. J. P. Taylor in Acton Eclipsed from Politicians, Socialism and Historians)


“ wiser and more learned than I have discerned in history a plot, a rhythm, a predetermined pattern. These harmonies are concealed from me. I can see only one emergency following upon another as wave follows wave.”             (H. A. L. Fisher in preface to his A History of Europe, quoted by A. J. P. Taylor in Fisher’s Europe, from Politicians, Socialism and Historians)


“Those who can, do. Those who can’t, pontificate.”                                                                          (A. J. P. Taylor, in Moving with the Times, from Politicians, Socialism and Historians)


“When you find a political community in which all the leaders are corrupt, you may guess that it is on the way to Fascism. Indeed, Fascists in power (or out of it) plunder on such a gigantic scale that one is tempted to believe that they are rational after all – cheats and swindlers, not psychopaths. But this is wrong. Fascism is the irrational made vocal, and therefore any attempt to reduce it to rational terms defeats itself.”                                                                                                                                 (A. J. P. Taylor in Fascism, from Politicians, Socialism and Historians)


“Bevin had many great qualities. He had one great defect: nobody called him Uncle.”                                                                                                                                           (A. J. P. Taylor in Nobody’s Uncle: The Tiger Who Walked Alone, from Politicians, Socialism and Historians)


“As Dame Margaret [Cole] remarks in regard to his [G. D. H. Cole’s] children: ‘He accepted them as they came and was a kind father to them, but I doubt whether he would have felt any deprivation if he had had none.’”                                                                                     (A. J. P. Taylor in Bolshevik Soul in a Fabian Muddle, from Politicians, Socialism and Historians)


“No one who believes in .liberty can ever work sincerely with Communists or trust them; yet no one who has Socialism in his bones can ever condemn Communism without reserve.”              (A. J. P. Taylor in Intellectual in Politics [on Laski], from Politicians, Socialism and Historians)


“Reading is a substitute for action, not a prelude to it, and the members of the Left Book Club worked off their rebelliousness by plodding through yet another orange-covered volume.”                (A. J. P. Taylor in Confusion on the Left, from Politicians, Socialism and Historians)


“If the Russians won they would replace Germany as the dominant power in Eastern Europe. This was the actual outcome. Only those who believe, as I do, that Soviet overlordship, with all its faults, has been infinitely preferable [my italics] to Nazi domination were entitled to advocate the Soviet alliance, and one can understand why British Conservatives of the 1930s hesitated.” (A. J. P. Taylor, in War in our Time, from Politicians, Socialism and Historians)

“Yet throughout the period, and indeed to the present day, there has been no expansion of Soviet Communism and no territorial expansion of Russian Imperialism.[!!]”                                                                                                              (A. J. P. Taylor, in Christ Stopped at Potsdam, commenting on George Kennan’s claims, in 1978, from Politicians, Socialism and Historians)


“In the summer of 1940 people often stopped me in the street and said, ‘Poor old Hitler, he’s done for now he has taken us on,’ and so it proved.”                                                                                  (A. J. P. Taylor, in Alarm in High Places. From Politicians, Socialism and Historians)


“Scientists have it within them to know what a future–directed society feels like.”                                                                                                             (C. P. Snow, in Science and Government, quoted by A. J. P. Taylor in More Luck Than Judgement?, from Politicians, Socialism and Historians)


“Science [i.e. Sir Henry Tizard and those who worked with him: AJPT] is grandly impartial, aiding and arming the oppressed as well as the oppressor. It leaves man where it finds him, sinking down to the primeval brute or rising grandly to God from whom he truly comes.”                                                                                                 (Sir Henry Tizard in a post-war lecture, quoted by A. J. P. Taylor in More Luck Than Judgement?, from Politicians, Socialism and Historians)




Department of “We Are All Guilty” from Rev. J. C. Flannel (cont.)

“Instead of targeting the pope, we should address the root causes of sexual abuse in a society and culture that will cross any ethical boundary for the sake of pleasure and making money.”                                                                                                                                                     (letter from Johann Christoph Arnold, senior pastor, Church Communities International, in NYT, April 1)


“Only in Washington could you pass legislation that calls for the American people to spend 10 years paying for six years of benefits and call it reform.”                                                   (Representative Jim Gerlach, Republican of Pennsylvania, quoted in NYT, April 3)


“Wilma Pearl Mankiller was born on Nov. 18, 1945, in Tahlequah. She was the sixth of 11 children reared by Charley Mankiller, a full-blooded Cherokee, and the former Clara Irene Sitton, who is of Dutch-Irish descent. (The Cherokees accept anyone as a member who can link any part of his or her ancestry to a member of the original tribe.)” (from NYT obituary, April 7)


“’Many issues of the Civil War are still being debated today,’ said Brag Bowling of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, which led the push to get that proclamation in Virginia. That seems extremely depressing, as if we were Serbs stewing about what the Turks did at the Plain of Blackbirds in 1389.”                                                                       (Gail Collins in NYT, April 8)


“’Our brains are made of memristors,’ he [Dr. Chua, electrical engineer at the University of Berkeley] said, referring to the function of biological synapses. “We have the right stuff now to build real brains.”                                                                          (from NYT, April 8)

“Salinger had offended against the great orthodoxy of modern fiction: that a novelist has no more right to fall in love with his characters than a doctor was licensed to fondle his patients.”                                                                                                  (Ferdinand Mount, in the Spectator, April 3)

“I have always been skeptical of those passages in the ‘Ancestry’ chapters of biographies that run something like this:

Through his veins coursed the rebellious blood of the Vavasours, blended with a more temperate strain from the Mudge family of Basingstoke.”          (Bevis Hiller, in the Spectator, April 3)


“Someone else made a list of Sammy’s [Linley Sambourne’s] malapropisms. They included, ‘there was such a silence afterwards that you could have picked up a pin in it’; ‘He was trembling like an aspic’ and ‘I didn’t care for Lady Macbeth in the street-walking scene.’”                                                                                               (Bevis Hiller, in review of Linley Sambourne: Illustrator and Punch Cartoonist, by Leonce Ormond, in the Spectator, April 3)
“There was no situation more tense, more fraught with difficulty, than the unexpected encounter by one anthropologist of another – in the field.”                                                                                                                               (from Alexander McCall Smith’s Love Over Scotland, Chapter 37)


“Let those without Volvos make the first social judgment, she [Irene] told herself, and smiled at her wit.”                                    (from Alexander McCall Smith’s Love Over Scotland, Chapter 39)


“Anthropology, she [Antonia] thought, like charity, begins at home.”                                                                                            (from Alexander McCall Smith’s Love Over Scotland, Chapter 108)


“I believe fervently that to listen to a witness is to become a witness.”           (Elie Wiesel, quoted in NYT, April 10: compare letter on Armenian genocide from March 2010 Commonplace)


“I treated priests who had two children. I treated priests who got women pregnant and got them abortions. I said to one of them, ‘Why didn’t you just use a condom?’ And he said, ‘Because birth control is against the law of the church.”’                                                         (Dr. Leslie Lothstein, psychologist at the Institute of Living, In Hartford, CT., quoted in NYT, April 10)


“Beware of demagogues who talk about ‘my people’, for they will prove to be both charlatans and narcissists.”                                                                                                               (anon.)

“There can be nothing more perplexing than children who unquestioningly adopt the religion of their parents.”                                                                                                                            (anon.)


More ‘Community’ Nonsense

“’There is a lot of writing that, for its theatrical impact, depends on authenticity. If a play has pretensions to authenticity, it should be authentic. So all I’m saying is, don’t lie.’ [Nicholas Hytner, the National Theatre’s artistic director]

In other words, a play that is written as if from within a community, must come from within that community.”                                                                (John Nathan, in Prospect, April 2010)


“Schnozzle Durante used to say: ’Dey asked me to run for President, but I refused; my nose wouldn’t fit on a postage stamp.’”                                                                                                                                         (Bernard Levin in Putting Him On A Pedestal, from Now Read On)


“Max Beerbohm had the right idea: he suggested that when it was desired to commemorate some lately-dead great man, it should be done not by unveiling a new statue, but by veiling an existing one.”                                            (Bernard Levin in Putting Him On A Pedestal, from Now Read On)

“I think it was Maitland who said that one of the problems of establishing historical truth was that we forget that things now in the past were once in the future.”                                                                                                                     (Bernard Levin, in The Fifth Quartet, from Now Read On)

“What do I want all that musical mahogany for, what do I want with the horrible Stabreim, that was never talked by land or sea, why do I tolerate the entire Wagnerian system of leitmotivs (I think it was Saint-Saens who said it was like meeting a lunatic at a party who keeps giving you his visiting-card.), why do I put up with the gibberish, the reverence, the interminable hours in Stygian darkness while the characters review the plot and ask each other idiotic riddles?”                                                            (Bernard Levin, in Thoughts From The Darkness, from Now Read On)

“I sometimes think that by the turn of the century Britain will consist entirely of hairdressers.”                                                      (Bernard Levin, in Invariably Upwards, from Now Read On)

“True epic died out of the world with sophistication. It is not easy to envisage anyone today taking a couple of centuries over writing a quarter of a million pairs of rhymed hexameters about the battle between Mr Roy Hattersley and Mr John Prescott.”                                                                                                                       (Bernard Levin, in Epic Proportions, from Now Read On)

“There is a great deal of truth, though something less than all of it, in Leslie Stephen’s remark that ‘the foundation of all excellence, artistic or moral, is a vivid perception of realities and a masculine grasp of facts’. The extent to which a writer will evade the realities of his relationships, and fudge and dodge facts in presenting himself to the world, gives one a good measure of his integrity.”    (Anthony West, in Introduction to Principles and Persuasions)


“He was, he [Arthur Balfour] wrote, ‘immersed in Winston’s brilliant autobiography, disguised as a history of the universe’ [Volume 1 of The World Crisis].”                                                                                       (Anthony West, in Winston Churchill, from Principles and Persuasions)


“The fascination of the Wilde case … is that it demonstrates the absurdity of the literary convention which identifies evil with sexual irregularity, and illuminates that more deadly brand of wickedness which wears a shinnying morning face and always claims the very best intentions.” (Anthony West, in A Postscript – Oscar Wilde, from Principles and Persuasions)


“God laughs at human pretensions and brings them to nothing in a spirit which one would call savage and unkind if the relationship were that of a parent and child but which Dr. Niebuhr, since it is that of God and man, can call merciful.”                                                                                                                    (Anthony West, in Reinhold Niebuhr, from Principles and Persuasions)


“It is not merely the Negro who has to realize that the only escape from the rattrap of worry about what one is or is not is to abandon the constant tease of self-consciousness. The Invisible Man of Mr. Ellison’s title is the unattached man of Aldous Huxley’s Perennial Philosophy, the man with courage to be utterly indifferent to himself and to his place in the world, the man who is alone free to be fully a man.”                                                                                                                                          (Anthony West, in Ralph Ellison, from Principles and Persuasions)


“As you can see already, nothing has the capacity to sprout more readily or flourish more luxuriantly in the soil of colonial discourse than mutual recrimination.”                (Chinua Achebe, in The Education of a British-Protected Child, from the essay collection of the same name)



“Does it matter, I ask myself, that centuries before these European Christians sailed down to us in ships to deliver the Gospel and save us from darkness, their ancestors, also sailing in ships, had delivered our forefathers to the horrendous transatlantic slave trade and unleashed darkness in our world?”                                                                                                                        (Chinua Achebe, in My Dad And Me, from The Education of a British-Protected Child)


“Only someone who has Asperger’s would read a sub-prime mortgage bond prospectus.”                                      (Michael Burry, quoted by  Daniel Gross in NYT Book Review, p 15, April 18)


“Some nonprofit groups have had to take out loans because payments from the city take so long. Some say they assign one worker to do little else but deal with the city. When asked about the contracting process, Michael Zisser, the executive director of University Settlement on the Lower East Side, said, ‘Have you read Kafka?’”                                                                                                               (from a NYT report on the New York City contracting system, April 19)

“Dr. Masterson became so well known as an expert on narcissism that he sometimes attracted patients for whom only a high-profile therapist would do — in other words, narcissists. In the 1980s, after The New York Times cited him as an authority on the disorder, he received a dozen calls from people wanting treatment. Too busy to accept new patients, Dr. Masterson referred the callers to his associates. As The Times reported in 1988, not a single one made an appointment.”                                       (from the obituary of Dr. James F. Masterson, psychiatrist, in NYT, April 19)


Did You Feel The Earth Move, Darling?

“’Many women who do not dress modestly lead young men astray, corrupt their chastity and spread adultery in society, which increases earthquakes,’ the cleric, Hojatoleslam Kazem Sedighi, was quoted as saying by Iranian media. Mr. Sedighi is Tehran’s acting Friday Prayer leader.”                                                                                    (from report in NYT,  April 20)


“Although Rothschild never subscribed to the beliefs and practices of Judaism, he thought it seemly that his wife should be converted to the Jewish faith…. They had an exhilarating and precarious marriage.”                              (from the Oxford DNB entry on Victor, Baron Rothschild)


“Something of this [that the artist cannot do his best unless existing in a community united in sympathy, sense of worth, and aspiration] lies behind the suspicion of and attack upon the intellectual which is becoming more and more vocal. It is hardly possible to open a number of Punch without seeing him spectacled, round-shouldered, rabbit-toothed, a foil to a landscape of beautifully unconscious cows, or a whipping-boy for a drawing-room of dashing young sahibs and elegant daughters of the chase. Cross the channel and this dislike, in more countries than one, has taken a practical form, to which the occasional ducking of an Oxford aesthete seems a nursery tiff.”                                                                                                                                                         (from the Introduction to The Poet’s Tongue [1935], by W. H. Auden and John Garrett)


“Lastly, one must show those who come to poetry for a message, for calendar thoughts, that they have come to the wrong door, that poetry may illuminate but it will not dictate.”                                (from the Introduction to The Poet’s Tongue [1935], by W. H. Auden and John Garrett)


Shock! Horror!

“The suggestion that Ann’s [Bowes-Lyon] blue blood may have been mixed as a result of an ancestor’s affair with a Welsh maid appears to have been kept from him, another secret the Bowes-Lyon family thought it prudent not to share with the outside world.”                                                                                                                (from Papa Spy, by Jimmy Burns, Chapter 3)


“’The Duke [of Windsor] drew me off to a sofa as if I was an old friend and told me of his last audience with the Pope. “We talked about Communism all the time. He was against it,” the Duke recalled.’”                                    (Tom Burns, quoted in Papa Spy, by Jimmy Burns, Chapter 6)


“I have no wish to belittle a profession to which I have the honour to belong. Its members are all extremely conscientious. Hardworking, keen on their job, and sometimes very intelligent. At the same time if one were invited to dine with a company representing all trades and professions, the schoolmaster is the last person one would want to sit next to.”                                                       (W. H. Auden in Honour: Gresham’s School, from The Old School, edited by Graham Greene)


“The best reason I have for opposing Fascism is that at school I lived in a fascist state.”           (W. H. Auden in Honour: Gresham’s School, from The Old School, edited by Graham Greene)


“There is too much talk about ideals at all schools. Ideals are the conclusions drawn from a man of experience, not the data: they are essentially for the mature……  For the young without experience ideals are as grave a danger in the moral sphere as book learning is in the intellectual, the danger of becoming a purely mental concept, mechanizing the soul.”                (W. H. Auden in Honour: Gresham’s School, from The Old School, edited by Graham Greene)


“People don’t grow up warped or embittered or the victims of complexes because they had a few good cries in the cloakroom or somebody once snubbed them.” (Theodora Benson in Hot-Water-Bottle Love: Cheltenham Ladies’ College, from The Old School, edited by Graham Greene)


“The phlegmatic Englishman is often phlegmatic because he has lost the power of expressing emotion. He has repressed his feelings so often that there are none left to repress.”                            (L. P. Hartley in The Conformer: Harrow, from The Old School, edited by Graham Greene)


“.. its [a school’s] main social function is to awake the individual from the biological slumber of the family; it main personal function is the creation of will. In the exercise of these functions a school must be something rigid, impersonal, just, combative and cold.”                       (Harold Nicolson in Pity The Pedagogue: Wellington, from The Old School, edited by Graham Greene)


“Suspicious is he also of those who, however tactfully, display an interest in the more recent problems of his calling. Is this a young parent taking soundings? Is this an old boy meditating revenge? Inevitably does the schoolmaster retreat from these alternatives behind the quadruple barriers of flatulence, affability, good taste, and bowling averages.”                    (Harold Nicolson in Pity The Pedagogue: Wellington, from The Old School, edited by Graham Greene)


“We are always apt to ascribe our own processes of enlightenment to positive influences which can be remembered and even quoted, rather than to those negative influences which, because they were unpleasant, are buried deep in the vaults of the unconscious. We are thus, in our vanity, grateful for recollected encouragement; we are not in the least grateful for forgotten, although perhaps more valuable, snubs.”                                                                       (Harold Nicolson in Pity The Pedagogue: Wellington, from The Old School, edited by Graham Greene)


“The thought of intellectual hero-worship turns me cold. And in the end, the balance adjusts itself. The athlete chews the cud of his old memories: the intellectual compensates for past humiliations by sneering at his old school.”                                                                         (Harold Nicolson in Pity The Pedagogue: Wellington, from The Old School, edited by Graham Greene)


“The sooner a youth learns to think and act and fend for himself as an equal amongst equals and not as a docile fag or privileged prefect the better for himself and everyone else.”                                                                                                                     (from letter in Sunday Referee, quoted by William Plomer in The Gothic Arch: Rugby, from The Old School, edited by Graham Greene)


“There is one gem [of a school sermon] I cannot pass over. Here it is. ‘God is like a camel walking through the desert dropping dung as he goes. We are that dung.’”                                 (J. N. Richards in The Notional Manner: Winchester, from The Old School, edited by Graham Greene)


“I suppose the world may be divided into those who enjoy Punch and those who enjoy the New Yorker.”                                                                                                                         (Graham Greene, in The Last Word, Berkhamsted, from  The Old School, edited by Graham Greene)


The Democrats Update Maslow

“Water and power are essential for life. So they are heavily regulated, and rate increases must be approved. Health insurance is also vital for life. It too should be strictly regulated so that people can afford this basic need.”                                                                                                                                    (Mrs. Dianne Feinstein, Democratic Senator for California, quoted in NYT, April 21)


“A novel, like a letter, should be loose, cover much ground, run swiftly, take risk of mortality and decay.”             (Saul Bellow in letter to Bernard Malamud, quoted in New Yorker, April 26)

“He was a big man but not more than six feet five inches tall and not wider than a beer truck.”                                                     (from Raymond Chandler’s Farewell My Lovely, Chapter 1)

“’Are you particular about the nature of the employment?’

