Commonplace 2005


“Let me see if I understand your thesis. You think we shouldn’t anthropomorphosize people?”                                                                 (The philosopher Sidney Morgenbesser, to B.F. Skinner, as reported in the NYT Magazine, December 26, 2004)

“To explain why a man slips on a banana skin, we do not need a general theory of slipping.”                                                                     (Sidney Morgenbesser, op.cit.)

“J.L. Austin was giving a lecture at Columbia University in the 1950s. Austin noted that while a double negative amounts to a positive, never does a double positive amount to a negative. From the audience, a familiar voice [Morgenbesser’s] muttered dismissively: “Yeah, yeah.”                                                                    (Sidney Morgenbesser, op. cit.)        [I originally heard this anecdote – with neither Austin nor Morgenbesser referred to – as follows: “ A professor speaks: ‘In many languages a positive and a negative indicates a negative, and in some languages a double negative indicates a positive, but in no language does a double positive indicate a negative.’ From the audience, ‘Yeah, right!’”. I prefer the latter formulation.]


“Why is God making me suffer so much? Just because I don’t believe in him.”                                                                                           (Sidney Morgenbesser, when dying, op. cit.)


What’s thine is mine (cf. Muggeridge)

“The payroll tax is not “your” money; it’s our money.”                                                                     (Professor Barry Schwartz of Swarthmore College, in NYT, p A27, January 5)

More Dreams and Nonsense from Liberals                                                                  “To the Editor: Imagine how differently our society would function if we incorporated Jared Diamond’s analyses into our decisions. Perhaps we would no longer be polarized as we worked toward a common goal: our own sustainability.                                                     We would demand that our government join the rest of the world to address the realities of climate change. We would embrace renewable energy policies rather than fighting wars to control the world’s dwindling resources.                                                               We would protect the middle class from a descent into poverty from declining wages, rising debt, lack of health care, cuts in social programs and risky stock market solutions to Social Security’s problems.                                                                                    We would create affordable housing and jobs with a future. And our government officials would ensure that citizens, as well as corporations, have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”                                                                 (Letter in NYT, January 5)

“We have been socialized into a culture that advocates self-reliance, that rewards individuality and that fails to acknowledge the structural causes of poverty.”                                                                                                         (From Letter in NYT, January 7)



[Dr. Josko, diagnosing Robert Swirling, who believes he is Groucho Marx]

“No, I mean I’m curious about something. Something generally attributed to you. Possibly your most famous wisecrack. Did you really say you wouldn’t belong to a club that would have you a for a member?”

“Yeah, but I stole it from Henry James.”


“In The Princess Casamassima the hero, what’s his face, Hyacinth, tells somebody he’d never marry a girl who’d have him for a husband. Same gag.”                                                                                                              (Madder Music, p 15, by Peter de Vries)

“Do you think I’d marry any one who would marry me? The kind of girl who’d look at me is the kind of girl I’d never look at.”                                                                                                                         (Hyacinth [sic] Robinson to Amanda Pynset (Pinnie), the dressmaker who looks after him, in Princess Casamassima, Chapter X, by Henry James)


“A woman once said to Shaw, he was a vegetarian of course, ‘Bernard, if you ate a lamb chop not a woman in the British isles would be safe.’”                                                                                                                          (Madder Music, p 52, by Peter de Vries)


“Not for him the reductive aphorism of the Englishman (Lord Palmerston?) who said life would be tolerable if it were not for its pleasures.”                                                                                                                                         (Madder Music, p 58, by Peter de Vries)


“The murals in restaurants are on a par with food in museums.”

“You can’t be happy with a woman who’s writing a biography of Emanuel Swedenborg”

“Hawthorne was a voyeur with myopia.”

“There are some things, like the spelling of jodhpurs, that can never be made to look right.”                                                                                                                       (among the aphorisms of Pomfret Tingle, in Madder Music, p52 and p58, by Peter de Vries)


“Of course, as T.S. Eliot said, there’s sometimes more wisdom in music-hall jokes than in what passes for philosophy.”                            (Madder Music, p 206, by Peter de Vries)


“Armageddon the hell out of here” [is this the first occurrence of the joke used as a bubble-caption on the Private Eye 1037 cover, with George Bush?]                                                                                                             (Madder Music, p 213, by Peter de Vries)


“It affects your nerves, makes you want to say stupid, nice things and stroke the heads of people who could create such beauty while living in this vile hell. And you mustn’t stroke anyone’s head – you might get your hand bitten off.”                                                                                                                            (Lenin, on hearing a Beethoven sonata, according to Lionel Trilling, in his introduction to Henry James’s Princess Casamassima)


“It was only Nazi anti-Semitism that made me conscious of my Jewish heritage. I had been brought up in a secular Christian fashion, celebrating Christmas and Easter. My father had to explain it to me.”     (Historian Fritz Stern, in the NYT, January 6)


“The limits of my language are the limits of my world”                                                                                 (Wittgenstein, acc.William Deresiewicz, NYT Book Review, January 9)


“To admire Wagner, except for certain aspects of his technical accomplishment, after the age of about 20, is a sure sign of arrested development and unfulfilled sexual experience.”                                                                                         (The music critic Cecil Ray, in his autobiography (?), acc. to Frank Johnson, in the Spectator, January 1)


“All slang is metaphor and all metaphor is poetry”                                                    (G.K. Chesterton, in The Defence of Slang, acc. Paul Johnson, in the Spectator, January 1)


The Paying Public not Invited

“If we are to have a safe, efficient transportation industry, it is more important than ever that everyone in management, labor and government work together toward the common goal of rebuilding the transportation industry for our mutual benefit.”                                                                                                                      (from letter by Robert Roach Jr., vice-president for transportation at The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, to Norman Y. Mineta, US transportation secretary, NYT, January 15)


“We may amaze each other, but we never surprise ourselves.”                                                                                                          (Forever Panting, Chapter 8, by Peter de Vries)


“Smackenfelt had long ago learned that you can no more easily pull a brick from a wall than you can dislodge from a woman’s mind an idea that is emotionally necessary to her.”                                                            (Forever Panting, Chapter 8, by Peter de Vries)


“Woman is the wheel that will always squeak, grease it though we may.”                                                                                        (Forever Panting, Chapter 14, by Peter de Vries)


“We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts.”                                                                                                                     (attrib. to boxer Jack Johnson, when asked why women prefer African-American lovers, by writer Stanley Crouch, NYT, January 17 & 18)


“On the other hand, after a particularly robust altercation, a friend asked nervously whether he had contemplated divorce. ‘Divorce, never. Murder — often,’ he replied.”                   (of Fitzroy Maclean, on his wife Veronica, in her obituary, Times, January 19)


Oh yes, those American Purges and Labor Camps…

“Henry Bolingbroke and his evil counselor, Archbishop Thomas Arundel, seized the throne in 1399 and ushered in an age of repression and orthodoxy that Mr. Jones and company compare to Russia under Stalin, or the United States in the McCarthy era.”               (in review of Who Murdered Chaucer? by Terry Jones et al., in NYT, January 19)


“People who boast about their IQ are losers.”                                                                                                (Professor Stephen Hawking, in interview in NYT, December 12, 2004)


“The price you pay for precision is inability to deal with real-world problems.”     (Douglas North, Nobel Prize winner in economics, Wall Street Journal, 29 July 1994)


“Nothing in history is more irrecoverable than a witty man’s conversation or a woman’s sex appeal.”                                            (Paul Johnson, p 28, The Spectator, 8 January)


“Reading a poem in translation is like kissing a bride through a veil.”                                   (Ukrainian poet Chaim Nachman, according to Jeremy Eichler, NYT, January 21)


“Don’t boggle at the ‘alienation’ either. Alienation is big these days. Without it you’d have no sense of belonging.”                                                                                                                                                 (Cynthia Pickles, in Prick of Noon, Chapter 2, by Peter de Vries)


“As the late and much lamented Marshal Mobutu Sese Seko once pointed out, it takes two to be corrupt: the corrupter and the corrupted.”                                                                                                             (Theodore Dalrymple, in The Spectator, p 14, 22 January)




“My dear Winston, the experiences of a long life have convinced me that nothing ever happens.”                                                                                                              (Sir William Harcourt, in 1913, cited in The World Crisis, Pt 1, Ch 2, by Winston Churchill)


“’Great commotions’, it was said of old, ‘arose out of small things, but not concerning small things.’”                  (The World Crisis, Pt 1, Ch 3, by Winston Churchill)


“I sometimes feel that it takes a tainted mind to understand – to really understand – the threat of Communism. To really understand Communism is to have touched pitch: one’s view of man is forever defiled. To understand Communism means to understand the terrible capacity of man for violence and treachery, and apprehension of which leaves one forever tainted.”                  (Letter to William F. Buckley from Whittaker Chambers)

“You are one of those who did not return from hell with empty hands.”                                                                  (written to Chambers by Andre Malraux, when he read his work)

(both quoted by David Brooks, in The New York Times, p A23, February 1)


“There are some people, I suspect, who would feel obscurely cheated if, when they arrived in heaven, they found everybody else there as well.”                                      (Karen Armstrong, former nun turned religious scholar, in AARP magazine, March/April)


“The fatter the rule-book, the worse the organization.”                                                                                                                                 (Peter Jones, The Spectator, January 29)

“Company that had a 64-page ‘Code of Ethics’” [Answer “Enron”]                                                                                                (Clue in New York Times crossword, February 3)


“The logical outcome of animal rights is to give oysters the vote.”                                 (attrib. to Bertrand Russell by Bernard Cowley, in letter to The Spectator, January 29)


“I don’t know why there are supposed to be only two sexes. I can think of at least eight, even before you get to women.”

(attrib. to the writer William Mayne by Jane Gardam, in The Spectator, January 29)


And They Should Be Allowed To Get Married, Too… (see Russell above)

“A plan by a Bremen zoo to tempt a group of male Humboldt penguins who have been engaging in homosexual activity into mating with female penguins that the zoo has flown in from Sweden has set off protests by gay and lesbian groups.” (NYT, February 12)


“A playwright lives in an occupied country. He’s the enemy. And if you can’t live like that, you don’t stay. It’s tough. He’s got to be able to take a whack, and he’s got to swallow bicycles and digest them.”                                                                                                                                         (Arthur Miller, quoted in his obituary, NYT, February 12)


“Long experience has taught me that not all persons, not even prime ministers, quote correctly.”                                                                                                                      (Leon Trotsky, in Mr. Baldwin and “Gradualness”, from Leon Trotsky on Britain)

“A disbelief in violence is equivalent to a disbelief in gravitation. All life is built up on various forms of force, on the opposition of one mode of force to another, and renunciation of the use of force for purposes of liberation is equivalent to giving support to force used for oppression, which now rules the world.”                                               (Leon Trotsky, in The Problem of Revolutionary Force, from Leon Trotsky on Britain)

“Every writer should keep himself free from party, clear of any group-pull: at least this is my view of truth. My truth is objective truth, in other words. In England the entire intellectual atmosphere is impregnated with liberalism, or what liberalism transfers itself into so as to become more-and-still-more liberal. With us the pressure to achieve conformity is very great. Whether in the matter of costume, or hair-cut, or intellectual fashion.”                            (The Writer and the Absolute by D.B. Wyndham Lewis)


“There is no more popular unit in London society than a young, beautiful, but perfectly respectable woman who can be asked to dinner without her husband.”                                                                              (The Pursuit Of Love, Chapter 11, by Nancy Mitford)

“Anyhow, no woman really minds hearing of the past affairs of her lover, it is the future alone that has the power to terrify.”                                                                                                                                               (The Pursuit Of Love, Chapter 18, by Nancy Mitford)



Winning Entry in “Useless Info” Competition (The Spectator, January 15)

In 1703 a shower of sea-urchins fell on Banbury.                                                            The potto can distinguish 423 colours.                                                                             There is an Inuit word meaning ‘My house has not been destroyed by termites”.           The Pitlochry bannock-skirling game has ended in a draw for 800 consecutive years.      In Sumatra a pig may be driven along a public highway if it has front and rear lights.    The word ‘equinox’ means ‘horse nut’: conker tournaments were traditionally held on 21 September.                                                                                                                  Unmarried Kashgar women may not speak between sunrise and sunset on Thursdays.      A traffic jam stretching from Seattle to Sacramento lasted for 46 days.                         Mongolian typewriters have 739 keys.                                                                        Vermeer’s eight surviving pornographic paintings are kept in a locked room at the Mauritshuis.

Robert Benchley’s “Did You Know That —“ List (from My Ten Years In a Quandary, 1936)

Ice is not really ice at all, but a vegetable organism which forms on the surface of water to prevent it from freezing solid?                                                                                     If you take a ton of anthracite cola (Ordinary anthracite) and press it, you can use it as ‘pressed anthracite’ for blacking up in minstrel shows?                                                 Mount Washington, of the Presidential Range, is really a depression in the earth’s surface which looks high only because the surrounding country is so much lower?                           The great general Hannibal was really a woman, and a five-foot-two woman at that?    One year’s supply of that other condiment that comes in the second jar on a horse-radish cruet, would not cover one square foot of a city the size of Rochester, N. Y.?                        No one has ever actually seen Brooklyn Bridge? It is merely an action of light waves on the retina of the eye.                                                                                                       Eel-grass, such as is now used to entangle oars, was once a delicacy in Egypt?                    If you were to inhale steadily for fifteen minutes, without once exhaling, your head would touch the floor in back of you?                                                                                                  Frederick the Great once gave a walking-stick to Voltaire which bent double every time he leaned his weight on it, which was the reason Voltaire was such a cynic?                    The reason why it always says ‘twenty minutes past eight’ on those big watches that hang outside jewelers’ shops is because that is actually the time at the particular moment when you are looking at it?

“Only in England is the perversion of language regarded as a victory for democracy.”                                                                                            (attributed to Anthony Burgess ‘on one of his last visits to the country’, by Michael Henderson, The Spectator, February 12)

“Legend … is more durable than fact.”    (The First Time I Saw Paris, by James Thurber)

“I later asked Sir Willie Morris, who had been our Ambassador in Addis Ababa at the time of the revolution, if it had been Russian or Chinese agents who had introduced communism into Ethiopia. He answered, ‘There was no need. The revolution was largely brought about by British and American communist school teachers and university lecturers.’”                               (The Life of My Choice, p 438, by Wilfred Thesiger)

“Our first task must be to conclude a just and lasting peace, and so to establish the foundations of a new Europe that occasion for further wars may be for ever averted.” (November 1918 Election Manifesto issued by Lloyd George and Bonar Law, as reported by J. M. Keynes in The Economic Consequences of the Peace, p 128; cf. Lloyd George’s “I hope we may say that thus, this fateful morning, came to an end all wars” in ODQ)

“That drawing (Touché!”) was originally done for the New Yorker by Carl Rose, caption and all. Mr. Rose is a realistic artist, and his gory scene distressed the editors, who hate violence.  They asked Rose if he would let me have the idea, since there is obviously no blood to speak of in the people I draw. Rose graciously consented. No one who looks at “Touché!” believes that the man whose head is in the air is really dead. His opponent will hand it back to him with profuse apologies, and the discommoded fencer will replace it on his shoulders and say: “No harm done, forget it.” Thus the old controversy as to whether death can be made funny is left just where it was before Carl Rose came along with his wonderful idea.”                        (The Lady On the Bookcase, by James Thurber)

“There are few episodes in history which posterity will have less reason to condone, – a war ostensibly waged in defence of the sanctity of international engagements ending in a definitive breach of one of the most sacred possible of such engagements on the part of the victorious champions of these ideals.”                                                                                                                                (J. M. Keynes, on the German Indemnities, and Lloyd George’s Six Points Manifesto, in The Economic Consequences of the Peace, p 133)

“It is however, generally supposed that if the whole of a man’s surplus production is taken from him, his efficiency and his industry are diminished. The entrepreneur and the inventor will not contrive, the trader and the shopkeeper will not save, the labourer will not toil, if the fruits of industry are set aside, not for the benefit of their children, their old age, their pride, or their position, but for the enjoyment of a foreign conqueror.”                                                                                                  (J. M. Keynes, on the possibility of German servitude, in The Economic Consequences of the Peace, note on p 193)

“Perhaps it is historically true that no order of society ever perishes by its own hand.”                         (J.M. Keynes, in The Economic Consequences of the Peace, p 222)        “…. Polly and the Lecturer appeared to view. It was not a happy picture, but that may have been the fault of the climate. No aimless dalliance hand in hand under warm skies for poor English lovers who, if circumstances drive them to making love out of doors, are obliged to choose between the sharp, brisk walk and the stupefying stuffiness of the cinema.”      (Love In A Cold Climate, Chapter 15, by Nancy Mitford)                “There are so many pairs of lovers in London with ‘nowhere to go’; only the streets and the parks, where there is no privacy and it is always cold. It is not easy to make love in a cold climate when you have no money. The ‘never the time and the place’ motif is not made enough of in novels.  (Keep The Aspidistra Flying, Chapter 6, by George Orwell)

