18 July 2012

What Have I Said Amiss?

George Gissing, Born in Exile (London: Adam and Charles Black, 1896), p. 266:
'You don't believe, then,' said Sidwell, 'that democracy is the proper name for the state into which we are passing?' 
'Only if one can understand democracy as the opening of social privileges to free competition amongst men of trade. And social privilege is everything; home politics refer to nothing else.' 
Fanny, true to the ingenuous principle of her years, put a direct question: 
'Do you approve of real democracy, Mr. Peak?' 
He answered with another question: 
'Have you read the "Life of Phokion" in Plutarch?' 
'No, I'm sorry to say.' 
'There's a story about him which I have enjoyed since I was your age. Phokion was once delivering a public speech, and at a certain point the majority of his hearers broke into applause; whereupon he turned to certain of his friends who stood near and asked, "What have I said amiss?"' 
Fanny laughed. 
'Then you despise public opinion?' 
'With heart and soul!'