‘Not as long as it’s legitimate.’

The voice grew icicles. ‘I should not have called you, if it were not’.

A Harvard boy. Nice use of the subjunctive mood.”                                                                                                                         (from Raymond Chandler’s Farewell My Lovely, Chapter 7)



“The house itself was not so much. It was smaller than Buckingham Palace, rather gray for California, and probably had fewer windows than the Chrysler Building.”                                                                                          (from Raymond Chandler’s Farewell My Lovely, Chapter 18)

“’You know what’s the matter with this country, baby?’

‘Too much frozen capital, I heard.’

‘A guy can’t stay home if he wants to,’ Hemingway [Galbraith] said. ‘That’s what’s the matter with this country. He gets chiseled out of his pants if he does. You gotta play the game dirty or you don’t eat. A lot of bastards think all we need is ninety thousand FBI men in clean collars and brief cases. Nuts. The percentage would get them just the way it does the rest of us. You know what I think? I think we gotta make this little world all over again. Now take Moral Rearmament. There you’ve something. M. R. A. There you’ve got something, baby.’

“If Bay City is a sample of how it works, I’ll take aspirin,’ I said.”                                                                                                         (from Raymond Chandler’s Farewell My Lovely, Chapter 23)

“Time and time again, problems emerge from a failure to heed the lessons of history. The recent market turmoil would not have occurred without unrealistic ratings, excessive leverage, government actions that distorted markets and the persistent fallacy that all loans to real estate are good loans. America’s future health depends on a more careful reading of financial history.”                                                  (Michael Milliken, ‘junk bond king’, quoted in NYT, April 27)

“There is a very good argument you should put a fee on finance, like a tax on pollution.”                                                   (Timothy Geithner, US Treasury secretary, quoted in NYT, April 28)


“…balancing the budget or reducing the debt are, in my mind, not goals in and of themselves.”                                                                            (Representative Jan Schakowsky, Democrat of Illinois, ‘calling for more spending on infrastructure and education’, quoted in NYT, April 28)


“They [friends in France] taught me the tricky etiquette of pretending to argue with waiters, and the gallantry of staring at beautiful strangers.”                                                                        (Graham Robb, in Parisians, quoted by Dwight Garner in NYT book review, April 28)


“Harold [Acton] was always careful to be polite to waiters and to keep on good terms with then. For this Evelyn rebuked him, arguing that such familiarity was degrading.”                                                                          (from Christopher Hollis’s Oxford in the Twenties, Chapter 6)


“Dean Jackson of Christ Church, the leading Head of a College of that [18th] century, had, records George Cox the Beadle of the University, in his recollections, ‘a wonderful tact in managing that most ungovernable class of undergraduates, noblemen’.”                                                                                      (from Christopher Hollis’s Oxford in the Twenties, Chapter 1)


“Up to the end of the eighteenth century in order to get a degree it was not necessary to pass any examination. Al that was necessary was to remain at Oxford for the prescribed number of terms and to avoid being hanged.” (from Christopher Hollis’s Oxford in the Twenties, Chapter 1)


“I have the greatest respect for the Church of England, but things have come to a pretty pass if a man’s religious professions are expected to interfere with his private life.”                                                   (Lord Melbourne, according to Christopher Hollis in Oxford in the Twenties, Chapter 1)


“O God, forasmuch as without Thee:

We are not enabled to doubt Thee,

Pray, grant us Thy grace

To confess to Thy face

We know nothing whatever about Thee.”                                                                                               (Leslie Hore-Belisha, according to Christopher Hollis in Oxford in the Twenties, Chapter 2)


“Doubtless I shall inherit eternal bliss but I prefer not to contemplate so melancholy a proposition.”                                                                      (Christopher Hollis’s ‘cynical Eton schoolmaster’ Tuppy Headlam, according to Hollis in his Oxford in the Twenties, Chapter 2)


“Maurice Bowra used to complain that he had fought a world war in vain since it had not led to the abolition of rowing.”          (from Christopher Hollis’s Oxford in the Twenties, Chapter 3)


“You must want bloodshed. Life is intolerable without it.”                                                                                                  (Evelyn Waugh, on the conflict between Mosley’s Fascists and his Communist opponents, according to Christopher Hollis on Oxford in the Twenties, Chapter 5)




“Economy of means is, in fact, the threshold of concentration. When I draw and paint, the essential thing is not to know what I do, or else I cannot come to what I see.”                                                                                              (artist Avigdor Arikha, from his NYT obituary, May 1)




Matthew Arnold, looking over

The Channel from the cliffs of Dover,

Scanned with his telescope almost the whole French coast

A far as Étretat,

And was on the point of saying “Ah.”

When he perceived, not far from the great Aiguille,

A lobster led on a leash beside the sea.

It was Nerval, enjoying his vacances!

Alas for gravitas! Hélas for France!

Having of late been panicky

About culture and anarchy,

Arnold now left in a hurry,

Foreseeing a night of worry.                           (by Richard Wilbur, in the New Yorker, May 3)



“The [Spanish] civil war pitted Europe against anti-Europe, Christianity and classical Mediterranean civilizations, order, geometry and law, against Semitism and chaos, fable, instinct, schizophrenia, and utopia.”                                                              (Tomás Borrás, in Oscuro Heroismo, quoted by Mary Vincent in Spain 1833-2002, People and State, Chapter 4)


“How can Greece grow out of its debt if there is deflation? Deflation increases the debt burden, so we are following this virtuous circle that is bringing us toward hell. Economics has nothing to do with virtue, which can kill an economy.”                                                          (Jean-Paul Fitoussi, a professor of economics at the Institut d’Études Politiques in Paris, quoted in NYT, May 3)

“But only lately have I learned that such ultimate successes are not what the present-day authorities in Britain really want. What really delights them is extreme tidiness combined with a façade of everyday competence. This is of course why Britain plunges further and further downhill with every passing year. The truth is the opposite: it is the ultimate success that really counts. Lose well and you will be highly thought of – make a good shot, Sir, and we shall think well of you; these are the characteristics of postwar England. God give me a bad-tempered winner.”                                                                                                   (Fred Hoyle, in Astronomical Studies, Problems, and Speculations, from Encounter With the Future (1965))

“It is of course insane to classify someone who is seven-eighths white as black. It was a fiction by which white racists kept light Creoles in their place. It is a fiction by which black racists maintain the definition of jazz as ‘Negro music.’“                                                                          (Gene Lees in Cats of Any Color: Jazz Black and White, quoted in his NYT obituary, May 3)

“Carter’s regime symbolized the era. It was desperately well-meaning. It jogged; it held hands everywhere it went with its scrawny wife; it prayed, Baptist-fashion; it banned smoking where it could; it sent bossy women to preach human rights in places where bossy women were regarded as an affront to them.”                                                                                  (Norman Stone in The Atlantic and Its Enemies, quoted by Michael Burleigh in Spectator review, April 24)

“The system has one goal, which is to preserve itself.”                                                                                                          (Boris L. Altschuler, chairman of Right of the Child in Moscow, on the Russian orphanage system, quoted in NYT, May 4; compare Bertrand Russell on bureaucracies)


“I pulled up at Bolt Upright’s Bel Air home, which is modest by neighborhood standards, built to duplicate the Parthenon with a few architectural flourishes cribbed from Notre Dame and the Sydney Opera House.”                                                                                       (Woody Allen, in spoof on Warren Beatty, Will The Real Avatar Please Stand Up, in New Yorker, May 10)


“He is a truth-teller, and authentic enough to stand against the English literary and academic establishment, which essentially opposes the right of the state of Israel to exist, while indulging in the humbuggery that its anti-Zionism is not anti-Semitism.”                             (Harold Bloom, in review of Anthony Julius’s Trials of the Diaspora, in NYT Book Review, May 9)


“But the trouble with blogging is that the more you blog, the less you read.”                                                                                                                                                           (Niall Ferguson, in review of Richard A. Posner’s The Crisis of Capitalist Democracy, in NYT Book Review, May 9)


“Michael Stewart was always good to work for and was unusually high minded. One day I had to explain to him the British Government’s interest in a certain disarmament question. When I had finished he turned to me and said, ‘You have told me very well what is the interest of the British Government; what is the interest of humankind?’”                                                                                                                                                       (Denis Greeenhill, in More By Accident, Chapter 15)


“The greatest blessing the Foreign Office can have is an experienced Secretary of State, admire din his own country, respected abroad by friend and foe and gifted with an instinct for foreign affairs. Alec Home fitted all these requirements and combined them with politeness, charm and humour in the daily conduct of business. Ruff’s Guide to the Turf always lay on his desk within reach of his right hand and gave us assurance of interests beyond affairs of state.”                                                                                          (Denis Greeenhill, in More By Accident, Chapter 18)


“I am confident, however, that humanity will forever remain unique in one aspect: we are the only species that constantly works to discredit our own species’ uniqueness.”                                                                             (from letter by Alexander Pitsinos in NYT Science Section, May 11)


“If Americans ever had a dictator they would call him Coach.”                                (from William Gass’s 1995 novel The Tunnel, according to James Wood in the New Yorker, May 17)


“It’s very peculiar, you know, that the only person who caught the Californian atmosphere in prose was an Englishman – Chandler. And the only person who caught it on canvas was also an Englishman by the name of Hockney. No one else can paint California; he can.”                                                             (Billy Wilder, from The World of Raymond Chandler, edited by Miriam Gross)


“He [Raymond Chandler] saw London social life as ‘hypocritical’ and never came to realize that London malice is often neither serious nor literal (we like a good joke but don’t believe in it for  a moment, and tacitly assume that nobody else does); the only unforgivable malice is that of passing on unkind remarks.”                                                                              (Natasha Spender, in His Own Long Goodbye, from The World of Raymond Chandler, edited by Miriam Gross)


“At one of those first luncheons at the Connaught when I remarked that our neuroses mostly originate in childhood, he replied with scornful, teasing gusto: ‘Oh, I don’t know – I pick mine up as I go along.”                                                                                                (Natasha Spender, in His Own Long Goodbye, from The World of Raymond Chandler, edited by Miriam Gross)


“Taking him generally, Man is a conceited creature, while Woman is a vain creature: conceit and vanity are not the same. A man’s conceit will often lead him to indiscretion, in an endeavour to build himself up among his fellow men, or even to impress a woman: women, being vain rather than conceited, find their outlet for this form of self-expression in their personal experience, dress etc.”                                                                                                                (MI5 officer Maxwell Knight, ca. 1941, quoted by Christopher Andrew in Defending the Realm, p 221)


“In Britain the activities of the intelligence and security services have always been regarded in much the same light as intra-marital sex. Everyone knows that it goes on and is quite content that it should, but to speak, write or ask questions about it is regarded as extremely bad form. So far as official government policy is concerned, the British security and intelligence services do not exist. Enemy agents are found under gooseberry bushes and intelligence is brought by the storks.“                                                                                                                          (Sir Michael Howard, quoted in Christopher Andrew’s British View of Security and Intelligence, p 11)


“You might say, If we have unemployment, don’t worry, we’ll just compensate the person. But that doesn’t fully compensate them.”                                    (Joseph Stiglitz, Nobel prize-winning economist, quoted in NYT Magazine article on The Rise and Fall of the G.D. P., May 16)


“If the Jews didn’t need Jesus, why didn’t he come by way of Ireland or Norway?”                                              (Moishe Rosen, founder of Jews for Jesus, quoted in his NYT obituary, May 22)


“They [universities] cannot teach the qualities that people need in politics and business. Nor can they teach culture and wisdom, any more than theologians teach holiness, or philosophers goodness or sociologists a blueprint for the future. They exit to cultivate the intellect. Everything else is secondary. The matters that concern dons and administrators are secondary. The need to mix classes, nationalities and races together is secondary. The agonies and gaieties of student life are secondary. So are the rules, customs, pay and promotion of the academic staff and their debates on changing the curricula or procuring facilities for research. Even the awakening of a sense of beauty or the life-giving shock of new experience, or the pursuit of goodness itself – all these are secondary to the cultivation, training and exercise of the intellect.”                                                                                                (from the Introduction to The Dons, by Noel Annan)


“… those who have clear ideas in what life ought to be always have difficulty in reconciling themselves to what it is.”                   (from the Introduction to The Dons, by Noel Annan)


“No young man who is earnest and has a mission in life should allow his diaries to be published.”                                                 (from The Charismatic Don, in The Dons, by Noel Annan)


“Logic is neither a science nor an art but a dodge.”                                                               (Benjamin Jowett, according to Noel Annan, in The Balliol Tradition, from The Dons)


“We are none of us infallible, not even the youngest.”                                                          (Hepworth Thompson, according to Noel Annan in The Don As Scholar, from The Dons)


“When we today perceive a wrong, our instinct is to say that the law must provide a remedy. [Frederic] Maitland deduced that in the early Middle Ages man argues that if no remedy existed no wrong had been committed.”             (from The Don As Scholar, in The Dons, by Noel Annan)


“The only free intellectual is he who evades all responsibilities and executive duties and remains as uncommitted on the world of action as he is committed in the world of ideas.”                                                                                                    (from The Don As Wit, in The Dons, by Noel Annan)


“Asked once whether Hitler or Stalin was worse, Isaiah [Berlin] replied, ‘My answer will surprise you. I am a Jew and I should answer that Hitler was worse. Yet not only did Stalin destroy tens of millions of human lives … he also instilled slavish fear into people’s souls, brought the intelligentsia to their knees, extolled lackeys, mediocrities. Apart from that he had a wonderful gift for playing on the lowly instincts of mobs.’”                                                                                                                  (from The Don As Magus, in The Dons, by Noel Annan)


“What time he can spare from the adornment of his person he devotes to the neglect of his duties.”                                                                                                          (the Master of Trinity on Richard Jebb, according to Noel Annan in Women Dons In Cambridge, from The Dons)


“The adversative style is said to occur on a tombstone in Northumberland, where a family, scorning the falsehoods of lapidary inscriptions, wrote: ‘She was temperate, chaste and charitable, but she was proud, peevish, and passionate. She was an affectionate wife and a tender mother but her husband and child seldom saw her countenance without a disgusting frown….’ A dozen elegant antitheses followed.”                                                                                                                                                            (from The Don As Administrator, in The Dons, by Noel Annan)


“When he [the father of Mrs Humphrey Ward] was being received as a Roman Catholic in Hobart his wife was so furious that she three a brick through the glass window of the church.” [compare Raymond Chandler and his bishop and blonde in Farewell, My Lovely]                                                                           (from The Intellectual Aristocracy, in The Dons, by Noel Annan)


“Everything that happens is constitutional. And if nothing happens, that would be constitutional also.”                       (Professor John Griffith, public lawyer in London, quoted in NYT, May 25)


“Modern Keynesianism works great until it doesn’t.”                                                                                                                                               (David Einhorn, in NYT Op-Ed piece, May 27)


“Blunt’s pact with Stalin’s emissaries owed something to a common affliction among scholars that [George] Steiner [in ‘Cleric of Treason’] terms ‘odium philogicum’. Consumed by their [sic] esoteric minutiae, the academic mind years for power and authority in the real world. Their bottled-up resentment normally surfaces in ‘the ad-hominem nastiness of a book review’ or ‘the arsenic of a footnote.’”                           (from John Costello’s Mask of Treachery, p 244)


“If Spain goes Communist, France is bound to follow.  And then Britain, and then there’ll be jam for all.”                                                                       (Anthony Blunt in 1936, quoted by Louis MacNeice in The Strings Are False, p 161, and in John Costello’s Mask of Treachery, p 260)


“The great danger of Marxist doctrine is that it allows and even encourages opportunism. After  a bit the Marxist, who is only human, finds such fun practicing strategy – i.e. hypocrisy, lying, graft, political pimping, tergiversation, allegedly necessary murder – that he forgets the end in the means, the evil of the means frowns the good of the end, power corrupts, the living gospel withers. Siberia fills with ghosts.”                         (Louis MacNeice in The Strings Are False, p 100)


“[Ian] Fleming is charming to be with, but would sell his own grandmother. I like him a lot.”                                            (Ewen Montagu, quoted by Ben Macintyre in Operation Mincemeat, p 35)


“For months on end, he would simply vanish into the desert, disguised as a Bedouin. In Yemen he visited villages so remote that when he arrived, women came out with hay offering to feed his jeep.”                                                                                                 (Not about Wilfred Thesiger [!], but Charles Cholmondeley, in 1948, from Ben Macintyre’s Operation Mincemeat, p 320)






“..if you can give a decent speech in public or cut any kind of figure on the podium, then you never need dine or sleep alone.”                                                                                        (Christopher Hitchens in Hitch 22, quoted by Dwight Garner in NYT review, June 2)


“One of the quickest ways to find out if you are wrong is to state what you believe.’    (comedian Penn Jillette, according to Kathryn Schulz in Being Wrong, reviewed in NYT, June 11)


“It would have been terrific if Mao had lived. Of course I was 100 per cent behind everything that happened in the Cultural Revolution – it was a terrific experience.”                  (physicist Joan Hinton, speaking to The Weekend Australian in 2008, from her NYT obituary, June 12)


“These historians may well latch on to the less attractive side of the personalities of these two leaders [Roosevelt and Churchill]. Both relished the delectable comforts that power brings: the life where everything is smoothed and ordered by secretaries, aides, servants; where one steps from an aircraft into a limousine and is cosseted in a mansion that the state or hosts have provided, where dishes are cooked for their special pleasure and whatever drink they demand is instantly at hand; where the diary that rules the waking hours of great executives can be changed to suit a whim. Everyone and everything is at their call.”                                                                                                                                            (from Noel Annan’s Changing Enemies, p 134)


“Meeting Kingsley Martin, the editor of the New Statesman, on my return from Germany at the end of 1946, I discovered that he believed that but for the presence of Anglo-American armies all Europe would have been governed by socialist regimes installed by popular acclamation. Left-wing Labour MPs like Dick Crossman and Barbara Castle, as well as fellow-travellers like Konni Zilliacus, peddled this scenario. Some surprising people took the same line. In 1945 Major Denis Healey urged at the Labour Party conference that Labour should disassociate itself from Tory foreign policy and ‘assist the socialist revolution wherever it appears’. Labour, he said, should not be ‘too pious and self-righteous when occasionally facts are brought to one’s notice that our comrades on the Continent are being extremist’. These comrades were right to use their police to punish the ‘depraved, dissolute and decadent upper classes.’”                                                                                                           (from Noel Annan’s Changing Enemies, pp 182-183)


Agent ‘ELLI’ and the Old Boy Network

“I was also on the friendliest possible terms with my old colleague from MI14, Leo Long, an invaluable ally in my battles with Military Government, who sent me warm congratulations when I was given the OBE in June 1946. Whether he was still passing information to the Russians I do not know, but my activities in Berlin against the KPD, of which he can hardly have approved, did not affect our relations” (from Noel Annan’s Changing Enemies, p 214)


“Gott hat die Klugheit aber nicht die Dummheit der Menschen begrenzt” [‘God has limited man’s intelligence, but not his stupidity’]                                                        (Konrad Adenauer, speaking to Sir Ivonne Kirkpatrick, recorded by Noel Annan in Changing Enemies, p 223)


“When men talk of ‘perpetuity’ they mean, whether or not they know it, the next twenty years, or their own lifetime – whichever is the shorter….”                                                                                                                                                            (from Noel Annan’s Changing Enemies, p 224)


“There can be few sights more depressing than that of a democratic statesman using the language of brutal and cynical ‘realism’ to justify a policy which is not even realistic.”                                                                                (Timothy Garton Ash, in From World War to Cold War, in New York Review of Books, 11 June 1987, quoted by Noel Annan in Changing Enemies, p 227)


“Meine Auge strahlt, mein Herz es klopft,

Ich singe ein te Deum

Ich sehe Adolf ausgestopft

Im Britischen Museum.”

