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ARCHIVED ENTRIES FOR FEBRUARY 2013

February 28,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

The ruins (the fragments of one or two prostrate pillars) lie upon a promontory bare and unmystified by the gloom of surrounding groves.  My Greek friend in his consular cap stood by, respectfully waiting to see what turn my madness would take now that I had come at last into the presence of the old stones.  If you have no taste for research, and can't affect to look for inscriptions, there is some awkwardness in coming to the end of a merely sentimental pilgrimage, when the feeling which impelled you has gone: ins such a strait you have nothing to do but to laugh the thing off as well--and, by the by, it is not a bad plan to turn the conversation (or rather allow the natives to turn it) towards the subject of hidden treasures: this is a topic on which they will always speak with eagerness, and if they can fancy that you, too, take an interest in such matters, they will not only begin to think you perfectly sane, but will even perhaps give you credit for some more than human powers of forcing dark Earth to show you its hoards of gold.

--Eothen by Alexander Kinglake

February 27,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

This family party of the good Consul's (or rather of mine, for I originated the idea, though he furnished the materials) went off very well: the mamma was shy at first, but she veiled her awkwardness by affecting to scold the children.  These had all immortal names--names too which they owed to tradition, and certainly not to any classical enthusiasm of their parents: every instant I was delighted by some such phrases as these:--"Themistocles, my love, don't fight."--"Alcibiades, can't you sit still?"--"Socrates, put down the cup."--"Oh, fie! Aspasia, don't, oh! don't be naughty!"  It is true that the names were pronounced, Socrahtie, Aspahsie--that is, according to accent, and not according to quantity, but I suppose it is scarcely now to be doubted that they were so sounded in ancient times.

--Eothen by Alexander Kinglake

February 26,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

In all baseness and imposture there is a coarse, vulgar spirit, which, however artfully concealed for a time, must sooner or later show itself in some little circumstance sufficiently plain to occasion an instant jar upon the minds of those whose taste is lively and true: to such men a shock of this kind, disclosing the ugliness of a cheat, is more effectively convincing than any mere proofs could be.

--Eothen by Alexander Kinglake

[N.B.:  Inadvertently, this is a compact summary of the theme of Herman Melville's Benito Cereno.]

February 25,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

What more will you ever learn?  Yet the dismal change is ordained, and the, thin meagre Latin (the same for everybody), with small patches of Greek, is thrown like a pauper's pall over all your early lore; instead of sweet knowledge, vile, monkish, doggerel grammars, and graduses, dictionaries, and lexicons, and horrible odds and ends of dead languages are given you for your portion, and down you fall from Roman story to a three-inch scrap of "Scriptores Romani."--from Greek poetry, down, down to the cold rations of "Poetae Graeci," cut up by commentators, and served out by schoolmasters!

--Eothen by Alexander Kinglake

[N.B.:  This was published in 1844 when a public school education necessarily included stuffing the young students like geese full of Latin and a bit of Greek (for garnish).]

February 22,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

Here the imperfect and presumptuous will say:  "It is the story of millions: all first love is so."  Not at all; no more than dreams are Visions.  Not millions, but one in many millions, and then, in millions more one other, in millions more again one other are thus elect of the God.

It will be asked:  "How can you affirm so mighty a truth of one silent lad dead these two centuries ago?  Louis was limited and of the common sort, one who only became great through industrious aptitude for a great function.  Moreover he left no hint of all this--indeed, less record than do most men leave of what has pierced their souls.  How then do you know?"  By one unfailing test: the immortal passage left him immune to Passion henceforward forever.

--Louis XIV by Hillaire Belloc

February 21,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

There falls upon some very few human lives an experience transcending every other.  They that have received it stand separate from all their fellows.  It has no name.

To call it exalted love or love inspired means nothing.  The word "love" is used in every tongue and by all mankind to mean things so different, so varying in degree and quality, that to use it here is meaningless.  It has no name.

The thing has no name.  For names attach only to things generally known and this thing, a revelation, is known to very few and is incommunicable.  The only parallel to it is the experience of the mystics, their momentary union with the Divine.  This, those who have been so transfigured can never later describe.

--Louis XIV by Hillaire Belloc

February 20,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

This body of lawyers, the Parlement of Paris, was in no way representative of national opinion, but it could repose on that opinion in moments of popular opposition to the government, and thereby increase its power and position.  It also had, of course, that invaluable asset (which attached throughout christendom to all lawyers, from the market-town solicitor to the highest judge) of knowing the law, or, at any rate, being the official exponent of the law.  Such a body may not have the technical right of making laws, but it can in practice mould them and has in this fashion great scope in managing men's lives, unless it is checked and curbed by a strong central power.

--Louis XIV by Hillaire Belloc

[N.B.:  It's a good thing the United States has no equivalent institution--some supreme arbiter of laws that can make law under the guise of merely interpreting it.]

February 19,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

The French constitution included bodies known as "Parlements."  The similarity of the name with that of the English Parliaments is confusing--for both ultimately sprang from the same source, the "Parlement" or "Palaver" of the early French-speaking mediaeval kings of both France and England, when they met their nobles and chief legal advisers and talked over matters on which they wanted advice or on which they needed general consent.

--Louis XIV by Hillaire Belloc

February 18,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

Since the whole virtue of monarchy is that it makes government personal, its defect is that the life of the throne follows the life of a man and the vicissitudes thereof.  a monarchy is weak when the monarch is weak.  It is at its weakest during a minority.

