Sunday, November 22, 2009

From The Writer's Almanac

On this day in 1857, one of 19th-century Britain's most famous intellectuals, a man revered for his rational thinking, wrote one of his most hopelessly romantic letters ever. Walter Bagehot (books by this author) poured his heart out 152 years ago today to his fiancée, Elizabeth Wilson, whose father was the founder of The Economist magazine, in this letter:

My dearest Eliza,

… I wish indeed I could feel worthy of your affection — my reason, if not my imagination, is getting to believe you when you whisper to me that I have it, but as somebody says in Miss Austen, 'I do not at all mind having what is too good for me'; my delight is at times intense. You must not suppose because I tell you of the wild, burning pain which I have felt, and at times …still feel, that my love for you has ever been mere suffering. Even at the worst there was a wild, delicious excitement which I would not have lost for the world. … the feeling has been too eager not to have a good deal of pain in it, and the tension of mind has really been very great at times, still the time that I have known and loved you is immensely the happiest I have ever known.

Walter Bagehot was once identified as "The Greatest Victorian," though was demoted by later generations in favor of his contemporaries Charles Darwin and Karl Marx. He founded the National Review, and he eventually took over as editor-in-chief of The Economist. Bagehot strengthened the magazine's influence on government policy-making. He helped expand the publication's focus to include coverage of political issues as well as economic ones, and to analyze closely events happening in America (then in its Civil War and Reconstruction era).

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