Pur Autre Vie

I'm not wrong, I'm just an asshole

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Lord Gage is a Lord

A few passages from John Maynard Keynes:  Fighting for Freedom, by Robert Skidelsky.  From p. 11:

The convalescent Keynes loves to potter round his farm, watching the corn being threshed [note:  "corn" must be used here as a generic term for grain, not maize], the sheep being sheared, checking the quality of the milk and the condition of the pigs.  He gave a big bonfire party on Guy Fawkes Day:  Quentin Bell made the mask for the guy, there was beer and sausages for the farm labourers, a little speech from Maynard.  Lydia attended dressed as a pig.  The Saturday shoots, in which Clive Bell and members of the Keynes family sometimes took part — Keynes himself never shot — had decidedly unbucolic accompaniments.  The farmers would gather in Keynes's spacious hall, reconstructed by George Kennedy, whose walls were hung with Post-Impressionist paintings, and be directed by Lydia to a lavatory leading off, where a Matisse hung, with the words, 'Now you boys will want to do your little water in here.'  On Christmas Day Lydia made her own contribution to the feudal system by distributing presents to the 'forty-five people in the little community'.  The locals thought it was all a bit of a pretence, one of the farm workers remarking, 'Lord Gage [Maynard's landlord] is a lord and knows how the thing should be done.'

From p. 16:

The lanky, stooped economist in his serge jacket and straw hat and his tiny, birdlike wife with her Russian accent and exotic headscarfs must have made a strange impression on the rustics as they puffed their way slowly round their little estate.  Maynard loved to think of himself as a benevolent landlord, dispensing protection, festivals and fun in the traditional way — a thought not unconnected, Quentin Bell suggests, with 'a mistrust of communists and crypto-communists'.  But the performance was unconvincing.  Lord Gage was an aristocrat with intellectual interests, Keynes was an intellectual with squirearchical pretensions.  It was the idea of the role, not the role itself, which appealed to him.  He was no countryman.  He talked about his labourers as fantastical, two-dimensional creatures, comic but not sympathetic.  They in turn were disconcerted by his calculations, his inquisitiveness, his ferocious intelligence.  Quentin Bell writes:  'They did not know what to do with so much brilliance.  In a way they admired him and were proud of him but . . .  they did not love him.  In matters of business he came amongst them like a man armed with a rapier who meets rustics armed only with clubs.'  Such was a neighbouring tenant whom Maynard persuaded to erect and maintain an expensive fence between their properties at his expense — pointing out with scintillating logic why it would be enormously to his neighbour's benefit to shoulder the cost of the erection.  On one of their potters round the farm, when Lydia had been trying to get Maynard not to overtax his strength, he turned to his shepherd and said:  'What would you do if an old sheep looked at you as Lydia is looking at me now?' — a question, Bell remarks, 'which anyone might have found it difficult to answer'.