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May I ask, Lord Illingworth, if you regard the House of Lords as a better institution than the House of Commons?
A much better institution, of course. We in the House of Lords are never in touch with public opinion. That makes us a civilised body.
I have shown in the previous letters that it is only the aesthetic disposition of the soul that gives birth to liberty, it cannot therefore be derived from liberty nor have a moral origin. It must be a gift of nature; the favor of chance alone can break the bonds of the physical state and bring the savage to duty. The germ of the beautiful will find an equal difficulty in developing itself in countries where a severe nature forbids man to enjoy himself, and in those where a prodigal nature dispenses him from all effort; where the blunted senses experience no want, and where violent desire can never be satisfied. The delightful flower of the beautiful will never unfold itself in the case of the Troglodyte hid in his cavern always alone, and never finding humanity outside himself; nor among nomads, who, travelling in great troops, only consist of a multitude, and have no individual humanity. It will only flourish in places where man converses peacefully with himself in his cottage, and with the whole race when he issues from it. In those climates where a limpid ether opens the senses to the lightest impression, whilst a life-giving warmth develops a luxuriant nature, where even in the inanimate creation the sway of inert matter is overthrown, and the victorious form ennobles even the most abject natures; in this joyful state and fortunate zone, where activity alone leads to enjoyment, and enjoyment to activity, from life itself issues a holy harmony, and the laws of order develop life, a different result takes place. When imagination incessantly escapes from reality, and does not abandon the simplicity of nature in its wanderings: then and there only the mind and the senses, the receptive force and the plastic force, are developed in that happy equilibrium which is the soul of the beautiful and the condition of humanity
The newspapers are the seconds-hand of history; yet this is often not only of baser metal, but is seldom right. The so-called ‘leading articles’ in the papers are the chorus to the drama of contemporary events. Exaggeration of every kind is as essential to journalism as it is to dramatic art; for as much as possible must be made of every event; and so by virtue of their profession all journalists are alarmists; this is their way of making themselves interesting, whereby they resemble small dogs who at once start barking loudly at everything that stirs. We accordingly have to regulate our attention to their alarm-trumpet so that they will not upset our digestion; and we should know generally that the newspaper is a magnifying glass, and this even in the best case; for it is very often a mere phantasmagoria.