As we head into Hurricane Irma weekend, welcome to Part Eight of our latest audio adventure The Secret Agent by Joseph Conrad. In tonight's episode, the author explores the relationship between Michaelis, a kind of Omar Khadr of his day, and the grand lady who serves as his society patroness and lends him a country cottage in which to wrote his book, commissioned by a London publisher with a healthy advance. As Conrad understood, both terrorist and celebrity regard themselves as above the common run of humanity:
The great lady was simple in her own way. His views and beliefs had nothing in them to shock or startle her, since she judged them from the standpoint of her lofty position. Indeed, her sympathies were easily accessible to a man of that sort. She was not an exploiting capitalist herself; she was, as it were, above the play of economic conditions...
She disliked the new element of plutocracy in the social compound, and industrialism as a method of human development appeared to her singularly repulsive in its mechanical and unfeeling character. The humanitarian hopes of the mild Michaelis tended not towards utter destruction, but merely towards the complete economic ruin of the system. And she did not really see where was the moral harm of it. It would do away with all the multitude of the 'parvenus', whom she disliked and mistrusted, not because they had arrived anywhere (she denied that), but because of their profound unintelligence of the world, which was the primary cause of the crudity of their perceptions and the aridity of their hearts. With the annihilation of all capital they would vanish too; but universal ruin (providing it was universal, as it was revealed to Michaelis) would leave the social values untouched. The disappearance of the last piece of money could not affect people of position. She could not conceive how it could affect her position, for instance.
Members of The Mark Steyn Club can hear Part Eight of our adventure simply by clicking here and logging-in. Earlier episodes can be found here. If you'd like to know more about The Mark Steyn Club, please click here - and don't forget our new gift membership.
On Monday, we'll be attempting another live Clubland Q&A, taking your questions from anywhere around the planet. Stay tuned for more details. And do join me tomorrow evening, Saturday, for Part Nine of The Secret Agent.