[My eyes shine, my heart beats, I am singing a Te Deum. I can see Adolf dead and stuffed In the British Museum.]                                                                                                 (Verse circulated in ‘darkest days of the war’ in Berlin, according to Noel Annan in Changing Enemies, p 238)


“Lamenting many similar flights of the intellectuals in the long twentieth century – their noisy ideological identifications and terrible political choices – the late Polish philosopher Loszek Kolakowski once pointed out that, however much intellectuals yearn to be both ‘prophets and heralds of reason’, those roles cannot be reconciled. ‘The common human quality of vanity and greed for power’ are particularly dangerous among intellectuals, he observed, and their longing to identify with political causes often results in ‘an almost unbelievable loss of critical reasoning’.”                                                                          (Pankaj Mishra in the New Yorker, June 7)


“One of the laws of English letters is that, if George Bernard Shaw once tried it, it must be a bad idea.”                                                                                      (from Times third leader, June 7)


“Of the sons, Charles the eldest was educated at Westminster School, but he was not afterwards sent to either of the universities, probably from an apprehension that his propensity to expenses would have too large an opportunity of being indulged at these seats of dissipation.”                                                                                                                                                 (J. C. Masterman quoting his grandfather’s account of one of his ancestors in On the Chariot Wheel, Chapter 1)


“Victory in war comes to those who have the most certainty about things in which doubt is the only rational attitude.”                                                                                                                                 (Bertrand Russell, according to J. C. Masterman in On The Chariot Wheel, Chapter 4)


“One is reminded of a story of Raymond Asquith’s. He visited Cambridge and on his return to Balliol was asked by his scout, ‘What sort of a place is it, sir? Something in the Keble line?’”                                          (from footnote in J.C. Masterman’s On The Chariot Wheel, Chapter 6)


“An eminent bishop, once my colleague at Christ Church, told me that there were two principles which should be observed at Oxford. The first that ‘no gentleman works after dinner’. And the second? I asked. The second is that ‘no gentleman works after lunch.’”                                                                                                    (from J.C. Masterman’s On The Chariot Wheel, Chapter 7)


“More revealing was the remark made to me previously at Oxford by the captain of the Koln club, whom I asked if he was a Nazi. ‘No’, he replied, ‘I am not, but in a month or so I shall be, for Hitler is coming to speak to us and no one can resist him.’”                                                                                                    (from J.C. Masterman’s On The Chariot Wheel, Chapter 16)


“There is, perhaps, just too much time left over, during which one has to muse over the sorrows of the world, which have been caused entirely, I think, by Voltaire and Rousseau. The moment the canaille were told by the one that religion is untrue and by the other that they were égal with their superiors, the knell of western civilization had sounded, and the only remarkable thing is that the end has been so long delayed.”                         (from letter by Philip Landon of Trinty College, to J.C. Masterman, in 1942, quoted in the latter’s On The Chariot Wheel, Chapter 22)


“Once at a lecture I heard H. A. L. Fisher ask the rhetorical question, ‘What would the world have lost if Edison had had to do his own house-work?’”                                                                                                                   (from J.C. Masterman’s On The Chariot Wheel, Chapter 36)


“Was it Goethe who declared that ‘the most foolish error for clever young men is to think they forfeit originality by recognizing an accepted truth’?”                                                                                                                    (from J.C. Masterman’s On The Chariot Wheel, Chapter 36)


“For not only a man’s actions are effaced and vanish with him; his virtues and generous qualities die with him also! – his intellect only is immortal, and bequeathed unimpaired to posterity. Words are the only things that live forever.”                                                                                                                         (Hazlitt, according to J.C. Masterman in On The Chariot Wheel, Chapter 36)


“          Boy Beveridge you duly decorate,

The Archimedes of the Farewell State,

Who did so well distributing the gravy

That poor Britannia can’t afford a Navy.”                                                                                                                             (From A. P. Herbert’s reply for the Guests at the Christ Church Gaudy, June 25th, 1958, which appears as Appendix 1 in  J.C. Masterman’s On The Chariot Wheel)


“Everyone discovers their own way of destroying themselves, and some people choose the clarinet.”                    (Kalmen Opperman, master clarinettist, from his NYT obituary, June 28)


“But there was one chief, and 18-year-old boy, who’d only killed one man, and they were restive at having him, saying he must go and kill some more. He went down to the nearby Somali country and came back with four more trophies and he was in. He’d arrived back the day we came to his village and there was tremendous feasting and everything going on, and I thought he was a very attractive, pleasant young lad. He came and spent a lot of time with us in the camp, and he brought us a lot of meat, and I thought he looked like an ingenuous sort of British schoolboy who’d just got his colours for cricket. And he was wearing the genitals of men he’d castrated and I could see, yes, he’d got five. And we liked him enormously. We stayed with him two or three days. Two days after we’d left his village, he was killed himself.“                                                                       (Wilfred Thesiger on the Afar (Danakil) warrior Hamdo Ouga, from his August 1994 conversation with David Attenborough, reproduced in Wilfred Thesiger in Africa)


“But where precisely should we position Thesiger in the travel-writing genre? Newby, it seems to me, represents an obvious strand in the British tradition – the amateur who packs his suitcase and leaves with little or no preparation. He is the plucky Brit who takes on the world not because he is mentally and physically prepared but because he is not. He understands that it is not solely about the end result, but the spirit with which you go. It is the heart versus the machine – Scott of the Antarctic (and his ‘manly’ art of sledge-hauling) versus the methodical efficiency of Amundsen.

A second breed would be the traveller in the Byronic mould, the man – and again it is usually a man – of deed and intellect who goes about a higher quest (the Robert Byron, the Brice Chatwin, the Patrick Leigh Fermor), while a third type might be termed the wandering minstrel, the poet who whimsically strolls the lanes carried by love and his dreams – best exemplified by Laurie Lee. In Wilfred Thesiger, though, we see a fourth class, now extinct. He was, put simply, the last of the great gentleman travellers, and stood alone as such in modern times. Indeed, he himself felt proud to be a relic from the Golden Age, the end point of the distinguished lineage characterized by Bertram Thomas, Harry Philby and other great Arabists.”       (Benedict Allen, in Wilfred Thesiger: Last of the Gentleman Travellers, from Wilfred Thesiger in Africa)


“I am certain that the first nine years of my life have influenced everything that followed.”                                                                       (opening line of Wilfred Thesiger’s My Kenya Days)


“In the twenties and thirties it was generally felt that any threat to peace would come from Bolshevism and the Nazi rise to power was not at first always viewed with alarm in Britain. Indeed the emerging Nazi Party attracted support from a number of people in high places; the list of members who belonged to the two major pro-German (but essentially non-political) societies of the mid-thirties – ‘Link’ and ‘the Anglo-German Fellowship’ makes illuminating reading. Both societies were still in existence at the outbreak of the war. No one I believe, was unpatriotic – far from it – it was just that people took time to realize that any extreme of power left, right, expansionist, national, racist, or whatever was in the end evil. Nazism seemed to be an extraordinary combination of the lot.”           (Gerald Glover, in 115 Park Street, Chapter 6)


“Tycoons should not look like seedy intellectuals, nor left-wing politicians like well-nurtured stockbrokers. The only exceptions I would admit are certain eccentric peers of ancient lineage who are justified by long tradition in shambling about disguised as out-of-work jobbing gardeners.”                     (Sir Osbert Lancaster [where?], quoted by Alan Watkins in Brief Lives)


“This period also provided Muggeridge with one of his longest-serving jokes, built around the phrase ‘It is’ – or ‘is greatly’ – to be hoped, as in ‘It is greatly to be hoped that men of goodwill and moderation will come together, and wiser counsels yet prevail.” What precisely, Muggeridge would ask, was ‘it’? Who was doing the hoping? And suppose men of goodwill and moderation, assuming there were any, obstinately refused to come together and that wiser counsels, so far from prevailing, were spurned? What then? What indeed? He would illustrate this by a sentence, apocryphal or not – who can say?  As he would put it – from a leading article of the time: ‘One is tempted to believe that the Greeks do not want a stable government.’”                                                                                                          (from Malcolm Muggeridge, in Alan Watkins’s Brief Lives)


“In the 1950s, when JM Keynes’s ability as an economist went almost unchallenged, he had his doubts: ‘Keynes [which he pronounced Keenz rather than Kanes] took his ideas from Alfred Marshall, but Marshall was the sounder economist. What Keynes is telling us to do is to live beyond our means. Any fool in the pub can say that.”                                                                                                                                               (from DJ Watkins, in Alan Watkins’s Brief Lives)


“He [Stephen Spender] announced [in his Forward From Liberalism [1937)] that ‘the World State will not be the standardized world which the imperialists and fascists fear, or say they fear. The aim of communism is, as Lenin wrote, to create multiformity.’ He, like many others, saw the true communist society as one in which every individual could truly realize himself. This may now seem a rather odd belief, but we must do the Spender of those days the justice to reflect that if communism has not provided this ideal situation, neither has liberal democracy.”                                                             (Robin Skelton, from his Introduction to Poetry of the Thirties, 1964)


“W. H. Auden has been monumentally generous in allowing me to use early texts of five poems of which he now disapproves. These poems are ‘Sir, No Man’s Enemy’, ‘A Communist to Others’, ‘To a Writer on his Birthday’, ‘Spain’, and ‘September 1, 1939’. I have agreed to make it absolutely clear that ‘Mr W. H. Auden considers these five poems to be trash which he is ashamed to have written’.”  (from Robin Skelton’s Introduction to Poetry of the Thirties, 1964)


“But perhaps the biggest danger to of the kind of pluralism that seeks to tie representation closely to identity is that it emphasizes the extent to which identity divides, rather than how citizenship should unite. If we think that we need people ‘like us’ to represent us, we inevitably get a stronger sense of being different from those who are not like us.”                                                                                                           (Julian Baggini paraphrasing Amartya Sen in Prospect, June 2010)


“I don’t spend my whole time dining at rich men’s tables, that Ken Tynan thing. A perfect example of the falsity which was inherent in Tynan is this story – he was in a restaurant and being particularly difficult and demanding of the waiters and his companion said ‘Look, Ken, I thought you were a believer in equality. Why are you treating the servitors in this fashion?’ Tynan replied ‘To encourage their sense of grievance and hasten the day of their fightback.’”                                         (Peter Porter, poet, from 2003 interview reported in Prospect, June 2010)


“Stan, I’m just a working lad from Leeds. I know nowt about politics and the like. All I knows is football. But t’way I see it, yon ‘Itler fellow is an evil little twat.”                                          (Bert Sproston to Stanley Matthews, after seeing Hitler’s cavalcade drive past the day before England played Germany in 1938, reported by Trevor Fisher in History Today, June 2010)


1930s poets on sofas and comfy chairs (cf. Monty Python)

“And now I relapse to sleep, to dream, perhaps and reaction

Where I shall play the gangster or the sheikh,

Kill for the love of killing, make the world my sofa,

Unzip the women and insult the meek.”         (from Louis Macneice’s Autumn Journal, III)


“You above all who have come to the far end, victims

Of a run-down machine, who can bear it no longer;

Whether in easy chairs chafing at impotence

Or against hunger, bullies and spies preserving

The nerve for action, the spark of indignation – …”

(from C. Day Lewis’s The Magnetic Mountain, 32)


“Come with us, if you can, and, if not, go to hell

With your comfy chairs, your talk about the police,

Your doll wife, your cowardly life, your newspaper, your interests in the East,

You, there, who are so patriotic, you liar, you beast!”                       (from Rex Warner’s Hymn)


“At bay in villas from blood relations,

Counters of spoons and content with cushions

They pray for peace, they hand down disaster.”                                                                                                                                                        (from C. Day Lewis’s The Magnetic Mountain, 25)

[All published in Poetry of the Thirties, edited by Robin Skelton]


“’I understood that one never wore one’s Old Etonian tie in town.’

‘Well, as a matter of fact, sir, said [Bamber] Gascoigne’s friend, with what he thought was great presence of mind. ‘I’m just going to the country.’

‘Well, I understood,’ replied their senior,’that if one was going to the country, one changed into one’s Old Etonian tie at the Chiswick roundabout.”                                            (an incident in the officers’ mess at Chelsea barracks, recorded by Tim Heald in Old Boy Networks, Chapter 2)




“One of the reasons I would argue with your pals about staying in the army is that it’s not just about killing people, or being killed. It’s also a huge opportunity to do good.”                 (General Sir David Richards, chief of the general staff, interviewed in Prospect, July 2010)


“Faith is a wondrous thing; it is not only capable of moving mountains, but also of making you believe that a herring is a race horse.”                       (Arthur Koestler in The God That Failed)


“The necessary lie, the necessary slander; the necessary intimidation of the masses to preserve them from short-sighted errors; the necessary liquidation of oppositional groups and hostile classes; the necessary sacrifice of whole generations in the interest of the next – it may all sound monstrous and yet it was so easy to accept while rolling along the single track of faith.”                                                                                                          (Arthur Koestler in The God That Failed)


“The lesson taught by this type of experience, when put into words, always appears under the dowdy guise of perennial commonplace: that man is a reality, mankind an abstraction; that men cannot be treated as units in operations of political arithmetic because they behave like the symbols for zero and the infinite, which dislocate all mathematical operations; that the end justifies the means only within very narrow limits; that ethics is not a function of social utility, and charity not a petty-bourgeois sentiment but the gravitational force which keeps civilization in its orbit. Nothing can sound more flat-footed than such verbalizations of a knowledge which is not of a verbal nature; yet every single one of these trivial statements was incompatible with the Communist faith which I held.”                                   (Arthur Koestler in The God That Failed)


“Just as I was leaving Moscow, in 1922, Alexandra Kollontaj said to me: ‘If you happen to read in the papers that Lenin has had me arrested for stealing the silver spoons in the Kremlin, that simply means that I’m not entirely in agreement with him about some little problem of agricultural or industrial policy.’”                                    (Ignazio Silone, in The God That Failed)


“Although the long-heralded Dictatorship of the Proletariat has not materialized, there is nevertheless dictatorship of one kind – dictatorship of the Soviet bureaucracy. It is essential to recognize this and not to allow oneself to be bamboozled. This is not what was hoped for – one might almost say that it is precisely the last thing in the world that was hoped.” [cf. Muggeridge in June Commonplace: “…, as in ‘It is greatly to be hoped that men of goodwill and moderation will come together, and wiser counsels yet prevail.” What precisely, Muggeridge would ask, was ‘it’? Who was doing the hoping?…”]                               (André Gide, in The God That Failed)


Shut Up And Sing (1950-style)

“… I have always been aware that no criticism or the Communists removes the arguments against capitalism. The effect of these years of painful experiences has only been to reveal to me that both sides are forces producing oppression, injustice, destruction of liberties, enormous evils. It is to be said for capitalism that since it has been long established it can afford the luxury of freedom in the arts and the debate amongst political parties; but at the same time capitalism as we see it today in America, the greatest capitalist country, seems to offer no alternative to war, exploitation, and destruction of the world’s resources. Communism, if it could achieve internationalism and the socialization of the means of production, might establish a world which  would not be a mass of automatic economic contradictions.”                                                                                                                                               (Stephen Spender, in The God That Failed)


“Israel exists because of a covenant God made with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob 3,500 years ago — and that covenant still stands. World leaders do not have the authority to tell Israel and the Jewish people what they can and cannot do in the city of Jerusalem.”                                                                                                                                (Rev. John Hagee, quoted in NYT, July 6)


“I don’t deny that Guineans lost their lives in the process of constructing the nation. You have got to see everything in context. The work of the president must be placed in the perspective of history, the struggle for the emancipation of humanity.”                                      (Mohamed Touré, son of Guinean dictator Sékou Touré, about his father’s rule, quoted in NYT, July 8)


“It is the will of God that we must have critics, and missionaries, and Congressmen, and humorists, and we must bear the burden.”                                                                                                                                (from Mark Twain’s unpublished autobiography, quoted in NYT, July 9)


“In ‘Saving Belief: A Discussion of Essentials’, he [Austin Farrer] wrote, ‘God not only makes the world, he makes it make itself; or rather, he causes its innumerable constituents to make it.’ In other words, it’s a collaborative effort. God is Phil Spector, and we are the Ronettes.”                                                                                             (Nick Paumgarten in the New Yorker, July 12 & 19)


“Instead of a safety net that protects the elderly from poverty, we have a system in which the American taxpayer is effectively underwriting cruises and tee times.”                                                                                                                                            (Ross Douthat, in NYT, July 12)


“For the struggle in our own hearts between the better and the worse in us, the higher and the lower: between generosity and meanness, mercy and ruthlessness, well-wishing and ill-wishing, gentleness and aggression, respect and contempt, tolerance and intolerance, humility and pride; this struggle is not something undesirable, something to be magicked away for the speedier calming of the turmoil within, but the very stuff and meaning of us as living souls.”                                                                                                 (from Victor Gollancz’s My Dear Timothy, p 56)


“The medicine included mesmerism, evolution, Ibsen, the subconscious, Herbert Spencer, Liberal Judaism, and the Wagnerian system of leitmotivs.” (Victor Gollancz on his mother, from My Dear Timothy, p 189: compare Osbert Lancaster’s mother, and H. L. Mencken’s ‘Uplift’)


