Tradition is the democracy of the dead

“Tradition means giving a vote to most obscure of all classes, our ancestors. It is the democracy of the dead. Tradition refuses to submit to the small and arrogant oligarchy of those who merely happen to be walking about. All democrats object to men being disqualified by the accident of birth; tradition objects to their being disqualified by the accident of death. Democracy tells us not to neglect a good man’s opinion, even if he is our groom; tradition asks us not to neglect a good man’s opinion, even if he is our father.”
- G. K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy
, Chapter 4, “The Ethics of Elfland.”

Holiday Viewing: The Victοrians – Ηοme Sweet Ηοme – Jeremy Paxman – History Documentary

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Jeremy Paxman, presenter of the BBC’s current affairs program Newsnight examines the life and times of the Victorian era. In the first program he focuses on the styles of Victorian artists and their stark contrast between the dreams and nightmares of the age. Victorian artists painted cozy, opulent interiors of domestic happiness without any of the hardships of the poor. Many artists however rebelled against this in the mid Victorian era and painted what happened was happening to the unfortunates and the destitute and depict the dark, lingering fears and anxieties that threatened too destroy the calm of home which the Victorians had insulated themselves with.

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Weekend Viewing: Empire – Episode 1 – Jeremy Paxman Explores the History of the British Empire

British TV presenter Jeremy Paxman traces the story of the greatest empire the world has ever known: the British Empire. In the first programme, he asks how such a small country got such a big head, and how a tiny island in the North Atlantic came to rule over a quarter of the world’s population. He travels to India, where local soldiers and local maharajahs helped a handful of British traders to take over vast areas of land. Spectacular displays of imperial power dazzled subject peoples and developed a cult of Queen Victoria as Empress, mother and virtual God. In Egypt, Jeremy explores the bit of Empire that never was, as Britain’s temporary peace-keeping visit turned into a seventy year occupation. He travels to the desert where Lawrence of Arabia brought a touch of romance to the grim struggle of the First World War. As Britain came to believe it could solve the world’s problems, he tells the story of the triumphant conquest of Palestine by Imperial troops – and Britain’s role in a conflict that haunts the Middle East to this day.

jeremy paxman - empire series image

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Peter Ackroyd’s London – Episode 3 – Water and Darkness – BBC Documentary – Final Episode

Author Peter Ackroyd explores Victorian London, and reveals that although the city was the thriving heart of the British Empire, it was also home to a growing underclass. He examines the story of Jack the Ripper, asking why the Whitechapel murders continue to have such a strong hold over the public’s imagination, and celebrates the work of 19th-century journalist Henry Mayhew, who campaigned to give the capital’s poor a voice. With Timothy West and Tom Hollander

History of the English Language (1943)

The British Council Film Collection is an archive of more than 120 short documentary films made by the British Council during the 1940s designed to show the world how Britain lived, worked and played. Preserved by the BFI National Film Archive and digitised by means of a generous donation by Google, the films are now yours to view, to download and to play with for the first time.

History of the English Language acts as an excellent layman's introduction to the origins of one of the most common languages on the planet, demonstrating how dialect changes over time, and presenting England as being multicultural right down to its roots.

This is a comprehensive introduction to the English language. Through its depiction of English as a worldwide language, it clearly promotes not only Britain's power in the world, but also its multiculturalism. The foreign language in the titles is apparently Indonesian, so one must assume that this was shown there. This might explain the simple illustrations of each word or people mentioned in the film.

Weekend Viewing: Weekend Viewing: Peter Ackroyd’s London – Episode 2 – The Crowd – BBC Documentary

Peter Ackroyd’s excellent biography of London is required reading for all Londonphiles, but I bet you didn’t know that he also presented a series based on the book. It’s not available in the USA (or many other places for that matter). So, we’ve uploaded to YouTube. Here is episode 2.

Peter Ackroyd explores the city’s frequently destructive relationship with its population, and investigates how London’s search for power and profit resulted in the Georgian sex trade. He also examines the authorities’ attempts to control public gatherings, from Dickens’s accounts of life in the notorious Newgate Gaol to the more recent poll tax and May Day riots.

Weekend Viewing: Peter Ackroyd’s London – Episode 1 – Fire and Destiny – BBC Documentary

Peter Ackroyd’s excellent biography of London is required reading for all Londonphiles, but I bet you didn’t know that he also presented a series based on the book. It’s not available in the USA (or many other places for that matter). So, we’ve uploaded to YouTube.

In episode 1 – Fire and Destiny – Author Peter Ackroyd explores the development of London, revealing how the city has managed to survive several devastating fires. Drawing on the writings of Tacitus, Samuel Pepys and Virginia Woolf, he charts some of the most destructive chapters in the capital’s history, including the Iceni rebellion, the Great Fire and the Blitz. With Derek Jacobi and Harriet Walter.

We will post the subsequent episodes over the next few weeks on Sunday.

When humanity is going to hell, the poor are always nearest to heaven...

“Comparatively innocent”

Those who speak scornfully of the ignorance of the mob do not err as to the fact itself; their error is in not seeing that just as a crowd is comparatively ignorant, so a crowd is comparatively innocent. It will have the old and human faults; but it is not likely to specialise in the special faults of that particular society: because the effort of the strong and successful in all ages is to keep the poor out of society. If the higher castes have developed some special moral beauty or grace, as they occasionally do (for instance, mediæval chivalry), it is likely enough, of course, that the mass of men will miss it. But if they have developed some perversion or over-emphasis, as they much more often do (for instance, the Renaissance poisoning), then it will be the tendency of the mass of men to miss that too. The point might be put in many ways; you may say if you will that the poor are always at the tail of the procession, and that whether they are morally worse or better depends on whether humanity as a whole is proceeding towards heaven or hell. When humanity is going to hell, the poor are always nearest to heaven.

The Victorian Age in Literature (1913).

I had found in Chesterton a friend forever...

There are several best introductions to Chesterton. Tremendous Trifles is one of the best of the best.
Tremendous Trifles contains simply some of the best essays Chesterton ever wrote. They originally appeared in the Daily News, which Chesterton contributed to from 1901 to 1913, and which explains why people bought that paper. Besides the quintessential “On Lying in Bed,” the book includes “The Advantages of Having One Leg,” “The Dragon’s Grandmother,” “What I Found in My Pocket,” “A Piece of Chalk” (which could have been called “What I Found I Was Sitting On.”) and the incomparable explanation of juries: “The Twelve Men.”
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Lives so human and yet so small...

“So tiny a thing”

The very smallness of children makes it possible to regard them as marvels; we seem to be dealing with a new race, only to be seen through a microscope. I doubt if anyone of any tenderness or imagination can see the hand of a child and not be a little frightened of it. It is awful to think of the essential human energy moving so tiny a thing; it is like imagining that human nature could live in the wing of a butterfly or the leaf of a tree. When we look upon lives so human and yet so small, we feel as if we ourselves were enlarged to an embarrassing bigness of stature. We feel the same kind of obligation to these creatures that a deity might feel if he had created something that he could not understand.

The Defendant (1901)