Zoo Story

Rebecca West on John Maynard Keynes:

He closely resembled a handsome, elderly seal, in the long fluence of his outline, the sinuosity of his strength, the roundness of his brow, and the projection of his gray moustache. Had his destiny placed him on a rocky eminence in a zoo, he would have caught the fish that an entranced public would certainly have thrown him in unprecedented amounts, with a dexterity all his own. (“From England,” Harper’s, June 1946.)

Seal and Keynes


7 Responses to Zoo Story

  1. Aster January 17, 2010 at 4:42 am #

    Keynes was one of the old libertarianism’s textbook villians, but what I’ve read of his personal life has left me unable to dislike the man.

    Read the this guy’s referrals:


    Hayek: “He was the one really great man I ever knew, and for whom I had unbounded admiration. The world will be a very much poorer place without him.”

    Lionel Robbins: “This went very well indeed. Keynes was in his most lucid and persuasive mood: and the effect was irresistible. At such moments, I often find myself thinking that Keynes must be one of the most remarkable men that have ever lived – the quick logic, the birdlike swoop of intuition, the vivid fancy, the wide vision, above all the incomparable sense of the fitness of words, all combine to make something several degrees beyond the limit of ordinary human achievement.”

    Douglas LePenn, an official from the Canadian High Commission: I am spellbound. This is the most beautiful creature I have ever listened to. Does he belong to our species? Or is he from some other order? There is something mythic and fabulous about him. I sense in him something massive and sphinx like, and yet also a hint of wings. <— he said THAT out loud?

    Russell: "Every time I argued with Keynes, I felt that I took my life in my hands and I seldom emerged without feeling something of a fool."

    His obituary in the Times: “There is the man himself – radiant, brilliant, effervescent, gay, full of impish jokes … He was a humane man genuinely devoted to the cause of the common good.” (It’s the Times. Must learn to suppress gag reflex in public.)

    Malthus I can still hate. Wikipedia:

    As a believer and a clergyman, Malthus held that God had created an inexorable tendency to human population growth for a moral purpose, with the constant harsh threat of poverty and starvation designed to teach the virtues of hard work and virtuous behaviour.

    Eeeeew GROSS(=).

    (=) Kevin Carson’s opinion of Ayn Rand, apparently.

    • Roderick January 17, 2010 at 12:21 pm #

      Ah, but Kevin is also on record — on permanent, unexpungeable record! — as saying that he finds her hot….

    • dennis January 17, 2010 at 3:55 pm #

      one can advocate some horrible things without being a moral reprobate. One mark in Keynes’ favor was his Cassandra-like warning about the likely outcomes of the Treaty of Versailles.

      • JOR January 17, 2010 at 4:40 pm #

        Yeah, I find that not forming Grand Psychological Theories Of Everything is extremely helpful in understanding that part of the world made out of that pesky substance called “other people”.

        Because folks is complimacated.

      • Roderick January 17, 2010 at 8:23 pm #

        Actually his book on the Versailles treaty is part of what West was attacking him for. (Alas.)

  2. dennis January 17, 2010 at 4:52 pm #

    Frequently people with strong principles are too quick to condemn anyone who disagrees with them, especially on a matter of importance. There is so much more to being a bad human being than being wrong about even the really important things.

  3. P.M.Lawrence January 18, 2010 at 3:47 am #

    “[John Maynard Keynes] closely resembled a handsome, elderly seal…”

    Basil Seal?

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