Protecting Those Poor Sensitive Students                                                                      “’It [Thomas Paine’s The Age Of Reason] really laid an egg on America,’ said Forrest McDonald, professor emeritus [Distinguished Research Professor of History] at the University of Alabama. Professor McDonald does not assign it to his students, he said, because many of them are deeply religious and might be offended. ‘I don’t lay it on undergraduates,’ he said.”                                                               (NYT, February 27)  “A proper university teaches its members how not to take hateful views personally, and how not to be offended by uncomfortable ideas. It also teaches its members how to deal with being offended. And it never turns to the Inquisitor or the Censor for the answer.”                                                        (Frank Furedi, British sociologist, quoted in NYT, March 6)

“Things said or done long years ago,                                                                                  Or things I did not do or say                                                                                                            But thought that I might say or do,                                                                                       Weigh me down, and not a day                                                                                             But something is recalled,                                                                                                      My conscience or vanity appalled.”                                  (from Vacillation, by W. B. Yeats)

“Life… holds no more wretched occupation than trying to make the English laugh.”                                                          (Malcom Muggeridge, in introduction to Tread Softly For You Tread On My Jokes. Muggeridge’s title is an echo of Yeats’s “Tread softly for you tread on my dreams”, from He Wishes For The Cloths Of Heaven, an arch allusion that probably escaped most of his readers, including me. The US edition of the book is more sensibly titled The Most Of Malcolm Muggeridge. It appears that Muggeridge may have first been exposed to Yeats’s line via a popular song of that name: in In A Valley Of This Restless Mind (1938), he wrote: “Lust ran through my life like a flaming thread. It was like a pageant, scene after scene with intervening twilight – clasped in passionate virginity on a horsehair sofa under the shadow of a bamboo flower-pot stand and tall black piano littered with ‘There are Fairies at the Bottom of Our Garden’, ‘Tread Softly, Tread Softly, because you tread on my Dreams’, ‘Less than the Dust’;…”)


“Einstein to his dying day rejected quantum mechanics as ultimate truth, saying in a letter to Max Born in 1924, ‘The theory yields much but it hardly brings us closer to the Old One’s secrets. I, in any case, am convinced that he does not play dice.’”                                                                       (NYT, March 1: this is confirmed by Clark’s biography of  Einstein, and  Nigel Rees likewise quotes the second sentence (only) of the above reference, but with a capital “H” in “he”, and thus no mention that Einstein used “der Alte”, not “Gott” or “der Herr”. Max Jammer’s Einstein and Religion dates the letter as December 4, 1925, and gives the following German text: “Die Quantenmechanik ist sehr achtung-gebietend. Aber eine innere Stimme sagt mir, dass das doch nicht der wahre Jakob ist. Die Theorie liefert viel, aber dem Geheimnis des Alten bringt sie uns kaum näher. Jedenfalls bin ich überzeugt, dass der nicht würfelt.”)

in another letter, to Cornelius Lanczos, on 21st March, 1942:

“You are the only person I know who has the same attitude towards physics as I have: belief in the comprehension of reality through something basically simple and unified… It seems hard to sneak a look at God’s cards. But that he plays dice and uses ‘telepathic’ methods (as the present quantum theory requires of him) is something that I cannot believe for a single moment.” (“Sie sind der einzige mir bekannte Mensch, der dieselbe Einstellung zur Physik hat wie ich: Glaube an Erfassbarkeit der Realität durch etwas logish Einfaches und Einheitliches. Es scheint hart, dem Herrgott in seine Karten zu gucken. Aber dass er würfelt und sich ‘telepathischer’ Mittel bedient (wie es ihm von der gegenwärtigen Quantentheorie zugemutet ist) kann ich keinen Augenblick glauben.”

(Albert Einstein: The Human Side, p 68)

see also: “I do not believe in a personal God and I have never denied this but expressed it clearly. If something is in me which can be called religious then it is the unbounded admiration for the structure of the world so far as our science can reveal it.”  (Albert Einstein: The Human Side, p 43, in English), and                                                               “I do not believe in immortality of the individual, and I consider ethics to be an exclusively human concern with no superhuman authority behind it.” (Albert Einstein: The Human Side, p 39, also in English).                                                                        Einstein does refer to ‘Almighty God’ in his writings, but in a satirical sense.

and see also:

“God can play dice and create a universe of complete law and order in the same breath, since even simple equations can generate motion so complex, so sensitive to measurement, that it appears to be random.”                                                                     (Ian Stewart, in Does God Play Dice?, cited by Niall Ferguson in Virtual History, p 77)

as well as:

“Genomes do not play dice. Certain regions of the genome are being broken over and over again.”                                   (Dr. Pavel Pevzner of The University of California in San Diego, suggesting that genomes seem to break in certain places, in the NYT, August 30)

“Should H.G. Wells afflict you                                                                                         Put whitewash in a pail;                                                                                           Paint: ‘Science – opium of the suburbs’                                                                         On some waste wall.”                                         (W. B. Yeats, A104 in Collected Poems)

“If Jesus Christ had worked for the New Yorker, Christianity would never have got started.”                                                        (Malcolm Muggeridge, in I like Dwight)

“Nothing enrages people more than to feel that they have engaged in unprofitable adulation.”                                           (Malcolm Muggeridge, in The Wodehouse affair)

Comings and Goings                                                                                             “Emperors and Führers come and go, but Rothschilds go on for ever.”                                                                                       (Malcolm Muggeridge, in The Wodehouse affair) compare:                                                                                                                         “’The capitalists will say: Presidents come and Presidents go, but we go on for ever; if this or that President does not protect our interests, we shall find another.’”  (Stalin, in Stalin-Wells Talk, p 8, October 1934)       , and                                                                           “According to an old Vatican proverb, popes come and go but the Roman curia remains.”         (Op-Ed piece in NYT, April 11), and                                                                    “Presidents come and go, but the Supreme Court, through its decisions, goes on forever.” (President Nixon, on announcing Justice Rehnquist’s nomination on October 21, 1971, as reported in the NYT, September 5), and                                                              “’Hitlers come and go, but nations remain,’ the Generalissimo [Stalin] declared in the moment when victory over Germany was certain. As far as smaller national groups are concerned, this statement should be amended to read: ‘Nations come and go, but the countries remain.’ In the words of an official of the Center, spoken in 1946: ‘there will be a Lithuania; but there will be no Lithuanians.’”                                                        (Czeslaw Milosz, in The Lesson of the Baltics, from The Captive Mind), and               “The Department [of State] and the Foreign service regard themselves as permanent custodians of American foreign policy, as compared with Presidents, who come and go.”     (Alger Hiss, in Recollections of a Life, p 99) and                                                                             “Kings may come and kings may go, but we scarcely trouble to notice whether a Plantagenet is followed by a Tudor, a Tudor by a Stuart, a Stuart by a Dutchman, a Dutchman by a Hanoverian, or even (as we have seen recently) a Hanoverian by a Hanoverian.”                                                                                                                      (Hesketh Pearson, as reported by Richard Ingrams in God’s Apology, p 199)         “The Europeans are killing each other on the borders of Egypt. The desert sand covers their bones like camel dung. But our caravans come and go for ever.”                   (from George Faludy’s My Happy Days in Hell, p 163)

[“For men may come and men may go,/But I go on for ever”, from Tennyson’s The Brook]

“I well remember, when I was a journalist in Moscow, a man in the Soviet Foreign Office opening a conversation by observing that the U.S.S.R. owed an immense debt of gratitude to the Webbs and other Western liberal intellectuals. I rather wearily asked why, expecting the usual claptrap. He surprise me by replying; ’Because they’ve convinced us that whatever we may be impelled to do in the way of dictatorial and terrorist practices, we may never fear their disapprobation.’”        (Malcom Muggeridge, in The loved one)

“What is divine in man is elusive and impalpable, and he is easily tempted to embody it in a collective form – a church, a country, a social system, a leader – so that he may raelise it with less effort and serve it with more profit. Yet, as even Lincoln observed, the attempt to externalise the kingdom of heaven in a temporal shape must end in disaster. Those who set out for it alone will reach it together and those who seek it in company will perish by themselves.”                                                                            (Hugh Kingsmill, in introduction to The Poisoned Crown, as quoted by Malcolm Muggeridge)

“The truth is, surely, that liberalism, in one variation or another the egghead’s credo, may be strategically sound, but is tactically fallacious, and as such highly misleading as well as highly destructive. Indeed, in my opinion, it is the destructive force of the age.               Liberalism, on the other hand, presupposes what is unattainable – that we, little men and women, should live in amity together on our minute corner of the universe for the few score years vouchsafed us of our own volition seeking one another’s good and sharing equitably the material things which satisfy our needs and desires. This is fantasy. This, in human terms, cannot be. Therefore, the effect of believing in it is constantly to tear the world to pieces.                                                                                                                    The basic egghead fallacy, the fallacy of liberalism which makes it in practice so destructive a force, is, it seems to me, that it implies the possibility of achieving imaginative ends by the exercise of the will. Actually, these two – the will and the imagination, or, to put it another way, power and love – are in conflict.”                                                                            (Malcolm Muggeridge, in Confessions of an egghead)

“Clowns are the poets of humour, wits its engineers.”                                                                                                                       (Malcolm Muggeridge, in A hero of our time)          “..wit is a product of the mind, humour of the heart. Thus we usually exercise wit at the expense of others, humour at our own expense. Wit is a sign of superiority, humour of equality; wit is the aristocrat, humour the democrat.”                                                                                                                              (Hesketh Pearson, in The English Genius)

“…. a serious writer is not to be confounded with a solemn writer. A serious writer may be a hawk or a buzzard or even a popinjay, but a solemn writer is always a bloody owl.”                                                                      (Ernest Hemingway, from Death In The Afternoon)

“The truth is that oratory is a coarser art than writing and that to become addicted to it is to substitute the ruses of the platform for the integrity of the pen.”                                                                                          (Enemies of Promise, Chapter 12, by Cyril Connolly)

“’Better live an hour as a lion than a lifetime as a lamb’ is stencilled all over Italy – but supposing one is a lamb?”            (Enemies of Promise, Chapter 12, by Cyril Connolly)

“’How narrow is the line’, as Nicolson wrote of Byron’s last journey, ‘which separates an adventure from an ordeal, and escape from exile.’”                                                                                                                     (Enemies of Promise, Chapter 13, by Cyril Connolly)

”At present the realities are life and death, peace and war, fascism and democracy; we are in a world which may soon become unfit for human beings to live in.”                                                                                (Enemies of Promise, Chapter 13, by Cyril Connolly)

“The only happy talkers are dandies who extract pleasure from the very perishability of their material and who would not be able to tolerate the isolation of other forms of composition; for most good talkers, when they have run down, are miserable; they know that they have betrayed themselves, that they have taken material which should have a life of its own, to dispense it in noises upon the air.”                                                                                                              (Enemies of Promise, Chapter 13, by Cyril Connolly)

“.. the true reason of a war is never known until all who fought in it are dead.”                                           (from Our Graves in Gallipoli, in Abinger Harvest, by E. M. Forster)

“Is not belief in reason based upon a misconception of human nature which we should correct? Since the war, an increasing number of people have come to feel this, and are instead taking refuge in authority or in intuition. Authority attracts our dictators and our serfs, because it seems to promise a stable society. Intuition attracts those who wish to be spiritual without any bother, because it promises a heaven where the intuitions of others can be ignored.”                                                                                                                                             (from Roger Fry: An Obituary Note, in Abinger Harvest by E. M. Forster)

“As for my politics, you will have guessed that I am not a Fascist – Fascism does evil that evil may come. And you may have guessed that I am not a Communist, though I might be one if I was [sic] a younger and a braver man, for in Communism I can see hope. It does many things which I think evil, but I know that it intends good.”                                                                          (from Liberty in England, in Abinger Harvest, by E. M. Forster)


“We are all harder and more disillusioned now [1934] than we were then [during the Great War], the League of Nations lies behind us instead of before, and no political creed except communism offers an intelligent man any hope.”                                                                                      (from A Note On The Way, in Abinger Harvest, by E. M. Forster)


“The romantic’s artillery is always bracketing over the target of reality, falling short in cynicism or overreaching it into sentimental optimism so that, whatever the achievements of romanticism in the past, to be a romantic today, knowing what we know about the nature of man and his place in the universe, is the mark of a willful astigmatism, a confession of cowardice and immaturity.”                                                                                                                             (Enemies of Promise, Chapter 19, by Cyril Connolly)


“The executive suite in America is the last bastion of socialism in the world today. If Kim Il Jong II traveled to America, he would be bewildered by most of corporate America, but would immediately feel at home on a board’s compensation committee.”                                                                                                      (Nicholas Kristof, in NYT, March 19)


“’I’m a National Socialist. You can’t understand, because you have talent. But I, who haven’t any, need National Socialism. The age belongs to us, we the men who have no talent!’”                        (1944 dinner guest of the Hungarian novelist Sándor Márai, from Memoires de Hongrie, as reported by Theodore Dalrymple, in The Spectator, March 12)


“An Englishman who becomes a Catholic ceases to be an Englishman.” (George Santayana, from Soliloquies in England, cited by W. R. Inge in The English Genius. Probably refers to: “Therefore the Englishman, as I conceive him, living in and by his inner man, can never really be a Catholic, either Anglican or Roman; if he likes to call himself by either name, it is equally a masquerade, a fad like a thousand others to which the inner man, so seriously playful, is prone to lend himself’, from The English Church)


“The point at which life becomes ‘worthless’, and the point at which the means necessary to preserve it become ‘extraordinary’ or ‘inappropriate’ are neither set forth in the Constitution nor known to the nine justices of this court any better than they are known to nine people picked at random from the Kansas City telephone directory.”                                                                                                                                (Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, in a 1990 case from the Missouri courts, cited in the NYT, March 23)


“You’re one of those liberals that give me a pain in the neck. A liberal is supposed to be in the middle. At one end is the Communist, and at the other, the reactionary like myself. You’re the guy in the middle. I’ve met a lot like you. If you lean over, you never lean to the right side but always to the left. Every liberal I know is a little bit to the left of center, never to the right of center.”                                                                                       (The columnist George Sokolsky to Bennett Cerf, as reported in the latter’s At Random, p 245)


“It is easier to persuade a tyrant to adopt one’s policy than to persuade the democracy.”                                                                            (J. M. Keynes in Stalin-Wells Talk, p 45)


“Science is a wonderful thing if one does not have to earn one’s living at it. One should earn one’s living by work of which one is sure one is capable. Only when we do not have to be accountable to anybody can we find joy in scientific research.”                                                                             (Einstein, in Albert Einstein: The Human Side, p 57)


“He [the professional politician] is an immense departure from the English aristocratic tradition by which government was seized by the landed interest, not at all because its members wanted to devote themselves heart and soul to the work. They resolved to govern primarily in order not to be governed, and their great virtue was not that they governed particularly well, but that they prevented anybody else from governing either well or badly, and above all from governing too much.”                                                                                                 (Douglas Woodruff, in The English Genius, p 107)

“’And what about this country? Doesn’t this country want thinking about and talking about? What’s happening to it? It’s being given over to pen-and-inkers. Look at Whitehall there, building after building filled with pen-and-inkers! And take it from me, pen and ink never made anything useful.’”                                                                                                                              (Voice of ‘Bowler Hat’ accosting Douglas Woodruff in a railway carriage, who then comments on the 300,000 Civil Servants  – including postal workers – in His Majesty’s Civil Service in 1938, from The English Genius, p 109)

“It is many years now since Disraeli described Treasury officials as combining the manners of the Publican with the morals of the Pharisee.” [where?]                                                                               (Douglas Woodruff, in The English Genius, p 110)

“The English public man, said Walter Bagehot, should have first-rate capacities and second-rate ideas.”   [where?]             (Douglas Woodruff, in The English Genius, p 114) [cf. “A constitutional statesman is in general a man of common opinion and uncommon abilities”, Bagehot, in National Review, July 1856, according to Oxford Dictionary of Political Quotations]

“… there is no more melancholy figure in our midst than the type of earnest idealist. His extravagant beliefs in the rapid improvement of his fellow men by exhortation and political measures soon leads him to despair at the cussedness of human kind and his own powerlessness to change them. There is too much needless unhappiness and disappointment produced by over-ambitious idealist movements for us to be quick to condemn the cheerful apathy with which the mass of people regard public life, and their bland, unfounded, but comfortable assumption that legislators and officials have a clear connected picture in their minds of what they are trying to do.”                                                                                                         (Douglas Woodruff, in The English Genius, p 115)

