“Do you feel that people, particularly in crowds, are getting rather frightening? Or perhaps they always were. Mob hysteria seems to attack them so often and so violently, and they . . . climb onto the bonnets of their car, shriek like Maenads, and block the traffic completely, so that police have to clear a way for the wretched victims. . . I suppose this mass hysteria has always been with us; it crops up all through history, and has taken many forms. The French revolution mobs shouting for the guillotine; the Jews shouting “Crucify Him!”; the wild religious revivalists of the Middle ages; the Jacquerie; the anti-Jewish pogrom crowds yelling against Jews; to-day football [i.e., soccer] crowds trampling one another to death at the gates; and all those terrible film fans screaming.
I suppose there is a deep potential excitement in human nature, like a wild animal, and being surrounded by a crowd unleashes it, and out it leaps, feeding on the excitement of its neighbors and growing madder and madder, till people are chased and lynched . . . Yet individually the mob are probably ordinary quite decent and kindly people. How horrible a thing it would be to be at their mercy, when they turn into a pack of baying wolves. O Sapientia! What are we made of? How can God endure us?"
Dame Rose Macaulay, a letter to Fr. J. Johnson, 23 February, 1952