Commonplace 2013



The Humbug of Lord Rothschild

“I remember that only a few years ago my grandfather was the first Jew your Lordships allowed to sit in this House, and I therefore felt it my duty to try and explain something of the trials and torments of my co-religionists in Palestine.”                   (31 July, 1946 speech in House of Lords)

“I come from a ghetto and that stays with you. The English Rothschilds aren’t very wealthy anyway.”                                         (May 1984 interview with Sunday Times’s Simon Freeman)

“The Director General of MI5 should state publicly that it has unequivocal, repeat unequivocal, evidence that I am not, and have never been a Soviet agent.”                                                                                                                                   (letter to Daily Telegraph, 3 December 1986)


“I do not know what would become of capitalism if we were to lose the war, but I know what would happen to socialism if the Germans were to win it. Wherever this motorized Attila has passed, all working-class movements have been annihilated.”                                               (Léon Blum at Labour Party Conference in May 1940, quoted by Jean Lacouture in Léon Blum, p 407)


“For a worker to rise to be a bourgeois is a miracle; for a bourgeois to sink to manual labour is a tragedy.”                                                                                                                                       (Léon Blum, in Nouvelles Conversations, quoted by James Joll in Intellectuals in Politics, p 52)


“Strategy is antitrust with a minus sign on front of it.”

“Regulation is often a way to keep a dominant firm in place.”                                                   (Tim Wu, Columbia Law School professor, quoted in Atlantic Monthly, January/February 2013)


“Long memories are obviously a hideous defect, it tends to poison everything with the taste of possible corruption: Americans seem to have it in an odd unhistorical way, like a synthetic memory, compounded to resemble the real one they so much need: which being artificial desiccates them in a bogus sort of way…”                                                                                                                                           (Isaiah Berlin, in letter to Stephen Spender, 26 February, 1936)


“Only those who are capable of silliness can be called truly intelligent.”                                                                       (Christopher Isherwood, quoted in Atlantic Monthly, January/February 2013)


“Conservative and Jewish groups reiterated their concerns on Monday that Mr. Hagel has opposed sanctions on Iran, failed to support Israel, and has advocated engaging with Hamas and Hezbollah. They want him to explain why he once referred to pro-Israel lobbying groups as ‘the Jewish lobby,’ a phrase they said was hurtful to Jews.” (from NYT, January 8)

“While a member of the Senate from Nebraska in 1998, Mr. Hagel criticized the nomination of James Hormel to be ambassador to Luxembourg because he was ‘openly, aggressively gay.’ That was a repugnant reason to oppose anyone for public office.     Last month, Mr.  Hagel issued a statement in which he described his comments 14 years ago as ‘insensitive,’ apologized to Mr. Hormel and insisted he was ‘fully supportive of “open service” and committed to L.G.B.T. military families’.

Some leading foreign policy professionals who are gay, including Mr. Hormel, have since said they could support Mr. Hagel’s candidacy. Still, it will be important to hear Mr. Hagel explain at his confirmation hearing how his views have changed and how he plans to make sure that all service members are treated equally and receive the same benefits regardless of sexual orientation. It would also help if he acknowledged that his past comments were not just insensitive but abhorrent.”                                                      (from NYT editorial, January 8)


“Architecture is the stepchild of the popular press.”                                      (Ada Louise Huxtable, from New York Times Magazine in 1958, as reported in her NYT obituary, January 8)


“But Dr. Buchanan contended that the pursuit of self-interest by modern politicians often led to harmful public results. Courting voters at election time, for example, legislators will approve tax cuts and spending increases for projects and entitlements favored by the electorate. This combination can lead to ever-rising deficits, public debt burdens and increasingly large governments to conduct the public’s business.”                                                                                                                               (from NYT obituary of James M. Buchanan, economist, January 9)


“Pessimism is an inner love for life. The pessimist is one who cannot enjoy the joys of life and is very conscious that he has the passion of the unsatisfied and of the unsatisfiable.”                                                                                             (Greek poet Kiki Dimoula, interviewed in NYT, January 12)


“I do not pretend to enjoy a socialist system, but I think it is right and I am prepared to make personal sacrifices for it. But what I do loathe and fear is the decline in spiritual values. Truthfulness is giving place to bigotry. Cruelty is replacing tolerance. And the sanctity of the individual is being blurred by mass emotions. I fear I have not got a communal mind.”                                            (Harold Nicolson in letter to his wife, Vita Sackville-West, December 1945)


“In the subtle world of counter-intelligence, like medieval history, the truth was soften inaccessible and so arguments, occasionally vicious, would rage over what each fragment meant since entire interpretations would be built upon those tiny shards. Counter-intelligence required a suspicious mind and you could always trump your colleagues by showing that you were intellectually capable of suspecting something even more devious than they could manage. You should not work in counter-intelligence for too long, a few noted. It did something to your brain. You would see shadows everywhere.”             (Gordon Corera, in The Art of Betrayal, p 188)

“I don’t believe in Intelligence any more than I believe in little green men. It is much better to look at intelligence as if it were another branch of government like the Inland Revenue doing a job which has to be done and is necessary but not particularly glamorous and which goes wrong from time to time – just like the Inland Revenue.”                                      (Rodric Braithwaite, former ambassador and JIC chair, quoted in Gordon Corera’s The Art of Betrayal, p 407)


“The secret of my incredible energy and efficiency in getting work done is a simple one. The psychological principle is this: anyone can do any amount of work, provided it isn’t the work he is supposed to be doing at that moment.”                                                                                                                                     (Robert Benchley, in 1930, according to John Tierney in NYT, January 15)


“I’ve had so many occasions to start believing in myself, and I never will. Strange. I am protected by a lot of angels from any self-esteem, from the capacity to feel content with myself. Perhaps that also gives me a certain capacity for wonder at the world, like a child before a Christmas tree. This is very strong in my life, and maybe it’s what opens me to other people, and to new ventures and experiences. In French, we have a nice word for that: ‘partant,’ ‘ready to go.’ I’m always ready.”                                                                                                      (Andrée Putnam, in interview with House Beautiful, from her NYT obituary, January 21)


“So late as the fifteenth century the Republic of Venice threatened with banishment or even death, those Venetians who held intercourse with any member of a foreign legation. Even today some relics of this taboo can be detected in Moscow and in Teheran. In London, and other more advabced capitals, the process of purification to which foreign ambassadors are subjected us more gradual and less overt.”                          (from Harold Nicolson’s Diplomacy, Chapter 1)


“What was required were men of trained powers of observation, long experience and sound judgment. It was in this manner that that the type or character of the professional diplomatist evolved.”                                                      (from Harold Nicolson’s Diplomacy, Chapter 1)


“The worst kind of diplomatists are missionaries, fanatics, and lawyers; the best kind are the reasonable and humane sceptics.”                     (from Harold Nicolson’s Diplomacy, Chapter 2)


“The impassivity which characterizes the ideal diplomatist may render him much disliked by his friends. In fact the manner of suspended judgment, of sceptical tolerance, of passionless detachment which denotes the trained diplomatist, is often taken by outside observers to suggest that he is conceited, lazy, stupid, or very very ill.”                                                                                                                                                       (from Harold Nicolson’s Diplomacy, Chapter 5)


“It was difficult, for instance, for those who worked under Sir Edward Grey to convince him that the envoy of some Balkan country did not possess the same sort of traditions, intuitions and principles, a she had inherited himself: he was inclined to regard them, if not perhaps as Old Wykehamists, then at least as Old Marlburians. If subsequent developments led him to revise this opinion, he would feel that a gross deception had been practised upon him, and would regard the foreign statesman who had failed to live up to Old Marlburian standards as a man of irredeemable iniquity.”                               (from Harold Nicolson’s Diplomacy, Chapter 6)


“It might be said that the West is fighting a losing battle. This is a fallacious proposition. If we can avoid committing arrant mistakes – such as the mistake of Suez and the mistake of Cuba – we can maintain a defensive position for the next fifty years. Meanwhile the massive front of the Communists world may have started to disintegrate. The Marxist view of society and the inevitability of history assumes that the masses can be conditioned to believe eternally in the same creed. That is a misconception of human nature; always there will be heretics and the more they are repressed the more ardent and convinced they become. The West in the end will be rescued by the heretics of the East.”              (from Harold Nicolson’s Diplomacy, Epilogue)


“I admit that the introduction of the propaganda element has greatly complicated the task of western diplomacy. It is easy enough to convince uneducated people that they are being exploited or suffering humiliations and oppression. It is more difficult to preach to them the rewards of freedom. People who have been convinced that their rights have been disregarded will be glad to throw stones at windows or to overturn motor cars; the doctrine of individual liberty inspires no such acts of passion. We are at a disadvantage when it comes to applying propaganda to the have-nots. Dollars are not always enough; and the fact that our doctrine appeals more to the privileged classes is a fact which cannot be exploited or even avowed.”                                                                                     (from Harold Nicolson’s Diplomacy, Epilogue)


“That’s why we think parents should spend less time leaving their children alone playing shoot-’em-up video games and more time with them doing activities they both enjoy. This includes taking children into the country to hunt and to gain, as we did as boys, a love for the abundance and beauty of nature as well as a respect for the responsible and legitimate use of guns.”                      (from Op-Ed article by James A. Baker III and John F. Dingle in NYT, January 30)


“… he engrossed himself in films, watching the throwaway lines of British understatement and self-ridicule. He discovered pantomime, Gilbert and Sullivan, the football terrace, the dog-track, the public bar and the legal bar, and cockneys with their rhyming slang. After two years, word perfect in English, he could have lectured (as he did later) on the nature of humour itself – wit, wisecrack, satire, music-hall burlesque, pun, Spoonerism, slapstick, drollery, and situation comedy. All of them he had been rehearsing on the drawing-board.”                                                                    (from P. R. Ritchie-Calder’s DNB entry for Victor Weisz, cartoonist (Vicky))





“All entertainment centers and broadcasters must refrain from displaying excessive happiness.” (Cambodian government directive after death of King Sihanouk, as reported in NYT, February 2)


“’People only betray their country for three reasons,’ he said, quietly, seriously, cueing her next question.

‘And what are they?’

‘Money, blackmail and revenge.’”             (Romer and Eva in Restless, by William Boyd, p 165)


“I stood there in the kitchen, watching her staring across the meadow still searching for her nemesis and I thought, suddenly, that this is all our lives – this is the one fact that applies to us all, that makes us what we are, our common mortality, our common humanity. One day someone is going to come and take us away: you don’t need to have been a spy, I thought, to feel like this.”                                                                                   (from William Boyd’s Restless, p 324)


“The [Lutheran Church-] Missouri Synod bars joint worship with other religions, because, it says, participation could be seen as an endorsement of faiths that do not regard Jesus alone as savior or as a suggestion that differences between religions are not important.

‘To those who believe that I have endorsed false teaching, I assure you that was not my intent, and I give you my unreserved apologies,’ he [the Rev. Rob Morris] wrote.”                                                                                                                              (a church pastor was criticized for officiating at a memorial service for Sandy Hook victims, from report in NYT, February 8)


“They both alike believe in force as the means by which they can get their way and set up their dictatorship; and they further believe, as you have seen on the continent, that, having got into power – and it does not matter for the argument whether it be Communist or Fascist – by force, all free opinion, all opinion that does not agree with then, must be suppressed by force – in other words, kill everything that has been a growth in our people for the last eight hundred or a thousand years. No. Freedom is not dead yet. Nor is Democracy.”                             (Stanley Baldwin, in The Torch of Freedom, p 31, quoted by W. J. West in Truth Betrayed, p 12)


“It’s not a secret to anybody that for many people, the motive for entering state service is to provide for a quiet life beyond the borders of our motherland at the expense of our budget.”                                                                                                                      (Kirill Kabanov, the chairman of the National Anticorruption Committee [in Russia], from NYT report, February 13)


“In an interview — her first extended discussion of her job since she took over in November 2011 — Ms. Gould described her upbringing as ‘culturally Jewish,’ but added that many aspects of Judaism were new to her. She did not know until she took the job, for example, that because Judaism is matrilineal from a religious perspective, she is not considered Jewish at all.”                                                 (from profile of Claudia Gold, ‘raised in an interfaith home, with a Jewish father and a Roman Catholic mother,’ director of the Jewish Museum, from NYT, February 13)


“When M. Tardieu had explained at length the need for French security and Cadogan had translated, Thomas [J. H., Secretary for the Dominions] commented only ‘Oh ‘ell’.

‘Qu’est-ce qu’il dit M. Thomas?’

Cadogan said that Mr Thomas had listened with great attention and interest and would report faithfully to his colleagues. Tardieu eyed the interpreter with thinly-veiled mistrust.”                       (from the Introduction to The Diaries of Sir Alexander Cadogan, edited by David Dilks)


“When Maisky gave a luncheon, a sumptuous affair in a conservatory overlooking Kensington Gardens, Robert Boothby, M. P., exclaimed: ‘What a relief, in these days of rationing, to share the simple life of the proletariat.’”                                     (from Amery’s Diary, recorded in note for August 9, 1940, from The Diaries of Sir Alexander Cadogan, edited by David Dilks)


“The Germans are magnificent fighters and their Staff are veritable masters of Warfare. Wavells and suchlike are no good against them. It is like putting me up to play Bobby Jones over 36 holes.”      (from The Diaries of Sir Alexander Cadogan, edited by David Dilks, June 18, 1941)


“Baseball is the silliest – and the dullest – game I’ve ever seen. I’d sooner play dominoes with mangold wurzels.”                                                                                                                                     (from The Diaries of Sir Alexander Cadogan, edited by David Dilks, February 24, 1945)


“Last summer, the contract of another professor, Michael Pahl, was not renewed because he had written a book that some critics asserted failed to make strong enough claims for the creation of the world in six days. Dr. Pahl’s ‘doctrinal views were inconsistent with doctrines the university holds,’ was how Mark D. Weinstein, a spokesman for Cedarville, explained Dr. Pahl’s departure.”                    (from report on Cedarville College, Dayton, Ohio, in NYT, February 16)


“The last bastions of resistance to evolutionary theory are organized religion and cultural anthropology.” (Napoleon Chagnon, anthropologist, quoted in NYT Magazine, February 17)


“There were, in his opinion, only three means by which a British Cabinet could be driven into positive action. The first was the fear of being made ridiculous. The second was the fear of being thought afraid. The third was the suspicion that foreign governments were suggesting to them what they ought to do.”    (of Walter Bullinger, in Harold Nicolson’s Public Faces, Chapter 6)


“There is nothing which alarms the British public so much as the thought that their Government is functioning on a Sunday.”                                                                                                                                                         (Prime Minister Furnivall, in Harold Nicolson’s Public Faces, Chapter 11)


“In America, a politician should not appear too literate; in France, he should not appear overly interested in sums. A sort of spiritual innumeracy is required to prove that he is a serious person. ‘Economics is considered and obstacle to ideology, a constraint politicians prefer to avoid if they can,’ [Jean-David] Chamboredon [chief executive of ISAI] said.”                                                                                (from article L’Etranger, by Lauren Collins, in the New Yorker, February 25)


