“Strong, humble faces”

You and I, it is to be hoped, do not hold the theory that the highest and most prominent figures in Society are the highest and best specimens of the human race. We are not such desolate pessimists as all that. For certainly if the people who rule England are the best people in England, England is going to the dogs, or, rather, has already gone there. The most gloomy of all possible theories is the theory that the best man wins. We know the man who wins, and if he is the best man we can only express our feelings in the words of a vulgar music-hall song about a wedding, which ran (if I remember right) — “I was the best man, the best man, the best man; Oh! Jerusalem, you ought to have seen the worst!” If Mr. Rockefeller really rose by superior merit, America must be a kind of hell. But I am an optimist, and I believe that evil is frequently victorious; a thought full of peace, comfort, and the possibilities of human affection. We can all love mankind if we remember not to judge them by their leaders. There are some who say that England has lost its last chance, has carried on just too long its shapeless compromises and its cloudy pride. I do not believe it for a moment. England is a million times stronger nation than one would fancy by merely looking at its great men. Do not look at the faces in the illustrated papers; look at the faces in the street. See what a great and reasonable number of them are strong, humble faces, full of humour and hard work, faces with sad eyes and humorous mouths. There are plenty of good people about. Religion says that the good people will be on the top in Heaven; Socialism says that they will be on top in the near future; but nobody in possession of his five wits can pretend that they are on top now; and if they are, the quality of those below them must be somewhat disheartening. True faith has its eye on the unsuccessful; it endures the small human output which is actually exhibited and admired; but it rejoices in the rich and dark treasures of human virtue and valour which have always been neglected. It is even slightly depressed when it thinks of the small good that we have used. But it sings for joy when it thinks of all the good that we have wasted.

The Illustrated London News, 16 November 1907.

Published in: on January 30, 2008 at 12:48 pm  Comments (1)  

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  1. […] great abundance of words, those small excerpts are quite suited to a lazy reader like me. The latest quote is very appropriate for election season: The most gloomy of all possible theories is the theory […]


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