De Botton on de buses

Further to yesterday’s comment on Alain de Botton’s Holy House of Atheism, I note that in the current issue of Private Eye is a spoof diary piece by the esteemed neo-philosophe. My typing fingers shall treat you to an extract…

"The error of modern bus travel is to overlook the most profound needs of its passengers. Correct in so many ways, Reginald Varney might nevertheless be criticised for neglecting his passengers’ deepest longings. He would ask them where they wanted to go, but never why.

"The ideal bus route would substitute the usual dull and dispiriting destinations for beautiful but forgotten places in the human heart. So when working people – butchers, bakers, candlestick-makers – hopped onto their bus, they would be transported not to Kings Cross, Islington and Stoke Newington, but to the wonder-filled new lands of Joy, Hope and Understanding.

"And our bus would not run on petrol. No – it would run on Happiness. And then we would find the answer to the question we are all asking: Who can take tomorrow, dip it in a dream, separate the sorrow and collect up all the cream?

"The Candy Man can, because he mixes it with love, and makes the world taste good."

The thing is, de Botton, who has a new book to flog, featured this morning on a BBC Radio 4 lifestyle programme, uttering a stream of words that closely resembled the above. Given that the Private Eye publication predated de Botton’s latest media flurry, my Lord Gnome may have cause to sue. Plagiarism is a cultural crime of great gravity.