Quotes By Robert Lynd

*The most popular of the vices at the present moment seems to me to be intolerance.

*Knowledge is power only if a man knows what facts not to bother about.

*The British Lion’s one ambition has always been to be a domestic poet.

*Games are the last resource of those who do not know how to idle.

*The belief in the possibility of a short decisive war appears to be one of the most ancient and dangerous of human illusions.

*There is nothing in which the birds differ more from man than the way. in which they can build and yet leave a landscape as it was before.

*I make no protest against the incursions of scholars into the world of myths, but, on the whole, I do not care for their company.

*The wise man learns to beware of becoming the victim of the facts that are staring him in the face.

*I believe that without variety of opinion life would be intolerable–especially without variety of opinion about trifles.

*Let a thoroughly bad man become religious without changing his nature, and there is no knowing what he will do.

*The wise man learns to beware of becoming the victim of the facts that are staring at him in the face.

“There are finer things in life than playing games, but, if there were no games to play, would more people do finer things? I doubt it. They would probably only do something worse.”

“The ordinary man takes very little interest in public affairs until they interfere with his private affairs.”

“There is a taint about money earned by honest work. By the time one has earned enough of it one has got into such a habit of work that one does not know how to idle.”

“C-3 kindness is too often A-1 cruelty. If the birds could speak, who doubts that they would begin their morning chant with a prayer to us to abandon out well-meant efforts to protect them?”

“Every day, life, as we see it reflected in the newspapers, becomes more and more like a novel written by Edgar Wallace.”

“Virtue may seem as sleepy as a cat, but she is dangerous when she sleeps.”

“The discovery of new notes of sympathy is the secret of all good conversation.”

“Morals, like laws, were invented for our neighbors, and it is out secret conviction that we ourselves could get along without them.”

“The chief objection to growing old is not that one grows old oneself, but that the world grows older, and it is not so much that the world grows older as that the world we once knew is in ruins.”

“Too many Nelsons would spoil a navy, and one blind eye is enough for a fleet.”

“I sometimes suspect that half our difficulties are imaginary and that if we kept quiet about them they would disappear.”

“There has never been a satisfactory definition of what constitutes a gentleman. I have been called a gentleman myself.”

“There must be a mild pleasure in irritating other people by going about the world with a sweet and sickly and intolerable smile. But I doubt whether the smilers are happier than the scowlers. There is a fierce delight to get from scowling.”

“Loudly as many of us protest against noise, we know in our hearts that the really terrifying thing is silence.”

“There are only two sure means of forgetfulness known to a man — work and drink — and, of the two, work is the more economical.”

“Liberty is not a way of working out men’s destinies for them, but a way of enabling them to work out their own destinies.”

“International sport is war without shooting.”

“It is in games that many men discover their paradise.”

“It is a glorious thing to be indifferent to suffering, but only to one’s own suffering.”

“The lowbrow often believes that a bad book is good, while the highbrow often believes that a good book is bad.”

“The rich never feel so good as when they are speaking of their possessions as responsibilities.”

“It is only in literature that coincidences seem unnatural.”

“Every man of genius is considerably helped by being dead.”

“Most remarks that are worth making are commonplace remarks. The thing that makes them worth saying is that we really mean them.”

“If you look up a dictionary of quotations you will find few reasons for a sensible man to desire to become wealthy.”

“There are some people who want to throw their arms round you simply because it is Christmas; there are other people who want to strange you simply because it is Christmas.”

“There is more love-poetry in a page of Browning than in all the verse Whitman ever wrote.”

“If nobody bought books except those who read them, the publishers of some of those cheap editions of the popular classics would also be leaner and sadder men.”

“However this may be, I never could read a library book without feeling as if I were eating off somebody else’s plate.”

“The English are patient people. If they were not they would not have so many bad hotels.”

“The sense of one’s ignorance is a much more useful thing than the sense of one’s knowledge.”

“THE truth is, our clothes make us to a great extent what we are.”