“Cromwell was not, as the historians of the nineteenth century would have us believe, the first great Liberal in British history: on the contrary, he was the precursor of Lenin, Mussolini, and Hitler, and, like them, he achieved power by the use of his private army in the name of an idea.”                                   (Charles Petrie, in The English Genius, p 121)

“So long as England was ruled by aristocrats, the labourer had a fair deal, but no sooner was he championed by Socialists and other ‘friends of the People’, than he was forced down by his self-styled defenders, almost to the condition of a serf.”                                                                                        (Kenneth Hare, in The English Genius, p 260)

“Diplomacy is the art of letting the other fellow have your way.”                                                                             (attrib. to Lester Pearson by Mark Steyn, The Spectator, March 19)

“Speed depends on size                                                                                             Balanced by dispersion                                                                                                       Oh, solitary splendor.”                                                                                               (haiku to explain ‘what happens to solutions of dispersive systems when dispersion tends to zero’, offered to the American Philosophical Society as explanation by Peter Lax, mathematician and analyst of the phenomenon, in the NYT, March 29)


“There are two things to be said about Creeley’s poems, the critic John Simon wrote. ‘They are short; they are not short enough.’”           (obituary of Robert Creeley, NYT, April 1)

“Not for the first time, the great suburban node of office blocks that is Croydon is being talked up as South London’s new Manhattan. The reason is a sudden frenzy of bidding from international developers to build skyscrapers here. More skyscrapers.”                                                                                                  (The Times Online, April 2) (compare: “Presentations for this case are expected to continue for several weeks, and could require some of Merrill Lynch’s top executives to travel to Croydon, the hardscrabble south London suburb where the employment’s tribunal is meeting.”    (report on Merrill Lynch sexual discrimination case, New York Times, June 9, 2004)

“Think of the Wandel [sic] and of Croydon now and you will realize that every word Ruskin wrote about capitalism and modernisation has been vindicated.”                                                       (A. N. Wilson, in review of Ruskin’s Praeteritia, in the Spectator, April 9)

“You have no possibility of becoming anybody except through me.”                       (attrib. to Lord Chesterfield, in article on Pat Hemingway (son of Ernest) in NYT, April 3)

“As I have said before, if hypocrisy is the homage that vice pays to virtue, it is real homage and better than no homage at all.”                                                                                                                        (D.W. Brogan, The English People, p 94: cf. La Rochefoucauld)

“It is a well-known but inexplicable fact that anything that happens to Oxford is news and that nothing that happens at Cambridge is.”                                                                                                                                            (D.W. Brogan, The English People, p 95, note)

“And it is true that, as Chesterton put it [where?], the English working man is less interested in the equality of men than in the inequality of horses.”                                                                                                                    (D.W. Brogan, The English People, p 122)

“Like the Prince of Wales (Edward VII), who was told at a Philadelphia ball that a certain attractive young woman was a Biddle and replied: “What is a Biddle?” the pursuit of social distinction in a democracy puzzles him [the English movie-goer]. Titles he knows, money he knows. But social prestige, not in rough proportion to wealth, active economic power, political power, or formal badges of distinction, is too delicate an idea for a rather gross people.”                                                            (D.W. Brogan, The English People, p 149)

“It may be the duty of the Christian to act unselfishly, but it is not the duty of a state or its rulers so to do. And if they pretend that they do so act, nobody begins to believe them.”                                                                           (D.W. Brogan, The English People, p 221)

“You can refuse to love a man or to lend him money, but if he wants a fight you have got to oblige him.”                                                (D.W. Brogan, The English People, p 236)

“The army is one of the two great public schools in England”                                                                                               (From Life and Letters of Benjamin Jowett, Vol. II, p 45)

“It was Bismarck who warned the world against the Englishman who speaks French without an accent.”                         (D.W. Brogan, The English People, p 253)       [note: “His relations with Bismarck were very close, and the latter once paid him a compliment which sped far; saying that, as a rule, he distrusted an Englishman who spoke French very correctly, but that there was one exception– Lord Odo Russell [British ambassador to the US]”, from the autobiography of John Dickson White.]

“Patriotism is not enough, but no substitute for it has been found.”                                                                                                              (D.W. Brogan, The English People, p 265) [but compare: “Merely the possibility of building a Socialist on the bones of a Blimp, the power of one kind of loyalty to transmute itself into another, the spiritual need for patriotism and the military virtues, for which, however little the boiled rabbits of the Left may like them, no substitute has yet been found,’ from Orwell’s My Country, Right or Wrong (1940)]

“An English scientist of the last century [who?] gave as his definition of tragedy ‘a theory killed by a fact’.”                                           (D.W. Brogan, The English People, p 265)

“The Englishman who belongs to the upper classes, or wishes to belong, suffers from the uneasy feeling that in order to show he is a gentleman he must always be slightly amusing. To the American or Frenchman who believes that humour has its hour and place, the result is invariably baffling when not wearisome.”         (Struthers Burt, in The Other Side, p 177, cited in D. W. Brogan’s The English People, p 281, note. Sic, but Burt’s text starts off with the surprising observation: “Humor, furthermore, with the English is almost a class matter, confined to the upper classes and the Cockney; and..”)

“An Irishman put his finger on an English weakness when he told an English friend: ‘You have sympathy for our ideas but none for our feelings.”                                                                                                                     (D.W. Brogan, The English People, p 288)

“History shows that many problems have no solution – a fact all but unfathomable to Americans.”                                                                                    (Benjamin Schwarz, in Atlantic Monthly, May 2003, while discussing the demographic challenges to Israel)

“An historical event cannot be isolated from its circumstances, any more than the onion from its skins, because an event is itself nothing but a set of circumstances, none of which will ever recur.”                                                                                                                            (G. M. Trevelyan [since confirmed as from Clio, A Muse and Other Essays, Longman’s  – 1913], cited in Robert Conquest’s The Dragons of Expectation, p 205)

“We may not believe in democracy as an ultimate political vehicle, but we shall have to endure it until we can think of something better. When you have put a man in possession of print, the motion-picture, radio and rapid communication – and even the Balkan peasants today are in possession of all four – you have made him a potential democrat; and it makes not the slightest difference whether for a while you choose to govern him by means of an emperor, a dictator, or a committee.” (Struthers Burt, The Other Side, p 43)

“The Englishman believes that through aloofness you can select your friends without further annoyance; the American believes that through a general cordiality you will make a large circle of acquaintances, from whom, by a process of sifting, you later select your friends.”                                                       (Struthers Burt, The Other Side, p 164)

“In Europe it is quite customary, as well know, to lay plans in 1900 which will bear fruit in 2010.”                                                            (Struthers Burt, The Other Side, p 239)

“Life has never been a question of minding your own business and going about it. Half of it, the tragic half of it, invariably consists in preventing others from minding your business for you.”                                             (Struthers Burt, The Other Side, p 302)

“Communism draws its strength from deeper, more serious sources. Offered to us a means of improving the economic situation, it is an insult to the intelligence. But offered as a means of making the economic situation worse, that is its subtle, its almost irresistible, attraction.”                                                                                                  (J. M. Keynes, in New Statesman, 1934, excerpted from Stalin-Wells Talk pamphlet)

“… there was a famous nineteenth-century aphorism by Adam Sedgwick [or was it the philosopher Henry Sidgwick?]: ‘No one ever made a success in this world without a large bottom.’ To Hardy the large-bottomed were the confident, booming, imperialist bourgeois English.”                                                                                                                                      (C. P. Snow, in Foreword to G. H. Hardy’s A Mathematician’s Apology) (compare: “I prefer the name of the Liberal Party to the name of any other, and I vote Conservative rather than Labour mainly because the Conservatives have bigger bottoms, and I believe that big bottoms make for better government than scrawny ones” in If I Were Prime Minister, by Ian Fleming in The Spectator, quoted in Pearson’s Fleming)

“There are many highly respectable motives which may lead men to prosecute research, but three are much more important than the rest. The first (without which the rest must come to nothing) is intellectual curiosity, desire to know the truth. Then, professional pride, anxiety to be satisfied with one’s performance, the shame that overcomes any self-respecting craftsman when his work is unworthy of his talent. Finally, ambition, desire for reputation, and the position, even the power or the money, which it brings. It may be fine to feel, when you have done your work, that you have added to the happiness or alleviated the sufferings of others, but that will not be why you did it. So if a mathematician, or a chemist, or even a physiologist, were to tell me that the driving force in his work had been the desire to benefit humanity, then I should not believe him, (nor should I think the better of him if I did).”                                                                                                                         (G. H. Hardy, in A Mathematician’s Apology, Chapter 6)

“It is sometimes suggested that pure mathematicians glory in the uselessness of their work, and make it a boast that it has no practical applications. The imputation is usually based on an incautious saying attributed to Gauss [where?], to the effect that, if mathematics is the queen of the sciences, then the theory of numbers is, because of its supreme uselessness, the queen of mathematics – I have never been able to find an exact quotation.”                                  (G. H. Hardy, in A Mathematician’s Apology, Chapter 21)

“A dictatorship of relativism is being built that recognizes nothing as definite, and which leaves as the ultimate measure only one’s ego and desires.” (Cardinal Ratzinger)               “They [the Roman  Catholic Church’s leaders] still think they have the truth and that their truth must be imposed on everyone. They haven’t accepted the limits of their power.” (Didier Vanhoutte, former president of the Fédération des Réseaux du Parvis, an umbrella organization of 41 Catholic reform movements across Europe)      (The NYT, April 19)

“Everybody comes from the other side of the world.”                                              (Janet Frame, New Zealand’s “finest novelist”, cited in letter in Oxford Today, Hilary 2005)

“If you write this in the newspaper, will the Turks come here and kill me? I’m still afraid of them.”                                                                                              (93-year-old Onorik Eminian, in New York, just before the 90th anniversary of the Armenian massacre, when recounting how she saw her father killed in Izmir in 1915, reported in the NYT, April 23)

“The truth is the British do not wish to be well-led. They are all individualistic and aristocratic at heart, and want no leaders in ultimate things; the inner man must be his own guide.”                                                                                                                 (George Santayana, in Distinction in Englishmen from Soliloquies in England)

“What could England have been but for the triumph of Protestantism there? Only a coarser France, or a cockney Ireland.”                                                                      (George Santayana, in English Architecture from Soliloquies in England)

“Compromise is odious to passionate natures because it seems a surrender, and to intellectual natures because it seems a confusion; but to the inner man, to the profound Psyche within us, whose life is warm, nebulous and plastic, compromise seems the path of profit and justice.”                                                                                                     (George Santayana, in The English Church from Soliloquies in England)

“Only the dead are safe; only the dead have seen the end of war.”                                                                          (George Santayana, in Tipperary from Soliloquies in England)

“Man, however, is a gregarious animal, and much more so in his mind than in his body. He may like to go alone for a walk, but hates to stand alone in his opinions.”          (George Santayana, in Liberalism and Culture from Later Soliloquies)

“No one in office can be a true statesman, because a true statesman is consistent, and public opinion will never long support any consistent course.”                                  (George Santayana, in The Irony of Liberalism from Later Soliloquies)

“A confused competition of all propagandas – those insults to human nature – is carried on by the most expert psychological methods, which the art of advertising has discovered; for instance, by always repeating a lie, when it has been exposed, instead of retracting it.” (George Santayana, in The Irony of Liberalism from Later Soliloquies)

“Yet it is intelligible that the most earnest liberals, who in so far as they were advocates of liberty fostered these conspiracies, in so far as they are philanthropists should applaud them, and feel the need of this new tyranny. They save liberal principles by saying that they applaud it only provisionally as a necessary means of freeing the people. But of freeing the people from what? From the consequences of freedom?”                                                            (George Santayana, in The Irony of Liberalism from Later Soliloquies)

“The chief force of the Hegelian system for those who are not metaphysicians lies in the criterion of progress which it imposes. This criterion is not beauty in art, nor truth in philosophy, nor justice in society, nor happiness in the individual life: the criterion is simply the direction which the actual movement happens to be taking.”                                                      (George Santayana, in The British Hegelians from Later Soliloquies)

“Argument is not persuasive to madmen; but they can be won over by gentler courses to a gradual docility to the truth.”                                                                                                                          (George Santayana, in On My Friendly Critics from Later Soliloquies)

“I have no metaphysics, and in that sense I am no philosopher, but a poor ignoramus trusting what he hears from the men of science.”                                                                                              (George Santayana, in On My Friendly Critics from Later Soliloquies)

“A Parliament is nothing less than a big meeting of more or less idle people. In proportion as you give it power it will inquire into everything, settle everything, meddle in everything.” (Walter Bagehot, in Changes of Ministry from The English Constitution)


“The English Constitution, in a word, is framed on the principle of choosing a single sovereign authority, and making it good; the American, upon the principle of having many sovereign authorities, and hoping that their multitude may atone for their inferiority.” (Walter Bagehot, in Checks and Balances from The English Constitution)


“If you employ the best set of men to do nearly nothing, they will quarrel with each other about that nothing. Where great questions end, little parties begin.”                                                           (Walter Bagehot, in Cabinet Government from The English Constitution)


“He who anticipates his century is generally persecuted when living, and is always pilfered when dead.”                                      (Mr. Sievers, in Disraeli’s Vivian Grey)


“Ancient lineage! I never heard of a peer with an ancient lineage. The real old families of this country are to be found among the peasantry; the gentry, too, may lay claim to some old blood. I can point you out Saxon families in this country who can trace their pedigrees beyond the Conquest; I know of some Norman gentlemen whose fathers undoubtedly came over with the Conqueror. But a peer with an ancient lineage is to me quite a novelty. No, no; the thirty years of the wars of the Roses freed us from those gentlemen. I take it after the Battle of Tewkesbury, a Norman baron was almost as rare in England as a wolf is now.”                                                                                                                                           (Oswald Millbank, in Disraeli’s Coningsby, Book IV, Chapter IV)

“We owe the English peerage to three sources: the spoliation of the church; the open and flagrant sale of its honours by the elder Stuarts; and the borough-mongering of our own times.”                                   (Oswald Millbank, in Disraeli’s Coningsby, Book IV, Chapter IV)

“The great novelist Heimit von Doderer once said that all of Bavaria can be divided into a small group of butchers, and a larger group of people who look like butchers.”                                                                       (Martin Mosebach (novelist and essayist) in NYT, April 30) [cf. “Vera [Atkins] had a description for [Otto, Gestapo officer] Preis: he was said to look like a butcher and speak the regional dialect”, from Sara Helm’s A Life In Secrets, p 278)]

“The power to do good is also the power to do harm; those who control the power today may not tomorrow; and, more important, what one man regards as good, another may regard as harm. The great tragedy of the drive to centralization, as of the drive to extend the scope of government in general, is that it is mostly led by men of goodwill who will be the first to rue the consequences.”                                                                                                                               (Milton Friedman, in Introduction to Capitalism and Freedom)


“As a supreme, if unintended compliment, the enemies of the system of private enterprise have thought it wise to appropriate its label [liberalism].”                                                                                                       (Joseph Schumpeter, History of Economic Analysis, p 394)


“The Great Depression in the United States, far from being a sign of the inherent instability of the private enterprise system, is a testament to how much harm can be done by mistakes on the part of a few men when they wield power over the monetary system of a country.”                                (Milton Friedman, in Chapter 3, Capitalism and Freedom)


“If it is appropriate for the state to say that individuals may not discriminate in employment because of color or race or religion, then it is equally appropriate for the state, provided a majority can vote that way, to say that individuals must discriminate in employment on the basis of color, race or religion.”                                                                                                                 (Milton Friedman, in Chapter 7, Capitalism and Freedom)


“Concentrated power is not made harmless by the good intentions of those who create it.”                                                (Milton Friedman, in Conclusion, Capitalism and Freedom)





“An actor who played the doctor who appears only very briefly in A Streetcar Named Desire described the play this way: ‘It’s about this doctor who takes this crazy lady off to an asylum.’ It taught me much about what it means to be a player, of any sort, in the theater.”                                                                                                          (Mel Gussow, critic, in a lecture called The Role of the Critic, recalled in his obituary, NYT, May 2)


“Surely a sensible and a benevolent man may well ask himself whether England as a whole will gain by enacting that the receipt of poor relief, in the shape of a pension, shall be consistent with the pensioner’s retaining the right to join in the election of a Member of Parliament.” (A. V. Dicey, Law and Public Opinion in England, 1914, page xxxv)


What Fresh Nonsense Is This? Department

“The urge to kill and the urge to conserve do live side by side; they are our heritage and the bird [the ivory-billed woodpecker] somehow carries our burden on its back.”                                                                                            (Jonathan Rosen, in the NYT, May 3)


“Luck is the residue of design”                      (Branch Rickey, baseball manager)


“Franz Kafka turned into something totally different from his normal self when he was asked to compare his work in the field of the ‘castle novel’ with that of P. G. Wodehouse.”          (Malcolm Bradbury, in The Wissenschaft File, from Unsent Letters)


“History has no subjunctive mood. They are not singing the song of Stalin’s praise. They are dealing with the topics of the time. Yes, there was Stalin. Yes, there were those events. It is reality.”                                                                                 (Aleksandr V. Petrovichev, curator of art exhibition at the Krokin Gallery in Moscow, on photograph that was inscribed with Stalin’s notorious order ‘Not one step back’, in the NYT, May 4)


What Fresh Nonsense Is This? Department

“Writers may make errors in facts or information that do not affect the quality of their essays. For example, a writer may state ‘The American Revolution began in 1842’, or ‘”Anna Karenina,” a play by the French author Joseph Conrad was a very upbeat literary work.’ You are scoring the writing, not the correctness of facts.”          (from the official guide for scorers of the SAT test, issued by the College Board, in the NYT, May 4)

[compare: “Apparently an edict had gone forth from, innumerable institutes of education to say that, to secure high marks in examinations, essays need not say anything or even be about anything: the desideratum that outweighed all others was the exercise of the imagination..” in Memoir Of A Thinking Radish, by Peter Medawar, p20]


“Nothing is more pleasing to the eye than a good-looking lady, nothing more refreshing to the spirit than the company of one, nothing more flattering to the ego than the affection of one.”                               (Franklin Roosevelt, from James Roosevelt’s My Parents: A Differing View, p 17, cited in No Ordinary Time, by Doris Kearns Goodwin, p 150)


‘Only In America’ Department

“A county Republican chairman says his bid to head the state party was sabotaged because a letter falsely accused him of being married six times. The right number, he says, is five.

