Having your cake and eating it

Editorial note: If you have not yet read our Mission Statement above, please do so in order that you can put our blogs in context. 

26 February 2018

“I have always in the end got what I set out to get. Though keeping it may be another matter. But I have always believed profoundly in the magnetism of desire. There is no superstition about it – if one wants a thing intensely enough one must finally achieve it, for the simple reason that all one’s thoughts and actions are directed towards that end, both consciously and unconsciously, and there is tremendous power in that unconscious propulsion towards the objective. The trouble with the majority of people is that they do not know what they want from life, and even when they have some idea, there is no passion in their wanting.”

“It has always seemed to me that the only intelligent and satisfactory principle of life is that of determining both to have one’s cake and eat it. People say that it can’t be done, and for those people it obviously can’t. In order to make it a practical working philosophy, two things are needful, and those the very things which the vast majority of people lack – immense vitality and a flair for living. I have both. I have always known what I wanted and never been afraid to go after it. Nor had any superstitious fear about taking what life offered and being glad of it, and not stopping to wonder whether it were ‘wise’. It is all this business of being sensible and discreet which drains all the colour and gaiety and spontaneous joy out of living.”

“I have had a full crowded life, like Ulysses, ‘all times I have enjoyed greatly, have suffered greatly…’. Heavens, how one has wept, but heavens how one has laughed and loved and delighted, too. ‘Sensible’ people call it living on one’s emotions, but how else can one live? Living on one’s intellect is a sterile and barren business. Not to feel is not to live.”

The passages above are taken from Chapter XII of “Confessions and Impressions”, published in 1930, the first of three volumes of autobiography from the pen of Ethel Mannin (1900-1984), prolific London-born author of novels, short stories, travel books and works on education and child psychology. Mannin was born to working-class parents and left school at 15 to work as a typist in an advertising agency. As can be inferred from the passages quoted above, she was an early “liberated woman” with a contempt for convention. Popular during the first half of the twentieth century, she is now largely forgotten.


In the second passage quoted above, Mannin gives short shrift to people who say that you can’t have your cake and eat it. One of those falling into that category would undoubtedly be the current Polish President of the European Council, Donald Tusk, who has just told UK Ministers seeking to negotiate Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union that they can’t have their cake and eat it. [See our post EU sticks it to UK published on 24 February 2018].

British novelist Julian Barnes, however, takes Mannin’s side, but foresees another problem: “You can have your cake and eat it, the only trouble is you get fat.


 You might perhaps care to view some of our earlier posts.  For instance:

  1. Why? or How? That is the question (3 Jan 2012)
  2. Partitocracy v. Democracy (20 July 2012)
  3. The shoddiest possible goods at the highest possible prices (2 Feb 2012)
  4. Capitalism in practice (4 July 2012)
  5. Ladder  (21 June 2012)
  6. A tale of two cities (1) (6 June 2012)
  7. A tale of two cities (2) (7 June 2012)
  8. Where’s the beef? Ontology and tinned meat (31 Jan 2012)

Every so often we shall change this sample of previously published posts.



This entry was posted in Education, Europe, Ireland, Literature, Philosophy, Poland, UK, USA and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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