“He [Jens Weidmann, president of the Bundesbank] rejected suggestions by Christine Lagarde, managing director of the International Monetary Fund and a former French economics minister, that Germany should somehow become less competitive to give other countries a chance. ‘The deficit countries must act,’ Mr. Weidmann said. ‘They must address their structural weaknesses. They must become more competitive, and they must increase their exports.’”                                                                                                                                    (from report in NYT, February 26)


“Yet the average Englishman retained many of his old virtues. He was still not easily rattled, because the Englishman, as distinct from the Scot, the Irishman and the Welshman, is seldom rattled. His greatest asset and his greatest handicap is his reluctance to think ahead. In times of peace this makes him blind to an approaching crisis but in the hour of danger brings out the doggedness, the determination and the refusal to admit defeat which are the enduring qualities of his race.”                                   (from Robert Bruce Lockhart’s Comes The Reckoning, p 15)


“If by reason you mean self-interest, I agree that nations fight for self-interest, but if we have to do the fighting, the, rightly or wrongly, it is our privilege to determine where our self-interest lies. If it is a question of morality, you are affected as much as we are, for surely moral principles have nothing to do with geographical distance.”                                                               (Robert Bruce Lockhart’s stock response to questions from US audiences as to why GB didn’t fight when reason and moral principle pointed to such a course, from Comes The Reckoning, p 27)


“The intelligentsia of the Left were the loudest in demanding that the Nazi aggression should be resisted at all costs. When it comes to a showdown, scarce four weeks have passed before they remember that they are pacifists and write defeatist letters to your columns, leaving the defence of freedom and of civilization to Colonel Blimp and the Old School Tie, for whom Three Cheers.”                                                                             (J. M. Keynes’s letter to New Statesman, October 14, 1939, quoted by Robert Bruce Lockhart in Comes The Reckoning, p 66)


“Socialism!, It is a vile insult to associate the excesses of the imperialist Stalin and his coterie of despots with a word which has provided the inspiration and hope of millions of mankind.”                                                                                                                                   (Sir Walter Citrine in his My Finnish Diary, quoted by Robert Bruce Lockhart in Comes The Reckoning, p 72)


“Mr de la Bere asked the PM [Churchill] to define the difference between a secret and an awkward question. ‘One is a danger to the country and the other a nuisance to the Government.’”                                        (from Robert Bruce Lockhart’s Comes The Reckoning, p 127)


“Three things are required for this war: blood, materials and time. The Russians give the blood, the Americans the materials, and the British the time.”                                                                                       (Stalin, according to Robert Bruce Lockhart in Comes The Reckoning, p 219)


“Dissidents within the BBC like those in the former USSR sometimes disappear.”                                                                 (Michael Craney, in Stoker [The Life of Hilda Matheson, OBE], p 2)




“Back to first principles: a bank – or any public company – that has long-term shareholder value as its aim nurtures customer relationships, manages risk and reputation acutely, never lets managers run out of control (for horsemeat or financial hogwash) before launching them on consumers. It does not need to strive self-righteously to ‘deliver for broader society’; it just has to make a positive contribution by doing its best for investors who put up its capital. That’s how capitalism is supposed to work, and it’s the only strategic review any bank needs.”                                                                                  (Martin Vander Weyer in the Spectator, February 16)


“When parents say, ‘I wish my child did not have autism,’ what they’re really saying is, ‘I wish the autistic child I have did not exist, and I had a different (non-autistic) child instead.’”                                                                                                        (Andrew Solomon, quoting Jim Sinclair, an intersex autistic person, in Far From The Tree, from review in the Spectator, February 16)


“Evil men don’t get up in the morning saying, ‘I’m going to do evil.’ They say, ‘I’m going to make the world a better place.’”                                                                                      (Christopher Booker, according to James Delingpole in the Spectator, February 23)


“An article in some editions on Saturday about the racecar driver Kyle Larson, whose Asian heritage could help Nascar develop a new following, misidentified the ethnicity of his mother, Janet. She is Japanese-American, not Japanese.”                   (Correction in NYT, March 6)


“Swedes may not yet appreciate such ultra-Baldwinesque sentiments as the statement made this spring by a former secretary of the Marylebone Cricket Club [Sir Francis Lacey]: ‘If Hitler and Mussolini had played cricket, there would be no trouble in Europe.’”                                                                                                       (from Robert Bruce Lockhart’s Guns or Butter, p 35)


“’You saw that girl?” he said to his guest. ‘You noticed that she refused to wait on us?’

‘Sure,’ said the Colonel.

‘Well,’ said Stalin, ‘she’s been like that for three years. Foreigners say that I am the dictator of 180,000,000 people, but I can’t do a thing with that girl. She’s working for her university degree, and she says it’s beneath the dignity of an educate woman to wait on any man.’”                                                                                                                                                 (Robert Bruce Lockhart, recounting anecdote told by Colonel Cooper, who built the Dnieper barrage, about Stalin, on whom a waitress dumped dishes at the table, in Guns or Butter, p 66)


“The overproduction of intellectuals has now reached a point where it is hard to secure a post even as a bank clerk or a book-keeper without a university degree. The inevitable result has been the creation of a disgruntled intellectual proletariat.”                                                                                         (Robert Bruce Lockhart, on Yugoslavia in 1938, from Guns or Butter, p 80)


“There is no third innings in cricket and only very rarely in politics.”                                                                                                            (from Robert Bruce Lockhart’s Guns or Butter, p 234)


“What was a Viennese? A mixture of German, Slovene, Czech, Hungarian, Rumanina, Croat, and Jew. Each of these nationalities was represented in the list of football teams given in the sporting pages……  All this jumble of Viennese nationalities was intermarried to an extent which made racial definition impossible. Now it was to be Germanized with ruthless German efficiency.”                                              (from Robert Bruce Lockhart’s Guns or Butter, p 277)


“At P. E. N. Club conferences the English delegates ooze a condescending superiority which foreigners find intensely irritating. And, curiously enough, it is our most conscientious internationalists who are unconsciously the most aggressively nationalist.

With us British, racial superiority is a habit. With the Germans it is a cult and, therefore, more dangerous. But it is a factor which must be taken into consideration with regard to every aspect of the Central European problem.” (from Robert Bruce Lockhart’s Guns or Butter, p 326)


“I remembered a conversation with a senior foreign diplomatist who has spent many years in London. He told me that when he first came to England he had only one friend, the chatelaine of a famous English house. His first visit was to her. She had recently had a child, and she had led the Minister to the nursery to show him the baby.

‘Ugly little brat, isn’t it?’ she said with apparent indifference.

‘It took me seven years,’ the Minister told me, ‘to understand that in that ‘ugly little brat,’ there was more mother-love, pride of race, devotion, and capacity for sacrifice than in all the eloquent protestations of affection that I have heard from scores of women of other races.’”                                                                         (from Robert Bruce Lockhart’s Guns or Butter, p 427)


“Outside the House of Commons Arthur Ponsonby had a keen sense of humour. He sat for the Brightside division of Sheffield, among the safest Labour seats in the country. He told me that he was one of three candidates for the seat who were invited to appear before the selection board. The other two were working-class men and he was therefore surprised that he was chosen. Afterwards he consulted a member of the board, who told him that his ‘college accent’ had of course gone against him, but that they had had unfortunate experiences with working-class members, who when they returned from Westminster would say that the Tories weren’t so bad after all, and even that some of them were very decent chaps. The Tories of course had made fools of them. ‘Now you’, he said to Ponsonby, ‘have known these people all your life. They won’t be able to make a fool of you.’”     (from Duff Cooper’s Old Men Forget, p 125)


“For the majority of English people there are only two religions, Roman Catholic, which is wrong, and the rest, which don’t matter.”   (from Duff Cooper’s Old Men Forget, p 128)


“Nobody wished any ill to the League [of Nations], but few believed it could do any good. Here was a new piece of nonsense, created by the politicians for their own purposes, primarily to placate the all-powerful but singularly impractical President Wilsons, and secondarily to serve as a smoke-screen behind which the diplomatists, and especially the British Foreign Office, could conceal from the public that they had no foreign policy at all. When pressed on the subject by inconvenient people who wanted to know, they could always make their retreat into a mist of platitudes about their firm belief in this great human experiment entirely devoted to the improvement of international relations and to the promotion of peace, progress and welfare of mankind. I had shared the disdain with which the colder-blooded Civil Servants looked down upon this claptrap of the hustings.”                (from Duff Cooper’s Old Men Forget, p 157)


“The Church would have greater influence in England if there were, or had ever been, an anti-clerical party in the country, committed to the uprooting of religion.”                                                                                                                  (from Duff Cooper’s Old Men Forget, p 158)


“Without claiming to be deeply religious I believe that religion helps humanity and that the world is suffering today from the lack of it. I believe that most men are wise to remain in the faith to which they are born and bred. I admire the broad-mindedness and adaptability of our Church; I venerate its splendid liturgy, and I find even in its lack of discipline and uncertainty of doctrine something that is peculiarly English and lovable.”                                                                                                                                        (from Duff Cooper’s Old Men Forget, p 198)


“I have often noticed that the narrower the division between different schools thought the more intense is the bitterness.”                               (from Duff Cooper’s Old Men Forget, p 252)


“I was pleased afterwards to have correctly foretold in the first two possibilities the manner in which Hitler and Mussolini met death. I added another paragraph: ‘There is one further consideration. Could we, as the allies of Marshal Stalin, go into court with clear consciences and clean hands?’”                                           (from Duff Cooper’s Old Men Forget, p 313)


“Three languages were used [at the post-war conference of Foreign Ministers at Lancaster House], which meant that every speech had to be translated twice. I reflected that at the Congress of Vienna in 1814 one language was enough. A century later at Paris two were necessary, and now in 1945 we had to employ three. Such was the march of progress, which would doubtless continue in the same direction until it brought us back to the Tower of Babel.”                                                                                                             (from Duff Cooper’s Old Men Forget, p 362)


“The third observation was in 1938, when the company in general was approving Eden’s resignation from the Foreign Office. LL. G [Lloyd George] shook his head and said ‘I don’t know. A strong man doesn’t resign; he gets his way.”’                                                                                                                                (Mary Bennett [née Fisher] in My Autobiography, p 28)


Ah, Stalin, we Scots who had our first home

In Caucasian Georgia like yourself see how

The processes of history in their working out

Bring East and West together in general triumph now.

̶  Lamh dearg aboo!

(from Lamh Dearg Aboo, to Stalin, by Hugh MacDiarmid, 1945; title was MacDonalds’ battle-cry, meaning ‘The Red Hand to Victory’)


“Yinka Graves is a British dancer of Ghanaian and Jamaican descent who has performed in Britain and Spain and who has been living in Seville since January. ‘As a black person, I can understand the sentiment within the Gypsy community that we are people who have come to hijack their culture,’ she said, comparing herself to a musician ‘who can sing the blues but cannot pretend to have come from the cotton fields.’ Still, she said, flamenco is itself a fusion of cultural influences, so there is no reason foreign artists could not take center stage.

‘It takes a huge amount of determination to come from the outside and learn something that is not natural to one’s community, but that certainly shouldn’t stop me from being able to interpret flamenco in a way that really touches the audience,’ Ms. Graves said. ‘Flamenco is about feelings, not about blood.’”                                                      (from report in NYT, March 18)


“In this environment, your friends really are your enemies. Anything you’re going to do more than likely disrupts somebody’s business. There’s no grenade thrill in it.”                                                                        (Barry Diller, chairman of IAC/Interactive Corp., quoted in NYT, March 18)


“Would you have been better off leaving your money in a bank in the United States or in Cyprus over the last five years? The answer: You would have been better off in Cyprus, even after the bailout, when your money was ‘confiscated.’ If you had 100,000 euros in a Cypriot bank account over the last five years, where the interest rate has averaged about 5 percent, you would have about 127,600 euros today. Even after the bailout, which would require you to give up 10 percent of your deposit — 12,760 euros — you would be left with 114,840 euros. The American bank? The $100,000 you deposited at Bank of America five years ago is about $105,100, at the going rate of about 1 percent interest a year.”                      (Andrew Ross Sorkin, in NYT, March 19)


“Dollo’s law, named for the 19th-century paleontologist Louis Dollo, states that evolution always moves forward — that an organism cannot redevelop an organ or attribute discarded by its ancestors. But new research on humble dust mites, the tiny arachnids that live in cushions and carpets everywhere, is challenging the law.

Using DNA data to construct an elaborate family tree, two University of Michigan biologists have shown that dust mites — which are not parasites but free-living organisms — evolved from parasites that in turn evolved from other free-living organisms. That would seem to contradict Dollo’s law, since the mites should be unable to readopt the free-living characteristics discarded by their ancestors.”                                                        (Douglas Quenqua, in NYT, March 19)


“He [Gorky] wrote thirty volumes but he never understood that literature offers only an indirect answer to life, that art involves play and mystery, that there is a riddle in art that has nothing to do with flaying an opponent, humorless glorification, righteous living, or radical convictions. That riddle is as impossible to explain to someone who has not experienced it as it would be to explain a rainbow to someone blind from birth or an orgasm to a virgin. Or the Sermon on the Mount to an orangutan or the power of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution to someone who mourned the death of Stalin.”                            (Nina Beberova, in Moura, p 112)


“The triumph of your ‘socialism’ has put the people who built it behind prison bars. It is as far from true socialism as the tyranny of your personal dictatorship is from the dictatorship of the proletariat, but in your understanding, politics is a synonym for swindling and deceit. You practice politics without ethics, authority without honesty, socialism without a love of man.”                                                                                                                                           (from Raskolnikov’s Letter to Stalin, August 17, 1939, quoted in Nina Beberova’s Moura, pp 263-264)


“I will never have any memoirs. All I have are memories.”                                                                                        (Moura Budberg to the author, 1937, from Nina Berberova’s Moura, p 271)


National Socialism and Colonialism 2013

“The ruling [on Hong Kong residency requirements] also comes as China’s new president, Xi Jinping, has spoken in a series of speeches of a ‘China dream’ that blends nationalism and socialism in calling for a muscular military combined with an economic rejuvenation of China under Communist Party guidance.”

“China takes our primary goods and sells us manufactured ones,” the governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Lamido Sanusi, wrote in The Financial Times this month. “This was also the essence of colonialism.”                                                                    (from NYT, March 26)


“We want to exclude from the negotiations everything that concerns culture.”                      (Nicole Bricq, French trade minister, speaking on the U.S.-Europe trade pact, in NYT, March 26)


“Tracing things in another direction the Pre-Raphaelites seem to have made some of the first so-bad-it’s-maybe-good modern art. Fighting Victorian decadence with more Victorian decadence, they may also have contributed to the onset of kitsch. Cézanne and Manet are great artists, necessary to many people’s lives, but when you start to look around, the Pre-Raphaelites are everywhere. That’s why this show is so hypnotic. The badness at its core is completely familiar; it permeates our lives. Looking at these paintings you can see it all coming: Maxfield Parrish’s jocular King Kong mural at the St. Regis Hotel in Manhattan; the visual platitudes of Norman Rockwell and Walt Disney; the hallucinatory brightness of psychedelic posters, the sugary scenes of Thomas Kinkade and the heavy-handed neo-medievalism of countless movies and television shows, most recently “Game of Thrones”.

