… or Ancient, famous states; or The vulgarians of the west
“Herbert Hart and I were speaking despairingly of the Americans, – these callow, touchy, boastful, flatulent invaders, who seem to think themselves, as politicians, a match for the case-hardened double-crossers of struggling, tortured Europe. Will they never see, I protested, that they are only great children, pampered children of the rich, among experienced and desperate sharpers? Will they never admit that Europe, though torn with immemorial conflicts, is still the foundry of the world’s ideas, while they are fresh from their luxurious nursery? But Herbert likened them to the Romans in the second century B.C., when they overran the East; and they look on us, he said, as the Romans looked upon the Greeks, miserable people, scratching about subtleties and upsetting the peace of the world. What interest have they in the ideas that divide Darlan from de Gaulle? Now I had recently been reading Mommsen, and I saw in terrible detail the picture he had suggested, – those sudden vulgarians of the west, like a fresh, loud, frothy heedless tidal wave, deluging the brilliant but atomised republics, the ‘ancient, famous states’ of the old world, and burying their splendid past in universal banality.”
Richard Davenport-Hines, editor, Hugh Trevor-Roper, The Wartime Journals, IB Tauris, 2012.
Those high-donnish journals are fascinating early Roperiana. The young man seems to parody his older self. Long swathes are about hunting. This passage is silly, but I suppose Hart and Trevor-Roper have a point.
The entry is from January 1943, when Trevor-Roper was in radio intelligence in MI6. Davenport-Hines does not identify the phrase “ancient, famous states”, but it is from a speech by Churchill at the Lord Mayor’s Day luncheon at Mansion House on November 10 1941 in which he warned, four weeks before Pearl Harbour, that Britain would fight on the side of the United States in the event of war between America and Japan. Trevor-Roper uses it again, without quotation marks, in The Last Days of Hitler. The idea for that book came in a conversation between Trevor-Roper, Hart and Dick White.
America and Rome: Google search