Thursday, November 09, 2017


Our Dear Old Culture-Aunties and Uncles

Aldous Huxley (1894-1963), "On the Charms of History and the Future of the Past," Music at Night and Other Essays (London: Chatto & Windus, 1949; rpt. 1957), pp. 133-153 (at 134-135):
Culture, as Emmanuel Berl has pointed out in one of his brilliantly entertaining pamphlets, is like the sum of special knowledge that accumulates in any large united family and is the common property of all its members. 'Do you remember Aunt Agatha's ear trumpet? And how Willie made the parrot drunk with sops in wine? And that picnic on Loch Etive, when the boat upset and Uncle Bob was nearly drowned? Do you remember?' And we all do; and we laugh delightedly; and the unfortunate stranger, who happens to have called, feels utterly out of it. Well, that (in its social aspect) is Culture. When we of the great Culture Family meet, we exchange reminiscences about Grandfather Homer, and that awful old Dr. Johnson, and Aunt Sappho, and poor Johnny Keats. 'And do you remember that absolutely priceless thing Uncle Virgil said? You know. Timeo Danaos ... Priceless; I shall never forget it.' No, we shall never forget it; and what more, we shall take good care that those horrid people who have had the impertinence to call on us, those wretched outsiders who never knew dear mellow old Uncle V., shall never forget it either. We'll keep them constantly reminded of their outsideness. So pleasurable to members of the Culture Family is this rehearsal of tribal gossip, such a glow of satisfied superiority does it give them, that the Times finds it profitable to employ some one to do nothing else but talk to us every morning about our dear old Culture-Aunties and Uncles and their delightful friends.

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