“We worked hard: but whatever we might happen to be officially ‘reading’, and whatever the amount of time we might devote to it – however much or however little – our leisurely speculation, and the love with which we sought after wisdom, were devoid of self-interest; for the primary aim of our reading and thinking and discussing was not to pass our Schools, or to get a good first, or to fit ourselves for some particular career, but to fill ourselves out, to make ourselves complete, to develop into the best types of person we were severally capable of being.”                            (Victor Gollancz, on his time at Oxford, from My Dear Timothy, p 220)


“When, some time early in the war, I wrote ‘Shall our Children Live or Die?’ in reply to Lord Vansittart, I included the sentence ‘It is necessary to love Hitler.’ I wrote it as I might have written ‘one must eat to live’. But my friends urged me to cut it out, for they feared a scandal, and I meekly complied.”                          (from Victor Gollancz’s My Dear Timothy, p 240)


“For the dynamic of Soviet communism resides largely in this: that though no longer internationalist in any true sense of the term, and though both nationalist itself to a very high degree and appealing to nationalism wherever that may suit its designs, it aims, nevertheless, at world unification. And world unification is something good. The future is with it. Eventually, in whatever form, it will come. And we shall certainly not get it through nationalism, which fights against it. We shall get it either through Soviet communism, and this might well be disastrous, or through our own internationalism of a purer kind.”                                                                                                                                                           (from Victor Gollancz’s My Dear Timothy, p 294)


“And yet I say, with all the sincerity of which I am capable, that if I were faced with the alternatives of throwing every existing copy of all the nine Beethoven symphonies into a furnace, and then erasing the memory of them so completely that they could never be reconstructed – if I were faced with the alternatives of that on the one hand, and of letting a single child starve, as the price of not doing it, on the other, I would jettison Beethoven without a moment’s hesitation.”                                                                                                             (from Victor Gollancz’s My Dear Timothy, p 297: Gollancz credits Bernard Shaw with the identical dilemma)


“In all the world the holiest university is the University of Oxford: in the University of Oxford the holiest college is New College: and the holiest spot in New College is New College garden.”                                    (Victor Gollancz echoing Ansky in The Dybbuk, from My Dear Timothy, p 56)


“This has implications for everybody alive, anybody who is getting older.”                         (Dr. P. Murali Doraiswamy, a psychiatry professor and Alzheimer’s disease researcher at Duke University, commenting on possible earlier diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease in NYT, July 14)


“My message to Republican leaders is if you’re anti-immigration reform, you’re anti-Latino, and if you’re anti-Latino, you are anti-Christian church in America, and you are anti-evangelical.”                                                                                         (the Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, president of the evangelical National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, quoted in NYT, July 19)


“I am calling upon every red-blooded American who believes in the superiority and integrity of the white race to get out and see that no blacks vote. The best time to do it is the night before.”                                                                                                                                      (US senator from Mississippi, Theodore G. Bilbo, spoken in 1946, quoted in NYT book review, July 19)


“Don’t miss seeing the building of Boulder Dam. It’s the biggest thing that’s ever been done with water since Noah made the flood look foolish.”                                                                         (Will Rogers, on September 6, 1932, quoted by Michael Hiltzik in Colossus, p 349)


“Structural engineering is the art of molding materials we do not really understand into shapes we cannot really analyze, so as to withstand forces we cannot really assess, in such a way that the public does not really suspect.”                                                                                                                                                 (Erik H. Brown, British engineer, ‘in 1967 book’, quoted in NYT, July 20)


“They [the English Radicals] are a crowd of little Englanders, anti-Navy and Army fellows, who agitate for universal peace based on the love of God. It is a very devout policy, but unfortunately God is on the side of the big warships.”                                                                               (Max Aitken [Lord Beaverbrook] in 1911, quoted by A. J. P. Taylor in Beaverbrook, Chapter 3)


“If Max gets to Heaven he won’t last long. He will be chucked out for trying to pull off a merger between Heaven and Hell . . .  after having secured a controlling interest in key subsidiary companies in both places, of course.”                                                                                                                            (H. G. Wells, according to A. J. P. Taylor in Beaverbrook, Chapter 8)


“Just because the British are bad bureaucrats, they can never be governed by a bureaucracy.” (Beaverbrook opposing the coalition of 1918, from Beaverbrook, by A. J. P. Taylor, Chapter 8)


“Shelley had genius, but he would not have been a success in Wall Street.”                                                 (From Beaverbrook’s Success, quoted by A. J. P. Taylor in Beaverbrook, Chapter 8)


The ‘From-Whencers’

“I would at once quit public life and return to the Canadian village from whence I came.” (Beaverbrook in Politicians and the Press (1925), quoted by A. J. P. Taylor in Beaverbrook, Chapter 10)

“Lord Hugh Cecil in the Times yesterday morning, advised me to go home to the fold from whence I came. I  am seriously thinking of taking his advice, providing that Jack, Waldorf and Nancy Astor will go to the home from whence they came – which is the United States.” (Beaverbrook in letter to C. J. Morrissy (1930), quoted by A. J. P. Taylor in Beaverbrook, Chapter 12)

cf: “The language of Hazel Blears is reminiscent of the resignation of Ray Gunter from Harold Wilson’s cabinet 40 years ago. Gunter spoke of his desire to return to the “folk from whence I came” (from the Guardian)


“Beaverbrook had a firm devotion to democracy and the parliamentary system, but in his readiness to advocate unorthodox policies he belonged to the same political generation as Hitler or F. D. Roosevelt. Like them, he improvised without any order body of thought and drew ideas from the inexhaustible fertility of his untutored, but highly original mind.”                                                                                                             (from Beaverbrook, Chapter 14, by A. J. P. Taylor)


“Lord Beaverbrook believes that all editors should beware of the lunch table and be on their guard at the dinner table. All good journalists dine at Lyons Corner House.”                                                      (Beaverbrook (1933), quoted by A. J. P. Taylor in Beaverbrook, Chapter 14)


“Capitalists, who invest money in an undertaking are under an obligation to give an economic reward to those they employ. In good times they are permitted to make good profits. In bad time times they must be willing to stand the loss.”                                                                                                   (Beaverbrook (1932), quoted by A. J. P. Taylor in Beaverbrook, Chapter 14)


Beaverbrook and the Law of Unintended Consequences

“By our conduct we must not impose terrible misfortunes on countless people who have no responsibility for the present situation.

Of course we should pity the Abyssinians. But we must not on that account inflict sorrow and death on those who live far outside the zone of war.”                                                                                           (Beaverbrook (1935), quoted by A. J. P. Taylor in Beaverbrook, Chapter 14)


“For another, the Fascist and Communist faiths are not in reality violently opposed to one another. They have the same origin – in Socialism. And they have the same characteristics of dictatorship, regimentation and militarism.”                                                                                                                         (Beaverbrook (1936), quoted by A. J. P. Taylor in Beaverbrook, Chapter 14)


“They are all captains of industry, and industry is like theology. If you know the rudiments of faith, you can grasp another. For my part I would not hesitate to appoint the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church to take over the duties of the Pope of Rome.”                                  (Beaverbrook (1940), quoted by A. J. P. Taylor in Beaverbrook, Chapter 17)


Beaverbrook in Useful-Idiot Mode

“Communism under Stalin has won the applause and admiration of all the western nations.

Communism under Stalin has provided us with examples of patriotism equal to the finest in the annals of history.

Communism under Stalin has produced the best generals in the world..

Persecution of Christianity? Not so. There is no religious persecution. The church doors are open..

Racial persecution? Not at all. Jews live like other men. There are many races in the Soviet Union and not even a colour bar.

Political purges? Of course. But it is now clear that the men who were shot would have betrayed Russia to her German enemies.”                                                                   (Beaverbrook in speech in New York, April 23rd, 1942, quoted by A. J. P. Taylor in Beaverbrook, Chapter 21)


“Eden is the best of the Tories… The alternatives are the crackpot Macmillan or Butler, who is a curious blend of Gandhi and Boss Tweed.”                                                                                                                              (Beaverbrook, quoted by A. J. P. Taylor in Beaverbrook, Chapter 24)


“Fourteen earls of Hume have oppressed fourteen generations of Aitkens.” (Beaverbrook (1936), quoted by A. J. P. Taylor in Beaverbrook, Chapter 25:  cf: Sir Alec Douglas-Home on Harold Wilson in 1964: “I suppose Mr. Wilson is the fourteenth Mr. Wilson”.…)




George Kennan and the Law of Unintended Consequences

“One answer [to the question of whence derived Kennan’s ‘realist’ foreign policy] is surely Kennan’s inordinately pessimistic assessment of human capabilities to effect change on a grand scale. If the world managed to escape catastrophic war, he wrote in one characteristically dark letter in 1953, ‘it will not be because of ourselves but despite of ourselves: by virtue, that is, of the fact that we have so little, rather than so much, control over the course of events.’ Mere randomness was, for Kennan, a better bet for a happy outcome than the conscious efforts of well-intentioned people. Even they, after all, were constrained by ‘man’s fallen state.’”             (from Mark Atwood Lawrence’s review of Through the History of the Cold War, in NYT, July 25)


“His [David H Brooks’s] lawyers also defended the hiring of prostitutes for employees and board members, arguing in court papers that it represented a legitimate business expense ‘if Mr. Brooks thought such services could motivate his employees and make them more productive.’”     (from report on the trial of chief executive of DHB industries, military contractor, in NYT, July 27)


“When the British Council premises go up in flames, the odour of roasting pansy is incense in the nostrils of Allah.”                                                                                                                         (George Young of the SIS, quoted in Tom Bower’s The Perfect English Spy, Chapter 9)


“Since espionage is basically the psychological warfare of sowing mistrust, then the most dangerous spy is the spy who is caught and publicly exposed.”                                              (Graham Greene [where?], according to Tom Bower, in The Perfect English Spy, Chapter 12)




“But everything comes to an end, even the oratory of commissars.”                                                                                     (from Igor Gouzenko’s The Fall of a Titan, Book 1, Part 1, Chapter 10)


“People go to banquets for different reasons: the Frenchman to shock people with the low neckline of his lovely wife, the American to tell his neighbor a couple of spicy jokes, the Russian to prove to his comrades that he is not yet liquidated. But nobody ever attends a banquet to hear speeches.”                                  (from Igor Gouzenko’s The Fall of a Titan, Book 1, Chapter 11)


“Promises, Klim, are given according to motive, but are fulfilled according to circumstances.”                           (Stalin, to Voroshilov, in Igor Gouzenko’s The Fall of a Titan, Book 1, Chapter 17)


“Rouen, without noticing it, had become infected with a disease very common among so-called broad-minded intellectuals – the disease of subconscious egoism. It expresses itself in a desire to stand apart from society, to contradict. As a rule, it turns ‘broad-minded intellectuals’ into narrow Philistines; into the exact opposite of what they imagine themselves to be.”                                                                     (from Igor Gouzenko’s The Fall of a Titan, Book 2, Chapter 1)


“You love humanity, but you hate people.”                                                                                                               (Feodor to Gorin, in Igor Gouzenko’s The Fall of a Titan, Book 3, Chapter 12)


“Perhaps right-wing people can learn to like environmentalism the way left-wing people learn to like Wagner – by separating the outcome from the motivation.”                                                                                                                                               (Rory Sutherland in the Spectator, July 31)


“The English discovered sex in the 1950s and immediately made it ridiculous.”                                                                                                                                          (Sir Oswald Mosley to Constantine Fitzgibbon, from the Introduction to the latter’s When The Kissing Had To Stop)


“Nor was it only in politics that this declension of will had become more and more apparent through the 1950s and into the ‘60s: it was evident in the private lives of almost everyone he knew – adulterers who not only talked about but believed in the sanctity of marriage: pacifists quite prepared to use violence to attain their personal ends: atheistical clergymen not even aware that they had no God: millionaire socialists: semi-literate corner-boys accepted as leaders of culture by highly literate critics: drunken teetotalers: expatriate patriots. Foreigners might regard it as hypocrisy, but Page-Gorman had long ago recognized this malady for what it was: loss of will.”               (from Constantine Fitzgibbon’s When The Kissing Had To Stop, Chapter 11)


“There is no snobbishness like that of professional egalitarians.”                                           (Malcolm Muggeridge, quoted by Andrew Boyle in The Climate of Treason, Chapter 2)


“How thrilling to be moving across this sacred soil at last.”                                                                                                                                      (Maurice Dobb to Harry Pollitt, on crossing the Soviet frontier by train in 1921, quoted by Andrew Boyle in The Climate of Treason, Chapter 2)


“There is no one in politics today worth sixpence outside the ranks of liberals except the post-war generation of intellectual Communists under thirty-five. Them, too, I like and respect. Perhaps in their feelings and instincts they are the nearest thing we now have to the typical nervous nonconformists English gentlemen who went to the Crusades, made the Reformation, fought the Great Rebellion, won us our civil and religious liberties and humanised the working classes last century.” (John Maynard Keynes, in interview with Kingsley Martin, from the New Statesman, 28th January 1939, quoted by Andrew Boyle in The Climate of Treason, Chapter 6)


“We did not at that time realize sufficiently that Soviet Communists hate extreme Left-Wing politicians even more than they do Tories or Liberals. The nearer a man is to Communism in sentiment, the more obnoxious he is to the Soviet unless he joins the party.” (Winston Churchill, in Their Finest Hour, p 121, quoted by Andrew Boyle in The Climate of Treason, Chapter 6)


“They were killed and destroyed. If we had left them alive, the party line would have been hijacked.” (Mr. Nuon Chea, 84 years old ex-Khmer Rouge leader, quoted in NYT, August 7)


“The New Deal is demographically obsolete. You can’t fund the dream of the 1960s on the economy of 2010.”                                                                                                              (former Democrat governor of Colorado, Richard Lamm, quoted in NYT, August 7)


“He merited no more attention than a bearded nut in Trafalgar Square carrying a placard proclaiming that ‘Judgement is Nigh’; but he owned newspapers.”                                            (Hugh Cudlipp on Lord Beaverbrook, according to item in Private Eye, 6-19 August, 2010)


“For it is an extraordinary fact that in spite of a century of Marxism, and a vast output of Marxist historical writing, including dozens of regular periodicals supported by endowed institutions, there is, in the field of social history which they claim to have inspired, no Marxist historian whose name can rank with the admitted masters of the subject. All they have produced is an army of obscure scholiasts busily commenting on each other’s scholia and loudly claiming to have inspired the work of other historians who have long ago left them behind in their barren, circuitous, resonant cave of Abdullam.”                                                                                                                                             (Hugh Trevor-Roper, in Karl Marx and the Study of History)


“When radicals scream that victory is indubitably theirs, sensible conservatives knock them on the nose. It is only very feeble conservatives who take such words as true and run around crying for the last sacraments.”                 (Hugh Trevor-Roper, in Arnold Toynbee’s Millennium)


“It would be equally untrue for me now to say that Philby’s double-cross fills me with abhorrence. If I were to run into him, I should, I am sure, pass as agreeable an evening with him as ever I did in the days when we were both in Section Five. I have never been able to relate my feelings about people as individuals to my reactions to their public attitudes and behavior, whether approving or disapproving…”                                 (personal communication from Malcolm Muggeridge to Andrew Boyle, quoted in the latter’s Climate of Treason, Chapter 8)


“Hitlers come and go, but Rothschilds go on for ever.”                                 (concierge at the Rothschild mansion in Paris, quoted by Andrew Boyle in Climate of Treason, Chapter 8)


“It [the event of ‘Maurice’s’, i.e. Blunt’s, voluntary confession] was as if an over-scrupulous Archbishop of Canterbury had felt impelled to admit that invincible doubts about the Thirty-Nine Articles were the result of reckless dabbling in witchcraft and magic as a young curate.”                                                                      (from Andrew Boyle’s Climate of Treason, Chapter 11)


“Even from earliest childhood it [ambition] dominated me. I longed for achievements, to be influential – that, in particular. To sway people. This has been my religion: the belief that I deserve attention, that they are wrong not to listen, that those who dispute me are fools.”                          (Gerda Erzberger, in Tom Rachman’s The Imperfectionists, quoted in NYT, August 15)



“Gunmen shot nonethnic Baluchis traveling on a bus and painting a house in two attacks in Southwest Pakistan on Saturday…”                                        (from report in NYT, August 15)


“Violence itself is not an evil. It depends on what its purpose is. In the hands of Socialists it is a progressive force.”             (Boris Ponomarev, quoted by Chapman Pincher in Traitors, Chapter 19)


“Such was the prevalence of the question ‘What will the neighbours think?’ that I got the idea God had planted busybodies as prolifically as privets.”                                                                                                                                     (Harold Evans, in My Paper Chase, Chapter 2)


“Nah. We like Ike, but Ike’s like Woodrow Wilson at Versailles: he’s the preacher trapped in a bawdy house calling for a glass of lemonade.”                    (the chief editorial writer at the Chicago Tribune, to Harold Evans, reported by the latter in his My Paper Chase, Chapter 10)


“Part of the social mission of every great newspaper is to provide a home for a large number of salaried eccentrics.”                                                                                                                                     (Lord Thomson of Fleet, reported by Harold Evans in My Paper Chase, Chapter 13)


“To be able to devote one’s life to art without forgetting that art is frivolous is a tremendous achievement of personal character.”                                                                                                                   (Frank Kermode, in 2001, according to Verlyn Klinkenborg, in the NYT, August 20)


“If I had gotten Hitler here at U.C.L.A. at the age of 4 or 5, I could have raised him to be a nice person.”                                                                                                                 (autism therapist O. Ivar Lovaas, to Los Angeles magazine in 2003, quoted in his NYT obituary, August 23)


“She looked around the bar. It was along narrow room, decorated in the obligatory Danish minimalist style, which meant that there was no furniture.”                                                                                                                (from Alexander McCall Smith’s 44 Scotland Street, Chapter 43)


“… badly educated people are suspicious of ambiguity..”                             (Michael Moorcock, quoted by Lewis Jones in August 21 Spectator book review of Moorcock’s Into the Media Web)


“Will you youths of England make your country again a royal throne of kings, a sceptered island, for all the world a source of light, a center of peace? … England must found colonies as far as she is able, formed of the most energetic and worthiest of men … then first aim to advance the power of England by land and sea.”                                                           (from a John Ruskin speech at Oxford in 1877, taken from High Whitney Morrison’s Oxford Today: The Rhodes Scholarships, pp56-57, and quoted in Anthony Cave Brown’s Treason in the Blood, Chapter 1)


“I can think of nothing more rewarding in life than the sight of a row of descending heads at the breakfast table.”                                                 (Kim Philby to Sir James Easton, new assistant director in MI6, in 1946, quoted in Anthony Cave Brown’s Treason in the Blood, Chapter 12)


