Days Like These

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The Independent Culture
18 September 1816

LORD BYRON,

poet, notes in his Swiss journal:

"Went to Chillon through scenery worthy of I know not whom; went over the Castle of Chillon again. On our return met an English party in a carriage; the lady in it fast asleep! - fast asleep in the most anti-narcotic spot in the world - excellent! I remember at Chamonix, in the very eyes of Mont Blanc, hearing another woman, English also, exclaim to her party `Did you ever see anything more rural?' - as if it was Highgate, or Hampstead, or Brompton, or Hayes - `Rural!' quotha! - rocks, pines, torrents, glaciers, clouds and summits of eternal snow far above them - and `Rural!'"

23 September 1849

MATTHEW ARNOLD

writes to fellow-poet A H Clough:

"My dearest Clough, these are damned times - everything is against one - the height to which knowledge has come, the spread of luxury, our physical enervation, the absence of great natures, the unavoidable contact with millions of small ones, newspapers, cities, light, profligate friends, moral desperadoes like [Thomas] Carlyle, our own selves, and sickening self-consciousness of our difficulties: but for God's sake let us neither be fanatics nor yet chaff blown by the wind but let us be `as virtuous as the prudent man would define' and not as anyone else would."

20 September 1980

PHILIP TOYNBEE,

writer, observes in his journal:

"Sudden wild nostalgia for my earliest, cloudiest Communist days; the pamphlet John Cornford sent me at Rugby, a black silhouette of Lenin with arm outstretched against a field of deep maroon; the Parton St bookshop; my first meeting of the October Club at Oxford... How clearly it all comes back to me now, those passionate longings for brotherhood with the whole world and the conviction that my own emancipation, freedom, growth were directly dependent on working for that glorious fraternity. What wild and confident happiness! Never for a moment have I felt this kind of ecstasy from any of my religious aspirations. Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive - however false the dawn."

Ian Irvine

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