Commonplace 2006


“     Q. You have been arrested for treacherous anti-Soviet activities. Do you acknowledge your guilt?

  1. No I do not.
  2. How do you reconcile that declaration of innocence with the fact of your arrest?”                                                 (from the transcriptions of Isaac Babel’s interrogations, in Vitaly Shentalinsky’s The KGB’s Literary Archive, as reported in NYT book review of Savage Shorthand, by Jerome Charyn, January 1)


Shattered Illusions

“I am no Einstein”                  (Einstein, according to John Horgan, in NYT, January 1)

“Just as Marx was no Marxist, Keynes ….  was no 1960s Keynesian.”                                                                                             (A. N. Wilson in After The Victorians, p 286)

“Just as Marx was no Marxist, so Darwin was no Darwinist”                                                                                                                              (Tim Ingold, University of Manchester)

“Reagan was not a Reaganite.”                                  (quoted in Jacob Heilbrunn’s review of Paul Lettow’s Ronald Reagan and His Quest to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, in NYT)

“I am no Bernalist.” (J. D. Bernal, in Professor Bernal Replies, New Statesman and Nation, 18, 441, 5 August 1939, pp 210-211)

(Cf. “Karl Marx said that he wasn’t a Marxist..” [where?] from John Gross in The Rise and Fall of the Man of Letters, p 274; CP2005)


On ‘Intelligent’ Design

“A good chunk of what evolutionary biologists study is why things are so poorly designed. If we needed a bigger genome, there would be a brighter way to build it.”                                                  (Dr. Lynch of Indiana University, in NYT, December 3)


“The greatest threat to America’s role in the world today is not China. It’s Medicare.”                                           (Michael Mandelbaum, in The Case For Goliath: How America Acts As The World’s Government In The 21st Century, as reported in NYT, January 4)


“Why can’t we shoot a few counterrevolutionary elements? After all, dictatorship is not like embroidering flowers.”                                                                              (Yao Wenyuan, last surviving member of the ‘Gang of Four’, quoted in his obituary in NYT, January 7)


“He wasn’t clever, but he always did the right thing, which is better than brains.”                                                              (Lord Fisher, of Edward VII, according to Christopher Hibbert’s Edward VII, and re-recorded in A. N. Wilson’s After The Victorians, p 7)


“It is fatally easy to justify them [i.e. draconian anti-terrorist laws], but they lower the character of a nation. You know as well as I do that human life does not measure a rap in comparison with the death of ideas and the betrayal of English tradition.”                                                                                                                                         (Josiah Wedgwood in a letter to Winston Churchill in 1911, according to Randolph Churchill’s Winston Churchill, Volume II, as re-recorded in A.N. Wilson’s After The Victorians, p 123)


“Something which has been given you through the benevolence of a higher power is not ture independence; it is a sign that you are not strong enough to stand on your own.”                                                              (A. N. Wilson, in After The Victorians, p 196)


“An Englishman’s home is his dungeon.” (A. N. Wilson in After The Victorians, p 302)


“’I thank heaven for a man like Adolf Hitler, who built a front line of defence against the anti-Christ of Communism.’”                        (The Oxford Movement’s Frank Buchman, after the 1936 Olympics, according to A. N. Wilson, in After The Victorians, p 312)


‘Make Poverty History’, Chapter 1

“… given a chance to go forward with the policies of the last eight years, we shall soon with the help of God be in sight of the day when poverty shall be banished from this nation.’”                                                                                                 (from President Hoover’s inaugural address, quoted by A. N. Wilson in After The Victorians, p 324)


“I always regard a visit to the USA as in the nature of serious illness to be followed by convalescence.”                                                                                       (J. M. Keynes, from Skidelsky’s biography, as quoted in A. N. Wilson in After The Victorians, p 443)


“There is the world of difference between highly charged flirtations and love affairs proper. The latter dredge up, irrespective of the lovers’ wishes, all kinds of uncontrollable feelings which in the former case may be kept under control.’”                                                                                                                                                         (A. N. Wilson, commenting on the Nehru-Mountbatten relationships, in After The Victorians, p 222)


“Skeat was also [i.e. like James Murray] an amateur, whose career illustrates the old saying that if a man devotes all his leisure to a subject he is likely to find himself an acknowledged expert.” (K. M. Elisabeth Murray, in Caught In The Web Of Words, p 83)


“..he [Murray] thoroughly approved the dictum which he first heard from Weymouth [the headmaster at Mill Hill school] ‘Know something about everything and everything about something.’ [source?] (K. M. Elisabeth Murray, in Caught In The Web Of Words, p 108)


“I myself abhor the priest and all his claims. In my reading of history, he has been the persistent enemy of humanity, the pretender who takes advantage of man’s deepest spiritual emotions to trade upon them for his own advantage and exaltation. Far be it for me to say that every priest is of this character, but it has been historically & indeed naturally the character of priest craft in all ages and all systems.”                                                                                                                                    (James Murray in letter to his son Aelfric, quoted by K. M. Elisabeth Murray, in Caught In The Web Of Words, p 335)


Make Poverty History – Chapter 2

“In earlier days when such congestion [apparent overpopulation] happened, wars, famines, & pestilence stepped in, & at the expense of those who fell made it more tolerable for the survivors. But all of the efforts of Christianity have been devoted to the extinction of these ‘scourges’ – when the system of things is ‘perfect’ they will be entirely eliminated and what will become of unthinned humanity?”                                                                                                  (James Murray in letter to Hucks Gibbs in 1886, quoted by K. M. Elisabeth Murray, in Caught In The Web Of Words, p 336)


“But when you hit 50, you’re entering a new passage of life in which you can say what you really think.

You can also dare to express simple preference. Do you want to go over to the Swansons’ for dinner? No, I don’t. Why not? I thought you liked them. They complain constantly about aging, and I’m tired of looking at his hair. Oh. Okay. What would you rather do? Lie on a bed with you and talk and drink a little wine and listen to Frank Sinatra with the lights out. Oh. Okay.”                                                                                                          (Garrison Keillor, in Tips For Passing 50, in AARP Magazine, January 2006)


“The Frenchman thinks of his early love affairs; the American gloats over his most successful speculation; the Hindu contemplates his previous existence; and the happy Englishman dreams of cricket.”                                               (Linda Colley, in Britons: Forging the Nation, 1707-1837, p 162, according to Peter J. Beck, in Leisure and Sport in Britain, 1900-1939, p 455, but the quotation is not to be found on that page of Britons)


And the ‘Cancer’ is..?

“The wall [a frontier wall between the USA and Mexico in San Diego County] has prompted street protests in the capital and howls of criticism from Mexican politicians and editorialists, many of whom have likened the proposal [to extend it] to the Berlin Wall. Two Catholic bishops, in a statement, called the proposal ‘absurd, shameful and intolerable’ and ‘an aspirin against cancer’.”                          (NYT, January 15)


But What Would Dr. Ellis Goth-Jones Say?

“The Church of Norway forced Einar Gelius, a Lutheran vicar in Oslo, to resign from a committee set to judge bikini-clad women competing to be the country’s Miss Universe contestant. Mr. Gelius had said it was his right to do as he wished, but a church spokesman said a clergyman should preach equality and not be seen to be judging people.”                                                                                               (NYT, January 15)

“’Does he honestly believe that his constituents would prefer to see him lounging about in the Big Brother House rather than debating issues as serious as equality’?, said Hilary Armstrong, a senior figure in Prime Minister Tony Blair’s Labor Party.”                                                                                                                                       (from NYT, January 15, in an article about George Galloway’s antics on Celebrity Big Brother, a TV show)


“And in his most famous phrase, one that political scientists and reporters admired for its concise ability to express why Jews remain liberal even as they become affluent, he said that Jews ‘earn like Episcopalians and vote like Puerto Ricans.’”                                                                                 (from the obituary of Milton Himmelfarb, in NYT, January 15)


Make Poverty History – Chapter 3

“I’m a tremendous fan of Nicholas D. Kristof. But a Global War on Poverty? As the “war on terror” demonstrates, metaphorical wars are even more unwinnable than real ones, although they may be similarly brutal, inefficient and full of lies. Metaphors stimulate but also constrain our thinking. If you call it a war, that’s what it will look like. Call it something else.”                                         (Letter from Amy Eisner in NYT, January 15)


“General advisers to the universe are usually at a loss in front of the easiest problems in their own lives.”                                      (Hugh Kingsmill, in Matthew Arnold, p 80)


“That fleas are good for a dog, and that Napoleon was good for Europe, are propositions which can be accepted without crediting either Napoleon or the flea with any disinterested zeal for human or canine well-being.”                                                                                                                                               (Hugh Kingsmill, in Matthew Arnold, p 101)


“For the mass of men, stagnation is the normal condition. The choice between stagnation and madness is offered them only at long intervals. When it is, madness is usually preferred. The kingdom of heaven is not established on earth by wars, revolutions and crusades, but these explosions of the accumulated discontent of mankind ease the oppression of life for a moment, and are thus partially justified.”                                                                                                                 (Hugh Kingsmill, in Matthew Arnold, p 210)


“In his later years Tolstoi used to affirm that he could not be happy, until he was assured that every other inhabitant of the earth was also happy. That such an inflamed sensibility was not a symptom of virtue but of maniacal egotism did not occur to Tolstoi. The masses, in spite of the temporary aberrations which involve them in wars and revolutions, realize at bottom that happiness alone creates happiness. Tolstoi, who was always praising the masses, never attained even to the good sense, though poor poetry, of ‘Pack up your troubles in your old kit bag, and smile, smile, smile.’”                                                                                                              (Hugh Kingsmill, in Matthew Arnold, p 213)


“..Arnold quotes a remark of George Sand’s: “Nearly every Englishman, however good-looking he may be, has always something singular about him which easily comes to seem comic – a sort of typical awkwardness in his looks or appearance, which hardly ever wears out.’”                                                           (Hugh Kingsmill, in Matthew Arnold, p 236)


“No refutations will shake a man who is developing an argument in which he does not really believe; but he is pulled up short when someone agrees, or seems to agree, with him.”                                                                       (Hugh Kingsmill, in Matthew Arnold, p 297)


A Sense for Relative ‘Tragedy’

“Look, I can surely say by now that I’ve got the antibodies to communism inside me. But when I think of consumer society, with all its tragedies, I wonder which of the two systems is better.’                                    (Pope John Paul II, on 22 July 1979, according to the Italian historian Andrea Riccardi, as reported in the Spectator, December 31, 2005)


“An original mind has no more respect for modern ideas than it has for any other ideas. All ideas are human. All are stamped with the sign-manuals of our race; short-sightedness, maliciousness, prejudice, unimaginative literalness, complacent dogmatism, parrot-like pedantry.”                       (John Cowper Powys in A Philosophy of Solitude, p 45)


“Once liberated from ambition, a person has nothing to lose by being taken by a fool.”                                                      (John Cowper Powys in A Philosophy of Solitude, p 57)


“It is indeed only in the strength of a real, original, personal philosophy of his own that a man can acquire that mixture of profound independence and conciliatory politeness that will enable him to steer his course between the fashions of the crowd and his own special forms of eccentricity.”    (John Cowper Powys in A Philosophy of Solitude, p 138)


“Nietzsche maintained the admirable opinion that all exciting and enlarging thoughts come to their originators’ heads in the process of walking.”                                                                                                     (John Cowper Powys in A Philosophy of Solitude, p 149)


“True lovers should hate the crowd. In fact it is an infallible sign that you are not ‘in love’, in the deep unique sense, when you require the frivolities of group-life in order to be happy together.”                       (John Cowper Powys in A Philosophy of Solitude, p 184)


“He once justified his divided affections by arguing that a man who was loyal to many women was more loyal than a man loyal only to one.”                                                                                            (Stacy Schiff on Benjamin Franklin, in NYT Op-Ed, January 17)


“My dear young man, you will very soon learn that, if a man makes himself a Pope on any one subject, the British public makes him a Pope on every other.’      (Thomas Huxley to R. E. Prothero [Lord Ernle], in Ernle’s Whippingham to Westminster, p 123)


“Epigrams do not thrive under the microscope.”                    (said by Ernle to Gladstone, to suggest ‘a subtle inquiry into the different lines on which the minds of a man of science and an epigrammatist develop’, in Ernle’s Whippingham to Westminster, p 140)


“England expects every foreigner to pay his duty.”                                                                                                          (slogan used by Ernle in a Unionist anti-Free trade campaign in Northampton, in late 1909, from Ernle’s Whippingham to Westminster, p 238)


“Mastication is the thief of conversation.”     (Rhoda Broughton, to the normally garrulous Henry James, as reported in Ernle’s Whippingham to Westminster, p 247)


“It is as useless to try to make a politician out of a man of forty as it is to change a woman of the same age into a ballet dancer.”                         (attributed to Gladstone, in Ernle’s Whippingham to Westminster, p 313. Ernle was 63 on entering political life.)


“If we don’t know what the problem is, how are we going to fix it?”                                                                                                          (Mary Chamie, head of the demographic and social statistics branch of the United Nations statistics division, lamenting the inadequate collection of vital statistics for ‘understanding  trends in health and sex discrimination at the local level’  in the world’s poorest countries, as reported in NYT, January 21)


“The optimist view of politics assumes that there must be some remedy for every political will, and rather than not find it, will make two hardships to cure one. If all equitable remedies have failed, its votaries take it as proved without argument that the one-sided remedies, which alone are left, must needs succeed.”                                                                                                  (Lord Salisbury, in 1872 article about the failure of Gladstone’s policy in Ireland, according to Andrew Gimson in the Spectator, p 27, 14 January)


“’What did they ask you in your interview?”, he enquired. The answers rather shocked him. ‘In my day,’ he said, all they wanted to know was where you’d got your boots made.’”                   (Harold Macmillan, when Chancellor of Oxford University, inquiring about undergraduates’ entry to Balliol, as reported in the Spectator, 14 January)


“Identity is metaphysical, not physical.”                                                                                                                                (Dr. Skorecki, a professor medicine at Technion and Rambam Medical Center in Haifa, on DNA genealogy, as reported in NYT, January 22)


“But what is life? One day an empty belly

The next an overdose of shrimps in jelly.”                                                                                                     (By Hugh Kingsmill, from his skit written in Karlsruhe prison camp Prout The Perfidious, as reported in Michael Holroyd’s Hugh Kingsmill, p 56)


“It is in human nature to parade one’s faults under the guise of personal accomplishments.”                                               (Michael Holroyd, in Hugh Kingsmill, p 58)


“Things always turn out worse than one hopes and better than one imagines.”

“Pleasure is only pleasurable when a man is happy, but otherwise is only a distraction from pain.”

“Spiritualism is the mysticism of the materialist.”

“Society is based on the assumption that everyone is alike and no one is alive.”

“It is as much a form of credulity to believe nothing as to believe anything.”

“Charity may cover a multitude of sins, but success transmits them into virtues.” (Aphorisms of Hugh Kingsmill, in Michael Holroyd’s Hugh Kingsmill, pp 162 and 163)


“It is a popular fallacy to believe that humour implies a lack of seriousness, whereas it merely indicates a lack of earnestness…”    (Michael Holroyd, in Hugh Kingsmill, p 210)


“Celebrity is ego cubed minus the ability to do anything for oneself.”                                                              (‘Poincaré’s Formula’ [!], according to Boldface, in NYT, January 24)


“ I can only see myself as a hero when I have to sit through Rachmaninov’s Third Piano Concerto.”             (Alfred Brendel, from profile in NYT by Leon Wieseltier, January 27)


“If you set up a school and it becomes a good school, the great danger is that everyone wants to go there.”     (John Prescott, Deputy Prime Minister, on Education Secretary Ruth Kelly’s plans to improve Britain’s schools, as reported in the Spectator, 21 January)


“One should be wary of books with Tocqueville in the title.”                                                                       (Garrison Keillor, in review of American Vertigo, Traveling America in the Footsteps of Tocqueville, by Bernhard-Henri Lévy, in NYT, January 29)

(cf. “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, from CP2005)


“The international community must address the economic, social and cultural rights of people in ‘source’ countries in order to make them less vulnerable to trafficking.”                                                                                        (Letter from Maureen Greenwood, advocacy director for Europe and Eurasia, Amnesty International USA, in NYT, January 31)


“The Doctor [Swift] may as well set up a Society to find out the Grand Elixir, the perpetual motion, the Longitude and other such discoveries, as to fix our Language beyond our own times…”                                                                                                                                 (John Oldmixon responding to Swift’s attempts to set up an English Academy on the language, as reported in Melvyn Bragg’s Adventure of English, p 197)


“The state is the religion of all its citizens, without the fanaticism of any of them.”                                                                         (Matthew Arnold, in Culture and Anarchy, p 199)




“Literary prizes are very foolish things, Kingsley Amis used to say, ‘except when you win one’.”                                                                          (Geoffrey Wheatcroft)

“Jack Priestley used to say, ‘I am a writer of talent but I am a grumbler of genius. If I had my way there’s be a Nobel Prize for grumbling.’”              (Paul Johnson)

“Somerset Maugham spoke with the wisdom of his years when he said, ‘Money is like a sixth sense without which you cannot make a complete use of the other five.”                                                                                       (Ian Cowie) (all in Spectator, January 28)


“’Some people think I’m saying, “women of the world unite – you have nothing to lose but your men,”’ she told Life magazine in 1963. ‘It’s not true. You have nothing to lose but your vacuum cleaners.’”                                                                                                                                          (from obituary of Betty Friedman, feminist, in NYT, February 6)


“You pays your money, and you takes your Joyce.”                                                                                                                                   (Clifton Fadiman, on the mixture in Finnegans Wake, according to Martin Gardner, in his Introduction to the reprint of Oddities and Curiosities, taken from Gleanings for the Curious (1890) by C. C. Bombaugh)


‘Only in America’ Department

“Our commitment to Jesus Christ compels us to solve the global warming crisis”

“……. Let’s solve global warming in away that creates jobs, cleans up the environment, and enhances national security by reducing our dependence on foreign oil, thereby creating a safe and healthy future for our children. ……”                                                              (from advertisement by The Evangelical Climate Initiative, in NYT, February 9)


