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From De Profundis:

A sentimentalist is simply one who wants to have the luxury of an emotion without paying for it. We think we can have our emotions for nothing. We cannot. Even the finest and most self-sacrificing emotions have to be paid for. Strangely enough, that is what makes them fine. The intellectual and emotional life of ordinary people is a very contemptible affair. Just as they borrow their ideas from a sort of circulating library of thought—the Zeitgeist of an age that has no soul—and send them back soiled at the end of each week, so they always try to get their emotions on credit, and refuse to pay the bill when it comes in. You should pass out of that conception of life. As soon as you have to pay for an emotion you will know its quality, and be the better for such knowledge. And remember that the sentimentalist is always a cynic at heart. Indeed, sentimentality is merely the bank holiday of cynicism. 

Michael Tanner punned in his classic article Sentimentality that this was “the only occasion on which Oscar Wilde approached profundity.” It is also the only occasion on which he approached writing a review of Mumford & Sons, whose music I might have objected to more succinctly by pointing out its sentimentality and leaving it at that. In any case, I present this quotation for those (like the Daily Beast’s Justin Green and Patrol’s Jonathan Fitzgerald) wondering why I dislike a group that otherwise seems so unobjectionable.

Fitzgerald praises Mumford for being leaders in a movement dubbed the ”new sincerity,” which calls to mind the Colombian aphorist Nicolás Gómez Dávila’s warning that “Sincerity corrupts, simultaneously, good manners and good taste.” I’m not ready to follow Gómez Dávila that far, but I would agree with Chesterton that sincerity should be commended only insofar as its opinions are correct and its emotions proportional.

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