A Confederacy of Dunces - Wikipedia

For example, it has been called, in Parliament and elsewhere, a scheme for taking patronage from the Crown and its officers, and giving it to a body of examiners. This objection ignores the whole essence of the plan. As at present conducted, the bestowal of appointments is patronage. But the conferring of certificates of eligibility by the Board of Examiners would not be patronage, but a judicial act. The examiners for honours at the universities of Oxford, Cambridge, or London, have not the patronage of honours; nor has the Lord Chancellor, when he decrees an estate to one person instead of another, the patronage of the estate. If it be meant that the examiners would not be capable and impartial, the objection is intelligible. But capable and impartial examiners are found for university purposes, and for the purposes of the educational department of the Privy Council; and they will be found for the present purpose, supposing that there is a sincere desire to find them. The idea that an examination test is likely to be merely nominal, is grounded on the experience of a different kind of examination from that proposed. It is derived from examinations without competition. When the only object is to ascertain whether the candidate possesses a certain minimum of acquirement, it is usually thought that this minimum should be placed low enough to give a chance to all; and however low it may be placed, good nature interferes to prevent it from being rigidly enforced against any but absolute dunces, whilst the other candidates are willing to encourage and applaud this relaxation of duty, and even to connive at frauds on the part of the incompetent. The feelings of all concerned are very different, when the question to be resolved is, who among the candidates that present themselves are the qualified. Indulgence to one, is then injustice to others, and wears a very different aspect to the conscience from that, falsely thought more venial, laxity, by which the public alone is damaged. In this case, too, the interests and feelings of the other competitors are enlisted in favour of preventing and detecting fraud. With a honest choice of examiners, a competitive examination is as unlikely to fail, as a mere test is unlikely to succeed.

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But, indeed, the dictum that truth always triumphs over persecution, is one of those pleasant falsehoods which men repeat after one another till they pass into commonplaces, but which all experience refutes. History teems with instances of truth put down by persecution. If not suppressed for ever, it may be thrown back for centuries. To speak only of religious opinions: the Reformation broke out at least twenty times before Luther, and was put down. Arnold of Brescia was put down. Fra Dolcino was put down. Savonarola was put down. The Albigeois were put down. The Vaudois were put down. The Lollards were put down. The Hussites were put down. Even after the era of Luther, wherever persecution was persisted in, it was successful. In Spain, Italy, Flanders, the Austrian empire. Protestantism was rooted out; and, most likely, would have been so in England, had Queen Mary lived, or Queen Elizabeth died. Persecution has always succeeded, save where the heretics were too strong a party to be effectually persecuted. No reasonable person can doubt that Christianity might have been extirpated in the Roman Empire. It spread, and became predominant, because the persecutions were only occasional, lasting but a short time, and separated by long intervals of almost undisturbed propagandism. It is a piece of idle sentimentality that truth, merely as truth, has any inherent power denied to error, of prevailing against the dungeon and the stake. Men are not more zealous for truth than they often are for error, and a sufficient application of legal or even of social penalties will generally succeed in stopping the propagation of either. The real advantage which truth has, consists in this, that when an opinion is true, it may be extinguished once, twice, or many times, but in the course of ages there will generally be found persons to rediscover it, until some one of its reappearances falls on a time when from favourable circumstances it escapes persecution until it has made such head as to withstand all subsequent attempts to suppress it.

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We have taken extreme cases, that the fact we seek to illustrate might stand out more conspicuously. But the remark itself applies universally. As any people approach to the condition of savages or of slaves, so are they incapable of acting in concert. war, the most serious business of a barbarous people; see what a figure rude nations, or semi-civilized and enslaved nations, have made against civilized ones, from Marathon downwards. Why? Because discipline is more powerful than numbers, and discipline, that is, perfect co-operation, is an attribute of civilization. To come to our own times, co-operation. Amidst all the enthusiasm of the Spanish struggling against Napoleon, no one leader, military or political, could act in concert with another; no one would sacrifice one iota of his consequence, his authority, or his opinion, to the most obvious demands of the common cause; neither generals nor soldiers could observe the simplest rules of the military art. If there be an interest which one might expect to act forcibly upon the minds even of savages, it is the desire of simultaneously crushing a formidable neighbour whom none of them are strong enough to resist single-handed; yet none but civilized nations have ever been capable of forming an alliance. The native states of India have been conquered by the English one by one; Turkey made peace with Russia in the very moment of her invasion by France; the nations of the world never could form a confederacy against the Romans, but were swallowed up in succession, some of them being always ready to aid in the subjugation of the rest. Enterprises requiring the voluntary co-operation of many persons independent of one another, in the hands of all but highly civilized nations, have always failed.

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In John Toole’s novel, A Confederacy of Dunces, satire is displayed as one of the prominent themes

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A Confederacy of Horrors was published by Hippocampus Press on January 15, 2015. It is 236 pages, priced at $20 in trade paperback, and $6 for the digital version. The cover is by Pete von Sholly.

Analysis and discussion of characters in John Kennedy Toole's A Confederacy of Dunces

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"All Toole's Children: A Reading of A Confederacy of Dunces." Essays in Literature 14, no

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