‘That’s unconscionable.’ Seminole Republican Party Chairman Jim Sterling said Tuesday in the trial over his defamation suit, ‘I have four children and eight grandchildren that I love dearly. I believe in family values.’”                  (Wilmington Star-News, May 12)


“          1743                                                                            1843

Man, to the plough.                                                     Man, Tally-ho.

Wife, to the cow.                                                        Miss, piano.

Girl, to the yarn.                                                          Wife, silk and satin.

Boy, to the barn.                                                         Boy, Greek and Latin.

Your rent will be netted.                                             And you’ll all be gazetted.”

[i.e. notice of bankruptcy will be published in official Gazette]

                                                                        (attributed to a farmer Robey, via Lord Ernle, by Dean Inge in The Legacy of Greece and Rome, from Lay Thoughts of a Dean)

[see also:          “Man to the plough,                            But man, Tally-ho!                                                      Wife to the sow,                             Girl, Miss Piano

                        Boy to the flail,                                   Boy, Greek and Latin.

                        Girl to the pail,                                    Wife, silk and satin.

                             And your rents will be netted:                   And you’ll soon be gazetted.”

                                                                                                 (in Notes and Queries, May 5,1860, “quoted ten or twelve years ago at an agricultural dinner.”)]


“Pro bono publico, nil bloody panico.”                                                           (attributed by Simon Heffer to Rear-Admiral Sir Morgan Morgan-Giles, in The Spectator, 7 May)


“We all end up doing what we do second best.”                                           (attributed – tentatively – to Somerset Maugham by the author Peter Pouncey, NYT, May 17)


News from New Amsterdam?

“Van Buren was America’s first ethnic President.” (from a History Book Club flyer)


“Immortality? It’s not anything I’d lose sleep over.”                                                                                                 (99-year-old poet laureate Stanley Kunitz, in the NYT, May 19)


“Socialism will only be possible when we are all perfect, and then it will not be needed.” (aphorism by Bishop Creighton, quoted by Dean Inge in Lay Thoughts of  a Dean)


“A fool often fails, because he thinks what is difficult is easy, and a wise man because what he thinks is easy is difficult.”

“Never trust a man who speaks well of everybody.”

“We make more enemies by what we say than friends by what we do.”                   (aphorisms of Churton Collins, quoted by Dean Inge in Lay Thoughts of  a Dean)


“The things that we know about the past may be divided into those which probably never happened and those which do not matter.”                                                                                                                                    (from Utopias, in Lay Thoughts of a Dean, by Dean Inge)


“Unworldliness based on knowledge of the world is the finest thing on earth; but unworldliness based on ignorance of the world is less admirable.”                                                                                  (from Happy People, in Lay Thoughts of a Dean, by Dean Inge)


“No state strives to preserve the balance of power except as a pis aller, and because it cannot compass its own aggrandizement or carry out its implicit plan for an universal monarchy. Every state defends the balance of power when it is attacked by another, and prepares in secret the means by which it may in its own time become itself a disturber of the peace. The well-known advice, threaten war that you may have peace, is equally valid in the converse, promise peace that you may begin war with an advantage in your favour. Always without exception the most civilized state is the most aggressive.”         (according to Dean Inge in Lay Thoughts of a Dean, Fichte, in his Berlin lectures after Jena)


“It is only necessary to remember that religion claims to bring us into contact with an absolutely real Being, infinitely above ourselves. If there is no such Being, or if He is entirely beyond our knowledge, religion is a delusion, and psychology cannot prove it to be more than a useful or comfortable delusion.”                                                                    (from Psychology and the Mystics (II), in Lay Thoughts of a Dean, by Dean Inge)


“The art of governing consists in making men do what you wish without showing them whither until it is too late for them to retrace their steps.”                                                (on the nature of ‘official Socialism’, by E. T. Hobhouse, in Liberalism, Chapter 8)


“It may be doubted whether so small a number of men ever employed so short a space of time with greater and more lasting effects upon the world.”                                                                                                         (Sir George Otto Trevelyan, on the Battle of Trenton, cited by Michiko Kakutani, in review of 1776, by David McCullough, NYT, May 24)


“The ballot alone effectively liberates the quiet citizen from the tyranny of the shouter and the wire-puller.”                                             (E.T. Hobhouse, in Liberalism, Chapter 9)


“If history is any guide, every time someone who defines who is and who isn’t human, a good portion of humanity gets left out.” (Joseph Borini, in letter in NYT, May 28)




“As the greatest theorist of money, the German sociologist Georg Simmel, recognized, money is only money when it is motion: ‘When money stands still, it is no longer money according to its specific value and significance.’”                                                                                                                                (Believing in Bullion, NYT magazine, June 5)


“A good rule of thumb for assessing sociopolitical books is: The more often the name ‘Tocqueville’ appears, the more numbing and uninsightful the work will be.”                                                                                                                         (in review by Neil Genzlinger of John Lukacs’ Democracy and Populism: Fear and Hatred, in NYT, June 5)


“Pretty soon we’ll have a syndrome for short, fat Irish guys with a Boston accent, and I’ll be mentally ill.”                                                                                                         (Dr. Paul McHugh, a professor of psychiatry at Johns Hopkins University, when informed that ‘fifty per cent of Americans are mentally impaired’, as reported in the NYT, July 7)


“I find it no easier to picture a completely socialized British Empire or United States than an elephant turning somersaults or a hippopotamus jumping a hedge.”                                                                                                     (J. B. S. Haldane, On Being The Right Size)


“Both theology and scientific theory may be valuable guides to conduct, as well as beautiful in themselves, but that does not make them true.”                                                                                                      (J. B. S. Haldane, Science and Technology as Art-Forms)


“Between 3000BC and AD 1400 there were probably only four really important inventions, namely the general use of iron, paved roads, voting, and religious intolerance. Perhaps I should have added coinage and long-distance water-supply.”                                                                                                             (J. B. S. Haldane, Is History a Fraud?)


“The dreamer of dreams can at most replace one set of symbolic ideas by another, the cross by the crescent, or the mother of the gods by the mother of God.”                                                                                                   (J. B. S. Haldane, Is History a Fraud?)


“The commonest cause of gastritis … is worry and anxiety. I had it for about fifteen years until I read Lenin and other writers, who showed me what was wrong with our society and how to cure it.”                                                        (J. B. S. Haldane, Pain-Killers)


“Programs and activities, once mandated by the General Assembly, face little scrutiny and can live on for ever without having to justify their existence. We discerned no sustained, large-scale effort by the Secretariat to identify which activities should be discontinued. For too many of the member states, the United Nations is seen as a job placement bureau.”                                                                                                       (from the report from The Congressional Task Force on the United Nations, NYT, June 13)


“There is survival and survival, the historian learns to his grief. The very worst impulses of humankind can survive generations, centuries, even millennia. And the best of our individual efforts can die within us at the end of a single lifetime.”                                                                     (From The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova, reviewed in the NYT, June 13)


“.. it is a common fault of biographers to devote hours of ‘research’ in verifying biographic details upon which nothing turns.”                                                                                                                        (Peter Medawar, Memoir Of A Thinking Radish, p 15)


“… attendance at committees creates the illusion of busyness and provides at the same time an excuse for doing no creative work (‘I am desperate to finish my piece on Otway and Molière, but the fabric committee is simply eating up my time and energy’).”                                                                  (Peter Medawar, Memoir Of A Thinking Radish, p 54)

[cf: ‘Taylor [AJP] did not exaggerate his administrative duties. The Bursarial Committee was followed in December 1942 by additional appointments to the Grants and the Fabric Committees, and in May 1943 to a new Fabric and Grounds Committee.” (Troublemaker, by Kathleen Burk, p 168)]


“’Never discuss anything with an author except his royalties. From one as young as you are, to praise is as impertinent as to blame.’”                                                                   (C. S. Lewis’s advice to Peter Medawar, recorded in Memoir Of A Thinking Radish, p 88)


“A danger sign that fellow-obsessionals will at once recognize is the tendency to regard the happiest moments of your life as those that occur when someone who has an appointment to see you is prevented from coming.”                                                                                                                     (Peter Medawar, Memoir Of A Thinking Radish, p 150)


“The best remedy for disquieting thoughts is to abstain from thinking them.”                                                                      (Peter Medawar, Memoir Of A Thinking Radish, p 195)


“Striving for white was a characteristic of her family. They lived in a white neighbourhood, and when Elayna’s mother brought her future husband home to meet her parents, her father took her aside and said, ‘We’re trying to lighten this family, not darken it!’ Everyone expressed contempt for dark-skinned blacks. One day, a visiting aunt told Elayna that what she disliked most about Charleston was the presence of ‘so many black niggers.’”                                                                                                                          (On Elayna Shakur and her ‘blackness’, in Long Shadows, by Erna Paris, p 205)


“History without tragedy does not exist, and knowledge is better and more wholesome than ignorance.”                          (H. G. Adler, according to Raul Hilberg’s autobiography The Politics Of Memory, reported in Long Shadows, by Erna Paris, p 319)


“In these lands, every lie becomes a truth in the end.”                                   (Dubravka Ugrešic, in The Culture of Lies, quoted by Erna Paris in Long Shadows, p 367)


“The hardest thing about being a Communist is trying to predict the past.”              (attributed to Milovan Djilas [where?], by Erna Paris, in Long Shadows, p 367)


“We are the children of death… It calls us from the depths of life. Even before we have learnt language it sometimes halts us in the midst of our games to listen to its voice… And all down the years it signals to us.”             (a ‘passage from a novel’ by Julian Green, copied by Peter Ure into his diary, as recorded by Frank Kermode, in Not Entitled, p 78)


“But what will you do when you retire if you can’t read Greek?”                              (question by William Golding to Frank Kermode, as reported in Not Entitled, p 164) [Compare: “I have always hated not knowing Greek: not to know Greek is to be an uneducated man.”                             (A. L. Rowse in A Cornishman at Oxford, p 28)]

“To talk about literature is to give a rhetorical performance about rhetorical performances.”                                               (Frank Kermode, in Not Entitled, p 196)


“Ordinary people have ordinary knowledge: how to make things (including lunch), grow things, fix things, build things, and, for that matter, kill things. Politicians have extraordinary knowledge: how all things ought to be. Never mind that they do not, as it were, run with the hare or hunt with the hounds.”                                                                    (P. J. O’Rourke, in Masters of the Hunt, in Atlantic Monthly, July/August 2005)


“The reason our flag is different is because it stands for burning the flag. The Constitution this week is being nibbled to death by small men with press secretaries.”                         (Representative Gary Ackerman, Democrat of New York, as Congress prepared to vote on a constitutional amendment to outlaw debasing the flag, in the NYT, June 22)


“A criminal defense attorney has to be as proud of his enemies as of his friends.”   (Professor Alan M. Dershowitz of Harvard Law School, in the NYT, June 22)


“We must have the courage to say that France today lives beyond its means.”                                                         (Thierry Breton, France’s finance minister, in the NYT, June 22)


“The great historian Sir Lewis Namier famously said of 18th-century England that it was an ‘aristocracy tempered by riots’. By the same token, modern democracies might be described as oligarchies tempered by elections.” (Jonathan Sumption, in review of John Dunn’s Setting The People Free: The Story of Democracy, in The Spectator, June 18)


“I suggest that he ask the French why the heck for so many years they encouraged Poles to build capitalism when as it turns out they are Communists themselves.”                                                                                   (Lech Walesa, on Piotr Adamski, the ‘Polish Plumber’, in an interview in Gazeta Wyborcza of June 24, as reported in the NYT, June 26)


“It is part of the national tragedy of the Germans that their élite is divided into so-called academics and so-called intellectuals.”                                                  (Stiassny [‘Who-Am-I-To-Say’], in Memoirs of an Anti-Semite, by Gregor von Rezzori, p 32)


“One related to Jews in the same way as an Englishman to foreigners: one assumed they would not act like us. If they did so nevertheless, it made them look suspicious. It seemed artificial. It was unsuitable. Like the Englishman confronted with a foreigner behaving in an assiduously British manner, we saw the so-called assimilated Jew as aping us.”                                                        (Memoirs of an Anti-Semite, by Gregor von Rezzori, p 112)


“Yet, blood still flowed today as it did then; blood has always flowed, in torrents, all through his lifetime; that it was not his own blood was due to random circumstances that one cannot even call fortuitous: the only dignity to be maintained in our time is the dignity of being among the victims.”                                                                                                                                       (Memoirs of an Anti-Semite, by Gregor von Rezzori, p 245)


“The thing that made them all one and the same person was dreaming. When he thought I, he felt as if he were dreaming himself up: Somnio, ergo sum – I dream myself up, therefore I am.”                    (Memoirs of an Anti-Semite, by Gregor von Rezzori, p 250)


“.. we met Winston Churchill on the platform at Cromer. He looked unusually grave and troubled, and I asked him the cause. He told me the news [of the Sarajevo murders, and the Austrian ultimatum to Serbia] and added, ’This will mean a European war, and the world will never be the same again.’ These word have stuck in my memory, as they have since been so completely realized.”                                    (Antony, by Lord Lytton, p 18)


“Our business in life us to search out truth for ourselves and to reject falsehoods whenever we discover them; but the lesson which life teaches us as we grow older is that many apparent falsehoods are in fact half-truths, and that new truths are not so much corrections of old falsehoods as the completion of old truths hitherto only half recognized.”                                                                        (Antony, by Lord Lytton p 117)


“You must have some rudder to steer by, and the best guiding principle I can suggest is the pursuit of happiness. Happiness is the one form of wealth which you can spend with the utmost prodigality without overdrawing your account – the more you spend the more you have….Man is a composite animal with physical, mental and spiritual desires. He can only achieve happiness if he satisfies all these desires, and all the unhappiness in life arises from the gratification of one set of desires at the expense of the others, or from the conflict between these three in their struggle for satisfaction”                                                                                                                                 (Antony, by Lord Lytton p 117-118)


“The fact is that religion is an ideal of human conduct, and Churches are only community organizations. The doctrines of a Church are no more religion than the rules of the Carlton Club are politics, yet both Churches and parties have their uses, for without them religion and politics could not be continued.”       (Antony, by Lord Lytton, p 131)


“A victory is no victory which leaves you afraid of your defeated enemy.”                                                                                                                         (Antony, by Lord Lytton, p 140)


“When we try to bring about change in our societies, we are treated at first with indifference, then with ridicule, then with abuse and then with oppression. And finally the greatest challenge is thrown at us. We are treated with respect. This is the most dangerous stage.”                                                                (from After Ghandi, by A.T. Ariyaratne)


“Facts [Mr. Foote said] are the bare bones from which truth is made. Truth, in his view, embraced sympathy, paradox and irony, and was sustained only through true art. ‘A fact is not a truth until you love it,’ he said.”                                                                                                                               (from obituary of Shelby Foote, historian, in NYT, June 29)




“We needed Europe as an ideal, a reproach, and example. If she were not these things we would have to invent her.”                                                                         (from Herzen’s John Stuart Mill and ‘On Liberty’, quoted in Orlando Figes’ Natasha’s Dance, p 66)


“The question of the people and our view of them … is the most important question, a question on which our whole future rests… But the people are still a theory for us and they still stand before us as a riddle. We, the lovers of the people, regard them as part of a theory, and it seems not one of us loves them as they really are but only as each of us imagines them to be. And should the Russian people turn out not as we imagined them, then we, despite our love of them, would at once renounce them without regret.” (from Dostoevsky’s Collected Works, quoted in Orlando Figes’ Natasha’s Dance, p 224)


“One propagandist [Aptekman] gave the peasants a beautiful account of the future socialist society in which all the land would belong to the toilers and nobody would exploit anybody else. Suddenly a peasant triumphantly exclaimed: ‘ Won’t it be just lovely when we divide up the land? I’ll hire two labourers and what a life I’ll have!’”

