The Cruise of the ‘Nona’

Hilaire Belloc, The Cruise of the ‘Nona.’ 1925

On the whole, of the cads and gentlemen I have met, I could give the cads a shade of odds in the matter of salvation; which is not without its importance either.

***

I learnt from a stoker two songs: one called The Corn Beef Can, and the other called The Tom Cat. They are of the great songs of this world. A man should learn all the songs he can. Songs are a possession, and all men who write good songs are benefactors.

***

The truth is the atheists do not know their job; for it has been clearly proved upon thumb and the four fingers of the left hand that men cut off from the Divine are also cut off from reason.

***

I wonder, indeed, how much of Catholic doctrine will survive, and what part of it—if any—in whatever of Europe continues to reject the present advance of the Faith? That some great section of Europe will lose the last savour of Christian culture, and that soon, is probable; for already the half-educated are abandoning it all over the north.That the rest will return to full doctrine is probable. For already the thirst for it is apparent, and the stronger minds are so returning. But what will follow where it is wholly abandoned? We know what heavy weather property is making today, and, as for marriage, it has nearly gone by the board.

***

Indeed, I have noticed that the finest and most conclusive pieces of Catholic apologetics are, in England and America, hidden away in little publication read by no one but Catholics; and by few, even of these.

***

Labels help the fool to do what little dull thinking he manages to get through. He knows whom to respect and whom to despise and what wine to choose, and so on—all by the label. And then again, labels are very useful to the Fool by getting him taken for more than he is worth. Any number of my friends have said to me at one time or another, when I was having my laugh at the politicians: ‘A man does not get to a position like that (Secretary of State for Drainage, or Prime Minister, or what not) without abilities.’ Now this error shows how useful the label is to the fool. For a matter of fact I can testify, if any living man can, that the politicians who get their share of the swag are of all degrees in the matter of intelligence. Some have first rate abilities, especially among the lawyers; many are of the ordinary second-rate, fifty-eight per cent, b-minus of Wandsworth intelligence; and quite a large proportion are Plumb Stuffed Fools; True Fools, Absolute and of the Nadir; Rooted Fools. I knew one Fool Secretary of State who, in his Whitehall office, used to look at his official documents with a sort of tragic stare, as men look on the dead, and slowly wag them up and down in front of his face with a hopeless gesture. Then he would call upon his permanent official, who would explain to him what they meant, whereupon he would use one after another of the great Fool Phrases which are the furniture of the Fool’s Mind, such as ‘Yes,’ ‘I see,’ ‘Quite,’ ‘Precisely,’ and then again ‘Yes.’ Having done this, he would sign his name to a number of papers which meant no more to him than so many Chinese tracts, and with a groan he would go off to spend his hundred pounds a week at Brighton.

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