‘Stern daughter of the voice of God’ said Wordsworth of duty. I have always rather liked that ‘stern,’ especially when the duty I have been doing has proved difficult or uncongenial. It has a bracing, early-rising-and-cold-baths quality about it, endowing the unpleasantest tasks with a kind of grey grandeur. But the sense of grandeur doesn’t last. We are soon back being merely stoic when we secretly wanted to be saintly. There is a modesty about duty we cannot escape. And yet, doing one’s duty is, or at any rate can be, truly noble. To do what has to be done as well as we can is to say that, no matter how small or insignificant may be the sphere in which we live and move, we want the world to be a better place because we are in it. That is an ambition worth cultivating, and it begins the smallest and simplest of steps: just doing what we should.