“It is still an instinct in many Christian places to turn Christmas into a general orgy—to make it a day on which one bows down and worships the human maw. (And there are worse things in the world than brandy sauce).”

“The last man in the world whose opinion I would take on what to eat would be a doctor. It is far safer to consult a waiter, and not a bit more expensive.” From the essay “Odd Volumes” in the book “Solomon in all his glory.

“That is why I think that a dart-board, instead of encouraging heavy drinking, is likely to lessen it, and why I believe that a dart-board should be part of the amenities of every civilised public-house.” news chronicle 15/4/39

“Make Utility clothes the fashion and all the male sex, with the exception of a few Irish eccentrics like the Duke of Wellington and Mr Shaw will love them. The truth is, men do not care about clothes” News Chronicle, 7 March 1942

“The life of a reviewer may be a hard one, if he reads as thoroughly as he ought to read and writes as gracefully as he ought to write, but, if you don’t mind not being rich, it is full of satisfying pleasures–the pleasure, especially, of acquaintance not only with books but with the extraordinarily interesting people who write the best of them.”

St. Martin’s Review – 9 February 1926

It is extraordinarily easy to persuade people that other people ought to work honestly, but it is not always easy to persuade them that they themselves ought to work hoenstly. If you go into the great manufacturing towns and visit an engineering works of a shipyard or a silversmith’s, you will see men working as hard and as honestly, I am sure, as men have ever worked since Eden. Nor is the honest manufacturer extinct, or the honest butcher, or the honest author, or the honest publican. There are far more honest men alive than ever get mentioned in the papers. You can recognise them by the fact that they seldom waste their time in accusing other people of being lazy. It is the laziest members of the upper and middle classes who most often accuse the working classes who are most firmly convinced that nobody outside their own ranks ever does an honest day’s work for a living. The trouble is that, in modern times, more and more men are discouraged from doing their best work by the suspicion that, if they do, some one else will cheat them out of their just reward, whether for the manufacturer of for the shopkeeper or for the artisan. If we can establish the principle of the just reward we shall be in a position to defeat the principle of “the Devil take the hindmost” in the affairs of the world at large. Except in a world that, at least aims at the establishment of the just reward, the rich man and other poor man alike must live in chains.

Diet for a Philosopher
The Catholic Press – 26 October 1933

“Yet, though no longer a practising vegetarian, I still have a kind of vegetarian faith–a belief that lettuce is somehow a purer thing than a pig, and a dish of broad beans fitter food for a philosopher than the offals of the butcher’s shop. There is something noble in the character of a man who can refuse turkey, and who is content with a mess of cauliflower, while all round him are enjoying saddle of mutton and red-currant jelly. Say what you will, that man has a soul above pleasures. He is king of himself, unassailable by temptation, the ascetic we should all like to be.”

SPORT IS A PASTIME – 8 March 1937
“It is not the chief end of man, and it is not nearly so good a sign as many people have contended that, in a world that needs to be reconstructed all round, tens of thousands of people are utterly indifferent to any sort of reconstruction but the construction of English cricket. A Chancellor of the Exchequer can fumble incompetently with a million pounds amid general apathy while a fielder who fumbles with the ball becomes the object of barracking.”

ACHIEVEMENT 2 February 1940
As we approached Esher, a policeman in a steel helmet held up his hand and called out: “Take cover in Esher. Air raid signaled.” It was then a quarter to twelve. We drove up to an inn and went into the lounge. Deciding to have some coffee, I went in search of the waiter and found him in the bar. “Not for another quarter of an hour,” he said to me as I entered. (Even during an air raid the licensing laws must be respected.) I explained to him I did not want strong drink, but only coffee, and, while waiting for the coffee, my friend and I went out on the steps to look up at the lovely and innocent sky. Under such a sky war and air raids seemed utterly incredible. “Get back under cover,” an air-warden ordered us. . .
The incredible has become the credible now that we see little children going about carrying gasmasks. That is one of the achievements of Herr Hitler. He will be remembered in history, I think, as the first terrorist who compelled children to carry gasmasks. They are a symbol of the condition to which he has reduced the civilised world.

