By popular demand I am reposting this entry. It disappeared mysteriously—Kurt Cagle cruelly suggested it could be something to do with my incompetence, which has the ring of truth unfortunately— so our apologies to readers.
Here is a great quote from William Hazlett’s essay On the Pleasure of Hating, for a change in pace:
The pleasure of hating, like a poisonous mineral, eats into the heart of religion, and turns it to rankling spleen and bigotry; it makes patriotism an excuse for carrying fire, pestilence, and famine into other lands: it leaves to virtue nothing but the spirit of censoriousness, and a narrow, jealous, inquisitorial watchfulness over the actions and motives of others. What have the different sects, creeds, doctrines in religion been but so many pretexts set up for men to wrangle, to quarrel, to tear one another in pieces about , like a target as a mark to shoot at? Does any one suppose that the love of country in an Englishman implies any friendly feeling or disposition to serve another bearing the same name? No, it means only hatred to the French or the inhabitants of any other country that we happen to be at war with for the time. Does the love of virtue denote any wish to discover or amend our own faults? No, but it atones for an obstinate adherence to our own vices by the most virulent intolerance to human frailties. This principle is of a most universal application. It extends to good as well as evil: if it makes us hate folly, it makes us no less dissatisfied with distinguished merit. If it inclines us to resent the wrongs of others, it impels us to be as impatient of their prosperity. We revenge injuries: we repay benefits with ingratitude. Even our strongest partialities and likings soon take this turn. “That which was luscious as locusts, anon becomes bitter as coloquintida;” and love and friendship melt in their own fires. We hate old friends: we hate old books: we hate old opinions; and at last we come to hate ourselves.
Then followed a little comment asking whether the pleasure of hating could explain the recent vituperative attitude of the armchair mafia towards experts who don’t tow a party line but go their own way as their lights lead them: I am thinking of mavericks like Patrick Durusau and Alex Brown. (I didn’t want to write it, to avoid Uriah Heap-ish self-deprecation, but of course the great thing about this roller-coaster of an essay is that by the end of it one is not concerned with what Hazlitt thinks about the pleasure of hating but what one thinks about it in one’s own conduct.)