Great Books Allow Great Examples

Good Learning as well as Travel is a great Antidote against the Plague of Tyranny. The Books that are left us of the Ancients (from whence, as from Fountains, we draw all that we are now Masters of) are full of Doctrines, Sentences, and Examples exhorting to the Conservation or Recovery of the publick Liberty, which was once valued above Life. The Heroes there celebrated are for the most part such as had destroyed or expelled Tyrants; and though Brutus be generally declaimed against by modern School-boys, he was then esteemed the true Pattern and Model of exact Virtue. Such was Cato of Utica,with others of like stamp. The more any person is conversant with good Books, the more shall he find the practices of these Great Men in this particular founded upon Reason, Justice, and Truth; and unanimously approv’d of by most of the succeeding Wise-men which the World has produc’d.

–Robert Molesworth, AN ACCOUNT OF DENMARK (1694).

The Quotable T.S. Eliot

Murder TSE“But most people are only very little alive; and to awaken them to the spiritual is a very great responsibility: it is only when they are so awakened that they are capable of real Good, but that at the same time they become first capable of Evil” –AFTER STRANGE GODS

“Yet we can hardly doubt that the ‘truest’ philosophy is the best material for the greatest poet; so that the poet must be rated in the end both by the philosophy he realizes in poetry and the by the fulness and adequacy of the realization.  For poetry–here and so far I am in accord with Mr. Richards–is not the assertion that something is true, but the making that truth more fully real to us; it is the creation of a sensuous embodiment.  It is the making the Word Flesh, if we remember that for poetry there are various qualities of Word and various qualities of Flesh.” –”Poetry and Propaganda”

“The Catholic should have high ideals–or rather, I should say absolute ideals–and moderate expectations: the heretic, whether he call himself fascist, or communist, or democrat or rationalist, always has low ideals and great expectations.” –”Catholicism and International Order”

“The period immediately following the war of 1914 is often spoken of as a time of disillusionment: in some ways and for some people it was rather a period of illusions. Only from about the year 1926 did the features of the post-war world begin clearly to emerge—and not only in the sphere of politics. From about that date one began slowly to realize that the intellectual and artistic output of the previous seven years had been rather the last efforts of an old world, than the first struggles of a new. As late as the year 1929, I find that The Criterion undertook to co-operate with four other reviews—the Nouvelle Revue Franfaise, the Revista de Occidente, the Nuova Antologia, and the Europaeische Revue—for the annual award of a prize for a short story, the choice to be made from among writers of each of the five languages in rotation. The first award was made to Ernst Wiechert, for a story ‘The Centurion’, which was duly published in each of the five reviews: after that the enterprise lapsed. In the same year I find myself stating with pride that The Criterion had been the first periodical in England to print the work of such writers as Marcel Proust, Paul Valery, Jacques Riviere, Jean Cocteau, Ramon Fernandez, Jacques Maritain, Charles Maurras, Henri Massis, Wilhelm Worringer, Max Scheler, E. R. Curtius. There were other distinguished foreign contributors, such as Pirandello, whose work may have appeared in other English periodicals previously.” –”The Last Word”

“During these years, the persons in this country who are not Liberals by temperament, and who are not attracted by the ambitious drudgery of practical politics, have remained dispersed and isolated. Some have been engaged in promoting the claims of one or another scheme of monetary reform; I am as convinced as anybody of the necessity of such change; but unfortunately the tendency of concentration upon technical economics has been to divide rather than to unite.  I have wondered whether it would not have been more profitable, instead of trying to maintain literary standards increasingly repudiated in the modern world, to have endeavoured to rally intellectual effort to affirm those principles of life and policy from the lack of which we are suffering disastrous consequences. But such a task, again, would be outside the scope of The Criterion, would require the whole of the editor’s time, and probably a more competent editor: this is perhaps another indication that The Criterion has served its purpose.” –”The Last Word”

“TO THE EDITOR OF THE TIMES Sir.—The traditional use of the word [aristocracy] implies, I believe, an emphasis upon inheritance: not merely the inheritance of property, however important that may seem to some, but the inheritance, partly through biological trans¬mission and partly through environment, of, other less tangible values. In other words, the unit of aristocracy, in the sense in which the word has been used in the past, is not the individual but the family. In the new sense of the word (and the phrase “the new aristo¬cracy” is acquiring currency) inheritance is ignored, and the family implicitly depreciated.  We are to have an aristocracy, not of families, but of individuals; and those individuals will have been turned into aristocrats, not by their parents, but by their schoolmasters, employing some system of selection to be elaborated.  I suggest that this may be a more violent mutation of meaning than any word ought to be required to undergo. It will not do to appeal, behind the back of tradition, to the etymological sense of the word: for government by the best men is surely the aspiration of every society, whatever its social organization.  I am, Sir, your obedient servant. T.  S. Eliot, Shamley Green, Surrey, April  14.  [“Aristocracy,” London Times (April 17, 1944), pg. 5.]

Join us in Dialogue, October 23

CU Dialogue

CU Dialogue

The CU Dialogues Program and CU’s Center for Conservative Thought and Policy would like to invite you to participate in a dialogue on political labels and labeling. 

Dialogue Topic: What’s In A Label?  Decoding and Defusing Political Labels

Description: Join students, community members, and CU Scholar of Conservative Thought Brad Birzer for a conversation about the uses and perceptions of labels in the American political tradition and our collective experiences with labeling or being labeled.  A three-way conversation between Ellen Aiken, Karen Ramirez, and me.  Very much looking forward to this.

Date/Time of Event: Thursday Oct 23, 5-6:15

Location: Harding Lounge, Sewall Hall

RSVP TO: Martha Shernick:

For information on this excellent CU program, Dialogues, go to the official website:

PF Division Bell

Ray Bradbury on the Truth of Fantasy

Ray Bradbury (1920-2012).

Ray Bradbury (1920-2012).

. . . the young people have tossed bombs into your nearest corner art gallery, your downtown art museum.  They have walked through the halls and dozed off at the modern scene as represented by sixty-odd years of abstraction super-abstracting itself until it vanished up its own backside.  Empty canvases.  Empty minds.  No concepts.  Sometimes no color.  No ideas that would interest a performing flea at a dog circus.

‘Enough!’ cried the children.  ‘Let there be fantasy.  Let there be science-fiction light.’

Let illustration be reborn.

Let the Pre-Raphaelites re-clone themselves and proliferate!

And it was so.

And because the children of the Space Age, and the sons and daughters of Tolkien wanted their fictional dreams sketched and painted in illustrative terms, the ancient art of story-telling, as acted out by your caveman or your Fra Angelico or your Dante Gabriel Rossetti was reinvented as yet the second giant pyramid turned end for end, and education ran from the base into the apex, and the old order was reversed.

Hence your Double Revolution in reading, in teaching Literature and pictorial Art.

Hence, by osmosis, the Industrial Revolution and the Electronic and Space Ages have finally seeped into the blood, bone, marrow, heart, flesh and mind of the young, who as teachers teach us what we should have known all along.

That Truth again: the History of Ideas, which is all that science fiction ever has been.

–Ray Bradbury, Zen in the Art of Writing (Joshua Odell, 1996), 106-107.