The Pre-Raphaelites built one of the cornerstones of popular culture. Like kitsch itself their art is radioactive; for better and for worse its influence never goes away, it only spreads.”                                                                        (Roberta Smith on the Pre-Raphaelites, from NYT, March 29)


“We cannot all be geniuses but a firm grasp of the obvious may be acquired by the humblest among us.”                                                                                        (Owen Seaman parodying her grandfather, Sir John Lubbock, from Shiela Grant Duff’s The Parting of Ways, p 15)


“In a sense one can never, and must never. Part with the person one first loved. Their memory and person, even if gone away, seems to be in itself what love means to one and there is a strange and important presence of them in all the new things that matter. Perhaps learning to be alone adequately is to realise that one keeps them and yet lets them go to lead their own different life… It si very important for us both to learn to be alone, in a sense it means the very supposition of our friendship.”                                                                                                                           (Adam von Trott in letter to Shiela Grant Duff, from her The Parting of Ways, p 120)

“Travelling in a Moscow tram was an experience for which the London rush hour had not prepared us. It was packed solid and one had to get in at one end and out at the other. On one occasion when Goronwy [Rees], with his curly hair and bow tie, was battling through the crowd, a Red Army man suddenly shouted: ‘Give way! He’s got culture.’ The mass parted like the waters of the Red Sea.”                  (from Shiela Grant Duff’s The Parting of Ways, p 44)


“‘A statesman who holds the fortune of his country in his hands musts eat well and he must sleep well. He should never have got up from his bed to receive the British and French ministers.”                                                                                                                                     (Winston Churchill on Beneš in October 1938, according to Sheila Grant Duff in The Parting of Ways, p 182)


“Most states have been fashioned by the sword or have grown out of colonization. Czecho-Slovakia is the child of propaganda.” (H A L Fisher, in A History of Europe, Volume 2, p 1155)




“Self-assurance in the young betokens a lack of sensibility: the boy or girl who is not shy at twenty-two will at forty-two become a bore.”                                                                                                                                       (Harold Nicolson, in A Sense of Shyness, from Small Talk)


“I flatter myself, as I have said, that I am a truthful man: a man who, when he tells a lie, is careful not to forget that he has done so, and who takes infinite precautions to prevent his being found out. This, in the end, is the only test by which you can distinguish the liar from the man of truth. The latter is bothered by untruthfulness, is worried and anxious, and takes precautionary steps to buttress and protect his lapse from veracity. The real liar, however, is merely amused: he doesn’t mind in the least even if he is subsequently exposed: he regards the truthful man as somewhat of a fool.”              (Harold Nicolson, in On Telling the Truth, from Small Talk)


“There are a great many people in England, and even in America, who imagine that if one behaves like a gentleman one need not behave like anything else. It is difficult to trace the origins of this curious and unchristian fallacy. Pontius Pilate, as is obvious from his conduct, was a perfect gentleman: had he lived today he would have been a member of the Marlborough Club. St. Paul, it is equally obvious, wasn’t a gentleman in the least: nor were Julius Caesar, Cicero, Caligula, Richard Coeur de Lion, Henry VIII, Henry IV, Cromwell, Peter the Great, Frederick the Great, Napoleon, Byron, Goethe, Bismarck, or Lenin. Every one of these important people behaved repeatedly in the very worst of tastes.”                                                                                                                          (Harold Nicolson, in Good Taste and Bad, from Small Talk)


“I affirm in all seriousness that I have never met a first-class linguist who possessed a first-class brain. Conversely I have met several brilliant linguists who possessed no brain at all. As an index of intelligence or of education, proficiency in languages is no more reliable than proficiency at bridge.”                  (Harold Nicolson in On Learning Foreign Languages, from Small Talk)


“It was my first meeting with Harold Nicolson. At that time he was the admiration and the envy of every young man connected with the Foreign Office. Brilliant, self-reliant, clear-headed, he was a glutton for work, and his equanimity, his good temper, and his amazing quickness provided in times of storm a rock behind which even Lord Curzon was not too proud to shelter.”

(from Robert Bruce Lockhart’s Retreat From Glory, p 15)

I have a certain gift for languages and have more or less mastered seven.”                                                                                                   (from Robert Bruce Lockhart’s Retreat From Glory, p 26)


“The Oxford system is designed to create personality based upon-self-reliance. The German system creates state dominance upon a basis of self-distrust.”                                                                                                                        (Harold Nicolson in Percy Flound, from Small Talk)


“’How can you have a country based on race? It’s like South Africa 30 years ago,’ said Nariza Hashim, a voter in Kuala Lumpur who is classified as Malay but who has Chinese, Indian and Scottish as well as Malay ancestors.  Though her grandfather was an early leader of the United Malays National Organization, the Malay component of the coalition, Ms. Nariza said the country’s ethnic classifications baffled her five children. ‘They really don’t understand why you would ask someone’s race on a government form,’ she said.”                                                                                                                         (from report on Malaysian referendum in NYT, April 4)


“It is merely an illustration of the fact that common sense and a shrewd judgment of human nature will take a man farther in English politics than all the brains in the world.”                                                                                       (from Robert Bruce Lockhart’s Retreat From Glory, p 20)


“Intellect and highbrowism are not encouraged, and bankers, like most English people, reserve most of their thinking for their hobbies, Sometimes the hobbies are pictures, or old furniture, or shrubs. More frequently, they are confined to horses and niblicks.”                                                                                                                       (from Robert Bruce Lockhart’s Retreat From Glory, p 166)


“On the way back I stopped our car opposite Runnymede and waved an arm towards the island where Magna Charta was signed. ‘There,’ I said with more sense of the dramatic than of historical accuracy, ‘is where the Mother of Parliaments was born.’ Sonntag, who had been silent throughout the drive, took his cigar from his mouth. ‘She was not a mother,’ he said drily, ‘but a painted old harlot who has led many young men astray.’”                                                                                                                          (from Robert Bruce Lockhart’s Retreat From Glory, p 216)


“Without an international sense of humour there will never be a satisfactory League of Nations.”                                                              (from Robert Bruce Lockhart’s Retreat From Glory, p 238)


‘”Sir Austen is a gentleman’, he [Stresemann] said. ‘I know he means well. But for the past ten years Europe has been suffering from gentleman who mean well.” [April 13, 1939, six months before Stresemann died.]                 (from Robert Bruce Lockhart’s Retreat From Glory, p 340)


“It is much easier to lose our faith than our culture. One is in our mind and heart, the other in our marrow. There is an illusion of meeting when both Gentiles and Jews abandon their faith.”                                                                        (T. S. Eliot in letter to Isaiah Berlin, 9 February, 1952)



“We’re all in this together,” Mr. Obama told the executives, according to people with knowledge of the meeting, who spoke on the condition that they not be identified discussing it.  Government and industry, which battled while forging the law, are now “joined at the hip,” the president said at one point. “We’re going to make it work.”                                                                    (President Obama’s meeting with health care industry executives, from NYT, April 13)

“As the great British spymaster Sir Claude Wade warned on the eve of the 1839 invasion, ‘There is nothing more to be dreaded or guarded against, I think, than the overweening confidence with which we are too often accustomed to regard the excellence of our own institutions, and the anxiety that we display to introduce them in new and untried soils.”’In this early critique of democracy promotion, he concluded, ‘Such interference will always lead to acrimonious disputes, if not to a violent reaction.’”                                                               (William Dalrymple, author of Return of a King: The Battle for Afghanistan, 1839-42, in NYT, April 14)


“Evolutionarily speaking, we are sarcopterygian fish.”                                                                                                                                                          (Dr. Axel Meyer, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Konstanz in Germany, from NYT article on coelacanth DNA, April 18)


Were the Jews not Poles?

“When 1,250 Warsaw high school students were recently asked which group suffered more in the war, Poles or Jews, nearly half, 44 percent, said the two groups had suffered equally; 28 percent answered Jews; and 25 percent said Poles.”                 (from report in NYT, April 19)


“Edelman, who had survived by escaping through the sewers, was the last living commander of the uprising. After the war, in Communist Poland, he became a cardiologist: ‘to outwit God,’ as he once said. In the 1970s and ’80s he re-emerged in the public sphere as an activist in the anti-Communist opposition, working with the Committee for the Defense of Workers and the Solidarity movement. He died in 2009, and to this day, he is celebrated as a hero in Poland.

He is remembered with more ambivalence in Israel. ‘Israel has a problem with Jews like Edelman,’ the Israeli author Etgar Keret told a Polish newspaper in 2009. ‘He didn’t want to live here. And he never said that he fought in the ghetto so that the state of Israel would come into being.’ Not even Moshe Arens, a former Israeli defense minister and an admirer of Edelman, could persuade an Israeli university to grant the uprising hero an honorary degree.”  (Marci Shore on Marek Edelman, a commander of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, in NYT, April 19)


“The Jewish problem is not a racial problem at all but a religious problem.”                                                                                      (T. S. Eliot to Isaiah Berlin in letter of 28 November, 1951)


What about ‘our blood, our DNA’, Tom?

“It is much easier to lose our faith than our culture. One is in our mind and heart, the other in our marrow.”                                              (T. S. Eliot to Isaiah Berlin in letter of 9 February, 1952)


“When propaganda comes in through the door, truth flies through the window, she breaks her neck, and she is seldom, seldom missed.”                                                                               (Richard Tawney, according to Isaiah Berlin in letter to Arthur Schlesinger, 30 May 1953)


“A thing that always surprises one, nobody would quite have thought that this sober, unimaginative and essentially prosy country could rise to such a pitch of national excitement over this dark mystical Byzantine ceremony, which seems in a sense so out of keeping with the reticent, moderate, good taste-seeking undemonstrative British character.”                                                                               (Isaiah Berlin on the Coronation, in a letter to Alice James, 6 May 1953)


“Little service is rendered to the memory of one man of genius by wantonly representing his minor writings as incomparably superior to the major achievements of another.”          (Isaiah Berlin on Eric Hobsbawm, from letter to The New Statesman and Nation, 24 September 1955)


“When historians lose interest in communication, when they refuse a lay audience, they discard history’s social function. For history is to a nation as memory is to the individual. Individuals deprived of memory are disoriented and lost, not knowing where they have been or where they are going. So too a nation, denied a conception of its past, will be disabled in dealing with its future. How ironic, then, when history is denied by historians themselves.”                                                                                     (Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., in A Life in the 20th Century, p 46)


And blacks suppressed?

“For most of American history, the republic had lived free of doubt about the future. Rivers could always be forded, mountains climbed, wilderness domesticated, Indians subdued. The national belief was in the omnipotence of the happy ending.”                                                                                                            (Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., in A Life in the 20th Century, p 142)


The Non-Communist Left’s List of Evils

“Certainly Hollywood has done its share to strengthen capitalism, chauvinism, hedonism, sexism, racism and so on.” (Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., in A Life in the 20th Century, p 155)


“He [A. N. Whitehead] usefully identified what he called the Fallacy of Misplaced Concreteness – that is, the fatal error of mistaking ideology for reality. ‘The intolerant use of abstractions’, he wrote, ‘is the major vice of the intellect.’ It is also the major vice of politics. The Fallacy of Misplaced Concreteness has underlain the horrible sacrifice of humanity to abstractions that has cursed the twentieth century.” (Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., in A Life in the 20th Century, p 175)


“At the older Cambridge G. E. Moore, reporting on Wittgenstein’s Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, had said: ‘This is a work of genius; but it otherwise satisfies the requirements of a Ph. D.’”                                    (Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., in A Life in the 20th Century, p 221)


“Munia Postan, now working in the Ministry of Economic Warfare, told Charles Wintour in October 1939: ‘I meet daily numbers of people each of whom is capable of losing the war singlehanded.’”                       (Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., in A Life in the 20th Century, p 228)


“No man, however strong, can serve ten years as schoolmaster, priest, or Senator, and remain fit for anything else. All the dogmatic stations in life have the effect of fixing a certain stiffness of attitude forever.”                                                                                                                           (Henry Adams, quoted by Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., in A Life in the 20th Century, p 356)


“Too often we suggest that those poor chaps in the past may have thought they were acting for one set of reasons; but we, so much wiser, know that they were acting for quite other reasons. This reductionism denies historical figures the validity of their own judgments and thereby denies them their human dignity. And our arrogance invites future historians to practice the same reductionism on us. The assertion that people in the past did not really know why they were doing what they did leads to the conclusion that we do not really know why we are doing what we do today. When participants explain in urgent words why they lived, fought and bled, is it not hubris for historians to dismiss their testimony?”                                                                                                                     (Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., in A Life in the 20th Century, pp 365-366)


“When I see those who espouse my cause, I begin to wonder about the validity of my position.”

