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Saturday: October 15, 2005

Trollope On Schadenfreude

Filed under: — site admin @ 7:10 PM UTC

Augustus Melmotte, Esq., gives a party for the Emperor of China just as his financial empire is beginning to crumble:

There can be no doubt that the greater part of the people assembled did believe that their host had committed some great fraud which might probably bring him under the arm of the law. When such rumours are spread abroad, they are always believed. There is an excitement and a pleasure in believing them. Reasonable hesitation at such a moment is dull and phlegmatic. If the accused one be near enough to ourselves to make the accusation a matter of personal pain, of course we disbelieve. But, if the distance be beyond this, we are almost ready to think that anything may be true of anybody. In this case nobody really loved Melmotte and everybody did believe. It was so probable that such a man should have done something horrible! It was only hoped that the fraud might be great and horrible enough.

The Way We Live Now (1874-75), chapter 62, “The Party”

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