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Quotable Fri Dec 14 2007

Quotable Friday

Every Friday is Quotable Friday on the book club blog, where we highlight a notable passage from a book with a Chicago connection. This week's quotable is from The Common Lot by Robert Herrick (1863-1938). Herrick was an English professor at the University of Chicago who wrote more than a dozen novels, most written in the tradition of social realism. The Common Lot was first published in 1904.

"Business was war, he said to himself again and again, and in this war only the little fellows had to be strictly honest. The big ones, those that governed the world, stole, lied, cheated their fellows openly in the market. The Bushfields took their rake-off; the Rainbows were the financial pimps, who fattened on the vices of the great industrial leaders. Colonel Raymond might discharge a man on his road who stole fifty cents or was seen to enter a bucket shop, but in the reorganization of the Michigan Northern ten years previously, he and his friends had pocketed several millions of dollars, and had won the lawsuits brought against them by the defrauded stockholders.

"It was a world of graft, the architect judged cynically. Old Powers Jackson, it was said in Chicago, would cheat the glass eye out of his best friend in a deal. He, too, would follow in the path of the strong, and take what was within his reach. He would climb hardily to the top, and then who cared? That gospel of strenuous effort, which our statesmen and orators are so fond of shouting forth, has its followers in the little Jackson Harts. Only, in putting forth their strong right arms, they often thrust them into their neighbors' pockets. And the irresponsible great ones, who have emerged beyond the reign of law, have their disciples in all the strata of society,—down, down to the boy who plays the races with the cash in his employer's till."

 
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