Wednesday, July 18, 2007


Part of the work I'm doing this next month is steeling myself once and for all to sift through heaps of interesting notes and papers and put in the dead letter file various quotations and thoughts that will find no place in the book. Here's one rather irresistible one that must go, from Bernard Mandeville's Fable of the Bees, or Private Vices, Publick Benefits, which is a sort of Adam-Smith-avant-la-lettre and on my short list of eighteenth-century books which I believe everybody should read (especially essential is the "Essay on Charity and Charity-Schools," which I really believe is indispensable). Here Mandeville's attacking the notion of "honor":

The Excellency of this Principle is, that the Vulgar are destitute of it, and it is only to be met with in People of the better sort, as some Oranges have Kernels, and others not, tho' the out-side be the same. In great Families it is like the Gout, generally counted Hereditary, and all Lords Children are born with it. In some that never felt any thing of it, it is acquired by Conversation and Reading, (especially of Romances) in others by Preferment; but there is nothing that encourages the Growth of it more than a Sword, and upon the first wearing of one, some People have felt considerable Shoots of it in four and twenty Hours.

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