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Is a Destructive Emotion Like Anger Always

Wrong, Usually Wrong, or Never Wrong?

[Ibsen] was a specialist in anger, a man to whom irascibility was a kind of art form in itself. He even treasured its manifestations in nature. While he was writing his ferocious play Brand, he later recorded, ‘I had on my table a scorpion in an empty beer glass. From time to time the brute would ail. Then I would throw a piece of ripe fruit into it, on which it would cast itself in a rage and inject its poison into it. Then all was well again’... In a terrifying letter he wrote in 1867 to Bjornstjerne Bjornson, his fellow writer, whose daughter later married Ibsen’s son, he wrote: ‘Anger increases my strength. If there is to be war, then let there be war! . . . I shall not spare the child in its mother’s womb, nor any thought nor feeling that may have motivated the actions of any man who shall merit the honour of being my victim. . . Do you know that all my life I have turned my back on my parents, on my whole family, because I could not bear to continue a relationship based on imperfect understanding.’

Paul Johnson (from Intellectuals, 1988)

Nothing annihilates an inhibition as irresistibly as anger does it; for, as Moltke says of war, destruction pure and simple is its essence.

William James

[At the age of 56 George Bernard Shaw fell ‘violently and exquisitely in love’ with Mrs. Patrick Campbell (Stella as he was to call her), an attractive and youthful-looking (she was 47) actress of his acquaintance. The affair was very brief, and it was Stella who ended it. Between Shaw’s appalling emotional disabilities, the fact that he was already married, and that she was intending to marry George Cornwallis-West, she had no choice really. Shaw’s wife, Charlotte, was out of the country, and feeling there would never be another opportunity like this he joined Stella—against her will—at the Guildford Hotel on Sandwich Bay, where she was trying to learn her lines for Barrie’s play The Adored One. After putting up with the love-sick playwright for several days, she dumped him. As Michael Holroyd makes clear in his superb biography, The Pursuit of Power Vol. 2, Shaw took it very badly.]

He kept mailing letters to Stella wherever she was: again that night, then next morning, and after he had returned to London. It seemed to him that she had been more gratuitously cruel than a child, and he turned all the blame on her. She was a ‘one-part actress.’ She used her sex appeal irresponsibly, furtively, without discrimination, blundering about after life then huddling up and screaming when it opened its arms to her. She was a man’s disgrace and infatuation. He felt the need of some monstrous retribution. ‘I have not said enough vile things to you. . . Come round me all the good friends whom I have neglected for her. Even her slanderers shall be welcome. . . give me anything that is false, malicious, spiteful, little, mean, poisonous or villainous, and I will say it if only it hurts you. I want to hurt you because you hurt me.’

[The following passage is from Evelyn Waugh’s popular novel Brideshead Revisited. The protagonist, Charles Ryder, has traveled to Venice with his rich, charming friend, Sebastian, to meet Sebastian’s father, Alex. While Sebastian and his father are out playing tennis, the father’s clear-sighted continental mistress, Cara, explains the emotional realities of Sebastian’s broken family to her young and naive visitor. This episode can be seen in the second half of the youtube clip of the TV production of Brideshead Revisited by clicking HERE.]

“I know of these romantic friendships of the English and the Germans. They are not Latin. I think they are very good if they do not go on too long.”

She was so composed and matter-of-fact that I could not take her amiss, but I failed to find an answer. She seemed not to expect one but continued stitching, pausing sometimes to match the silk from a work-bag at her side.

“It is a kind of love that comes to children before they know its meaning. In England it comes when you are almost men; I think I like that. It is better to have that kind of love for another boy than for a girl. Alex you see had it for a girl, for his wife. Do you think he loves me?”

“Really, Cara, you ask the most embarrassing questions. How should I know? I assume. . .”

“He does not. But not the littlest piece. Then why does he stay with me? I will tell you; because I protect him from Lady Marchmain. He hates her; but you can have no conception how he hates her. You would think him so calm and English—the milord, rather blasť, all passion dead, wishing to be comfortable and not to be worried, following the sun, with me to look after that one thing that no man can do for himself. My friend, he is a volcano of hate. He cannot breathe the same air as she. He will not set foot in England because it is her home; he can scarcely be happy with Sebastian because he is her son. But Sebastian hates her too.”

