Courtesy of Helen Rittelmeyer, a wonderful quote from Alfred Milner about his decision to quit politics. Milner was the chief British civil administrator in South Africa through the (bitterly controversial at home) Boer War. Think of him as the Paul Bremer of his day, only successful.
Milner's letter is a document splendidly to console anyone grappling with the age-old political question, "why won't they listen to me?"
I am too far, too increasingly out of sympathy with our political system, and with the political attitude of the bulk of my countrymen, to be a successful politician in the ordinary sense. I am an anachronism. It may be I was born too late, it may be I was born too soon. In the latter, I think the less probable case, I may be of some use in politics—as an outsider, though, never again as an active participant in the fray. But I am not going to make myself miserable any more, or to embarrass any Ministry or party, by holding office on the terms, on which under the conditions of our day it can alone be held. Every man can afford to hold some unpopular ideas. But I have amassed all the most unpopular. I hold, with real conviction, a whole posse of them, and I mean to allow myself the luxury of holding, perhaps even of occasionally expressing them.
As it happens, and despite the above letter, Milner did not leave politics, and ended his career as one of the five members of David Lloyd George's war cabinet, the government that won the First World War for Britain. He's widely believed to have been the ghostwriter of the Balfour Declaration.
P.S. Milner was a brilliant talent-spotter and promoter. His circle of very young aides in South Africa was nick-named "Milner's kindergarten" (the original "juice-box mafia"?) and many of them went on to great careers of their own. One of them, F.S. Oliver, wrote one of my favorite boxs about politics, The Endless Adventure, which I keep meaning to re-read and write about for the Book Club.