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Quotation of the Day…

… is from H.L. Mencken’s November 28, 1936, letter to Ezra Pound; this letter appears on pages 410-411 of Letters of H.L. Mencken (Guy J. Forgue, ed., 1961):

You made your great mistake when you abandoned the poetry business, and set up shop as a wizard in general practise. You wrote, in your day, some very good verse, and I had the pleasure, along with other literary buzzards, of calling attention to it at the time. But when you fell into the hands of those London logrollers, and began to wander through pink fogs with them, all your native common sense oozed out of you, and you set up a caterwauling for all sorts of brummagem Utopias, at first in the aesthetic region only but later in the regions of political and aesthetic baloney. Thus a competent poet was spoiled to make a tinhorn politician.

DBx: Persons who become famous for being extraordinarily talented at, or successful in, their respective crafts often come to suffer the delusion that they are called upon, and competent to, save humanity from grave threats. These threats are sometimes real; far more frequently they are imagined, or at least grossly overblown.

Yet what is never real is the competence of these delusional celebrities to recommend or to superintend the re-engineering of society. Such a task is impossible for any human or committee or congress to carry out successfully. And so success at performing some tiny task – for every truly successful and productive person achieves that success only by performing some tiny task – never qualifies someone to play god with society.


I take this opportunity to publicly thank my friend Mike Stetson for giving to me, as a gift back in 2008, a copy of Mencken’s Letters. Thanks Mike! Thirteen years later I remain deeply touched by your thoughtfulness.