… and then there are statistics

Colonel Bellairs looked at him with the suspicion which appears to be the one light shadow that lies across the sunny life of the bore.

“I said so half an hour ago,” he remarked severely, “when we were inspecting my new manure tanks, and you said you did not notice it.”

“You were right all the same,” said the younger man.

What an interest would be added to life if it were possible to ascertain how many thousands of times people like Colonel Bellairs are limply assured that they are in the right! The mistake of statistics is that they are always compiled on such dull subjects. Who cares to know how many infants are born, and how many deaf mutes exist? But we should devour statistics, we should read nothing else if only they dealt with matters of real interest: if they recorded how often Mr. Simpson, the decadent poet, had said he was “a child of nature,” how often, if ever, the Duchess of Inveraven and Mr. Brown, the junior curate at Salvage-on-Sea, had owned they had been in the wrong; whether it was true that an Archbishop had ever really said “I am sorry” without an “if” after it, and, if so, on what occasion; and whether any novelist exists who has not affirmed at least five hundred times that criticism is a lost art.

Prisoners, fast bound in misery and iron, Mary Cholmondeley (1906)

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