The Wisdom of W. Somerset Maugham

I’m a big fan of W. Somerset Maugham so couldn’t resist this little gem found in a charity shop and I’m happy to say that  ‘Willie’ didn’t let me down right from the start.

I also couldn’t resist sharing this little extract from the opening chapter of ‘The Summing Up’. I guess in modern terminology we’d shorten this to say ‘we get the politicians we deserve’.

“The English are a political nation, and I was often asked to houses where politics were the ruling interest. I could not discover in the eminent statesmen I met there any marked capacity. I concluded, perhaps rashly, that no great degree of intelligence was needed to rule a nation. Since then I have known in various countries a good many politicians who have attained high office. I have continued to be puzzled by what seems to be the mediocrity of their minds. I have found them ill-informed on the ordinary affairs of life, and I have not often discovered in them either subtlely [sic] of intellect or liveliness of imagination. At one time I was inclined to think that they owed their illustrious position only to their gift of speech, for it must be next door to impossible to rise to power in a democratic community unless you can catch the ears of the public; and the gift of speech, as we know, is not often accompanied by the power of thought. But since I have seen statesmen who did not seem to me very clever conduct public affairs with reasonable success I cannot but think I was wrong: it must be that to govern a nation you need a specific talent and that this may very well exist without general ability. In the same way I have known men or affairs who have made great fortunes and brought vast enterprises to prosperity, but in everything unconcerned with there business appear to be devoid even of common sense.”



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