(Joseph A. Schumpeter, quoted by Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., in A Life in the 20th Century, p 516)


“I sometimes wonder whether more harm is done in the world by criminals or by good, moral men who lend themselves to their purposes.”                                                                                                                        (A. L. Rowse, in Appeasement: A Study in Political Decline, 1933-39, p 9)


“ as a Labour candidate I was tied up to the nonsense of socialist economics I never believed in. Too much horse-sense: ‘the nationalization of the means of production, distribution and exchange’. To be sure! Could one see those people running industry, or the banks, or the land, who couldn’t even run a whelk-stall? I remember Oman saying to me once that never in Parliament’s history had there been so many members incapable of earning £600 a year any other way. This just reflection did not put me much in love with the intellectual standards of my party. And I may as well say that, with my belief in incentive, initiative, hard work, and with no illusions about people’s average capacities, or the humbug of the welfare state, I should have had no valid reason for not being a Conservative, if it had not been for the ruinous foreign policy they pursued in the 1930’s.”                                                                                                                                            (A. L. Rowse, in Appeasement: A Study in Political Decline, 1933-39, p 111)


“There was no talk of slavery. Industry was the normal condition of rational beings, and idleness a dangerous sin. That principle ruled throughout the household.”                                                                                (Edmund Knox [‘Evoe’], from Penelope Fitzgerald’s The Knox Brothers, p 18)


“Wilfred believed that Christianity could work with it [socialism] and through it. In 1910, when the unions were restrained from contributing to the party funds, he invited his father to give something to the expenses of George Lansbury, who was standing for Bow and Bromley. The Bishop replied that by socialism he understood the exaltation of ‘society’ at the expense of the individual, both body and soul. Had Wilfred considered this?”                                                                                                                                 (Penelope Fitzgerald’s The Knox Brothers, p 101)


“Ronnie felt something like despair at the English genius for irreligion – the comfortable feeling that there is a good deal of truth in all religions, but not enough to affect practical conduct. This seemed to him the legacy of Protestantism. ‘If you have a sloppy religion you get a sloppy atheism.’ If truth existed, then there must be one truth and one only, handed down in an unbroken line, a truth about which ‘theorising is forbidden and speculation unnecessary’.”                                                                                     (Penelope Fitzgerald’s The Knox Brothers, p 102)


Miracles cannot be probable or improbable. They can only be possible or impossible.”                                                         (Ronnie Knox, from Penelope Fitzgerald’s The Knox Brothers, p 108)


“The trouble was that the students of the Thirties were preoccupied with three subjects, sex, travel, and European politics. Shyness and his [Ronnie’s] own scrupulous purity of mind made him avoid the subject of sex whenever possible. Travel he considered (as all four brothers did) an overrated activity, and would greet returning undergraduates who wishes to boast about the opera at Salzburg or an expedition to Tibet with the question: ‘Let me see; which country are you boring about now?’ Politics he avoided, believing that his business was with the spiritual debate of the twentieth century. Even there, the fashionable language was alien to him. W. H. Auden’s remark that in detective stories only one is guilty, all the others innocent, but that in the Thirties all were guilty, and only the crime was uncertain, seemed to Ronnie nothing but an escape into vagueness.”                                                       (Penelope Fitzgerald’s The Knox Brothers, p 220)


“In 1919, the American secretary of state, Robert Lansing, asked himself, ‘When the President talks of “self-determination” what unit has he in mind? Does he mean a race, a territorial area, or a community?’”                                             (from David Cannadine’s The Undivided Past, p 79)


“For if, in one guise, history has often been the willing and complicit handmaid to the creation of national identities and the celebration of national consciousness, in another, more skeptical guise, it is the implacable enemy of the selective myths, the sanitized memories, and the carefully edited narratives that galvanize collective resolve and sustain national solidarities over time.”                                                                                  (David Cannadine’s The Undivided Past, p 90)


“History is neither pagan nor Christian, it belongs to no nation or class, it is universal; it is human in the widest sense of the term.”                                                                (J. H. Plumb, in The Death of the Past, p 161, quoted by David Cannadine in The Undivided Past, p 263)



“To write about the past no less than to live in the present, we need to see beyond our differences, our sectional interests, our identity politics, and our parochial concerns to embrace the common humanity that has always bound us together, that still binds us together today, and that will continue to bind us together in the future.”                                                                                                                 (final sentence from David Cannadine’s The Undivided Past, p 264)




“Hand in hand with this [Macmillan’s speech about ‘selling the family silver’] – and you can see why so many of his breed were drawn to Oswald Mosley – went Macmillan’s upper-class national socialist view that the best way to run Britain was as a cosy stitch-up between the landed elite and the licensed corporate stuffed shirts supervising the managed decline of the nationalized industries. Up until 1979, Britain was a fascist state where the trains didn’t run on time and the amazing thing was hardly anyone realised it.”      (James Delingpole, in the Spectator, April 20)


“Ensuring a nation’s survival sometimes leaves tragically little room for private morality. Discovering the inapplicability of Judaeo-Christian morality in certain circumstances involving affairs of state can be searing. The rare individuals who have recognized the necessity of violating such morality, acted accordingly, and taken responsibility for their actions are among the most necessary leaders for their countries, even as they have caused great unease among generations of well-meaning intellectuals who, free of the burden of real-world bureaucratic responsibility, make choices in the abstract and treat morality as an inflexible absolute.”

“Realism is about the ultimate moral ambition in foreign policy: the avoidance of war through a favorable balance of power.”                                                                                               (Robert D. Kaplan, in The Statesman: In Defense of Henry Kissinger, from Atlantic Monthly, May 2013)


“There is nothing more harmful or fatal for communism than communist boasting – we’ll manage on our own.”                                                                                                                 (Lenin, in letter to A. P. Serebrovsky, April 2, 1921, from Collected Works, Volume 45, p 113)


“It is said that within three or four months the workers will demand the lifting of free trading. We do not want, they say, to see the bureaucrats eat buns.”                                                               (Lenin, in letter to L. B. Kamenev, April 14, 1921, from Collected Works, Volume 45, p 120)


News from the Western Wall

“But Rabbi Israel Eichler, an ultra-Orthodox member of Parliament, warned that ‘if the state of Israel fights’ the ultra-Orthodox, in Hebrew called Haredim, ‘it may win, but it will be erased from the face of the Earth.’ ‘There were thousands of seminary girls there today,’ he said. ‘Each one of them will have 10 children. That is our victory.’”

“Ruth Halperin-Kaddari, a law professor and director of the Rackman Center for the Advancement of the Status of Women at Bar Ilan University, said: ‘What’s at stake here is the very characteristic of the state of Israel. Are we part of the Western world or are we part of the fundamentalist world?’”                                                            (from report in NYT, May 11)


Needling Picasso

“Picasso was about to leave when Isaiah [Berlin] approached and began telling the story of Lope de Vega’s dying words. The result was disastrous. As Isaiah ploughed on, Picasso’s face darkened with displeasure. Death was a strictly forbidden subject in Picasso’s presence; a story about the death of a famous Spaniard was worse; and worst of all was a story in which a Spanish artist’s dying words were held up to apparent ridicule. Picasso stormed out and the huge Mercedes roared off into the night.”                (from Michael Ignatieff’s Isaiah Berlin: A Life, p 218)

“Then one day I went to lunch with Picasso. A short, jolly man, bald, I liked him a lot. He had a picture of a goat, and there was the real goat wandering about the yard. I said to him, Do you mean to say that you took this beautiful goat and turned it into this monstrosity and can say to me that they look alike? He turned on his heel and walked away.”                                                             (H. S. Truman, as recounted by Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. in Journals 1952-2000, p 56)


“The individual’s knowledge of history is a rubbish tip composed of ill-remembered lessons, television documentaries with half the instalments missed, bodice ripper historical novels, several jokes about Henry VIII.” (Neal Ascherson, quoted in History Today editorial, May 2013)


“There are battalions of good reasons for continuing to study history, but not even those battalions can or should hide the fact that history is one of the most arduous, complex and difficult intellectual enterprises invented by man.”                                                                                                                                          (Geoffrey Elton, quoted in History Today editorial, May 2013)


“[Lord] Allen [of Hurtwood] continued to campaign in favour of appeasement. Negotiations with the dictators must be free of any preconditions, he argued. Good faith was the result not the precondition of talks. ‘Let us neither madden dictators with too rigid emphasis upon law’, he stated, ‘nor woo them with baits and concessions’.”                                                                                                       (from Appeasement and All Souls: A Portrait with Documents, 1937-1939, edited by Sidney Aster, p 89, and taken from Martin Gilbert’s Plough My Own Furrow, p 395)


“There is no doubt that a German is a German and a Magyar is a Magyar, but the Slonzaks, like the Macedonian Slavs, were formerly of indeterminate nationality, and still find themselves hard to classify…”                                                                                                                                     (from Geoffrey Hudson’s Memorandum on Czechoslovakia, 8 June, 1938, in Appeasement and All Souls: A Portrait with Documents, 1937-1939, edited by Sidney Aster, p 200)


“The two most interesting things in the world, as E. M. Cioran has remarked somewhere, are gossip and metaphysics.”                          (Joseph Brodsky, in The Book of Isaiah, p 126)


“We would not ask British Gas how to protect pandas, so why we are consulting WWF about shale beats me.”                                                   (Peter Lilley, in the Spectator, May 11)


Are you awake there, Harold?

“Disquieting despatches and telegrams from Germany were constantly circulated to my colleagues. I though, however, that they should see this specimen and other evidence of what was being said and thought in Berlin. At my request, our Embassy there and the Central Department at the Foreign Office prepared a summary of Hitler’s odious creed in a memorandum of eleven pages, liberally illustrated with revealing extracts from Mein Kampf. At least there should be no pretext that unpleasant realities were not exposed to those with whom responsibility lay.”                                                            (Anthony Eden, in Facing the Dictators, on 1936, p 420)

“I had read Mein Kampf, indispensable to understanding Hitler and the upsurge of irremediable evil he elicited and directed.”                                                                                                                                (A. L. Rowse, in Appeasement: A Study in Political Decline, 1933-1939, p 31)

“It was perhaps unfortunate that so few British politicians had studied Mein Kampf in the unexpurgated edition: the original English translations of that work omitted any passages which might cause offence to British Conservatives. Until March 15th, 1939, the British public remained convinced that Herr Hitler was, in spite of his extremely comic appearance, a ‘bulwark against bolshevism.’ They had not, I repeat, really read Mein Kampf.”                                                                                                                   (Harold Nicolson, in Why Britain Is At War, p 14)

“Finally, the very decency of ordinary men and women in Britain was a handicap. In our insularity, we neither read Hitler’s gospel, Mein Kampf, nor understood the nature of his movement, or the scale of his ambitions.”                                                                                                                                                   (Harold Macmillan, in Winds of Change, on 1938, p 524)


Father and Mother, and Me,

Sister and Auntie say

All the people like us are We,

And every one else is They.

And They live over the sea,

While We live over the way,

But-would you believe it? – They look upon We

As only a sort of They!


We eat pork and beef

With cow-horn-handled knives.

They who gobble Their rice off a leaf,

Are horrified out of Their lives;

While they who live up a tree,

And feast on grubs and clay,

(Isn’t it scandalous? ) look upon We

As a simply disgusting They!


We shoot birds with a gun.

They stick lions with spears.

Their full-dress is un-.

We dress up to Our ears.

They like Their friends for tea.

We like Our friends to stay;

And, after all that, They look upon We

As an utterly ignorant They!


We eat kitcheny food.

We have doors that latch.

They drink milk or blood,

Under an open thatch.

We have Doctors to fee.

They have Wizards to pay.

And (impudent heathen!) They look upon We

As a quite impossible They!


All good people agree,

And all good people say,

All nice people, like Us, are We

And every one else is They:

But if you cross over the sea,

Instead of over the way,

You may end by (think of it!) looking on We

As only a sort of They!                                                           (Rudyard Kipling’s We and They)


“If we place excessive reliance on government steering and policy leverage to stimulate growth, that will be difficult to sustain and could even produce new problems and risks. The market is the creator of social wealth and the wellspring of self-sustaining economic development.”                                                                                  (Mr. Li, Chinese prime minister, quoted in NYT, May 25)


“’”The presumption that the onus is on us to make a moral choice,”’ repeated Puck. He smiled across the table at Jericho, ‘How very Cambridge.’”      (from Robert Harris’s Enigma, p 238)


“Only the self-aware can have charm: It’s bound up with a sensibility that at best approaches wisdom, or at least worldliness, and at worst goes way beyond cynicism.”                                                                                                                     (Benjamin Schwarz in Atlantic Monthly, June)


“Those who become obsessed with a puzzle are not very likely to solve it.”                                                             (Cyril Connolly in U.S. News and World Report, September 25, 1953, p 58, quoted in Verne Newton’s The Cambridge Spies [The Butcher’s Embrace in the UK], p 337)


“Then he questioned their existence as a distinct ethnic group, saying they were ‘southern Syrians”’ or Egyptians until Yasir Arafat, who was leader of the Palestine Liberation Organization, ‘came along with a pitcher of Kool-Aid and gave it to everybody to drink and sold them the idea of Palestinians.’”                         (Sheldon Alderson, quoted in NYT, May 29)


“As it happens, Stalin Empire style, which draws on Art Deco and the clean lines of Mussolini-era Italian design, is enjoying something of a mini-revival in Russia..”                                                                                                                              (Xenia Adjoubei, lecturer in architectural history and theory at the British Higher School of Art and Design, quoted in NYT, May 30)




“I approach my journalism as a litigator. People say things, you assume they are lying, and dig for documents to prove it.”                                                                                             (Glenn Greenwald, who revealed NSA surveillance program in the Guardian, quoted in NYT, June 7)


“Communists, then as now, were generally to be found among the higher intelligentsia.”                                                                                       (Harold Macmillan, in The Winds of Change, p 8)


“The more Russia is made a European rather than an Asiatic power, the better for everybody.” (Balfour, before the Revolution, quoted by Harold Macmillan, in The Winds of Change, p 13)


“The Second War was fought by great generals from their caravans. The First War was conducted by men of lesser quality from their châteaux.”                                                                                                                                      (Harold Macmillan, in The Winds of Change, p 92)


“The great liberator, Bolivar, said that mankind is divided into swordsmen and gownsmen.”                                                                                 (Harold Macmillan, in The Winds of Change, p 100)


“Diaries are notoriously dangerous sources for historians.”                                                                                                                                       (Harold Macmillan, in The Winds of Change, p 124)


“Moreover, by an unlucky chance, the British people found it difficult, when they first heard of him, to take Hitler too seriously, with his Charlie Chaplin moustache and his everlasting raincoat. Naturally, nobody had bothered to read Mein Kampf.”                                                                                                                              (Harold Macmillan, in The Winds of Change, p 347)


Men, especially politicians, are like boys. They often reject those who seek their affections and look up to those who treat them with a certain negligence or even contempt.”                                                                                                        (Harold Macmillan, in The Winds of Change, p 375)


“If he ]Baldwin] ever crossed the Channel, it was only on his annual pilgrimage to Aix-les-Bains, not in itself a notable observation-post from which to scan the changing moods of European countries.”                                     (Harold Macmillan, in The Winds of Change, p 460)


“I remembered Lord Melbourne’s famous saying that he had generally found that nothing that was asserted was ever true, especially if it was ‘on the best possible authority.’”                                                                                              (Harold Macmillan, in The Winds of Change, p 485)


”He [Halifax] is said to have exclaimed, when he heard of the sudden and treacherous attack [by Mussolini on Albania]: ‘And on Good Friday too!’”                                                                                                                                                           (Harold Macmillan, in The Winds of Change, p 539)


“In every aspect of Italian life, one of the key characteristics to get to grips with is that this is a nation at ease with the distance between ideal and real. They are beyond what we call hypocrisy. Quite simply they do not register the contradiction between rhetoric and behavior. It’s an enviable mind-set.”                                         (Tim Parks in Italian Ways, quoted in NYT, June 8)


“It is more arduous to honor the history of the nameless than that of the renowned. Historical reconstruction is devoted to the memory of the nameless.”                                                                                                                              (Walter Benjamin, according to report in NYT, June 17)


“He [Chamberlain] and his adviser, Sir Horace Wilson, stepped into diplomacy with the bright faithfulness of two curates entering a pub for the first time; they did not observe the difference between a social gathering and a rough house; nor did they realize that the tough guys therein assembled did not either speak or understand their language. They imagined that they were as decent and as honourable as themselves.” (Harold Nicolson, from Why Britain Is At War, p 106)