“I’m sure you’re wrong there.”

“He may not admit it to you. He may not admit it to himself; they are full of hate—hate of themselves. Alex and his family. . . Why do you think he will never go into Society?”

“I always thought people had turned against him.”

“My dear boy, you are very young. People turn against a handsome, clever, wealthy man like Alex? Never in your life. It is he who has driven them away. Even now they come back again and again to be snubbed and laughed at. And all for Lady Marchmain. He will not touch a hand which may have touched hers. When we have guests I see him thinking, ‘Have they perhaps just come from Brideshead? Are they on their way to Marchmain House? Will they speak of me to my wife? Are they a link between me and her whom I hate?’ But, seriously, with my heart, that is how he thinks. He is mad. And how has she deserved all this hate? She has done nothing except to be loved by someone who was not grown-up. I have never met Lady Marchmain; I have seen her once only; but if you live with a man you come to know the other women he has loved. I know Lady Marchmain very well. She is a good and simple woman who has been loved in the wrong way. When people hate with all that energy, it is something in themselves they are hating.”

All great hatred is self-hatred.

Thoughts about Anger & Hatred

A love can grow to be nine-tenths hatred and still call itself love.

C. S. Lewis

A large part of mankind is angry not with the sins, but with the sinners.


Anyone can become angry. That is easy. But to be angry with the right person, to the right degree, at the right time, for the right purpose and in the right way—that is not easy.


Anger is a product of a hurt ego rather than of others’ wrongs or sufferings. What one was angry about was one’s own capacity to be beguiled. This is the fallacy of anti-Communism, or anti-anything.

Malcolm Muggeridge (from Many Winters Ago in Moscow)

An intellectual hatred is the worst.

W. B. Yeats

Getting angry about human affairs is as ridiculous as losing one’s temper in a traffic jam.

Malcolm Muggeridge

Hatred is settled anger.


The philosophers of the Middle Ages used to teach that sadness leads to hatred.

It is a great mistake to suppose that love unites and unifies men. Love diversifies them, because love is directed towards individuality. The thing that really unites men and makes them like to each other is hatred.

G. K. Chesterton

Movements born in hatred very quickly take on the characteristics of the thing they oppose.

J. S. Habgood

It is a sin peculiar to man to hate his victim.


It doesn’t much matter what a man hates, provided he hates something.

Samuel Butler

Men hate more steadily than they love.

Samuel Johnson

Most people are more conscious of their dislikes than of their sympathies. The latter are weak while hatreds are strong.

Ernest Dimnet

Passionate hatred can give meaning and purpose to an empty life.

Eric Hoffer

In 1923 Hitler told Goebbels, “God’s most beautiful gift bestowed on us is the hate of our enemies, whom we in turn hate from the bottom of our hearts.”

People react to fear, not love; they don’t teach that in Sunday School, but it’s true.

Richard Nixon

There is not a more mean, stupid, dastardly, pitiless, selfish, spiteful, envious, ungrateful animal than the public.

William Hazlitt

The hatred of relatives is the most violent.


The very same conditions of intimacy which make affection possible also make possible a peculiarly incurable distaste; a hatred as immemorial, constant, unemphatic, almost at times unconscious, as the corresponding form of love.

C. S. Lewis

To be angry is to be wrong.

Hugh Kingsmill

It’s not anger that’s wrong, it’s being angry at the wrong thing that’s wrong. It’s not hatred that’s wrong, it’s hating the wrong thing that’s wrong.

We are full of odd hates and dislikes.

C. S. Lewis

There was no way to dissuade [Evelyn] Waugh from an irrational hatred once contracted.

Martin Stannard (biographer)

Why is propaganda so much more successful when it stirs up hatred than when it tries to stir up friendly feeling?

Bertrand Russell

Hitler was able to win the loyalty of an advanced European nation, and hold it against all circumstances, by pouring out hatreds deeply felt within himself, and stoking the hate of others.

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