“The book [My Uncle Napoleon, ‘a comic love story spoofing how Iranians see a British hand in all dark deeds’] popularized the phrase, ‘This is the job of the cross-eyed British,’ which is often used here [Tehran] with a smile, and a wink. It can be said when bombs go off, or when there is really bad traffic.”                                (Report in NYT, February 10)


“Environmentalism has always been a religion – ‘Calvinism minus God’, in the words of Robert Nelson, a professor of environmental policy at the University of Maryland.”                                                                            (John Tierney, in Op-Ed in NYT, February 11)


“The expense [of transplants, newer procedures, and drugs] is monumental and enough to make you a Christian Scientist, which is the only way to solve the health care situation.”                                                                                                              (Dr. Norman E. Shumway, heart transplant pioneer, quoted in his obituary, NYT, February 11)


“What Germany or Spain or Italy calls its soldiers are, on the battlefield, men pretending to fulfil the functions of soldiers with no more conviction than the Royal Opera chorus dressed up in uniforms for Act One of Carmen.”                                                                              (Max Hastings, on Nato forces in Afghanistan, in the Spectator, February 4)


‘Only In America’ Department

“God has established the bull-riding world in such a way so men can use the sport they love to inspire other men to become more like Jesus.”                                          (Message on website for Riding High Ministries, a Christian Mission affiliated with the Pro Bull Riding Outreach, according to article in NYT Magazine, p 58, February 12)


“A man is occupied by that from which he expects to gain happiness, but his greatest happiness is the fact that he is occupied.”                               (by the French philosopher Alain (1868-1951), according to book review in NYT by Jim Holt, February 12)


“You know what they say: an epigram is a platitude expressed in French.”                                                                                                                   (Jim Holt, in NYT, February 12)


“I would welcome a Russian invasion tomorrow, if it could take place without too much destruction and bloodshed. To be poor again, and have to struggle against something better than the insane pressures of a bestselling novelist, the poison of fan mail.”                                                                                                                    (John Fowles, in The Journals, Volume II, quoted by Frederic Raphael in his review in the Spectator, February 4)


“One of the things said about General Motors now is that General Motors is no longer an automotive company. General Motors is a benefit company that sells cars to fund those benefits.”    (H. Lee Scott, Jr., chief executive of Wal-Mart, quoted in NYT, February 17)


“Margot Tennant used to say that royalty called clever men prigs, clever women advanced, Liberals socialists, and the interesting intriguers.”                                                                                                                               (Noel Annan, in Our Age, p 33)


“When people think they have discovered the source of their discontents, they search for something that symbolizes it.”                                 (Noel Annan, in Our Age, p 36)


“For it was in the thirties the cult of homosexuality met a competitor for shocking the elder generation. You could choose between joining the Comintern or the Homintern – unless, like Guy Burgess, you joined both.”                 (Noel Annan, in Our Age, p 118)


“In preparation for his book-length study of the Society, Deacon interviewed an Apostle, who facetiously recalled the 1930s and in doing so turned the accusation that the Apostles were a hotbed of Communist spies on its head: “entry to the Society was much more likely to be through the Homintern than the Comintern. Most preferred Sodom to Moscow and Gomorrah to Leningrad”, and

“We can all think of paid-up, card-carrying members of the gay community in the Oxbridge of the 1920s who, after the slump of 1929 and the rise of Hitler, shifted, as they liked to say, from Homintern to Comintern.” (Eric Hobsbawm, in New Left Review 217, May/June 1996)]


“Never trust a reformer when he promises a happier future. Reformers discover that the consequences of their reforms are always remote from what they intended.”                                                                                                          (Noel Annan, in Our Age, p 175)


“Socialist politics is an endless tale of manifestoes, little magazines, committees and societies. ‘Agitate by day and propagate by night’ as Ramsay Macdonald said in an unguarded moment.”                                                            (Noel Annan, in Our Age, p 178)


“For many more people than we care to admit moral indignation is the supreme joy of life: and it takes hold of us all the easier when we are young because we have little power to impose our will on others.”                                      (Noel Annan, in Our Age, p 182)


“Cruel observers described the cap badge of the Intelligence Corps as a pansy resting on its laurels.”                                                                    (Noel Annan, in Our Age, p 205)


“Brecht used to say. ‘The East and the West are both whores. But my whore is pregnant.’”                                                                       (Noel Annan, in Our Age, p 239)


“The work of the medievalists tended to be narrow; Trevor-Roper unkindly used to say that they had reduced history to the editing of the laundry lists of nunneries;..”                                                                                                      (Noel Annan, in Our Age, p 269)


“Historical writing is an instrument of doctrine whatever historians may imagine.” (Peterhouse College don Maurice Cowling, according to Noel Annan, in Our Age, p 441)


“Myth is the basis of all human knowledge”                                                                                                                                      (slogan promoting The Oxford Guide to World Mythology, in The Griffin, magazine of The Readers’ Subscription, February 2006)


“..worse things can befall a poet than an early death.”                                   (W. H. Auden, in Memorial Address to Louis MacNeice [namely, ‘the experience of being condemned to go on living with the knowledge that the Muse has abandoned them.’])


“’A tourist in his own country’, it has been said, with the implication that this is somehow discreditable. But of what sensitive person is the same not true? The phrase might stand, indeed, as an epitaph for Modern Man, beside Camus’s ‘He made love and read the newspapers.’”                                                                                                 (Derek Mahon, in MacNeice in England and Ireland, from Time Was Away, The World of Louis MacNeice)


“Intolerance is the natural concomitant of strong faith; tolerance grows only when faith loses certainty; certainty is murderous.”                                                                (Will Durant, in The Age of Faith, p 784, quoted in The End of Faith, by Sam Harris, p 86)


“Surely there must come a time when we acknowledge the obvious: theology is now little more than a branch of human ignorance. Indeed, it is ignorance with wings.”                                                                                              (Sam Harris, in The End of Faith, p 173)


“What can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence.”                                                                                                                                (Christopher Hitchens, in Slate, October 20, 2003, quoted in The End of Faith, by Sam Harris, p 176)


“The roiling mystery of the world can be analyzed with concepts (this is science), or it can be experienced free of concepts (this is mysticism). Religion is nothing more than bad concepts held in place of good ones all the time.”                                                                                                                                     (Sam Harris, in The End of Faith, p 221)


“The human psyche has two great sicknesses: the urge to carry vendettas across generations, and the tendency to fasten group labels on people rather than see them as individuals. Abrahamic religion gives strong sanction to both – and mixes explosively with both.”                                                                              (Richard Dawkins, in Climbing Mount Improbable (?), quoted in The End of Faith, by Sam Harris, p 229)


“Every good person deep down is an anarchist.”                                                                                       (Paul Avrich, historian of anarchism, from his NYT obituary, February 24)


“The translator of prose is the slave of the author, and the translator of poetry is his rival.”                                             (Andrei Makine, in Dreams of my Russian Summers, p 199)


“Gossips do not want to change the world; they want to enjoy it.”                                                                          (senior editor of National Review, quoted in George F. Will’s review of Hart’s The Making of the American Conservative Mind, in NYT, February 26)


‘Only In America’ Department

“Two or more persons related to the second degree of consanguinity by blood, marriage, adoption or guardianship, or otherwise duly authorized custodial relationship, as verified by official public records such as driver’s licenses, birth or marriage certificates, court orders or notarized affidavits, living and cooking together as a single housekeeping unit, exclusive of not more than one additional person..”                           (Definition of ‘family’ in City of Manassas, Va., Zoning Ordinance, Article II. It was repealed in January 2006)


“Now that fate has rid the world of the greatest war criminal of all times, there will come a turning in the tides of war.”                                                   (Hitler, on the death of President Roosevelt in April 1945, quoted in The Hitler Book, ed. Eberle and Uhl, p 219)


“When making a decision of minor importance, I have always found it advantageous to consider all the pros and cons. In vital matters, however, such as the choice of mate or a profession, the decision should come from the unconscious, from somewhere within ourselves.”                                                      (Sigmund Freud, in advice to Theodor Reik)


“As we had done in Africa, we continued to address one another as ‘Tilman’ and ‘Shipton’; and when, after another seven months continuously together, I suggested that it was time he called me ‘Eric’ he became acutely embarrassed, hung his head and muttered, ‘It sounds so damned silly.’”          (Eric Shipton, on his climbing partner H. W. (Bill) Tilman, quoted in Eric Shipton, Everest and Beyond, by Peter Steele, p 61)


“An expedition is a party with too many people in it.”                                                          (H. W. Tilman, quoted in Eric Shipton, Everest and Beyond, by Peter Steele, p 89)


“The dictatorship of fascism is charismatic, nationalistic, and permanent; the dictatorship of Communism is rational, universalist, and temporary.”                                                                                      (Hans Kohn, in Revolutions and Dictatorships (1939), p 192)


“Seen from the point of view intellectual history, National Socialism is the child of Prussianism married to Romanticism.”                                                                                                                        (Hans Kohn, in Revolutions and Dictatorships (1939), p 200)


“One of the most consistent traditions of British diplomacy is that an alliance loses its validity as soon as common victory has been achieved.”                                                                                        (Harold Nicholson, in Curzon: The Last Phase 1919-1925, p 192)






“To be conservative, then, is to prefer the familiar to the unknown, to prefer the tried to the untried, fact to mystery, the actual to the possible, the limited to the unbounded, the near to the distant, the sufficient to the superabundant, the convenient to the perfect, present laughter to utopian bliss.”       (Michael Oakeshott, in On Being Conservative)


“Wherever else politics begin, they cannot begin in ideological activity…..  In politics, the only concrete manner of activity detectable is one in which empiricism and the ends to be pursued are recognized as dependent, alike for their existence and their operation, upon a traditional manner of behaviour.” (Michael Oakeshott, in Political Education)


“To suppose a collection of people without recognized traditions of behaviour, or one which enjoyed arrangements which intimated no direction for change and needed no attention (e.g. a society in which law was believed to be a divine gift), is to suppose a people incapable of politics.”                              (Michael Oakeshott, in Political Education)


“The sin of the academic is that he takes too long in coming to the point.”                                                                                                  (Michael Oakeshott, in Political Education)


“I would rather have eternal bliss in the hereafter than live in a house or apartment with a mortgage.”                                                                     (Engy Abdelkader, a 30-year-old woman, an immigration and human rights lawyer in New York, quoted in NYT, March 7)


“The modern history of Europe is littered with the projects of the politics of Rationalism. The most sublime of these is, perhaps, that of Robert Owen for ‘a world convention to emancipate the human race from ignorance, poverty, division, sin and misery’ – so sublime that even a Rationalist (but without much justification) might think it eccentric. But not less characteristic are the diligent search of the present generation for an innocuous power which may safely be made so great as to be able to control all other powers in the human world, and the common disposition to believe that political machinery can take the place of moral and political education. The notion of founding a society, whether of individuals or of States, upon a Declaration of the Rights of Man is a creature of the rationalist brain, so also are ‘national’ or racial self-determination when elevated into universal principles. The project of the so-called Re-union of the Christian Churches, of open diplomacy, of a single tax, of a civil service whose members ‘have no qualifications other than their personal abilities’, of a self-consciously planned society, the Beveridge Report, the Education Act of 1944, Federalism, Nationalism, Voices for Women, the Catering Wages Act, the destruction of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the World State (of H.G. Wells or anyone else), and the revival of Gaelic as the official language of Eire, are alike the progeny of Rationalism. The odd generation of rationalism in politics is by sovereign power out of romanticism.”                                                                                                                (Michael Oakeshott, in Rationalism in Politics)

[compare: “Woodrow Wilson, in his self-righteous folly and ignorance of world affairs, preached ‘self-determination for all nations’ and approved the tragic collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and other noble and historical institutions, with consequences that are with us to this day.”                               (‘Peter Simple’, aka Michael Wharton, in 2003, from his Way of the World column, cited by Mark Steyn in the Atlantic, April 2006)


“It seems now that, in order to participate in politics and expect a hearing, it is necessary to have, in the strict sense, a doctrine; not to have a doctrine appears frivolous, even disreputable.”                                                 (Michael Oakeshott, in Rationalism in Politics)


“For to be a genuine libertarian in politics is to belong to a human type now sadly out of fashion. Other loves have bewitched us; and to confess to a passion for liberty – not as something worth while in certain circumstances but as the unum necessarium – is to admit to a disreputable naïvety, excusable only where it masks a desire to rule. Liberty has become the emblem of frivolous or of disingenuous politics.”                                                                                    (Michael Oakeshott , in The Political Economy of Freedom)


“Collectivism, then, is the mobilization of society for unitary action. In the contemporary world it appears as a remedy for the imperfect freedom which springs from imperfect competition, but it is a remedy designed to kill. Nor is this surprising, for the real spring of collectivism is not a love of liberty, but war.”                                                                                                                   (Michael Oakeshott , in The Political Economy of Freedom)


“Inflation is the mother of servitude.”                                                                                                                               (Michael Oakeshott , in The Political Economy of Freedom)


“While sane men cannot make madmen sane, madmen can make sane men mad.”                                                                                                                            (moral of Rousseau’s Dog, by David Edmonds and John Eidinow, according to review in NYT, March 13)


“It is through the state that the society must assert the superior claims of aesthetic over economic goals and particularly of environment over cost. It is to the state that we must look for freedom of individual choice as to toil; for a balance between liberal education and the technical training that primarily serves the industrial system; and it is for the state to reject images of international politics that under write technology but at the price of unacceptable danger.” [?]                                                                                                                             (John Kenneth Galbraith, in the Atlantic, Volume 219, No 6, June 1967)


“An extremist capitalist view has taken over, from the period when the economy was the servant of the people to now, where man is a slave to the economy.”              (Amir Peretz, Labor Party candidate for Prime Minister of Israel, reported in NYT, March 14)


“Purim is the ne plus ultra of the “They Tried to Murder us, They Failed, Let’s Eat” subcategory of Jewish holidays, and it is a self-consciously raucous day, a Jewish Mardi Gras when even rabbis are expected to drink themselves oblivious.”                                                                                                  (Jeffrey Goldberg, in NYT Op-Ed, March 14)


“A winning bet confirms a man’s genius and elevates his spirits.”                                      (Bill Barich, in A Fine Place to Daydream, according to review in NYT, March 15)


“No mother will give birth to another man as good as him. He could take on the whole world and everyone respected him.”                                                               (Ceda Ristovic, Serb from Kosovo, at the funeral of Slobodan Milosevic, as reported in NYT, March 18)


“Our life in this country is a kind of ambivalence. On the one hand you are a citizen, but what kind of citizen can you be as an Arab citizen in a Jewish state?”                         (Professor Muhammad Amara of Bar-Ilan University, quoted in NYT, March 21)


“We are not a military nation, but we are great fighters..”                                                                                                                         (Stanley Baldwin, in Our National Character)


“Humour comes from the heart; wit comes from the brain.”                                                                                                                       (Stanley Baldwin, in Our National Character)


“Perfect governments are only to be found where the prisons are full.”

(Stanley Baldwin, in Civil Service, Present and Future)


“Men will die for ideals, but they will not die for facts.”                                                                                                                                              (Stanley Baldwin, in Shakespeare)


“It has been said that I am but a Socialist masquerading as a leader of the Tory Party.”                                                                         (Stanley Baldwin, in A Toast to a Young Man)


“I remember well it being said in Cambridge at one time, that to mark a great event a letter had been written by the only member of the Hawks [sportsmen] who could write to the only member of the Athenæum [gilded youth] who could read.”                                                                                              (Stanley Baldwin, in A Toast to a Young Man)


“It is one of the curious features of English public life that if one is engaged in politics one is considered qualified to express an opinion on every subject on earth.”                                                                                                               (Stanley Baldwin, in Geologists)


“I well remember discussing with a philosopher some years ago the Einstein theory. He said, ‘Mathematicians talk about the Einstein theory, but it is perfectly impossible for any man who is not a philosopher to begin to understand it.’ Now, I, knowing nothing about it, treasured those words in my heart, until I met one of the foremost mathematicians in this country. I tried it on him. ‘Einstein’, I murmured. ‘Yes,’ he said, ‘philosophers talk a great deal abut Einstein, but no man who is not a pure mathematician can begin to understand Einstein.’”                                                              (Stanley Baldwin, in Geologists)


“Who was it said of Rousseau that he was a lover of his kind, but a hater of his kin?”                                                                                      (Stanley Baldwin, in Peace in Industry)


“A movement of this kind [industrial psychology, through the Industrial Fatigue Research Board] has this in common with the League of Nations: it has two principal obstacles to encounter – the prejudice of people who think it can do nothing, and the support of people who think it can do everything.”     (Stanley Baldwin, in Industry and Psychology)


“The assertion of people’s rights has never yet provided that people with bread.”                                                                       (Stanley Baldwin, in Democracy and Spirit of Service)


“If there is one thing which those who have been in any other profession than the Bar distrust more than another it is the eloquent man.”                (Stanley Baldwin, in Rhetoric)


“I think creationism is, in a sense, a kind of category mistake, as if the Bible were a theory like other theories.”                                                                 (Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, from a Guardian interview quoted in NYT, March 22)


“Ingres loved nudes but hated anatomy.”                                                                                                           (James Fenton, according to Michael Kimmelman in NYT, March 24)


“If goods can’t cross frontiers, armies will.”                                      (Waldron Smithers, according to his grandson Andrews Smithers, in letter to the Spectator, March 18)


“Remember the four Is. A diary should be immediate, intimate, indiscreet and indecipherable.” (Alan Clark, according to Michael Vestey, in the Spectator, March 18)


“People tend to overvalue advice when the problem they’re addressing is hard, and undervalue it when the problem is easy.”                                                                                                                               (Francesca Gino, in Harvard Business Review, March 2006)


“Parliament could easily legislate that everyone should be kind and good, or that gravity should not cause window-cleaners occasionally to fall off window-sills, but there are limits to its true power.”                                                                       (Lord Salisbury in an 1860s essay in Saturday Review, according to Andrew Roberts in Hitler and Churchill)


Make Poverty History – Part V

“What is this foolish proposal to abolish hunger?”                      (Professor Frederick Lindemann, to a civil servant, quoted in Andrew Roberts’s Hitler and Churchill, p 5)


“Hitler once remarked that if the Jews had not existed: ‘we should have to invent them. It is essential to have a tangible enemy, not merely an abstract one.’” (from Rauschning’s Gespräche mit Hitler, p 225, quoted in Andrew Roberts’s Hitler and Churchill, p 31)


“There is no leader so evil that he will not have his defenders. It was doubtless possible to find sixteenth-century Muscovites who would recall the reign of Ivan Vasilievich with nostalgia. He was a harsh Tsar, they would concede over their vodka, but he was fair, and his torturing should be seen in a proper historical context. ‘The Terrible’ was really more a respectful term of endearment than any kind of criticism. Genghis Khan probably had supporters who would aver years later that he had had a bad press, probably didn’t know what was being done in his name, was misunderstood, and anyhow he made the yaks run on time. You always knew where you were, sentimental Transylvanians would recall, with Vlad the Impaler.” [and Stalin liked to dandle little children on his knee…]                                                                             (Andrew Roberts, in Hitler and Churchill, p 63)


“Everybody must know only as much as is necessary to carry out his tasks, and then no earlier than need be.”                                                                                                     (Hitler’s Basic Order No. 1, according to Andrew Roberts in Hitler and Churchill, p 86)


“In Washington Lord Halifax

Once whispered to Lord Keynes

It’s true they have the moneybags

But we have all the brains.”    (cited in Tony Judt’s Postwar, p 160, note)

(compare: “I’m not saying Americans aren’t clever’: they are ten times cleverer than we are, as a nation; ..” (John Marlowe, in Trent’s Last Case, by E. C. Bentley, Chapter XV)


“It is a collective failure of the French system. You earn more doing nothing in retirement at the age of 60 to 65 than working full-time at the age of 35. And we have organized society so there is no room for new entrants.”                                                                                                                             (Louis Chauvel, sociologist, quoted in NYT, March 28)


‘Only In America’ Department

“I am not here to testify that God is opposed to the sales tax, but I believe it is true.”                                                             (Rabbi Brenner Glickman of Congregation Beth Israel, testifying to the Texas Tax Reform Commission in Houston, quoted in NYT, March 28)


Source of Monty Python’s Fang and the ‘Comfy Chair’?