“The Germans and the Russians have always possessed a strange affinity; Russia is one of the few countries which really understands Germany, and perhaps the only country which Germany knows how to handle; and the differences which (however Hitler might scream and rave) existed between the Nazi and the Bolshevik systems were, in fact, no greater than those which separate Woolworths from Marks and Spencer. One of them is painted red.”                                                                                                        (Harold Nicolson, from Why Britain Is At War, p 118)


“The British are by nature peaceful and kindly. They desire nothing on earth except to retain their liberties, to enjoy their pleasures, and to go about their business in a tranquil frame of mind. They have no ambition for honour and glory, and they regard wars, and even victories, as silly, ugly, wasteful things. They are not either warriors or heroes until they are forced to become so; they are sensible and gentle women and men. In common with other branches of the Anglo-Saxon race they are a mixture of realism and idealism.”                                                                                                                           (Harold Nicolson, from Why Britain Is At War, p 128)


“People who have gone through sorrow are more sympathetic than others, not so much because of what they know about sorrow, but because they know more about happiness. They appreciate its value and its fragility, and welcome it wherever it may be. The Puritan attitude which grudges happiness belongs only to those who have never entered very deeply into life.”                                                                                                                         (Freya Stark, from Beyond Euphrates)


“This initiative will on the whole strengthen the trust of citizens in the business community. I am certain the development of the state is possible only under conditions of respect for private property, to the values of economic freedom and the work and success of entrepreneurs.”                                                                                    (President Putin announcing a business amnesty covering 13,000 of the 110,000 people in prison for economic crimes, as reported in NYT, June 22)


“A healthy economy demands that the price of borrowed money be set by the market to correspond with risk, not be distorted by a half-decade’s worth of interventions from a central bank.”                                                    (William D. Cohan, in Op-Ed in NYT, June 22)


“What we’re really trying to do is try to make sure there aren’t castes in our society, and we will try to lift up castes.”                                                                                                            (Professor Kenji Yoshino of New York University on affirmative action, quoted in NYT, June 23)


“It’s a very British way of thinking. The one question all young reporters on Fleet Street are taught to keep foremost in their mind when interviewing public figures can be best paraphrased as, ‘Why is this jerk lying to me?’”                                                (David Carr in NYT, June 24)


“The most important thing is to deepen our roots, because all the rest grows from there. We are here today to deepen our roots.”                                                                                              (Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, at a school in the West Bank, quoted in NYT, June 25)


“Homo sapiens, the species that would eventually form both the American and National Leagues, did not appear until about 200,000 years ago, and did not evolve the intellectual power and wisdom to invent the rules of baseball until the 19th century.”                                                                                                                                                           (James Gorman, in NYT, June 27)




“These towns and the surrounding Huron County countryside, great expanses of Ontario farmland bisected by roads that cross at exact right angles, and dotted by the occasional silo or red-brick farmhouse with the maple leaf flag flying out front, are the world of Ms. Munro’s fiction: a world of small, isolated communities where ambition is frowned on, especially in women; where longings are kept secret; and everyone knows, or thinks he knows, everyone else’s business.”                      (Charles McGrath, in profile of Alice Munro in NYT, July 2)


“The great mistake of the gridlock theorists is to suppose that all progress comes from legislation and that more legislation consistently represents more progress.”                                                                             (Larry Summers, according to Daniel W. Drezner in the Spectator, June 29)


“The guest was Mrs Helen Ogden Mills Reid, a vice-president of the New York Herald Tribune and hostile critic of British rule in India. As they sat on the White House verandah after lunch the topic of Indians came up. ‘Before we proceed any further,’ Churchill said firmly, ‘let us get one thing clear. Are we talking about the brown Indians of India, who have multiplied alarmingly under benevolent British rule? Or are we speaking of the red Indians in America who, I understand, are almost extinct?’ Taken aback, Mrs Reid instantly dropped the topic. As for Roosevelt, he laughed so much that Churchill’s aide, Commander Thompson, thought he might have a seizure.”             (from David Stafford’s Roosevelt and Churchill: Men of Secrets, p 217)


“This is in contrast to a story I heard from a friend who, walking with Samuel Beckett in Paris on a perfect spring morning, said to him, ‘Doesn’t a day like this make you glad to be alive?’ to which Beckett answered, ‘I wouldn’t go as far as that.’”             (Oliver Sacks, in NYT, July 7)


The Myth of ‘Lost Earnings’

“People with serious mental illness earn, on average, $16,000 less than their mentally well counterparts, totaling about $193 billion annually in lost earnings, according to a 2008 study published in The American Journal of Psychiatry. And many mentally ill workers, who are more likely to miss work, also suffer from what social scientists call presenteeism — the opposite of absenteeism — in which they are very likely to be less productive on the job when they show up.”                                                              (Catherine Rampell, in NYT Magazine, July 7)


“When democracy degenerates into socialism a form of dictatorship of the right is better for the nation.”                                                                  (William R. Castle, Jr. former Secretary of State, quoted in FDR and the Jews by Richard Breitman and Allan J. Lichtman, p 173)


“Roosevelt had innate confidence that he could personally solve problems that eluded others. After attending a presidential session on the Middle east, State Department economic adviser Herbert Feis said, ‘I’ve read of men who thought they might be King of the Jews and other men who thought they might be King of the Arabs, but this is the first time I’ve listened to a man who dreamt of being King of both the Jews and the Arabs.”                                                                                                                                 (from Feis’s The Birth of Israel: The Tousled Diplomatic Bed, p 17, quoted in FDR and the Jews by Richard Breitman and Allan J. Lichtman, p 299)


“Her [Barbara Comyn’s] second marriage seems to have put things straight. The delightfully vague-sounding Richard Carr was a senior civil servant who worked in Whitehall.

As I was leaving, she said, ’I expect you’ve heard that my husband was a spy? He worked on Whitehall with Kim Philby. Oh, Kim was a delightful man. So funny. Always here playing cards. Neither of us had a notion! When he disappeared – to Moscow, you know – they sacked my husband. They said that either he must have known and therefore was a traitor, or that he hadn’t spotted it and therefore must have been a fool.’

Perhaps it was after Philby that the Comyn-Carrs went to live in Spain for 18 years?”                    (Jane Gardam on the author of ‘The Vet’s Daughter’, in the Spectator, July 6, 2013)


“But every warlord in the former Yugoslavia reinvents himself as a liberal democrat.”                                                        (Ljiljana Smajlovic, a prominent Serbian commentator, president of the Serbian Journalists’ Association, on Kosovo prime minister Hashim Thaci, in NYT, July 13)


“Each passing year converts some of this experience into automatic routine which we hardly note at all, the days and the weeks smooth themselves out in recollection to contentless units, and the years grow hollow and collapse.”                                                                                                                                       (William James, according to Richard A Friedman in NYT, July 21)


“A great deal of intelligence can be invested in ignorance when the need for illusion is deep.”                                                       (Saul Bellow, according to H. R. McMaster, in NYT, July 21)


“Professor Shiller asks: ‘In today’s world, is it wise for the government to subsidize homeownership?’ Two prominent Americans of vastly different political views apparently have an answer for him.

The first said: ‘A nation of homeowners, of people who own a real share in their own land, is unconquerable.’

The second said that ‘an ownership society’ is being created in our country, ‘where more Americans than ever will be able to open up their door where they live and say, “Welcome to my house, welcome to my piece of property.”’

Who are these two Americans? The first was Franklin D. Roosevelt, and the second was George W. Bush.”                                                        (from letter in NYT by Richard S. Colman, July 21)


“The relationship of groups of men to plots of land, of organised communities to unities of territory, form the basic content of political history. … to every man, as to Brutus, the native land is his life-giving Mother, and the State raised upon the land his law-giving father. … In land alone can there be real patrimony, and he who as freeman holds a share in his native land – the freeholder – is, and must be, a citizen.”                                               (Louis Namier, in his Introduction to Jews in the Modern World, quoted by Arie M. Dubnow in Isaiah Berlin, p 94)


“Democracies are not compatible with the notion of chief clergy. It is legally offensive because it imposes their authority over the majority of Israelis who do not heed to their authority other than having it pushed down their throats.”                                                                                                                                              (Uri Regev, a Reform rabbi who runs Hiddush, quoted in NYT, July 22)


“It will be interesting to see how the leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints deal with the apparent coming to light of facts to cast doubt on the validity of its founding narrative.

Might I suggest that they use the tactic used by many modern Jews dealing with biblical narratives that defy credulity, from a six-day story of creation to Jonah living inside a large fish. We distinguish between left-brain narratives (meant to convey factual truth) and right-brain narratives (meant to make a point through a story; the message will be true even if the story isn’t factually defensible).”                (letter in NYT from (Rabbi) Harold Kushner, July 27)


“He described Communism as ‘just a simplified version of the religious principles shared by practically all the world’s traditional religions’ and said that today’s turn to religion was ‘a spontaneous movement from the people themselves to turn back to their roots’ in response to the ideological vacuum after the Soviet Union’s collapse in 1991.”                                                                                                                                                             (President Putin, from NYT, July 28)




“We’ve all sinned. If all those who have done wrong should be put away in jail, there would be no one left in the country to guard the prisoners.”                                                         (a policeman in Leningrad, in 1964, to Isaac Don Levine, from I Rediscover Russia, 1924-1964, p 18)


“The Cambridge spies were not satisfied with marching in demos and proselytising. They wanted action. Among the generation before theirs at Cambridge there had been a number of outstanding scientists who were intrigued by the prospect of power and thought communism gave them their best chance to control and influence their fellow men. Gowland Hopkins wanted a body of scientists to soft scientific papers that gave clues to the solution of social problems; Ritchie Calder wanted the House of Lords replaced by a senate of scientists; Frederick Soddy wanted scientists to replace politicians; Julian Huxley wanted a central planning council to replace Parliament; Joseph Needham and C. H. Waddington predicted the next stage of evolution would be the collectivist state. Most influential of all was ‘Sage’ Bernal who declared that scientists must become the rulers of the world: but for that to happen a communist revolution was necessary. Nothing in Orwell’s imagination matched the horror of Bernal’s utopia. It was Bertrand Russell who said that the intellectuals of the Left became besotted by the idea of power and for that reason admired Soviet Russia where it was so conspicuously wielded.”                                                                  (from Noel Anna’s Forward to Robert Cecil’s A Divided Self)


“In my experience, aspirants quite often make more convincing versions of what they aspire to be than the originals they copy – for instance, Isaiah Berlin as a don, Evelyn Waugh as a country gentleman, Orwell as a proletarian and Camrose as a lord. For one thing, they take more trouble over their costumes and getting word perfect.”                                                            (Malcolm Muggeridge, Chronicles of Wasted Time, Number 2, The Infernal Grove, p 261)


“The range of the yeomanry’s opponents was wide. It included corn rioters, women bread rioters, Tyne keelmen, fenmen, striking Hertfordshire bargees, election disturbers, theatre crowds, coastal wreck looters, smugglers, potential incendiaries at government gunpowder mills, Luddites, those asserting woodland customs in the Forest of Dean and the New Forest, Irish rebels, turnpike protestors, textile workers in Cheshire and elsewhere, Bonfire Night revellers, Severn boat towers, colliers everywhere, militia ballot objectors, as well as mutinous local militiamen, riotous seamen, agricultural labourers and political radicals. The list continued into the 1830s with trade unionists, Captain Swing supporters, Welsh ironpuddlers, utopian socialists, the Tolpuddle Martyrs, resisters against the New Poor Law in Norfolk and Buckinghamshire Welsh Rebecca rioters, Chartists and cottagers protesting against enclosure of common land in Oxfordshire, where the yeomanry acted as escorts to the surveyors.”            (Nick Mansfield, from The Yeomanry: Britain’s 19th Century Paramilitaries, in History Today, August 2013)


“I’ve got a bunch of people who say I’m a genius.  That don’t make me a genius. But you’ve got to be pretty smart to get all them people to say that on cue.”                                                      (Jack Clement, producer and country song-writer, from his NYT obituary, August 9)


“To have said to him, ‘But you are not England. You and what you represent are only a tiny fraction of England and an archaic one at that, preserved not by deeds or virtue but by money most of which you do not yourself earn’ – to have said that would have been to attacked not a fancy but a rooted belief. He might have answered, ‘All right, so it is preserved by money: money in the hands of the right people, of people like us. What further argument do you need for the existence of such people and such money?’ He and his like have been smug all their lives, and smugness breeds smugness – but smugness is too small a world for what it feels like from inside. From inside, it feels like moral and aesthetic rightness; from inside, it is people like me, who question it, who look stupid, ugly, and pitiful – and ungrateful, too. Why admit that the grammar-school boy, the self-made businessman, the artist, the foreigner or whatever are just as likely to be ‘the best’ as we are, when such an admission must attack certainty, the cosiest of all the gifts bestowed by privilege? Is it not only ingratitude, it is treachery.”                                                                                                   (Diana Athill, on her uncle, in Instead of a Letter, p 19)


“I went up to Oxford in 1936 and I did not join the Communist Party while I was there. I cannot claim that this was because of intelligent criticism of Marxist principles, nor that I had an instinctive prescience greater than many of my more serious contemporaries; it was simply that I was lazy.”                                                             (Diana Athill, in Instead of a Letter, p 103)


“And both with that man and with my second married lover, I flattered myself that I was unselfish and fair-minded in not wanting to force them into leaving their wives: indeed, their affection for their wives, underlying their readiness to enjoy themselves with me, was something which I esteemed. I felt with both of them that they would have not been the kind of man I could have loved so much if they had been prepared to wreck long-standing marriages for my sake, and estimable though this attitude may be on the face of it, there now seems to be something fishy about it.”                                                                        (Diana Athill, in Instead of a Letter, p 145)


“Marx rose above German philosophy, French socialism, and English political economy; he absorbed what was best in each of these trends and transcended the limitations of each.

To come nearer to our own time, there was Rosa Luxemburg, Trotsky, and Freud, each of whom was formed amid historic cross-currents. Rosa Luxemburg id a unique blend of the German, Polish and Russian characters and of the Jewish temperament; Trotsky was the pupil of a Lutheran Russo-German gymnasium in cosmopolitan Odessa on the fringe of the Greek-Orthodox Empire of the Tsars; and Freud’s mind matured in Vienna in estrangement from Jewry and in opposition to the Catholic clericalism of the Habsburg capital. All of them had this in common, that the very conditions in which they lived and worked did not allow them to reconcile themselves to ideas which were nationally or religiously limited and induced them to strive for a universal Weltanschauung.”                     (Isaac Deutscher in The Non-Jewish Jew)


“Decaying capitalism has overstayed its day and has morally dragged down mankind; and we, the Jews, have paid for it and may yet have to pay for it.”                                                                                                                                                            (Isaac Deutscher in The Non-Jewish Jew)


“The world has compelled the Jew to embrace the nation-state and to make of it his pride and hope just at a time when there is little or no hope left in it. You cannot blame the Jews for this; you must blame the world.”

