Sunday, August 12, 2007

Virtue in Rags

Horace, Odes 3.29.53-56 (John Dryden, tr.):

Content with poverty, my soul I arm;
And virtue, though in rags, will keep me warm.

Allan Ramsay (1685-1758), "Give Me a Lass with a Lump of Land":

There's meikle good love in bands and bags,
And siller and gowd's a sweet complexion;
But beauty, and wit, and virtue in rags,
Have tint the art of gaining affection.

David Hume, Treatise

Virtue in rags is still virtue, and the love, which it procures, attends a man into a dungeon or desert, where the virtue can no longer be exerted in action, and is lost to all the world.

George Eliot, The Mill on the Floss, Bk I, ch. 6:

For a person suspected of preternatural wickedness, Bob was really not so very villanous-looking; there was even something agreeable in his snub-nosed face, with its close-curled border of red hair. But then his trousers were always rolled up at the knee, for the convenience of wading on the slightest notice; and his virtue, supposing it to exist, was undeniably "virtue in rags," which, on the authority even of bilious philosophers, who think all well-dressed merit overpaid, is notoriously likely to remain unrecognized (perhaps because it is seen so seldom).

Charles Dickens, a speech in Boston (February 1842):

I have always had, and always shall have, an earnest and true desire to contribute, as far as in me lies, to the common stock of healthful cheerfulness and enjoyment. I have always had, and always shall have, an invincible repugnance to that mole-eyed philosophy which loves the darkness, and winks and scowls at the light. I believe that Virtue shows quite as well in rags and patches, as she does in purple and fine linen. I believe that she and every beautiful object in external nature, claims some sympathy in the breast of the poorest man who breaks his scanty loaf of daily bread. I believe that she goes barefoot as well as shod. I believe that she dwells rather oftener in alleys and by-ways than she does in courts and palaces, and that it is good, and pleasant, and profitable to track her out, and follow her.

Edward Bulwer-Lytton, The Disowned, chapter LXII:

"I looked around the world, and saw often Virtue in rags, and Vice in purple: the former conduces to happiness, it is true, but the happiness lies within, and not in externals. I contemned the deceitful folly with which writers have termed it poetical justice to make the good ultimately prosperous in wealth, honour, fortunate love, or successful desires. Nothing false, even in poetry, can be just; and that pretended moral is, of all, the falsest...."

Axel Munthe, Diary of an Idle Doctor, IV.1 (Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine, Nov. 1893, p. 709):

Hardship had furrowed her brow, but the mark of nobility was there still. Hats off for virtue in rags! it is nobler than the virtue of the Faubourg St Germain!

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