Richard Davenport-Hines Quotes
“Ritzonia" was the epithet coined by Bernard Bernson, who sold Italian pictures to American millionaires, to describe the unreal, mortifying sameness of their luxury. "Ritzonia," he wrote in 1909, "carries its inmates like a wishing carpet from place to place, the same people, the same meals, the same music. Within its walls you might be at Peking or Prague or Paris or London and you would never know where.”
“Instead of using their vastly increased material and technical resources to build a wonder-city, they built slums; and they thought it right and advisable to build slums because slums, on the test of private enterprise, "paid", whereas the wonder-city would, they thought, have been an act of foolish extravagance, which would, in the imbecile idiom of the financial fashion, have "mortgaged the future"; though how the construction to-day of great and glorious works can impoverish the future, no man can see until his mind is beset by false analogies from an irrelevant accountancy.”
“Keynes was a voracious reader. He had what he called ‘one of the best of all gifts – the eye which can pick up the print effortlessly’. If one was to be a good reader, that is to read as easily as one breathed, practice was needed. ‘I read the newspapers because they’re mostly trash,’ he said in 1936. ‘Newspapers are good practice in learning how to skip; and, if he is not to lose his time, every serious reader must have this art.’ Travelling by train from New York to Washington in 1943, Keynes awed his fellow passengers by the speed with which he devoured newspapers and periodicals as well as discussing modern art, the desolate American landscape and the absence of birds compared with English countryside.54
‘As a general rule,’ Keynes propounded as an undergraduate, ‘I hate books that end badly; I always want the characters to be happy.’ Thirty years later he deplored contemporary novels as ‘heavy-going’, with ‘such misunderstood, mishandled, misshapen, such muddled handling of human hopes’. Self-indulgent regrets, defeatism, railing against fate, gloom about future prospects: all these were anathema to Keynes in literature as in life. The modern classic he recommended in 1936 was Forster’s A Room with a View, which had been published nearly thirty years earlier. He was, however, grateful for the ‘perfect relaxation’ provided by those ‘unpretending, workmanlike, ingenious, abundant, delightful heaven-sent entertainers’, Agatha Christie, Edgar Wallace and P. G. Wodehouse. ‘There is a great purity in these writers, a remarkable absence of falsity and fudge, so that they live and move, serene, Olympian and aloof, free from any pretended contact with the realities of life.’ Keynes preferred memoirs as ‘more agreeable and amusing, so much more touching, bringing so much more of the pattern of life, than … the daydreams of a nervous wreck, which is the average modern novel’. He loved good theatre, settling into his seat at the first night of a production of Turgenev’s A Month in the Country with a blissful sigh and the words, ‘Ah! this is the loveliest play in all the world.’55
Rather as Keynes was a grabby eater, with table-manners that offended Norton and other Bloomsbury groupers, so he could be impatient to reach the end of books. In the inter-war period publishers used to have a ‘gathering’ of eight or sixteen pages at the back of their volumes to publicize their other books-in-print. He excised these advertisements while reading a book, so that as he turned a page he could always see how far he must go before finishing.
A reader, said Keynes, should approach books ‘with all his senses; he should know their touch and their smell. He should learn how to take them in his hands, rustle their pages and reach in a few seconds a first intuitive impression of what they contain. He should … have touched many thousands, at least ten times as many as he reads. He should cast an eye over books as a shepherd over sheep, and judge them with the rapid, searching glance with which a cattle-dealer eyes cattle.’ Keynes in 1927 reproached his fellow countrymen for their low expenditure in bookshops. ‘How many people spend even £10 a year on books? How many spend 1 per cent of their incomes? To buy a book ought to be felt not as an extravagance, but as a good deed, a social duty which blesses him who does it.’ He wished to muster ‘a mighty army … of Bookworms, pledged to spend £10 a year on books, and, in the higher ranks of the Brotherhood, to buy a book a week’. Keynes was a votary of good bookshops, whether their stock was new or second-hand. ‘A bookshop is not like a railway booking-office which one approaches knowing what one wants. One should enter it vaguely, almost in a dream, and allow what is there freely to attract and influence the eye. To walk the rounds of the bookshops, dipping in as curiosity dictates, should be an afternoon’s entertainment.”
“The urge to self-deception, which seemed to Keynes fundamental to untrained and thoughtless people, was what he most resisted. Public opinion he recognized as gullible, uninformed, wayward and super-abundant in misplaced confidence. Improvisations, expedients and thoughtless half-truths led to blunders, as he was to demonstrate in The Economic Consequences of the Peace.”
“The variables which were apt for management by central authorities were interest rates and taxation, which he proposed that governments should adjust in order to stimulate investment and to seek full employment. However, he said little of emergency public works, and nothing about fiscal methods of demand management. He did not recommend increasing the government’s current expenditure by running a budget deficit to meet a deficiency of demand. He gave no encouragement to profligate finance ministers. He urged that additional government expenditure should be on capital account and financed from a separate capital budget while so far as possible the regular budget should be kept in balance. He suggested that full employment might be maintained by redistribution of income. If wealth was more equitably dispersed in the population, effective demand would be stimulated and would thus help capital growth. As the scarcity of capital diminished, investors would be rewarded less. He never believed that state planning would eliminate economic instability. He saw national economies as inherently wobbling: they were susceptible to rational management, but with irrational elements.73”
“How can I accept a doctrine which sets up as its bible, above and beyond criticism, an obsolete economic textbook which I know to be not only scientifically erroneous but without interest or application in the modern world?’ He loathed Soviet Russia’s destruction of individual initiative, educational excellence and personal distinction. ‘How can I adopt a creed which, preferring the mud to the fish, exalts the boorish proletariat above the bourgeois and the intelligentsia who, with whatever faults, are the quality in life and surely carry the seeds of all human advancement? Even if we need a religion, how can we find it in the turbid rubbish of the Red bookshops?”
“In it he shifted from classical orthodoxy by denying the short-term efficacy of the quantity theory of money, while accepting its truth ‘in the long run in which we are all dead. Economists set themselves too easy, too useless a task if in tempestuous seasons they can only tell us that when the storm is long past the ocean is flat again.’15”
“In the Labour party, ‘too much will always be decided by those who do not know at all what they are talking about’ – and who were complacent about their ignorance. ‘The Labour Party will always be flanked by the Party of Catastrophe – Jacobins, Communists, Bolshevists … This is the party which hates or despises existing institutions and believes that great good will result merely from overthrowing them – or at least to overthrow them is the necessary preliminary to any great good.”
“He detested the inefficiency of unregulated capitalism only less than he dreaded the waste and suffering of a proletarian revolution,’ wrote Kingsley Martin, who edited the New Statesman when Keynes was chairman of its publishing company: ‘he therefore made it his life’s work to save capitalism by altering its nature.”
- Date of birth: June 21, 1953
- Born: in London, England, The United Kingdom.
- Description: AKA R.P.T. Davenport-Hines