“I hope, therefore, that, together with other nations, the Jews will ultimately become aware – or regain the awareness – of the inadequacy of the nation-state and that they will find their way back to the moral and political heritage that the genius of the Jews who have gone beyond Jewry has left us – the message of universal human emancipation.”                                                                                                                        (Isaac Deutscher in The Non-Jewish Jew)


“In this period of the history of the world is not Jewish consciousness a reflex, in the main, of anti-semitic pressures? I suppose that if anti-semitism had not proved so terribly deep-rooted, persistent, and powerful in Christian-European civilization, the Jews would not have existed by now as a distinct community – they would have become completely assimilated.”                                                                                                                                 (Isaac Deutscher, in Who Is a Jew?)


“Are we now going to accept the idea that ir is racial ties or ‘bonds of blood’ that make up the Jewish community? Would that not be another triumph for Hitler and his degenerate philosophy?

If it is not race, what then makes a Jew?

Religion? I am an atheist. Jewish nationalism? I am an internationalist. In neither sense am I, therefore, a Jew. I am, however, a Jew by force of my unconditional solidarity with the persecuted had exterminated. I am a Jew because I feel the Jewish tragedy as my own tragedy; because I feel the pulse of Jewish history; because I should like to do all I can to assure the real, not spurious, security and self-respect of the Jews.”               (Isaac Deutscher, in Who Is a Jew?)


“As long as nation-state imposes its supremacy and as long as we have not an international society in existence, as long as the wealth of every nation is in the hands of one national capitalist oligarchy, we shall have chauvinism, racialism, and, as its culmination, anti-semitism.”                                                                                                      (Isaac Deutscher, in Who Is a Jew?)


“Egyptians today are being given a choice between a military that seems to want to take Egypt back to 1952, when the army first seized power — and kept those Muslim Brothers in their place — and the Muslim Brothers, who want to go back to 622, to the birth of Islam and to a narrow, anti-pluralistic, anti-women, Shariah-dominated society — as if that is the answer to Egypt’s ills.”                                                                                              (Tom Friedman in NYT, August 21)


“Counting on monetary policy to secure full employment is like attempting vascular surgery with a dull ax.”                                                                                (Amar Bhidé, in NYT, August 21)


“One inherited kind of sneezing, photic sneezing, occurs upon sudden exposure to bright light. It has been given a catchy acronym, Achoo syndrome, derived from a longer term, autosomal dominant compelling helio-ophthalmic outburst.”                                     (from NYT, August 27)


“There is no more angry snob – for he [Blunt] was a snob par excellence – than one who has been snubbed, as he had been, by his socially superior relatives.”                                                                                                                                             (John Cairncross, in The Enigma Spy, p 45)


“I am no expert in this field, but I do not think that I am going astray when I contend that he [Graham Greene] was far closer to sainthood, with all his erratic traits, than the austere but cardboard figures which are still served up as the genuine article.”                                                                                                                                        (John Cairncross, in The Enigma Spy, p 121)


“Only a stupendous lie can be effective – so Hitler later taught his pupils. Molotov knew it before Hitler. His detailed statement on Soviet labor camps was based on an assertion that belongs on the gravestone of the present Foreign Minister of the Soviet Union: ‘Many an unemployed worker of the capitalist countries will envy the living and working conditioners of the prisoners in our northern regions.’”                                                                                                                                    (from Dallin and Nicolaevsky’s Forced Labor in Soviet Russia, p 223)


“The ultimate distinguishing mark of the Jew . . . is not his race, language or culture, but his religion. It officially defines him as a Jew from the moment of his birth, it is the original source of his social and cultural peculiarities and of his self-awareness as a Jew.”                                                                                                                      (from Arthur Koestler’s Judah at the Crossroads)


“Christians celebrate mystical or mythological events: the birth and resurrection of the Son of God, the assumption of the Virgin; Jews commemorate landmarks in national history; the Maccabean revolt, the exodus from Egypt, the death of the oppressor Haman, the destruction of the Temple. The Old Testament is first and foremost the history book of a nation: every prayer and ritual observance strengthens a Jew’s consciousness of his national identity.”                                                                                                 (from Arthur Koestler’s Judah at the Crossroads)


“The fact that they are unaware, or only half-aware of the secular implications of their creed, and that the majority indignantly reject ‘racial discrimination’ if it comes from the other camp, makes the Jewish tradition only more paradoxical and self-contradictory.”                                                                                                              (from Arthur Koestler’s Judah at the Crossroads)


“The Jew’s religion sets him apart and invites his being set apart. The archaic, trivial element in it engenders anti-semitism on the same archaic level. No amount of enlightenment and tolerance, of indignant protests and pious exhortations, can break this vicious circle.”                                                                                                    (from Arthur Koestler’s Judah at the Crossroads)


“Take away the ‘Chosen Race’ idea, the genealogical claim of descent form one of the twelve tribes, the focal interest in Palestine as the locus of a glorious past, and the memories of national history perpetuated in religious festivals; take away the promise of a return to the Holy land – and all that remained would be a set of archaic dietary prescriptions and tribal laws.”                                                                                                 (from Arthur Koestler’s Judah at the Crossroads)


“In other words: Do I want to emigrate to Israel? And if not, what right have I to go calling myself a Jew and thereby inflicting on my children the stigma of otherliness? Unless one shares the Nazis’ racial theories, one has to admit there is no such thing as a pure Jewish race.”                                                                                       (from Arthur Koestler’s Judah at the Crossroads)


“I reject as wholly indefensible the vague Jewish sentiment: ‘We must go on being persecuted in order to produce geniuses.”                                (from Arthur Koestler’s Judah at the Crossroads)

“Insofar as religion is concerned, I consider the Ten Commandments and the Sermon on the Mount as inseparable as the root and flower. Insofar as race is concerned, I have no idea and take no interest in the question how many Hebrews, Babylonians, Roman legionaries, Christian crusaders, and Hungarian nomads were among my ancestors.”                                                                                                                                     (from Arthur Koestler’s Judah at the Crossroads)


“I regard myself first as a member of the European community, secondly as a naturalised British citizen of uncertain and mixed racial origin, who accepts the ethical values and rejects the dogmas of our Heleno-Judæo-Christian tradition. Into what pigeon-hole others put me is their affair.”                                                                      (from Arthur Koestler’s Judah at the Crossroads)


“Racial anthropology is a controversial and muddy field, but there is a kind of minimum agreement among anthropologists on at least two points: (a) that the Biblical tribe belonged to the Mediterranean branch of the Caucasian race, and (b) that the motley mass of individuals spread all over the world and designated as ‘Jews’ are from the racial point of view an extremely mixed group who have only a remote connection, and in many cases no connection at all, with that tribe.”                                                      (from Arthur Koestler’s Judah at the Crossroads)


“The imputation of ‘split loyalties’ is an old anti-semitic argument. The existence of the State of Israel and of the international Zionist organization lends this imputation a measure of reality fraught with danger. I do not mean danger to England or America, but to the Jews themselves, Israel is no longer a mystic promise, but an independent state with an independent policy, and any political allegiance to a foreign country is bound to arouse suspicion in times of international crisis.”                                                              (from Arthur Koestler’s Judah at the Crossroads)


“It also seems to me, as I said before, that people have an inalienable right to mess up their own lives, but no right to mess up the lives of their children, just because being a Jew is such a cosy mess. The pressure of totalitarian forces from outside and inside our Western civilization has led to a tendency among liberals like Mr. Berlin to call any attitude of non-complacency ‘totalitarian’.”                                                   (from Arthur Koestler’s Judah at the Crossroads)


“If my saying that we must decide whether we belong to the Chosen Race or to the nations whose citizen we are, if the revolutionary discovery that we can’t eat our cake and have it, are figments of a totalitarian mind, then I must confess to a totalitarian mind. If ‘out of the crooked timber of humanity no straight thing was ever made’, I still think it more honourable to try to straighten the timber than to make it more crooked for sweet crookedness’s sake. Or shall we rather fall back on the ancient adage:

When in danger or in doubt

Turn in circles, scream or shout?”      (from Arthur Koestler’s Judah at the Crossroads)


“We live here in critical times ourselves, when this idea of poetry as an art is in danger of being overshadowed by a quest for poetry as a diagram of political attitudes. Some commentators have all the fussy literalism of an official from the ministry of truth.”                            (Seamus Heaney, in his 1974 essay on Osip Mandelstam, quoted in his NYT obituary, August 31)


“I understand that this is a meeting of writers to organise resistance to Fascism. I have only one thing to say to you: do not organize. Organisation is the death of art. Only personal independence matters. In 1789, 1948, 1917 writers were not organized for or against anything. Do not, I implore you, do not organize.”                                                                                                                                              (Leonid Pasternak, at the Anti-Fascist Congress in Paris in 1935, quoted by Isaiah Berlin in Conversations with Akhmatova and Pasternak, from The Soviet Mind, p 57)




“There is yet a second consequence of the system which is worthy of remark, namely that most of the standard vices so monotonously attributed by Marxists to capitalism are to be found in their purest form only in the Soviet Union itself. We are familiar with such stock Marxist phrases as capitalist exploitation, the iron law of wages, the transformation of human beings into mere commodities, the skimming off of surplus value by those who control the means of production, the dependence of the ideological superstructure on the economic base, and other Communist Phrases. But where do these concepts best apply?”                                                                                                               (Isaiah Berlin, in Soviet Russian Culture, from The Soviet Mind, p 150)


“’Obama will strike for the people,’ said Abdelkader, a municipal employee from Raqqa who supports the government. ‘The regime also is fighting for the people, and the opposition is fighting for the people. And the people are damned.’”                                                                                                                         (from report on Syrian refugees in NYT, September 7)


“To assume that once the stumbling-block of Zionism was removed, Arab xenophobia would cease, was a miscalculation as naïve as the belief that once the stumbling-block of the Sudetens was removed the Nazis would become peaceful citizens of Europe. A century of British and French experience in Egypt, Syria and other Arab countries was convincing proof that even if half  a million Jews in Palestine were made to vanish from the face of the earth, anti-European agitation would at once find another peg.” (Arthur Koestler, in Promise and Fulfilment, p 80)


“Unlike in detective stories and in the diabolic interpretation of history, the safest guess for the solution of a political puzzle is always the most trivial one. Most of the episodes in English history which puzzled the world from Queen Elizabeth’s day to British policy between the two World Wars can be reduced to a homely mixture of inertia, departmental muddle and bureaucratic routine. His Majesty’s Governments and Ambassadors have at all times played the part of Wilde’s Sphinx without a Secret.” (Arthur Koestler, in Promise and Fulfilment, p 118)


“But the puritan British mind always feels sinfully flattered when, instead of inconsistency and muddle, cynical ruthlessness and Machiavellian cunning are imputed to it. It is precisely this lack of ruthlessness and imagination which makes the British politician behave in such a way that, if he cannot be taken for a philanthropist he should at least be taken for a Grey Eminence. The secret of the sphinx, made impenetrable by conscious cant and unconscious mannerisms, is its mediocrity. Mr. Chamberlain was not a machiavellian but a businessman from Birmingham. Mr. Bevin is not a machiavellian but a trade union boss who regards the world as a slightly enlarged Transport House. They are not Renaissance princes, but somewhat flat-footed pseudo-machiavellian burghers.”                               (Arthur Koestler, in Promise and Fulfilment, p 122)


“The fact is that the alignment in the Arab-Jewish issue was determined primarily by irrational motives, and cut across the two camps. If a person is emotionally for the Arab and against the Jew, he will rationalize his attitude with equal ease whether he is pro-Soviet or anti-Soviet. If he is anti-Soviet, he will explain that the Jews cannot be trusted because they are Bolsheviks. If he is pro-Soviet, he will explain that the Zionists cannot be trusted because they are Jewish Fascists. In both cases the rationalization of the bias will be entirely sincere.”                                                                                                                    (Arthur Koestler, in Promise and Fulfilment, p 125)


“… we must keep two conditions in mind. One is the seldom recognized difference between public opinion and popular sentiment. Briefly put: that which is public is not necessarily popular, and opinion is not necessarily the same thing as sentiment.”                                                                                                                (John Lukacs, in Five Days in London: May 1940, p 29)


“Any historian worth his salt knows how to eschew monocausal explanations of human events – that is, the attribution of a single motive to any given decision.”                                                                                                                        (John Lukacs, in Five Days in London: May 1940, p 40)


“He [Halifax] was a very British type, in the sense that he know [sic] how to adjust his mind to circumstances rather than attempt to adjust the circumstances to his ideas. This does not mean he was a hypocrite or an opportunist – except in the habitual Anglo-Saxon way, which si not really Machiavellian since the innate practice of that kind of English hypocrisy often serves purposes that are higher than individual prestige or profit.”                                                                                                                                     (John Lukacs, in Five Days in London: May 1940, p 124)


“Next day [June 17, 1940] he [Pownall, in Chief of Staff pp 368-69] wrote: ’As nations we have got fat and lazy. We possessed great Empires, earned for us by the sweat and blood of our ancestors, that we would not take sufficient care to defend. Hitler has at least inspired the spirit of self-sacrifice in his nation – with us there is no such spirit of service . . . . Democracies are inefficient, in war and in preparation for war, compared to autocracies; add to this the sapping of morale which democracy brings with its pandering to the public and its competition for votes.””                                                                     (John Lukacs, in Five Days in London: May 1940, p 208)


“Temperament is the largely inborn set of behaviors that are the style with which a person functions, not to be confused with their motivation or their developmental status and abilities.”                                                                                                            (Dr. William B. Carey, a clinical professor of pediatrics at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, quoted in NYT, September 17)


“The people of my grandparents’ and parents’ generations were great haters, and the hatred was concentrated most intensely within the family. Official Christians, and most Conservatives, speak of the family as the essential basic unit of society and the foundation of happiness. From, naturally, my own experience alone (but it cannot be entirely atypical?) I would describe the family as, for the most part, an institution destructive of true affection, a nexus of possessiveness, vindictiveness and jealousy. To the strains of family life may perhaps be attributed many of the large numbers of breakdowns whose victims crowd the mental wards and psychiatrists’ consulting-rooms of the West, at any rate in our northern Protestant culture; while, for most of the young people whose problems I know, and have known during twenty-eight years as a Member of Parliament, happiness consists in getting away from parents an ‘in-laws’, with only brief and occasional visits to the old home.”                       (Tom Driberg, in Ruling Passions, p 29)


“One of the characteristics of this movement [the Oxford Group, aka Moral Re-Armament] is its hypersensitive vindictiveness against anybody who has uttered a word of criticism of it, however mild, or has mentioned such inconvenient facts as the interview in the New York World-Telegram on August 26th, 1936, in which Buchman, who had just been visiting Nazi Germany, said : ‘I thank heaven for a man like Adolf Hitler, who built a front line of defence against the anti-Christ of Communism.’”                             (Tom Driberg, in Ruling Passions, p 99)


