The Rest of the World

‘Billy says the Germans are the most moral people in the world when it comes to dealing with Germans, and the most immoral in their dealings with the rest of the world. It’s quite true. A German would weep with pain if he saw our almshouses or our slums, or realized that we didn’t have federal workmen’s compensation — and didn’t carry out the law when we do have it in a State — or that we don’t always protect machinery for the workers. They hold the point of view, which religious sects are growing out of: Anything that added to the glory of God used to be right — what adds to the glory of Germany is right.’

Ernesta Drinker Bullitt, June 4th 1916, An Uncensored Diary from the Central Empires (1917).

 

‘To ensure his future hold over the people, Moses introduced a new cult, which was the opposite of all other religions. […] Whatever their origin, these rites are sanctioned by their antiquity. Their other customs are impious and abominable, and owe their prevalence to their depravity.  All that we hold sacred they held profane, and allowed practices which we abominate.  For all the most worthless rascals, renouncing their national cults, were always sending money to swell the sum of offerings and tribute. This is one cause of Jewish prosperity. Another is that they are  obstinately loyal to each other, and always ready to show compassion, whereas they feel nothing but hatred and enmity for the rest of the world. They eat and sleep separately. Though immoderate in sexual indulgence, they refrain from all intercourse with foreign women: among themselves anything is allowed. They have introduced circumcision to distinguish themselves from other people. Those who are converted to their customs adopt the same practice, and the first lessons they learn are to despise the gods, to renounce their country, and to think nothing of their parents, children, and brethren. However, they take steps to increase their numbers. They count it a crime to kill any of their later-born children,  and they believe that the souls of those who die in battle or under persecution are immortal. Thus they think much of having children and nothing of facing death.’

Tacitus, The Histories, Volume II, translated by W. Hamilton Fyfe (1912).

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A Superfluous Labor of Verification

‘In youth, men are apt to write more wisely than they really know or feel, and the remainder of life may be not idly spent in realizing and convincing themselves of the wisdom which they uttered long ago. The truth that was only in the fancy then may have since become a substance in the mind and heart.’

Nathaniel Hawthorne, preface from The Snow-Image, 1852.

 

‘One often makes a remark and only later sees how true it is.’

Ludwig Wittgenstein, Notebooks 1916-1916, 11 October 1914, translated by G. E. M. Anscombe.

 

‘Was I ignorant, then, when I was seventeen? I think not. I knew everything. A quarter-century’s experience of life since then has added nothing to what I knew. The one difference is that at seventeen I had no “realism.”’

Yukio Mishima, Sun and Steel, translated by John Bester.

 

‘What I know at sixty, I knew as well at twenty. Forty years of a long, a superfluous labor of verification.’

Emil Cioran, The Trouble with Being Born, translated by Richard Howard.

A Curious Specimen

‘The life of Lilly the astrologer, written by himself, is a curious work. He is the Sidrophel of Butler. It contains so much artless narrative, and at the same time so much palpable imposture, that it is difficult to know when he is speaking what he really believes to be the truth. In a sketch of the state of astrology in his day, those adepts, whose characters he has drawn, were the lowest miscreants of the town. They all speak of each other as rogues and impostors. Such were Booker, George Wharton, Gadbury, who gained a livelihood by practising on the credulity of even men of learning so late as in 1650, to the eighteenth century. In Ashmole’s Life an account of these artful impostors may be found. Most of them had taken the air in the pillory, and others had conjured themselves up to the gallows. This seems a true statement of facts. But Lilly informs us, that in his various conference with angels, their voice resembled that of the Irish!’

Isaac d’Israeli, ‘English Astrologers’, Curiosities of Literature, 1807.

 

‘But the revilers of the people have not spared even their speech. Of the species of abuse usually resorted to, a curious specimen may be found in the prejudiced Stanihurst, (temp. Elizabeth,) who assures his readers, that the Irish was unfit even for the prince of darkness himself to utter, and to illustrate this, the bigotted Saxon gravely adduced the case of a possessed person in Rome, who “spoke every known tongue except Irish, but in that he neither would nor could speak, because of its intolerable harshness.”‘
James Hardiman, Irish Minstrelsy, Or Bardic Remains of Ireland, Vol I, introduction, 1831.