Category Archives: vanity

De aardse ijdelheid en de hemelse verlossing

Earthly Vanity and Divine Salvation (front of triptych), c. 1485. Musée des Beaux-Arts de Strasbourg

Triptych (front), c. 1485. Musée des Beaux-Arts de Strasbourg. Dalrymple notes that all the ‘art’ being produced today in London and elsewhere is worth not a single Memling picture

The specialists who aspire to heartless elegance

Screen Shot 2015-08-21 at 08.02.04A light little well-bred laugh

Denton Welch’s A Voice Through a Cloud (1950) ought, writes Dalrymple,

to be given to every medical student to read.

Dalrymple draws attention to this passage in the (unfinished, posthumously published) novel:

One day a specialist was in the ward, examining a patient, when the patient fell down in front of him in a fit. The patient was a fat middle-aged man; he shrieked and trembled and rolled on the floor, as if he were wallowing in mud. It was a terrifying and grotesque sight, but the specialist watched it with a smile on his face. He neither raised the patient up nor prevented him from cutting his head on the corner of the bedside locker.

Denton Welch

Denton Welch

When at last the convulsions had subsided and the patient, with blood on his face, looked up bewildered, the specialist’s smile grew even more Buddhistic and bland and he said in a fluting voice, so that other people should hear, ‘Well, I must say there’s one improvement this week — you’re falling so much more gracefully!’

He gave a light little well-bred laugh, which at once raised up in my mind a picture of some woman with enormous bust measurement, swathed in strainingly tight red velvet. He seemed delighted with his own urbane, unsentimental wit, and I felt that at that moment he would have used the words heartless elegance about himself. He seemed really to be living for a moment in his own conception of an 18th-century French marquise in her brilliant salon.

I suddenly began to hate the specialist for his clownish show of vanity and facetiousness. I hated him so much that my face began to burn. I felt insulted and outraged; I wanted to have the specialist publicly beaten in front of all the staring patients. I imagined his black pin-striped trousers being taken down, and his squeals of shame and pain ringing through the ward.

Welch, Dalrymple explains, also describes in the novel

the petty cruelties and humiliations visited upon him by the nurses.

Welch suffered chronic, painful illness caused by a road accident in which his spine was fractured. Dalrymple writes that he

was 33 when he died. He suffered from Pott’s disease of the spine as well as the injury. His heroic efforts to remain productive make one ashamed — at least temporarily, while one recalls them — to carp about trivial inconveniences.

How enlightened we are!

Screen Shot 2015-05-27 at 09.06.13The eternal truths of multiculturalism

The policy of multiculturalism and mass immigration is one of

admitting large numbers of people, a proportion of whom at least may be, or become, the bearers of a deeply hostile and dangerous ideology.

Screen Shot 2015-05-27 at 09.07.06What drives this policy is not

national interest, but moral vanity, exhibitionism, grandiosity and hubris. Aren’t we good people!

Moral exhibitionism

The fact of the 2011 Norway attacks does not mean that the policy of multiculturalism and mass immigration

Screen Shot 2015-05-27 at 09.10.30is wise, prudent or even moral. Events in Europe and elsewhere do not ineluctably lead to the conclusion that, for example, Sweden’s determination to take in more refugees from Syria is in that country’s long-term interest, or even conduces to the peace of the world.

Vote bank

Screen Shot 2015-05-27 at 09.14.08The 69 young people on the island of Utøya whom Anders Breivik killed

might well have been the future leaders of the party most militantly attached to multiculturalism, for among other reasons as a vote bank.

Multiculturalists triumphant

Breivik’s action made

Screen Shot 2015-05-27 at 09.17.58discussion of the whole question difficult to the point of impossibility. If you do not subscribe to the eternal truths of multiculturalism — discovered, it must be confessed, rather late in human history — you must be an apologist for Breivik.

It is a false dichotomy,

false in logic, though not necessarily in political psychology, and it is the latter which counts. What Breivik did, who preposterously believed himself to be some kind of Knight Templar, was immensely to strengthen the multiculturalists.

One of New York’s premier diving spots

Screen Shot 2015-04-24 at 20.08.29

The diving boards

The new Whitney Museum, writes Dalrymple, is the

perfect place from which to commit suicide, with what look like large diving boards emerging from the top of the building, leading straight to the ground far below. Looking up at them, one can almost hear in one’s mind’s ear the terrible sound of the bodies as they land on the ground below.

There are also, he notes,

The industrial chimneys

The industrial chimneys

some — for now — silvery industrial chimneys, leading presumably from the incinerators so necessary for the disposal of rubbishy art.

He points out that the structure (cost: $422m) illustrates on the one hand the egotism and cack-handedness of the architect Renzo Piano and his kind, and on the other the

complete loss of judgment and taste

The façade, as charming as it is elegant

The torture chambers

of modern patrons.

The façade, which is practically without windows,

looks as if it could be the central torture chambers of the secret police, from which one half expects the screams of the tortured to emerge. Certainly, it is a façade for those with something to hide: perhaps appropriately so, given the state of so much modern art.

HQ of the secret police

Headquarters of the secret police

A monument to the vanity and aesthetic incompetence of celebrity architects

If the building were not

a tragic lost opportunity (how often do architects have the chance to build an art gallery at such cost?), it would be comic. It is as if struck already by an earthquake and in a half-collapsed state. It is a tribute to the imagination of the architect that something so expensive should be made to look so cheap.

A building that would truly have gladdened their hearts

New York at last has a building that would truly have gladdened their hearts


All is vanity and vexation of spirit

Screen Shot 2015-05-05 at 08.13.28On the Tennessee Williams character Big Daddy Pollitt:

There is a snobbery attached to lowliness of origins. Big Daddy learns that success, which has permitted him to dominate, is powerless against death. Success is illusory.

Williams, writes Dalrymple,

exposes the underside of meritocracy. When you fail, you have no one to blame but yourself. It is better to fail where there is injustice. Williams has an unwelcome message for our time, which regards unhappiness as pathological. We are not unhappy any more, but depressed. In the modern world, Big Daddy would have been given antidepressants. They would not have worked, but they would have prevented the need to look inwards.