I sometimes think the man who first said that "the road to hell is paved with good intentions" must have said it in November. The autumn is full of good intentions — just as spring is full of holiday and hope, and summer of heat and dolce far niente. But, just as the first warm day in June fills you with a physical vitality which you feel convinced that you must live for ever, so autumn makes you realise that life is fleeting and the mind has not yet reached its full development, nor intellectual ambition its complete fruition. Perhaps it is the touch of winter in the air which braces your mind and soul and gives you the impression that, given the long autumn evenings over the fire undisturbed, your brain will soon be capable of tackling the removal of mountains. If you are unutterably silly (as so many of us are — alas ! for the world's sanity; but thank heaven for the world's humour!) you will plan a whole curriculum of intellectual labour for the quiet evenings over the fireside. Oh, the books — good books, I mean — you will read! Oh, the subjects you will study! Perhaps you will learn Russian, or maybe something strange and out-of-the-ordinary, like Arabic! You dream of the moment when, speaking quite casually, you will inform your friends that you are reading the whole of the novels of Balzac; that you are studying for the law and hope to pass your "Final" "just for the fun of the thing"; that you are learning Persian, and intend to retranslate the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam and discover other Eastern philosophers. In fact, there is no end to the things you intend to do in the autumn evenings over the fireside when your labours of the day are over. Briefly, you are going to "cultivate your mind" ; and when people talk about "cultivating their minds," they usually regard the mind as a kind of intellectual allotment which anyone can till — given determination, an easy-chair near a big fire, and the long, long autumn evenings.
30 October 2014
Richard King (pseudonym of Richard King Huskinson, 1879-1947), Over the Fireside with Silent Friends (London: Bodley Head, 1921), pp. 60-61:
27 October 2014
Max Beerbohm, "Lytton Strachey," Mainly on the Air (London: Heinemann, 1957), pp. 179-180:
[There is] a great charm in the past. Time, that sedulous artist, has been at work on it, selecting and rejecting with great tact. The past is a work of art, free from irrelevancies and loose ends. There are, for our vision, comparatively few people in it, and all of them are interesting people. The dullards have all disappeared — all but those whose dullness was so pronounced as to be in itself for us an amusing virtue. And in the past there is so blessedly nothing for us to worry about. Everything is settled. There's nothing to be done about it — nothing but to contemplate it and blandly form theories about this or that aspect of it.
24 October 2014
Hamilton Wright Mabie, Books and Culture (New York: Dodd, Mead & Co., 1896), pp. 193-194:
Beyond all other means of enfranchisement, the book liberates a man from imprisonment within the narrow limits of his own time; it makes him free of all times. He lives in all periods, under all forms of government, in all social conditions; the mind of antiquity, of mediaevalism, of the Renaissance, is as open to him as the mind of his own day, and so he is able to look upon human life in its entirety.
22 October 2014
Jan Tschichold, "The Importance of Tradition in Typography," The Form of the Book; Essays on the Morality of Good Design, tr. Hajo Hadeler (Vancouver: Hartley & Marks, 1991), p. 31:
The typography of old books is a precious legacy, well worthy of continuation. It would be both impertinent and senseless to alter drastically the form of the European book. What has proved practical and correct over centuries, like the quad indent — should this be displaced by a so-called "experimental typography"? Only indisputable improvements would make sense. Real and true experiments have a purpose: they serve research, they are the means to find the truth and lead to evidence and proof. In themselves, experiments are not art. Infinite amounts of energy are wasted because everybody feels he has to make his own start, his own beginning, instead of getting to know what has already been done. It is doubtful that anyone who doesn't want to be an apprentice will ever become a master.
20 October 2014
Arnold Bennett, "Mind Callisthenics," The Reasonable Life (London: A.C. Fifield, 1907), p. 19:
Tell a man that he should join a memory class, and he will hum and haw, and say, as I have already remarked, that memory isn't everything; and, in short, he won't join the memory class, partly from indolence, I grant, but more from false shame. (Is not this true?) He will even hesitate about learning things by heart. Yet there are few mental exercises better than learning great poetry or prose by heart. Twenty lines a week for six months: what a cure for debility! The chief, but not the only, merit of learning by heart as an exercise is that it compels the mind to concentrate. And the most important preliminary to self-development is the faculty of concentrating at will.