“’Sit on the sofa,’ he [Trent] advised. ‘The chairs are a job lot bought at the sale after the suppression of the Holy Inquisition in Spain.”                                                                                                              (from Chapter IX of Trent’s Last Case, by E. C. Bentley)




“Reading the Bible is the strongest advertisement for atheism.”          (Laurie Pycroft, self-confessed Swindon geek, and animal research supporter, quoted in NYT, April 1)


“Power doesn’t need to do deals. Power does what it wants.”                                   (David Manning to Tony Blair, in David Hare’s Stuff Happens, quoted in NYT, April 3)


“Biographies are just novels with indexes.”                                                                                                       (John Updike, according to Sara Wheeler, in the Spectator, March 25)

compare: “The welding of scientific observation with imaginative art’.” (Gittings’ definition of biography, according to Ian Hunter, in Nothing to Repent, p 162)




“’It is never a struggle between good and evil, but between the preferable and the detestable.’”                            (Raymond Aron, quoted on p 218 of Tony Judt’s Postwar)


“’Anticommunism is the beginning of dictatorship.’”                                                                                    (Albert Camus, in March 1944, quoted on p 219 of Tony Judt’s Postwar)


“In the decade following her retirement, Margaret Thatcher’s heirs at the Conservative helm declined from the tiresomely humdrum (John Major), through the bumptiously inadequate (William Hague), to the terminally inept (Ian Duncan-Smith). After the long reign of the Sun Queen there ensued a deluge of mediocrity.”                                                                                                                               (p 543, note of Tony Judt’s Postwar)


“What begins with centralized planning ends with centralized killing.”                                                                                                                        (from Tony Judt’s Postwar, p 561)


”Responsibility towards History releases one from responsibility towards human beings.”                                                  (Albert Camus, according to Tony Judt in Postwar, p 564)


“But Communism depended upon control – indeed Communism was control; control of the economy, control of knowledge, control of movement and opinion and people. Everything else was dialectics, and dialectics – as a veteran Communist explained to the young Jorge Semprún in Buchenwald – ‘is the art and technique of always landing on your feet’.” (from Semprún’s Quel Beau Dimanche, p  100)                                                                                                                               (from Tony Judt’s Postwar, p 597)


“Why, after decades of internal violence, and foreign aggression, did the world’s first Socialist society implode without even trying to defend itself? One answer, of course, is that it never really existed in the first place: that, in the words of the historian Martin Malia: ‘there is no such thing as socialism, and the Soviet Union built it.”                                                                                                                      (from Tony Judt’s Postwar, p 658)


‘Only in America’ and ‘Make Poverty History’ Department

“I will tell you, nowhere in there, not in one page, not in one phrase uttered and reported by the Lord Jesus Christ, can you find anything that suggests that there is a virtue in cutting children from Medicare and taking money from the poor and giving it to the rich.”                                                                  (Senator John Kerry, quoted in NYT, April 8)


“The only person by whom the intelligent man is profoundly influenced is himself.”                                   (Hesketh Pearson , according to Ian Hunter in Nothing to Repent, p 23)


“Any influence which a book or human being is supposed to have had on a man is nothing more than a disclosure of what is latent in the man himself.”                                                                             (Hesketh Pearson, in Ian Hunter’s Nothing to Repent, p 26)


“I am an Englishman through and through, insular, irascible, inhibited, iconoclastic, intelligent, ignorant and individualistic.”                                                                                                                                   (Hesketh Pearson, in Ian Hunter’s Nothing to Repent, p 46)


“God is a sort of burglar. As a young man you knock him down; as an old man you try to conciliate him because he may knock you down.”                                                                          (Herbert Beerbohm Tree, according to Ian Hunter in Nothing to Repent, p 59)


“A committee should consist of three men, two of whom are absent’..                                                         (Hesketh Pearson, according to Ian Hunter in Nothing to Repent, p 73)


“Religion, whether it be of church or state, is the curse of mankind.”                                                                                                 (Hesketh Pearson, after the death of his communist son in the Spanish Civil War, according to Ian Hunter in Nothing to Repent, p 154)


‘Only in South Africa’ Department

“Indeed, he said, he was actually obligated to have sex. His accuser was aroused, he said, and ‘in the Zulu culture, you cannot just leave a woman if she is ready.’ To deny her sex, he said, would have been tantamount to rape.’”                                               (report on Jacob A. Zuma, former South African deputy president, on trial for rape, in NYT, April 10)


“The officer corps is willing to sacrifice their lives for their country, but not their careers.”                                                                                  (An anonymous combat veteran, about tacit disagreement with Rumsfeld’s policies, reported in NYT, April 10)


“Recently, a colleague told me about a devout, well-educated woman who accused a doctor of malpractice in his treatment of her husband. During her husband’s dying days, she charged, the doctor had failed to pray for him. If prayer could be scientifically shown to help, every doctor would be obligated to pray with patients, or at least provide such service, and those who declined to do so would properly be subject to charges of malpractice.”                                                                                                                      (from Op-Ed piece Faith-Based Medicine, by Raymond J. Lawrence, in NYT, April 11)


“Novelists should thank Gustave Flaubert the way poets thank spring.”                                                                                                 (James Wood, in NYT Book Review, April 16)


‘Only in America’ Department

“My God is a God who wants me to have things. He wants me to bling. He wants me to be the hottest thing on the block. I don’t know what kind of God the rest of y’all are serving.”                               (The singer Mary J. Blige, as reported in the Times, April 19)


“As every citizen of the Soviet Union will tell you, the setting of targets in an extremely centralized system is an open invitation to fibbing and creative accounting.”                                                                          (Dr. Anthony Daniels, in the Daily Mail, April 19)


“In fact, as Sir William Harcourt might so wittily have said: ‘We are all Tories nowadays.’”                                                                       (A. J. P. Taylor, in Tory History)


“They [capitalists] demand openings for investment outside their saturated national market, and they find these openings in the undeveloped part of the world. This is Imperialism.”                                                           (A. J. P. Taylor, in Economic Imperialism)


“It is the high-minded and inspired, the missionaries not the capitalists, who cause most of the trouble.”                                       (A. J. P. Taylor, in Economic Imperialism)


“Pentecostalism is just like every other religion in that respect [segregated worshipping]. It can promise heaven, but it can’t change the world.”                                                                                 (Edith Blumhofer, director of the Institute for the Study of American Evangelicals at Wheaton College in Illinois, quoted in NYT Magazine, April 23)


“Nothing so inevitably tends to transform an earnest, inquiring and enthusiastic man into a supercilious, superficial and cold-hearted egotist as translation from his stool of self-reliance and independence into the gilded chair of office.”                                                      (Dr. John Snow to Benjamin Ward Richardson, as cited in review of Sandra Hempel’s The Medical Detective: John Snow and the Mystery of Cholera, in the Spectator, April 1)


“In Latin America, even atheists are Catholics.”                                                                                                               (Carlos Fuentes, from interview in NYT Magazine, April 30)


“Přibram also said to me: Do not believe anything merely because it is written down.”                                                                                                                      (A. J. P. Taylor, from early draft of A Personal History, reported in Kathleen Burk’s Troublemaker, p 66)


“No one under twenty-five should publish a book.”                                                         (A. J. P. Taylor, in Oxford Magazine, reported in Kathleen Burk’s Troublemaker, p 66)


“The chief requirement for anyone accepting ministerial office is the constitution of an ox.”                                                                                                                             (A. J. P. Taylor, from Sisman’s biography, reported in Kathleen Burk’s Troublemaker, p 162)


“It is very hard for a democracy to make up its mind; and when it does so, often makes it up wrong.”               (A. J. P.Taylor, in Preface to The Origins of the Second World War)





Not for us the extravagant gesture, the parade on stilts,

The highwire walk in the spotlight over the crocodile pool.

What we had to say was uttered not from a burning bush.

But from a desk on the fourth floor, overlooking the park.

To those who would listen, we talked of our griefs and failures,

Of time leaking out of the clocks, of ambition fading,

Of childhood in a torn jumper turning its back on us.

We spoke, too, of dole queues in the docks, of empty mills,

Of rusted rolling stock, of war clouds steadily gathering.

Like you, we delighted in small things, a merry-go-round or a painting,

But also in the appalling beauty of roses or snow.

We will be remembered, and that barely,

As honest men who wrote carefully and without fuss

About the great spinning conundrum of it all, star over slagheaps,

And who never (who ever does?) got the hang of it entirely.                                                                                                                                                                        (Winning entry by Michael Swan in Spectator ‘Macspaunday Time’ literary competition (2440), April 29)


“In Mexico, protruding, discolored and generally unfortunate teeth are known as ‘dientes de ingles’.”                                     (from article on UK dentist shortage, in NYT, May 7)


“Practical men, who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influences, are usually the slaves of some defunct economist.”                                                            (J. M. Keynes, according to Paul Krugman, in book review in NYT, May 7)


“If I live to see an England in which socialism has made the occupation of a grocer as honourable as that of a soldier, I shall die happy.”                                                       (from J. B. S Haldane’s draft autobiography, quoted by Ronald W. Clark in J B S, p 54)


“..if you are faced by a difficulty or a controversy in science, an ounce of algebra is worth a ton of verbal argument.”   (J. B. S. Haldane, quoted by Ronald W. Clark in J B S, p 70)


“The world is full of mysteries. Life is one. The curious limitations of finite minds are another. It is not the business of evolutionary theory to explain these mysteries.”                                                                                                                   (from the Appendix to The Causes of Evolution by J. B. S. Haldane, quoted by Ronald W. Clark in J B H, p 100)


“The trouble with these pacifists is that they won’t fight.”                      (J. B. S. Haldane, at a prewar anti-Fascist demonstration, quoted by Ronald W. Clark in J B H, p 180)


”If we end up with a Communist revolution I shall expect you to see that even if your followers guillotine me, they shall take proper care of the Pere Davide [sic] deer and the European bison.”                                                                                                               (The Duke of Bedford to J. B.S. Haldane, quoted by Ronald W. Clark in J B H, p 127)


“If I got orders from Moscow, I would leave the Communist party forthwith. But sometimes I wish we did get orders from Moscow. I would like to know what they are thinking. The only people who get orders from foreign powers are Roman Catholics.”                                                (J. B. S. Haldane, quoted by Ronald W. Clark in J B H, p 211)


“..asked by a students’ union to oppose the resolution ‘This house believes in Western democracy’, he replied: ‘I am not prepared to support a motion so carelessly framed. I do not know what it means. It reminds me of the aged don at Cambridge who was heard to say in chapel: ‘And I believe in Pontius Pilate – Oh, no, I don’t.’”                                                                                   (J. B. S. Haldane, quoted by Ronald W. Clark in J B H, p 223)


“One of my reasons for settling in India was to avoid wearing socks. Sixty years in socks is enough.”                   (J. B. S. Haldane, quoted by Ronald W. Clark in J B H, p 232)


“In general you may take it that a biologist once granted a knighthood will do no further work of value, even if he did any before, which is by no means always so.”     (J. B. S. Haldane in a letter to Krishna Menon, quoted by Ronald W. Clark in J B H, p 255)


“I am a good enough Marxist to think that every poem should have a social function, though not a good enough one to think that it must.”                                                                                                       (J. B. S. Haldane, quoted by Ronald W. Clark in J B H, p 293)


“History, you might say, is the sum of all the awful things that happen to ordinary people just trying to get by.”                  (Charles Isherwood, in theatre review in NYT, May 10)


“When asked if the Nukak [a tribe living a Stone Age existence in the Colombian jungle] were concerned about the future, Belisario, the only one in the group who had been to the outside world before and spoke Spanish, seemed perplexed, less by the word than the concept. ‘The future,’ he said, ‘what’s that?’”                                            (NYT, May 11)


“Nobel prizes are sometimes awarded to scholars who are wrong for the right reasons, but almost never to those who are right for the wrong reasons.”    (Robert H. Frank, an economist at the Johnson School of Management at Cornell University, in a May 11 NYT article explaining why he thought John Kenneth Galbraith never won the Nobel Prize.)


“If you want to get the truth, the first thing to do is to get into an argument with yourself.”                                                                                                                                               (Alexander Zinoviev, in Homo Sovieticus, quoted in his NYT obituary, May 15)


“While others had talked, Lenin had acted: he had ended the war. Nowadays this is dismissed as a very crude outlook. It still makes sense to me. The world would now, I think, be a better place if Lenin’s example had been generally followed. Maybe November 1917 offered to mankind the chance which, once rejected, could never be offered again.”                                                            (A. J. P. Taylor in A Personal History, p 36)


“At the day of judgment it will be easy to identify the old Magdalen men: they will have grabbed all the lobster mayonnaise and drunk all the champagne – a good subject for a Tintoretto.”                                                         (A. J. P. Taylor in A Personal History, p 224)


“My own opinion of that over-rated body is expressed in Taylor’s Law: ‘The Foreign Office knows no secrets.’”                      (A. J. P. Taylor in A Personal History, p 235)


“In a sense the taxi-driver was right also: Hitler did not cause the war alone. I might now risk quoting a sentence by E. H. Carr, ’Those who defend the status quo are as responsible for a war as those who attack it.’”                                                                                                                                             (A. J. P. Taylor in A Personal History, p 236)


“Bismarck when asked in old age what gave him greatest satisfaction in his life, did not reply the unification of Germany or victory over France in 1871. He answered simply, ‘That God did not take away any of my children.’”                                                                                                                                               (A. J. P. Taylor in A Personal History, p 273)


“The propagandists of the Enlightenment were French, but its patron saints and pioneers were British.”       (Peter Gay, in The Enlightenment: The Rise of Modern Paganism, p 11)


“A good government implies two things; first, fidelity to the object of government, which is the happiness of the people; secondly, a knowledge of the means by which that object can be best attained.”                                                                (James Madison, quoted by Charles Murray in In Pursuit of Happiness and Good Government, p 19)


“Franz Rizzo’s observation that ‘a conservative is a liberal who has been mugged,’ and Tom Wolfe’s recent codicil, ‘ a liberal is a conservative who has been arrested,’ both capture a truth.”                                                                                                                                     (Charles Murray, in In Pursuit of Happiness and Good Government, p 101)


“It is a truth confirmed by the unerring experience of ages that every man, and every body of men, invested with power, are ever disposed to increase it.”                                                                                                                                     (Anti-federalist Brutus, said to be a prominent Albany lawyer named Robert Yates, in Essays of Brutus, No 1; quoted by Charles Murray, in In Pursuit of Happiness and Good Government, p 175)


“Centralized solutions from the left urge that the collective society has a moral claim on the individual; they seek to dampen risk and increase predictability, and use as primary measures of success the achievement of security and equality. Centralized solutions form the right urge that the state has the right to impose beliefs on individuals; they seek to restrain by law individual variations in social behavior, and use as primary measures of success the degree of conformity to the righteous way.”                                          (Charles Murray, in In Pursuit of Happiness and Good Government, pp 178-179)


“Milton Friedman suggests that the attempt [to do better in public policies] is futile. He has a label for the ‘somethings’ that always seem to prevent success: The Invisible Foot, a twist on Adam Smith’s ‘invisible hand’ that guides social progress in a laissez-faire economy.”    (Charles Murray, in In Pursuit of Happiness and Good Government, p 208)


“But more importantly, any social program, no matter how innocuous, requires some actors (whether administrators or clients or bystanders) to do things they would not do on their own, or things they do not particularly want to do, or things they consciously want to avoid doing. No social program, no matter how ingenious, can anticipate and forestall the myriad ways in which people will seek to get their way and thereby frustrate, with or without intent, its aims.”                                                                                                                      (Charles Murray, in In Pursuit of Happiness and Good Government, p 208)


“No democracy has yet said to its government, ’Stop doing this for us.’”                                                   (Charles Murray, in In Pursuit of Happiness and Good Government, p 269)


“Politics is the art of swallowing toads without making a face.” (Carlos Fuentes)

“A society of sheep begets a government of wolves.” (Bertrand de Jouvenel)                                                                            (attributed by Geoff Mulgan, in the Spectator, May 13)


“If politics is to be the art of the possible, it must first become the art of the actual.”                                                                 (Jean-Francois Revel, in Without Marx or Jesus, p 45)


“Its [the French Left’s] chief characteristic is that everything that is workable is considered to be nonrevolutionary, and everything that is revolutionary is nonworkable.”                                                                  (Jean-Francois Revel, in Without Marx or Jesus, p 53)


“The subordination of politics to economics is the great sin of the past century.”                                                                        (Jean-Francois Revel, in Without Marx or Jesus, p 56)


“It is easier to become a great nuclear power than to become an affluent society; and the less one is the latter, the more necessary is it to become the former.”                                                                                    (Jean-Francois Revel, in Without Marx or Jesus, p 90)


“The second world revolution can take place only in those countries where the first world revolution [the Enlightenment] has been translated into reality.”                                                                                                    (Jean-Francois Revel, in Without Marx or Jesus, p 95)


“The most humiliating kind of defeat is a cultural defeat. It is the only defeat that one can never forget, because it cannot be blamed on bad luck, or on the barbarism of the enemy.”                                 (Jean-Francois Revel, in Without Marx or Jesus, p 139)


“More than a century ago, Frank Norris wrote that ‘the Great American Novel is not extinct like the dodo, but mythical like the hippogriff.’”                                                                                                                                    (A. O. Scott, in NYT Book Review, May 21)


“You could be a victim, you could be a hero, you could be villain, or you could be a fugitive. But you could not just stand by. If you were in Europe between 1933 and 1945, you had to be something.”                                                                                                                                             (Thriller writer Alan Furst, in interview in NYT Magazine, May 21)


But How Did Tallard and Villeroi Seek Consolation?