--Louis XIV by Hillaire Belloc

February 17,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

Seeing what wealth can do, nothing can check its control of society save the presence of a master too rich to be bribed and too strong to be beaten down.  Alternatively, in the absence of such a head, society may from force of habit accept as inevitable and (in time) as even natural, the direction of itself by the rich.  When that state of things has grown mature and is established, what we have called "Aristocracy" is present--the most stable and permanent of human arrangements.  States so governed last on for centuries in splendour, and even during their decay they are monuments of their own past greatness.  Such was Carthage, such was Venice, such has England been for now three hundred years and perhaps may so remain indefinitely so long as she is ruled by gentlemen.

The aristocratic state is menaced by two things only: the moral menace of falling into mere plutocracy, a cancer which rapidly kills,* and the material menace of invasion by a large army.  For in aristocracies the masses will never accept permanent military service.

* Here is the test of this disease appearing: it is present when a very rich anybody is treated as the superior of a very poor gentleman.

--Louis XIV by Hillaire Belloc

[N.B.:  Paris Hilton?  Kim Kardashian?  Well, hello, Plutocracy!]

February 16,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

Therefore it is that when, after prolonged civil wars, the fighting forces emerge as the masters of the State, no longer its servants, they crown their Commanders-in-Chief.  Armies are of their nature monarchic, and victory over foreigners too is only to be achieved under a leader.  In both ways by civil war as by foreign expeditions, even by mere resistance to an invader, the old saying is proved, "War makes the King."*

*  Mark how the great American Civil War in the last century increased--and continues to increase--the Monrachic element in the United States, the power of the President.

--Louis XIV by Hillaire Belloc

February 15,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

This prevalence of Monarchy through the ages is due to two forces: first that men think of themselves, at heart, as equals in right; next, that men armed for battle or organised for civil action can best achieve their objects under a leader.  Filled with an obscure resentment against the power of mere wealth, or even caste, men will applaud and follow One who shall be master of their masters.  The monarch incarnates the common man, in his multitude, as well as the whole society over which he himself presides.  Also, en can only act if they are embrigaded under a hierarchy of command leading up to one Commander: nearly all great common enterprises must be ordered so, and in the supreme test of war armies are led and battles won by a single will and brain.  "Two good generals are no match for one mediocre general."  Men demand a name to lead them, and in victory they worship one successful captain.

--Louis XIV by Hillaire Belloc

February 14,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

There is indeed a third and nobler way than submission tot he rule of One or of A Few, and this third way is that where all families in the State combine to frame the decrees which they shall collectively obey, and choose by lot, or by open selection among themselves, the officers who shall enforce the laws.  Such government "by the people"--the ideal of all free men--is called Democracy.  Alas!  It is possible only in small states, and even these must enjoy exceptional defences moral or material, if they are to survive.  So defended whether by natural obstacles, or by an agreement among their neighbours, democracies very limited in scale have endured: Andorra after at least a thousand years in her mountain valleys is still here.  But, for the most part, the lesser communities are absorbed in the greater, and not till these break up can democracy (in the smaller fragments) reappear.  The human story, as a whole, tells of Kingship on the one hand, on the other of Republics under accepted authority of the rich; of enduring democracy hardly anything.

--Louis XIV by Hillaire Belloc

February 13,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

Men can only live in community: but communities must be governed or they crumble from within.

The instinct and experience of man has discovered two ways in which large communities can be governed.  They may be governed by one man, or by a group of men.  The first form we call Monarchy, the second Aristocracy--class government.  Under either of these the unity of the State, its internal order, its power to resist attack may be permanently maintained.

--Louis XIV by Hillaire Belloc

February 12,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

He loved hunting and shooting and good food and the company of good-looking women and the pleasures of society.  And like so many of the members of that society he cared little for the changing world outside it.  Science and mechanics, which were beginning already to change the whole life of Europe, meant nothing to him.  Nor did painting, nor music; nor did books.  In fact in the great mass of his private correspondence only once does he mention having read one. It was The Count of Monte Cristo.  'So far as I have got in it,' he confessed, 'I find it is tiresome--very poisonous.'

--The Destruction of Lord Raglan by Christopher Hibbert

February 12,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

He loved hunting and shooting and good food and the company of good-looking women and the pleasures of society.  And like so many of the members of that society he cared little for the changing world outside it.  Science and mechanics, which were beginning already to change the whole life of Europe, meant nothing to him.  Nor did painting, nor music; nor did books.  In fact in the great mass of his private correspondence only once does he mention having read one. It was The Count of Monte Cristo.  'So far as I have got in it,' he confessed, 'I find it is tiresome--very poisonous.'

--The Destruction of Lord Raglan by Christopher Hibbert

February 11,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

Lord FitzRoy took his pregnant wife to Brussels and on 18 June was at Wellington's side at Waterloo.  They had left Brussels together at eight o'clock in the morning of the 16th and for three days he had acted once more as the Duke's principal A.D.C.  Towards the evening of the third day a musket-ball from a sniper on the roof of the farmhouse of La Haye Sainte smashed his right elbow.  He walked back to a cottage used as forward hospital and showed his lacerated arm to the surgeon in charge. The surgeon told him to lie down on a table and then he cut the arm off between the shoulder and the elbow.  Lord FitzRoy did not even murmur.  The Prince of Orange, lying wounded in the same room, was unaware that an operation had been performed, until the arm was tossed away by the surgeon and the Colonel called out, 'Hey, bring my arm back.  There's a ring my wife gave me on the finger.'

--The Destruction of Lord Raglan by Christopher Hibbert