727: And Not England Alone.

“Bourgeoisie,” says Hertzen, “is no other than the sovereign mob of John Stuart Mill’s ‘conglomerated mediocrity,’ which reigns over all things, — the mob without ignorance, but without education as well… Mill beholds everything around him becoming vulgar, small; he looks with despair upon these crushing masses of some prolific spawn, compressed out of the myriads of bourgeois shallowness… He does not at all exaggerate when he speaks of the contraction of intellect and energy; of the obliteration of personalities; of the constant degeneration of life; of the constant exclusion from it of all universally human interests; of its resolving itself into the interests of the counting room and the well-being of the bourgeoisie. Mill proclaims plainly that by following this course England will become China — we will add: and not England alone.”

(Dmitry Merezhkovsky, The Menace of the Mob. New York: Nicholas L. Brown, 1921, pp. 22–23).

727: And Not England Alone.

720: A Searcher After Perfection.

One reason for the lack of public interest in men’s attire is of course the undeniable fact that men dislike to do or be anything characteristically feminine. Women will imitate men, but men will not imitate women. Hence men keep quiet about their clothes. The dandies, or the merely well-dressed among them, will put themselves to an immense amount of trouble and expense over clothes, and then make their appearance with a deliberately casual air as though nothing on earth had happened. Save in the strictest secrecy they will never discuss their raiment. They are content with a silent appreciation of their wonderful achievements.

But there is another reason for the lack of public interest in men’s attire. Not merely do we rightly despise the fop — the man who lives for clothes — but we have a prejudice against the man who shows any sustained interest in his dress. (Such prejudice may be a remnant of Puritanism — I believe it is.) And we rather admire the man who will not go to the tailor’s until he is dragged thither by his wife. With this prejudice and this admiration I have no sympathy, and I hope that both are dying out.

I would sooner see a fop in the street than a man whose suit ought obviously to have been sold or burnt last year but one. The fop has at least achieved something and is not an eyesore. The scarecrow is an eyesore and has simply left something undone, either from conceit or from sloth. The fop is not without his use in society. He keeps tailors alert. He sets the pace. He may often be an ass, but he is also an idealist, a searcher after perfection; we have none too many searchers after perfection, and an ass engaged in that quest is entitled to some of our esteem.

The man who for any reason — affectation, idleness, self-esteem — despises clothes and the fashions thereof, implies thereby that fashion is absurd and negligible, and that the sole purpose of clothes is to give a decent and comfortable protection against climatic conditions. This argument cannot possibly be maintained. Fashion is neither absurd nor negligible. It is one of the most powerful influences upon human conduct, an influence which nobody can escape. Artists, for instance, will flout fashion, but only some fashion; they are the slaves of their own fashion. And non-artists who flout fashion in clothes are always the slaves of fashion in some other article — such as tobacco, politics, newspapers.

Further, the sole purpose of clothes — whatever it once may have been — is no longer merely to give protection. An important purpose of clothes is to make a pleasing visual impression — partly on oneself but chiefly on other people. This is unquestionable. Why, therefore, should it not be candidly admitted?

(Arnold Bennett, “Clothes and Men.” In: Things That Have Interested Me. London: Chatto & Windus, 1926, pp. 118–121).

720: A Searcher After Perfection.

716: By-products.

History shows that, when people aim at the realization of a particular ideal, they generally succeed in getting just the opposite of what they want. Thus, conservatives try to conserve a given state of affairs; what they generally get is revolution. Revolutionaries try to obtain liberty, justice, and equality by violent means: tyranny and the enslavement of the masses are the usual consequence of their efforts. When the prevailing ideal is to get rich, the result, as we see to-day in Europe and America, is that most of the members of the wealth-loving society are reduced to poverty and an abject dependence on their plutocratic or bureaucratic rulers. A quarter of a century ago, militant idealists waged a war in order to end war and to make the world safe for democracy; si monumentum requiris, circumspice. The moralists discovered long since that those who make happiness their aim, seldom achieve it; happiness, like coal tar, is a by-product of something else. This is equally true of most other good things. Justice, liberty, tolerance, peace, even material prosperity are by-products. The problem which confronts the reforming idealist is to discover what it is they are the by-products of; in other words, what, if any, are the social conditions whose fulfilment will produce the states to which we attach these names.