“He [Ted Burk] also showed that a male cricket is more likely to court females if he has recently won a fight against another male. This should be called the ‘Duke of Marlborough Effect’, after the following entry in the diary of the first Duchess of Marlborough: ‘His Grace returned from the wars today and pleasured me twice in his topboots.’”                    (Richard Dawkins, in The Selfish Gene, 1989 edition, note on p 286)


“The net pay-off for a philanderer male when all the females are coy is zero. Now if a single faithful male should turn up, he is the only one with whom the coy females will mate.” [Eh?]                                         (Richard Dawkins, in The Selfish Gene, Chapter 9)


Hogamous, Higamous

“However, it is still possible that human males in general have a tendency towards promiscuity, and females a tendency towards monogamy, as we would predict on evolutionary grounds.”                   (Richard Dawkins, in The Selfish Gene, Chapter 9)


“To understand nothing is to love everything. The moment that we understand, we are no longer curious; but to be curious is to be in love. The man who has the cosmic spirit knows that he will never understand, and he spends his life in love.”   (John Galsworthy, in 1910 essay on Joseph Conrad, quoted in Catherine Dupré’s John Galsworthy, p 125)


“At a party given by Winston Churchill’s mother in order to bring the dramatist and her son together, Eddie Marsh, the friend and biographer of Rupert Brooke, was also present, and asked Galsworthy a direct question:

‘If the Archangel Gabriel came down from heaven and gave you your choice; that your play should transform the prison system and be forgotten, or have no practical effect whatever and be a classic a hundred years hence, which would you choose?’ Galsworthy did not answer at once, and his neighbour, who had fancied him more of a philanthropist than an artist, especially in present company, was impressed by his candour when he finally opted for the classic a hundred years hence.”                                        (from Catherine Dupré’s John Galsworthy, p 154, citing Christopher Hassell’s Edward Marsh)


“Everything in America is grabbed at and swallowed before they know what it’s really made of or why it exists: the result is indigestion.” (from letter from John Galsworthy to Margaret Morris, 23rd March 1912, quoted in Catherine Dupré’s John Galsworthy, p 191)


“The Solomon Islands has no movie theatres, but that didn’t keep its new prime minister, Manasseh Sogavare, from announcing plans to ban ‘The Da Vinci Code’ from showing in movie theatres there.”                                                               (report in NYT, May 25)


“On meeting Paul Robeson, she declared, ’Oh, Mr Robinson, it was such an honour to meet you. My son has always been very sorry for you darkies.’”                                                                   (John Osborne’s mother, Nellie Beatrice, from John Halpern’s biography of Osborne, A Patriot For Us, reported by Michael Vestey in the Spectator, May 20)


“Hunters say few experiences can compare with the sensation of sighting a bear, then watching the Inuit guides release their huskies to surround and confuse their prey long enough for the hunters to shoot it. ‘This is my Disney World’, said Manuel Camacho, a 60-year-old urologist from Miami, before he set out on his hunt in May.” (NYT, May 27)


“And to think that no one will know, that there will be such a conspiracy of lies that all this will be transformed into yet another glorious page in the history of France. We’ll do everything we can to find acts of devotion and heroism for the official records.”                                             (Hubert Péricand, in Suite Française (1941), by Irène Nemirovsky, p 143)


“We cannot peer into God’s mysterious plan. We see it only piecemeal, and we would be wrong to set ourselves up as judges of God and history. When all is said and done, we must continue to cry out humbly yet insistently to God: Rouse yourself! Do not forget mankind, your creature!” (Pope Benedict XVI, at Auschwitz, reported in NYT, May 29)


“We cannot undo what we have done. We can only not go on doing it. The man who believes that one good act can atone for one bad act is a fool, and the man who lives on such an assumption is a coward.”                                                                                                                                   (Three Caesars, from Hesketh Pearson’s The Whispering Gallery)


“Fate stalks us with depressing monotony from womb to tomb, and when we are least expecting it, deals us a series of crushing blows from behind. Though the rays of intermittent happiness are permitted to play upon us for our greater undoing, we are marked down for miserable ends.”                                                                          (‘Thomas Hardy’, in Scribblers from Hesketh Pearson’s The Whispering Gallery)


“The theoretical truth of a maxim does not depend on the failure or success of its practical application.”                                                                                       (‘Winston Churchill’, in Statesmen at Home from Hesketh Pearson’s The Whispering Gallery)


“The fount of all their [the Russians’] art is not symmetry, but the cemetery.” (‘Balfour’, in Statesmen at Home from Hesketh Pearson’s The Whispering Gallery)


“Abstinence makes the heart grow fonder.”                                                          (‘Balfour’, in Statesmen at Home from Hesketh Pearson’s The Whispering Gallery)


“All our wars are fought in order to find out which of our friends is our worst enemy.” (‘Balfour’, in Statesmen at Home from Hesketh Pearson’s The Whispering Gallery)


“Humanity doesn’t know what it wants and therefore should be given what is good for it.”     (‘Sidney Webb’, in Olla Podrida from Hesketh Pearson’s The Whispering Gallery)


“By the way, at about the time of his elevation to the peerage, the wife of a Scottish nobleman, upon being informed that Sir William Lever was taking the title of ‘Lord Leverhulme of the Western Isles,’ remarked somewhat tartly that she thought ‘Lord Lather’em of the Wash’ would be more appropriate.”                                                                                         (Olla Podrida from Hesketh Pearson’s The Whispering Gallery)


“Literature’s a very nice walking-stick, but it’s a poor crutch.”                                 (‘Lord Leverhulme’, in The Soap King from Hesketh Pearson’s The Whispering Gallery)


“I remember my father telling me that obituaries of eminent lawyers should generally be read in reverse, so that if a Lord Chief Justice, for example, were to be described as ‘humane and witty’, you could be reasonably certain that he was a keen advocate of capital punishment and a notorious bore.”                      (Michael Holroyd in Mosaic, p 46)





“In Texas, if you cast a shadow on a sunny day, you’re competent to be executed.”                            (Greg Wiercioch, a lawyer with the Texas Defender Service, in NYT, June 2)


“… Strasbourg has become an architectural theatre of the absurd, dedicated to the propagation of the false ideals of multiculturalism, internationalism, federalism, supranationality and Euro-insanity.”                        (Paul Johnson, in the Spectator, May 27)


“America is a large, friendly dog in a very small room. Every time it wags its tail, it knocks over a chair.”                                (Arnold Toynbee, according to promotional material for Scott Anderson’s Moonlight Hotel, from review by Alan Furst in NYT, June 4)


“It is a truism that people who believe they have lived former lives generally believe they lived the lives of famous people. It is always Cleopatra, never Cleopatra’s cleaning lady.”                                                                                                           (leader in NYT, June 7)


“Are there lessons to be learned from the study of the gulag that might apply to prison systems in countries like the United States? For example, should prisoners in this country be forced to work jobs such as picking up trash on the highway?”                                  (from curriculum packet for ‘Gulag’ exhibition on Ellis Island, quoted in NYT, June 7)


“It has been said that there is no unhappier creature on earth than the fetishist who yearns for a woman’s shoe and has to embrace the whole woman.”                                                                                                    (Michael Barber, in Anthony Powell – A Life, p 16)


“Some women seem to imagine that one has nothing better to do than to sit up all night listening to anecdotes about their first husband. It is an illusion of every woman that she is less tiresome than other women.”                                                                      (Michael Barber, in Anthony Powell – A Life p 89, quoting from Powell’s A Writer’s Notebook)


“.. any proper writer ought to be able to write anything from an Easter Day sermon to a sheep-dip handout.”                   (Kingsley Amis, in Writing for a TV Series, in the Listener, 19 December 1974, quoted by Michael Barber, in Anthony Powell – A Life, p 107)


“We are moving Left with the troops.”                                                      (Army Bureau of Current Affairs, ca. 1945, quoted by Michael Barber, in Anthony Powell – A Life, p 139)


“Cyril [Connolly] usually managed to fall on his feet, or, failing that, somebody else’s.”                     (Peter Quennell, quoted by Michael Barber, in Anthony Powell – A Life, p 147)


“As usual, Powell didn’t speculate on the nature of those habits, though we can exclude incest and folk-dancing, because he says elsewhere that [Constant] Lambert, like Tallulah Bankhead, would try anything once bar these..”                                                                                                     (Michael Barber, in Anthony Powell – A Life, p 190. Powell, in a journal entry 30.7.1988, attributes the remark to K. Guy Warrack, the Scottish musician, as is confirmed by Nigel Rees in Brewer’s Famous Quotations, which in turn echoes the ODQ’s attribution of the saying to Arnold Bax, who quoted a ‘sympathetic Scot’.)


“Bar the inexplicable Tim McInnerny (presumably cast as MP Gerald Fedden because no one at the BBC could countenance the idea of a Tory being anything other than a Lord Percy-ish buffoon)…”    (Review of The Line of Beauty in Private Eye 1160)

[compare: “It seems to be almost the rule that the kind of person who earns the right to call himself Lord Percy de Falcontowers should look at best like an overfed publican and at worst like a tax-collector with a duodenal ulcer.” (George Orwell, As I Please, 1944)]


“Asked once if it wasn’t rather unfair running simultaneously for vice-president and for a Senate seat, he [Lloyd Bentsen] said he had modeled his political career on a vet and a taxidermist in his home town. The pair had set up shop next to each other in the main square, erecting a board which ran across the top of both premises, proclaiming: ‘Either way you get your dog back.’”                            (Robin Oakley, in the Spectator, June 3)


“As the man in the hot-air balloon said, when he shouted ‘Where am I?’ at a man below him, and got the answer, ’You’re in a wicker basket suspended under a bag of hot gases’: ‘You must be an actuary.’ ‘How did you know?’ ‘Because the answer you’ve given me is meticulously accurate and absolutely useless.’”     (Neil Collins, in the Spectator, June 3)


“The best bankers are historians, not economists. They know how to think strategically.”   (Jeremy Catto, Oriel historian, quoted by Alan Duncan in the Spectator, June 10)


“John Updike once said that the best way to review a book would be to quote it in its entirety.”                                                   (Anita Brookner, in the Spectator, June 10)


“When I think of [Elise], I feel that married love has nothing to do with sympathy, with sensuality, with passion, with friendship, or with love. It alone is adequate to itself, and cannot be reduced to one or another of those different feelings. It has its own nature, its particular essence, and its unique mode which depends on the couple that it brings together.”                                                                                                                    (Marcel Jouhardeau, quoted by Michael Barber, in Anthony Powell – A Life, p 215)


“We took the King’s shilling to stop the swastika from flying on Buckingham Palace, not to implement the Beveridge Report.”                                                               (Robert Blake in review of Paul Addison’s The Road to War, in Cambridge Review, 30 January 1976)


“Anything DNA can do, RNA can do better.”                                                       (biologist Susan Gottesman of the National Cancer Institute, reported in NYT, June 20)


“I would sooner take advice from my valet than from a Conservative conference.”

“Nothing matters very much and most things don’t matter at all.”

“It’s not a principle of the Conservative party to stab its leaders in the back, but I must admit that it often appears to be a practice.”

“Conservative prejudices are rooted in a great past, and Liberal ones in an imaginary future.”                                                                                     (A. J. Balfour, according to Geoffrey Wheatcroft, in The Strange Death of Tory England, p 34, p 36 and p 203)


“’Buy to the sound of cannon, sell to the sound of violins’, was the first Rothschild’s maxim for commercial success, and the English wanted to sell.”                                                                             (Geoffrey Wheatcroft, in The Strange Death of Tory England, p 57)


“The perfect and fitting development of each individual is not necessarily the utmost cultivation of his own personality, but the filling, in the best possible way, of his humble function in the great social machine.”                                                          (Sidney Webb, according to Geoffrey Wheatcroft, in The Strange Death of Tory England, p 90)


“A friend once told Macleod he had heard that behind Soames’s bluff exterior there was a keen mind, to which Macleod replied, ’Believe you me, behind that bluff exterior there lurks a remarkably bluff interior.”                                                                                                                              (Geoffrey Wheatcroft, in The Strange Death of Tory England, p 92)


“Still, as Sir Lewis Namier used to say (and that great historian had reason to know this negatively), charm has always surmounted most barriers in England, and it transcends ethnicity.”         (Geoffrey Wheatcroft, in The Strange Death of Tory England, p 128)


“Convictions change but habits of mind endure.”                              (Cardinal Newman, according to Geoffrey Wheatcroft, in The Strange Death of Tory England, p 155)


“There is no such thing as spontaneous public opinion. It all has to be manufactured from a centre of conviction and energy.”                                                                     (Beatrice Webb, according to Geoffrey Wheatcroft, in The Strange Death of Tory England, p 167)


“By his later years, Julian Amery seemed a survivor from a remote era. He used to say that, ‘When I was young, a man would go into parliament because he was somebody. Now a man goes into parliament to become somebody.’”                                                                                            (Geoffrey Wheatcroft, in The Strange Death of Tory England, p 182)


“He [Baldwin] used to say that at Cambridge he had been taught Sir Henry Maine’s thesis that the great change in English history was from status to contract – ‘or was it the other way round?’” (Geoffrey Wheatcroft, in The Strange Death of Tory England, p 223)


“In Blairite England, money is adorable, chivalry is laughable.”                                                                           (Geoffrey Wheatcroft, in The Strange Death of Tory England, p 273)


“My dream is to bring back the Mogadishu of my youth. I want a peaceful Mogadishu, and then I can retire, have my own golf course and raise chickens.”        (Mahamud Hassan Ali, mayor of Mogadishu, the anarchic Somali capital, quoted in NYT, June 11)


“Many rough beasts have been born in the past forty years, from inflation to the resurgence of Islam, but none has proved more potent than that search for identity, the nucleus within the atom that can be reduced no further, which we call nationalism.’ (Bernard Levin, from A Europe of Our Dreams, 1982, in The Way We Live Now)


“.. I recommend the reply of de Gaulle when Soustelle complained that friends were attacking him for supporting the General’s Algerian policies: ‘Changez vos amis.’)”                         (Bernard Levin, from Nothing If Not Critical, 1983, in The Way We Live Now)


“All societies whose leaders have tried to make the citizens good by compulsion have come to grief, and the grief has almost invariably been that of the citizens, not the leaders.”            (Bernard Levin, from …Without Fire, 1984, in The Way We Live Now)


“’Funny,’ she [the hat-check lady at Isow’s restaurant] said, ‘he doesn’t even read a book.’ Then she added words which I wouldn’t mind as an epitaph: ‘I suppose,’ she said, ‘he’d rather sit on his own than talk to fools.’”                                                         (Bernard Levin, from The Flavours Of A Lifetime, 1983, in The Way We Live Now)


“There is an apparently unbreakable rule that all communist dictators are criticized by their admirers, if at all, only after they have died or been replaced.”                     (Bernard Levin, from More Than A Bowl Of Rice, 1983, in The Way We Live Now)


“One of the problems is the world that first Diana [Cooper], then both of them, moved in, heavily populated as it was with people of no significance at the time, let alone now, and as I waded through Luffy and Poppy and Bongy and Denny and Vinny and Maudi and Dickie and Hutchy and Holly and Fairy and Pinchie and Letty and Dolly and Nannie and Biddy and Geordie and Cardie, followed by Poots and Chips and Crooks and Oc and Van and Buck and Oom and Bee and Val and Glad and Sid and Fish and Trim, to say nothing of Buffles and Scatters and Kakoo and Puffin and Kaetchen and Duckling and Donkey and Bobbety, I began to long for Robespierre to make a dramatic entrance carrying a small but serviceable guillotine.”                                                                                                                     (Bernard Levin, from Love and Flotsam, 1983, in The Way We Live Now)

[cf. ‘The guest book reads like an international list for the guillotine’ (Leo Lerman, in Vogue, on Truman Capote’s Black and White Ball on November 28 1966)]


“When I was a student of Sir Karl Popper’s he once faced us, in a lecture, with a conundrum. Suppose, he said, that you could prove to a Nazi that Nazism was erroneous and wicked – really prove it, so that he was entirely convinced. Would you wish to do so, and would you think it worthwhile? Yes, we said, of course. ‘But what’, said the sage, ‘if the Nazi replies, “I spit on your proof,” and shoots you?’ We fell silent at the extraordinary paradox of a mind that rejects mind. We would not, I think, find it so extraordinary today.”                                                                                                                                       (Bernard Levin, from The Descent Of Man, 1982, in The Way We Live Now)


“There is a phrase – I think it is Alexander Woollcott’s – about ‘a girlish enthusiasm for mere biceps’, and there is something of that at work here.”                                            (Bernard Levin, from Murder Most Fashionable, 1982, in The Way We Live Now)




“I believe that a real composer writes for no other purpose than to please himself. Those who compose because they want to please others and have audiences in mind are not real artists.”                                                                                                (Schoenberg, in Style and Idea, quoted by Kingsley Amis in letter to the Daily Telegraph, 22 May, 1982)




What is booze for?

