Thursday, August 29, 2013

Famous guest blogger on how things changed

"MEN DID WICKED THINGS in all parts of the world, including the most Christian parts of the world. But they seldom thought they were behaving like Christians. A... man broke treaties, trampled on enemies, or betrayed friends, because he was ready to be contemned; he did not expect to be respected. The notion of his being actually admired as a strong man, merely because he behaved like a selfish man, is a notion so new that I can myself remember it rising steadily, like a new religion, in the late
Victorian time. I can myself recall the transition in literary fashions from the dull but decent morality of Macaulay to the picturesque but barbarous mysticism of Carlyle. The school of Macaulay would balance the virtues and vices of William Rufus or Warren Hastings; but for the school of Carlyle his vices were his virtues. These great men of letters had long been dead when the process began to penetrate everywhere; but the forms it took everywhere were the more clearly the fashion because they were both variegated and vulgar. We had the praise of the colonial and commercial expansionist, of the imaginative imperial financier—a kind of pawnbroker who not only received stolen goods, but bribed the policeman to steal them. We had plays and novels about the strong-minded employer of labour, who seemed to think himself astonishingly virile because he could manage to starve a man in a siege, when he would never venture to hit him in a fight."

~G.K. Chesterton: "Illustrated London News," December 15, 1917.

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