“In August, 1938, almost on the eve of Munich, I went to Prague and Sudetenland and watched the failure of the Runciman mission. Lord Runciman, a dim little man who looked ‘like Stan Laurel just after he’s been sacked’, entertained the Czech prime Minister, Hodza, to a long and boring dinner at the Alcron Hotel.”                            (Tom Driberg, in Ruling Passions, p 118)


“They [a Jewish family living in Queen’s] told me that Maxim Gorki had once visited Coney Island and said that the Americans must be a very unhappy people if they had to have such a place to keep them happy.”                                      (Tom Driberg, in Ruling Passions, p 121)


“The best aphorism on style that I know is by George Sampson, the Cambridge scholar: ‘Style is the feather in the arrow, not the feather in the cap.’” (Tom Driberg, in Ruling Passions, p 121)


“… as Nye Bevan used to say when he came into the smoking-room after a wearisome Cabinet meeting, ‘We’ll never get anywhere till we get rid of this fellow Attlee’.”                                                                                                                             (Tom Driberg, in Ruling Passions, p 216)




“I am half Polish, half German and wholly Jewish.”                                      (Marcel Reich-Ranicki, answering a question from Günter Grass, from his NYT obituary, September 19)


“At 13 he made the first of many appearances in the correspondence columns of The Times, when his father wrote quoting the boy’s account of a night air raid he had witnessed at his school. ‘There was a terrific row. A.A. guns blazed away; a few eggs came earthward and the place shook and the windows rattled. Altogether a good show.” There, already, are the composure and gift of wry observation that would stand the future diplomat in good stead in some of the world’s
more awkward spots.” (from Times obituary of Richard Fyjis-Walker, September 24)

“Even after the Nazis had taken power in 1933 he sided instinctively with those Jews who believed that anti-Semitism would be directed only at immigrants from the East, not at assimilated Germans.”
“Most authors understand no more about literature than birds do about ornithology.”                                                         (from Times obituary of Marcel Reich-Ranicki, September 24)


“One day I asked him a question [Keynes] about the British economy and his answer turned out in due course to be wrong. ‘Why’, I asked Maynard, ‘did you tell me ten days ago that we would not go off the gold standard when in fact we now have?’ His answer was characteristic and an example to all, whether savants, politicians, civil servants or ordinary folk. ‘Victor,’ he said. ‘I made a mistake.’” [cf. John Cleese?]                                                                                                                                                   (from Viscount Rothschild’s Meditations of a Broomstick, p 19)


“To this day and in spite of Rab, the kindest and wittiest of friends, I have not conquered my fear of the high table at Trinity.” (from Viscount Rothschild’s Meditations of a Broomstick, p 23)


“I should like to say that I have never been a supporter of Zionism, or what is called political Zionism; nor have I been connected officially or unofficially with any Zionist organization.”                                         (from Viscount Rothschild’s Meditations of a Broomstick, pp 33-34)


“A policy, in my experience, usually consists of what is left, if anything is left, of a plan, after the politicians have worked it over.”                                                                                                                                                          (from Viscount Rothschild’s Meditations of a Broomstick, p 166)


“In this connection I once asked a very distinguished Civil Servant what the difference was between Conservative and Labour Cabinet Ministers. He replied ‘Conservative Cabinet Ministers grunt, and Labour Cabinet Ministers give us out of date lectures on economics.’”                                                           (from Viscount Rothschild’s Meditations of a Broomstick, p 167)


“Nor ought one exclusively to rely on the Civil Service Department’s famous ‘List of the Great and the Good’, all of whose members, if I may be allowed for a moment in my propensity to exaggerate, are aged fifty-three, live in the South-East, have the right accent and belong to the Reform Club.”                         (from Viscount Rothschild’s Meditations of a Broomstick, p 170)


“..many of the greatest crimes and greatest failures of history have been due to the attempt to realize the highest human ideals through political authority.”                                                                                                                              (Lord Eustace Percy, in 1935, from his DNB entry)


“She has no heart, but her brain is in the right place.”                                    (Shaw Stewart on Diana Cooper, as reported by Isaiah Berlin on October 11, 1960, from Burdon-Muller papers)


“There is nothing so terrible as a truly enraged academic – no quarter given and implacable, life-long war and hatred.”                       (Isaiah Berlin, on June 11, 1973, from Burdon-Muller papers)


“He [E. H. Carr] sends me cricketing riddles which I, a Latvian Jew, don’t fully understand. He asks me whether the historian should pay more attention to the batsman who scored a century or the fielder who muffed the catch which would have dismissed him.”                                                                                       (Isaiah Berlin, quoted by David Caute in Isaac & Isaiah, p 4)

“Running a team of double agents is very like running a club cricket side. Older players lose their form and are gradually replaced by new comers. Well-established veterans unaccountably fail to make runs, whereas youngsters whose style at first appears crude and untutored make large scores. If in the double-cross world Garbo was the Bradman of the later years, then Snow was the W. G. Grace of the early period.”   (J. C. Masterman in The Double-Cross System)


“To be a Marxist is a legitimate stance for an academic.”                                                                                                                  (Isaiah Berlin, quoted by David Caute in Isaac & Isaiah, p 4)


“’The annalist is content to say that one thing followed another; what distinguishes the historian is that one thing led to another.’ [E. H.] Carr insisted that the proper task of the historian – as distinct from the theologian or the moral philosopher – ‘is not to judge but explain.’”                                                                                       (from David Caute’s Isaac & Isaiah, p 66)


“How intelligent you must be to understand all you write.”                                                                                                  (Lewis Namier to Isaiah Berlin, from David Caute’s Isaac & Isaiah, p 66)


“Indeed, if we glance at the history of virtually every available political system, we may be struck by how rapidly ‘conscience’ is awakened in men who have recently lost power.”                                                                                                     (from David Caute’s Isaac & Isaiah, p 66)


“… and of course I do not think that personal opinions, especially left-wing ones, should be any barrier to academic appointments by your or any university in England at the present moment.”                                                (IB’s letter to Vice-Chancellor Fulton of Sussex University, 4 March 1963, recommending Deutscher not be hired, quoted in David Caute’s Isaac & Isaiah, p 279)


“On another day we received a supply of boots which were badly needed as many of the Partisan troops were reduced to peasant slippers or were barefoot after the long marches over rough country. But this load consisted entirely of boots for the left feet.”                                                                                                                  (From F. W. D. Deakin’s The Embattled Mountain, p 81)


“Raj Chetty’s argument that, despite the differences between the Nobel winners Robert J. Shiller and Eugene F. Fama, economics is nonetheless a science just like medicine will be vindicated when the Nobel Prize in Medicine is given to two doctors, one of whom accurately predicts the occurrence of heart attacks and the other who declares that heart attacks don’t exist.”                                                                        (letter from Professor Paul Duguid, published in NYT, October 28)


Diana Trilling confuses the British, the English, and simply melodramatic and self-absorbed people from anywhere …

“Long ago, H. G. Wells had mocked the idea of national traits, dismissing them as governess talk, the unexamined formulations of the nursery, but how, other than as tokens of national character, was one to explain the reiterated appearance of patterns of speech and conduct so distinct from our own, the prevailing taste, for instance, for self-dramatization which seemed to impel the British, even in their most commonplace occupations, choosing, say, a tomato at the greengrocer’s or cashing a check at the local bank, to wring the last bit of theater form these prosaic routines or, at another and more troubling extreme of social habit, the readiness of the English to forget their still recent war and forgive the enemy, as if the contest had indeed been only a game and their bombed-out city its playing field?”                                                                                                            (Diana Trilling, in Introduction to Jenny Rees’s Looking for Mr. Nobody)


Leslie Rowse gets into an ideological tangle, forgetting where those All Souls revenues came from …

“‘When he came into College, handsome and seductive, a playboy, everybody fell for him. I was sympathetic as a fellow-Leftist, though mistaken in thinking him a fellow-proletarian; we were both Celts, for he was Welsh, but middle-class. Faber noted how very different we were, but all his affection was for Goronwy . . .’.  Rowse ‘couldn’t fancy Goronwy, impecunious yet extravagant, looking after the College finances’.”                                                                                   (from All Souls in My Time, quoted by Jenny Rees in Looking for Mr. Nobody, p 156)


Lord Annan famously fails to distinguish between totalitarian control of the media and a free press supported by the laws of libel…

“It is odd that Mr Rees, who is a columnist and member of the advisory board of Encounter, fails to recognize that what distinguishes British democracy from a communist society is precisely this unwillingness to pillory individuals and sacrifice them to the dubious value of making the state that bit more ‘secure’. He still seems unable to grasp why, at a time when Senator McCarthy’s exploits had scarcely passed into history, his friends disapproved of his articles in The People for making reckless innuendoes and calling for a witch-hunt . . .”                                                                                         (from review of Goronwy Rees’s A Chapter of Accidents in the Times Literary Supplement, quoted by Jenny Rees in Looking for Mr. Nobody, p 241)


“Justin R. Garcia, an evolutionary biologist at the Kinsey Institute at Indiana University and a scientific adviser to, who was not involved in this research, noted that kissing was so closely associated with emotional connection that sex workers often refuse to kiss their customers, insisting that it is ‘too intimate.’”                                    (from NYT, October 29)


“’In your travels to Eastern bloc countries, have you been intimate with women of those countries?’

‘I’ve been to bed with some. I haven’t been intimate.’”                                                                                                                    (Niki Landau to Ned, in John le Carré’s The Russia House, p 50)




“No doubt its government was, in a rigorous way, a dictatorship . . . No doubt, again, its subjects paid a heavy price for the ultimate achievement to which they looked forward. Yet, whatever its defects and errors, the mood of the Russian experiment was one of exhilaration.”                                                                                    (Harold Laski, in The Position and Prospects of Communism)


“Communism is winning the contest with capitalism for the allegiance of the masses ‘because, alone among the welter of competing gospels, it has known how to win sacrifice from its devotees in the name of a great ideal. It offers the prospect . . . of losing one’s life in order to find it. There is poverty, there is intellectual error, there is grave moral wrong; but there is also unlimited hope.”                                                         (Harold Laski, in Marxism After Fifty Years)


“When the last word has been said against Russian bureaucracy, against the hindrances to the political self-expression we know in Britain and the United States, against the scale upon which its terror has been conducted, against the ugly Byzantinism of its party infallibility, the solemn truth remains that in the Soviet Union, since the October Revolution, more men and women have had more opportunity of self-fulfilment than anywhere else in the world.”                                                                                                            (Harold Laski in Freedom, Reason and Civilisation, p 57)


“The Soviet Union is a dictatorship. It is a hard regime. It has made vast mistakes and blunders that are difficult to distinguish from crime. But whatever the temporary deformation, its zeal for science, its enthusiasm for education, the great avenues of opportunity it has opened to its own people, the elevation of its subject nationalities, the new status it has given to women, the suppression of anti-Semitism, the absence of a color bar – all these aspects seem to me proof that within the framework of the dictatorship there lies the purpose of building in Russia a democratic way of life. The stumbling-block is its leaders’ sense of total insecurity on the international plane.”                                                                   (Harold Laski, in Getting On With Russia)


‘In order to criticize a gloves-off philosophy like that of Marx, you must be at least enough of a gloves-off philosopher to think gloves-off philosophizing legitimate.”                                                                                                               (from R. G. Collingwood’s Autobiography, p 153)


“It is not fit that the future of Zion should be in the hands of a drunken ex-engine driver.”                                                (Blanche Dugdale on J. H. Thomas, in letter to Lord Cecil, February 17, 1936)


“Those who do settle in Palestine are likely to be of real political and commercial service to the Empire, for Palestine is the Clapham Junction of the Commonwealth.”                                                                                                                  (J. C. Wedgwood in The Seventh Dominion, p 3)


“The Anglo-Saxon, more than any other race, wants to sympathise with the Jews, and would like to settle up for these last two thousand years . . . We are both moneylenders, and unpopular; we, too, are wanderers among strange peoples; we, too, are traders, and if we rather look down on those with whom we trade, that is what the Jews do, too. We, too, can find in the Old Testament, or Torah, convenient justification for all that needs justification in our relations with mankind. We, too, can laugh at ourselves, so sure are we of being on reality the Chosen People.”                                                                                        (J. C. Wedgwood in The Seventh Dominion, p 119)


“The [Peel] commission seems to have gone to the Versailles treaty and picked out all the most awkward provisions it contained. They have put a Saar, a Polish corridor, and half a dozen Danzigs and Memels into a country the size of Wales.”                                                                                                                                                (Lord Samuel in the House of Lords, July 20, 1937)


“The attraction of Weizmann for the British was precisely that he was the most Jewish Jew we had met. He impressed us because he was not Western, because he was not assimilated, because he was utterly proud to be a Russian Jew from the Pale, because he had no feeling of double loyalty, because he knew only one patriotism, the love of a country that did not yet exist.”                                                                                            (R. Crossman, in A Nation Reborn, p 41)


“Experts are addicts. They solve nothing! They are servants of whatever system hires them. They perpetuate it. When we are tortured, we shall be tortured by experts. When we are hanged, experts will hang us. Did you not read what I wrote? When the world is destroyed, it will be destroyed not by its madmen but by the sanity of its experts and the superior ignorance of its bureaucrats. You have betrayed me.”                                                                                                                                 (Goethe to Barley, in John le Carré’s The Russia House, Chapter 10)


“We do not break the curse of secrecy by passing our secrets from hand to hand like thieves! I have lived a great lie! And you tell me to keep it secret! How did the lie survive? By secrecy! How did our great vision crumble into this dreadful mess? By secrecy. How do you keep your own people ignorant of the insanity of your war plans? By secrecy. By keeping out the light. Show my work to your spies if that’s what you must do. But publish me as well. That is what you promised and I shall believe your promise.”                                                                                                                       (Goethe to Barley, in John le Carré’s The Russia House, Chapter 10)


“Borovik sputters, I sputtered. Philby was no traitor, he said; Philby was a brave Englishman who had acted according to his conscience. Fine, I said, and I hoped he felt the same about Russians who had spied for the West.” (John le Carré, in his Afterword to The Russia House)


“What was he [Sakharov] thinking? Since I shall never know, I may answer the question for myself. He was thinking that in an open society Klaus Fuchs had chosen the path of secret betrayal; and that Sakharov, in a closed society, had suffered torture and imprisonment in order to speak out.”                                             (John le Carré, in his Afterword to The Russia House)


“People want to know whether what we’re building is a common market with no rules, except perhaps general principles about fair trade, whether we want to build a confederation of states, whether we want to build a federal state, or a superstate, or just a monster bureaucracy that has no legitimacy whatsoever.”                                                     (Fabrizio Saccomanni, Italian finance minister, in speech at London School of Economics, quoted in NYT, November 12)


“Politicians are people who have not succeeded in life — they have never worked, they have never performed, they lie. In business, if you lie, you are finished.”              (Andrej Babis, leader of the Czech anti-establishment party, Ano, or Yes, quoted in NYT, November 13)


“Shortly before we docked [at Dover] I saw the customs official come on deck accompanied by a well-dressed, white-haired gentleman, very distinguished though pale and embarrassed looking, who was carrying a small leather attaché case. The official motioned to some of the passengers to gather round and announced that when asked if he had anything to declare, the man said no. Yet, when the official opened this attaché case he found a hundred cigars. According to British law, he said, he could do three things: refuse the traveler admittance to the country; impose a heavy fine; or confiscate the cigars. But, he said, he would do none of them. Then, before all the assembled passengers he declared. ‘Sir, you are no gentlemen,’ and walked away.