Booze is what we drink.

They come, they shake us

Time and time over,

Beer, whisky, schnapps and gin.

What can we drink but booze?

Ah, solving that question, etc.

Brings the priest and the doctor

(and a few pink rats)

Running over the fields.

(Philip Larkin’s parody of his own Days, written on an undated Christmas card to Kenneth Hibbert, first published in The Letters of Kingsley Amis, p 1040)


“To be a good pro, you must be able to do three things. You must be able to eat any food. You must be able to sleep in any bed. And you must be able to make love to any woman….  But not so well that they will follow you when you leave.”                 (advice to Severiano Ballesteros from Roberto di Vicenzo, reported in Golf Digest, July 2006)


“When asked by an admirer whether he had been influenced by English folk tunes, Sir Edward Elgar is said to have replied: ‘Madam, I write the folk tunes of England.’”                                                                                   (Ferdinand Mount, in Mind The Gap, p 109)


“What is more hopelessly uninteresting than accomplished liberty?”                                 (D. H. Lawrence in Kangaroo, quoted by Ferdinand Mount in Mind The Gap, p 154)


‘And surely this leads us to the irresistible conclusion that, where we have such a number of schools and such means of education furnished by the parents themselves from their own earnings, and by the contributions of well-disposed individuals  in aid of those whose earnings were insufficient, it behoves us to take the greatest care how we interfere with a system  which prospers so well of itself..”                                                          (Henry Brougham, in House of Lords speech in 1835, cited in E. G. West’s Education and the State, p 138, in turn quoted by Ferdinand Mount in Mind The Gap, p 179)


“There are differences in the distribution of some genetic factors based on ‘continent of ancestry’ (a phrase being used more and more instead of the overheated word ‘race’).”                                                                                                                        (Dr. James P. Evans, director of adult genetics at the University of North Carolina, reported in NYT, July 4)




Hokery, pokery

Lord Kenneth Widmerpool

Formerly Major and

Colonel and all.


Stripped off his ranks with his

Clothing and ran till he


Had a great fall.


(by John Gould, in the Anthony Powell Society Newsletter, #4)


“I do the lyrics the way I’d do a crossword puzzle.”                                     (Cole Porter, according to David Barber, in review of Cole Porter: Selected Lyrics, in NYT, July 9)


“Christianity is all right between consenting adults, but should not be taught to children.”                                                       (Francis Crick, according to Nicholas Wade in review of Francis Crick: Discoverer of the Genetic Code, by Matt Ridley, in NYT, July 11)


“Macmillan had a bon mot that there were three organizations which no sane man would take on: the Brigade of Guards, the Roman Catholic Church and the NUM.”                                                                                                    (Philip Hensher in the Spectator, July 8)


It’s all about Freedom, dude!

“Hayek’s Road to Surfdom”                                                   (item for sale on eBay)


“Every family has a secret and the secret is that it’s not like other families.”                                                                                                     (Alan Bennett, in Untold Stories, p 41)


“I am now well into my twenties, not far off thirty in fact, and I feel I stand in much the same relation to the sexual life as Wilfred Thesiger did to the desert. Thesiger could traverse vast tracts of land with little more than a swig of water and few dates. In much the same way, I could go for months, years indeed, on no dates at all. No quarter could have been emptier than my twenties.”      (Alan Bennett, in Untold Stories, p 153)


“… Dudley Moore had been prevailed on (or may even have volunteered to play the piano. With [Noel] Coward in the room this was perhaps foolhardy and having watched him for a while Coward turned away, saying: ‘What a clever young man. He can play on the black notes as well as the white.’”           (Alan Bennett, in Untold Stories, p 227)


“She [Edna ‘Gin’ Coxon] says, Moore wanted to go to bed with her but she wouldn’t because she had a boyfriend already and to do it with Moore would have been unfaithful. ‘You shouldn’t do it with two. You can do it with ten but not with two.’”                                                                                                           (Alan Bennett, in Untold Stories, p 231)


“She asked at the library for something on Larkin but seeing his photograph gave the book straight back: ‘He looked too much like Sergeant Bilko.’”                                                                                                                      (Alan Bennett, in Untold Stories, p 246)


“It’s much harder if you have a sense of humour not to be indiscreet; the temptation to hang discretion and make jokes or be witty is too great. Secrets are best kept by those with no sense of humour.”                              (Alan Bennett, in Untold Stories, p 305)


“At Cambridge as an undergraduate he [Cedric Price] was once in the Rex cinema when the adverts came on, including one for Kellogg’s Ricicles. ‘Rice is nice,’ went the jingle, ‘but Ricicles are twicicles as nicicles.’ Whereupon Cedric boomed out: ‘But testicles are besticles.’”                                                          (Alan Bennett, in Untold Stories, p 333)


“One of his [Butler’s of the Butler Report] predecessors as master of University College was another smooth operator, Lord Redcliffe Maud, smoothness being something of a University College tradition.”                           (Alan Bennett, in Untold Stories, p 352)


“I once met Duncan Grant when he was very old and asked him if he were envious of other painters. There was a pause, then he said, ‘Titian, sometimes.’ It was a good remark because besides being a joke it was also a rebuke to me for being so shallow-minded.”                                                                              (Alan Bennett, in Untold Stories, p 508)


“I would put my money on one fundamental principle. This is the law that all life evolves by the differential survival of replicating entities.”                                                                                                                    (Richard Dawkins, in The Selfish Gene [1989 edition], p 192)


“Blind faith can justify anything. If a man believes in a different god, or even if he uses a different ritual for worshipping the same god, blind faith can decree that he should die – on the cross, at the stake, skewered on a Crusader’s sword, shot in a Beirut street, or blown up in a bar in Belfast. Memes for blind faith have their own ruthless ways of propagating themselves.”    (Richard Dawkins, in The Selfish Gene [1989 edition], p 198)


“Religious faith deserves a chapter to itself in the annals of war technology, on an even footing with the longbow, the warhorse, the tank, and the hydrogen bomb.”                         (Richard Dawkins, in The Selfish Gene [1989 edition], endnotes to chapter 11, p 331)


“The real underlying issue is that fundamentalism in the Southern Baptist form is incompatible with higher education. In fundamentalism, you have all the truths. In education, you’re searching for truths.” (Professor David W. Key, director of Baptist Studies at the Candler School of Theology at Emory, reported in NYT, July 22)


“Those who foresee the future and recognize it as tragic are often seized by a madness which forces them to commit the very acts which make it certain that what they dread shall happen.”                               (Rebecca West, in The New Meaning of Treason, p 47)


“Virtue has its peculiar temptations, particularly when it is practiced as a profession. The good are so well acquainted with the evil intentions of the wicked that they sometimes write as if the wicked candidly expressed their intentions instead of, as is customary, veiling them in hypocritical dissimulations.”                                                                                                                       (Rebecca West, in The New Meaning of Treason, p 53)


“He [William Joyce] was a revolutionary, which is to say that he hated order and loved it. For the revolutionary wants to overthrow the order which exists because he believes that he can substitute for it another which might be superior.”                                                                                                               (Rebecca West, in The New Meaning of Treason, p 80)


“He [Joyce] was learning that traitors are in the same unhappy state as prostitutes: their paymasters think they have a right to employ them, but hate and despise them for being so employed.”                                  (Rebecca West, in The New Meaning of Treason, p 82)


“This [a sentence of ten years’ imprisonment] just shows how rotten this democratic country is. The Germans would have had the honesty to shoot me.”                            (Words spoken by an RAF pilot officer, who became a traitor by joining the SS, on hearing his sentence, quoted by Rebecca West, in The New Meaning of Treason, p 84)


“… throughout history treason has always been the crime most abhorred by the English, as parricide has been the crime most abhorred by the French.”                                                                                           (Rebecca West, in The New Meaning of Treason, p 116)


Make Poverty History – Part VI

“Therefore many men who would have been happy in the practice of religion during the ages of faith have in these modern times a need for participation in politics which is strong as the need for food, shelter, for sex. Such persons never speak of the real motives which impel them to their pursuit of politics, but continually refer, in accents of assumed passion, to motives which do indeed preoccupy some politicians, but not them. The chief of these is the desire to end poverty.”                                                                                                                                        (Rebecca West, in The New Meaning of Treason, p 119)


“There is nothing spiritually easier than being in opposition, and those suddenly translated from that ease to the ordeal of responsibility must feel like oysters suddenly prised from their shells.”          (Rebecca West, in The New Meaning of Treason, p 150)


“… while everybody knows that Englishmen are sent to public schools because that is the only place they can learn good manners, the manners they learn there are recognized as good only by people who have been to the same sort of school, and often appear very bad to everyone else.”                          (Rebecca West’s The New Meaning of Treason, p 257)


“… all men should have a drop of treason in their veins, if the nations are not to go soft like so many sleepy pears.”           (Rebecca West’s The New Meaning of Treason, p 361)


“The real atrocities of history seem to take place not in the perverse ceremonies of some evil cult but rather in the course of purging such cults from the world. Real evil happens when people speak of evil.”                                                                                                           (David Frankfurter in Evil Incarnate: Rumors of Demonic Conspiracy and Satanic Abuse in History, quoted in an article by Edward Rothstein in NYT, July 24)


“Good people tend to do good, evil people tend to do evil, but for a good person to do evil – that takes religion.”                                                                                                 (Physicist Steven Weiner, quoted in article by Cornelia Dean, in NYT, July 25)


“Fame is vapor, popularity an accident, riches take wings. Only one thing endures, and that is character.”                                                                                                                               (Horace Greeley, according to Zeke Jabbour, in April 2006 Bridge Bulletin)


“I don’t take the slightest interest in literature with a capital L. I am a prophet, not a fancier!” (G. B. Shaw, according to Hesketh Pearson, in Modern Men and Mummers)


“I have often said that if Jesus appeared in the world to-day, everybody would roar with laughter at his paradoxes and call him a very funny fellow with an irresistibly quaint way of putting things. He might eventually, through journalistic influence, receive the honor of imprisonment – perhaps the highest honor we, as a nation, are able to confer – bit in all probability some of his crowning absurdities (e.g. ‘He that shall save his life shall lose it’) would keep him out of jail, much as Shaw is kept out of it, by gaining him the reputation of a jester.”                                                                                                                                   (Hesketh Pearson, from Bernard Shaw, in Modern Men and Mummers)


“’Gladstone had one of the finest heads of any man in my time. He once allowed me to measure it, and I told him that there was only one finer head than his in the kingdom.’ ‘Really,’ said he, rather annoyed, I thought, that his head was not as exceptional as his oratory, ’I would like to meet the owner – we must find him a place in the Cabinet – who is he? “Myself’, I replied; ‘your powers of observation are not acute.’”                          (Sir Francis Galton, according to Hesketh Pearson, in Modern Men and Mummers)


“Most committees are, as everyone knows, self-admiration associations. The chief point about the, is the unlimited love each member has for himself and his own obsolete or obstructive ideas.”                                                                                                           (Hesketh Pearson, from Sir George Alexander, in Modern Men and Mummers)


“This New York is hard and shallow and greedy as an old whore: the most terrible city in the world for the weakling or artist or scientist, or, indeed, and man of genius or distinction.” (Frank Harris writing to Hesketh Pearson, in Modern Men and Mummers)


“It’s the devil to begin again at 60 when you’re practically unknown and altogether unappreciated; but whom the gods love, they chasten, and I don’t complain.”                                 (Frank Harris writing to Hesketh Pearson, in Modern Men and Mummers)


“Genius is the most utterly unreasonable thing in the universe, but it is always simple. It is the unimaginative pedant who takes refuge in complexity.” (Hesketh Pearson on Shakespeare and Hamlet, from Forbes-Robertson, in Modern Men and Mummers)


“They both write plays with a purpose, but the purpose of Shaw’s plays is to make people think, while the purpose of Pinero’s plays is to make people pay.”                                    (Hesketh Pearson, from Playwright Producers, in Modern Men and Mummers)


“Nothing short of death will prevent Winston from becoming Prime Minister of the country for which he has so nobly sacrificed all his principles…..

Like most men of his class, he is a half-finished product. His knowledge is synoptic, his instincts barbarous.”                                                                                                       (Hesketh Pearson, from Winston Churchill, in Modern Men and Mummers, 1922)


“To the question: ‘What do you think of the present state of affairs? the Prime Minister replied:

‘The eruption is subsiding: the lava is cooling. Black clouds have been shrouding the valley, but already I see glimpses of the sun upon the mountaintops. The ship of state has been buffeted by squalls and hurricanes; and though the pilot’s hair is now a trifle bleached, the port is in sight and we will soon slip anchor in calmer waters that those through which we have manfully plowed.’

‘But,’ I said, ‘what of the Unemployment question?’

‘I am coming to that,’ answered the Premier. ‘The sharks are surrounding the vessel, and we must throw them all the waste food we can spare to keep them from gnawing the rudder. They poison the waters about us, while we are prostrated with thirst. Sooner or later the crew must perish or overcome these despoilers of plenty…’

‘How do you propose to deal with the serious question of high prices and lowering wages?’ I broke in.

‘I will tell you,’ said the Premier. ‘The corn is standing thick in the fields, but the reapers are wrangling in the market-place. Our ships go out to India, to America, to South Africa, to China – yea, even to the Antipodes – but they go with empty holds. In ten years’ – five years’ – two years’ time….’

‘Are there, then, no bright spots on the horizon?’

‘I hear a rumbling under the earth… Oh, that reminds me! I have to meet the Union leaders at the House in ten minutes. Good morning. I think I have answered all your questions.’

And, with a gracious bow, Mr. Lloyd George slipped from the room.”                                                               (Hesketh Pearson’s Lloyd George, from Modern Men and Mummers)




‘Only in America’? Department

“If you want people to stop calling him ‘Jew Boy’, you tell him to give his heart to Jesus.”                                                                        (speaker to Jewish mother at school board meeting of Indian River [Delaware] School District, as reported in NYT, July 28)

“It [evolution] is a nice bedtime story. Science doesn’t back it up.”                                                              (Connie Morris, retired teacher and conservative Republican running for re-election on the Kansas State Board of Education, as reported in the NYT, August 1)


“When the church wins the culture wars, it inevitable loses. When it conquers the world, it becomes the world. When you put your trust in the sword, you lose the cross.”                                                                                        (The Rev. Gregory A. Boyd, Baptist minister in Maplewood, Minn., from six sermons encouraging separation of church from state, and regretting link between religion and rightist political causes, reported in NYT, July 30)


“We are the product of quantum fluctuations in the very early universe. God really does play dice.”           (Professor Stephen Hawking’s concluding words in the Dennis Sciama Memorial Lecture in Hilary Term 2006, according to Oxford Today, Trinity 2006)


‘A Tory is someone who thinks institutions are wiser than those who operate them.”                                                                                                          (Enoch Powell, Daily Telegraph, 31 March 1986, quoted in Anthony Sampson’s Who Runs This Place?, p 46)


“The old guard of MI6 followed the maxim of Thomas Carlyle: ‘he that had a secret should not only hide it but hide that he had it to hide.’”                                                                                                                (Anthony Sampson, in Who Runs This Place?, p 152)


“Foreknowledge us no protection against disaster. Even real-time intelligence is never real enough. Only force really counts.”                                               (Sir John Keegan, in Intelligence in War: Knowledge of the Enemy from Napoleon to al-Qa’eda, p 399)


“The investment bankers are in a wonderful line of business. They take fees for putting Humpty on the wall, fees for pushing him off, and fees for putting him back together again.”                                                                                                       (John Plender, of the Financial Times, quoted in Anthony Sampson’s Who Runs This Place?, p 256)


“Nature abhors a vacuum only because she has no carpets and rugs to clean.”                                                                                             (Arthur D. Little, in the Atlantic, July 1924)


“I never heard tell of any clever man that came of entirely stupid people.”                                                                                                        (Thomas Carlyle, in Inaugural Address)


“In Charles I’s time it gained to be known or said that, if a man was born a gentleman, and came to lay out £10,000 judiciously up and down the courtiers, he could be made a Peer.”                                                                    (Thomas Carlyle, in Inaugural Address)


“.. after the Russians had been seen with snow on their boots by everyone in England, the gentleman of the Press calculated that almost anything would be believed if it could be repeated often enough.”                  (Margot Asquith, in An Autobiography, Book 1, p 160)

[cf. “By means of shrewd lies, unremittingly repeated, it is possible to make people believe heaven is hell – and hell heaven. The greater the lie, the more readily it will be believed” frequently ascribed, erroneously it appears, to Adolf Hitler, in Mein Kampf, also: “The way to get a lie believed is to continue to repeat it”, George Orwell (attrib. – where?); “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it”, ascribed to Nazi Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels.

Also: “… it is utterly sickening to observe how a lie repeated a thousand times acquires for many the aspect of truth.” (Maxim Gorky, in his Untimely Thoughts column, published in Novaya Zhizn on May 19, 1918)]


“If it’s tiresome to have a jealous husband, it must be humiliating to have one who is not.” (Baron Hirsch, according to Margot Asquith, in An Autobiography, Book 1, p 198)


“Someone [who?] has said, ‘L’Irlande est une maladie incurable mais jamais mortelle’”                                                          (Margot Asquith, in An Autobiography, Book 1, p 205)


“Frank Harris, in a general disquisition to the table, at last turned to Arthur Balfour and said, with an air of finality:

‘The fact is, Mr. Balfour, all the faults of the age come from Christianity and journalism.’

To which Arthur replied with rapier quickness and a child-like air:

‘Christianity, of course . . . but why journalism?’”                                                                                                                       (Margot Asquith, in An Autobiography, Book 1, p 259)


“TENNYSON: ‘… Have you read Jane Welsh Carlyle’s letters?”

MARGOT: ‘Yes, I have, and I think them excellent. It seems a pity,’ I added, with the commonplace that is apt to overcome one in a first conversation with a man of eminence, ‘that they were ever married; with any one but each other, they might have been perfectly happy.’