“WE CAN’T AFFORD IT” 9 February 1940
One does not need to be an economist to wonder how it comes that a country which can bear almost any financial burden for great ends during war time would be ruined if it shouldered the finiancial burden necessary to the accomplishment of equally great ends during peace time.
Comparatively few people during war time regard expenditure on war as ruinous. During peace time, however, thousands of people–some of them among the most influential in politics–are to be heard declaring the expenditure on making England a land fit for ordinary human beings to live in would be ruinous.
This does not make sense to me. It seems to me that if a country took social progress as seriously as it takes war, and in the same self-sacrificing spirit, it would find a similar means of paying for it.

Patriotism 2 March 1940
If we allow nationalism to be given a bad name, we may conclude that the world would be better without it and make futile plans for the world of the future as a result of ignoring the fact that patriotism is a necessity of human nature.
I am not decrying the ideal of citizenship of the world. I believe that Mr. Wells is right in his passionate desire to see us all conscious or world-citizenship. I hold, however, that ordinary men would not become better citizens of the world if they ceased to be patriotic lovers of their own country. There is no necessary conflict between world-citizenship and patriotism–between national independence and collaboration in a World State. Patriotism in the form of Jingoism is, I agree, a pestilence. But patriotism, freed from its associated evils, is a force that strengthens the character of a people, and so enables it to play a finer part in the civilization of the world at large.

Grey Hairs? 28 June 1940
“Few of the men I know seem to have any wish to live even to be 90; and still fewer women. This may be largely due to fear of infirmity and the loss of friends. Or it may be due in some measure to the wave of pessimism that has been sweeping over Europe in the present century. Even in the present age, however, the dread of growing old is far from being universal. Many elderly men are now seeking to prolong their lives through gland treatments, and, if the operation were not so expensive it is possible that we should see queues of aged men lining up outside the doors of the rejuvenators.”

A Plea for Trash 21 February 1941
Let no one suppose that I am inviting anyone to give up literature for trash. I am merely urging that trash has a legitimate place in reading. To read trash all the time is, of course, to miss nine-tenths of the pleasures of literature. But I do not think, as some schoolmaster used to seem to think, that to read a fair amount of trash is to destroy one’s taste for literature. After all, we can spend years enjoying music-hall songs and at the same time become passionate lovers of Handel and Bach. Taste is none the worse for an admixture of a little bad taste.
I sometimes wonder whether one of the chief services that trash does us is not that it shows us how good books are by comparison. I often take two books to bed with me, one trashy and the other good. After reading the trashy book, for a time, I turn to the good book–say “Pride and Prejudice.” How absorbing, how exciting it seems! I begin to wonder why I have ever wasted my time over trashy books–books without character, books of mechanical nonsense. After such a book Plato’s “Apology” seems a thriller and Sir Thomas Brown’s “Religio Medici” a book that cannot be laid down till the last page is reached.
No, do not belittle trash. Is it the perfect hors d’oeuvre for a good book. It whets the literary appetite, or, at least, it ought to do so.

Robert Lynd on Chesterton:

“The truth is, he never ceased to be a poet even when he was writing prose. How fine a poet he was at his best everyone who has read the “Ballad of the White Horse” knows. Some of his verse might be described as a riot of rhetoric, but the rhetoric is the genuine expression of a riotous and exuberant imagination. The novels, too, were riots – some of them glorious riots, with little imps of nonsense tumbling head-over-heels among apocalyptic visions. There are writers who hold that Chesterton squandered his genius and endangered his literary immortality by his indifference to form. He was certainly of a squandering temperament, but in his case it was not a common spendthrift but a millionaire who did the squandering. He once said that if he were a millionaire he would like just to “chuck his money about” – not to deserving people, but to “just chuck it about.” In literature and journalism he may be said to have chucked his genius about. It seems to me likely that we shall still for many generations to come be collecting the gold pieces that he has strewn with such magnificent recklessness.” “G.K.’s Weekly, A Sampler” p/527 Editor: Lyle W. Dorsett, 1986



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