“Mr. Jones, 58, a former hotel manager with a red face and a white handlebar mustache, argues that as an American Christian he has a right to burn Islam’s sacred book because ‘it’s full of lies.’ …..  Mr. Jones said that nothing in particular had set him off. Asked about his knowledge of the Koran, he said plainly: ‘I have no experience with it whatsoever. I only know what the Bible says.’”                                                                                (from report in NYT, August 26)


“But imperialism is the cosmopolitanism of the people, the lever by which the unempowered come to believe that their acts have world-historical meaning.”                                                                                                                              (Adam Gopnik, in the New Yorker, August 30)


Jews News

“Which [that there is no significant Jewish identity in the UK any more] is why, now, more than ever, it is important that British Jews (whether or not we are religious) try to keep hold of whatever scraps of our identity remain.”             (Venetia Thompson, in the Spectator, August 14)

“Venetia Thompson expects the next British PM to have an uncritical and enduring political affiliation to the State of Israel, simply on account of his accident of birth. Would objection to this view from British subjects of any other racial lineage automatically define them as ‘anti-Semitic’?”                                      (letter from Jason Robertson in the Spectator, August 21)

“Whoever tries to define Jews by their genetic makeup, even when it is superficially positive in tone, is in the grip of a race mania that Jews do not share.”                                       (Stephan Kramer, secretary general of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, quoted in NYT, August 30)

“Israel would have to choose between remaining democratic but not Jewish, or remaining Jewish by becoming non-democratic. Israel’s enemies have long maintained that Zionism is racism and that Israel is an apartheid state. If the settlers succeed, they will turn this lie into truth.”                                                                                         (Gadi Taub, from Op-Ed in NYT, August 30)

“Their message, rather, is a mixture of astonishment and satisfaction. How extraordinary, they imply, that anyone should write like Browning – that he should choose to apprehend the universe in this one particular fashion. And how gratifying that he should keep it up – that he can always be relied upon to be Browningesque.”                                                                                                                                             (from John Gross’s Introduction to The Oxford Book of Parodies)


“I can’t make him understand that biting’s no good.”                                   (the equestrienne Adah Mencken, complaining [in reality] to Dante Gabriel Rossetti that Swinburne was not up to the mark as a lover, quoted by John Gross in his Introduction to The Oxford Book of Parodies)


“The impudence of a bawd is modesty compared with that of a convert.”               (George Savile, Marquis of Halifax, according to Hugh Trevor-Roper in The Philby Affair, p 34)




“One day a woman came up to her [Modin’s wife, Anna] and asked her if she wasn’t one of the Churchill family? Seeing as our daughter was ‘the spitting image of dear old Winnie’.”                                                                                  (Yuri Modin, in My 5 Cambridge Friends, Chapter 5)

“Babies often don’t look like antibody in particular, Bertie. Except Winston Churchill, of course. All babies look like Winston Churchill. But you can’t draw any conclusions from that!”                                                (Stuart, in Alexander McCall Smith’s The World According to Bertie, Chapter 50)


“I cannot see how any self-respecting individual could live in my country and not work for the Party.”                                                                                        (Guy Burgess, in letter to the KGB declining a pension, quoted by Yuri Modin in My 5 Cambridge Friends, Chapter 3)


“But in spite of such oddities, it’s surprising how many Presidents in the past fifty years or so could be easily made to conform – in their campaign biographies – to the Horatio Alger prototype of the humble boy born on a farm, or near a farm, who played on the local high school football team, swam in the ole swimmin’ hole, married his boyhood sweetheart, and was astounded at about the age of fifteen to hear some local toothless gaffer say, ‘You mark my words, that young fella’ll be Praise-i-dent of the You-United States some day.’”                                                                                 (Alistair Cooke, in President Ford, from Reporting America)


“The history of revolution shows that when conditions get better, people become more openly dissatisfied. The disparity between their lot and that of others becomes more evident. It is not accidental that rioting is occurring after the civil rights legislation, not before.”                                                                                                           (Dr Seymour Levantman of the University of Pennsylvania, quoted by Alistair Cooke in The Los Angeles Riots, from Reporting America)


“Pentagon Cuts Lead Suppliers to Shed Workers” (headline in NYT, September 9)

[how will those constructors of sheds manage without their access to government-approved lead providers?]


“The secular utopian movements attempting to redirect world history since the Enlightenment all were inherently doomed to fail, and did. There never was any possibility of world rule by the Western industrial working class. This was historical fantasy.

There never was any possibility that Europe (or the world) would experience a “thousand-year Reich” of rule by Nordic supermen, with “lesser races” enslaved or exterminated. This was an obscene fantasy.

Short of divine intervention, there is no possibility that the United States will eliminate “violent extremism” in international affairs, or “despotism” in Islamic society — or in any other; or “end world tyranny” (see Bush’s second Inaugural). This is a third self-evident fantasy, America’s own. Washington’s ambitions may be high-minded but also will fail, as it too defies common sense, historical possibility, and moral reason and limit.” (from letter by author William Pfaff , responding to review of his Irony of Manifest Destiny, published in NYT, September 5)


Jews News

Then what is Zionism?

“Mr. Sarrazin [author of Deutschland Schafft Sich Ab] has remained unrepentant, but has said that he regretted having made comments about Jews that distracted from his core topic. In a newspaper interview published the day before his book’s release, he spoke of a Jewish gene, a reference to recent studies showing that Jews share many genes inherited from the ancestral population that lived in the Middle East long ago. But talk of Jews and genetic predetermination crossed an invisible line in Germany.”                                (from report in NYT, September 9)

“This debate [on the proposed Islamic Center in New York] touched on the two strongest commitments that American Jews have. One is to protect democracy and the rights of minorities, which makes Hews feel safer. The other is to protect Israel, which makes Jews feel safer.”                                                                                                                                (Steven M. Cohen, sociologist and a professor at Hebrew Union College in Manhattan, quoted in NYT, September 9)


“We don’t have the ingredients of a nation, the elementary factors: a homogeneous population, common language, common culture and common destiny.” (Lee Kuan Yew, former president of Singapore, from interview in NYT, September 11)


“Stupidity is infinitely more fascinating than intelligence. Intelligence has its limits while stupidity has none. To observe a profoundly stupid individual can be very enriching, and that’s why we should never feel contempt for them.”                                                                                                                                       (Claude Chabrol, quoted in his NYT obituary, September 13)


“Very sad, really heavy; this is a custom from our ancestors. This is how we teach the Koran.” (Chérif Aïdara, Islamic lecturer)

“This has been practiced since the beginning of time in Senegal. This is a case without precedent.” (Aboubacry Barro, lawyer)                                                                     (local reactions to Senegal court decision forbidding children to beg, from report in NYT, September 13)


“The desire of the esteem of others is as real a want of nature as hunger; and the neglect and contempt of the world as severe a pain as the gout or stone.”                                                (John Adams, quoted in review of Kwame Anthony Appiah’s The Honor Code, in NYT, September 15)


“Actually, those were the best days we had. At that time, there was some law and order.”                                     (Mahamoud Nur Ali, the oldest man in Wisil, Somalia, remembering when the Italians invaded Hobyo, a nearby coastal town, in 1925, from report in NYT, September 16)


“More recently, in interviews with a Cambodian reporter, Thet Sambath, for a documentary called ‘Enemies of the People,’ Mr. Nuon Chea said the killings of “enemies” were a necessary part of the revolution. ‘If we kept these people they would kill the nation,’ he said. I have feelings for both the nation and the individual, but I clearly distinguish between them. If we must choose one or the other, I choose the nation. The individual I cast aside.’”                                                                                                             (from NYT, September 17: see also entry from August 7)


“When the student at Oxford was asked what man had most benefited humanity, and when he answered ‘Bass’ [i.e. the famous brewer], I think that he should have not been plucked. It was a fair average answer.”                                      (from Anthony Trollope’s Rachel Ray, Chapter 3)


The Original ‘From Whence He Came’? (see July postings)

“Rachel immediately reflected that Luke Rowan had people belonging to him, — very nice people ,– and that everybody knew who he was and from whence he came.”                                                                                                    (from Anthony Trollope’s Rachel Ray, Chapter 14)


“Marvellous is the power which can be exercised, almost unconsciously, over a company, or an individual, or even upon a crowd by one person gifted with goof temper, good digestion, good intellects, and good looks. A woman so endowed charms not only by the exercise of her own gifts, but she endows them who are near her with a sudden conviction that it is they whose temper, health, talents, and appearance is [sic!] doing so much for society.”                                                                                                         (from Anthony Trollope’s Rachel Ray, Chapter 26)


“… but a public dinner at an inn is the recognized relaxation of a middle-class Englishman in the provinces. Did he not attend such banquets his neighbours would conceive him to be constrained by domestic tyranny. Others go to them, and therefore he goes also. He is bored frightfully by every speech to which he listens. He is driven to the lowest depths of dismay by every speech which he is called upon to make. He is thoroughly disgusted when he is called on to make no speech. He ahs no point of sympathy with his neighbours between whom he sits. The wine is bad. The hot water is brought to him cold. His seat is hard and crowded. No attempt is made at the pleasures of conversation. He is continually called upon to stand up that he may pretend to drink a toast in honour of some person or institution for which he cares nothing; for the hero of the evening, as to whom he is probably indifferent; for the church, which perhaps he never enters, the army, which he regards as  a hotbed of aristocratic insolence; or for the Queen, whom he loves and reveres by reason of his nature as an Englishman, but against whose fulsome praises as repeated to him ad nauseam in the chairman’s speech his very soul consciously revolts. It is all a bore, trouble, ennui, nastiness, and discomfort. But yet he goes again and again, — because it is the relaxation normal to an Englishman.”  (from Anthony Trollope’s Rachel Ray, Chapter 27)


“The trouble with the Anglican Church is that it has adopted a parliamentary model and one that presumes change and presumes everyone can have a say. I think it’s become a kind of fascist democracy.”                                                                                                                                       (the Rev. John Broadhurst, a traditionalist Anglican, quoted in NYT report, September 22)

“We are a country of Protestant atheists. Most people don’t take religion very seriously. The one thing they do take seriously is how dreadful the Catholic Church is.”      (the Rev. Geoffrey Kirk, Anglican priest considering converting to Catholicism, quoted in NYT report, September 22)


“I was reminded of my father, in his eighties, gleefully recounting the comment of a contemporary of his: “D’you know, I used to be extremely interested in pretty girls, and now I can’t for the life of me remember why.’”                                                          (Penelope Lively, in review of Jane Miller’s Crazy Age: Thoughts on Being Old, in the Spectator, September 18)


“I like you to be independent and think for yourself. I know among weak conventional people it is assumed that wives think just like their husbands and it is thought so nice and so pretty, while I think it is simply degrading to one and demoralizing to the other.”                                                                                                                      (Professor Cyril Ransome (father of Arthur), writing to his future wife, Edith, in 1882, quoted by Roland Chambers in The Last Englishman, Chapter 1)


“Strolling together to the tram stop, they [Ariadna Tyrkov and Lenin] had argued fiercely over Russia’s national identity, the purpose and nature of reform. Tyrkova told Lenin she had no wish to live in a Russia ruled by illiterate factory workers. Lenin, smiling coldly, had told her this was exactly why, when the Revolution came, she would be among the first to hang from a lamp post.”                                                    (from Roland Chambers’ The Last Englishman, Chapter 7)


“No one who knows Radek can dislike him, and certainly no Englishman could dislike him who had ever heard him describe how in Trafalgar Square he was enlightened, like Saint Paul, and, a small comic figure he must have been, looking up at the stone lions, wishing he could have been an imperialist and an English imperialist of only he had not had the misfortune to be born a Pole and a Bolshevik.”                                                                                                                                (Arthur Ransome, quoted by Roland Chambers in The Last Englishman, Chapter 16)


“Revolts may come, revolts may go, but brats go on for ever.”                                                         (Arthur Ransome, quoted by Roland Chambers in The Last Englishman, Chapter 16)


“What then is the Treaty of Versailles? It is an unparalleled and predatory peace, which has made slaves of millions of people, including the most civilized.”                                                                                (Lenin, quoted by Roland Chambers in The Last Englishman, Chapter 18)


“A sweated wage, long hours, industrial conscription, prohibition of strikes, prison for slackers, diminution of the already insufficient rations where the production falls below what the authorities expect, and army of spies ready to report any tendency to political disaffection and to procure imprisonment for its promoters – this is the reality of the system.”                                                                                                                            (Bertrand Russell, in The Theory and Practice of Bolshevism, in 1920, quoted by Roland Chambers in The Last Englishman, Chapter 19)


“Those who rewrite history must see to it that no contradictory witnesses survive.”                                                                                                                                                (Arthur Ransome, in his autobiography, quoted by Roland Chambers in The Last Englishman, Chapter 22)


On ‘Spin’

“The researchers have perfected a measurement technique in which they use an extremely short voltage pulse to excite an individual atom and then follow with a lower voltage to read the atom’s magnetic state, or spin, shortly afterward.” (from NYT Science report, September 28)

“These friends had to pass some of his [G. H. Hardy’s] private tests: they needed to possess a quality which he called ‘spin’ (This is a cricket term, and untranslatable: it implies a certain obliquity or irony of approach: of recent public figures, Macmillan and Kennedy would get high marks for spin, Churchill and Eisenhower not).” (from C. P. Snow’s Variety of Men)

“ ‘spin’ – a Yiddish-speaking correspondent suggests that chutzpah is an exact equivalent.” [Surely not!!]                                                                        (from 1969 Appendix to Variety of Men)


“It’s rather unfortunate that some of the happiest hours of my life should have been spent within sound of a Roman Catholic church.”                                                                                                                                (G. H. Hardy, talking of Fenner’s to C. P. Snow, from the latter’s Variety of Men)


“No one ever made a success in this world without a large bottom.”                                                                    (attributed to Adam Sedgwick by C. P. Snow in G. H. Hardy, from Variety of Men)


“Hardy [G. H.] was saying that in his lifetime there had been only two men in the world, in all the fields of human achievement, science, literature, politics, anything you like, who qualified for the Bradman class. One was Lenin, the other Einstein.”                                                                                                                                                    (C. P. Snow, in Einstein, from Variety of Men)


Im Anfang war Die Tat (cont.)

“The trouble with Winston [Churchill] is that he’s always taking action. He will insist on getting out his maps.”                            (Lloyd George to C. P. Snow, quoted in Variety of Men)

“In our era, the road to holiness necessarily passes through the world of action.”                                                         (from Dag Hammarskjöld’s diary, quoted by C. P. Snow in Variety of Men)

“But, despite his remark to Churchill, it is almost certainly wrong to imagine that Stalin felt it [the horrors of collectivization, and the subsequent suicide of his second wife] as a personal suffering. Men of action, even those who possess strains of kindness which no one discovered in him, are not made like that. If they were, they would not be men of action. Decisions involving thousands or millions of lives are taken without emotion – or, to use a more technical word, without affect.”                                                (from C. P. Snow’s Stalin, in Variety of Men)


“.. the only man alive who can be totally incomprehensible with complete fluency in four languages..”      (a diplomat on Dag Hammarskjöld, quoted by C. P. Snow in Variety of Men)


“I should say that, in general, I am against psychologizing about historical figures unless one is driven to it. It is too facile, and the psychological imagination, even when it is strictly controlled, is a weapon that can lead one into silliness.”               (from C. P. Snow’s Stalin, in Variety of Men)




“Yiannis Papadakis, a Greek Cypriot anthropologist, says the two sides are suffering from ‘ethnic autism’, a condition on which ‘ethnic groups become so absorbed by their own pain and misery that they cannot see the pain of others and they cannot imagine themselves having caused it.’”                                             (from article by Tabitha Morgan in Prospect, October 2010)


“As you look at the history, it’s just a historical fact that while the founding fathers may have wanted to separate the institutions of church and state, they didn’t want to separate religion and politics. Those are two different things. It’s fair to say they were wary that religion could incite conflict and on the other hand they saw religion was essential to the composition of a moral citizenry. Which was necessary for the survival of this fledgling republic.”                         (Marilyn Mellowes, producer of God In America, on PBS TV, quoted in NYT, October 3)


“Perhaps someone should do a following film, where Ashkay Kumar or some other fabulous Indian man comes to England  to learn to love food at the Saxmundham farmers’ market – the honey! the marrows! – how to pray in the parish church in Walsingham and how to love when he meets the right girl in Thurso. It might help us put things into perspective.“               (Melanie McDonagh, on the Eat, Pray, Love phenomenon, in the Spectator, October 2)


“In fact many of those windows not only lacked girls but curtains as well. A curtain, like a necktie, or a bird cage, was a sign of capitalist degeneracy, the symbol of the petty bourgeoisie.”                           (Ismail Akhmedov, in In And Out Of Stalin’s GRU, describing Leningrad in 1925)


Jews News

“Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will push for legislation to require those who want to become Israeli citizens to pledge loyalty to the “nation-state of the Jewish people,” an Israeli official said Wednesday.”                                                                   (NYT, October 7, p A11)

“The [Nuremberg] laws signed by Hitler taking away the citizenship of German Jews before the Holocaust were placed on rare public display Wednesday at the National Archives [in Washington].”                                                                                 (NYT, October 7, p A17)


“The lies in novels are not gratuitous — they fill in the insufficiencies of life. Thus, when life seems full and absolute, and men, out of an all-consuming faith, are resigned to their destinies, novels perform no service at all. Religious cultures produce poetry and theater, not novels. Fiction is an art of societies in which faith is undergoing some sort of crisis, in which it’s necessary to believe in something, in which the unitarian, trusting and absolute vision has been supplanted by a shattered one and an uncertainty about the world we inhabit and the afterworld.”                                                                                                                         (Nobel laureate Mario Vargas Llosa, in the NYT Book Review in 1984, quoted by Michiko Kakutani in NYT, October 8)


“The minister of welfare and social services, Isaac Herzog, a Labor member of the cabinet, said the amendment was one of a series of steps in recent years that ‘borders on fascism.’”

