“Extending the gardens”

Real development is not leaving things behind, as on a road, but drawing life from them, as from a root. Even when we improve we never progress. For progress, the metaphor from the road, implies a man leaving his home behind him: but improvement means a man exalting the towers or extending the gardens of his home.

— The Victorian Age in Literature (1913).

Published in: on February 26, 2014 at 11:16 am  Comments (1)  

“A wall of pebbles”

If the mass of citizens are to rule, it is absolutely necessary that they should have very strong common principles of thought. Where the State is ruled by a few wills (as of a king or nobles) its action and unity is preserved by the mere helplessness of the other parts. But if it is to be ruled by a great number of wills, these must have had some standard which they regard as orthodoxy, or, at least, as common sense. That is behind the half-truth of those who say that art and science (at least the wilder sorts) flourish better under an aristocracy. A certain sort of looseness cannot be permitted in a democracy. A wall can be built of large loose rocks, because there are few of them. But if you want to build a wall of pebbles you must have a very strong cement.

— The Illustrated London News, 13 January 1912.

Published in: on February 19, 2014 at 6:47 am  Comments (1)  

“A worm and a god”

If we are to save the oppressed, we must have two apparently antagonistic emotions in us at the same time. We must think the oppressed man intensely miserable, and at the same time intensely attractive and important. We must insist with violence upon his degradation; we must insist with the same violence upon his dignity. For if we relax by one inch the one assertion, men will say he does not need saving. And if we relax by one inch the other assertion, men will say he is not worth saving. The optimists will say that reform is needless. The pessimists will say that reform is hopeless. We must apply both simultaneously to the same oppressed man; we must say that he is a worm and a god; and we must thus lay ourselves open to the accusation (or the compliment) of transcendentalism. This is, indeed, the strongest argument for the religious conception of life.

— Charles Dickens (1906).

Published in: on February 12, 2014 at 7:54 am  Leave a Comment  

“The breaking of a sword”

The large number of divorces in America is a matter of grave distress to the most public-spirited Americans, but not to Professor George Elliott Howard, as quoted in Munsey’s Magazine. It is an “incident,” according to Professor George Elliott Howard, “an incident in the mighty process of spiritual liberation, which is rapidly changing the relative positions of men and women in society and the family.”

I do not suggest that the Professor would say in so many words that the less husbands and wives could put up with each other the better; or that the happiest society would be a perpetual succession of unhappy families. But there is an unconscious sentiment of that sort behind all this way of talking about the spiritual liberation of sex.

All the talk about freedom in this connection is utterly out of place: because marriage itself is an act of freedom and responsibility; and the desertion of it is the desertion of one’s self; and is always at least humiliating. Even if divorce is not a sin, it is most certainly a disgrace. It is not like the breaking of a chain, which has been forcibly imposed upon a slave. It is like the breaking of a sword, that has been deliberately taken up and deliberately dishonoured by a traitor.

— The Illustrated London News, 25 January 1913.

Published in: on February 5, 2014 at 12:54 pm  Comments (1)