TENNYSON: ‘I totally disagree with you. By any other arrangement four people would have been unhappy instead of two.’”                                                                                                                                                      (Margot Asquith, in An Autobiography, Book 2, p 48)

[cf. from CP2005: “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)]


“The central conservative truth is that it is culture, not politics, that determines the success of society. The central liberal truth is that politics can change a culture and save it from itself.” (Daniel Patrick Moynihan, according to David Brooks in NYT, August 13)


“’The best proof that there is dictatorship is that there are no political prisoners,’ they [the Batista régime] said for many months; today prison and exile are overflowing, therefore they cannot say that we live under a democratic constitutional régime. Their own words condemn them.” (Fidel Castro, in letter from prison to Luis Conte Agüero, March 1955)


She Would Say That, Wouldn’t She?

“It is a work of genius, dear”                                                                                                                          (Jane Carlyle to Thomas, on reading his unsuccessful Sartor Resartus, cited by Julian Symons in Thomas Carlyle, the Life and Ideas of a Prophet, p 132)


“History moves too slowly. It needs a push.”            (The Russian terrorist Zhelyabov, according to Julian Symons in Thomas Carlyle, the Life and Ideas of a Prophet, p 178)


“But what is life, except the knitting up of incoherences into coherence?”                                                                                                                                       (Thomas Carlyle, according to Julian Symons in Thomas Carlyle, the Life and Ideas of a Prophet, p 187)


“..oh think, if thou yet love anybody living, wait not ill Death sweep down the paltry little dustclouds and idle dissonances of the moment; and all be at last so mournfully clear and beautiful, when it is too late!”        (Thomas Carlyle, after Jane’s death, in Reminiscences)


“They call me a great man, but not one does what I have told them.            ”                                                                                                          (Thomas Carlyle to James Anthony Froude, cited by Julian Symons in Thomas Carlyle, the Life and Ideas of a Prophet, p 282)


“Because you should realize that so far as the Cenotaph and the Last Post and all that stuff is concerned, there’s no better way of forgetting something than by commemorating it.”                                                                (Irwin, in The History Boys, by Alan Bennett)


“Capitalism will lead to the destruction of humanity.”                                  (Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez, in a speech in Vietnam, according to report in NYT, August 16)


“The high rise and the long weekend are bigger God killers than Nietzsche ever was.”                                                                     (Dr. Martin E. Marty, reported in NYT, August 19)


“But we cannot put our soldiers in such a harm’s way that it will become a mission impossible.”                                 (A French official to Thom Shanker, on the challenges of deploying a UN peacekeeping force in South Lebanon, reported in NYT, August 20)


“It was Aneurin Bevan who remarked that the one thing worse than my country right or wrong is ‘the United Nations right or wrong’.”                                                                                                                                (Sir Malcom Rifkind, in the Spectator, August 17)


“No boy from the Valleys who has cultivated that accent could possibly be lazy.”                                                                                                                                (Aneurin Bevan on Roy Jenkins, according to Dominic Sandbrook’s White Heat: A History of Britain in the Swinging Sixties, recorded in Byron Rogers’s review in the Spectator, August 26)


“It is easy to tell that you are no Marxist. History cannot stop half-way.’                 (Zinoviev, to the author, from Victor Serge’s Memoirs of a Revolutionary, p 72)


“He who sends men to their deaths must see that he himself gets killed.”                                                                                        (Mazin-Lichtenstadt, in letter to his wife, sent posthumously via the author, from Victor Serge’s Memoirs of a Revolutionary, p 94)


“It is a terrible misfortune that the honour of beginning the first Socialist revolution should have befallen the most backward people in Europe.”                                                                          (Lenin, from Victor Serge’s Memoirs of a Revolutionary, p 114)


“Marxists know that dirty little tricks can be performed with impunity when great deeds are being achieved; the error of some comrades is to suppose that one can produce great results simply through the performance of dirty little tricks…”                                    (George Lukács, to the author, from Victor Serge’s Memoirs of a Revolutionary, p 186)


“The iron curtain of History was falling, and you got out of its way just in the nick of time…”                                                                                                          (Bukharin, to Kamenev, after the resolution at the Fifteenth Congress of the Communist Party to expel the Opposition, from Victor Serge’s Memoirs of a Revolutionary, p 232)


“One critic has said that the works he [Pilnyak] had written with Yezhov [head of the GPU] ‘shout the lie and whisper the truth’.”                                                                                                                             (from Victor Serge’s Memoirs of a Revolutionary, p 270)


“A French essayist [who?] has said: ‘What is terrible when you speak the truth, is that you find it.’”                                 (from Victor Serge’s Memoirs of a Revolutionary, p 374)


” With this barbarous exploit, the dictatorship of the secretariat has perhaps delivered a mortal blow at a great and disinterested servant of the proletariat and of communism.”                                                                                     (Boris Souveraine, on the arrest and deportation of D. B. Riazanov, from La Critique sociale, no.2, July 1931, pp.49-50)


The Dr. Heinz Kiosk of His Time

“Let us not search for the guilty ones only among others, let us speak the bitter truth: we are all guilty of this crime, each and every one of us.”      (Maxim Gorky, writing on the First World War in Novaya Zhizn, April 22, 1917, from Untimely Thoughts, p 14)


“All the tragedies which we can imagine return in the end to the one and only tragedy: the passage of time.”              (Simone Weil, according to Adam Cohen in NYT, August 28)


“And I am especially suspicious, especially distrustful, of a Russian when he gets power into his hands. Not long ago a slave, he becomes the most unbridled despot as soon as he has the chance to become his neighbor’s master.”                                                     (Maxim Gorky, in Novaya Zhizn, November 12, 1917, from Untimely Thoughts, p 95)


“I can imagine scores, even hundreds, of peasants capable of adopting culture, but when I think that every peasant man and woman will learn to clean their fingernails or blow their noses into handkerchiefs, this seems a humorous utopia to me.”                                                                                                                         (letter from Zinaida Gippius [perhaps] to Maxim Gorky, quoted in Novaya Zhizn, May 21, 1918, from Untimely Thoughts, p 201)


“Politics is something similar to the lower physiological functions, with the unpleasant difference that political functions are unavoidably carried out in public.”                   (Maxim Gorky, in Novaya Zhizn, June 30, 1918, from Untimely Thoughts, p 239)


“That is the way of life. You give up your pleasures one by one until there is nothing left, then you know it is time to go.”                                                                 (Nobelist Naguib Mahfouz, from a 2002 interview with the NYT, in his NYT obituary, August 31)




“It seemed terribly unfair that, in a world of richness and plenty, so many should live in such poverty.”                                                                                                                                     (Joseph Stiglitz, Nobel laureate in economics, quoted in NYT, September 3)


“This [Minnesota’s allowing concealed weapons to be carried into public buildings] is what I’d expect of Florida, which recently passed a ‘shoot first’ – also called a ‘shoot the Avon lady’ – bill.”                                       (Verlyn Klinkenborg, in NYT, September 5)


The UN Rattles Its Saber

“The [Sudanese] government will have to assume responsibility for doing this [not allowing UN peacekeepers to take over from African Union troops], and if it doesn’t succeed, it will have lots of questions to answer before the rest of the world.”                                                                                            (Kofi Annan, quoted in NYT, September 6)


“A friendship founded on business is a good deal better than a business founded on friendship.”                                  (John D. Rockefeller, according to NYT, September 7)


“It is a rule that no Trevelyan ever sucks up to the press, or the chiefs, or the ‘right people’. The world has given us money enough to enable us to do what we think is right. We thank it for that and ask no more of it, but be allowed to serve it.”                                                                                                                                   (G. M. Trevelyan’s code of conduct for the family, as recorded by Laura Trevelyan in the Spectator, September 2)


“Those who delight in the failure of the Soviet Union have no heart, and those who want to re-establish the Soviet Union as it was have no head.”                                                                                       (President Putin, according to article in NYT Magazine, September 10)


“Art = a way of getting in touch with one’s own insanity.”                                                                                                               (from Susan Sontag’s Notebooks, July 27, 1964)


“My dear wife and beloved children, I say to you this — I will mow the lawn. Lawns are a symbol of America’s spacious freedoms and green prosperity. Such noble tokens of well-being and independence must not go untended, lest we show the world that liberty is mere license and see the very ground upon which we stand, as Americans, grow tangled with the weeds of irresponsibility and be fruitful only in the tares of greed. I will give the grass clippings to the poor. “                                                                                                                                         (P. J. O’Rourke, satirizing politicians, in The Atlantic, November 2002)


“Again he’s writing bullshit?

Continue reading, pet;

There is no need to contradict

Jean-Paul Sartre yet,

For in another page or two

He will do the job for you.”                                                                                                                   (My Wife Reads Sartre, by George Faludy, translated by Robin Skelton)


“Let’s face it, promotion at the World Bank comes from spending money. If you’re in the field, and too any complaints about corruption interrupt the spending, it has an impact on your career trajectory.”                                                             (John Githongo, adviser to Paul Wolfowitz, President of the World Bank, reported in NYT, September 14)


“We noticed that when the Japanese say they will do something, they actually do it. We Europeans, when we say we’ll do something, we try to find ways to avoid doing it.’                                                                                                                           (Georges Darcy, head of a Renault welding shop, about Nissan, reported in NYT, September 14)


“There is, in American public life, a condition that might be described as periphocentrism. You don’t want to face the big issues, so you worry the little ones to death. It’s a vital process by which the unthinkable becomes the inevitable.”          (Philip Gold, from his book The Coming Draft, quoted in NYT review, September 14)


The Big Issues with the Chattering Classes

“I am 76 years old. I have lived through World War II, the Holocaust, the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, the great civil rights movement and the protest against the Vietnam War. But the event that had the most impact, with the most lasting consequences, on my life and the lives of the next generation, our daughters and sons, was the feminist movement.” (Marilyn French, author, in letter to NYT, September 17)

“Of all the challenges that confront America, none is more profound than the struggle to achieve racial equality and understand the impact of race on the life and institutions of the United States.” (Shirley M. Tilghman, president of Princeton University, on the expansion of the Afro-American studies program there, quoted in NYT, September 19)


“The wounds of partition have healed. The poison is still in our system.”                                                                                                                                              (Khushwant Singh, 91-year-old author of The Train To Pakistan (1956), quoted in NYT, September 21)


“The truth is good, but if somebody else dies for the truth, it is better.”                                           (from a favorite Urdu poem of Khushwant Singh, quoted in NYT, September 21)


“Dear ol’ Sam: now content at deep third man for all eternity.”                                                                    (Arthur Milton, at the 1996 burial of Sam Cook, who played one match for England, and couldn’t field, quoted by Frank Keating in the Spectator, September 16)


“… the problem of nipples was merely secondary, even the most sensual of men regard the physical-spiritual qualities of  a woman as more important than the colour and size of her nipples. Yet the nipple of a woman is like the buffer of a train; when you run after a train it is the buffer you see, and when you recall one or the other of your mistresses it is, at least subconsciously, her nipple to which you react.”                                                                                                            (from George Faludy’s My Happy Days in Hell, p 104)


“Our thoughts, our favourite expressions are not, usually, reflections of our character or our mind. We learn them hear them, or simply borrow them from others and they have little or nothing to do with our real being……   …we have very little in common with the principles and ideals we so proudly call our own. We own a woman when she is lying in our arms, we own this wonderful cognac which is in the process of blending with our blood and we own the magnificent dinner proceeding from our stomach to our intestines. We own these much more completely than the indigestible thoughts in our heads or than ideals that are fundamentally alien to us. Let us admit with Christian humility that we are much more closely related to the food in our stomachs than our thoughts, and we have more right to call our bottom our own than our head.”                                                                                             (Lorsy, in George Faludy’s My Happy Days in Hell, pp 148/149)


“One should never voluntarily enter a room or a country the door of which cannot be opened from the inside.”        (from George Faludy’s My Happy Days in Hell, p 192)


“In the absolute sense, everyone is innocent. And in the relative sense everyone is guilty whom the party declares to be guilty.”                                                                        (Imre Komor, editor of Népszava, in George Faludy’s My Happy Days in Hell, p 242)


“I had learned during my interrogation that the Grocer divided humanity into two main categories: those who were already dead, or arrested or hanged; and those who were still free – that is, who had still to be arrested or hanged.”                                                                                                             (from George Faludy’s My Happy Days in Hell, p 286)



‘Only In America’ Dept.

“I just follow my own common sense. And the hell with the law.”                           (Thomas R. Buckley, justice of Dannemora, NY, quoted in NYT, September 25)

“I mean, to me, colored doesn’t preferably mean black, It could be Indian, who’s red. It could be Chinese, who’s considered yellow.”                                                    (Justice Charles A. Pennington of Alexandra Bay, NY, quoted in NYT, September 25)


“Democracy means if the people want something that is against God’s will, then they should forget about God and religion. Be careful not to be deceived. Accepting Islam is not compatible with democracy.” (Mohammed Taqi Mesbih Yazdi, fundamentalist cleric and mentor of President Ahmadinejad of Iran, in July 1988, from NYT, September 25)


“I think that life is simpler than we need to think. We look for answers and more answers. But there are no answers. Things happen in life, good things and bad. People say, why did it happen to me? Well, why not? Some people win the lottery, and others die in a car crash. It happens, and there is nothing we can do about it. The universe doesn’t care what happens to you.”     (Nando Parrado, survivor of the Uruguayan Air Force airplane crash in the Andes in October 1972 and author of Alive!, quoted in NYT, September 30)


“The more the universe seems comprehensible, the more it seems pointless.”                                     (Dr. Steven Weinberg, Nobel Laureate in physics, in The First Three Minutes)


“I have no emotional obligation to the practices of an ancestral religion and even less to the small, militarist, culturally disappointing and politically aggressive nation-state which asks for my solidarity on racial grounds. I do not even have to fit in with the most fashionable posture of the turn of the new century, that of ‘the victim’, the Jew who, on the strength of the Shoah (and in the era of unique and unprecedented Jewish world achievement, success and public acceptance), asserts unique claims on the world’s conscience as a victim of persecution. Right and wrong, justice and injustice, do not wear ethnic badges or wave national flags.”     (Eric Hobsbawm, in Interesting Times, p 24)


“More history than ever is today being revised or invented by people who do not want the real past, but only a part that suits their purpose Today is the great age of historical mythology.”                                                     (Eric Hobsbawm, in Interesting Times, p 296)


“Anachronism and provincialism are two of the deadly sins of history, both equally due to a sheer ignorance of what things ate like elsewhere, which even limitless reading and the power of imagination can only rarely overcome.”                                                                                                                        (Eric Hobsbawm, in Interesting Times, p 415)


“This has made it easy to resist what Pascal called ‘the reasons of the heart of which reason knows nothing’, namely emotional identification with some obvious or chosen group. An identity is defined against someone else, it implies not identifying with the other. It leads to disaster. That is exactly why in-group history written only for the group (‘identity history’) – black history for blacks, queer history for homosexuals, feminist history fro women only, or any kind of in-group ethnic or nationalist history – cannot be satisfactory as history, even when it is more than a politically slanted version of an ideological sub-section of the wider identity group. No identity group, however large, is alone in the world; the world cannot be changed to suit it alone, nor can the past.”                                                                                             (Eric Hobsbawm, in Interesting Times, p 417)





‘Only in America’? Department

“The Lord your God is ramping up the issues, is smiting this nation. What he did with one stroke on that day, sending a pervert in – because America is a nation of perverts – it’s appropriate he sent a pervert in to shoot those children. The Amish people were laid to an open shame because they are a false religion.”                                                             (Shirley Phelps-Roper, daughter of Rev. Fred Phelps, leader of the Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kansas, on the Amish school killings, as reported in NYT, October 6)


“The critic must have two things: personality and an ax to grind.”                                                                                                 (Eric Bentley, according to report in NYT, October 6)


“God protect us from the enemy without and the Hungarians within.”                                                                                                                                            (Robert Oppenheimer, the Manhattan Project director, quoted in Kati Marton’s The Great Escape: Nine Jews Who Fled Hitler and Changed The World, as reported in NYT, October 7)


“I’m absolutely fascinated by the fact that life is simply a tissue of negligible detail.”                                                                (Dr. Jonathan Miller, from NYT interview, October 7)


“Always read stuff that will make you look good if you die in the middle of it.”                                  (P. J. O’Rourke, according to Celia Walden, in the Spectator, September 30)


“It will be to the honor of our Emperor because, by reason of his great power and good fortune, such events happened in his time. It will give joy to the faithful that such battles have been won, such provinces discovered and conquered, such riches brought home for the King and for themselves; and that such terror has been spread among the infidels, such admiration excited in all mankind.”                       (from Spanish accounts of Pizarro’s capture of Atahuallpa, quoted in Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs, and Steel, p 69)


“Much of human history has consisted of unequal conflicts between the haves and the have-nots; between peoples with farmer power and those without it, or between those who acquired it at different times.”      (Jared Diamond, in Guns, Germs, and Steel, p 93)


“Similarly, throughout human history farmers have tended to despise hunter-gatherers as primitive, hunter-gatherers have despised farmers as ignorant, and herders have despised both.”                                                           (Jared Diamond, in Guns, Germs, and Steel, p 108)


“Domesticable animals are all alike; every undomesticable animal is undomesticable in its own way.”                                                                                                                                (Jared Diamond’s Anna Karenina principle, from Guns, Germs, and Steel, p 157)


“As the anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss put it [where?], ancient writing’s main function was ‘to facilitate the enslavement of other human beings’.”                                                                                                  (Jared Diamond, in Guns, Germs, and Steel, p 235)


“For any ranked society, whether a chiefdom or a state, one thus has to ask: why do the commoners tolerate the transfer of the fruits of their labors to kleptocrats? This question, raised by political theorist from Plato to Marx, is raised anew by voters in every modern election. Kleptocracies with little public support run the risk of being overthrown, either by downtrodden commoners pr by upstart would-be replacement kleptocrats seeking public support by promising a higher ration of services rendered to fruits stolen.”                                                                          (Jared Diamond, in Guns, Germs, and Steel, p 276)


“In addition, the divisions between blacks, whites, and the other major groups are arbitrary, because each such group shades into others: all human groups on Earth have mated with humans of every other group they have encountered.”                                                                                                  (Jared Diamond, in Guns, Germs, and Steel, p 378)


Community Rights

“Last week we recalled all the albums and destroyed them, as we did not want any community to be hurt.”                                                                     (T. Suresh, EMI Music general manager in India, after recalling the heavy-metal band Slayer’s’ Christ Illusion album, which offended Muslims and Christians, as reported in NYT, October 11)


“In theory, the British admire all-rounders. In practice, they are suspicious of them, especially if they are good at all the very different things they do.”                                                     (Edward Lucie-Smith, in Introduction to The Essential Osbert Lancaster)


“… in recent years the social barriers between class and class, which though always clearly marked were never happily insuperable, have often all been leapt in a single lifetime. But although there has always been a two-way traffic, of the probability that only a very small proportion of the two and a half million direct descendants of John of Gaunt would not be black-balled for a suburban tennis club, economic arguments remain as partial an explanation as dialectical materialism.”                                                                                                                          (Osbert Lancaster, in All Done From Memory)


“A mother’s love is all very well, but it is only a poor substitute for good relations with the cook.”                                                        (Osbert Lancaster, in All Done From Memory)


“For thy coming, Lord we pray,

But let it be some other day,

On Thy return our hopes are set;

Thy Will be done, but not just yet.”            (Osbert Lancaster, in All Done From Memory)


‘He Doesn’t Trouble Me Much, Doctor’

“.. on the eve of my own wedding she [Osbert’s mother] took the bride aside for a little good advice. ‘Now, dear, I want you to promise me that you won’t let Osbert be tiresome. I know what those Lancasters are when given half a chance and I was always very firm with his dear father.”                                       (Osbert Lancaster, in All Done From Memory)


“Australian ancestors are decidedly tricky. While it is perfectly all right, indeed socially advantageous to possess a great-grandfather who was sent out to Australia, one that came back from that land of opportunity is seldom regarded as a cause for satisfaction.”                                                                                     (Osbert Lancaster, in The English Observed)


“Very plausible schemes with very pleasing commencements have often shameful and lamentable consequences.”                                                                 (Edmund Burke, according to Spectator editorial, October 7: from Reflections on the Revolution in France?)

