When Emerson was on one of his earlier visits to England, large numbers of fine gentlemen whom he met desired him to introduce them to Carlyle. Some of these were crack-brained egoists, others actuated, as he saw, by curiosity, and he saved such from the catastrophes they invited by saying, mildly, “Why should you wish to have aquafortis thrown over you?” In one case Emerson’s name introduced to him a vegetarian, with whom Carlyle went to walk. Unfortunately, his companion expatiated too much upon his then favorite topic, upon which Carlyle broke out with, “There’s Piccadilly; there it has been for a hundred years, and there it will be when you and your damned potato-gospel are dead and forgotten.”
(Moncure D. Conway, Thomas Carlyle. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1881, pp. 121–122).
If any young person of leisure were so much at a loss as to ask advice as to what he should read, mine should be exceedingly simple: Read anything bearing on a definite object. Let him take up any imaginable subject to which he feels attracted, be it the precession of the equinoxes or postage stamps, the Athenian drama or London street cries; let him follow it from book to book, and unconsciously his knowledge, not of that subject only but of many subjects, will be increased, for the departments of the realm of knowledge are divided by no octroi. He may abandon the first object of his pursuit for another; it does not matter, one subject leads to another: he will have learnt the habit of acquisition; he will have gained that conviction of the pricelessness of time which stirs a sigh as each day comes to its close.
(Sir Herbert Maxwell, Post Meridiana: Afternoon Essays. Edinburgh: William Blackwood and Sons, 1895, p. 200).
A friend of mine once passed through a very poor neighbourhood, and saw a man issue from a four-roomed house with a roll of some material under his arm. He was stayed by his wife, who endeavoured by many arguments to dissuade him from pawning what articles he had taken away. After an angry, tumultuous dialogue, he broke from her, and turned to the crowd which had of course assembled. “What I want to know,” he exclaimed, “is this. Is a man a king in his own castle, or is he an antediluvian?” For some years, at intervals, I have tried to discover what this word meant, but in vain. It has remained as secret as a hieroglyph, and undecipherable.
(Morley Roberts, “Agitators and Demaguogues,” Murray’s Magazine, Vol. VII, 1890, p. 676).
A solemn friend of my grandfather used to go for walks on Sunday carrying a prayer-book, without the least intention of going to church. And he calmly defended it by saying, with uplifted hand, “I do it, Chessie, as an example to others.” The man who did that was obviously a Dickens character. And I am disposed to think that, in being a Dickens character, he was in many ways rather preferable to many modern characters. Few modern men, however false, would dare to be so brazen. And I am not sure he was not really a more genuine fellow than the modern man who says vaguely that he has doubts or hates sermons, when he only wants to go and play golf. Hypocrisy itself was more sincere. Anyhow, it was more courageous.
(G.K. Chesterton, Autobiography. London: Hutchinson & Co., 1936, p. 20).
Britain’s best-known architecture critic, Prince Charles, has touched off a spirited public debate about modern buildings and royal privilege with a stinging attack this week on property development.
The Prince told his audience at a black-tie dinner Tuesday night that architects, developers and planners had done more damage to London than Hitler’s bombing raids during World War II. ”You have to give this much to the Luftwaffe — when it knocked down our buildings, it didn’t replace them with anything more offensive than rubble,” Prince Charles said. ”We did that.” The focus of his esthetic assault was the area surrounding the church where he was married, St. Paul’s Cathedral. The distinctive domed profile of the Sir Christopher Wren church, he said, was hidden by ”a jostling scrum of office buildings so mediocre that the way you ever remember them is by the frustration they induce — like a basketball team standing shoulder to shoulder between you and the Mona Lisa.”
(Steve Lohr, “Critic Charles Spurs Debate By Londoners,” The New York Times, December 6, 1987).
When we observe the lives of those whom an ample inheritance has let loose to their own direction, what do we discover that can excite our envy? Their time seems not to pass with much applause from others, or satisfaction to themselves: many squander their exuberance of fortune in luxury and debauchery, and have no other use of money than to inflame their passions, and riot in a wide range of licentiousness; others, less criminal indeed, but surely not much to be praised, lie down to sleep, and rise up to trifle, are employed every morning in finding expedients to rid themselves of the day, chase pleasure through all the places of publick resort, fly from London to Bath, and from Bath to London, without any other reason for changing place, but that they go in quest of company as idle and as vagrant as themselves, always endeavouring to raise some new desire, that they may have something to pursue, to rekindle some hope which they know will be disappointed, changing one amusement for another which a few months will make equally insipid, or sinking into languor and disease for want of something to actuate their bodies or exhilarate their minds.
(Samuel Johnson, Essays. London: Walter Scott, 1888, p. 248).
Political correctness is about denial, usually in the weasel circumlocutory jargon which distorts and evades and seldom stands up to honest analysis.
It comes in many guises, some of them so effective that the PC can be difficult to detect. The silly euphemisms, apparently harmless, but forever dripping to wear away common sense.
(George MacDonald Fraser, “The Last Testament of Flashman’s Creator: How Britain has Destroyed Itself,” Daily Mail, January 5, 2008).