(from Orlando Figes’ Natasha’s Dance, p 227)


“The farm cooperatives, easily caricatured as Stalinist collectives, bred even worse public relations. While they provided comfort and a degree of security to their clients, they also ran against the basic impulses of most of the people they served. As a grizzled old Arkansas farmer put it to Tugwell’s chief aide, Will Alexander: ‘I believe a man could stick around here for five or six years and save enough money to go off and buy himself a little hill farm of his own.’”                                                                                                                              (Alonzo L. Hamby, in For The Survival of Democracy, p 283, writing about the 1930s government-funded ‘communities’ encouraged by Eleanor Roosevelt)


“With the desire to idealise the masses is usually associated a desire to manage and use them..” (Hugh Kingsmill, in The Genealogy of Hitler, from The Poisoned Crown)


“What is divine in man is elusive and impalpable, and he is easily tempted to embody it in a concrete form – a church, a country, a social system, a leader – so that he may realise it with less effort and serve it with more profit. Yet, as even Lincoln proved, the attempt to externalize the kingdom of heaven in a temporal shape must end in disaster. It cannot be created by charters and constitutions nor established by arms. Those who set out for it alone will each it together, and those who seek it in company will perish by themselves.”                        (Hugh Kingsmill, in The Genealogy of Hitler, from The Poisoned Crown)


“As a general rule men with an inordinate appetite for power have been both spoilt and humiliated in their early years, the spoiling accustomising them to expect attention, and the humiliation hardening their resolve to get it.”                                                                                                 (Hugh Kingsmill, in Lloyd George, from The Progress of a Biographer)


“There is perhaps no kind of man more dangerous in public life than he who conceals matured purposes under a negligent and careless exterior.”                                                                                                                                             (T. F. Tyler, on Lord James Stuart, cited in J. B. Black’s The Reign of Elizabeth [Oxford History Of England], p 69)


“One can judge fairly of no man without seeing his contemporaries and circumstances.”                                        (Colonel Josiah Wedgwood, cited in Piety: Josiah Wedgwood and the History of Parliament, in In Churchill’s Shadow, by David Cannadine)


“Provide a man with a pedigree, and he will never remain your enemy.”                                                                  (Colonel Josiah Wedgwood, cited in Piety: Josiah Wedgwood and the History of Parliament, in In Churchill’s Shadow, by David Cannadine)


“He was also convinced that as self-regarding professionals, the historians resented his amateur intrusion on to their own jealously guarded turf. ‘No Trades Union’, he was later to write, ‘ever raged so furiously against a blackleg as the historians against me.’ [Last of the Radicals, p 171]”          (of Colonel Josiah Wedgwood, cited in Piety: Josiah Wedgwood and the History of Parliament, in In Churchill’s Shadow, by David Cannadine)


“’Nine English traditions out of ten’, an ageing academic [who?] observes in C. P. Snow’s The Masters, ‘date from the latter half of the nineteenth century.’”                                                                                                                 (from Conservation: The National Trust and The National Heritage, in In Churchill’s Shadow, by David Cannadine)


“Eisenstein wrote that the reason he came to support the Revolution ‘had little to do with the real miseries of social injustice … but directly and completely with what is surely the prototype of every social tyranny – the father’s despotism in a family.’”  (Orlando Figes’ Natasha’s Dance, p 456, quoting from R. Bergan’s Eisenstein: A Life in Conflict, p 28)


“Truth is true only within a certain period of time. What was truth once may no longer be truth after many months or years.”                         (1989 spokesman for the Burmese State Peace and Development Council, cited in review of Emma Larkin’s Finding George Orwell In Burma – and presumably quoted in that work – from the NYT, July 17)


“Had his memorie been greater his judgement had been less: they are like two well-bucketts.”                               (John Aubrey, of Dr. Robert Sanderson, in Brief Lives)


“Hope is a good breakfast, but an ill supper.”                                                                                                            (attributed to Francis Bacon by John Aubrey, in Brief Lives)


“Methinkes in the country, in long time, for want of good conversation, one’s understanding (witt, invention) grows mouldy.”                                                                                                                                 (John Aubrey, of Thomas Hobbes, in Brief Lives)


“If I am not worthy of the world, the world is not worthy of my workes”                                                                                                   (attributed to Sir Walter Ralegh, after he burnt the second part of his History of the World, by John Aubrey, in Brief Lives)


“The Yiddish [?] linguist Max Weinrich once famously said. “A sprakh iz a dialect mit an armey un a flot” (or “a language is a dialect with an army and a navy”).                                                                               (from article about the Ethnologue, in the NYT, July 19)


“Tomorrow morning some poet may, like Byron, wake up to find himself famous, for having written a novel, for having killed his wife; it will not be for having written a poem.”                                                                              (Randall Jarrell, according to Sam Leith, in review of The Letters of Robert Lowell, in The Spectator, July 9)


“A human life, I think, should be well rooted in some spot of a native land, where it may get the love of tender kinship for the face of the earth, for the labours that men go forth to, for the sounds and accents that haunt it, for whatever will give that early home a familiar unmistakeable difference amidst the future widening of knowledge.”                                                                                    (Daniel Deronda, Chapter 3, by George Eliot)


“Few discoveries are more irritating than those which expose the pedigree of ideas.”                                                                                                                       (Lord Acton, in review of May’s Democracy in Europe, from The History of Freedom and Other Essays)


“The worst criminals were not the men who did the deed. The crime of mobs and courtiers, infuriated by the lust of vengeance and of power, is not so strange a portent as the exultation of peaceful men, influenced by no present injury or momentary rage, but by the permanent and incurable perversion of moral sense wrought by distorted piety.”                                                                                                                                    (Lord Acton, in The Massacre of St. Bartholomew, from The History of Freedom and Other Essays)


“We doubt not that we shall be victorious over these enemies of God and of all humankind; and if we fall, our blood will be as a second baptism, by which, without impediment, we shall join the other martyrs straightway in heaven.”                                                                                                 (Proclamation of anti-Huguenot association in the South of France, cited by De Rozoy in Annales de Toulouse, and quoted by Lord Acton in The Massacre of St. Bartholomew, from The History of Freedom and Other Essays)


“My old (since 1917) quarrel with the Soviet dictatorship is wholly unrelated to any question of property. My contempt for the émigré who ‘hates the Reds’ because they ‘stole’ his money and land is complete. The nostalgia I have been cherishing all these years is a hypertrophied sense of lost childhood, not sorrow for lost banknotes.”                                                                            (Vladimir Nabokov, in Speak, Memory, p 73)


“Vivian Bloodmark, a philosophical friend of mine, in later years, used to say that while the scientist sees everything that happens in one point of space, the poet feels everything that happens in one point of time.”    (Vladimir Nabokov, in Speak, Memory, p 218)


“Sir Flinders Petrie, the great archaeologist, used to say that the difference between historians and other people is that historians can move easily between one plane of time and another, while non-historians are mentally stuck on the present plane.”                                                                  (cited by Paul Johnson, in The Spectator, 8 October 2005)


“It should be understood that competition in chess problems is not really between White and Black (just as in a first-rate work of fiction the real clash is not between the characters but between the author and the world), so that a great part of a problem’s value is due to the number of ‘tries’ – delusive opening moves, false scents, specious lines of play, astutely and lovingly prepared to lead the would-be solver astray.”                                                                                                (Vladimir Nabokov, in Speak, Memory, p 290)


“A country without a memory is a country of madmen.”                              (George Santayana [where?], according to Anthony Browne, in The Spectator, July 23)


“You know that back home in Indiana we think it’s all right for the town whore to join the church, but we don’t let her lead the choir on the first night.”                                                                          (former Indiana Senator James E. Watson, on the nomination of Wendell Willkie as a Republican presidential candidate in 1940, cited in Thomas Mallon’s review of Charles Peters’s Five Days in Philadelphia, in the NYT, July 31)




“Men isolated forcibly, or even voluntarily, from the rest of the world, idealise everything that occurs beyond the frontiers of their solitude.”                                                                                                                                         (Gustav Herling, in A World Apart, p 94)


“And it was there, in the darkness, that I realised for the first time in my life that in man’s whole life only solitude can bring him absolute inward peace and restore his individuality. Only in all-embracing loneliness, in darkness which conceals the outlines of the external world, is it possible to know that one is oneself, to feel that individuality emerging, until one reaches the stage of doubt when one becomes conscious of one’s insignificance in the extent of the universe which grows in one’s conception to overwhelming dimensions. If this condition savours of mysticism, if it forces one into the arms of religion, then I certainly discovered religion, and I prayed blasphemously: ‘O God, give me solitude, for I hate all men.’” (Gustav Herling, in A World Apart, p 103)


“All rulers who have little to offer their subjects should start by depriving them of everything, and every small favour that they grant afterwards will become the most generous of concessions.”                          (Gustav Herling, in A World Apart, p 114)


“… the technique of Soviet inquisition is intended primarily not to ascertain the truth, but rather to achieve a compromise whereby the accused allows himself to be convicted of choosing the most convenient fiction from a number of fictitious crimes.”                                                                                                  (Gustav Herling, in A World Apart, p 124)


“Authenticity is gin to sincerity’s chardonnay.”                                                                                             (Virginia Hefferman, paying homage to Lionel Trilling’s 1972 series of lectures Sincerity and Authenticity, in review of Six Feet Under, in NYT, August 8)


“In whole areas of Islington and Camden, Carmel and Marin County, there are people who have bought a wok, found  a great hot-bread shop, ragged the walls, swum topless at Eilat, been in Esalen and the Hurlingham, bought a laptop, got a timeshare in the Dutch Antilles, divorced six times and won world traveller status on seven airlines, and who still feel there is something missing. They have signified and signified, and still failed, and to tell the truth we are all up the same creek without a really good guidebook. For this is the era of lexical glut, the age of the semiotic scream, and there seems no keeping up with it.”                                                                                                        (Malcolm Bradbury, in Inspeak: Your Streetwise Guide to Lingusitics and Structuralism, from Unsent Letters)


“The small holdings of the 19th and 20th centuries gradually came into the hands of the large owners, in the 18th century progress has been made and the first glimmerings of self-government appear, religious troubles and wars follow until the last Englishman, Strongbow, leaves the country, culture begins, religious intolerance ceases with the disappearance of Patrick, about AD 400, and we approach the great age of the heroes and gods.” (AE [G. W. Russell, where?] quoted by Niall Ferguson, in Virtual History, p 67)            compare:

“There was a club in Balliol named the Hysteron-Proteron (Greek for ‘back-to-front), whose members, said Waugh, ‘put themselves to great discomfort by living a day in reverse, getting u pin evening dress, drinking whisky, smoking cigars and playing cards, then at ten o’clcok dining backwards starting with savouries and ending with soup.’”                                        (Humphrey Carpenter, in The Brideshead Generation, p 120)


“Chance itself pours in at every avenue of sense: it is of all things the most obtrusive. Chance is First, Law is Second, the tendency to take habits is third.” (C. S. Pierce, in The Doctrine of Necessity Examined, 1892, quoted by Niall Ferguson in Virtual History, p 73)


“It is not enough simply to say that man, like all creatures, is subject to the chaotic behavious of the natural world, though it is certainly true that, right up until the late nineteenth century, the weather probably was the principle determinant of most people’s well-being.”                                                     (Niall Ferguson, in Virtual History, p 79)


“While there’s death, there’s hope.”                                                               (attributed to Sir Keith Feiling, and used in describing the thinning of the ranks of Charles I’s leading critics in 1639, by John Adamson, in Niall Ferguson’s Virtual History, p 105)


“’While there’s death there’s hope’ went the cheerful saying of the Labour party, and it was Chamberlain’s death which handed Churchill the leadership of the party….” (Geoffrey Wheatcroft in The Strange Death of Tory England, p 39) ]


“If German rule were to bring us affluence, nine out of ten Frenchmen would accept it, three or four with a smile.”                                                                         (entry by André Gide in his diary, cited by Andrew Roberts in Niall Ferguson’s Virtual History, p 307)


“In those weeks in May and June [1940), I think 99 per cent of English folk found their souls, and whatever else it may have been it was a glorious and triumphant experience. If you have lived your life’s span without a passionate belief in anything, the bald discovery that you would honestly and in cold blood rather die when it came to it than be bossed about by a Nazi, then that is something to have lived for.” (Margery Allingham, in The Oaken Heart, p 163, cited by Andrew Roberts in Niall Ferguson’s Virtual History, p 320)


“If the Bolsheviks had not established collective farms, the Germans would have had to invent them.”                                                     (Backe, German State Secretary for Agriculture, according to Michael Burleigh, in Niall Ferguson’s Virtual History, p 332)


“The effect of Socialist doctrine on Capitalist society is to produce a third thing different from either of its two begetters – to wit the Servile State.”                                                              (The Servile State, p xiv, cited by F. A. Hayek in The Road To Serfdom, p 16)

“Democracy extends the sphere of individual freedom; socialism restricts it. Democracy attaches all possible value to each man; socialism makes each man a mere agent, a mere number. Democracy and socialism have nothing in common but one word: equality. But notice the difference: while democracy seeks equality in liberty, socialism seeks equality in restraint and servitude.”                                                                (de Tocqueville, from Complete Works, IX, 546, cited by F. A. Hayek in The Road To Serfdom, p 29)

“A fixed rule, like that of equality, might be acquiesced in, and so might chance, or an external necessity; but that a handful of human beings should weigh everybody in the balance, and give more to one and less to another at their sole pleasure and judgement, would not be borne unless from persons believed to be more than men, and backed by supernatural terrors.”                          (John Stuart Mill, in Principles of Political Economy, Book 1, chap. ii, par. 4, cited by F. A. Hayek in The Road To Serfdom, p 124)

“While the last resort of a competitive economy is the bailiff, the ultimate sanction of a planned economy is the hangman.”                   (W. Roepke, in Die Gesellschaftskrisis der Gegenwart, p 172, according to F. A. Hayek in The Road To Serfdom, p 139)

“The younger generation of today has grown up in a world in which in school and press the spirit of commercial enterprise has been represented as disreputable and the making of profit as immoral, where to employ a hundred people is represented as exploitation but to command the same number is honorable.”                                                                                                                                            (F. A. Hayek, in The Road To Serfdom, p 144)

“There is an increasing tendency among modern men to imagine themselves ethical because they have delegated their vices to larger and larger groups.”                                                                                              (Reinhold Niebuhr, quoted by E. H. Carr in The Twenty Years’ Crisis, p 203, in turn cited by F. A. Hayek in The Road To Serfdom, p 157)

“Politics is what a man does in order to conceal what he is and what he himself does not know.” (Karl Kraus [where?], according to Paul Johnson, in The Spectator, August 20)

“When authors ask for criticism all they really want is praise and encouragement.”                                                                                                                                     (Rupert Hart-Davis, in a letter to his sister, Deirdre, as cited by Philip Ziegler in Man Of Letters, p 146)

“These days Americans make a living by selling each other houses, paid for with money borrowed from China.”                                      (Paul Krugman, in NYT, August 29)

“Poets should take care to be born in more civilized [i.e. than Preston] places, like the Tottenham Court Road.”                                                               (Rupert Hart-Davis, in a letter to Edmund Blunden, as cited by Philip Ziegler in Man Of Letters, p 186)

“The airport bears the same relation to the aeroplane as the tumbrel to the guillotine.”                                             (Rupert Hart-Davis, in The Lyttelton Hart-Davis Letters, Vol 6, p 136 [not so in paperback edition] cited by Philip Ziegler in Man Of Letters, p 193)

“I don’t go quite so far as Samuel Butler, who said [where?] that a good title was one which told  anyone who knew anything about the subject that they didn’t need to read the book, but I am tremendously in favour of titles being as informative as possible.”                                                                                                                                 (Rupert Hart-Davis, in a letter to Nancy Cunard, as cited by Philip Ziegler in Man Of Letters, p 196)

“And I’ll leave all the luxury, the noise and the fray                                                         For a house full of books, and a garden of flowers.”                                                                                                                               (Andrew Lang, in Ballade Of True Wisdom, often quoted by Rupert Hart-Davis, as recorded by Philip Ziegler in Man Of Letters, p 221)