“A retired Supreme Court justice, Abdel Rahman Zuabi, the first Arab to have served on Israel’s highest court, told Israel Radio last week that if the amendment passes ‘then there will be two countries in the world that in my opinion are racist: Iran, which is an Islamic state, and Israel, which is the Jewish state.’”                                                                                                     (from NYT article on the amendment to Israel’s citizenship law that calls for non-Jews seeking to become citizens to pledge loyalty to the country as a Jewish and a democratic state, October 11)


Graham Green on Espionage, from The Human Factor

“Why don’t we send then [the Russians] carbon copies, with our compliments, of what we send the Americans? There’s supposed to be a détente, isn’t there? Save everyone a lot of trouble.”                                                                                                        (Dr Percival, Part 1, Chapter 2)

“’I don’t think Communism will work – in the long run – any better than Christianity has done, and I’m not the Crusader type. Capitalism or Communism? Perhaps God is a Capitalist. I want to be on the side most likely to win during my lifetime. Don’t look shocked, John. You think I’m a cynic, but I just don’t want to waste a lot of time. The side that wins will be able to build better hospitals, and give more to cancer research – when all this atomic nonsense is abandoned. In the meanwhile I enjoy the game we’re all playing. Enjoy. Only enjoy. I don’t pretend to be an enthusiast for God or Marx. Beware of people who believe. They aren’t reliable players. All the same one grows to like a good player on the other side of the board – it increases the fun.”

‘Even if he’s a traitor?’

‘Oh, traitor – that’s an old-fashioned word, John. The player is as important as the game. I wouldn’t enjoy the game with a bad player across the table.’”                                                                                                               (Dr Percival and Sir John Hargeaves, Part 4, Chapter 2)

“’Well, I’m what’s generally called a traitor.’

‘Who cares?’ she said………. ‘We have our own country. You and I and Sam. You’ve never betrayed that country, Maurice.’”       (Maurice Castle and his wife, Sarah, Part 5, Chapter 1)

“’I’m so glad you’ve said that. It means we can be frank with each other. Of course we know, and I expect you know, that he’s arrived safely in Moscow.’

‘Thank God.’

‘Well, I’m not sure about God, but you can certainly thank the KGB. (One mustn’t be dogmatic – they may be on the same side, of course.)..’” (Dr Percival and Sarah Castle, Part 6, Chapter 3)


“But, if a man has done in youth and middle age as much for his fellow-men as Owen did, only a curmudgeon will grudge him his ration of eccentricities after sixty-five.”                                                                                                                                (from Robert Owen, by R. H. Tawney)


“The merchant or manufacturer’s function is to provide for the nation. It is no more his function to get profit for himself out of that provision than it is a clergyman’s function to get his stipend.”                                                                           (Ruskin, according to R. H. Tawney in Ruskin)


“Social reconstruction either means Social revolution, or it means nothing.”                                                                                    (from The Conditions of Economic Liberty, by R. H. Tawney)


“Nor, when capitalism is dead, will bureaucracy be its heir.”                                                                                                            (from The Nationalization of the Coal Industry, by R. H. Tawney)


“Such an industrial order, and the social system which reposes on it, whatever its economic consequences, is essentially servile.”                                                                                                                                          (from The Nationalization of the Coal Industry by R. H. Tawney)


“Only ignorance or prejudice would deny the technical and economic achievements of the Soviet Union; but dams, bridges, power-plants and steel-works, however admirable, are not a substitute for human rights; and the contrast between a Russian Police Collectivism and the socialism of Western Europe is too obvious to need emphasis.”                                                                                                                                           (from Social Democracy in Britain by R. H. Tawney)


“If, as is commonly held by British socialists, the essential characteristic of a planned economy consists, not as professor von Hayek seems to suggest, in a detailed budget of production, but in the transference for the responsibility for the higher ranges of economic strategy from profit-making entrepreneurs to a national authority, his mystery of iniquity is attenuated to a mare’s nest and his bloodthirsty Leviathan becomes a serviceable drudge.”                                                                                                             (from Social Democracy in Britain by R. H. Tawney)


“The revolt of ordinary men against Capitalism has had its source neither in its obvious deficiencies as an economic engine, nor in the conviction that it represents a stage of social evolution now outgrown, but in the straightforward hatred of a system which stunts personality and corrupts human relations by permitting the use of man by man as an instrument of pecuniary gain.”                                                                        (from British Socialism Today by R. H. Tawney)


“I have never taught children; so, like everyone else in that position, I know exactly how to do it.”                                                           (from Social History and Literature by R. H. Tawney)

[cf  Mrs. Adelaide Tarr Gimmitch, in Sinclair Lewis’s It Can’t Happen Here: “..though herself unfortunately childless, she was esteemed as  a lecturer and writer about Child Culture..”]



“[The Mumbai consensus is] a developing state driven not by mercantilist capitalism or exports but a people-centric focus on growing levels of consumption based globally.”                                                                                                     (Larry Summers, quoted in NYT, October 16)


“If you look at the poor as a problem, you’ll be angry at elites or you’ll expect them to come up with a solution. You have to come in accepting that there will always be poor people in society and there will always be wealthy people in society, and neither of the two reached that status by their own efforts.”                                                                (Sudhir Venkatesh, a professor of sociology at Columbia and the author of Gang Leader for a Day, quoted in NYT, October 16)


“If anthropologists had come away from doing field work in New Guinea concluding ‘everyone’s different,’ but sometimes people help each other out, there would be no field of anthropology — and no word culture for cultural sociologists to bend to their will.”      (Kay S. Hymowitz, a fellow at the conservative Manhattan Institute, quoted in NYT, October 18)


“The national output of wealth per head of population is estimated to have been approximately £40 in 1914. Unless mankind chooses to continue the sacrifice of prosperity to the ambitions and terrors of nationalism, it is possible that by the year 2000 it may be doubled.”                                                                                                 (from R. H. Tawney’s The Acquisitive Society, Chapter 3)


“These things [increasing public ownership] should be done steadily and continuously quite apart from the special cases like that of the mine and railways, where the private ownership of capital is stated by the experts to have been responsible for intolerable waste, or the manufacture of ornaments and alcoholic liquor, which are politically and socially too dangerous to be left in private hands. They should be done not in order to establish a single form of bureaucratic management, but in order to release the industry from the domination of proprietary interests, which, whatever the form of management, are not merely troublesome in detail but vicious in principle, because they divert from the performance of function to the acquisition of gain.”                                                                       (from R. H. Tawney’s The Acquisitive Society, Chapter 7)


“A foreign secretary is for ever poised between a cliché and an indiscretion.”

“Socialism is only workable in heaven, where it is not needed, but not in hell, where they have it already.”                                                                                   (Harold MacMillan, according to Peregrine Worsthorne, quoting from E. R. Thorpe’s Supermac, in the Spectator, October 16)


“What is promoting ‘disaffection’? What is ‘giving aid and comfort’ to the enemy? What is ‘hindering the prosecution’ if the war? All these are wide terms, which leave room for immense differences of opinion. Are communists promoting ‘disaffection’ by insisting that this is an imperialist war? Are fascists ‘hindering the prosecution of this war by continuing their fantastic propaganda against the Jews? Would it be sedition to make a speech at Aldershot complaining of the inadequacy of allowances to soldiers’ wives and children? Is the Fellowship of Reconciliation not entitled as Sir John Anderson seemed to suggest in the House of Commons, to assist conscientious objectors by advising them how best to claim their rights before tribunals? Ought a citizen to be able to say that he suspects the bona fides of the Government? Ought he to be allowed to argue that peace without victory is desirable? What, in a sentence, are the limits of the restraints a Government under war conditions is entitled to impose?”               (Harold J. Laski, in Government in Wartime, from Where Stands Democracy (Fabian Society Essays), 1940)


“From this I infer the conclusion that the unity of our nation will be the more fully maintained the more we move in the direction of equality. A great adventure like war wins the faith of men in the purposes for which it is waged by producing in them the conviction that the end it seeks to reach is worth all they can be asked to give.”                                                     (Harold J. Laski, in Government in Wartime, from Where Stands Democracy (Fabian Society Essays), 1940)


“You can’t give orders to the British Press

To emphasise, embroider or suppress,

To baste the reds and take a Fascist tone –

There is no need, they’ll do it on their own.” (Hamilton Fyfe, parodying Humbert Wolfe, in Propaganda and Repression, from Where Stands Democracy (Fabian Society Essays), 1940)


“It [monopoly] is therefore constitutionally incapable of fighting either as the champion or ally of democracy. Imperialism is monopoly and monopoly is imperialism: the identity between the two is full and exact. Men do not create the vast monopolist structures of the modern world from sheer moral obliquity, or even because they seek the aesthetic satisfaction of the architect. They create them because in modern conditions profit cannot be reliably safeguarded in any other way.”                                                                                              (Leonard Barnes, in The Uprising of Indian and Colonial Peoples, from Where Stands Democracy (Fabian Society Essays), 1940)


“Already, in the philosophy of John Bright, we can see that Utopian belief in the power of good-will, that vague suspicion of ‘power-politics’, that confidence in disarmament as the universal panacea, which was to become the motif of later Labour politics. Already in the flagrant contradictions between Mr. Gladstone’s electoral denunciation of imperialism and his practice when he became prime Minister, we can see the fate which was to fog every progressive Englishman when, instead of criticizing the uses of power, he came to use it himself.”                                                                                                                            (Richard Crossman, in National and Democratic Socialism, from Where Stands Democracy (Fabian Society Essays), 1940)


“Those very tasks of domestic and European reconstruction which we should have carried out in the name of social justice, are now being accomplished in the name of racial imperialism. The national control of the means of production, which we proclaim, is a fact accomplished by the Nazi war machine, the international planning of economics, which we have hardly dared even to think of, us now being undertaken by the closed imperialism of the racial state. No wonder that Hitler and Stalin can do business together. Each controls a revolutionary movement, whose success is due to the failure of western democrats to complete their own democratic revolution.”                                                                                                      (Richard Crossman, in National and Democratic Socialism, from Where Stands Democracy (Fabian Society Essays), 1940)


“In the third place, if we, as Socialists and Democrats, are to play our part in the new revolutionary movement, we must clear our minds of a lot of illusions. We must admit, without shame, that our first task is the defence of British liberty, and recognize that Europe can only be saved by an Anglo-French cooperation, both economic and military, which must last long after the war is over….

Lastly, until we admit the indivisible connection of nationalism and a vital democratic socialism, all talk of federal Union is futile. The aim of any federation, which really arouses loyalty, will not be to destroy nationalism, but to save national unity from destruction by the totalitarian empires.”                                                                                (Richard Crossman, in National and Democratic Socialism, from Where Stands Democracy (Fabian Society Essays), 1940)


“If Wordsworth had been older at the time of the French Revolution, he might well have written, not ‘Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive, But to be young was very heaven’ but rather ‘Cursed was it in that dawn to be alive, But to be middle-aged was very hell.’”         (G. D. H. Cole, in The Decline of Capitalism, from Where Stands Democracy (Fabian Society Essays), 1940)


“We cannot afford austerity.” (Joseph E. Stiglitz, in the Guardian, quoted in NYT, October 21)


“For him [Giacomo Leopardi], death does not just end life; it nullifies life, and the fact that we are going to die is the only fact that matters. The key to the terrible power of his work is that we can never totally banish the suspicion that he might be right.”                                                                                                                                       (Adam Kirsch, in the New Yorker, October 25)


“The American government is the greatest force for good in the history of mankind.”

“Social Security is the greatest social program since the fishes and loaves.”                                                                                           (Senator Harry Reid, quoted in the New Yorker, October 25)


“The D. A. R. [Daughters of the American Revolution] (reflected the cynic, Doremus Jessup, that evening) is a somewhat confusing organization – as confusing as Theosophy, relativity, or the Hindu Vanishing Boy Trick, all three of which it resembles. It is composed of females who spend half their waking hours boasting of being descended from the seditious American colonists of 1776, and the other and more ardent half in attacking all contemporaries who believe in precisely the principles for which those ancestors struggled.”                                                                                                                      (from Sinclair Lewis’s It Can’t Happen Here, Chapter 1)


“4) Believing that only under God Almighty, to Whom we render all homage, do we Americans hold our vast Power, we shall guarantee to all persons absolute freedom of religious worship, provided, however, that no atheist, agnostic, believer in Black Magic, nor any Jew who shall refuse to swear allegiance to the New Testament, nor any person of faith who refuses to take the Pledge to the Flag, shall be permitted to hold any public office or to practice as a teacher, professor, lawyer, judge, or as a physician, except in the category of Obstetrics.”                                                                                                                               (from Senator Windrip’s Fifteen Points of Victory for the Forgotten Men, in Sinclair Lewis’s It Can’t Happen Here, Chapter 8)


“There is no Solution! There will never be a state or society anything like perfect!

There will never be a time when there won’t be a large proportion of people who feel poor no matter how much they have, and envy their neighbors who know how to wear cheap clothes showily, and envy neighbors who can dance or make lover or digest better.”               (Doremus Jessup meditating, from Sinclair Lewis’s It Can’t Happen Here, Chapter 13)


“His Solution, Doremus pointed out, was the only one that did not flee before the thought that a thousand years from now human beings would probably continue to die of cancer and earthquake and such clownish mishaps as slipping in bathtubs. It presumed that mankind would continue to be overburdened with eyes that grow weak, feet that grew tired, noses that itch, intestines vulnerable to bacilli, and generative organs that are nervous until the age of virtue and senility. It seemed to him unidealistically probable, for all the ‘contemporary furniture’ of the 1930’s, that most people would continue, at least for a few hundred years, to sit in chairs, eat from dishes upon tables, read books – no matter how many cunning phonographic substitutes might be invented, wear shoes or sandals, sleep in beds, write with some sort of pens, and in general spend twenty or twenty-two hours a day much as they had spent them in 1930, in 1630. He suspected that tornadoes, floods, droughts, lightning, and mosquitoes would remain, along with the homicidal tendency known in the best of citizens when their sweethearts go off dancing with other men.

And, most fatally and abysmally, his Solution guessed that men of superior cunning, of slyer foxiness, whether they might be called Comrades, Brethren, Commissars, Kings, patriots, Little brothers of the poor, or any other rosy name, would continue to have more influence than slower-witted men, however worthy.” (from Sinclair Lewis’s It Can’t Happen Here, Chapter 13)


“Pondered Doremus: Blessed be they who are not Patriots and Idealists, and who do not feel they must dash right out and Do Something About It, something so immediately important that all doubters must be liquidated – tortured – slaughtered!”                                                                                                                                    (from Sinclair Lewis’s It Can’t Happen Here, Chapter 13)


“Is it just possible that the most vigorous and boldest idealists have been the worst enemies of human progress instead of its greatest creators? Possible that plain men with the humble trait of minding their own business will rank higher in the heavenly hierarchy than all the plumed souls who have shoved their way in among the masses and insisted on saving them?”                                                              (Doremus Jessup, from Sinclair Lewis’s It Can’t Happen Here, Chapter 13)


“Under a tyranny, most friends are a liability. One quarter of them turn ‘reasonable’ and become your enemies, one quarter are afraid to stop and speak and one quarter are killed and you die with them. But the blessed final quarter keep you alive.”                                                                                                                                  (from Sinclair Lewis’s It Can’t Happen Here, Chapter 20)


“The proletarians are probably noble fellows, but certainly do not think that the interests of the middle-class intellectuals and the proletarians are the same. They want bread. We want – well, all right, say it, we want cake! And when you get a proletarian ambitious enough to want cake, too – why, in America, he becomes a middle-class intellectual just as fast as he can – if he can!”             (Doremus Jessup to Karl Pascal, in Sinclair Lewis’s It Can’t Happen Here, Chapter 20)


“Listen, Comrade Karl, Windrip and Hitler will join Stalin long before the descendants of Dan’l Webster. You see, we don’t like murder as a way of argument – that’s what really marks the Liberal!” (Doremus Jessup to Karl Pascal, in Sinclair Lewis’s It Can’t Happen Here, Chapter 20)


“All the while he [Berzelius Windrip] loved the People just as much as he feared and detested Persons, and he planned to do something historic.”                                                                                                                                         (from Sinclair Lewis’s It Can’t Happen Here, Chapter 35)


“Most Americans had learned in school that God had supplanted the Jews as chosen people by the Americans, and this time done the job better, so that we were the richest, kindest, and cleverest nation living; that depressions were but passing headaches and that labor unions must not concern themselves with anything except higher wages and shorter hours and, above all, must not set up an ugly class struggle by combining politically; that, though foreigners tried to make a bogus mystery of them, politics were really so simple that any village attorney or any clerk in the office of a metropolitan sheriff was quite adequately trained for them; and that if John D. Rockefeller or Henry Ford had set his mind to it, he could have become the most distinguished statesman, composer, physicist, or poet in the land.”                                                                                                              (from Sinclair Lewis’s It Can’t Happen Here, Chapter 37)


“Life is beautiful but the world is hell.”                                                                      (Harold Pinter, in a BBC interview a year before his death, quoted by Antonia Fraser in Must You Go?)


“It’s an old Scandinavian tradition. Every year they nominate me for the [Nobel] prize, and every year they give it to someone else.”                                                                                                                                                (Jorge Luis Borges, in interview in 1985, quoted in NYT, October 30)


“He [Eden] could no more imagine Britain giving up her inheritance as a world power because she was now hard up than for a similar reason having to exchange his own Savile Row suits for a reach-me-down from the Fifty-Shilling Tailors. Moreover, he similarly took it as a given that the world role must be vital to the wealth and security of the realm.”                                                                                                                         (from Correlli Barnett’s The Verdict of Peace, Chapter 4)

“Winston Churchill in 1951 appointed as his Minister of Housing and Local Government a snaggle-toothed, straggly moustached, droop-eyed cuckold and phoney Edwardian English gent (actually grandson of a Scottish peasant) equipped with small ‘l’ liberal prejudices, slippery political cunning, and remorseless ambition.”                                                                                                                                        (from Correlli Barnett’s The Verdict of Peace, Chapter 7)

“And thirdly,  the new BMC’s two constituent firms had long been the bitterest of rivals, so that in terms of management the merger was less like putting two newly-weds in bed together than stuffing two aggrieved ferrets into one sack.”                                                                                                                                                (from Correlli Barnett’s The Verdict of Peace, Chapter 19)

“In October 1951 a Labour government which did not really believe in socialism had been replaced by a Conservative government which did not really believe in free-market competition.”                                                                       (from Correlli Barnett’s The Verdict of Peace, Chapter 20)

“[Sir Walter] Monckton (Harrow and Balliol) went on to amplify these thoughts in language that would have done credit to the original nineteenth-century progenitors of small ‘l’ liberalism – educational idealists like Cardinal Newman, Dr Arnold and a host of later public-school headmasters; romantic dreamers like William Morris; the earnest chapel-goers who shaped the Victorian Liberal Party and, later, the Labour Party too: all those helpful souls who ever believed that mankind might be redeemed from conflict and selfish greed for a life of brotherhood and harmony.

