Sunday, March 16, 2014


Love and Hate

Herman Melville (1819-1891), Mardi, chapter 13:
As well hate a seraph, as a shark. Both were made by the same hand. And that sharks are lovable, witness their domestic endearments. No Fury so ferocious, as not to have some amiable side. In the wild wilderness, a leopard-mother caresses her cub, as Hagar did Ishmael; or a queen of France the dauphin. We know not what we do when we hate. And I have the word of my gentlemanly friend Stanhope, for it; that he who declared he loved a good hater was but a respectable sort of Hottentot, at best. No very genteel epithet this, though coming from the genteelest of men. But when the digger of dictionaries said that saying of his, he was assuredly not much of a Christian. However, it is hard for one given up to constitutional hypos like him; to be filled with the milk and meekness of the gospels. Yet, with deference, I deny that my old uncle Johnson really believed in the sentiment ascribed to him. Love a hater, indeed! Who smacks his lips over gall? Now hate is a thankless thing. So, let us only hate hatred; and once give love play, we will fall in love with a unicorn. Ah! the easiest way is the best; and to hate, a man must work hard. Love is a delight; but hate a torment. And haters are thumbscrews, Scotch boots, and Spanish inquisitions to themselves. In five words—would they were a Siamese diphthong—he who hates is a fool.
On "my gentlemanly friend Stanhope"'s description of Samuel Johnson as a "respectable sort of Hottentot," see Lord Chesterfield's letter to his son, no. CCXLIV (February 28, 1751):
There is a man, whose moral character, deep learning, and superior parts, I acknowledge, admire, and respect; but whom it is so impossible for me to love, that I am almost in a fever whenever I am in his company. His figure (without being deformed) seems made to disgrace or ridicule the common structure of the human body. His legs and arms are never in the position which, according to the situation of his body, they ought to be in, but constantly employed in committing acts of hostility upon the graces. He throws any where, but down his throat, whatever he means to drink, and only mangles what he means to carve. Inattentive to all the regards of social life, he mistimes or misplaces every thing. He disputes with heat, and indiscriminately, mindless of the rank, character, and situation of those with whom he disputes; absolutely ignorant of the several gradations of familiarity or respect, he is exactly the same to his superiors, his equals, and his inferiors; and therefore, by a necessary consequence, absurd to two of the three. Is it possible to love such a man? No. The utmost I can do for him, is to consider him as a respectable Hottentot.
On "the digger of old uncle Johnson"'s love of a good hater, see Hester Lynch Piozzi, Anecdotes of the Late Samuel Johnson, LL.D., 4th ed. (London: T. Cadell, 1786), p. 83:
"Dear Bathurst (said he to me one day) was a man to my very heart's content: he hated a fool, and he hated a rogue, and he hated a whig; he was a very good hater."

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