Sunday, August 26, 2012


National Greatness

Maurice Hewlett (1861–1923), Wiltshire Essays (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1921), pp. 157-158:
We should have neither army nor navy. We should carry, as we once did, and as the Dutch and Norwegians have done for three centuries, without a guaranteed passage. We should be self-contained, self-sufficient: we should fish, we should plough, we should graze our sheep and cattle, we should take in each other's washing. We should not fear invasion, for the possible loot would not be tempting enough; we should not want more than a small militia for policing the land and the home-waters, for the same reason. There would be such a chance then for our national 'greatness' as it has not had since Queen Elizabeth lived and died; and if those spacious days do not begin all over again; and if five hundred years hence some man of letters from a green shade is not writing in precisely this strain, and to the same end—then I wholly misread the greatness of my nation.

Il faut cultiver notre jardin was Candide's conclusion, and it is mine. We shall have time for that in a few years from now. And time to be great rather than big. And then—if contentment is anything to the matter—we may perhaps be happy.

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