Thursday, 18 September 2014

Telephone Trollopes


It cost me over £1 at £0.14 per minute before I got through to a human at Bennett's Insurance yesterday, and I'm paying them for a bloody policy!

We don't use the land-line at home, it's only there as part of the broadband deal. However, it doesn't stop cold callers. Think I'll get an answerphone that 

  1. Makes callers press half a dozen buttons that lead them in circles,
  2. Tells them the call will the monitored for training purposes, and 
  3. That their call is costing them £0.50 per minute.
Next time I want to buy something and the telephone call tells me it's costing me, I'll wait to get through and then tell them I don't want whatever it is they sell, as I'd rather go to a company that values customers and doesn't charge them idiotic fees on top of the purchase price.

I'm not a great reader of novels, but I thought I might give Anthony Trollope's Chronicles of Barchester a go and started with The Warden. I have to say it's a cliff-hanger and wonderfully written (I particularly like the section on Tom Towers and the Jupiter, very witty and just as relevant today). Should finish it this evening and am moving straight on to Barchester Towers.

Here is the section about the Jupiter - a thinly disguised polemic on The Times and newspapers in general.


It is a fact amazing to ordinary mortals that _The Jupiter_ is never wrong. With what endless care, with what unsparing labour, do we not strive to get together for our great national council the men most fitting to compose it. And how we fail! Parliament is always wrong: look at _The Jupiter_, and see how futile are their meetings, how vain their council, how needless all their trouble! With what pride do we regard our chief ministers, the great servants of state, the oligarchs of the nation on whose wisdom we lean, to whom we look for guidance in our difficulties! But what are they to the writers of _The Jupiter_? They hold council together and with anxious thought painfully elaborate their country's good; but when all is done, _The Jupiter_ declares that all is naught. Why should we look to Lord John Russell;--why should we regard Palmerston and Gladstone, when Tom Towers without a struggle can put us right? Look at our generals, what faults they make; at our admirals, how inactive they are. What money, honesty, and science can do, is done; and yet how badly are our troops brought together, fed, conveyed, clothed, armed, and managed. The most excellent of our good men do their best to man our ships, with the assistance of all possible external appliances; but in vain. All, all is wrong--alas! alas! Tom Towers, and he alone, knows all about it. Why, oh why, ye earthly ministers, why have ye not followed more closely this heaven-sent messenger that is among us? Were it not well for us in our ignorance that we confided all things to _The Jupiter_? Would it not be wise in us to abandon useless talking, idle thinking, and profitless labour? Away with majorities in the House of Commons, with verdicts from judicial bench given after much delay, with doubtful laws, and the fallible attempts of humanity! Does not _The Jupiter_, coming forth daily with fifty thousand impressions full of unerring decision on every mortal subject, set all matters sufficiently at rest? Is not Tom Towers here, able to guide us and willing?

Yes indeed, able and willing to guide all men in all things, so long as he is obeyed as autocrat should be obeyed,--with undoubting submission: only let not ungrateful ministers seek other colleagues than those whom Tom Towers may approve; let church and state, law and physic, commerce and agriculture, the arts of war, and the arts of peace, all listen and obey, and all will be made perfect. Has not Tom Towers an all-seeing eye? From the diggings of Australia to those of California, right round the habitable globe, does he not know, watch, and chronicle the doings of everyone? From a bishopric in New Zealand to an unfortunate director of a North-west passage, is he not the only fit judge of capability? From the sewers of London to the Central Railway of India,--from the palaces of St Petersburg to the cabins of Connaught, nothing can escape him. Britons have but to read, to obey, and be blessed. None but the fools doubt the wisdom of _The Jupiter_; none but the mad dispute its facts.

No established religion has ever been without its unbelievers, even in the country where it is the most firmly fixed; no creed has been without scoffers; no church has so prospered as to free itself entirely from dissent. There are those who doubt _The Jupiter_! They live and breathe the upper air, walking here unscathed, though scorned,--men, born of British mothers and nursed on English milk, who scruple not to say that Mount Olympus has its price, that Tom Towers can be bought for gold!
Such is Mount Olympus, the mouthpiece of all the wisdom of this great country. It may probably be said that no place in this 19th century is more worthy of notice. No treasury mandate armed with the signatures of all the government has half the power of one of those broad sheets, which fly forth from hence so abundantly, armed with no signature at all.

Some great man, some mighty peer,--we'll say a noble duke,--retires to rest feared and honoured by all his countrymen,--fearless himself; if not a good man, at any rate a mighty man,--too mighty to care much what men may say about his want of virtue. He rises in the morning degraded, mean, and miserable; an object of men's scorn, anxious only to retire as quickly as may be to some German obscurity, some unseen Italian privacy, or indeed, anywhere out of sight. What has made this awful change? what has so afflicted him? An article has appeared in _The Jupiter_; some fifty lines of a narrow column have destroyed all his grace's equanimity, and banished him for ever from the world. No man knows who wrote the bitter words; the clubs talk confusedly of the matter, whispering to each other this and that name; while Tom Towers walks quietly along Pall Mall, with his coat buttoned close against the east wind, as though he were a mortal man, and not a god dispensing thunderbolts from Mount Olympus.

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