“Empty grinning apery of commonplace creatures and their loud inanities ought to be more and more shut out from us as the Eternities draw nigh.”                                                                                                                                  (Thomas Carlyle [where?], often quoted by Rupert Hart-Davis, as recorded by Philip Ziegler in Man Of Letters, p 221)

“The Briton irritated by American sneers about the Empire is sometimes tempted to retort that the only reason the settlers did not liquidate the entire indigenous population of North America was in order to leave some raw material for the anthropologists.”                                                                     (C.H. Waddington, in The Scientific Attitude (1948), p 73)

“The important line in politics is between those who judge the value of a society by its efficiency in maintaining itself and by its advance along the whole line of human evolution [!], and those who judge it by some other criterion, whether based on mysticism, nostalgia for the past, or motives of personal advantage.                                    From the point of view of science, this is the first great cleavage.”                                                                                                (C.H. Waddington, in The Scientific Attitude (1948), p 114)

“Freedom is a very troublesome concept for the scientist to discuss, partly because he is not convinced that, in the last analysis, there is such a thing.”                                                                                         (C.H. Waddington, in The Scientific Attitude (1948), p 152)


“A ‘nation’ has been cynically but not inaptly defined as ‘a society united by a common error as to its origin and a common aversion to its neighbours’.”                                                                                     (Julian Huxley, in 1939 Oxford Pamphlet ‘Race’ in Europe)

“To me an ethnologist who speaks of Aryan race, Aryan blood, Aryan eyes and hair, is as great a sinner as a linguist who speaks of a dolichocephalic dictionary or a brachycephalic grammar.”                                                  (Max Müller, inventor of the term ‘Aryan’, in Biographies of Words and the Home of the Aryans, 1888, p 120)

“You cannot found a new religion on the basis of not going to Church, or a new drama on the basis of merely mentioning the unmentionable. While evolution as a political principle reduces itself to the absurdity of catching the bus which you are driving yourself, a feat which only Mr [Stanley] Baldwin has ever claimed as a triumph.”                                                                                (Douglas Jerrold, in Georgian Adventure, pp77-78)

“It [The Oxford Fortnightly] was, in fact what every undergraduate paper ought to be – a place where conceited young men could put the world right at no expense to any one except the printer.”                                     (Douglas Jerrold, in Georgian Adventure, p 86)

“The General fifty miles behind the lines, remote from the consequences of his mistakes, the Prime Minister, too absorbed in national questions to attend the House of Commons, the Business man who does not concern himself with details, the Biographer who seeks the dispassionate note in the resolute avoidance of the personal intimates of his subject, the Artist who despises form, and the Schoolmaster who believes in teaching nothing except what everyone wants to learn, have lit a number of powerful candles which will take a lot of putting out.”                    (Douglas Jerrold, in The Truth About Quex, p 112)

“…with good reason did Lenin [where?] call terrorism the violence of intellectuals.”                                                                                                                                 (Benjamin Kunkel, in article Dangerous Characters, in NYT Book Review, September 11)

“We achieved our purpose. We entered history and left our trace in it. All other things are not important.”                                                           (Bukharin, to a friend of Pitirim Sorokin in 1921, as recorded by Sorokin in a 1924 issue of Current History (USA))

“The truth is that far higher gifts are needed to paint even a bad picture than to write a good book.”                                             (Evelyn Waugh, in review of David Jones’s In Parenthesis, as reported by Humphrey Carpenter in The Brideshead Generation, p 155)

“I’m sure one could write any novel in the world on two postcards.”                                                                                               (Evelyn Waugh, in letter to Anthony Powell, 7 April 1938, as reported by Humphrey Carpenter in The Brideshead Generation, p 156)

“It is better to be narrow-minded than to have no mind, to hold limited and rigid principles than none at all.”                                                      (Evelyn Waugh, in 1932 article, as reported by Humphrey Carpenter in The Brideshead Generation, p 222)

“I can’t see any point in being a Catholic unless one belongs to an old Catholic family.”                                                                                                                                        (Edith Sitwell, on Waugh’s reception into the Catholic Church, as recorded in Evelyn Waugh’s diary, further reported by Humphrey Carpenter in The Brideshead Generation, p 226)

“When we have got rid of the drink we can turn to our minds to redistributing their property.”                                                                                                                  (Basil Murray’s mother, the daughter of the Earl of Carlisle, when her father succeeded to the title, and she had the entire contents of the Castle Howard wine cellar poured into the lake, as reported by Humphrey Carpenter in The Brideshead Generation, p 238)

“The larger one’s humour and sensitiveness, the more readily does one’s life slip into a habit of parody.”                                                                          (Evelyn Waugh [1933], as reported by Humphrey Carpenter in The Brideshead Generation, p 296)

“Politics is like the weather; you have to live with it.”           (Henryk Tomaszewski, leader of the Polish Poster School, reported in his obituary in the NYT, September 14)

“The late Quentin Bell once told me that when he was lecturing in North America, a student asked him if he had been ‘personally acquainted with J. W.M. Turner’. Bell, who did indeed look very venerable in his white beard, said that yes, he had known old Joe well, and had been particularly fond of his spirited and aged mother, known to all as ‘the Fighting Temeraire’. No one dared to doubt him.”                                                                                                                                 (Charles Moore, in The Spectator, September 10)


“I don’t think Christian yoga works. It’s an oxymoron. If it’s truly Christian, it can’t be truly yoga because of the worldviews.”                                                                                                          (Douglas R.Groothuis, a professor of philosophy at Denver Seminary)    “In a 1989 letter, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, who is now Pope Benedict XVI, said practices like yoga could ‘degenerate into a cult of the body.’”                                                         (as reported in the NYT, September 17)


“As a scientist once said to me, ’Most of us are only nine meals away from murder.’”         (Natalie Angier, in review of Hunger, by Sharman Apt Russell, in NYT, September 18)


“If any government can’t run like a business, it is the government of New Orleans.”                                                                                                                                               (James W. Nickel, former state Democratic chairman, reported in the NYT, September 21)


“Once, to emphasize both the probity of the diligent worker and the enjoyment of his interesting work, Holmes [Oliver Wendell, Jr.] quoted an entry in Darwin’s diary [where?] lamenting a plethora of social engagements; ‘The future is bleak, pleasure every day.’”                                                  (Alger Hiss, in Recollections Of A Life, p 46)


“The idea that you can spread democracy by either military intervention or through the World Bank is folly, pure folly.”                                                               (William Easterly, former director of research at the World Bank, in the NYT, September 24)

“The power structure does what they want, when they want; then they try to find reasons to justify it.”                                                                                                               (one of the ‘Three Laws of Sociodynamics’ [what are the other two?], from document of the same name, cited in obituary of mathematician Serge Lang in the NYT, September 25)

“Democracy is like a streetcar. You ride it until you arrive at your destination, then you step off.”                                                             (Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, when he was mayor of Istanbul, quoted in the NYT Magazine, September 25)

“If something exists, it will exist everywhere.”                                                                                                                                           (Czeslaw Milosz, in The Captive Mind, p 29)

“Fear of the indifference with which the economic system of the West treats its artists and scholars is widespread among Eastern intellectuals. They say it is better to deal with an intelligent devil than with a good-natured idiot.”                                                                                                                                              (Czeslaw Milosz, in The Captive Mind, p 46)

“A revolutionary should be without scruples. It is better to cut human trees blindly than to wonder which among them are really rotten.”                                                                                                                                              (Czeslaw Milosz, in The Captive Mind, p 77)

“Nothing evokes such horror in the land of dialectics as a writer who depicts man in terms of elementary forces of hunger and love.”                                                                                                                                         (Czeslaw Milosz, in The Captive Mind, p 124)

What is not expressed does not exist. Therefore if one forbids men to explore the depths of human nature, one destroys in them the urge to make such explorations; and the depths in themselves slowly become unreal.”        (Czeslaw Milosz, in The Captive Mind, p 215)

“Orthodoxy cannot release its pressure on men’s minds; it would no longer be an orthodoxy.”                                                    (Czeslaw Milosz, in The Captive Mind, p 219)

“Clichés, says Jarry, are the armature of the absolute..” [presumably Alfred Jarry, but where? And what does it mean?] (Anthony Powell, in To Keep The Ball Rolling, p 117)


“As long as a man owns a horse, and a gun, and a dog, he has no cause to complain of his lot in this world.”                                                                                                        (said by George Milsted to Anthony Powell, as recorded in To Keep The Ball Rolling, p 121)


“After this or another spell in an army hospital, [Henry] Lamb came up for examination before a medical board. Seeing from the report that he was a fellow medico, the members of the board treated him as a colleague who knows the ropes. Just as everything was over, Lamb leaving the room, one of the board said: ‘Perhaps we’d better see your Rhomberg, old boy.’ (The Rhomberg test is with feet together, eyes closed, to see if subject sways.) Lamb, absent for many months from medical practice, his mind filled with thought of painting, music, Milton and his old-fashioned stuff, had forgotten the meaning of Rhomberg. Making a guess, he began to undo his fly-buttons.”                                                                                         (Anthony Powell, in To Keep The Ball Rolling, p 157)


“A favourite saying of Kingsmill’s was that No Exit always means Exit.”                                                                            (Anthony Powell, in To Keep The Ball Rolling, p 166)

“ [Alexander] Dru would have enjoyed the American poet Delmore Schwartz’s observation [where?]: ‘Existentialism means that no one can take a bath for you.’”                                                 (Anthony Powell, in To Keep The Ball Rolling, p 286)


“[Leslie] Illingworth once remarked to me: ‘You can take it from a comic artist that, if any artist turns to comic drawing, something has always gone wrong in his life.’”                                                                  (Anthony Powell, in To Keep The Ball Rolling, p 358)


“Indeed the Defence’s testimony [in the trial of Lady Chatterley’s Lover] well illustrated an innate aspect of British Puritanism whereby some formerly condemned practice, once vindicated in the eyes of the Law and public opinion, cannot remain a matter of toleration only, but must be propagated as something actively beneficial. What is allowed must be good.”                                                (Anthony Powell, in To Keep The Ball Rolling, p 369)


“In reply to some forgotten observation of mine [Arthur] Mizener [who had said to Powell ‘in England there is more formality, in America more etiquette’] once answered: “I quite see the logic of what you say, but cannot agree, because if I agreed I should cease to be an American.’ These words much impressed me, confirming as they did what I had long suspected, that the concept of ‘being an American’ inseparably combined a sense of nationality with a kind of metaphysical creed. This is something of which a European visitor to the US is often subtly aware, and should always bear in mind.”                                                                          (Anthony Powell, in To Keep The Ball Rolling, p 378)


“For example, another American friend Bill Davis…… speaking of Connolly’s occasional peevishness about acquaintances who seemed to be doing rather well, once said: ‘But I like my friends to be successful.’”                                                                                                                (Anthony Powell, in To Keep The Ball Rolling, p 378)  [The paragraph in which this sentence appears could be summarized as follows: “Americans like their friends to be successful; Britons enjoy it when they fail.”]


“My Balliol tutor Kenneth Bell used to say that it was impossible to exaggerate the advantages of having a drunken father in forcing a man to think for himself.”                                                             (Anthony Powell, in To Keep The Ball Rolling, p 437)


“Judaism is defined by exile, and exile without complaint is tourism.”            (Michael Wex, author of Born to Kvetch, quoted in NYT review of the book, September 28)


“It has also confirmed my belief that hell would be an eternal masculine public-school reunion, or a black-tie dinner of all-male chartered accountants.”                                                                                                    (John Mortimer, in Where There’s A Will, p 90)


“His [Ibsen’s] idea of hell was to attend a protracted banquet at which he was seated besides an elderly suffragette or authoress…”            (from Paul Johnson’s Intellectuals, p 100)


“Of the old, violent anarchist groups it was said that they always contained one pathological killer, one selfless idealist and one police spy. It was difficult, at first glance, to tell which was which, but the idealist was always the most dangerous.”                                                                                            (John Mortimer, in Where There’s A Will, p 114)


“As someone said [who?], it was very kind of God to arrange for Thomas Carlyle to marry Jane Carlyle, because ‘it meant that only two people were unhappy instead of four’.”                                                            (John Mortimer, in Where There’s A Will, p 169)


“Oscar Wilde, who knew Bernard Shaw and went to meetings of the Fabian Society, had socialism on his Utopian map. The great advantage of such a system, he thought [where?], was that you would no longer have to endure the pain of feeling pity for the poor and the oppressed and could happily devote yourself to life and art with a clear conscience.”                                        (John Mortimer, in Where There’s A Will, p 215)




“They framed a guilty man.”                                                                                                                      (A barber at Tolliver’s Barber Shop in Los Angeles, commenting on the O. J. Simpson verdict, in a PBS Frontline program The O. J. Verdict, shown on October 4)


‘Is The Pope Catholic?’ Department

“’Lenin’, mused Natasha Zakharova, 23, as she walked off Red Square on Tuesday, admitting that she was not sure whose body she had just seen. ‘Was he a Communist?’”                                                                                                                   (NYT, October 5)


“I have often since found that when a line of action is said to be supported ‘by all responsible men’ it is nearly always dangerous or foolish.”                                                                                                                         (Harold Macmillan, in The Past Masters, p 151)


“History is the judge; its executioner the proletariat.”                                                                           (Karl Marx, to Engels, from his Selected Correspondence 1846-95, p 90-91)


“Friends are an expensive luxury, and when one invests one’s capital in a calling or mission in life, one cannot afford to have friends.”                                                                                                         (Ibsen, in a letter to Brandes, quoted in Meyer’s biography, p 332)


“My sympathies are always for exploited working people against absentee landlords even if I drink around with the landlords and shoot pigeons with them.”                                                                                                       (Ernest Hemingway, from Selected Letters, p 458)


“Walter Benjamin once defined an intellectual (himself) as a man ‘with spectacles on his nose and autumn in his heart’.”                             (Paul Johnson, in Intellectuals, p 170)


“No opinion should be held with fervour. No one holds with fervour that seven times eight is fifty-six, because it can be known that this is the case. Fervour is only necessary in commending an opinion which is doubtful or demonstrably false.”                                                                                       (Bertrand Russell, in Voltaire’s Influence on Me)


“If no two people are alike, he [Edmund Wilson] was less like anybody else than anybody.”                                 (Mary McCarthy, in NYT book review, February 17, 1974)


“The person who is in the weakest moral position to attack the state is he who has largely ignored its potential for evil while strongly backing its expansion on humanitarian grounds and is only stirred to protest when he falls foul of it through his own negligence.”                                                          (Paul Johnson, in Intellectuals, p 267)


But What Did George Think?

“Had he [Orwell] lived, he must surely have moved to the right, so ‘it was blessing for him probably that he died’.”                                                (Mary McCarthy, in The Writing On The Wall, and Other Literary Essays, as cited by Paul Johnson in Intellectuals, p 310)     [But McCarthy’s words are actually: “If he had lived, he might have been happiest on a desert island, and it was a blessing for him probably that he died”. Nowhere does McCarthy suggest he would have ‘moved to the right’, but merely questions whether he would have supported the fashionable left-wing causes of the 1960s.]


