504: A Snob.

BEATRICE FRANKS: Why are you such a snob?

MARTIN AMIS: A snob is “a person who has an exaggerated respect for high social position or wealth and who looks down on those regarded as socially inferior”. I have described the institution of the monarchy as “a wank” — a phrase, free, I think, of exaggerated respect. As for the so-called socially inferior, I have devoted many hundreds of pages to them, in fiction, and only the lousiest novelist can write with a sneer.

On the other hand, I think snobbery ought to make a comeback. Not the old “class” shit but mental and verbal snobbery. Sometimes snobbery is forced upon you. So let’s have a period of exaggerated respect for rationality; and let’s look down on people who use the words everybody else uses.

(“Martin Amis: You Ask The Questions,” Independent, January 14, 2007).

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504: A Snob.

503: A Very Short Way to Hell.

The philosophers were of opinion, that the infernal regions were at an equal distance from all the parts of the earth; nevertheless it was the opinion of some, that there were certain passages which led thither […] At Hermione it was thought, that there was a very short way to hell; for which reason the people of that country never put the fare into the mouths of the dead to pay their passage.

(“Hell.” In: Encyclopædia Britannica, Vol. 2. Edinburgh: A. Bell & C. MacFarquhar, 1771, p. 780).

503: A Very Short Way to Hell.

502: A Quotation from All His Ancestors.

When we are praising Plato, it seems we are praising quotations from Solon, and Sophron, and Philolaus. Be it so. Every book is a quotation; and every house is a quotation out of all forests, mines, and stone quarries: and every man is a quotation from all his ancestors.

(Ralph Waldo Emerson, Representative Men. London: John Chapman, 1850, p. 29).

502: A Quotation from All His Ancestors.

501: A Dupe.

The truth is that if I judge by the light of human reason, I have played the role of a dupe. I have defended capital without ever possessing a penny’s worth of savings, defended property without owning an inch of land; defended aristocracy — I who have scarcely met more than a couple of aristocrats; defended royalty in a century which has not seen and will never see a king. All these things I have defended out of love of the people and love of freedom; and I enjoy such a reputation as an enemy of the people and of freedom that at the first good opportunity I shall find myself strung up on a lamp-post. Yet my thought is straight and logical; but I have placed too much belief in duty and spoken of it too often. That is my only consolation when I consider, alas, all the things I have left undone.

(Louis Veuillot; quoted in Philip Spencer, Politics of Belief in Nineteenth-century France. New York: Grover Press, 1954, p. 215).

501: A Dupe.

499: Dare We?

Within three years of leaving Iowa, where she had prayed for desire of the Lord to claim her like a disease, she was diagnosed with lupus. Stricken, she returned to her mother’s farm in Milledgeville, her base of production for the novels Wise Blood and The Violent Bear It Away, and the short-story collections A Good Man Is Hard to Find and Everything That Rises Must Converge, the latter published posthumously. Health and sex and adventure had been taken from her, and in their place was a vision, her world, blast-lit and still reeling under the first shock of creation. “The air was so quiet,” she wrote in “The River,” “he could hear the broken pieces of the sun knocking in the water.” It was a gift. And we are left with a question: Without this terrible narrowing-down, would she have achieved the greatness she prayed for? This illness, this thing that confined her, that hauled her, crutches clanking, into a premature spinsterhood, and finally killed her at the age of 39, can we call it by the name of grace? Dare we?

(James Parker, “The Passion of Flannery O’Connor,” The Atlantic, November 2013).

499: Dare We?

498: Blunted in Habituation.

There is a great deal of fuss nowadays about freedom of speech, but very few persons nowadays care really about genuine plain speaking. ‘Free speech’ has been narrowed down to speaking freely about sex, sexual irregularities and sexual perversions; it has become the peculiar privilege of World-Leaguers for Sexual Reform; but few, so far as I am aware, now claim the free speech to call a knave a knave or a fool a fool. And knaves and fools we both abhorred alike, says Dryden in his noble epitaph on Oldham; perhaps nowadays our abhorrence is blunted in habituation.

(T.S. Eliot, Selected Essays, 1917–1932. London: Faber and Faber, 1932, p. 447).

498: Blunted in Habituation.