Two passages from Anthony Trollope (pulled out of Amanda Anderson’s Bleak Liberalism [U of Chicago Press, 2016] which I am reading in order to review).
The first is Trollope’s description of his aim in writing The Way We Live Now; the passage comes from Trollope’s Autobiography.
” A certain class of dishonesty, dishonesty magnificent in its proportions, and climbing into high places, has become at the same time so rampant and so splendid that there seems to be reason for fearing that men and women will be taught to feel that dishonesty, if it can become splendid, will cease to be abominable.”
The second is one character in that novel, Mrs. Hurdle (an American and, hence, inevitably morally suspect and drawn to magnificent dishonesty), explaining her admiration for the deceitful banker Melmotte. The crux, of course, is how dishonesty appears as a higher form of honesty.
“Ah,–you mean that he is bold in breaking those precepts of yours about coveting worldly wealth. All men and women break that commandment, but they do so in stealthy fashion, half drawing back the grasping hand, praying to be delivered from temptation while they filch only a little, pretending to despise the only thing that is dear to them in the world. Here is a man who boldly says that he recognizes no such law; that wealth is power, and power is good, and the the more a man has of wealth the greater and stronger and nobler he can be. I love a man who can turn the hobgoblins inside out and burn the wooden bogies he meets.”