‘“The New York State Legislature passes many bills, but the law that’s passed most frequently is the law of unintended consequences,’ Mr. Faso said in a recent interview, noting that one reason he opposed so many bills was that he actually read them and found them flawed.”                                                                                                                          (Report on John Faso, Republican candidate for NY Governor, in NYT, October 22)

“Conservatives need to relearn the lessons of Burke and Hayek – that the world is complex, and efforts to transform it will have unintended consequences, most of them bad.”                                                                                                                           (David Brooks, in review of Andrew Sullivan’s The Conservative Soul, in NYT, October 22)


“A pre-blooded Pole, Sosnovskaya was twenty-eight –older than Elagin. Her father had worked as a petty bureaucrat until taking his own life when she as only three. Her mother lived as a widow for many years, then married another petty bureaucrat who once more left her a widow.

As you can see, Sosnovskaya’s background was quite conventional.”                                                          (from The Elagin Affair, by Ivan Bunin, translated by Graham Hettlinger)


“To the faithful toil-burdened masses the victory was so complete that no further effort seemed required. Germany had fallen, and with her the world combination that had crushed her. Authority was dispersed; the world unshackled; the weak became the strong; the sheltered became the aggressive; the contrast between victors and vanquished tended continually to diminish. A vast fatigue dominated collective action. Though every subversive element endeavoured to assert itself, revolutionary rage like every form of psychic energy burnt low. Through all its five acts the drama has run its course; the light of history is switched off, the world stage dims, the actors shrivel, the chorus sinks. The war of the giants has ended; the quarrels of the pygmies have begun.”                                                                                                   (Winston Churchill, in The Aftermath, Chapter I)


“We saw a state without a nation, an army without a country, a religion without a God.”                                               (Winston Churchill on Russia, in The Aftermath, Chapter IV)


“Lenin was to Karl Marx what Omar was to Mahomet. He translated faith into acts.”                                                                    (Winston Churchill, in The Aftermath, Chapter IV)


“Implacable vengeance, rising from a frozen pity in a tranquil, sensible, matter-of-fact, good-humoured integument! His weapon logic; his mood opportunistic. His sympathies cold and wide as the Arctic Ocean; his hatreds tight as a hangman’s noose. His purpose to save the world; his method to blow it up. Absolute principles, but readiness to change them. Apt at once to kill or learn: dooms and afterthoughts: ruffianism and philanthropy; But a good husband; a gentle guest; happy, his biographers assure us, to wash up the dishes or dandle the baby; as mildly amused to stalk a capercailzie as to butcher an Emperor.”                       (Winston Churchill on Lenin, in The Aftermath, Chapter IV)


“For this purpose the President [Wilson] is represented as a stainless Sir Galahad championing the superior ideals of the American people and brought to infinite distress by contact with the awful depravity of Europe and its statesmen. Mr. Baker’s film story is, in short, the oldest in the world. It is nothing less and nothing more than the conflict between good and evil, between spiritual conceptions and material appetites, between generosity and greed, between moral earnestness and underhand intrigue, between human sympathy and callous selfishness.”                                 (Winston Churchill, on Stannard Baker’s Woodrow Wilson and the World Settlement, in The Aftermath, Chapter IV)


“As for the Turkish atrocities: marching till they dropped dead the greater part of the garrison at Kut; massacring uncounted thousands of helpless Armenians, men, women, and children together, whole districts blotted out in one administrative holocaust – these were beyond human redress.”         (Winston Churchill, in The Aftermath, Chapter VIII)

“The Armenian question poses no dangers in France. Playing politics with it trivializes not only the Holocaust, but also the Armenian genocide.” (NYT leader, October 17)


“There is no doubt that the Bolsheviks hoped that, what with their propaganda and their reinforced front, they would be able to beat the Polish troops and overthrow the Government behind them, and, if so, a most difficult situation would have arisen. The reactionary Germans would of course be delighted to see the downfall of Poland at the hands of the Bolsheviks, for they fully understand that a strong Poland standing between Russia and Germany is the one thing that will baulk their plans for [an Imperialist] reconstruction and for revenge.”                                                          (Winston Churchill, in The Aftermath, Chapter XIII, quoting a memorandum of his dated May 21, 1920)


“Well was it said [by whom?], ‘The grass soon grows over a battlefield but never over a scaffold.’”                                         (Winston Churchill, in The Aftermath, Chapter XIV)


“’England in all her wars,’ he [Venizelos, the Greek Prime Minister] said in a dark hour, ‘ has always gained one battle – the last!’”                                                                                                                                    (Winston Churchill, in The Aftermath, Chapter XVIII)


“Death stands at attention, obedient, expectant, ready to serve, ready to shear away the peoples en masse; ready, if called upon, to pulverize, without hope or repair, what is left of civilization. He awaits only the word of command. He awaits it from a frail, bewildered being, long his victim, now – for one occasion only – his Master.”                                                                            (Winston Churchill, in The Aftermath, Chapter XX)


“News is what somebody somewhere wants to suppress; all the rest is advertising.”               (Lord Northcliffe, according to Matthew Vincent, in the Spectator, October 14)


“It is the final proof of God’s omnipotence that he need not exist in order to save us.”                     (The Rev. Andrew Mackerel, in The Mackerel Plaza, by Peter de Vries, quoted in Jim Holt’s review of Richard Dawkins’s The God Delusion, in NYT, October 22)


“It doesn’t make sense to ask how an Oakeshottian would govern because an Oakeshottian would never get elected in a democracy and could never use the levers of power if somehow he did. Doubt is not a political platform. Hope is.”         (David Brooks, in review of Andrew Sullivan’s The Conservative Soul, in NYT, October 22)


“…. the essay is only an article in a high hat.” (Richard Aldington, in Artifex, p vi)


“Let sentimentalist delight to prate –

I am the prophet of the perfect State.

Blind, deafened, dumb with dear machinery,

The world shall live in bliss – by reading Me!”

(Richard Aldington, in Artifex, p 30)


“There isn’t any paradise, either here or hereafter; there isn’t any solution of ‘the problem of life’. Because it isn’t a problem. The only thing to do with life is to live it, put up with the tough breaks and enjoy the alleviations.”             (Richard Aldington, in Artifex, p 32)


“Man is the measure of all things in the sense that he cannot go beyond his capacity in knowing and feeling.”                                                      (Richard Aldington, in Artifex, p 46)


“If you believe that England is an aristocracy, ask yourself what fate is more piteous than that of a penniless peer of the realm.”                               (Richard Aldington, in Artifex, p 64)


“… history is like a Brocken spectre, magnifying the prejudices of historians.”                                                                                                        (Richard Aldington, in Artifex, p 65)


“Civilization is the art of agreeing to believe in invented purposes…   Nobody can be fanatical about what is self-evident and rational – hence the ‘purpose’ of civilization must always be vague, unprovable and unattainable. When one ‘purpose’ ceases to deceive another is invented. But in my opinion the first one was the best, it is so staggeringly impudent. The genius who thought of ‘eternal life’ as a carrot for the multitude has my unfeigned respect.”                                                  (Richard Aldington, in Artifex, pp 75-76)


“In England it is much more honourable to be the keeper of other people’s pictures than to be able to paint.”                                                        (Richard Aldington, in Artifex, p 90)


“Music is music, not noise; painting is painting, not poster-work or abstraction; architecture is architecture, not engineering, literature is literature, not writing ads.; poetry is poetry, not word-mosaics….”                 (Richard Aldington, in Artifex, p 97)


“To ardent spirits it is almost irresistible when a leader says; ‘I offer you hunger, hardship, terrible tests of endurance, wounds and death, for the sake of our cause.”

(Richard Aldington, in Artifex (1935), p 158)


“Whenever I try to discuss religion with him, the Archbishop always insist on talking about politics.”                                                                                 (Harold MacMillan on Geoffrey Fisher, according to Vernon Bogdanor in the Spectator, October 21)


Make Poverty History (cont.)

“When will our lawmakers develop creative solutions that support good sustainable jobs at home while maintaining integrity in our aid to people born in desperate circumstances overseas?”                                                                             (letter in NYT, October 31)


“The wildest dreams of Kew are the facts of Katmandu,

And the crimes of Clapham chaste in Martaban.” (Rudyard Kipling, but where?)




“The notion that the essence of what it means to be human is most clearly revealed in those features of human culture that are universal rather than in those that are distinctive to this people or that is a prejudice that we are not obliged to share. It may be in the cultural particularities of people — in their oddities — that some of the most instructive revelations of what it is to be generically human are to be found.”                           (Clifford Geertz, cultural anthropologist, in 1966, from his obituary in NYT, November 1)


“Mr Hunter’s [of Amaranth Advisors] fall from grace is further proof of the old adage that in investment, as in the Battle of Britain, ‘there are old pilots and bold pilots, but there are no old, bold pilots.’”        (Jonathan Davis, in the Spectator, October 28)”


“You can change your noses, but not your Moses.” (‘an old Jew from Chicago’, to David Margolick, cited in review of The Wicked Son, by David Mamet, in NYT, November 5)


“The lack of any significant connection between a person’s opinions and his apprehension of reality will be even more severe, needless to say, for someone who believes it is his responsibility, as a conscientious and moral agent, to evaluate events and conditions in all parts of the world.”                     (from On Bullshit, by Harry G. Frankfurt)


“As conscious beings, we exits only in response to other things, and we cannot know ourselves at all without knowing them. Moreover, there is nothing in theory, and certainly nothing in experience, to support the extraordinary judgment that it is the truth about himself that is the easiest for a person to know.”                                                                                                                                          (from On Bullshit, by Harry G. Frankfurt)


“It [biography] is fiction constrained by fact: voyeurism embellished with footnotes.”                                (Robert Skidelsky, in Preface to John Maynard Keynes: Hopes Betrayed)


“I find Economics increasingly satisfying, and I think I am rather good at it. I want to manage a railway or organize a Trust, or at least swindle the investing public. It is so easy and fascinating to master the principle of these things.”                                     (J. M. Keynes, quoted in Robert Skidelsky’s Introduction to John Maynard Keynes: Hopes Betrayed)


“He never did anything but wonder whether Christianity was true and prove that it wasn’t and hope that it was.’                                                                                             (J. M. Keynes on Henry Sidgwick, quoted in Robert Skidelsky’s Maynard Keynes: Hopes Betrayed, p 34)


“No one should have an occupation which tends to make him anything less than a gentleman.’                                                                                                                   (Alfred Marshall, quoted in Robert Skidelsky’s Maynard Keynes: Hopes Betrayed, p 47)


“Leading financiers, being unable to follow an argument, will never admit the feasibility of anything until it has been demonstrated to them by practical experience.”                     (J. M. Keynes, from his lectures on Currency, Finance, and the Level of Prices in India, 1911, quoted in Robert Skidelsky’s Maynard Keynes: Hopes Betrayed, p 211)


Early ‘Bright Young Things’?

“It was chiefly a youthful party – Nancy Cunard and her young man , lady Diana Manners, etc., etc., mostly followers of ‘the fun life’ as it’s called.”                                                                                                        (letter from J. M. Keynes to Vanessa Bell, 21 August 1916, quoted in Robert Skidelsky’s Maynard Keynes: Hopes Betrayed, p 330)


“Gardening is the last refuge of bored women.”                                                                                                (his mother, quoted in Paul Johnson’s  The Vanished Landscape, p 168)


“Hast heard of Wigan Pier?

It’s bracing, never fear.

A long way from the sea,

Maybe –

But fine for thee and me!”                                                      (song [source and writer?] his mother sang, from Paul Johnson’s  The Vanished Landscape, p 142)


Question: “In today’s freewheeling marketplace of ideas, why are evangelicals seen as a dangerous threat?”                                     (Byline to article by John Wilson diminishing the problem of activist evangelicals in the USA, in NYT Book Review, November 12)

Answer: “For Evangelicals, Supporting Israel is ‘God’s Foreign Policy’”                     (Headline in NYT, November 14, introducing article featuring Rev. John Hagee, speaking at a meeting attended by Republican senators and the Israeli ambassador, who also said that the conflict between Israel and Hezbollah was ‘a battle between good and evil’.)


“….dogmatism is the price we pay for brevity.”                                                                                                 (Tennant, in J. C. Masterman’s To Teach The Senators Wisdom, p 28)


“One man who knows what he wants is always a match for a dozen who only know that they want the maximum of peace and quiet.”                                                                                                (Gresham, in J. C. Masterman’s To Teach The Senators Wisdom, p 47)


“A philistine has been defined [by whom?] as one who is right for the wrong reasons.”                                  (Waterlow, in J. C. Masterman’s To Teach The Senators Wisdom, p 54)


“No sane man let a lawyer speak without interruptions.”                                                                                       (Trower, in J. C. Masterman’s To Teach The Senators Wisdom, p 60)


“The best history is like the art of Rembrandt; it throws a vivid light on certain selected causes and leaves the rest in shadow or unseen.”                                                                                              (Gresham, in J. C. Masterman’s To Teach The Senators Wisdom, p 95)


“There has been no greater mistake made in Oxford than the abolition of compulsory chapel, except of course the admission of women and the abolition of compulsory Greek.”               (Trower, in J. C. Masterman’s To Teach The Senators Wisdom, p 140)


“Isn’t the great fundamental lesson which men learn here how to discriminate between the important and the unimportant?”                                                                                                                            (Waterlow, in J. C. Masterman’s To Teach The Senators Wisdom, p 160)


“When I learn that a pupil of mine has taken up religion, I shrug my shoulders; when I learn also that he is busying himself with politics and the political clubs, I tremble for him; when, in addition, a rumour reaches me that he is plunging into the dramatic world, I give up all hope.”                                                                                                                                               (Prendergast, in J. C. Masterman’s To Teach The Senators Wisdom, p 176)


“Long-term prisoners do not willingly quit their cells.”                                                                                                                                             (Theodor Herzl, in The Jewish State)

Back to the Sixties

“When my oldest child, an A-plus stellar student, was in sixth grade, I realized he had no idea, no idea at all, how to do long division, so I went to school and talked to the teacher, who said, ‘We don’t teach long division; it stifles their creativity.”                                                                                              (Ms. Backman, in Seattle, as quoted in NYT, November 14)


“A prophet who can give signs in the heavens is always believed.”                                                                                        (J. B. S. Haldane, in Daedalus, or Science and the Future)


“And its just because even the least dogmatic of religions tends to associate itself with some kind of unalterable moral tradition, that there can be no truce between science and religion.”                            (J. B. S. Haldane, in Daedalus, or Science and the Future)


“In the words of Chairman Mao, it’s always darkest before it’s totally black.”                                                                           (Senator John McCain, quoted in NYT, November 17)


“Just because Milton Friedman says it doesn’t mean that it’s necessarily untrue.”                                                                                                     (Professor Paul Samuelson (coiner of the term ‘stagflation’), quoted in obituary of Milton Friedman, in NYT, November 17)


“Wo Deutschtum endet, fangen die Laus und die Wanze an.” [‘Where Germanness ends, there begin the louse and the bedbug.’]                                                                                                                                 (spoken to R. C. K. Ensor by a German acquaintance, as cited by him in Oxford Pamphlets on World Affairs, No. 2 (‘Mein Kampf’))


“The optimist is one who believes the future is uncertain.”                                                                                                                               (Leo Szilard, according to Joshua Lederberg, in Foreword to Haldane’s Daedalus Revisited, ed. By K. R. Dronamraju)


“Because moral and political criticisms cane be, and usually are, independent of strictly scientific criticism, scientifically valid ideas and practices can be morally and politically unacceptable as grounds of public decisions and actions, and scientifically unwarranted ideas can be approved on moral and political grounds as some concepts of equality in western democracies may illustrate.”                                                          (Yaron Ezrah, in Haldane Between Daedalus and Icarus, from Haldane’s Daedalus Revisited)


“The cure for doing wrong is doing right. But doing right in one’s personal life is extremely difficult, and for a man with a persistent sense of personal guilt, there may be some relief in the thought of doing right in the public world, of reforming society.”                                                             (The Making of the Auden Canon, by J. W. Beach, p 236)


“It has taken Hitler to show us that liberalism is not self-supporting”                                                             (W. H. Auden in The Means of Grace, 1941 article in The New Republic)