16 October 2014
Beatrice Warde, "By Heart," written during the London Blitz and quoted in Francis Meynell's My Lives (London: Bodley Head, 1971), p. 176:
When will you understand?A related post: Every Man's Anthology
Mark what I say:
Whatever you hold in your hand
Will be blown away.
Must you learn for yourself?
Listen, take warning:
Whatever you leave on the shelf
Will be gone by morning.
Soon you must play your part.
What are you learning?
Get it by heart! By heart!
I have seen books burning.
13 October 2014
Henry Miller to Emil Schnellock, sometime in the spring of 1925, in Letters to Emil, ed. George Wickes (New York: New Directions, 1989), p. 14:
[W]hen I took the newspaper along with me tonight, to glance at during my repast, I realized what a long way off all that is. I didn't look at the newspaper. I wrapped it up and carried it home again. Newspapers make me sick. What good are they to me? Do I want to know what the rest of the world is doing? There's nothing the matter with my imagination. I know they're buggering one another, bitching up the works, fighting, scrapping, bedevilling themselves and making of this vale of tears a bed of thorns. Thank you, I'd rather go home, pretend I'm an artist and write some flapdoodle. I suppose, in the last analysis, it comes down to this: that I really want to escape reality. I suppose I want to dream clean sheets, good meals, happy endings and all the rest of it. And I suppose, further, that I'm one of those lily-livered pups who hasn't guts enough to go out and get a he-man's job and slave eight hours, maybe ten, for some guy who knows a little less than I do.
A related post: A Splendid Stroke of Time-Thrift
9 October 2014
Luc de Clapiers, Marquis of Vauvenargues, The Reflections and Maxims, tr. F .G. Stevens (London: Humphrey Milford, 1940), pp. 20-21:
People find happiness both in wisdom and folly, virtue and vice. Contentment is no index of true worth.
La raison et l'extravagance, la vertu et le vice ont leurs heureux: le contentement n'est pas la marque du mérite.
If neither fame nor worth make men happy, does so-called happiness deserve to be the object of their longing? Would a man of even moderate courage deign to accept fortune, peace of mind or prudence, on pain of sacrificing the strength of his convictions or suppressing the soar of his spirit?
Si la gloire et si le mérite ne rendent pas les hommes heureux, ce que l'on appelle bonheur mérite-t-il leurs regrets? Une âme un peu courageuse daignerait-elle accepter ou la fortune, ou le repos d'esprit, ou la modération, s'il fallait leur sacrifier la vigueur de ses sentiments, et abaisser l'essor de son génie?
7 October 2014
Professor Kevin C. Klement has published an edition of Ludwig Wittgenstein's Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus that puts the original German alongside both the Ogden/Ramsey and the Pears/McGuinness translations. Some impressive typesetting:
PDFs and LATEX source available on his site.
PDFs and LATEX source available on his site.
6 October 2014
Henri-Frédéric Amiel, Journal Intime, tr. Mrs. Humphry Ward (New York: A. L. Burt, c. 1895), pp. 316-317:
Very few individuals deserve to be listened to, but all deserve that our curiosity with regard to them should be a pitiful curiosity — that the insight we bring to bear on them should be charged with humility. Are we not all ship-wrecked, diseased, condemned to death? Let each work out his own salvation, and blame no one but himself; so the lot of all will be bettered. Whatever impatience we may feel toward our neighbor, and whatever indignation our race may rouse in us, we are chained one to another, and, companions in labor and misfortune, have everything to lose by mutual recrimination and reproach. Let us be silent as to each other's weakness, helpful, tolerant, nay, tender toward each other! Or, if we cannot feel tenderness, may we at least feel pity! May we put away from us the satire which scourges and the anger which brands; the oil and wine of the good Samaritan are of more avail. We may make the ideal a reason for contempt; but it is more beautiful to make it a reason for tenderness.