‘We should aim [wrote Monckton] at education in the arts of working together in an industrial democracy…

… education is required on the question of the responsibility of the individual, whether it be trade-unionist or employer, for the economic health and social well-being of the state …       Education on this basic problem is, of course, concerned with the moral fibre and social attitudes of the nation as a whole. It should be the concern of all men of goodwill who can influence public opinion, e.g., teachers, churchmen, newspaper editors, Members of Parliament.’

Just the stuff to go down well with the disgruntled troops on the shop floors of Coventry and Cowley and in the working-men’s clubs and pubs of Sunderland and Glasgow!”                                                                                              (from Correlli Barnett’s The Verdict of Peace, Chapter 21)


“Eden as prime Minister marvelously personified these ambiguities, being himself a pre-war moralizing internationalist and apostle of the League of Nations, and a statesman-founder of the United Nations Organization. Who can wonder that on the present crisis he was so edgy and indecisive? His were the dithers of a bishop nerving himself to enter a brothel.”                                                                                         (from Correlli Barnett’s The Verdict of Peace, Chapter 23)



“And he illustrates the dramatic postwar decline of manufacturing with the memorable statistic that, by 1995, the combined turnover of the coal, steel, and shipbuilding industries was less than that of Britain’s 10,000 Indian restaurants.”                                                                                  (Joe Moran in review of Paul Addison’s No Turning Back, in History Today, October 2010)


“There is this extraordinary thing called self-esteem which is pumped into the children now.”                                            (Deborah, Dowager Duchess of Devonshire, quoted in NYT, November 6)


“Outside my office window, a poster reads: ‘celebrate cultural diversity’. It might as well read: ‘all power to the Soviets’.”                                (Edward Skidelsky in Prospect, November 2010)


“Every modern biographer is de rigueur a disciple of Freud, and must lace a modern understanding of the subject’s psychology into the gradual unraveling of the subject’s life story, from the start, to satisfy public expectations.”   (Andrew Adonis, in Prospect, November 2010)


“There comes a moment, with increasing frequency when artists feel that they are hopelessly surrounded by goats and monkeys. I am against falling into despair because of superficial observations such as the foregoing. Actually, I’ve never stopped looking for the real thing; and often I find the real thing. To fall into despair is just a high-class way of turning into a dope. I choose to laugh, and laugh at myself no less than at others.”                                                                                                 (Saul Bellow in 2002, quoted by Michiko Kakutani in NYT, November 9)


“Not everyone who thinks they need an exorcism actually does need one.”                                                             (Bishop Thomas J. Paprocki of Springfield, Ill., quoted in NYT, November 13)


“I think about my audience, but I am not writing for them. If I were thinking of my audience and one likes this, one likes that, one likes another thing, I would never know what to write.”        (composer Henrk Gorecki, in 1984 interview, quoted in his NYT obituary, November 13)


“The more innocent they are, the more they deserve to be shot.”                                                                                                                  (Bertold Brecht to Sidney Hook in 1935, just after the arrest of Zinoviev and Kamenev, from Gary Kern’s A Death In Washington, Part 1, Chapter 11)


“The Soviet Union is still the sole hope of the workers of the world. Stalin may be wrong. Stalins will come and go, but the Soviet Union will remain. It is our duty to stick to our post.”                                               (Walter Krivitsky, from Gary Kern’s A Death In Washington, Part 1, Chapter 14)


“Hardcore believers remained intact, holding rallies, giving speeches and singing songs in support of all the Communist virtues; Paul Robeson, Carl Sandburg, Corliss Lamont, Earl Browder and others. No twists and turns of Soviet policy, no forced famine of the peasantry. No slave driving of the proletariat, no invasion of a neighboring country, no mock trial of former heroes, no harrowing survivor’s story could shake their faith in Moscow. Their minds were made-up, their souls were sold, their eyes were clouded over. As Lamont put it during the purges: ‘Where so much is good, nothing can be bad.’”                                                                                                                     (from Gary Kern’s A Death In Washington, Part 3, Chapter 6)


“I do not agree with you. I do not regard the Communists as any present or future threat to our country. In fact, I look upon Russia as our strongest ally in the years to come. As I told you when you began your investigation, you should confine yourself to Nazis and Fascists. While I do not believe in Communism, Russia is far better off and the world is safer with Russia under Communism than under the Tsars. Stalin is a great leader, and although I deplore some of his methods, it is the only way he can safeguard his government.”  (FD Roosevelt in 1940, according to Martin Dies of HUAC, from Gary Kern’s A Death In Washington, Part 3, Chapter 7)


“Like his new boss in London, he [Tyler Kent] looked to National Socialism as the best defense against the spread of Bolshevism, a position theoretically as sound as the support of Bolshevism as the best defense against National Socialism. The choice for people dedicated to an open society at the time was between democracy and dictatorship, not between one or the other form of dictatorship.”              (from Gary Kern’s A Death In Washington, Part 3, Chapter 11)


“The reason is that he was representative of a new species of man, Homo sovieticus. Certainly not quite the ideal, the propaganda image of the collective worker, serious in purpose, joyful in mood, socially responsible, morally pure, sexually healthy, emotionally stable, physically athletic, artistically gifted, whose friends are his comrades, whose wife works beside him, whose children go to state schools, all for the glory of the Bolshevik Party and the realization of Communism on earth. No, rather the reality, the historical creation of  a curious hybrid, a citizen uplifted by high ideals and twisted by base actions, direct in emotion, and multi-layered in deceit, broad in political perspective and narrow in personal viewpoint, devoted to mankind in the abstract and ruthless to men in the flesh, capable of working under phenomenal stress and apt to lose control over a trifle, professionally disciplined and socially underdeveloped, mentally accomplished and culturally shallow, living chronologically in the time of Albert Einstein and psychologically in the time of Ivan the Terrible; above all, adept in the labyrinthine mysteries of a Mongolian-Byzantine-Slavic-Germanic-Georgian social structure unlike any other, and unable to break free. As one who had lived abroad many years, Krivitsky did not perfectly fit this paradigm; in particular, he was sophisticated and learned by comparison with most Soviet types; yet he was close enough to it to need that special, tainted air and to feel choked without it.”                                                      (from Gary Kern’s A Death In Washington, Part 4, Chapter 1)


“She [Angelica Balbanova] is the source of the story that Lenin called foreign sympathizers ‘useful idiots’”                                                                                                                                 (Impressions of Lenin, 1964, from Gary Kern’s A Death In Washington, Part 4, Chapter 2)


‘Decades later, when Kim Philby in Moscow decided to pen his memoirs, he was able to strike back at the man who had caused him so much trouble. Krivitsky, he wrote, was one of those defectors who ‘chose freedom’ (referring to the title of Victor Kravchenko’s book I Chose Freedom), but who ended up a disillusioned suicide’:

‘But was it freedom they sought, or the fleshpots? It is remarkable that not one of them volunteered to stay in position and risk his neck for ‘freedom’. One and all, they cut and ran for safety.’ [My Secret War, pp 115-116]

The levels of hypocrisy in this statement defy calculation, but more astonishing and instructive perhaps is the way that lies once given birth by political propaganda can live and grow and reproduce without suffering the supposedly annihilative action of the truth, no matte rhwo many times they may be exposed to it. If lies prosper by means of repetition, as Josef Göbbels maintained, should truths not do the same?”                                                                                                                                         (from Gary Kern’s A Death In Washington, Part 5, Chapter 1)


“The Tarzan series, alone, I daresay, did more for de-Stalinization than all Khrushchev’s speeches at the Twentieth Party Congress and after.”                                                                                                                  (Joseph Brodsky, in Spoils of War, from On Grief and Reason)


“A political system, a form of social organization, like any system in general, is by definition a form of the past tense that aspires to impose itself upon the present (and often on the future as well); and a man who works in grammar is the last one who can afford to forget this.”                                                    (Joseph Brodsky, in Uncommon Visage, from On Grief and Reason)


“I am not appealing for the replacement of the state with a library, although the thought has visited me frequently; but there is no doubt in my mind that, had we been choosing our leaders on the basis of their reading experience and not their political programs, there would be much less grief on earth.”         (Joseph Brodsky, in Uncommon Visage, from On Grief and Reason)


“What all these men [Lenin, Stalin, Hitler, Mao Zedong] had in common was that their hit list was longer than their reading list.”                                                                                                                                        (Joseph Brodsky, in Uncommon Visage, from On Grief and Reason)


“Mimicry is the defense of individuality, not its surrender.”                                                                                                 (Joseph Brodsky, in Speech at the Stadium, from On Grief and Reason)


“No matter how abominable your condition may be, try not to blame anything or anybody: history, the state, superiors, race, parents, the phase of the moon, childhood, toilet-training, etc. The menu is vast and tedious, and this vastness and tedium alone should be offensive enough to set one’s intelligence against choosing from it.”                                                                                                                        (Joseph Brodsky, in Speech at the Stadium, from On Grief and Reason)


“I, for one have always regarded espionage as the vilest human pursuit, mainly, I guess, because I grew up in a country the advancement of whose fortunes was inconceivable to its natives.”                                                        (Joseph Brodsky, in Collector’s Item, from On Grief and Reason)


“It [one’s resistance to turning into hunter] has to do with the degree of one’s evolution, with the species’ evolution, with reaching the stage marked by one’s inability to regress. One loathes spies not so much because of their low rung on the evolutionary ladder as because betrayal invites you to descend.”       (Joseph Brodsky, in Collector’s Item, from On Grief and Reason)


“But double or triple, he [Kim Philby] was a British agent through and through, for the bottom line of his quite extraordinary effort is a sharp sense of futility. Futility is so hideously British.”                                                      (Joseph Brodsky, in Collector’s Item, from On Grief and Reason)


“Now, the purpose of evolution is the survival neither of the fittest nor of the defeatist. Were it the former, we would have to settle for Arnold Schwarzenegger; were it the latter, which ethically is a more sound proposition, we’d have to make do with Woody Allen.”                                                               (Joseph Brodsky, in An Immodest Proposal, from On Grief and Reason)


“No other language accumulates so much of this [a fusion of the mental and the sensual] as does English. To be born into it or to arrive in it is the best boon that can befall a man. To prevent its keepers from full access is an anthropological crime, and that’s what the present system of the distribution of poetry boils down to.”                                                                                                                                         (Joseph Brodsky, in Collector’s Item, from On Grief and Reason)


“Every writer is a reader, and if you scan your library’s shelves, you must realize that most of the books you’ve got there are about either betrayal or murder.”                                                                                         (Joseph Brodsky, in Letter to a President, from On Grief and Reason)


“Politics is far more often the pursuit of philosophers than philosophy is the sideline of kings.”                              (Joseph Brodsky, in Homage to Marcus Aurelius, from On Grief and Reason)


“There is no such thing as antiquated diction, there are only reduced vocabularies.”                                                            (Joseph Brodsky, in Wooing the Inanimate, from On Grief and Reason)


“We should bear in mind also that the man [Thomas Hardy] was an autodidact, and autodidacts are always more interested in the essence of what they are learning than its actual data.”                                                      (Joseph Brodsky, in Wooing the Inanimate, from On Grief and Reason)


“But then it’s only natural, because as somebody – most likely it was I – once said, language is the inanimate’s first line of information about itself, released to the animate.”                                                                  (Joseph Brodsky, in Wooing the Inanimate, from On Grief and Reason)


“No memory of having starred

Atones for later disregard,

Or keeps the end from being hard.”                           (from Robert Frost ’s Provide, Provide)


“And then there was that moment in the summer of 1936, when, walking round the Christ Church Meadow, and pondering on the complicated subtleties of St Augustine’s theological system, which I had long tried to take seriously, I suddenly realized the undoubted truth that metaphysics are metaphysical. And having no premises to connect them with the real world, need not detain us while we are denizens of it. And at once, like a balloon that has no moorings, I saw the whole metaphysical world rise and vanish out of sight in the upper air, where it rightly belongs; and I have neither seen it, nor felt its absence, ever since.”                                                                                                                         (Hugh Trevor-Roper, from his Diaries (1942), quoted by Richard Davenport-Hines in the Introduction to Trevor-Roper’s Letters from Oxford)


“And again, two years later, when the events that preceded the Munich conference brought me in haste to Oxford, and I sat in the Merton Common Room, and Guy Chilver outlined for us all the principles of a sound British foreign policy, explaining, at great length, that in dealing with the problems of Czechoslovakia, we must not allow moral considerations, which are alone valid, to be in the least affected, even to be supported, by strategic considerations, which are inherently immoral, etc., etc.; I listened to these follies with silent contempt and disgust, and I was aware at that moment that another balloon was vanishing for ever into the stratosphere, carrying with it, to their proper home, all those chattering disputants and dogmatists and left-wing humanitarian dons who, for twenty years, had made the word academic into a synonym for ridiculous.”                                                                             (Hugh Trevor-Roper, from his Diaries (1942), quoted by Richard Davenport-Hines in the Introduction to Trevor-Roper’s Letters from Oxford)


“At Harvard he [Bernard Berenson] was much influenced by William James, ‘from whom’, wrote Kenneth Clark, ‘he probably derived his determination to approach aesthetics on a psychological rather than a mystical basis; and William James’s racy style, his love of illuminating philosophical points from popular songs and wisecracks, remained one of the most endearing features of Berenson’s conversation’.”                                                                                                                                                (Richard Davenport-Hines quoting from Clark’s Another Part of the Wood, p 134, in the Introduction to Hugh Trevor-Roper’s Letters from Oxford)


“Nowadays the most screwed-up, most unscrupulous, most inhuman totalitarians feel bound to lay claim for humanity, to liberty, to tolerance, although as we know at the cost of every perversion of our vocabulary.”                                                                          (Bernard Berenson in letter to Hugh Trevor-Roper, railing against the way that Stalinists were courting public opinion, noted by Richard Davenport-Hines in Hugh Trevor-Roper’s Letters from Oxford, p 53)


“I don’t believe people can really know a country unless they both love it and hate it..”                                                                                     (Hugh Trevor-Roper, in Letters From Oxford, p 141)


“I have to migrate to Oriel College, the dingiest, dullest college in Oxford..”                                                                                                     (Hugh Trevor-Roper, in Letters From Oxford, p 234)


“Young man, I said (or words to this effect), these doubts are nothing. You think certain doctrines of the Church implausible. Of course you are quite right: they are. But why should you expect them to be plausible? How can you seriously suppose that doctrines devised to befuddle the senses of illiterate peasants in the pre-scientific Middle east should stand up to our exacting tests? The doctrine of the Church, that extraordinary patchwork garment, which nevertheless has a certain archaic beauty, is not tailor-made to fit you. It is a reach-me-down garment, somewhat moth-eaten in places, as needs must be; but it has fitted many a good man in the past, and will fit you, if you wear it lightly and don’t go about drawing attention to the admittedly numerous holes which now make up the major part of it.” (Hugh Trevor-Roper getting into hot water with the ecclesiastical authorities after appearing on television in 1957, from Letters From Oxford, p 245)


“The eulogy is the most autobiographical of forms.”              (the poet Richard Howard, according to Francine Prose in review of Antonia Fraser’s Must You Go? In NYT, November 21)


“Talk to your doctor if you feel sad, have little interest in things you used to enjoy, feel dependent on drugs or alcohol, or have thoughts about ending your life.”                                                                 (from the 2011 US government Medicare handbook, ‘Covered Services’, p 38)


“It is quite possible to imagine [Karl] Kraus having a fun time with Bush’s use of language, although first it would have to be translated into German, and before that it would have to be translated into English.”                                                                                                                (from Clive James’s The Question of Karl Kraus, in The Revolt of the Pendulum)


“Art, by making bearable sense of the world, is out after religion’s job, which is probably why no religion in its fundamentalist phase has ever liked it.”                                                                                 (from Clive James’s John Bayley’s Daily Bread, in The Revolt of the Pendulum)


“Arrogance is such an integral part of the English, one often fails to notice it. They take it arrogance to new, unsuspected levels.”                                                    (Elias Canetti, in Auto da Fé, quoted by Clive James in Canetti, Man of  Mystery, in The Revolt of the Pendulum)


“A Machiavelli without judgment is a dangerous colleague.” (Denis Healey in The Time of My Life, quoted by Clive James in Denis Healey’s Classic Memoir, in The Revolt of the Pendulum)


“In defeat, indomitable; in victory, insufferable; in Nato, thank God, invisible.”                                                                                                     (Winston Churchill on Bernard Montgomery, quoted by Clive James in Denis Healey’s Classic Memoir, in The Revolt of the Pendulum)


“We can’t make the world safe for goodness. It exists and develops in struggle with evil.”                                                                                                                        (philosopher John Anderson, quoted by Clive James in The Voice of John Anderson, in The Revolt of the Pendulum)


“At noon I observed a bevy of nude native young ladies bathing in the sea, and went and sat down on their clothes to keep them from being stolen.”                                                                                                                                                        (Mark Twain, in Roughing It, Chapter 52)


“Memory, I think, is a substitute for the tail that we lost for good in the happy process of evolution.”                               (Joseph Brodsky, in Less Than One, from Less Than One)


“Poetry after all in itself is a translation; or, to put it another way, poetry is one of the aspects of the psyche rendered in language. It is not so much that poetry is a form of art as that art is a form to which poetry often resorts.”                                                                                                                                            (Joseph Brodsky, in In the Shadow of Dante, from Less Than One)


“Looking back on human history, we can safely say that cynicism is the best yardstick of social progress.”                                   (Joseph Brodsky, in On Human Tyranny, from Less Than One)


“… for culture is ‘elitist’ by definition, and  the application of democratic principles in the sphere of knowledge leads to equating wisdom with idiocy.”                                                                                 (Joseph Brodsky, in Nadezhda Mandelstam (1899-1980), from Less Than One)


“… the surest defense against Evil is extreme individualism, originality of thinking, whimsicality, even – if you will – eccentricity.”                                                                                                                        (Joseph Brodsky, in A Commencement Address, from Less Than One)


“Evil is a sucker for solidity. It always goes for big numbers, for confident granite, for ideological purity, for drilled armies and balanced sheets.”                                                                                                  (Joseph Brodsky, in A Commencement Address, from Less Than One)


“Poles always feel they need to have an enemy. Because of our history we define ourselves, to be Polish meant to protect our country. So now that we don’t have to protect ourselves, we still need to find an enemy.”                       (Urszula Slawinska in Warsaw, quoted in NYT, November 28)


“We in the South, who have been kicked around for an awfully long time and are accused of being racist, we would just like the truth to be known. [While there were many causes for the war,] our people were only fighting to protect themselves from an invasion and for their independence.”                                                                                                                (Michael Givens, commander-in-chief of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, explaining plans to air television commercials celebrating secession, quoted in NYT, November 30)




