686: Exactly My Own Sentiments.

Fox used to say of Burke: ‘Burke is a wise man; but he is wise too soon.’ The average man will not bear this. He is a cool, common person, with a considerate air, with figures in his mind, with his own business to attend to, with a set of ordinary opinions arising from and suited to ordinary life. He can’t bear novelty or originalities. He says: ‘Sir, I never heard such a thing before in my life;’ and he thinks this a reductio ad absurdum. You may see his taste by the reading of which he approves. Is there a more splendid monument of talent and industry than ‘The Times’? No wonder that the average man — that any one — believes in it. As Carlyle observes: ‘Let the highest intellect able to write epics try to write such a leader for the morning newspapers, it cannot do it; the highest intellect will fail.’ But did you ever see anything there you had never seen before? Out of the million articles that everybody has read, can any one person trace a single marked idea to a single article? Where are the deep theories, and the wise axioms, and the everlasting sentiments which the writers of the most influential publication in the world have been the first to communicate to an ignorant species? Such writers are far too shrewd. The two million, or whatever number of copies it may be, they publish, are not purchased because the buyers wish to know new truth. The purchaser desires an article which he can appreciate at sight; which he can lay down and say, ‘An excellent article, very excellent; exactly my own sentiments.’

(Walter Bagehot, Biographical Studies. London: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1881, p. 3).

686: Exactly My Own Sentiments.