Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Quotes: The Hero (1901) by W. Somerset Maugham


...there is nothing like the daily and thorough perusal of a newspaper for dulling a man's brain.

They had ever tried to shield him from all knowledge of evil [...] holding the approved opinion that ignorance is synonymous with virtue.

They were so used to controlling themselves, that when their emotion was overpowering they were at a loss to express it.

But was it love, or was it merely affection, habit, esteem?

James had been brought up in the belief that women were fashioned of different clay from men, less gross, less earthly; he thought not only that they were pious, sweet and innocent, ignorant entirely of disagreeable things, but that it was man's first duty to protect them from all knowledge of the realities of life. To him they were an ethereal blending of milk-and-water with high principles; it had never occurred to him that they were flesh and blood, and sense, and fire and nerves - especially nerves. Most topics, of course, could not be broached in their presence; in fact, almost the only safe subject of conversation was the weather.

When James went home he found that the Vicar of Little Primpton and his wife had already arrived. They were both of them little, dried-up persons, with an earnest manner and no sense of humour, quite excellent in a rather unpleasant way; they resembled one another like peas, but none knew whether the likeness had grown from the propinquity of twenty years, or had been the original attraction. Deeply impressed with their sacred calling - for Mrs Jackson would never have acknowledged that the Vicar's wife held a position inferior to the Vicar's - they argued that whole world was God's, and they God's particular ministrants; so that it was their plain duty to concern themselves with the business of their fellows - and it must be confessed that they never shrank from this duty. They were neither well-educated, nor experienced, nor tactful; but blissfully ignorant of these defects, they shepherded their flock with little moral barks, and gave them, rather self-consciously, a good example in the difficult way to eternal life. They were eminently worthy people, who thought light-heartedness somewhat indecent. They did endless good in the most disagreeable manner possible; and in their fervour not only bore unnecessary crosses themselves, but saddled them on to everyone else, as the only certain passport to the Golden City.

Colonel Clibborn was a tall man, with oily black hair and fierce eyebrows, both dyed; aggressively military and reminiscent. He had been in a cavalry regiment, where he had come to the philosophic conclusion that all men are dust - except cavalrymen;

Mrs Clibborn was a regimental beauty - of fifty, who had grown stout; but not for that ceased to use the weapons which Nature had given her against the natural enemies of the sex. In her dealings with several generations of adorers, she had acquired such a habit of languishing glances that now she used them unconsciously. Whether ordering meat from the butcher or discussing parochial matters with Mr Jackson, Mrs Clibborn tone and manner were such that she might have been saying the most tender things. She had been very popular in the service, because she was the type of philandering woman who required no beating about the bush; her neighbour at the dinner-table, even if he had not seen her before, need never have hesitated to tell her with the soup that she was the most handsomest creature he had ever seen, and with the entree that he adored her.

"Women have never liked me. I don't know why. I can't help it if I'm not exactly - plain. I'm as God made me".
James thought that the Almighty in that case must have an unexpected familiarity with the rouge-pot and the powder-puff.

Actions are the most lying things in the world. They are due mostly to adventitious circumstances which have nothing to do with the character of the agent. I would never judged a man by his actions.

The easiest way to get through life is to say pleasant things on all possible occasions.

What is a virtue that exists only because temptation is impossible!

The Parsons had lived their whole lives in an artificial state. Ill-educated as most of their contemporaries in that particular class, they had just enough knowledge to render them dogmatic and intolerant. It requires a good deal of information to discover one's own ignorance, but to the consciousness of this the good people had never arrived. They felt they knew as much as necessary, and naturally on the most debatable questions were most assured. Their standpoint was inconceivably narrow. They had the best intentions in the world of doing their duty, but what their duty was they accepted on trust, frivolously. They walked round and round in a narrow circle, hemmed in by false ideas and by ugly prejudices, putting for the love of God unnecessary obstacles in their path and convinced that theirs was the only possible way, while all others led to damnation. They had never worked out an idea for themselves, never done a single deed on their own account, but invariably acted and thought according to the rule of their caste. They were not living creatures, but dogmatic machines.

I have long since ceased to flatter myself on my strength of mind. I find it is chiefly a characteristic of unintelligent persons.

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