“If history itself had been a supporter of communism, it would not have been able to synchronize so perfectly the gravest crisis in the Western world and the first phase of the Russian revolution. The contrast was so strong that it inevitably lead to this conclusion: they are the future, we are the past.”            (Arthur Koestler, in Arrow In The Blue, p 345)


“An avowed humanist – a man he defines as trying ‘to behave as decently, as fairly and as honorably as we can without any expectation of rewards or punishments in an afterlife.’”                                                                                   (A. O. Scott, describing Kurt Vonnegut, and quoting him from A Man Without A Country, in the NYT, October 9)


“I’m mindful of what a pipe fitter once said to President Reagan: ‘I’ve never been hired by a poor man.’”            (Representative Mike Pence of Indiana, in the NYT, October 11)


“In a much-noted comment to his cabinet in 1955, Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, dismissed the organization [the United Nations] with a put-down using its Hebrew acronym. ‘UM, schmum,’ he said, or, ‘The U.N. – it’s nothing.’”                                                                                                                                      (NYT, October 11)


“A college education should help you to know a good man when you see him.” (William James, in The Social Value of the College-Bred, from Memories and Studies, p 309)


“Socialism is a vast machine for churning out piles of goods marked ‘Take it or leave it.’”                             (Arthur Seldon, economist, as reported in his NYT obituary, October 15)


“You guys told us for so many years to cut out this socialist rubbish and go to free markets. We came to free markets and now you’re telling us, ‘Stop, don’t come.’”                                                                                                                                (Nandan M. Nilekani, chief executive of Infosys Technologies, in interview in NYT, October 15)


“As the American literary critic William Dean Howells said, ‘It’s easy to make enemies. The difficulty is keeping them.’”                   (Frank Johnson, in The Spectator, October 8)


“Don’t forget that if religion is a saving grace, religiosity is a constitutional weakness.”                                                      (Mr. Viner, in Compton Mackenzie’s Sinister Street, p 292)


“You have come to Oxford, some of you to hunt foxes, some of you to wear large and very unusual overcoats, some of you to row for your college and a few of you to work. But all of you have come to Oxford to remain English gentlemen.”                                                              (The Warden of St. Mary’s, in Compton Mackenzie’s Sinister Street, p 530)


“I’m getting rather fed up with toleration, really: the only people with any fanaticism now are the rationalists. It’s quite exhilarating sometimes to see the fire of disbelief glowing in the eyes of a passionate agnostic.”                                                                                                                                     (Michael Fane, in Compton Mackenzie’s Sinister Street, p 681)


“A man once said to me that whenever he saw a man in an empty railway compartment reading The Daily Telegraph, he always avoided it.”                                                                                                                  (Michael Fane, in Compton Mackenzie’s Sinister Street, p 689)


“I’ve never met a House man who didn’t think every other House man impossible outside the four people in his own set.”                                                                                                                                   (Michael Fane, in Compton Mackenzie’s Sinister Street, p 698)


“Even friendship must pay tribute to human vanity. Life became a merciless business when one ceased to stand alone. The herding instinct of man was responsible for the corruption of civilization, and Michael thought of the bestiality of a crowd. How loathsome humanity was in the aggregate, but individually how rare, how wonderful.”                                                                                (Compton Mackenzie’s Sinister Street, p 1087)


“We need more winterized tents than exist in the world today.”(Andrew Macleod, United Nations operations chief in Pakistan, on earthquake relief, quoted in the NYT, October 18)


“With what feelings does one lay down Mr. Churchill’s two-thousandth page? [The World Crisis: The Aftermath] …….   A little envy, perhaps, for his undoubting conviction that frontiers, races, patriotism, even wars if need be, are ultimate verities for mankind, which lends to him a kind of dignity and even nobility to events, which for others are only a nightmare interlude, something to be permanently avoided.”                                                       (J. M. Keynes, in Winston Churchill, from Essays in Biography)


“The paradox finds its explanation, perhaps in that the master-economist must possess a rare combination of gifts.  He must reach a high standard in several different directions and must combine talents not often found together. He must be a mathematician, historian, statesman, philosopher – in some degree. He must understand symbols and speak in words. He must contemplate the particular in terms of the general, and touch abstract and concrete in the same flight of thought. He must study the present in the light of the past for the purposes of the future. No part of man’s nature or his institutions must lie entirely outside his regard. He must be purposeful and disinterested in a simultaneous mood; as aloof and incorruptible as an artist, yet sometimes as near the earth as a politician.”                            (J. M. Keynes, in Alfred Marshall, from Essays in Biography)


‘It’s Not Nuclear Science’ Department

“Max Planck, of Berlin the famous originator of the Quantum Theory, once remarked to me that in early life he had thought of studying economics, but had found it too difficult!”                                                 (J. M. Keynes, in Alfred Marshall, from Essays in Biography)


“While attributing high and transcendent universality to the central scheme of economic reasoning, I do not assign any universality to economic dogmas. It is not a body of concrete truth, but an engine for the discovery of concrete truth.”                                                                                                    (Alfred Marshall, in The Principles of Economics, Bk. 1, chap. iv, quoted in J. M. Keynes’s Alfred Marshall, in Essays in Biography)


“Logic, like lyrical poetry, is no employment for the middle-aged..”                                                                                    (J. M. Keynes, in F. P. Ramsey, from Essays in Biography)


‘Luvvies’ Section

“’We live in exactly the same kind of society today’, he said. ‘In Victorian times they lost their souls to industry. Now we lose our souls to capitalism.’ Both systems, he said, were sustained by the moral hypocrisy that drives a despairing Holmes into deep depression.”                                                                                                                              (Rupert Everett, who plays Sherlock Holmes in a new TV series, quoted in the NYT, October 22)

“I do believe it is important to have a passion for things. For example, I used to be into progressive politics and supported anti-apartheid and the C.N.D.”        (Ann McManus, one of the creators of the TV series Footballer’s Wives, quoted in the NYT, October 23)


“My old tutor at Oxford, A. J. P. Taylor, always insisted, ‘The only lesson of history is that there are no lessons of history.’  ……. But Taylor was, characteristically, exaggerating.”    (Paul Johnson, in review of A War Like No Other, in NYT, October 23)


“The chief thing we learn from experience is to place upon it no reliance whatever.”                                               (Michael Fane, in Sinister Street, by Compton Mackenzie, p 892)


“Minds which thirst for a tidy platonism very soon become impatient with actual history.”                                           (E. P. Thompson, in The Peculiarities of the English)

“Christ goes deeper than I do, but I have the wider experience.’”                            (Frank Harris to Hugh Kingsmill, as recorded by Richard Ingrams in God’s Apology, p 38)


“Dawnism, or heralding the dawn of a new world, or the millennium, the establishment of the kingdom of heaven on earth, the new Jerusalem, the dictatorship of the proletariat… in short an excited anticipation that some form of collective action is about to solve all the troubles of the individual, is an intermittent but apparently incurable malady of mankind.”                                                                                                   (Hugh Kingsmill, in Matthew Arnold, quoted by Richard Ingrams in God’s Apology, p 74)


“The youth of twenty who does not think the world can be improved is a cad; the man of forty who still thinks it can is a fool.”                                                                                                        (Hesketh Pearson, quoted by Richard Ingrams in God’s Apology, p 86)


“People who can repeat what you are saying are not listening.”                                                                 (attributed to Hugh Kingsmill by Richard Ingrams, in God’s Apology, p 117)


“I begin to suspect that a Scot with a passion for books is as rare as a Spaniard capable of killing a bull with a single thrust.”                                                                                                                     (attributed to Hugh Kingsmill by Richard Ingrams, in God’s Apology, p 157)


“Disillusionment is the result of discovering that other people are as ego(t)istical as oneself.”      (attributed to Hugh Kingsmill by Richard Ingrams, in God’s Apology, p 190)


“Spiritualism is the mysticism of the materialist.”                                              (Kingsmill, in his essay on W.T. Stead, as cited by Richard Ingrams in God’s Apology, p 208)


“’What is mysticism anyway?’ he [John Hargrave] wanted to know.

‘It explains what is inexplicable in terms that are incomprehensible’ was my reply: which seems to me, on reflection, to settle the whole question of mysticism.”  (Hesketh Pearson, in a letter to Hugh Kingsmill, cited by Richard Ingrams in God’s Apology, p 246)


“Where there is vision the people perish. I admit they also perish where there is no vision. Either way, in fact, their situation appears to be damnably awkward.”                     “Systems, whatever the philosophy out of which they have grown, necessarily value truth less than victory over rival systems.”

“A nation is only at peace when it is at war.”

“Liars are forgivable if they are amusing, bores are bearable if they are accurate.”

‘The last word in wisdom is not to desire disciples, but to keep friends.”

“No one admires a single common man, or wants to be one, or would be anything but chagrined if hailed as a satisfactory specimen of one.”

“A man of talent thinks more highly of himself when he has a success, a man of genius thinks more highly of the world.”

“It is difficult to love mankind unless one has a reasonable private income, and when one has a reasonable private income, one has better things to do than loving mankind.”                      (from the Sayings of Hugh Kingsmill, from Richard Ingrams’ God’s Apology)


“We are a great nation, but if we continue to behave as a Great Power we shall soon cease to be a great nation.”                                      (Sir Henry Tizard in 1949, quoted by Chris Patten in Not Quite the Diplomat, as recorded in Spectator review, 15 October)


“In life, you see, there is not much choice. You have either to rot or to burn. And there is not one of us, painted or unpainted, that would not rather burn than rot.”                                            (Miss Haldin, to Razumov, in Joseph Conrad’s Under Western Eyes, p 210)


“The people that are neither seen nor heard are the lucky ones – in Russia.”                         (Razumov, to Miss Haldin, in Joseph Conrad’s Under Western Eyes, p 216)


“Remember, Razumov, that women, children, and revolutionists hate irony, which is the negation of all saving instincts, of all faith, of all devotion, of all action.’”                                                  (Sophia Antonovna, in Joseph Conrad’s Under Western Eyes, p 233)


“I must own to you that I shall never give up looking forward to the day when all discord shall be silenced. Try to imagine its dawn! The tempest of blows and of execrations is over; all is still; the new sun is rising, and the weary men united at last, taking count in their conscience of the ended contest, feel saddened by their victory, because so many ideas have perished for the triumph of one, so many beliefs have abandoned them without support. They feel alone on the earth and gather close together. Yes, there shall be so many bitter hours! But at last the anguish of hearts shall be extinguished in love.”  [a source for Kingsmill’s Dawnism?]                                                                                     (Miss Haldin, to the narrator, in Joseph Conrad’s Under Western Eyes, p 310)


“Women will truly be equal to men on the day that an incompetent woman is appointed to an important post.”                                                    (attributed to French feminist journalist and government minister François Giroud, in letter to the NYT, October 30)


“Big ideas are so hard to recognize, so fragile, so easy to kill. Don’t forget that, all of you who don’t have them.”                                    (John Elliott, chairman of Ogilvy and Mather, at his retirement in December 1981, as quoted in his NYT obituary, October 31)


“If you want to solve the sexual problem, be a public worker, a party member, not a stallion or a brood mare”                  (The Soviet Commissar for Health, in 1925, in a period of sexual licence, as reported in The Soviet Achievement, by J. P. Nettl, p 110)




Moral Outrage – 2005

“Judge Alito was the sole judge on his court who took the extreme position that all of Pennsylvania’s limitations on abortion were constitutional, including the outrageous requirement that a woman show that she had notified her spouse.”                                                                                                                                          (NYT Editorial, November 1)


“The point was made very cogently by the late A. T. Cholerton, Daily Telegraph correspondent in Moscow at the time of the Stalinist purges in the early Thirties, when some liberal exalté asked whether the evidence offered at the trials of the Old Bolsheviks was reliable. ‘Everything is true,’ Cholerton replied magisterially, ‘except the facts.’”                                                (Malcolm Muggeridge, in his 1978 introduction to his 1938 book In A Valley Of This Restless Mind. He also relates the anecdote in his autobiography.)


“Nothing is ever motivated purely by religion or ideology. They [the Christian warriors] wanted the money. It was as simple as that.”                                 (Tariq Ali, author of The Book of Saladin, quoted in review of TV program The Crusades, NYT November 5)


“My work always tried to unite the true with the beautiful, but when I had to choose one or the other, I usually chose the beautiful.”        (attributed to the mathematician Hermann Weyl, ‘shortly before he died’, by Lawrence M. Krauss, in the NYT, November 8)


“By the age of 18, I had dominion over 600 boys [as head boy of Bedford School], and learned all about power, hierarchy, and the manipulation of law. Ever since I have had a violent hatred of leaders, organizers, bosses; of anyone who thinks it good to get or have arbitrary power over people.”                                                                               (John Fowles [in Wormholes?], as quoted by Sarah Lyall in his obituary, NYT, November 8)


“The face of truth is terrible. The people need myths and illusions; they need to be lied to. Truth is frightening, insupportable, deadly.”                       (The Spanish philosopher Miguel de Unamuno [where?], according to Heller and Nekrich in Utopia in Power, p 50)


“Nations that have boasted of making a revolution have always discovered on the day after that they had no idea what was happening, that the completed revolution had nothing to do with the one they wanted.”                                                                                                                        (Engels, according to Heller and Nekrich in Utopia in Power, p 55)


“National socialism is what Marxism could have become, if it had broken its absurd ties with the democratic order.”                                     (Hitler, from Hermann Rauschning’s Gespräche mit Hitler, 1940, p 143, cited by Heller and Nekrich in Utopia in Power, p 63)


“In May 1922 Lenin also read the draft for the first Soviet penal code. He insisted that it as necessary to ‘put forward publicly a thesis that is correct in principle and politically correct (not just a narrow juridical thesis) that would explain the essence of terror, its necessity and limits, and the justification for it.’”                                                   (Lenin, in Collected Works 45:555, quoted by Heller and Nekrich in Utopia in Power, p 142)


“The goal is nothing: the movement everything.”                                                                                   (Eduard Bernstein, quoted by Heller and Nekrich in Utopia in Power, p 712)


“The moral enslavement of a population is achieved not when people, or a substantial part of them, give credence to official ideology, but when they are plunged into despair.”                                                                                                              (Leszek Kolakowski, in Survey, no 4, 1979, p 3; quoted by Heller and Nekrich in Utopia in Power p 731)


“Marketing is a fashionable term. The sales manager becomes marketing vice president. But a gravedigger is still a gravedigger even when he is called a mortician – only the price of the burial goes up.”

“One either meets or works.”

“The only things that evolve by themselves in an organization are disorder, friction, and malperformance.”

“Stock option plans reward the executive for doing the wrong thing. Instead of asking, ’Are we making the right decision?’, he asks,’ How did we close today?” It is encouragement to loot the corporation.”                                                                                (From the sayings of Peter F. Drucker, quoted in his NYT obituary, November 12)


“No snowflake in an avalanche ever feels responsible.”                                                                                             (An aphorism on mass politics by the Polish writer Stanislaw Jerzy Lec, quoted in review of The World in a Phrase, by James Geary, NYT, November 12)


“The worst reason for doing anything is that it was done in this way during the time of Henry IV.”                                  (Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, in The Path of the Law)


“Fundamentally, modern Detroit exists to build and sell motor cars, and once it quits that it will lose its chief reason for existence.”                                                                       (Historian Arthur Pond, in 1940, according to Paul Clemens, in NYT, November 13)


“Natural selection may explain the survival of the fittest, but not the arrival of the fittest.”[?]        (Dutch botanist Hugo de Vries, according to letter in NYT, November 14)


“Every adolescent needs an adult to help him grow up, and it can’t be a parent.”                                                                                        (attributed to the psychoanalyst Myron Gunther by Scott Turow in article on Saul Bellow in The Atlantic, December 2005)


‘Only In America’ Department

“Heaven is dynamic. It’s bursting with excitement and action. It’s the ultimate playground, created purely for our enjoyment, by someone who knows what enjoyment means, because He invented it. It’s Disney World, Hawaii, Paris, Rome and New York all rolled into one. And it’s forever! Heaven truly is the vacation that never ends.”    [As Paul Bloom writes in The Atlantic: ‘This sounds a bit like hell to me…’]                                                      (from Anthony Destephano’s A Travel Guide to Heaven)


“I am against the celebrity culture for everyone except myself.”                                   (Clive James in conclusion to The Meaning of Recognition: New Essays, 2001-2005)


“First love is often viewed as poetic but insignificant. But in fact people at these moments live through something they cannot understand. A terrible blooming.”                                                                                                                      (Ivan Bunin, in The Elagin Affair)


“Ultimately these files are the institutional memory of the bureaucracy. To expect a bureaucracy to destroy its files is to expect it to commit suicide.”                                                                         (Hassan Mneimneh, of the Iraqi Memory Foundation, on the discovery of voluminous Guatemalan Secret Police files, reported in the NYT, November 21)


“I think it less peril to live with them as enemies than as friends.”                                                                                                        (Walsingham, on the deviousness of the French in treating the Huguenots, as recorded in The Reign of Elizabeth, by J. R. Black, p 160)


“It is as hard a matter for the reader of chronicles to pass without some colours of wisdom, incitements to virtue, and loathing of naughty facts, as it is for a well-favoured man to walk up and down in the hot parching sun and not be therewith sunburned.”                                                                                                                                    (from Stow’s Chronicles of England, as recorded in The Reign of Elizabeth, by J. R. Black, p 285)


“Norton [in preface to Grafton’s Chronicle] described history as ‘a glass wherein each man may see things past, and thereby judge justly of things present, and wisely of things to come.’”                                            (from The Reign of Elizabeth, by J. R. Black, p 285)


“The most English words are of one syllable: so that the more monosyllables that you use, the truer Englishman you shall seem.”                                                                 (George Gascoign, according to The Reign of Elizabeth, by J. R. Black, p 287)


“An excellent plumber is infinitely more admirable than an incompetent philosopher. The society which scorns excellence in plumbing because plumbing is a humble activity and tolerates shoddiness in philosophy because it is an exalted activity will have neither good plumbing nor good philosophy. Neither its pipes nor its philosophy will hold water.”                                                                                                            (John W. Gardner, according to Goldwin Smith, in Gates of Excellence, from The Professor and the Public, p 34)


“As the historian Lecky observed, ‘Men will believe anything against the evidence, or in spite of the evidence; they will hardly ever believe anything because of the evidence.”       (A. L. Rowse in Scholar and Responsibility, from The Professor and the Public, 50)


“’Herr Hitler, whatever one may think of his methods, is genuinely trying to transform revolutionary fervour into moderate and constructive effort and to impose a high standard on National-Socialist officials”.                                                                                                                      (Editorial in The Times on The Night of the Long Knives, July 1934)


“A race of carnivorous sheep”                                    (Hugh Dalton on the Germans, according to A. L. Rowse, in Appeasement: A Study In Political Decline, 1933-39, p 52)


“Some yeshivas will expel a child if they learn the family has a television. ‘If television wasn’t banned, we wouldn’t have kids studying and learning Torah 16 to 18 hours a day;, said Rabbi Shalom Storch, principal of Yeshiva Nesivas Ohr, a day school in Lakewood.’”                                                                                        (NYT, November 23)


“The economist Thomas Sowell once joked that Hank Aaron was a lucky man, because he was always stepping up to the plate when a home run was about to be hit.”                                                                                                  (John J. Miller, in NYT, November 28)


“To betray, or let down in any way the rarest and most priceless of human gifts, the touch of genius – that is unforgivable.” (A. L. Rowse, in A Cornish Childhood, p 110)


“A harmless hobby, according excellent definition of a hobby: ‘no sense at all, and no finality: just what a hobby ought to be”. [who said this?]                                                                                                                 (A. L. Rowse, in A Cornish Childhood, p 134)


“I could not write a poem unless I tricked myself into the belief that it was only a technical problem to be solved.”                                                                                                                        (T. S. Eliot, according to A. L. Rowse, in A Cornish Childhood, p 218)


“There is nothing that embitters one so much as continual suspense and a sharp struggle all the time.”                                               (A. L. Rowse, in A Cornish Childhood, p 257)


Words put in the mouths of the famous (or are they quotations?)

