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Jedes Verlangen nach Ruhm ist ehrbar, aller Kampf um das Tüchtige lobenswürdig; mag doch jedem Stand seine eigene Ehre bleiben ihm eine eigene Zierde gewährt sein; jene Ahnenbilder will ich nicht verachten so wenig als die wohlausgestatteten Stammbäume, aber was auch deren Wert sei, ist nicht unser eigen wenn wäre es nicht durch Verdienste erst eigen machen auch kann es nicht bestehen wenn der Adel nicht Sitten, die ihm geziemen, annimmt. Vergehens wird ein fetter und beleibter jener Hausväter die Standbilder seiner Vorfahren Dir aufzeigen, indes er selbst untätig eher einem Klotz ähnlich, als daß es jenen die ihm mit Tüchtigkeit voranleuchteten zu vergleichen wäre.
All longing for fame is honorable, all struggle for the virtuous is worthy of praise. Even if we accord to every class its own honor as an individual ornament—still, all those portraits of ancestors I will not despise so much as the well-drawn family trees, whatever their worth may be, the nobility they show is not our own unless it is so made through our own achievements, and neither can it subsist unless the nobility take on the good morals which behoove them. In vain will an unseemly character among these nobles show you the portrait gallery of his ancestors, for if he himself is unworthy of the comparison to those who showed the way before him with their virtues, then he will seem more a klutz than a nobleman.
–Ulrich von Hutten, letter to Wilibald Pirckheimer, Oct. 25, 1518 (transl. of the Latin original, epistola vitae suae rationem exponens, by Jacob Burckhardt; English transl. S.H.)
More from Scott Horton:
Six Questions — October 18, 2014, 8:00 pm
Nathaniel Raymond on CIA interrogation techniques.
On a Friday evening in January, a thousand people at the annual California Native Plant Society conference in San Jose settled down to a banquet and a keynote speech delivered by an environmental historian named Jared Farmer. His chosen topic was the eucalyptus tree and its role in California’s ecology and history. The address did not go well. Eucalyptus is not a native plant but a Victorian import from Australia. In the eyes of those gathered at the San Jose DoubleTree, it qualified as “invasive,” “exotic,” “alien” — all dirty words to this crowd, who were therefore convinced that the tree was dangerously combustible, unfriendly to birds, and excessively greedy in competing for water with honest native species.
In his speech, Farmer dutifully highlighted these ugly attributes, but also quoted a few more positive remarks made by others over the years. This was a reckless move. A reference to the tree as “indigenously Californian” elicited an abusive roar, as did an observation that without the aromatic import, the state would be like a “home without its mother.” Thereafter, the mild-mannered speaker was continually interrupted by boos, groans, and exasperated gasps. Only when he mentioned the longhorn beetle, a species imported (illegally) from Australia during the 1990s with the specific aim of killing the eucalyptus, did he earn a resounding cheer.
Percentage of Britons who cannot name the city that provides the setting for the musical Chicago:
An Australian entrepreneur was selling oysters raised in tanks laced with Viagra.
A tourism company in Australia announced a service that will allow users to take the “world’s biggest selfies,” and a Texas man accidentally killed himself while trying to pose for a selfie with a handgun.
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“Shelby is waiting for something. He himself does not know what it is. When it comes he will either go back into the world from which he came, or sink out of sight in the morass of alcoholism or despair that has engulfed other vagrants.”