“Lenin was a very great man and even, despite his faults, a very good man.”                                                                           (A. J. P. Taylor, in History of the 2oth Century, Part 37)

compare: “Lenin possesses an outstanding mind, but it is a … mind of one dimension – more than that, a unilinear mind … He is man of one-sided will and consequently a man with a stunned moral sensitivity.”                                                                           (Chernow, in Delo naroda, quoted in Orlando Figes’ A People’s Tragedy, p 391)

and: “When, in February, Steinberg first saw the Decree on ‘The Socialist Fatherland in Danger!’, with its order to shoot ‘on the spot’ all ‘profiteers, hooligans and counter-revolutionaries’, he immediately went to Lenin and protested: ‘Then why do we bother with a Commissariat of Justice at all? Let’s call it the ‘Commissariat for Social Extermination’ and be done with it!’ Lenin’s face lit up and he replied: ‘Well put, that’s exactly what it should be: but we can’t say that.’”                                                           (from Steinberg’s In The Workshop, quoted in Orlando Figes’ A People’s Tragedy, p 536)

[see also Churchill, in The Aftermath, from October)


“A city panel in Minneapolis recommended that officials fire Bonnie Bleskachek, the nation’s first openly lesbian big-city fire chief, following suits by firefighters accusing her of harassment and discrimination. Ms. Bleskachek had earlier agreed to step down. But the city’s executive council unanimously rejected a negotiated deal after a closed-door meeting. Ms. Bleskachek, 43, was hailed as a trailblazer [sic] when she was promoted to the top job two years ago, but her tenure has been troubled.”                                                                                                                                              (NYT, November 29)


“The bureaucrat is just a nobleman in uniform, and the nobleman just a bureaucrat in a dressing-gown.”                                                                                                    (aphorism by Iurii Samarin, quoted in Orlando Figes’ A People’s Tragedy, p 36)


“The Trotskys make the revolution and the Bronsteins pay the bills.”                             (The Chief Rabbi of Moscow, quoted in Orlando Figes’ A People’s Tragedy, p 82)


“Bury me where I am assassinated.”                                                                                      (first line of Stolypin’s will, quoted in Orlando Figes’ A People’s Tragedy, p 223)


“We must put an end once and for all to the papist-Quaker babble about the sanctity of human life.”        (Trotsky [where?], quoted in Orlando Figes’ A People’s Tragedy, p 641)


“When it comes to matters of artistic taste, there is nothing the semi-educated worker wants more than to mimic the bourgeoisie.”                                                                                                                                              (Orlando Figes, in A People’s Tragedy, p 740)




“There are plenty of two-word answers to the question ‘What’s so special about America?’ A few that spring to mind are ‘Buster Keaton,’ ‘Art Tatum,’ ‘western swing,’ ‘Mark Twain’ and ‘lobster rolls.’ But if I had to limit myself to just one, I think it might be ‘Charles Addams.’”                                                           (Ben Yagoda, in review of  Charles Addams: A Cartoonist’s Life by Linda H. Davis, in NYT, December 3)


“Pantheism is sexed-up atheism. Deism is watered-down theism.”                                                                                                         (Richard Dawkins, in The God Delusion, p 18)


“I mean it as a compliment when I say that you could almost define a philosopher as someone who won’t take common sense for an answer.”                                                                                                                             (Richard Dawkins, in The God Delusion, p 83)


“The doctrine that existence is a perfection is remarkably queer. It make sense and it is true to say that my future house will be a better one if it is insulated than if its is not insulated; but what could it mean to say that it will be a better house if it exists than if it does not?”                                                                              (The American philosopher Norman Malcolm, according to Richard Dawkins, in The God Delusion, p 83)


“All religions are the same: religion is basically guilt, with different holidays.” (Comedian Cathy Ladman, according to Richard Dawkins, in The God Delusion, p 167)


“Tread softly, because you tread on my memes.” [cf. Yeats and Muggeridge]                                                         (Chapter heading in Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion, p 191)


“People say we need religion when what they really mean is we need police.”                                      (H. L. Mencken, according to Richard Dawkins, in The God Delusion, p 227)


“Even if it were true that we need God to be moral, it would of course not make God’s existence more likely, merely more desirable (many people cannot tell the difference).”                                                                    (Richard Dawkins, in The God Delusion, p 231)


“God and Country are an unbeatable team; they break all records for oppression and bloodshed.” (Luis Buňuel, according to Richard Dawkins, in The God Delusion, p 233)


“Deep within the heart of every evangelist lies the wreck of a car salesman.”               (H.L. Mencken [where?], according to Richard Dawkins, in The God Delusion, p 331, n)


“When I was traveling in the South and used the term [‘Civil War’] to describe the war between the North and South, an elderly woman corrected me, saying, ‘Do you mean the war of Yankee aggression?’ And that was only a few years ago.”                                                                                                                                   (David Carr, in NYT, December 4)


“Not even Moscow, not even Hollywood, has ever quite succeeded in putting and keeping authors in their proper place.” (J. B. Priestley, in Midnight on the Desert, p 12)


“It is possible to disengage three types of Communist, although they are not entirely separate. The first is the philosophical, who accepts with grim joy the iron dialectic. Here, he says, is intellectual order in a chaos; and is converted. The second is primarily moved by compassion. Years ago he would have read his Ruskin and his Morris. Now he is a Communist, waits for the Golden Age, and is somewhat uneasy when he hears what steps may be necessary to bring it into being. He is eager to explain that Russia is very Russian, that the process of ‘liquidation’ is not so bad when you are on the Steppes, just something like vodka and kicking your heels in the air. The third seems possessed by a snarling inferiority. To him Communism is not so much his plan for the world as his revenge on the world. If you do not instantly recognise his merit, that is because you are still squirming under the thumb of the Boss Class.”                                                                                                                                     (J. B. Priestley, in Midnight on the Desert, p 38-39)


“I made little of it [American football]: a sort of murderous chess, with a grand carnival going on all around it.”              (J. B. Priestley, in Midnight on the Desert, p 42)


“One could write in a novel: ‘He had to sit at the same table with a bony, conceited Scot’ or ‘with a drunken, lying Irishman’ or ‘with a common and insufferable type of Englishman’ without being attacked afterwards; but if one wrote: ‘he had to sit at the same table with a noisy, too-talkative Jew,’ correspondents of that race immediately enquired about one’s anti-Semitic prejudice and the Jewish press sent heavily marked cuttings of very severely worded criticism.”                                                                                                                                             (J. B. Priestley, in Midnight on the Desert, p 156)


‘Jack’ Priestley Imagines the Walkman in 1937

“What we need now is a tiny portable instrument, to which one listens through ear-phones, so that it does not disturb anyone else, and whole symphonies and concerts and operas recorded on miniature reels of film, so that they could easily be carried about with us.”                                                         (J. B. Priestley, in Midnight on the Desert, p 160)


“Groucho – my own favourite, and without his property moustache and cigar and baggy clothes, a sensitive and intelligent companion – is the outrageously impudent and loquacious caricature of all bogus American glad-hanging politicians, real-estate boomers, Rotarians, Kiwanis, yapping know-alls, smart-alecks, and the rest.”                                                                                  (J. B. Priestley, in Midnight on the Desert, p 197)


“Truth, I believe, will be found to be shaped like a tree and not like a telegraph pole.”                                                                    (J. B. Priestley, in Midnight on the Desert, p 221)


“They are mistaken, those who have created the illusion that control of inflation is purely in the hand of the government.”                                                                                                   (Prime Minister Andrus Ansip of Estonia, according to NYT report, December 6)


“Residents of Bulo Burto [Somalia] who do not pray five times a day will be beheaded, an Islamic courts official said.”                                       (Report in NYT, December 7)


“Austrians and Jews share one illusion: they are convinced that they are the centre of the universe.”                             (George Weidenfeld, in Remembering My Good Friends, p 7)


“Hitlers come and go, but the Jewish people are eternal.”                                (Vladimir Jabotinsky, according to George Weidenfeld, in Remembering My Good Friends, p 43)


“If Smollett can turn into Smolka,

Why can’t Pollitt turn into Polka?”                                                                                                                    (ditty about Peter Smollett, once Smolka, friend of Britain’s Communist leader, Harry Pollitt, Central European correspondent for the Times after the war, and previously head of the powerful Soviet Department of the Ministry of Information, as reported by George Weidenfeld, in Remembering My Good Friends, p 145)


“You must hang a framed notice above your desk stating that the only profits of a publisher are his economies.”                                                 (advice from Jonathan Cape to George Weidenfeld, as reported in Remembering My Good Friends, p 232)


“In England, politics is an atmosphere.”                                                                                                                                             (Jules Cambon, French ambassador before the First World War, according to George Weidenfeld, in Remembering My Good Friends, p 330)


“Every minute of the hour, somebody somewhere gives a party for George Weidenfeld.”                                                                                                                                      (Mike Nichols, according to George Weidenfeld, in Remembering My Good Friends, p 376)


“If I hear a man is talented, I immediately close his account because it usually means he can’t read a balance sheet.”                                           (Bobby Lehman, founder of Lehman Brothers, according to George Weidenfeld, in Remembering My Good Friends, p 379)


“Jean Monnet is reported to have said shortly before his death that were he to embark on the European enterprise all over again he would begin with culture and education rather than coal and steel.”       (George Weidenfeld, in Remembering My Good Friends, p 441)


Boring for England?

“Every Englishman can talk for fifteen minutes on any subject without a note.”                                                      (Norman Mailer, according to Sarah Lyall, in NYT, December 10)


“In the script there was a prose description of some mountains as gloomy, and the [Chinese] government said, ‘We don’t have gloomy mountains here – our mountains are joyous.”                                                                              (Ron Nyswaner, screenwriter for The Painted Veil, a movie based on Somerset Maugham’s novel, and shot in China)


AJPT on Lebensraum

“If the Germans had succeeded in exterminating their Slav neighbors, as the Anglo-Saxons in North America succeeded in exterminating the Indians, the effect would have been what it has been on the Americans: the Germans would have become advocates of brotherly love and international reconciliation.” (A. J. P. Taylor, according to Geoffrey Wheatcroft, in review of Dangerous Nation, by Robert Kagan, in NYT, December 17)


“Economists forecast not because they know, but because they are asked.”                                          (J. K. Galbraith, according to Jonathan Davis, in the Spectator, December 9)


“The peculiar sense of insecurity which leads certain Americans to pretend that their forebears arrived on the original voyage of the Mayflower also inspires Hungarians to claim descent from the knights of Transylvania. To listen to some Americans talk, you might think our Founding Fathers had been aristocrats instead of the economic outcasts and political refugees they really were; likewise, to listen to most Hungarians talk, you might think their ancestors had really been feudal overlords instead of the flotsam and jetsam left in the wake of the receding Ottoman Empire.”                                                                                                                           (Leigh White, in The Long Balkan Night, p 26)


“The Jewish people have only survived as long as they have because they have refused to be assimilated; and their very refusal – itself a form of chauvinism – is at once a cause and an effect of their eternal persecution.

Zionism is no solution to anything. Zionism is politically as stupid as Nazism, and just as chauvinistic.”                                              (Leigh White, in The Long Balkan Night, p 40)


“If Englishmen, for example, were to be uprooted from the British Isles and scattered all over Europe, and if they were to continue drinking tea and eating scones at five in the afternoon and playing cricket, and worshiping at Anglican instead of Catholic or Orthodox churches, they, too, would continue to be hated just as the Jews are hated in Europe today.”                                                                                                   (a friend of the author in Budapest, recounted by Leigh White in The Long Balkan Night, p 42)


“Great powers should never get involved in the politics of small tribes.”                  (The Lebanese historian Kamal Salibi, according to Thomas Friedman, in NYT December 20)


“There is something unedifying in politicians apologising, without cost to themselves, for the sins of their predecessors while deploying all the black arts of their trade to suppress criticism of their own performance.”                                                                                                                              (William Waldegrave, in review of Breaking The Chains: The Royal Navy’s War on White Slavery, by Tom Pocock, in the Spectator, December 16/23)


“The Gagautze are one of the strangest of the many heretical sects which flourished in Russia during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. To escape persecution, they fled to Rumania, where they have specialized in driving drozhkies ever since. Their heresy is characterized by a belief in birth control. Instead of using the less onerous methods of limiting offspring, however, the males of the tribe have traditionally achieved this end by castrating themselves immediately after the birth of the first male child.”                                                                                           (Leigh White, in The Long Balkan Night, p 55, note)


“History has made lawyers of the Croats, soldiers and poets of the Serbs.”                                                                                     (Rebecca West, in Black Lamb and Grey Falcon, p 1141)


“What they [‘our diplomatic “realists”’] conveniently ignore is the fact that no one has ever asked them to impose democracy on anyone. Democracy can never be imposed. Democracy is not a form of government. It is imply a state of benign equilibriums of social and economic forces within a liberal political framework.”                                                                                                    (Leigh White, in The Long Balkan Night, pp 459-460)



“TMZ has gone Defcon 4 in real-time over Britney’s pantygate.”                                                                                              (from article on ‘lad’ magazines in NYT, December 25)


“Self-seeking, self-glory, that is not me. No. Many people say I embarrass them with my humility.”               (Archbishop Peter J. Akinola of Nigeria, quoted in NYT, December 25)


“These are victories. Our soldiers are in paradise now.”                                 (Abdulrahim Ali Model, the Somalian Islamist government’s information minister, after many of its troops had been killed by Ethiopian forces, reported in NYT, December 25)


“Philosophy consists in moderating each life so that many lives will fit together with as much liberty and justice as will keep them apart – and not so much as will make them fly apart, when the harm will be the greater.”                                                                                        (Alexander Bakunin, in Tom Stoppard’s Voyage, Part 1 of The Coast of Utopia)


“When philosophers start talking like architects, get out while you can, chaos is coming. When they start laying down rules for beauty, blood in the streets is from that moment inevitable. When reason and measurement are made authorities for the perfect society, seek sanctuary among the cannibals…”                                                                                        (Vissarion Belinsky, in Tom Stoppard’s Voyage, Part 1 of The Coast of Utopia)


“Americans defend cultural diversity at home and deny it abroad, while France defends cultural diversity around the world and refuses it at home.”                                                (Frédéric Martel, author of Culture in America, reported in NYT, December 26)


“There is no place for ‘isms’ in philosophy.”                                                  (Gilbert Ryle, in Taking Sides in Philosophy, published in Philosophy, vol. xii, 1937)


“One era had a Bach, another had a Beethoven, but we had Brown.” (The ‘Rev.’ Al Sharpton , at the memorial service for James Brown, reported in NYT, December 29)


“One would wonder why one needs an attorney if one was not charged and had not done anything wrong.” [compare first entry in CP2006]   (District Attorney Michael B. Nifong, in comments to the ESPN network on the [now dropped] rape charges he prosecuted against members of the Duke University lacrosse team, who now has ethics charges filed against him by the North Carolina Bar Association, reported in NYT, December 29)


“Fogeydom is the last bastion of the bore and reminiscence its anthem. As William Rice Burroughs noted, in the 1950s, What I want for dinner is a bass fished in Lake Huron in 1920.”                                                                             (Paul Theroux, in NYT, December 31)


“Censorship is not all bad for a writer – it teaches precision and Christian prudence.”                                    (Aksakov, in Tom Stoppard’s Shipwreck, Part II of The Coast of Utopia)


“What freedom means I being able to sing in my bath so loudly as will not interfere with my neighbour’s freedom to sing a different tune in his.”                                                                                 (Herzen, in Tom Stoppard’s Shipwreck, Part II of The Coast of Utopia)


“Your personal sacrifice, the sacrifice of countless others on History’s slaughter-bench, all the apparent crimes and lunacies of the hour, which to you may seem irrational, are part of a much bigger story which you probably aren’t in the mood for – let’s just say that this time, as luck would have it, you’re the zig and they’re the zag.”                                                           (Herzen, in Tom Stoppard’s Shipwreck, Part II of The Coast of Utopia)


“We’ve had a terrible shock. We discovered that history has no respect for intellectuals. History is more like the weather. You never know what it is going to do.”                 (George Herwegh, in Tom Stoppard’s Shipwreck, Part II of The Coast of Utopia)


“The people faltered. I wouldn’t insult them by absolving them. They had no programme, and no sovereign brain to carry one out. The Sovereign People are our invention.”                                    (Herzen, in Tom Stoppard’s Shipwreck, Part II of The Coast of Utopia)


“Life’s bounty is in its flown, alter it is too late. Where is the song when it’s been sung? The dance when it’s been danced? It’s only we humans who want to won the future, too…..   If we can’t arrange our own happiness, it’s a conceit beyond vulgarity to arrange the happiness of those who come after us.”                                                                                                          (Herzen, in Tom Stoppard’s Shipwreck, Part II of The Coast of Utopia)


“… forever going over the past, living on recrimination and fantasy, schemers, dreamers, monomaniacs from every failed insurrection from Sicily to the Baltic, men who can’t get their shoes mended sending agents with earth-shaking instructions to Marseilles, Lisbon, Cologne … men who walk across London to give a piano lesson redrawing the frontiers of Europe on the oilskin table-tops of back-street restaurants, toppling emperors like so many sauce-bottles….”                                                                                                                                       (Herzen, in Tom Stoppard’s Salvage, Part III of The Coast of Utopia)


“Bakunin: Left to themselves, people are noble, generous, uncorrupted, they’d create a completely new kind of society if only people weren’t so blind, stupid, and selfish.

Herzen: Is that the same people or different people?

Bakunin: The same people.”                                                                                                                                           (from Tom Stoppard’s Salvage, Part III of The Coast of Utopia)


“If I were a Sandwich Islander I expect I’d speak up for navigating by the stars and eighteen things you can do with a coconut, but I’m not a Sandwich islander.”                                                    (Turgenev, in Tom Stoppard’s Salvage, Part III of The Coast of Utopia)


“But history has no culmination! There is always as much in front as behind. There is no libretto. History knocks at a thousand gates at every moment, and the gatekeeper is chance. We shout into the mist for this one or that one to be opened up for us, but though every gate there are a thousand more.”                                                                                                                  (Herzen, in Tom Stoppard’s Salvage, Part III of The Coast of Utopia)

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