Junior Ganymede
We endeavor to give satisfaction

The charming eccentricities of a better elite

November 22nd, 2016 by Vader

Long gone.

On arrival at Belmont, C.B.’s first concern was to visit his trees, sometimes bowing to them and bidding them “Good morning.” To one magnificent specimen, he always raised his hat and, in a courtly manner, inquired after “Madame’s health.” Nothing unfamiliar was permitted at Belmont. There were no motorcars, only old horses, old carriages, old dogs — many dogs, his and hers — and old servants. C.B. was loyal; what had served him well would not be put by. He had a large collection of walking canes. Each day, as he chose the one to be given an outing, he would murmur affectionately to the others, consoling them for being left behind. A drawer in his desk contained a mass of pencil stubs — old friends, he explained, “who deserved to be decently cared for when their day was done.”

… Among his papers, he always carried a novel by Balzac, Flaubert, Anatole France, or Zola, but his primary pleasure was to sit and look at people. Few looked at him, and to the end he scorned the idea that he was a person of importance.

— Robert K. Massie, Dreadnought: Britain, Germany, and the Coming of the Great War

“C.B.” was Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1905 to 1908.

His Majesty: “The problem is distinguishing the harmless eccentricity of a healthy elite from the dotage of a degenerate one. Whereas there is no ambiguity about the highminded viciousness of our present elite.”

Comments (4)
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November 22nd, 2016 21:26:21

Bruce Charlton
November 22, 2016

Thirty plus years ago British universities were well provided with extreme eccentricity, and an overlapping group of real scholars… Now both types have been replaced by docile careerist bureaucrats. The institutions retain their names, but they have been hollowed out, the contents replaced, and set to do a different job.

November 24, 2016

The charming eccentricity of the passage is darkened by the title of the book that contains it and the actual coming of the Great War. It has been said that the world’s leaders were sleepwalking into war. I would be happy to have such an eccentric neighbor, but an eccentric PM could be problematic. Or maybe C.B. would have been exactly the man who could have avoided the war had he remained in power.

November 24, 2016

One of the things I’m seeing from the book is that the myth of Prussian imperialism, isn’t. Except in the sense that the old Prussian imperialism represented by Bismarck would have avoided the war; the new Prussian imperialism represented by Queen Victoria’s grandson welcomed it.

Not sure how other world leaders could have avoided that reality.

November 26, 2016

There are two separate questions. Could the Great War have been avoided, and could Britain have remained out of it? One can only speculate on the answers and the consequences of history playing out differently.

In any event the Great War was appalling.

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