There is that about the human race that makes us feel that it has never done exactly as it should have done on rationalistic lines. There are instances of this too numerous to detail, but they keep strong that dark doubt of rationalism, that revolt below a revolt, which is so characteristic of this time. One would think, for instance, that primitive people would have been materialistic, would have sharpened and perfected the tools that conquer the earth and the foods that fill the belly. Instead of that we find that they were idiots at practical matters, but made themselves really remarkable by singing the most exquisite poems and starting the deepest arguments about metaphysics. One would think that early poems, however vigorous, would be coarse and lustful ; instead of that, barbaric literature, like the Iliad, is generally very pure, and civilised literature, like the Arabian Nights, full of a revolting candour. And whatever one might think would ever happen to be said against optimism, nobody could possibly have imagined, in the abstract, that it would be called vulgar. One would have imagined that whatever there was to say against the world would be said by the poor and the coerced; that whatever there was to say for it would be said by the prosperous and the free. But in this divine topsy-turvydom in which we live the very reverse has been the fact. Of the pessimists, the great majority have been aristocrats, like Byron or Swinburne. Of the optimists, the vast majority have risen, like Dickens, from the people.
-July 18, 1903, The Speaker