This incident made an indelible impression on me. It was my first encounter with the English character, and the elegance of this sensible, effective action fascinated me. That man would never again smuggle anything into England, and he would probably have preferred the official to slap a hundred pound fine on him rather than submit to such humiliation. The customs official’s action reflects some of the splendid qualities of the English people.”                                                                                                 (from Nahum Goldmann’s Autobiography, p 30)


“Instead, I observed at Heidelberg, especially after I became friendly with a number of professors, a web of jealousies and vanities, rivalry and envy, that entangled all aspects of life in a very circumscribed world. This made the intellectual climate much more stifling than that of, say, the world of politics. In later life I got to know many politicians, and from very personal experience I know a lot about political fights. I think I can say that political conflicts, while not always conducted in an objective, gentlemanly fashion, are often less shabby than their counterparts among scholars and men of learning. Compared to the scholar, the politician always has something of the man of the world about him, a certain insouciance. He does not take his problems with such deadly seriousness as the man of learning. He is more ironical or more cynical. He forgets yesterday’s tensions more easily. The sphere he moves in extends, after all, to a whole nation or several nations. When academics quarrel, they throw all their scholarly prestige into the fight. They methodically lay the groundwork for their fights and then build theories upon it, and the harder they pretend that what is at stake is concrete problems and not personal ambition, professional careers, power, and vanity, the more false and dishonest the controversy becomes.”                                   (from Nahum Goldmann’s Autobiography, p 70)


“The difference between a politician and a statesman is that the former considers only the wishes of his supporters, while the latter also makes allowances for the wishes of his opponents.”                                                                              (from Nahum Goldmann’s Autobiography, p 105)


“We cannot offer the excuse that we were attacked unexpectedly. Everything Hitler and his regime did to us had been announced with cynical candor beforehand. Our naïveté and complacent optimism led us to ignore these threats. In this mortifying chapter of Jewish history there is no excuse for our generation as a whole or for most of our leaders. We must stand as a generation not only condemned to witness the destruction of a third of our number but guilty of having accepted it without any resistance worthy of the name.”                                                                                                                                  (from Nahum Goldmann’s Autobiography, p 148)


“’What are you saying, Sir?’, he shouted. ‘That the League of Nations ought to act? The League never acts! It’s a debating society, a senate of old windbags who talk and talk and talk. Jews are intelligent people. You are certainly an intelligent man. And you expect the academy of windbags to do something? The League of Nations can only talk. It can’t act.’”

“’I know Herr Hitler,’ he continued. (A few weeks earlier they had met for the first time, in Vienna.) ‘He is an idiot, a vaurien, a fanatical idiot, a talker. It’s embarrassing to listen to him. You are much stronger than Herr Hitler. When there’s no trace of Hitler left, the Jews will still be a great people.’”                                                                                                                                                 (Mussolini to the author, from Nahum Goldmann’s Autobiography, p 158 & 160)


“After a moment’s silence [when discussing the Passfield White paper] the British representative said: ‘Gentlemen, you have the logic but we have the Empire, and with your logic you would never have got your empire.’”                        (from Nahum Goldmann’s Autobiography, p 179)


“Mr. Bevin, respectable gentlemen don’t strip either girls or proposals.”                                                                                          (the author, from Nahum Goldmann’s Autobiography, p 238)


“If the Arabs were Englishmen, peace could have been concluded between them and Israel long ago.”                                                                 (from Nahum Goldmann’s Autobiography, p 286)


“Men become political leaders for very different reasons: out of what the Jews call yetzer ha-tov, the impulse towards good, or yetzer ha-ra, the impulse towards evil. To the former category belong motives such as humanitarianism, sympathy, loyalty responsibility, and sense of duty; to the latter envy, hatred, revenge, and then desire for power. Apart from the saints, every political or social leader is inspired by motives of both kinds, and I suspect that the bad impulses have been a much stronger force on history than the good ones. Those whom we call great men, those who have made history, have been inspired predominantly by negative motives.”                                                                                                            (from Nahum Goldmann’s Autobiography, p 291)


“A Jewish historian once told me that the number of Jews in the world would amount to well over two hundred million if the descendants of all those who had once been Jewish still were.”                                                                                  (from Nahum Goldmann’s Autobiography, p 312)


“Zionism’s goal was to transfer a people from one continent to another, to conquer a country and assemble a nation and build a state and revive a language and give hope to a hopeless people. And against all odds, Zionism succeeded. If a Vesuvius-like volcano were to erupt tonight and end our Pompeii, this is what it would petrify: a living people. People that have come from death and were surrounded by death but who nevertheless put up a spectacular spectacle of life.”                                                                                                                         (Ari Shavit, in My Promised Land: The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel, quoted by Tom Friedman in NYT, November 17)


“I have argued many times that censorship is at its most effective when no one admits it exists. The first step to freeing yourself from oppressive power is to find the courage to admit that you are afraid. The more people confess to being afraid, the less reason there is to fear and the easier it is to isolate repressive forces.”                                (Nik Cohen, in the Spectator, November 9)


“All empires run themselves, or they don’t run at all. That, in practice, means that they rely on the local bigwigs to do what local bigwigs have always done, but under the direction of their new masters.”                                                                                                                                (Peter Jones, in Veni, Vidi, Vici, reviewed in the Spectator, November 9, by Allan Massie)


“If you asked me if I wanted more joyful experiences in my life, I wouldn’t be at all sure I did, exactly because it proves such a difficult emotion to manage. It’s not at all obvious to me how we should make an accommodation between joy and the rest of our everyday lives.”                                           (Zadie Smith, in Joy, quoted by Hilton Als in the New Yorker, November 25)


“A unique feature of the house that overnight guests marvelled at was the third-floor room entirely full of luggage, for Laski always returned from trips with extra luggage in which he carried the books he had bought.”                                                                                                                             (from Kramnick’s and Sheerman’s Harold Laski; A Man of the Left, p 194)


“I am not immersed in self-admiration. When I am listening to Vivaldi or Japanese music or making spaghetti at 3 in the morning and realize that I don’t have the proper sauce for it, fame is of no use.”                                   (photographer Saul Leiter, from his NYT obituary, November 28)


Why Assimilation Is Good For You

“Mr. Palmor said that while the agency mostly did good work on the ground, it was ‘dedicated to preserving the refugees’ status rather than encouraging their resettlement or integration in their current or alternative locations, contributing to the perpetuation of the Palestinian refugee problem.’”                                              (a spokesman for Israel’s Foreign Ministry, expressing regret over the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, as reported in NYT, November 29)


“Nothing is more calculated to keep two people apart than the recommendation of a common friend, and we had deliberately avoided meeting one another.”                                                                                                               (John Wheeler-Bennett, in Special Relationships, p 74)


“Never forget, my dear John, that no cigar is worth smoking that has not been rolled on the naked thigh of a beautiful woman.”                                                                                                                                          (Alex Korda to John Wheeler-Bennett, from Special Relationships, p 138)


“When one recalls that, since the execution of Louis XVI in 1793, France has experienced the First Republic and the Terror, the Directory, the Consulate, the First Empire, the First and Second Restorations, the ‘Bourgeois Monarchy’ of Louis-Philippe, the Second Republic, the Second Empire, the Commune and the Third Republic, the Vichy régime and the Free French Committee of de Gaulle and the Fourth and Fifth Republics, it is understandable that Frenchmen are conditioned and calloused to changes of political régime. They naturally cling to the belief that France, which has endured so many varieties of fortune and government will survive anything.”                                       (John Wheeler-Bennett, in Special Relationships, p 160)


Capitalism 2013

“Anne Simpson, director of corporate governance at the California Public Employees’ Pension Fund, the largest United States pension plan with $279 billion in assets, says ‘board coups’ this year that led to the departure of directors at Hewlett-Packard, JPMorgan Chase and Occidental Petroleum show ‘how shareholder activism is evolving from barbarians at the gate to acting like owners.’”                                                                        (from report in NYT, November 29)


“Christianity was stuffed with miracles, contradictions and absurdities, was spawned in the fevered imaginations of the Orientals and then spread to Europe, where some fanatics espoused it, some intriguers pretended to be convinced by it and some imbeciles actually believed it.” (King Frederick William I of Prussia, quoted by Christopher Clark in Iron Kingdom: The Rise and Downfall of Prussia 1600-1947, p 187, and in Niall Ferguson’s Civilization, p 76)


“God the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost has been displaced by God the Analyst, the Agony Uncle and the Personal Trainer.”                                (Niall Ferguson, in Civilization, p 276)


“The great weakness of intellectuals is that they are too intellectual to be strong, whereas primitivism engenders assurance and power.” (Nahum Goldmann in The Jewish Paradox, p 102)


“He was a wonderfully good companion, and I found myself mentally allotting him a place among those with whom I would almost like to spend a wet week-end in Hull.”                                                         (John Wheeler-Bennett, on Karl Radek, from Knaves, Fools and Heroes, p 102)




“In a meeting with Eccles and Campbell, he [Salazar] informed the British diplomats that the Americans were ‘a barbaric people illuminated not by God, but rather by electric light.’”              (from Neill Lochery’s Lisbon: War in the Shadows of the City of Light, 1939-1945, p 123)


“Opinion-size-age-shape-colour-origin-material-purpose-noun. So you can have a lovely little old rectangular green French silver whittling knife. But if you mess with that word order in the slightest you’ll sound like a maniac.”                                       (Mark Forsyth in The Elements of Eloquence, quoted in Christopher Howse’s review in the Spectator, November 30)


“A genuine carol may have faults of grammar, logic, and prosody; but one fault it never has – that of sham antiquity.”                   (Percy Dearmer, in Preface to The Oxford Book of Carols)


“George Eliot is my only steady girlfriend. We go to bed together every night.”                                                                                         (Peter O’Toole, from his NYT obituary, December 15)


“Under instructions to be very cautious about his health, he suddenly decided to marry the actress Catherine Oxenberg (who was more than 30 years his junior). He made his case by giving her a Jaguar and having her drive it to a jewelry store. And he intended to fly with her to Cap d’Antibes, France, from California, but reality set in: The flight would be too taxing. They wound up honeymooning in California. He wound up not being able to get out of the bathtub. The marriage was over before Ms. Oxenberg’s live-in companion, who had been gone for the weekend, came home.”                                                                                                      (from Janet Maslin’s review of Robert Evans’s ‘The Fat Lady Sang’, in NYT, December 25)


“. . . you cannot find out what a man means by simply studying his spoken or written statements, even though he has spoken or written with perfect command of language and perfectly truthful intention. In order to find out his meaning you must also know what the question was (a question in his own mind, and presumed by him to be in yours) to which the thing he has said or written was meant as an answer.”                                                                                                               (from R.G. Collingwood’s Autobiography, quoted in Fred Inglis’s History Man, p 88)


“Hunting for the facts, confident that they would be certain of what the facts were when they came across them, these men and those who followed them sought out the records and testimonies, decided which to believe, and arranged them in a more or less causal (because chronological) order in a narrative.

Scissors-and-paste history (now an electronic instrument and an academic habit of mind confirmed by computer devices) is a way of cutting up history in order to cut out thought. Insisting on the primacy of mind in the actions of human progress or regress makes for difficulties. To treat historical events in the same way as natural events and to seek for natural laws in human conduct not only lends the historian the terrific authority of scientific practice, it provides a noncognitive method of inquiry with which to fix the determinate structures of human passages. The history of ideas is dispatched to the sidelines as an individualistic kind of hobby, and the serious business of narrating the sum of things handed over to the scientists of management, the determinists off structuralism, the calm therapists of psychoanalysis.”                                                                                                (from Fred Inglis’s History Man, pp 139/140)


“[Eric] Birley, the great Italian classicist Momigliano once said, could ‘reconstruct history from a pair of used railway tickets’ and in s doing would be applying his teacher’s question-and-answer logic.”                                                           (from Fred Inglis’s History Man, p 143)


“The good historian and the fictional detective think alike. From indications of the most suggestive kind – not so much the given as the found – each constructs an imaginary picture of what happened, an event conceived as the expression of the thoughts of those who acted it out. The facts, such as they are, are placed in an interpretation of order by historian or detective. Their validation is consequence of the narrator’s plausibility and imaginative forcefulness. The sources, the facts, or – such a final-sounding word – the data are only as good as the historical hermeneutician can make them. ‘The a priori imagination which does the work of historical construction supplies the means of historical criticism as well.’ [Collingwood’s The Idea of History, p 245] Thus the usual opposition between criticism and creation is dissolved. As imaginative works of art, novel and history are indistinguishable.  As a mode of thought with its own principles, however, the history must be truthful and its story must be true.”                                                                                                                    (from Fred Inglis’s History Man, p 212)


“It is, moreover worth adding at this point Collingwood’s timely reservation on the use made, by philosophers in particular, if the pronoun ‘we’, asking to know who ‘we’ are, and answering that ‘our’ identity is largely rhetorical, in some cases being those who think like the author (and are therefore in the right), in others those who don’t (and are therefore in the wrong).”                                                                                                   (from Fred Inglis’s History Man, p 258)


“He turns this, however, into his idée fixe, that liberal democracy can thrive only as the expression of a grounding on the foundations of Christian belief.” [in Collingwood’s Fascism and Nazism]                                                         (from Fred Inglis’s History Man, p 293)


“ . . . what is then at stake, as indeed it was in 1941, is whether the counterposing civilization is historically well enough founded on civility (this is no pleonasm): it avoids the use of force until forced to it, it will diminish as far as possible disparities of wealth between rich and poor (will it, indeed?), it will keep order and the rule of law, it will provide for peace and plenty.

With such vision before us, barbarism, even if written about battily, doesn’t stand a chance. Civilisation is too resourceful for one thing; barbarism lives to destroy, and it has to work itself up into a state of conscious hatred towards what it is seeking to destroy. (The jihadists of militant Islam at the present time are by this token barbarians.) But whatever damage the barbarian does, in the long run he cannot win.”                                (from Fred Inglis’s History Man, p 302)


“Clothes were also an important component of his historical memory. He used to say that while he could never remember dates on a page, he had only to see a painting of a prince or cardinal and he could date it by the costume to within fifty years.”                                                           (Artemis Cooper on Patrick Leigh Fermor, from Patrick Leigh Fermor: An Adventure, p 29)

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