“One of the diseases of this age is the multiplicity of books; they doth so overcharge the world that it is not able to discharge the abundance of idle matter that is every day hatched and brought forth into the world.”                                                                                                                                                         (Barnaby Rich in 1613, quoted by Elizabeth Posani in Prospect, December 2010)


“The term’s [‘sledging’] origins are already being blurred by myth, but according to Ian Chappell, the word first cropped up as jargon on the mod-60s in Adelaide, where players’ efforts to chat up women were derided by their teammates as having all the subtlety of a sledge-hammer –  the offending bloke was subsequently dubbed a ‘Percy’ or a ‘Sledge’, thanks to the soul-singer’s domination of the charts at that time with the song When A Man Loves A Woman.”                                                         (from The Art and Science of Cricket, by Bob Woolmer, p 66)


“Life lived in behalf of a great cause is robbed of its personal futility.”                                                                                            (Angelica Balabanoff, in My Life As A Rebel, Chapter 1 [1938])


“Whatever action you take, I shall remain true to Socialism. You may deprive me of my membership, but you will never be able to tear Socialism out of my heart – it is too deeply rooted.”                                                                            (Mussolini, on being expelled from the Italian Socialist Party, from Angelica Balabanoff’s My Life As A Rebel, Chapter 10 [1938])


“It is this that kills the spirit of the labour movement – not only in Russia, but throughout the world: that an Idea which has inspired whole generations of matchless heroism and enthusiasm has become identified with the methods of a regime based upon corruption, extortion and betrayal; and last, but not least, that the sycophants and assassins of this regime have infected the world labour movement. In this, Bolshevism identifies itself more and more with Fascism.”                                                         (Angelica Balabanoff, in My Life As A Rebel, Chapter 1 [1938])


“To most kids growing up today, Hitler could be Genghis Khan. People talk about ‘soup Nazis’, or if you don’t like the dogcatcher, he’s ‘the Gestapo’.” (Abraham H. Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, in NYT article about Claude Lanzmann and Shoah, December 7)


“In America a classicist is someone who prefers Madonna in her ‘Papa Don’t Preach’ phase.”                                                                                       (P. J. O’Rourke, in the Spectator, December 4)


“’Marxian historiography is fundamentally opposed to the canons of Western scholarship’, declared the prestigious TLS [Times Literary supplement, in a review of Jack Lindsay’s Byzantium into Europe, 1952], calling this fact that ‘raises the question, which will have seriously to be faced, sooner rather than later, by those concerned with academic appointments, whether, in fairness to his pupils, any individual who adheres to the Communist doctrine can be allowed responsibility for the teaching of history.’”                                                                           (from David Kynaston’s Family Britain, The Certainties of Place, Part 1, Chapter 4)


Joe Stalin was a mighty man and he made a mighty plan;

He harnessed nature to the plough to work for the good of man;

He’s hammered out the future, the forgeman he has been

And he’s made the worker’s state the best the world has ever seen.”                                                                                                                       (from Ewan MacColl’s The Ballad of Joe Stalin, quoted in David Kynaston’s Family Britain, The Certainties of Place, Part 1, Chapter 4)


“We can eat our Weetabix, catch the 8:48, read the sports column and die; for love is dead.”                                                         (John Betjeman in Love is Dead, from First and Last Loves)


“For the upper classes, on the other hand, he [‘the worker’] has no dislike at all; often, in fact, he has admiration for them. They are, he thinks, genuine, as he is; and have not a foot in both camps, as the middle classes have. They do not climb in the world, or make their money; their position and wealth are inherited. The worker admires a man with money he has made by gambling or money he had inherited, but he does not like a man who is out to make money. The upper-class man is primarily a sportsman, like himself; he breeds horses and bets on them, the workman breeds dogs and bets on them. They both like gambling…”                                                                                                                                                 (Ferdynand Zweig, in British Worker, quoted in David Kynaston’s Family Britain, The Certainties of Place, Part 2, Chapter 7)


“Never have I met anyone so kindly and considerate.”                                                                     (Harry Pollitt, British Communist leader, on the death of Stalin, in the Daily Worker, quoted in David Kynaston’s Family Britain, The Certainties of Place, Part 3, Chapter 10)


“There are many branches where the putting on of a soft collar instead of a stiff white one will mark a man down as unambitious and unworthy of the higher reaches of his profession.”                                                                                                                         (Westminster Bank’s house magazine in 1954, quoted in David Kynaston’s Family Britain, A Thicker Cut, Part 2, Chapter 9)


“It must be emphasized that however vast the number of crimes against humanity for which Bolshevism is responsible, however many the victims and enemies of the regime Lenin founded, no one has ever doubted Lenin’s own complete unselfishness and abnegation.”                                                                                               (Angelica Balabanoff, in Impressions of Lenin, Chapter 1)


“Those who, in good or bad faith, identify Bolshevism with Marxism or socialism give Bolshevik totalitarianism a helping hand.”                                                                                                                                                 (Angelica Balabanoff, in Impressions of Lenin, Chapter 2)


“It must be conceded that without Lenin there would have been no Stalin, even if Stalin was only a monstrous caricature of the founder of Bolshevism. From the very beginning of his career as a revolutionist Stalin embraced Lenin’s theory and methods; the repulsive traits he revealed as a dictator were developed under Lenin’s regime. The apparatus developed by Lenin made it possible for individuals like Stalin to develop their innate wickedness.”                                                                                                    (Angelica Balabanoff, in Impressions of Lenin, Chapter 11)


“It was not Stalin who created the apparatus, but the apparatus created Stalin.”                                          (Leon Trotsky, according to Angelica Balabanoff in Impressions of Lenin, Chapter 11)


On Spiritual Leadership

“La Familia, which blends its own form of Christian teachings with methamphetamine trafficking and the beheadings of rivals, is now also the focus of an assault by federal forces aimed at dismantling it.   The spiritual leader of the group, Nazario Moreno González, was believed to have been killed last week in a confrontation with the federal police, the government said. “                                                                              (from a report in the NYT, December 15)


“Studying the sweep of interrelated events that give history drive and cogency has been abandoned; it is no longer regarded as a serious part of a young person’s mental equipment as he or she leaves school.”                                             (Peter Snow, in History Today, December 2010)


“The medium isn’t the message. The message is the message.”                                             (Andrew Bosworth, director of engineering at Facebook, quoted in NYT, December 21)


“Everybody would like to be a messianic figure without dying.”                                                                                                      (Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, quoted in NYT, December 23)


“I always thought the need to know the news every day is a nervous disorder.” (Michael Oakeshott to Andrew Sullivan, recorded by the latter in the Spectator, September 18/25)


“These men [those fighting an election for the Labour Party] in their turn represent millions of soldiers, sailors and airmen who want socialism and who have been fighting magnificently to save a world in which socialism is possible.”                                                                                                                                 (from Denis Healey’s letter to his Labour Party selection conference in Pudsey and Otley in 1945, quoted in Healey’s The Time of My Life, Chapter 3)


“The upper classes in every country are selfish, depraved, dissolute and decadent. The struggle for socialism in Europe … has been hard, cruel, merciless and bloody.”                                                                                                        (from Denis Healey’s The Time of My Life, Chapter 3)


“The world today and the history of the human anthill would be exactly the same as it is, if I had played ping-pong instead of sitting on committees and writing books and memoranda.”                                                                                                                                                    (Leonard Woolf, at the end of his autobiography, quoted in Denis Healey’s The Time of My Life, Chapter 4)


“Like most of my generation, I was fired with a passion to play my part in building a new Britain based on social justice.”                       (from Denis Healey’s The Time of My Life, Chapter 5)


“These unusual working conditions help to explain why some MPs have a drink problem, and others cause a commotion by leaving their wives for their secretaries; occasionally those who fail to leave their wives for their secretaries cause an even greater commotion.”                                                                                               (from Denis Healey’s The Time of My Life, Chapter 7)


“I sometimes think that the critical difference between a democracy and a dictatorship is that in a dictatorship there are only two people out of every hundred who take a personal interest in politics; in a democracy there are three.” (from Denis Healey’s The Time of My Life, Chapter 7)


“Nevertheless, Stalin was not Hitler. Soviet totalitarianism was different from the totalitarianism of the Nazis.”                                       (from Denis Healey’s The Time of My Life, Chapter 9)


“If Stalin had not won the succession, despite Lenin’s warnings, of the more liberal Communists like Bukharin had been able to continue the New Economic Policy of the early twenties, the history of the Soviet Union might have been very different. However, though Stalin was mainly responsible for the domestic disasters that followed, I now believe that a failure of will and of imagination in the West has some responsibility both for Stalin’s pact with Hitler before the war, and for the Cold War afterwards.”   (from Denis Healey’s The Time of My Life, Chapter 9)

“The fact is that in pioneer farming families such as ours, the eighteenth century lasted a half-century longer than its name suggests – down to the 1860s – just as it did in the American South, and in Russia. The eighteenth-century culture that lingered on in these families was not that of the ancient régime in France, nor that of London and the English establishment. It was the Puritan culture of Scotland and the northeast of England.”         (George Kennan’s description of his ancestors, from his memoirs, quoted by Denis Healey in his The Time of My Life, Chapter 10)


“People used to tell a story about the books written on the elephant by different nationalities. The British book was entitled Elephants I Shot, the French L’Elephant et l’Amour and the German Prolegomenon to a Future Metaphysic of Elephants. The great comic journalist, Art Buchwald, whose jokes often convey more political insight than the editorials in his paper, extended the saying to Scandinavia: the Finn wrote a book called Finland’s Debt to the Elephant, the Swede What Sweden did for the Elephant during the Second World War, and the Norwegian Norway and the Norwegians.”                                     (from Denis Healey’s The Time of My Life, Chapter 10)


“Dean Acheson misled a generation when he said: ‘Britain has lost an empire, but not yet found a role.’ Countries are not actors in a soap opera which must choose whether to play the jeune premier, the grandfather, the hero, or the villain. They are complex societies of individual human beings undergoing continual change.”   (from Denis Healey’s The Time of My Life, Chapter 10)


“I have always defined socialism as the collective control of power in society, whether political, economic, or physical.”                    (from Denis Healey’s The Time of My Life, Chapter 12)

“I have already quoted Kolakowski’s definition [of socialism]: ‘an obstinate will to erode by inches the conditions which produce avoidable suffering.’”                                                                                                                                    (from Denis Healey’s The Time of My Life, Chapter 26)

“Socialism emphasizes the community rather than the individual, consensus rather than confrontation, public welfare rather than private gain; it puts the quality of life before the quantity of goods.”                             (from Denis Healey’s The Time of My Life, Chapter 26)


“Nicky [Kaldor] was the most brilliant economist of his generation in Britain, but he was typically insensitive to the political and social implications of his proposals; his advice to governments in the Third World was notorious for provoking revolution.”                                                                                                            (from Denis Healey’s The Time of My Life, Chapter 17)


“Practical men, who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influences, are usually the salves of some defunct economist. Madmen in authority, who hear voices in the air, are distilling their frenzy from some academic scribbler of a few years back.”                                                 (Keynes in 1936, according to Denis Healey in his The Time of My Life, Chapter 3)


“It had been customary among Keynesians – who had usually read no more of Keynes than most Marxists had read of Marx – to claim that there was no need to worry about a fiscal deficit when the economy was working below capacity, nor about a deficit on the current balance of payments when foreign capital was pouring into Britain.”                                                                                                                                     (from Denis Healey’s The Time of My Life, Chapter 19)


“It is ironic that Tony Benn’s ministerial career should have left only two monuments behind – the uranium mine in Namibia he authorised as Energy Secretary, which helped to support Apartheid and is in territory illegally occupied by South Africa, and an aircraft which is used by wealthy people on their expense accounts, whose fares are subsidized by much poorer taxpayers. When he left office the only Planning Agreement which existed was one established years before he entered parliament – the annual Farm price Review, chaired in my time by the Duke of Northumberland.”                               (from Denis Healey’s The Time of My Life, Chapter 19)


“ is much easier to manage an economy if you can use electrodes on the more sensitive parts of those who refuse to cooperate.” (from Denis Healey’s The Time of My Life, Chapter 20)


“While I was walking on the downs she was reading or riffling through some hundred and twenty novels. She learned more about sex in those two months than in forty years of married bliss with me.”                                                                                                              (Denis Healey describing his wife, Edna’s, role as Booker Prize juror, in The Time of My Life, Chapter 3)


“Few governments are socialist at present; as Nye Bevan once said, a socialist foreign policy is a policy for hermits.”                                     (from Denis Healey’s The Time of My Life, Chapter 26)


“I liked adventuresome work that I often didn’t understand.  For art to be very good it has to be over your head.”                                                                                                                         (Roy R. Neuberger, art collector, in a 2003 interview, quoted in his NYT obituary, December 25)


“Mr. Gbagbo [president of the Ivory Coast], a historian and former university professor who is steeped in the history of the French Revolution, is widely reported to have once grumbled that he was ‘obliged to carry out the Revolution of 1789 under the scrutiny of Amnesty International.’”                                                                                                        (from report in NYT, December 26)


And Whose Store Is It?

“The federal government missed a chance to begin to act rationally about its long-term deficit by giving away the store to the rich in the tax deal. States should not make the same mistake.”                                                                                                             (from NYT leader, December 26)

“Then [Kasim] Reed [mayor of Atlanta] tackled the city’s biggest problem: runaway pensions, which were eating up 20 percent of tax revenues and are rising. In the early 2000s, the police, fire and municipal workers’ unions persuaded the city to raise all their pensions — and make it retroactive. So, between 2001 and 2009, Atlanta’s unfunded pension obligations grew from $321 million to $1.484 billion. Yikes.” (from Thomas Friedman’s Op-Ed column, NYT, December 26)


“I have no guilt complex about money although I inherited a substantial sum and increased it. I know that if all the money and property in the world were equally divided to every adult at 3 o’clock this afternoon at 3:30 there would be wide differences.”                                                                          (from Paul Getty’s diary entry of May 22, 1975, reported in NYT, December 26)


“A man can spend his whole existence never learning the simple lesson that he has only one life and that if he fails to do what he wants with it, nobody else really cares.”                                                                                     (Louis Auchinloss in A Writer’s Capital, quoted in NYT, December 26)


“When someone asked Stalin at the end of the war if Hitler was a lunatic or an adventurer,’ he responded: ‘I agree that he was an adventurer. But I can’t agree he was mad. Hitler was a gifted man. Only a gifted man could unite the German people.”                                                                                                                                 (from the Introduction to Robert Dallek’s The Lost Peace)


“When you stop murdering people by the millions, they start to get notions.”                                                                      (Lavrenty Beria, according to Robert Dallek in The Lost Peace, Chapter 2)

“The more people you kill, the more revolutionary you are.”                                                                               (Mao Tse-tung, according to by Robert Dallek in The Lost Peace, Chapter 10)



“In the early discussions on the declaration, when Balfour suggested an alternative homeland for world Jewry, Weizmann asked, ‘Would you give up London to live in Saskatchewan?’ Failing to see the comparison, Balfour replied that the British had always lived in London. ‘Yes,’ Weizmann said, ‘and we lived in Jerusalem when London was still a marsh.’”                                                                                                      (from Robert Dallek’s The Lost Peace, Chapter 5)


“The thoughtful observer of Russian-American relations will find no cause for complaint in the Kremlin’s challenge to American society. He will rather experience a certain gratitude to providence that, by providing the American people with this implacable challenge, has made their entire security as a nation dependent on their pulling themselves together and accepting the responsibilities of moral and political leadership that history plainly intended them to bear.”                                                                                                                 (George F. Kennan’s conclusion to The Sources of Soviet Conduct, quoted by Robert Dallek in The Lost Peace, Chapter 8)


“It would take a brave man to be a coward in the Soviet army.”                                                       (Stalin to James Forrestal, quoted by Robert Dallek in The Lost Peace, Chapter 8)


“I like old Joe. He is a decent fellow [who] is a prisoner of the Politburo.”                     (President Truman on Stalin in June 1948, according to Robert Dallek in The Lost Peace, Chapter 8)


“’He [Jean Toomer] was running away from a cultural identity that he had inherited,’ Mr. Gates said. And this came with consequences: ‘He never, ever wrote anything remotely approaching the originality and genius of ‘Cane,’ Mr. Gates said. ‘I believe it’s because he spent so much time running away from his identity.’ ‘I feel sorry for him,’ he added.“                                                                                   (‘Harvard scholar’ Henry Louis Gates, Jr., quoted in NYT, December 27)


“Over all my race hasn’t been a problem. I’m a black artist with white skin. At the end of the day you have to sing what’s in your own soul.”                                                                                                                                     (soul singer Teena Marie, quoted in her NYT obituary, December 28)


“Cancer is an inevitability the moment you create complex multicellular organisms and give the individual cells the license to proliferate. It is simply a consequence of increasing entropy, increasing disorder. If we lived long enough, sooner or later we all would get cancer.”                    (Dr. Weinberg of the Whitehead Institute, quoted in NYT Science Times, December 28)


“And because the brain’s wiring is so densely packed, building a connectome stands as one of the most formidable data collection efforts ever concocted. About one petabyte of computer memory will be needed to store the images needed to form a picture of a one-millimeter cube of mouse brain, the scientists say. By comparison, it takes Facebook about one petabyte of data storage space to hold 40 billion photos. ‘The world is not yet ready for the million-petabyte data set the human brain would be,’ Dr. Lichtman [of Harvard University] said. ‘But it will be.’”                                                                                    (from report in NYT Science Times, December 28)


“That’s why I envy religious believers. There are of course no firm foundations for their belief, but you’re not allowed to point this out without seeming rude, aggressive and disrespectful – without in fact seeming to attack their right to be happy. That’s why I resent religious belief, even among my nearest and dearest, since with them the impossibility of discussing religion dispassionately is most apparent.”                      (from David Lodge’s Deaf Sentence, Chapter 5)


“I went to a humanist funeral once and I wouldn’t want to have one myself even though I’m a humanist.”                                                           (from David Lodge’s Deaf Sentence, Chapter 19)


“You could say that birth itself is a sentence of death – I expect some glib philosopher has said it somewhere – but it is a perverse and useless thought. Better to dwell on life, and try to value the passing time.”                                                          (from David Lodge’s Deaf Sentence, Chapter 20)


“I have to concede that the competition that deregulation brought certainly was terribly, terribly hard on the airlines and their unions, who had heretofore enjoyed the benefits of protection from competition under regulation.”                                                                                              (Alfred E. Kahn, architect of airline deregulation, quoted in his NYT obituary, December 29)

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