(Aldous Huxley, “Introduction.” In: Hopousia. New York: Oskar Piest, 1940, p. 19).

716: By-products.

713: Nothing Like It.

The present condition of European societies is new, and has nothing like it, except in the history of the Lower Empire, when the soldiers disposed of all things, and the peoples were plunged in indifference and debasement. But civilisation and the lights of the spirit were then far from being what they are now. What will come of this combination of a highly advanced condition of civilisation with the absence or discredit of all those political or religious institutions which have hitherto given stability to nations and maintained social order? God knows, and time alone can teach us… People have compared the present agitation of society to that which occurred at the epoch of the religious reformation. But it was by ideas and sentiments that men’s minds were then drawn; social order remained unquestioned on its bases. Now we are threatened by armed barbarians, who hate the order which protects them, and aspire only to subvert it.

(Maine de Biran; quoted in Coventry Patmore, “De Biran’s Pensées,” National Review, Vol. XI, 1860, pp. 155–156).

713: Nothing Like It.

709: Battle.

There is another form of impressing the truth, and testifying to it, and doing good by it, which is the dogmatic assertion of truth by the old and the experienced and the revered, to the young. It is out of fashion; it is invaluable. I can myself testify to […] such experiences which stand out supreme among many hundreds in my own early life. I am afraid they may seem trivial to my readers; I can only say that for myself they were as strong experiences as any great joy or pain could be. One was a sentence which Cardinal Manning said to me when I was but twenty years old. […]

The profound thing which Cardinal Manning said to me was this: all human conflict is ultimately theological.

It was my custom during my first days in London, as a very young man, before I went to Oxford, to call upon the Cardinal as regularly as he would receive me; and during those brief interviews I heard from him many things which I have had later occasion to test by the experience of human life. I was, it may be said, too young to judge things so deep as sanctity and wisdom; but, on the other hand, youth has vision, especially upon elemental things; and Manning did seem to me (and still seems to me) much the greatest Englishman of his time. He was certainly the greatest of all that band, small but immensely significant, who, in the Victorian period, so rose above their fellows, preeminent in will and in intelligence, as not only to perceive, but even to accept the Faith. Not only did his powerful mind discover, but his powerful will also insisted upon all the difficult consequences of such an acceptation. He never admitted the possibility of compromise between Catholic and non-Catholic society. He perceived the necessary conflict, and gloried in it.

This saying of his (which I carried away with me somewhat bewildered) that all human conflict was ultimately theological: that is, that all wars and revolutions and all decisive struggles between parties of men arise from a difference in moral and transcendental doctrine, was utterly novel to me. To a young man the saying was without meaning: I would almost have said nonsensical, save that I could not attach the idea of folly to Manning. But as I grew older it became a searchlight; with the observation of the world, and with continuous reading of history, it came to possess for me a universal meaning so profound that it reached to the very roots of political action; so extended that it covered the whole.

It is, indeed, a truth which explains and co-ordinates all one reads of human action in the past, and all one sees of it in the present. Men talk of universal peace: it is only obtainable by one common religion. Men say that all tragedy is the conflict of equal rights. They lie. All tragedy is the conflict of a true right and a false right, or of a greater right and a lesser right, or, at the worst, of two false rights. Still more do men pretend in this time of ours, wherein the habitual use of the human intelligence has sunk to its lowest, that doctrine is but a private, individual affair, creating a mere opinion. Upon the contrary, it is doctrine that drives the State; and every State is stronger in the degree in which the doctrine of its citizens is united. Nor have I met any man in my life, arguing for what should be among men, but took for granted as he argued that the doctrine he consciously or unconsciously accepted was or should be a similar foundation for all mankind. Hence battle.

(Hilaire Belloc, The Cruise of the “Nona”. London: Constable & Co., 1955, pp. 54–56).

709: Battle.