Saturday, March 18, 2017


Offensive Behavior

Nirad C. Chaudhuri (1897-1999), Thy Hand, Great Anarch! India 1921-1952 (London: The Hogarth Press, 1987), pp. 189-190:
My brothers never made any insulting remarks to me. But I could see how they disapproved of me. I also saw, rightly or wrongly, looks of cold contempt when they met me. What distressed me most then was the alienation from my elder brother, who had led me into jaunts of buying books and pictures. Even late in 1924 we had come triumphantly home with a porter behind us carrying many volumes of the Arden edition of Shakespeare, and though he himself did not read French he had abetted me in buying a very pretty edition of Molière in eight volumes which had once belonged to Sir John Lubbock (Lord Avebury). But he had become not only wholly unco-operative but also hostile, so much so that after buying a Medici print of the Mona Lisa in 1926 I hid the print for some weeks to avoid giving offence to his eyes.

More distant relatives were vocally abusive. Although they were not supporting me, they were making very insulting remarks, even going to the point of saying that I should be whipped. And these remarks were always brought to me by those to whom they were made. What exasperated them was in the first place my giving up a Government post. That was bad enough, but not satisfied with that offence I went just then on a wild spree of spending on books and pictures. I might say I went berserk. This was not the kind of extravagance which they could disapprove silently. If in my desperation I had begun to visit brothels or taken to drugs or drink, nobody woud have said a word, for in our society it was not decorous to be open about such failings. But what I did was not so clearly immoral as to become unmentionable, but was offensive enough as behaviour to be condemned.
Id., p. 193:
Besides, books were to me mental nourishment, as much as they were material adjuncts of mental life at a civilized level. Therefore I did not think I could give up buying books and artistic objects simply because I had no money or very little money. In any case, though I bought things on credit I finally paid for them with my own money or at its worst with my father's. But, of course, in our society as it had become even spending one's own money on such things was not approved of. An elderly relative of mine said to me one day: 'I do not ask you to give up buying books, but at present you should lay by something, and when you have enough buy books.' I could not tell him to his face that he might as well have told me to put off eating until I had enough in the bank. I might add here that even at the end of my life, I have not gone back on my conviction that our beautiful material possessions are only the outward signs of an inward grace, or in plain words material symbols of a full and active mental life. I have always held the saying 'Plain living and high thinking' in contempt. Plain living (which is not simple living) results in very poor thinking.
Hat tip: Ian Jackson.

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