“Tyranny doesn’t make me feel indignant. What’s important is that people have work.”                                                                                                     (Ludwig Wittgenstein, p 20)

“The question of whether a machine can think is unanswerable because it is logically absurd. It’s like asking what is the color of 3.”                        (Ludwig Wittgenstein, p 64)

“Life is a resonance phenomenon between molecules.”         (J. B. S. Haldane, p 137)                                                                           (from The Cambridge Quintet, by John L. Casti)


“The German Communist, Wolfgang Leonhard, who grew up in Moscow, recalled delight and then confusion when, in 1935, he and his mother bought a replacement for their outdated 1924 city map only to find that the new map was dated 1945 and included projected improvements for the next decade.”                                                                                                                 (from Jeffrey Brooks’s Thank You, Comrade Stalin!, p 78)




“I can tell you as a statistician that if there were only one right woman for every man, they would never find each other. Go and find someone else.”                             (Milton Friedman, to Ben Stein, as reported by the latter in the NYT, December 4)


“There are two widespread human characteristics which are responsible for the fact that the regulations of civilization can only be maintained by a certain degree of coercion – namely, that men are not spontaneously fond of work and that arguments are of no avail against their passions.”                           (from Freud’s The Future of an Illusion, p 8)

“The gods retain their threefold task: they must exorcize the terrors of nature, they must reconcile men to the cruelty of fate, particularly as it is shown in death, and they must compensate them for the sufferings and privations which a civilized life in common has imposed on them.”                                      (from Freud’s The Future of an Illusion, p 18)

“Just as no one can be forced to believe, so no one can be forced to disbelieve.”                                                                                    (from Freud’s The Future of an Illusion, p 32)

“As an undergraduate wit [who?] put it, those were the days when

Bliss was it in that dawn to be a Freud,

But to be Jung was very heaven!”                                                                                                                                   (A. L. Rowse, in A Cornishman at Oxford, p 30)

“In the eighteenth century peers made their tutors under-secretaries; in the twentieth century under-secretaries make their tutors peers.”                                                                   (L. B. Namier, on the occasion of the elevation to the peerage of Godfrey Elton, ‘who followed Macdonald into disgrace in 1931’. Elton was the tutor of MacDonald’s son Malcolm at Queen’s. Recounted in A. L. Rowse’s A Cornishman at Oxford, p 59)

“A writer has only to survive, in the English environment, till eighty to be regarded as a sage and listened to with veneration, whether he talks nonsense or not – and Russell is now on his way to a hundred.”    (from A. L. Rowse’s A Cornishman at Oxford, p 126)


“G. G. H. Cole, whom I came to know intimately in later years, knew what fools human beings are, none better; but used to defend himself to me by saying ‘We must go on as if they were not’.”                          (from A. L. Rowse’s A Cornishman at Oxford, p 236)


“Obsessed at sixty with the idea of chances lost, opportunities deliberately not taken, the alternative lives that might have been mine (as Henry James was in those later stories), I feel now more open to experience, more willing, less recalcitrant. Then, as Picasso says: ‘At sixty we are young; but it is too late.”                                                                                                                                          (from A. L. Rowse’s A Cornishman at Oxford, p 309)


“In politics all that ends well is forgiven.”                                                                                                                                   (from Milovan Djilas’s Conversations with Stalin, p 33)


“For with Communism as an idea the essential thing is not what is being done but why.”                                                         (from Milovan Djilas’s Conversations with Stalin, p 58)


“Someone [who?] has said well: ‘In Germany you cannot have a revolution because you would have to step on the lawns’.”                                                                                                                                             (Stalin, in Milovan Djilas’s Conversations with Stalin, p 79)


“Yes, socialism is possible even under an English king.”                                                                                                   (Stalin, in Milovan Djilas’s Conversations with Stalin, p 113)


“In politics, more than anything else, the beginning of everything lies in moral indignation and in doubt of the good intentions in others.”                                                                                                        (from Milovan Djilas’s Conversations with Stalin, p117)


“It is indeed true that no one can take freedom from another without losing his own.”                                                           (from Milovan Djilas’s Conversations with Stalin, p 133)


‘Only In America’ Department

“’The United States Constitution says “we the people, by the people, for the people,”’ said Mr. Rogalo, stopping behind frozen brush to load his gun and sip hot tea from a thermos. ‘The animals aren’t the people. They don’t vote, they don’t pay taxes and they don’t have any legal rights in this country.’”                                                                                                                            (From a NYT report on bear-hunting in New Jersey, December 5)


What’s Thine Is Mine

“It’s rather funny

That they who rail at cash as worst of human curses.

Should, out of other people’s purses,

Take so much money.

Some think that honesty requires

All to their means should limit their desires;

But Socialism rather leans

To measuring its wants by other people’s means.

Brotherly love may be all very well in its way,

But one would rather avoid its display,

When the warmth of affection

Is shown in a predilection

(To Socialists often known)

Of treating other folks’goods as their own.

But now we bid adieu to Mr. Owen,

Who very long the game had carried on;

Three times he set it – ‘going, going, going,’

And, like himself, knock’d down at last – ‘tis gone!”                                                                                    (from Socialism – ‘New Harmony’ in The Comic Almanack, 1843)


“A doctor who treated her [Lee Miller, American photographer who married Roland Penrose, and who became ‘an irritable and bored prisoner of the English countryside’] for depression, or for undiagnosed post-traumatic stress, is supposed to have said, ’There is nothing wrong with you, and we cannot keep the world permanently at war just to provide you with entertainment.’”                                                                                                                       (from review of Carolyn Burke’s Lee Miller, in the  NYT, December 8)


“All cruel people describe themselves as paragons of frankness.”                                                                 (Tennessee Williams, according to letter in NYT magazine, December 11; indeed, said by Mrs. Goforth in The Milk Train Doesn’t Stop Here Any More)


“Let us now praise famous men,

Not your earth-shakers, not the dynamiters,

But who in the Home Counties or the Khyber,

Trimming their nails to meet an ill wind,

Facing the Adversary with a clean collar,

Justified the system.”              (from Poem 9 in C. Day-Lewis’s The Magnetic Mountain)


But What Did Wystan Say?

“I would have a poet able-bodied, fond of talking, a reader of newspapers, capable of pity and laughter, informed in economics, appreciative of women, involved in personal relationships, actively interested in politics, susceptible to physical impressions.”                                                                                                 (Louis MacNeice, in Modern Poetry, p 198)


“As for the profession of letters, that, in any shape, we regarded with pity and contempt… the only journalism accounted worthy of a gentleman and a scholar was the writing of leaders for The Times.”                                                                                                                                    (from the autobiography of Sir William Besant (recalling the middle 1850s), cited by  John Gross in The Rise and Fall of the Man of Letters, p 25


“Doors that open, windows that shut, locks that turn, razors that shave, coats that wear, watches that go, and a thousand more such good things, are the inventions of the Philistine.”                                                                                 (Matthew Arnold, in Celtic Literature, quoted by John Gross in The Rise and Fall of the Man of Letters, p 55)


“The English humorists! Through a fog compounded of tobacco smoke, the stink of spirits and the breath of bailiffs, we see their melancholy faces.”                      (V. S. Pritchett, according to John Gross in The Rise and Fall of the Man of Letters, p 93)


“Karl Marx said that he wasn’t a Marxist..” [where?]                                                                                                (John Gross in The Rise and Fall of the Man of Letters, p 274)


“He who is in not in some measure a pedant, though he may be wise, cannot be a very happy man.”                                                                                                          (Hazlitt, according to John Gross, in The Rise and Fall of the Man of Letters, p 295)


“Goethe says somewhere that few things in the world are more dreadful than a teacher who knows nothing except the books which he has to teach.”                                                                              (John Gross, in The Rise and Fall of the Man of Letters, p 297)


“The idea of a graduate seminar on Ronald Firbank would be Firbankian.”                                                             (John Gross, in The Rise and Fall of the Man of Letters, p 298)


“The great lesson is that citizenship of a new country should make a big demand of the person granted it. The person who answers that demand feels huge pride.”                                                                                     (Charles Moore, in the Spectator, December 10)


“I was a party member for ten years, and they indoctrinated us with the party ideology. When I hear Christian preaching, it sounds similar to the party teaching. Christians praise God, but North Koreans praise Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong II. At least, they are mortal and we can see them. In Christianity, they ask me to praise the Lord, whom we cannot even see.”       (North Korean defector, Mr. Park, quoted in the NYT, December 19)


‘Only in America’ Department? Maybe Not…

“Even couples who nominally belong to the same religion can find room to differ. Batia Zumwalt, a behavioral therapist who lives in Hoboken, was born to Jewish parents and considers herself, but loves her Christmas tree. Her husband, Andrew Edlin, a gallery owner in Chelsea, refers to the tree as ‘the big sell-out’ and added, ‘All the people who have murdered us over the years have Christmas trees.’”                      (NYT, December 20)


“The pity of Owen, the Whitmanesque lust for life of Lawrence, and the dogmas of Lenin are now combining to make possible the most vital poetry seen in English for a long time.”                                    (Louis MacNeice, in Subject in Modern Poetry, December 1936)


“Since they themselves are more like characters in Kingsley Amis, I marvelled once again at what Oxford does to her captors or infiltrators. Whether they come from Redbrick enclaves or from Cambridge, they seem to pick up overnight the soft-spoken malice, the ostentatiously throw-way display of inside information, the heavy-lidded thin-lipped irony, the addiction to verbal arabesques, the exquisite verdigris of cynicism, that have traditionally characterized this city of sneering spires.”                                 (Louis MacNeice, from That Chair of Poetry, in the New Statesman, 10 February 1961)


“A sentence in prose is struck forward lie a golf-ball; a sentence in verse can be treated like a ball in a squash-court.”                                                            (Louis MacNeice, in Frost, a review of The Poetry of Robert Frost, by Reuben Brower, New Statesman, July 1963)


“There is a higher calling than the law. That is justice and equality.”                                                            (Roger Toussaint, president of Local 100 of the Transport Workers Union in New York, commenting on the transit strike, reported in the NYT, December 22)


“Truly spiritual people are amazing. Until the moment of death, families pray for a miracle and then at the moment of death, they say, ‘This is God’s will’ and ‘God will get us through this.’”                                                                          (Mrs. Pat Murphy, nurse and grief counselor at University Hospital, Newark, reported in the NYT, December 24)


“If the League of Nations could make a war it would be the only thing it ever has made.”

(Hilaire Belloc, from Do We Agree?, a debate between Shaw and Chesterton)


“Happy is the country that has no history; and happy, you may say, is the man who has no history.”                                                           (G. B. Shaw, in Do We Agree?) “Let every man speak freely without fear, maintain the principles that he believes, worship according to his own faith, either one God, three Gods, no God, or twenty Gods; and let government protect him in doing so.” (John Leland, 18th-century Baptist evangelist, as recorded in book review by John Meacham, in the NYT, December 25)

“Religious and semi-religious organizations have a tendency to identify the Kingdom of God with the progress of their own particular creed or nostrum, and when they do that they have a way of doing things in the name of that sacred cause which no ordinary or decent person would do in pursuit of his own interests.”                                                                                                           (A.D. Lindsay in The Essentials of Democracy, p 41)

“If men’s sense of economic cleavage is greater than their sense of common nationality, if religious or social or race or colour cleavages are too strong, if there are permanent social minorities, a healthy democracy is so far impossible. Voting in political democracy is successful in so far as the ordinary voter can be relied on to insist on fair play between the different sections and interests in the community, or in so far as the right of a minority to turn itself into a majority is a real and effective right; if these conditions do not exist, voting is only a process of counting heads to save the trouble of breaking them.”                                                                (A.D. Lindsay in The Essentials of Democracy, p 49)

“Nationalism is as it were the measles of nationality.”                                                                                                           (A.D. Lindsay in The Essentials of Democracy, p 80)

“We have suffered in the past from making democracy into a dogma, in the sense of thinking it as something magical, exempt from the ordinary laws which govern human nature. The conversion of principles into magical dogmas has the same effect in politics as it ahs in religion. The magic that cannot be believed is accepted until it is found out, and then the true principle on which it was based is abandoned along wit it. Democracy implies faith, but a reasoned faith.” (A.D. Lindsay in The Essentials of Democracy, p 82)


“A democracy which fails to concentrate authority in an emergency inevitably falls into such confusion that the ground is prepared for the rise of a dictator.”  (Walter Lippman, in March 1933, cited by Alonzo L. Hamby in For The Survival Of Democracy, p 122)


“The assumption that workers should feel a primary sense of identification with their class instead of their nation is a common fallacy among intellectuals.”                                                                        (Alonzo L. Hamby in For The Survival Of Democracy, p 212)


“Roosevelt himself in his talk to the DAR had asserted, with considerable poetic license, that the American revolutionaries of 1776 had fought ‘to throw off the fascist yoke’”                                                                                     (Alonzo L. Hamby in For The Survival Of Democracy, p 427, quoting from Continental Congress, in Time, May 2, 1938)


“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: ‘I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God’. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was really a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic – on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg – or else he would be the Devil in Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at his feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”                                                           (C. S. Lewis in Mere Christianity, quoted in The Spectator, 17/24 December)


“Ask yourself whether you are happy, and you cease to be so. Those are only happy who have their minds fixed on some object other than their happiness; on the happiness of others, on the improvement of mankind, even on some art or pursuit, followed not as a means, but as itself an ideal end. Aiming thus at something else, they find happiness by the way.”         (John Stuart Mill, according to an Op-Ed in the NYT, December 29)

‘Only In America’ Department

“The youth pastor, Brent Parsley [at New Life Church in Colorado Springs], entered on a sleigh dressed as a hip-hop Santa. ‘I’m going to break it down for you, Clarence, ‘ Mr. Parsley told an actor in a Christmas play. ‘Christmas ain’t about presents, yo! The true meaning of Christmas is my main man: J. C. ‘”                  (from the NYT, December 30)


“The fact is that Al Qaeda’s playbook is not printed on Page 1, and when America’s is, it has serious ramifications. You don’t need to be Sun Tzu to understand that.”                                                  (White House spokesman Trent Duffy, commenting on leak of information on the NSA’s eavesdropping program, as reported in the NYT, December 31)


“But in case you should think my education was wasted

I hasten to explain

That once having been to the University of Oxford

You can never really again

Believe anything that anyone says and that is of course an asset

In a world like ours;”                                                                                                                                                  (Louis MacNeice, in Canto XIII of Autumn Journal, 1938)


“When books have all seized up like books in graveyards

And reading and even speaking have been replaced

By other, less difficult, media, we wonder if you

Will find in flowers and fruit the same colour and taste

They held for us for whom they were framed in words,

And will your grass be green, your sky be blue,

Or will your birds be always wingless birds?”

(Louis MacNeice, To Posterity, 1952)


“Ninety-nine down: a one-letter word meaning something indefinite.

The indefinite article or – would it be the personal pronoun?

But what runs across it? Four-letter word meaning something

With a bias towards its opposite, the second letter

Must be the same as the one-letter word.

It is time

We left those puzzles and started to be ourselves

And started to live, is it not?”

(Louis MacNeice, Crossword Puzzles, ca. 1958)


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